Xiaomi-linked Blackshark SKR-A0 Appears On Geekbench And AnTuTu

An unannounced Xiaomi smartphone has appeared on Geekbench. Carrying the codename Blackshark SKR-A0, the benchmark shows high single- and multi-core scores for a Snapdragon 845-equipped device.
The device in question is listed with both the aforementioned Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 8GB of RAM, one of the few devices with that large amount of RAM. It carries a score of 2452 in the single core test and 8452 in the multicore tests. As a comparison, the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S9+ with the same SoC scored 2136 and 8577 respectively. The high single-core scores is said to be possible thanks to aerospace-grade cooling technology.

The same phone was listed also appeared on Antutu, albeit without the accompanying test scores. It does, however, list additional specifications of the phone. Showing 32GB of internal storage, the Adreno 630 GPU, Android 8.0, and a 2160 x 1080 pixel screen.

The name Blackshark could be attributed to Black Shark Tech, a company partially owned by Xiaomi. It mainly conducts research into mobile camera research and development, which isn’t too far off from what Xiaomi would want from a new phone.
(Source: GSMArena)
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Apple Is Test Building Its Own MicroLED Displays In A Secret Facility

Apple is designing its own in-house display technology in a secret facility in Santa Clara, California. The company is currently testing MicroLED technology; which seems to be intended to replace the use of OLED displays in the current generation of mobile devices.
Designing electronic components is nothing new for Apple, which already works on its own line of processors for the iPhone, iPad, and Watch. It’s understood that the upcoming in-house MicroLED panels will follow the same pattern. With the company working on the technology, but contracting the actual manufacturing out to third parties.
In this case, MicroLEDs are an attractive choice due to the technology allowing for displays brighter than OLEDs can manage. It also allows for a greater amount of control over colour reproduction and contrast.
Apple has already managed to build MicroLED displays for the Apple Watch, albeit in a proof-of-concept kind of way. The display isn’t actually wearable, and instead is connected to an external computer board.
That said, actually producing these types of displays is a highly difficult process. Apple is said to have been on the verge of axing the project a year ago, but managed to work through the problems. Mass production of the panels may still be several years away.
[Source: Bloomberg]
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Newly Revamped CIMBclicks Portal Virtually Inaccessible, Customers Not Impressed

All is not well with the newly revamped CIMB Clicks online banking portal which was upgraded over the weekend.
The upgrade which was schedule to take place between 16th and 17th March is still experiencing issues which is preventing users from logging in, or conducting any online transactions.
CIMBclicks users have taken to CIMB’s Facebook page to air their grievances to the newly upgraded system. Some are able to log in but not able to conduct any transactions, while there are others who are not even able to load the page.

The comments date all the way back to Saturday after the revamp was completed. At time of writing, CIMB has yet to issue any further statement after their last statement on 16th March (Friday) regarding the outage.

The updated CIMB Clicks app also seems to be affected by this upgrade and is only accessible intermittently since Saturday.
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Alibaba Announces Additional USD 2 Billion Investment In Lazada, Replaces Existing CEO

Alibaba Group today has announced that it will be investing another USD 2 billion (about RM 7.83 billion) into Lazada with the aim to further accelerate e-commerce growth in Southeast Asia. With that, the company’s total investment in Lazada has now been increased to around USD 4 billion (about RM 15.65 billion).
It all started back in 2016 when Alibaba acquired a controlling stake in the e-commerce company which has massive footprint throughout the region including Malaysia. The Chinese tech giant then further increased its stake in Lazada to 81% last year.

Meanwhile, Alibaba Group has also announced that Lucy Peng which currently serves as Lazada’s Chairwoman will be taking over as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. As for Lazada’s founder and current CEO Max Bittner, he will be moving on to Alibaba and will be assuming the role of senior adviser for the group.
In general, this shows that Alibaba Group is quite confident with the capabilities of Lazada to propel itself towards becoming the top e-commerce player in Southeast Asia. At the same time, the additional investment should provide Lazada with fresh resources to fend off intense competition from other e-commerce companies within the region.
(Source: Alibaba Group)
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Unreleased Asus ROG X470 Motherboard Spotted In The Wild

An interesting leak has recently been reported by folks at VideoCardz regarding a brand new, unreleased motherboard from Asus. The motherboard in question is an unnamed X470 motherboard, which will be compatible with AMD’s upcoming second generation Ryzen processors.
Based on the photo leaked by VideoCardz, it can clearly be seen that the upcoming ROG X470 motherboard from Asus is aimed towards gamers; even more so when one considers that the motherboard’s PCB is etched with “玩家” which directly translates to “Players.” This could also mean that this particular X470 motherboard may only be made available in China – but that’s just a blind guess.

Unfortunately, the leaked photo of the Asus ROG X470 motherboard doesn’t specifically show the series that it will be under. That said, given its looks, this mainboard may most likely be a Strix-branded X470 motherboard. Sources have mentioned that consumers can expect at least six X470 motherboards from Asus; these are the Prime X470-Pro, ROG Strix X470-F Gaming, ROG Strix X470-I Gaming, ROG Crosshair VII Hero, ROG Crosshair VII Hero (WiFi) and TUF X470-Plus Gaming.
Regardless, details regarding the improvements and new features that may come with the X470 chipset has not been announced by AMD. We do, however, expect the company to reveal the aforementioned detail along with further information regarding its second generation Ryzen processors in the coming weeks.
(Source: VideoCardz, TechPowerUp)
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Twitter Is The Next Online Platform To Ban Cryptocurrency Ads

Twitter could be joining the ranks of internet companies to restrict the advertisement of cryptocurrencies. The micro-blogging platform is said to be preparing a new policy announcement that seeks to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency exchanges, token sales, and cryptocurrency wallets.
That said, there may be some exceptions that will allow a limited number of exchanges to promote their services.
Google has already announced restrictions on the advertising of cryptocurrencies over its advertising platform. Most of this is limited to the promotion of questionable ICOs and exchanges; seeing that there has been a trend towards companies releasing digital currencies as a method for raising funds.

Unlike selling shares, an ICO allows companies to raise funds without having to actually provide anything to the buyers – aside from the promise that the cryptocurrency will be useful at some point in the future.
Twitter is said to be implementing this new policy in two weeks, although the company itself hasn’t made an official statement as of yet.
[Source: Sky News]
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Shootout: Samsung Galaxy A8 vs honor View 10 vs Moto X4 vs Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra

In the RM2,000 price range, you have quite a number of pretty interesting smartphones. From a flagship device like the honor View 10, the no-nonsense Moto X4, the refined and premium Samsung Galaxy A8, and to the long-lasting Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra.
While we still have these four phones in our office, we decided see how they stack up to each other in various aspects. So let’s get to it.
Design

Right off the bat, we can separate these phones into two categories: the Galaxy A8 and View 10 are 18:9 smartphones, while the Moto X4 and Xperia XA2 Ultra sport more conventional 16:9 displays with thicker bezels.
It’s quickly evident that the 18:9 phones are much sleeker in comparison. I’m quite a fan of the Moto X4’s glass back design, but its thick bezels pale in comparison to the minimal bezels of the Galaxy A8 and View 10. As for the XA2 Ultra, it’s…very bulky and angular in comparison.

Between the Galaxy A8 and View 10, it’s a bit of a toss-up. Both phones sport small bezels, they feel really premium in the hands, and they’re solid, well-built smartphones. However, the glass back of the Galaxy A8 gives it a slight edge over the View 10’s metal chassis. Not only does the glass back feel slightly more premium, it’s also not quite as slippery as the View 10’s metal back.

Oh, it’s also worth mentioning that the Galaxy A8 is IP68-rated, much like the Moto X4. The View 10 and XA2 Ultra, on the other hand, are not water- or dust-resistant.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy A8
Software

In this department, the Moto X4 is immediately in favour. As is the case with most Motorola phones, the X4’s software is very close to stock Android with minimal bloatware and “extra features.” On top of that, Motorola’s range of gesture-based Moto Actions are really quite intuitive to use, not to mention the Moto Display lock screen notification system.
That is not to say the other three devices don’t offer good software experiences. The Xperia XA2 Ultra software is quite close to stock Android too, though it doesn’t have Motorola’s other neat features. Despite sporting a pretty heavily modified version of Android, the honor View 10 is actually quite pleasant to use.

But it’s worth noting that the Galaxy A8 is the only device here that comes with an Always On Display. In fact, it sports very similar software to its higher-end sibling, the Galaxy S8 and Note 8. On top of that, it has one of the most refined software experiences too.
That being said, we’re more impressed with the Moto X4’s range of useful additions and close to stock Android experience. In comparison to the Galaxy A8, the X4 feels ever so slightly faster and more responsive as well. The View 10 is the speediest phone of the lot, of course, but honor’s EMUI 8.0 isn’t as refined as the Moto X4’s software.
It’s a matter of personal taste, of course, but the Moto X4 edges it for this one.
Winner: Moto X4
Battery Life

We tested the four phones over the course of a week, cycling through them as our daily driver. We then measured their screen on times to see how long they lasted.
Surprisingly enough, the Xperia XA2 Ultra gave us the best battery life here despite not having the largest battery capacity – it has a 3,580mAh battery in comparison to the View 10’s 3,750mAh cell. On average, we got about six hours of screen on time with the XA2 Ultra. Not surprisingly, the next best phone is the View 10 with about five to six hours of screen on time.
These are followed by the Galaxy A8 and Moto X4, which we managed to get about four to five hours of screen on time. Not exactly bad by any measure, but in terms of sheer battery life, the XA2 Ultra takes the cake.
Winner: Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
Camera

Dual-camera systems are increasingly common today, and all of these phones feature it one way or another. Both the View 10 and Moto X4 have two rear cameras with different implementations, while the Galaxy A8 and XA2 Ultra come with two selfies cameras.
Let’s start with the rear camera performance. Looking at the sample images we took with these four phones, the View 10 comes up on top, followed by the Galaxy A8, the Moto X4, and the Xperia XA2 Ultra. It must be noted that despite some good-looking shots, the Galaxy A8 photos are usually brighter than what they actually look like in real life. The View 10 also has the most pleasant shooting experience, with the worst being the XA2 Ultra – there is avery noticeable shutter delay, especially in low light conditions.
Judge for yourself with these sample images. (From left to right: View 10, Galaxy A8, Moto X4, XA2 Ultra.)

When it comes to selfies, the Galaxy A8 has the upper hand with its two front-facing cameras. Its image quality is better compared to the rest of the phones, and the bokeh effect is not too bad. That said, the default beautification setting is a little too strong for our liking.
The View 10 can also take selfies with bokeh effects, but honor’s implementation isn’t as good as Samsung’s – the View 10’s front camera also takes more saturated pictures. Speaking of which, the XA2 Ultra’s dual front cameras are not able to replicate bokeh effects. Rather, it’s just a 16MP primary shooter paired with an 8MP wide-angle camera.
honor View 10
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)
Moto X4
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
So which of these phones have the best camera? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re more interested in taking the best-looking shots with the rear camera, the View 10 will serve you well. If you’re more keen to take selfies, however, the Galaxy A8 will give you better results.
Winner: honor View 10 (rear camera), Samsung Galaxy A8 (selfie camera)
Value for Money

In terms of sheer value for money, the View 10 offers the most – after all, it’s the only flagship smartphone in this list. Retailing at RM2,099, it has the same Kirin 970 chipset found in the Huawei Mate 10 phones, a capable dual-camera system, and pretty respectable battery life. The only thing that’s missing, of course, is any form of dust and water resistance.
And that’s where the Galaxy A8 comes in. Not only is it IP68-rated, it also offers decent level of performance, a capable camera, and a sleeker, more ergonomically-friendly design. Carrying a RM1,899 price tag, it is a solid package as a whole.

The Moto X4, on the other hand, retails at the same price point as the Galaxy A8, but it doesn’t offer the same level of camera performance, battery life, or sleek design. It has the upper hand in terms of software, but its overall value doesn’t quite match honor and Samsung’s offerings. The same goes for the Xperia XA2 Ultra: while it has the best battery life here, it pales in comparison to the other phones in the other aspects.
As far as value for money go, the View 10 is our choice. Although it lacks the IP68 rating, it offers a level of performance heads and shoulders ahead of the other three phones. On top of that, we’ve seen the device go for as low as RM1,799 now, making it the most affordable device of the lot here.
Winner: honor View 10
Conclusion

So which is the best smartphone in this list? It’s actually a difficult choice considering the strengths of each smartphone. Depending on what you look for on a smartphone, the choice will differ quite significantly. If you want the sleekest-looking phone with water-resistance, the Galaxy A8 is for you. If you want a great smartphone camera with good value for money, the View 10 fits the bill – so on, so forth.
For what it’s worth, the honor View 10 is my personal pick. It has excellent value for money, great battery life, a sleek 18:9 display, and respectable camera performance – all of these for less than RM2,000. Of course, the other phones in this list also have their own strengths and weaknesses, but the View 10 just ticks more boxes for my personal needs.
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ASRock Teases Its New Phantom Gaming Graphics Card Series

According to recent rumors, ASRock is apparently working to expand its portfolio by launching its own graphics cards line-up very soon. They now seemed to be quite on point as the Taiwanese company which is more known for its motherboards has recently published a short video that provides a quick glimpse to its upcoming graphics card.
Among the details that can be seen on the video includes the card’s two thermal fans and a single 8-pin PCIe power connector. Additionally, the video also confirmed that the card will be positioned under a new series called Phantom Gaming.

As per our previous report, ASRock apparently will be utilizing AMD Radeon GPUs for its new set of graphics cards. However, the video didn’t provide any clear visual clue that is able to fully confirm this particular part of the report though.
The video also didn’t provide any launch date for the card but since ASRock has decided to put it online, we feel that the official unveiled of Phantom Gaming graphics cards will take place very soon. So, stay tuned.
(Source: ASRock)
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Corsair K68 RGB Spill Resistant Gaming Keyboard Now In Malaysia: Alongside K63 Wireless Lapboard

Launched in Malaysia last year, the original Corsair K68 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard made its mark in the market mainly thanks to its resistance to dust and water spills. However, some might find the keyboard a little bit dull since it is equipped with single-colored backlight, but things have changed now as the RGB version of the K68 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard has landed in our market.
As one might have expected from an RGB-equipped product from Corsair, the keyboard’s colorful backlight can be customized using the Corsair Utility Engine tool. The same in-house software can also be used to perform macro programming on the keyboard.

Just like the original model, the K68 RGB model is also designed to withstand dust and water spills according to the IP32 standard. Additionally, the Malaysia variant of the K68 RGB still features the Cherry MX Red keyswitches.
Meanwhile, the Corsair K63 Wireless Gaming Lapboard has also landed in our market. The arrival for the lapboard is rather odd though since to our knowledge, the wireless keyboard itself which need to be purchased separately has not been launched in our market. We are also not sure if the original wired version of K63 can fits the lapboard either.

Suitable for those who prefer to game on their living room via massive TV sets, the Lapboard was certainly designed to perfectly complement the K63 Wireless Keyboard as users can easily snap the keyboard in and out of the laptop without the need to use any specialized tool. Alongside wrist rest and replaceable cloth mouse pad, the Lapboard also features memory foam cushioning to provide comfort and support to users when they used it on their lap for long hours.
Price-wise, the K68 RGB Spill Resistant Gaming Keyboard can be obtained for RM 559 while the K63 Wireless Lapboard goes for RM 269 with both of them are covered by 2-year warranty from Corsair. While we were told that both of these products have generally arrived in Malaysia since few days ago, do check with your favorite retailers for their actual in-store availability.
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Google Open Sources The AI Tech That Similar To Pixel 2 Portrait Mode

UPDATE: The original version of the article assumed that the tech has powered Google Pixel 2’s Portrait Mode. It has now been updated to reflect that it is not the same tech although it might has the same capability.
One of the main attraction behind Google Pixel 2 is its Portrait Mode even though it is equipped with only one camera. As expected, the implementation not exactly straight forward and involves several techniques including semantic image segmentation.
This particular technique helped differentiate the background and the subject within the image via machine learning. This helps the creation of the bokeh or the blur effect coveted by casual shooters.
A general diagram that shows how DeepLab works.
It is also the same technique that is the focus of DeepLab v3+ which has just been open sourced by Google earlier this week. Being in development for the past three years, the latest iteration of the tech apparently offers improved boundary detection over previous DeepLab models.
To be clear though, DeepLab is not the exact tech that was used to power Pixel 2’s critically-acclaimed Portrait Mode even though there are some similarities between them especially the fact that both of them take advantage of TensorFlow.
Meanwhile, the team behind DeepLab hope that making the tech as open source would help the academia world and industry grow it further. Additionally, they also hope that other people would find other usages for it as well since the tech clearly has potential to be used in other applications rather just blurring out the background in a photo.
(Source: Google Labs)
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