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The Future

5G isn’t ready for me

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Don’t fool yourself. It’s not ready for you, either.

Over the spring and summer, the first 5G networks lit up over the US, with all the major carriers offering a 5G service of some kind. However, there are still only a few compatible phones to go around, the best of which is probably Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G. It’s practically an entirely new phone. Samsung substantially upgraded its S10 with more cameras (six) and a third more battery than the standard S10 — more capacity than the S10 Plus, too. It’s an impressive phone on paper even before considering that it’s made for next-gen 5G networks.

It’s been a few months since Chris Velazco tested 5G networks at launch in Chicago, so it was time for another network test — this time, on the other side of the Atlantic. The plan was simple enough: pit the Galaxy S10 5G against the Galaxy S10 OG in London, UK. Vodafone provided both phones, so we could see how the phones fared on the same network.

Now, the state of the UK’s 5G is a little behind the US, despite the stark size difference between the two countries. Two carriers, EE and Vodafone, already have working 5G networks across a handful of cities and areas. Meanwhile, the UK’s other two networks, O2 and Three, will launch their 5G services later this year. Vodaphone recently expanded its next-gen network further, so it seemed like a good time to see how far its 5G network has come. TL;DR: it still has a long way to go.

You’ve heard the 5G sales pitch a hundred times before, regardless of carrier or country. Incredible leaps in data speeds, more reliability, new use cases. Gaming in the cloud! Instant 4K streaming! Stuff we can’t even imagine yet!

So, with Ookla’s SpeedTest, Netflix, a bunch of app updates and some Fortnite grudge matches, I headed out in search of 5G.

That search took longer than expected, though things were made easier by a heat map, provided by Vodafone online, here. It attempts to show service availability, and while it helped my search, 5G spots are, well, spotty.

Over a few weeks’ testing, the Galaxy S10 5G mostly kept itself on 4G. Once I picked up a Galaxy S10 to compare, I found the 5G model was largely matching the data speeds of the 4G one, even when I managed to trigger a 5G connection. Speed is meant to be the easy-to-communicate benefit of 5G; carriers say the service will be ten times faster than current 4G LTE speeds — if everything works as it should. This is a very hard thing to measure in the early days of 5G.

Independent tests show Vodafone’s 4G data speeds circle around 20Mbps, on average. And with 5G, the phone network is promising average speeds of 150 to 200Mbps and peak speeds that will reach 1Gbps.

According to other tests, like Tom’s Guide, 5G networks in the US are already seeing max download speeds that are almost three times faster than the peaks on 4G LTE networks, at a blistering 1.8 Gbps versus 678 Mbps. But that’s just optimistic talk of perfect conditions — the realities of signal reception are going to ruin those speeds.

The visible difference, for me, came less from blazing data speeds and more from reliability. As 4G signal choked on the Galaxy S10, the S10 5G came into its own, generally giving sub 200 Mbps data speeds, when 4G devices struggled to give me 20 Mbps. (It’s that 10-times speed thing — just not quite as high-speed as I’d hoped.)

When I had 5G signal, Netflix episodes downloaded twice as fast as on 4G, and perhaps the most visible proof of 5G’s potential, streaming and scrubbing through to midway of an episode took seconds, while on 4G, it had to really think about it. Sadly, my outdoors Fortnite tests came undone over a mere 4GB update (possible on 4G and 5G, yes, but life is too short), so I took the phones back to the office to play.

Engadget

While playing, there weren’t any notable differences between the two S10 models, both with more than enough graphical power to handle Fortnite. Both gave me a reliable steady connection — I mean, plenty of people test fate by playing Fortnite on mobile data already.

So, it’s probably the conclusion you were expecting: 5G will be great when it gets here. But that’s not right now. The good news, though, is that 4G networks are going from strength to strength, at least in urban areas. But that makes the advancements of 5G harder to cheerlead in a pithy paragraph, and perhaps for carriers, harder to hinge the sale of a new smartphone on. And if my mileage varied hugely, imagine the chances of hooking a 5G signal outside major cities. Carriers are rolling out the service slowly, adding cities and expanding coverage, but it’s a process that takes time. It’s highly likely this is why rumors about Apple’s new iPhones suggest no 5G capabilities. Not yet.

If you’re looking for a Samsung phone ready for a next-gen service, you can probably wait until 2020. The S10 5G is gorgeous and capable and has a big ole battery. But it’s marquee feature doesn’t make enough impact.

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The Future

This PS5 upgrade will give gamers the ‘fastest data loading ever’

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Sony hasn’t been shy at talking up the PS5’s proprietary 825GB SSD and the performance enhancement gamers can expect as a result when the console launches on November 12. But surprisingly, it appears the company may have been selling its true potential short, according to one development tool maker.

Charles Bloom, a data compression specialist working at RAD Game Tools, has written a lengthy blog post explaining how the company’s Oodle Kraken technology will help give the PS5 “the fastest data loading ever available in a mass market consumer device.” In fact, Bloom continues, “we think it may be even better than you have previously heard.”

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: the blog post is long and very technical. The main point, however, is that the fast SSD, CPU-dependent IO stack and Kraken hardware decoder combines in a way that makes it greater than the sum of its parts. Kraken, Bloom writes, “acts as a multiplier for the IO speed and disk capacity” which both ensures faster loading times and smaller install footprints.

“Sony has previously published that the SSD is capable of 5.5 GB/s and expected decompressed bandwidth around 8-9 GB/s, based on measurements of average compression ratios of games around 1.5 to 1,” Bloom explains.

“While Kraken is an excellent generic compressor, it struggled to find usable patterns on a crucial type of content: GPU textures, which make up a large fraction of game content. Since then we’ve made huge progress on improving the compression ratio of GPU textures, with Oodle Texture which encodes them such that subsequent Kraken compression can find patterns it can exploit. The result is that we expect the average compression ratio of games to be much better in the future, closer to 2 to 1.”

But it doesn’t stop there. “Good data compression also improves game download times, and lets you store more games on disk,” Bloom explains, with the compression ratio acting as “an effective multiplier for download speed and disk capacity.”

The long and short of it? “A game might use 80 GB uncompressed, but with 2 to 1 compression it only take 40 GB on disk, letting you store twice as many games. A smaller disk with better compression can hold more games than a larger disk with worse compression.”

Things might get better over time, as well, because the company’s latest Oodle Texture technology, which promises the best compression results, is new enough that not every launch title will benefit. But, Bloom says, the team “expect it to to be in the majority of PS5 games in the future.”

You can read the full explainer on Charles Bloom’s blog, but for most consumers, the headline will be enough: the PS5 has some very clever technology that massively improves the way data is both stored and accessed. The upshot to you? Your console’s storage should go further, and long load times should be a thing of the past. Roll on November 12.

Source: https://www.tomsguide.com/uk/news/this-ps5-upgrade-will-give-gamers-the-fastest-data-loading-ever

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The Future

PS5 might get new PSVR motion controllers for next-gen virtual reality

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There has been plenty to indicate that a new PSVR 2 headset is in the works for PS5, and the uncovering of a new patent puts more weight behind the idea that next-generation virtual reality will be accompanying Sony’s next-generation console.

As spotted by LetsGoDigital, the controller ditches the wand-like design of the ageing PlayStation Move controllers (first introduced way back 10 years ago in the Playstation 3 generation), and instead shows a joystick-equipped grip with a halo-like band surrounding it.

The patent (detailed in a 34-page document filed back in March 2020), discusses how  a single controller could be used, or a pair in tandem. As well as standard face buttons and joysticks, the controller would also support triggers and a touch sensor, which could be optionally added.

(Image credit: Sony / LetsGoDigital)

The controllers would require an external camera in order for their movements to be followed, with the suggestion that a camera on the VR headset itself could be picking up light-emitting parts on the curved surface of the controller, or a totally external, separate camera accessory.

Sony has already confirmed that PSVR will be compatible with the PS5 (though the need for a new camera adapter may prevent it being used at launch), and Sony continues to support the current generation virtual reality headset with new games and experiences, such as Hitman 3 and Vader Immortal. With products like the Oculus Quest 2 now on sale, Sony’s current headset would be starting to look a little aged next to a brand new console however.

As well as more refined controllers, we’d hope that the PSVR’s display would get a resolution boost, with additional processing power allowing for higher frame rates to ease issues some suffer from with motion sickness. A fully wireless headset would also bring Sony’s offering in line with the likes of Oculus’s range, and the HTC Vive Cosmos – though no company has yet managed to master the issue of lag between a wireless headset and an external processing device like a PC or games console, which would be a hurdle Sony would have to clear.

Source: https://www.techradar.com/news/ps5-might-get-new-psvr-motion-controllers-for-next-gen-virtual-reality

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The Future

The sequel to Sony’s PlayStation Phone apparently leaks, eight years too late

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Cast your mind back, if you can, to the tender world of gadgets circa 2011. Apple had just launched Siri on the iPhone, Google was making its biggest push into social networking with Google Plus, and Sony had decided it was time to release a true gaming smartphone: the much-anticipated “PlayStation Phone,” officially dubbed the Xperia Play.

It was not, by any means, a great success. A 2011 Engadget review praised the phone’s sliding mechanism and gamepad but bemoaned its dim screen and lack of playable titles. The device had its fans, though, many of whom were excited in 2012 by whispers of an Xperia Play 2. This promised sequel never emerged, but eight years after the PlayStation Phone 2 was first rumored, images purportedly showing the device have appeared online.

Pictures of the phone were shared on the Xperia subreddit by a user who found a listing for the device on Idle Fish, a Chinese secondhand goods store operated by Alibaba. The seller says the phone is only a prototype and there’s no way to verify its authenticity. The seller’s shop, though, suggests they have some sources in the world of obsolete tech, with other listings including a PS3 devkit and classic keyboards like the venerated IBM Model F.

The device has left and right shoulder buttons, as well as the usual D-pad and PlayStation buttons. 
Image: via Idle Fish
Yes it turns on! But it’s not clear if it can do more than that. 
Image: via Idle Fish
The rear of the device shows Sony’s old Xperia branding.
 Image: via Idle Fish

The phone certainly looks the part. It’s got the same slide-out mechanism as the original Xperia Play and the PSP Go, a D-pad, a set of standard PlayStation buttons, left and right shoulder buttons, and Xperia branding on the rear. There’s also a mysterious “3D” button, which was perhaps for features similar to the stereoscopic display on Nintendo’s 3DS.

Notably, the front of the phone has capacitive buttons instead of hardware buttons. That’s consistent with changes to the design of Xperia phones from 2012 onward, and it matches a leaked render of the Xperia Play 2 that did the rounds on gadget blogs back in 2012. In other words: this may well be the real deal, but we have no way of knowing for sure.

It’s certainly interesting to think, though, what might have happened if the Xperia Play had found a market. Would gaming smartphones have become mainstream instead of a niche, if persistent, product category? Despite its limitations, the Xperia Play reportedly handled PlayStation games extremely smoothly (check out this video review of the device from 2019 for an in-depth look) and who wouldn’t want to have the PS1’s back catalog in their pocket?

But Sony apparently thought the hybrid approach just wasn’t worth it. Indeed, in 2011, it also released the PS Vita: the successor to the PSP which handily took care of any Sony fans looking for a reliable and portable gaming experience.

And in 2020, it’s hard to imagine a dedicated gaming phone ever making a comeback. Why bother when you can simply stream most console games to your smartphone of choice? If the Xperia Play 2 has finally surfaced, it’s only as a shipwreck of a long-forgotten age.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/23/21452167/sony-xperia-play-2-playstation-phone-prototype-concept-leaked-images

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