Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

Acer to launch a gaming tablet

Articles

Acer Makes Bold Move With Predator Gaming Tablet … But Is It A Wise One? | Tech Times

Acer Attacks Gaming Market With Predator Series Desktop, Laptops, Tablet, And G-Sync Monitor | Tom’s Hardware

Tablette gamer Predator chez Acer | Ere Numérique.fr (France – French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Acer

next@Acer global consumer press release (North America)

My Comments

Acer is trying to get their claws in to the gaming-computer market by announcing the release of more game-focused computer products. One product that drew press attention was their Predator gaming tablet which is intended to be a mobile gaming answer to the NVIDIA Shield mobile-gaming platform.

This is part of building out the Predator game-focused computer product line from desktops to notebooks and tablets. The Predator gaming tablet is also in response to mobile devices being seen as part of the core gaming scene rather than something to play casual games on.

This will have the specifications for premium 8” Android tablet but even have four speakers up front as an attempt to convey the effects to the player. It will also implement haptic feedback to simulate gaming environments. Of course, for a gaming product, it will convey the Predator “rough-and-ready” design language including a rubberised back with the Predator logo on it. As well the display will exploit IPS technology along with 178-degree viewing angles to exploit the ability to swivel the device through gameplay.

The question to raise is whether Acer would offer the tablet that has the real performance that a core mobile gamer would value especially if it is to displace the handheld games consoles of the PlayStation Vita ilk or to displace the NVIDIA-Shield-based gaming platform. Similarly, could this be a chance to bring “enthusiast-grade” gaming to the mobile devices and have this go for gaming while travelling?

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Microsoft implements Internet of Things to support ageing at home

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Lab Of Things Helping Seniors Who Live Alone | Microsoft Research

My Comments

I have provided a lot of coverage regarding the concept of technology assisting the “ageing at home” principle where older and infirm people can stay at home and live in dignity knowing that the people close to them and their carers can act as a safety net for them.

Here, I had covered technology being used to guide seniors with shopping and food-preparation along with use of existing technology like cameras for medical observation. I have also covered in an article about CSIRO doing research in this field with a view of using the “Internet Of Everything” technology like energy sensors, movement sensors and smart locks to assess whether someone is keeping well such as knowing if they are going in to the kitchen to keep themselves nourished or if they are surfacing and going outside to collect the paper or mail.

Microsoft is working with their research laboratories in China to address the issue of ageing at home in the Asian communities. This is because these communities are becoming increasingly older like most of the world thanks to the good healthcare that is being made available to them.

Here, they are identifying how older people who are living independently at home coping, including factoring in cultural issues. They are also implementing robotics to build a medical-supplies trolley to serve the medicines that these people will need at the proper times as well as shoehorning the Kinect movement sensor as a fall sensor to detect if one is falling or convulsing.

The medicine trolley doesn’t just work with medicines that require regular doses but also can work with medicines that are taken in response to symptoms like asthma attacks and is based around knowing what the symptoms will look like. The Kinect sensor as a fall sensor has to work in a manner to assure personal privacy which is important because of the fact that some of these falls or convulsions can occur when one is using the bathroom or toilet and these devices could be located there.

What I see of this is various technologies that make use of the computer, the home network and the Internet Of Everything are being used to create a safety net for older people or people with chronic illnesses who want to preserve independence and dignity.

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Being careful about online marketplaces

House

Online marketplaces can be used to sell houses,

Increasingly, the Internet is becoming full of sites where you can advertise items for sale or swap. These range form online-auctions sites like eBay through to “online-classifieds” sites like Craiglist, Gumtree or Le Bon Coin, to online car-sales or house-sales directories like Carsales.com .

Holden Torana LX street machine

…cars including classic cars ….

A problem that can easily happen with these sites is where someone can use various forms of fraud or trickery to scam you out of your money or have you misrepresent the goods being sold. This doesn’t matter whether you are the buyer or the seller of the goods concerned. A friend whom I go to church with passed on an email about a bad experience that someone he knew had when he sold a vehicle on Carsales.com .

Deal with the site directly

Speedboat on trailer for sale

… or boats

As you manage your interactions with these online marketplaces, use the same cautions as what would be expected for online banking and broking. Here, you need to be suspicious of phishing approaches and interact with the site using its known Web address. This is a good time to add the online marketplace to your browser’s Favourites or Bookmarks; or create an operating-system link (available on the Desktop to the marketplace.

It is also a good habit to monitor the ad on the Website to make sure it hasn’t been modified by anyone but you if you are selling the goods in question. This is important in relationship to the price of the item being sold.

eBay screenshot

eBay – one of the most common online marketplaces

As well, deal with your email service in a cautious manner. Here, if you use a Webmail service, log in to the Webmail service by starting a Web browser and logging in using its Web address or coming in to the service using an entry point that you preset for it.

Settle the transaction in a traceable manner

As you settle the transaction, make sure you use a payment system like PayPal where the payments can be traced and you can reverse the transaction if there are questions about the goods. This is more important if the goods aren’t being handed over in person.

Craiglist

Craig(s)List – the popular online-classifieds Website

As well, deal with the payment system “at the horse’s mouth” when following up the transaction by using the system’s Web site. This is important when you are dealing with high-value goods.

Beware of transaction values that are way over or under the odds

Transactions that are way “off the beam” should ring alarm bells. This is important whether you are a buyer or seller. because a person who is offering well over the odds for something you sell may be engaging in a fraudulent transaction. Similarly, goods advertised well below their expected value may have many questions about their provenance or condition.

Research the goods you buy

When you are buying goods through an online marketplace, make sure you know about the goods you intend to buy so you can make an informed decision. This may involve researching the Web generally about the item, dealing with online forums specific to the kind of item being sold or simply talking with one or more people who are knowledgeable about the goods.

In the case of vehicles, watercraft and aircraft, find out their fair market value through resources like the Red Book (Australia, New Zealand or Asia Pacific), Kelly Blue Book or NADAGuides in the US, or Parkers Guides in the UK. If you are dealing with a “classic”, it may be worth contacting a club associated with that marque or model, or browsing through a magazine dedicated to those cars like Hemmings to assess the real value of them.

As well, use resources like CarFacts (Australia) or Autocheck to verify if the car has been stolen or written off, or if there are debts outstanding on it. In some cases such as a car that was just privately imported, you may have to use similar resources based in a country other than your own as well as your own country.

Making contact with the other party

Try to make contact with the other party at least through the online marketplace’s enquiry system so you can exchange more details about the goods that are the subject of the transaction. It is also a better idea to make a telephone call with each other so you can be sure you are dealing with a real person. Sometimes making a Skype or Viber videocall can work wonders so you can see whom you are dealing with and you can have them show you the item in question.

For high-value items like vehicles or boats, make sure you can see the item in person. This is to verify the goods are genuine and you can assess its condition properly. This also includes being able to take the vehicle for a test-drive to put it through its paces. In the case of vehicles especially when one is buying their first car, I have always advised bringing one or more friends along when seeing the seller and the vehicle in order to obtain a better opinion about the vehicle.

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With a special film, a smartphone can detect HIV and other diseases

Article

Smartphone accessory puts HIV diagnosis in doctors’ pockets | Engadget

My Comments

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

Smartphones will soon come in to play with more pathology tests

Increasingly, the smartphone’s integrated camera is being used as part of machine vision for medical applications. These technologies are based on the concept of litmus paper which changes between different colours depending on whether a chemical solution is acidic or alkaline, something a few of you may have seen demonstrated in the high-school chemistry class. The first application I highlighted was to use a urinalysis “control stick” along with the smartphone’s camera and a special app to identify what is in urine that is passed. Now this technology is being brought to blood analysis mainly to test for HIV, E. coli and staph in a patient’s blood. Here, a very small amount of the patient’s blood needs to be put on the film and it be examined by the smartphone’s camera with that phone running a special app. It avoids the need to send the sample to a laboratory to be analysed, because the film turns a different colour in the presence of an antibody makeup representing a particular disease. This is pitched at third-world communities or rural communities where it is cost-prohibitive for them to have a pathology laboratory located in a short-enough distance to provide quick-enough turnaround for test results for these diseases. There is even the ability where the pictures can be sent out to somewhere else for better expert opinion if the testing centre doesn’t have someone who is skilled enough. There are plans to even adapt this technology to detect more illnesses or check for pathogens in food and water. What I also see of this is it could open the path to “on-the-spot” screening-type pathology tests that dodge the need for sending out samples to a lab which I see as a boon for rural communities or telemedicine applications.

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Bluetooth Smart technology to detect if Grandpa has the wanders

Article

16 Year Old Develops Bluetooth Smart Solution to Keep Alzheimer’s Patients from Wandering | Bluetooth Blog

From the horse’s mouth

SafeWander (SensaRx)

Home Page

Video

Overview (Click / Tap to play in YouTube)

NBC 4 New York News report (Click / Tap to play in YouTube)

My Comments

A 16-year-old had developed a device which alerts someone else if a person like an Alzheimer’s patient wanders out of bed. This boy, Kenneth Shinozuka, was inspired to develop this device because of an incident where he was out with his grandfather at age 4 and Grandpa wandered off and was lost. Here, this brought to his family’s attention that Grandpa had Alzheimer’s disease.

A situation that was very common for him and his family was that his aunt who was his Grandpa’s primary carer wasn’t sleeping properly because she worried that if she slept, he would climb out of bed and wander absent-mindedly.

Here, he designed the device to be attached to the patient’s sock, slipper or foot to sense foot pressure associated when they climb out of bed to start wandering. This device uses a Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy) link to a suitable smartphone that is equipped with an “alarm” app that audibly alerts the carer and shows up a timer to show how long they have been off the bed. There is the ability to set up a threshold and a “hold time” so as to allow for situations like the patient going to the bathroom at night to do what he has to do.

He developed this device through a few science fairs including the Google Science Fair where he got the respect and was given the Google Science Fair Global Finalist prize amongst a few other awards. Scientific American and Popular Mechanics, both respected science and technology magazines even gave him awards for this device. He was able to use the prototype with his Grandpa and his aunt in this situation and she was able to claim a lot more sleep each night because of not worrying if he was about to get the wanders overnight.

Kenneth saw this as being important for the “ageing at home” phenomenon where older people are staying at home in the care of family members and friends rather than going in to care at nursing homes or similar facilities. He is evolving the technology towards other aspects of this phenomenon like a bathroom floor that senses if someone is falling and a medicine box which alerts the older person to take their pills at the right time.

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FDA to provide health classifications for the various wellness wearables

Article

FDA draws line between wearable health gizmos and proper medical gear | The Register

My Comments

Sony Smart Band - Sony press image

FDA to be able to qualify wearables like this Sony Smart Band to a standard acceptable for general wellness

As the market fills up with more wearable gizmos that measure our health, health-protection and consumer-protection authorities need to step in to properly and independent qualify a device’s health or wellness abilities.

Here, the US Food and Drug Administration have defined two levels of classification for these devices. They will have one, known as “general wellness”, which will cover measuring heart rates, distance walked and similar parameters that one needs to know about staying well. This is compared to a higher level for equipment needed to diagnose or cure illnesses. The differences that would be highlighted would be that the higher level is that the device is subjected to rigorous testing to be sure it can show consistently-accurate measurements and operate in a consistently-reliable manner.

Bluetooth-connected medical sensors

But these Bluetooth-connected medical sensors are still considered medical devices

They see this more as a line in the sand between something you could buy off the shelf and use at home versus a medical machine that is used as part of clinical treatment.

A question that may be raised is if a device is being used as part of medical supervision and monitoring, especially for a chronic illness is whether a “general wellness” class of device would be considered suitable for this application rather than a fully-qualified clinical-grade health-monitoring device. This could be seen as being of issue when it comes to in-home monitoring of diseases like, especially, diabetes where the patient’s blood sugar levels are to be monitored constantly.

Another question that has to be raised is if a device is dependent on extra software such as devices that work according to the “app-cessory” model, whether the software would be tested to see if it is compliant for medical-grade or general wellness use. This is more so as an increasing number of medical devices in the hospital and home are dependent on external computing power or there is the increased use of “software-only” diagnosis functionalities like Webcam-based machine-vision to measure one’s pulse using a computer or smartphone.

This issue may be worth investigating further by other health authorities and consumer-protection authorities especially when it comes to classifying devices that are pitched for personal healthcare.

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Ways we can see console gaming improve

Sony PS3 games consoleThe games console that plugs in to the TV needs to be improved to become more socially relevant. Typically these devices are improved beyond doubt using the latest technology and become a multimedia console, but there are certain issues that need to be continually resolved when it comes to playing games which these devices are built for.

Improved targeting beyond the usual users

Making console gaming appeal to people other than teenage and young-adult males

A situation that still occurs with console gaming is that it is focused towards the teenage and young-adult male audience. Here, most of the games available for these consoles are the action-adventure titles and the marketing that goes on is typically focused at this audience.

This is although the multimedia functionality associated with the games consoles such as optical disc / network media playback or access to online media services is being exposed as valuable functions for everyone.

XBox One games console press photo courtesy Microsoft

The XBox One – representative of today’s games consoles

Ways that I would see to improve on this would include giving equal attention and marketing space to game titles that appeal to other audience classes as well as pitching consoles at age groups other than this class. Nintendo are working towards this with the Wii by implementing the Wii Fit peripherals as for the whole family and Sony had a go with issuing music games for the PlayStation 2 which had “across-the-board” appeal. Similarly there have been attempts to use the music and dance games like the Singstar, Rock Band, Guitar Hero and DJ Hero franchises to open up the games consoles beyond the usual audience and diet of games.

There have been remarks that computer gaming does fit in well with the older people more as a way of improving and keeping alive cognitive and problem-solving skills. But this class of user does tend to work with mobile devices, especially tablets as a gaming platform due to the user interface being more intuitive.

Older men do show some interest in the sports titles especially those that reflect their favourite sports but find that these games aren’t intuitive to play. This is more so due to a controller that they may find very confusing to use which I had noticed when a young man hired a cricket game for his PlayStation console and an older man who is interested in cricket, especially Test cricket, tried to play this game on the console but found the user-interface very confusing.

One way to make it intuitive would be to subject some of the games that appeal to the older audience to useability testing involving this class of audience using the consoles and controllers that they are being pitched to.

Similarly, a strong effort to develop and market console-based games titles for young female audiences as well as mature and older audiences could expose the games to these people. This includes having the gaming fraternity encourage situations where older people and younger people play together on these consoles and writing this in to the marketing fabric for the consoles and games titles. It also includes older people and younger people existing in the same online gaming groups or clans during particular games.

Lately there have been efforts to get women involved in the computer-games scene, both in developing these games and playing them. This has caused significant issues with established male figureheads in this scene leading to the GamerGate controversy concerning harassment of women game developers and misogyny in the video-game industry. It shows that the concept of making games appeal to more than just the young mail player is rattling some cages in the console and regular-computer gaming fraternity.

Improved player-help functionality

One way to make games consoles acceptable to more people would be to improve the learning curve required for one to effectively “get the hang” of a particular game. This is especially where the player interacts with the game using a handheld controller while seeing the effects of what they do on the TV screen.

In-play help functionality

One way would be to provide in-game help functionality where a user can press a button on their controller to obtain information on the game’s user interface or how to perform certain procedures. This could be set so that the gameplay can pause or continue as the user seeks help.

It can be simplified through the use of an always-available on-screen “popup” that shows what each controller button / stick does during their play. Newer consoles that exploit a “second-screen” function that is provided by a tablet or smartphone running a special application can use this function as a way of providing user-interface help to novice players.

Controller design that supports local screen or dynamic labelling

Similarly a control device can use a local screen or e-ink-based dynamic-labelling to label controls with terms specific to the game. This could be to indicate functions important for manipulating a batsman or bowler in a cricket game or the driving interface in a racing game.

Player-assist functionality

Another method of providing improved help function would be to provide support for player assist. This is where an advanced player can use their controller to help a novice player in a similar vein to the “dual-controls” practice that is implemented by driving schools where the vehicle used for teaching a learner driver is equipped with an extra set of pedals for use by a driving instructor.

Technical improvements

Bluetooth headsets compliant with standard Bluetooth Profiles

A games console could benefit from the Bluetooth Headset Profile by allowing these headsets to be used for inter-player chatter during an online game. Similarly. the Bluetooth A2DP Profile could come in to its own with a console for directing in-game music and sound effects to a stereo headset for private gameplay.

This may not wash well with games-console manufacturers who work on the loss-leading principle of product sales. Here, they place value on selling the consoles cheaper so that they can recoup the costs on the accessories or games that are licensed for their consoles or on the membership fees associated with their online services.

UPnP AV / DLNA media sources as part of game fabric

Some games can benefit from access to media resources hosted on one’s home network. This can be facilitated through the UPnP AV / DLNA network-media-discovery technology with this functionality written in to the game’s software or calling upon DLNA application-programming interfaces that are part of the console’s operating system.

The obvious examples for this would be a user-selectable music soundtrack for some game types such as “street-racing” or cue-sports (pool / billiards / snooker) games. The classic example would be a pinball or pool game that implements a “virtual jukebox” as a tool for selecting background music in the game. Here, it would mimic the jukebox that is found in a seedy pool hall or pinball parlour and the music that plays sets the scene of that venue. Picture-puzzle casual games can also benefit from UPnP AV / DLNA for finding pictures via the home network.

Continual work on force-feedback for player controls

A criticism that I have heard regarding racing and driving games in the context of younger people learning to drive is that they operate the car they are learning on as if they are driving in a video game. This is where they “throw down” the gear-shift when they change gears rather than slowing gearing out to neutral then to the gear they want for example.

The same complaints may be raised by flying instructors with the way young novice pilots operate the Cessnas they learn on due to the popularity of those flight-simulator games.

This is brought about by driving interfaces used with these games that don’t closely mimic a real car’s controls. For example, changing gears through most driving interfaces doesn’t resemble the typical shifting gate offered by most manual gearboxes nor does it resemble the gear-selector behaviour of the typical automatic transmission. This is brought around due to joysticks that “spring back” to centre rather than staying in a particular position and no force-feedback that resembles the user experience of a gearbox. Similarly, the steering wheels on these interfaces don’t satisfy the “many turns lock-to-lock” that a real vehicle’s steering wheel offers which allows for granular control on the road.

These kind of issues can be augmented as players play games that implement many different cars, especially where players can change car components so as to “soup-up” their competition cars. This kind of play has been exemplified through the earlier games in the “Need For Speed” series where players could load in car profiles that represented real cars, or most of the “street-racing” games that provide the players with a choice of cars to complete their conquests with.

The playing experience for driving and other games can be improved upon by games and hardware vendors working on force-feedback controls in the regular-computer and console gaming arenas. This involves working on systems that provide the appropriate counter-force in flying and racing control systems that mimic mechanical feedback thus working towards “real-world” experience.

This issue can be a way of improving the intuitiveness of these games when their experience is closer to replicating real vehicles and craft thus opening them up to more players across the board.

Conclusion

Although the games consoles are becoming technically better, there still is a lot of unfinished business when it comes to increasing the appeal of games on the mainstream TV-based console setups to more people.

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Berlin creates a smartphone app to tackle neo-Nazism

Article Flag of Germany

La ville de Berlin lance une application «contre les nazis» | La Figaro (French language | Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth

Berlin Against Nazis (Berlin Gegen Nazis)

Press Release (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments

Another smartphone app has been developed for the community good, this time in Germany. Here, it is a notification app to distribute information about the issue of neo-Nazism to people who live in Berlin.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 press picture courtesy of Samsung

Smartphones are being seen as activist tools even with custom apps

“Against Nazis” (“Gegen Nazis”), which this fully-free app is called, serves more as a bulletin-board app which shows what is going on around town concerning neo-Nazi activity through the use of push notifications and an interactive map. Through these technologies, this information is distributed effectively real-time. This app allows users to act on the information in order to show solidarity against the neo-Nazi activity that is going on near them or to effectively strengthen the network’s activity. This app has been delivered in German, English and Turkish because of Germany having a distinct presence of Turkish people.

It has been developed by the “Berlin Gegen Nazis” (Berlin Against Nazis) network which is supported by the Berlin local government. This was brought on by a member of this network who was engaged in an anti-Nazi march in Rudolf Hess’s home town when a far-right group effectively took over that march.

The neo-Nazi groups still maintain a presence in Germany although they have a low impact on the national polls and on Berlin’s polls. In relation to Berlin, they have presence in poorer areas of the city like Schöneweide in the former East Berlin. It is also known that people who lived in the former East-Germany areas were soft towards the extreme-right ideology.

This is another way where the mobile phone platforms are being used for the public good especially due to the ease of access that these platforms provide. It also involves creating an information-delivery backbone which is cost-effective for these community organisations.

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Alaskan fables now celebrated as video games

Article NeverAlone screenshot courtesy of E-Line Media

Native Alaskan fables are now an endearing video game | Mashable

From the horse’s mouth

E-Line Media

Never Alone

Product Page

My Comments

As the indie video-game scene gains more exposure and opportunities, there is an increasing amount of room for more folk tales and fables to be expressed in an interactive form. This has been brought about by studios who want to offer a standout title that will attract new interest rather than the “same old same old”, some I had noticed when I visited PAX 2014 where a lot of games that were “out of the ordinary” were being showcased.

NeverAlone screenshot courtesy of E-LineAn example of this are the Alaskan fables that have been part of the Iñupiat people, one of the indigenous tribes that existed in that state. Here, as these tribes become urbanised, there is a fear that such folklore could be lost.

But an independent games studio had worked with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council to develop “Never Alone”which is a game that has a story centred around the tribe’s folklore. Here, the storyline is based around Nuna, a girl who is searching for the cause of a terrible blizzard that affected their village. The tribal leaders saw this as a way to convey the stories and provide a positive image to the indigenous people in Alaska.

It was also based around E-Line Media, an entertainment group founded by Alan Gershenfeld, who were trying to find out why games with serious or educational roots weren’t gaining ground. This studio had found that some newer games that had this kind of quality were successful and there was an interest ot see what themes could be explored.

There was a goal to make the game a good game and faithful to the Iñupiat culture such as representing Nuna’s animal sidekick as being a fox who was helping her solving the puzzles.

It is in the same context to the increased interest in “non-Hollywood” film and TV content, especially foreign-language content in English-speaking countries. This is exemplified especially by the Nordic thrillers like Borgen or Wallander.

They are making this available through the PlayStation 4, and the XBox One consoles along with regular computers via the Steam platform. This is a promising sign that the console platforms are becoming more “indie-friendly” and opening up paths to games made by more people for different tastes.

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Game On HP!

Article

HP Just Built A Gaming Laptop Seriously | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

With the arrival of the Razer Blade gaming laptop and Dell answering this model with their Alienware gaming laptops, things were starting to look up for this class of computer.

Now HP have joined in the gaming-laptop frag-fest by presenting the Omen series of 15” gaming laptops. This was based around HP originally taking over Voodoo who were floundering when the concept of gaming in a laptop form factor didn’t catch on. This machine takes on what Voodoo was about but places it under a popular computing brand name. Another factor that underscores this computer is the fact that HP have built the ZBook series of mobile workstations, including the ZBook 14 “Workstation Ultrabook” where there is emphasis on graphics performance.

Here, the computer, like the Razer Blade and the Alienware computers, is designed for portability yet has the performance abilities like the Intel i7 processor, 8Gb RAM and mid-tier NVIDIA graphics. HP have also tackled the cooling issue to enable the graphics subsystem to have that bit of extra “pep”. This will work at a more realistic 1080p Full-HD resolution and has a Mini Display port and a regular HDMI connection so you can plug it in to that flat-screen TV or that high-end computer monitor for full-on gaming.

Even the keyboard has gaming credentials such as RGB illumination and programmable keys. There is also a large trackpad to provide more responsive gaming. There are variants of the Omen with 4Gb display RAM and 16Gb system RAM along with solid-state disks for quicker performance options.

A good question to raise is whether other companies who make laptop computers will create or build out their high-performance product ranges that are pitched at games or advanced graphics users? It also includes whether these classes of computer would work well not just for performance but for reliability as well

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