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Apple’s first-gen M1 chips have already upended our concept of laptop performance – The Verge

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Apple’s first M1 MacBooks are here, and the world of laptops has changed overnight.

When Apple first announced that it would be transitioning its computers — specifically, the MacBook Air and entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, its most popular PCs — to a new and wildly different type of processor, there were plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Apple was making huge claims for battery life and performance, things that the first wave of Arm-based laptops from Qualcomm and Microsoft failed to deliver.

But deliver Apple did, with computers powered by a new M1 processor that aren’t just close to their previous Intel counterparts, but crush them in nearly every respect — and not just the base model Intel chips that the M1 purports to replace, either. In both early benchmarks and head-to-head comparisons for compiling code, Apple’s M1 chip appears to hold its own against even Intel’s most powerful Core i9 chip for laptops.

The conversation has flipped instantly: it’s no longer “why would you take a gamble on Apple’s new, unproven processor” but “how will competitors like Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm respond?”

For years, Intel and AMD have been playing a chess match, sniping back and forth with improvements in CPU performance, battery life, and onboard graphics. Apple appears to be playing an entirely different game on an entirely different level. The same interplay between hardware and software that has led to such huge successes on the iPhone and iPad has now come to the Mac.

It’s not just that Apple’s hardware is faster (although straight benchmarks would indicate that it is); it’s that Apple’s software is designed to make the most of that hardware, in a way that even the best optimization of macOS on an x86 system wasn’t. As John Gruber notes (citing Apple engineer David Smith) the new chips handle fundamental low-level macOS app tasks up to five times faster on the M1 than they do on Intel because Apple was able to design a chip from the ground up to specifically be good at those tasks. It’s why the new M1 Macs (and the existing iPhone and iPad lineups) are able to do more with comparatively less RAM than their Intel (and Android) counterparts.

Apple has also done incredible work with Rosetta 2, its translation layer for running legacy x86 applications on the M1. It’s another key part of how Apple’s software strategy pays off big dividends for the new hardware by making it seamless to run older software on the new Mac without any real hits to performance. Apple almost certainly has factored Rosetta 2 optimization into the M1’s design, benefiting from the same parallel development as the rest of the hardware. The result is that M1 laptops don’t make users choose between great performance on Arm-optimized apps at the expense of legacy x86 performance; instead, they run old apps well and new optimized apps even better.

The new MacBook Air is fast

The most exciting — or frightening, if you’re a traditional PC chip company — part of Apple’s new chips is that the M1 is just the starting point. It’s Apple’s first-generation processor, designed to replace the chips in Apple’s weakest, cheapest laptops and desktops. Imagine what Apple’s laptops might do if the company can replicate that success on its high-end laptops and desktops or after a few more years of maturation for the M-series lineup.

Right now, the saving grace for traditional x86 laptops is that it’s only Apple, with its near-complete control over its hardware and software stack, that’s managed to accomplish this level of speed, software performance, and battery life on Arm.

It’s an open question whether companies like Qualcomm and Microsoft will be able to emulate Apple’s success with the next wave of Arm-based Windows machines. Certainly, it would take a much bigger restructuring of Windows, one that would impact a far greater number of customers than Apple’s changes. And while Microsoft does design its own Surface laptops — and even worked with Qualcomm on building Arm-based SQ1 and SQ2 chips for its Surface Pro X lineup — it’s still a far cry from the level of control that Apple maintains over its software / hardware ecosystem that allows so much of the M1’s success.

The new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro won’t be the perfect laptops for everyone, especially if you rely on huge, GPU-intensive tasks or specific developer tools. But when a $1,000 M1 laptop can outdo a maxed-out, $6,000 MacBook Pro with quadruple the RAM and Intel’s best chip, while also running cooler and quieter in a smaller and lighter form factor and with twice the battery life, where do competitors even go from here?

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Google Scientist's Abrupt Exit Exposes Rift in Prominent AI Unit – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Google’s decision to part ways with a prominent researcher laid bare divisions within the company’s artificial intelligence unit and subjected its leader, the lauded software engineer Jeff Dean, to widespread scorn.

Timnit Gebru, a renowned scientist and one of the few Black women in AI, said Wednesday she was fired over an email she authored expressing dismay with management and the way it handled a review of her research. Gebru had been co-head of the team examining the ethical ramifications of AI.

What followed was a torrent of criticism of Google’s AI division, much of it aimed at Dean. “The termination is an act of retaliation against Dr. Gebru, and it heralds danger for people working for ethical and just AI — especially Black people and People of Color — across Google,” a group of hundreds of academics and researchers, many of them Google employees, wrote in an open letter. Among its demands: that Dean and his colleagues explain their decision-making around Gebru’s research.

The fallout threatens to tarnish the reputation of one of the industry’s leading research shops, a division of Alphabet Inc.’s Google that not only aids development of lucrative products but also contributes significantly to the world’s understanding of AI. And in a company brimming with computer scientists, few have been as revered as Dean. He oversees a sprawling research empire and has publicly championed more diverse hiring in AI and computer science. His programming prowess became the subject of corporate lore and glowing press coverage, including one article that called him the “Chuck Norris of the internet.”

“Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand research integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics,” said Joy Buolamwini, the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League who wrote a ground-breaking paper, with Gebru, on racism in facial recognition software. The widely cited 2018 study showed facial recognition software misidentified dark-skinned women as much as 35% of the time — compared with near precision in White men.

Dean and Google representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment. In an email to colleagues Thursday that was seen by Bloomberg, Dean defended his handling of the matter. He wrote in part that Gebru hadn’t followed company policy in submitting the paper for peer review, that it ignored “too much relevant research,” and that Gebru and colleagues made unrealistic demands when they were informed “that it didn’t meet our bar for publication.”

Under Dean, Google has assembled a diverse group of AI ethics scientists with backgrounds in tech and social science, but some of those employees are now wondering if they are free to do their jobs. Inside Google’s research unit, several people openly questioned their future at the company, while others felt compelled to apologize to recently hired researchers, according to a person who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

“The egregiously aggressive retaliation from Jeff Dean and other senior leaders at Google is indicative of the lack of respect that they have both for Black women and academic freedom and integrity,” said Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Google policy associate.

The controversy came to a head Wednesday, when Gebru, the co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence unit, posted on Twitter about her dismissal. She said that the company had demanded she retract a research paper she co-authored that criticized computer language models — including methods Google uses for its search engine and voice assistant.

In an email to colleagues earlier in the week that was also seen by Bloomberg, Gebru accused Dean’s division of not hiring enough women and silencing employees from marginalized groups. She told her colleagues to stop working “because it doesn’t make a difference.” In a subsequent message to Gebru, Google cited that email as a missive “inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager.”

In his Thursday email to staff, Dean said he had accepted Gebru’s resignation after declining to meet her demands about the unpublished research paper. He also mentioned her comments supporting a work stoppage. “Please don’t,” the executive pleaded.

Dean’s email didn’t go over well. On Twitter, Alex Hanna, a researcher on Google’s Ethical AI team, accused Dean of “spreading misinformation and misconstruals” in the email.

“I’m extremely disappointed in @JeffDean today,” Kelly Ellis, a former Google engineer who now works at MailChimp, wrote on Twitter. “Shame on you, @JeffDean. I naively expected more from you,” said Eddie Kay, another former Google engineer.

Dean joined Google in 1999 and climbed its ranks — he’s now one of select Senior Vice Presidents — largely on his software engineering ability. In 2018, he was named the head of Google’s AI unit, widely considered the global leader in cutting-edge efforts like speech detection and image recognition.

Soon, though, that job entailed dealing with controversies. That year, Google staff rebelled against the company’s work on an AI project for the Pentagon. Researchers at the company also spoke out about how bias in AI unfairly targeted people of color in several instances, from Google’s Photo app to the algorithms used in bank loans and police work.

Since then, Google released a set of ethical guidelines for its AI, including barring facial recognition for surveillance. The tech giant set up advisory counsels, which itself struggled to function. It also hired a handful of experts like Gebru, who had worked at Microsoft Corp., and paid them to research topics around AI and ethics.

Gebru was one of five Google staff listed on the research paper at the heart of her dismissal, along with two outside researchers. Emily M. Bender, a linguist from the University of Washington who co-authored the research, said she didn’t know about the issues Google had with the research. “[Gebru] is an incredibly respected leader in this field,” Bender said. “By pushing her out, Google is losing a major asset.”

In the past two years, several internal critics of Google’s approach to AI and ethics have left the company. On Thursday, staff on Dean’s unit referenced these departures as a sign of the low morale on the team. “The chilling effects of the decisions behind-the-scenes continue to haunt me,” Margaret Mitchell, co-head of the ethical AI team, wrote in an email viewed by Bloomberg News.

Dean took a more calibrated tone about the most recent exit. “I know we all genuinely share Timnit’s passion to make AI more equitable and inclusive,” he wrote in the email to his staff. “No doubt, wherever she goes after Google, she’ll do great work and I look forward to reading her papers and seeing what she accomplishes.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Xbox Series X/S now available on Walmart Canada's website [Now sold out] – MobileSyrup

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Update 04/12/2020 at 12:07am ET: Well, that was fast — the consoles are already sold out.


Walmart Canada is now selling the Xbox Series X and S exclusively on its website.

The Xbox Series X costs $599 CAD and is available here. The Xbox Series S is priced at $379 and can be purchased here.

This is a fair bit later in the day than Walmart’s originally planned 12pm ET time, which was postponed shortly after the PS5 went live on its website.

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Xbox Series X Game Review Roundup: Gears 5, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, NBA 2K21 and more – MobileSyrup

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Given the compressed nature of the Xbox Series X’s review program, we unfortunately weren’t able to put together in-depth looks at every game releasing for Microsoft’s new video game console.

Like our round-up of PlayStation 5 launch titles, we’ve decided to give a selection of the Xbox Series X’s launch lineup the same mini-review treatment.

Along with taking a look at Xbox Series X’s backwards compatibility features, this story also delves into titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Falconeer, Halo: The Masterchief Collection and more.

It’s important to note that not all of these games are exclusive to Microsoft’s new consoles and that performance is generally comparable across the PlayStation 5 when it comes to most of the third-party titles in this list.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99

At times, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a bloated, shockingly glitchy, far too expansive mess. On the other hand, it can also be stunning, and genuinely pushes the long-running franchise in exciting directions.

For instance, the game’s Medieval setting, which includes intricate gothic castles, rolling hills and a level of detail not present in its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, is one of the most compelling worlds Ubisoft Montreal has ever created.

Of course, as has become expected from Ubisoft’s open-world games, Valhalla is also a bit of a mess. Enemies aren’t very smart and will sometimes stop pursuing you for no apparent reason, environmental objects occasionally float (one time we saw a whale float through the ocean) and overall, it’s just not a very polished video game. Further, despite a streamlining of the series’ quest system, you’ll still find yourself grinding out the occasional side quest to push the story forward or to level up protagonist Evior.

On the more positive side of things, health no longer replenishes automatically, adding a level of stakes to battles not present in recent Assassin’s Creed titles. Also, the weapon and armour system is far more streamlined than in other recent titles in the series.

With all that said, Valhalla remains one of the best-looking video games available for the Series X and is a good indication of what to expect from the Xbox Series X in terms of graphics when it comes to future Ubisoft titles.

For more on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, check out Patrick O’Rourke’s in-depth look at the game.

The Falconeer

The Falconeer

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, PC
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
ESRB rating: T for Teen
Price: $38.99

Acting as an unintentional spiritual successor to Xbox airplane combat game classic Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, The Falconeer was developed by just one person: Tomas Sala.

With that in mind, the game’s impressive aerial combat is compelling, though, unfortunately, gets repetitive after a few chapters. Between moments of intense combat, a relatively simple story unfolds that involves several different factions and uncovering secrets that have been lost to the sea.

It’s also worth noting that while The Falconeer isn’t very long, it’s one of the few titles that support 4K 120Hz on the Xbox Series X. All things considered, it’s cool to see an indie title like this launching on the Xbox Series X alongside big-budget titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. As long as you set your expectations appropriately, there’s a lot to like about The Falconeer.

Gears 5 leads the enhanced pack

Gears 5

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Xbox
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $39.99 (on sale for $9.99) Game Pass

Despite Gears 5 already being one of the best-looking Xbox One titles, Vancouver-based The Coalition has managed to improve the game’s visuals in several ways on the Xbox Series X. While the game still utilizes dynamic resolution scaling, it hits a far more consistent 2160p. On the multiplayer side of things, Gears 5 now features a shockingly smooth 120Hz frame rate and, as a result, a slightly lower resolution than the game’s campaign mode.

Gears 5‘s detail level has also been bumped up significantly across the board, with the Series X version of the game adopting higher quality PC-like volumetric lighting, improved shadows and more. Of course, the game also loads much quicker thanks to the Series X’s NVME SSD.

In what feels like an effort to fill the void left by Halo Infinite‘s delay, Microsoft offers several “enhanced” backward compatible Xbox One titles. For example, Ori and the Will of the Wisps runs at a smooth 120Hz, and Forza Horizon 4 — a game that already looked incredible on the Xbox One — now runs at native 4K and 60fps on the Series X. Sea of Thieves, Rare’s boat-filled pirate adventure, runs at a consistent 4K/60fps on Microsoft’s new console as well.

It’s also worth pointing out that all of the titles mentioned above are part of Microsoft’s excellent $16.99 per month Game Pass Ultimate subscription service, giving you access to a wide range of games for a relatively low monthly fee.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo The Masterchief Collection

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Xbox
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $49.99 or available through Game Pass

Outside of Gears 5Halo: The Master Chief Collection is perhaps the biggest older game to get Series X/S optimizations. Impressively, 343 Industries has introduced a slew of enhancements across the collection’s several games — both on the campaign and multiplayer side. This means that Series X and S players can enjoy 120fps single-player and multiplayer modes on top of improved splitscreen play and adjustable FOV. Series X owners, specifically, can benefit from 4K resolution.

We haven’t played the Master Chief Collection since the vanilla Xbox One days, so being able to play the classic Halo games at 4K/120fps on Series X was a real treat. While we didn’t personally notice much of a difference between 60fps and 120fps, it’s still a welcome change that does impact gameplay to a degree. What’s more impressive is the crisper visuals, making Halo‘s iconic maps look absolutely stunning as we shot, punched and Spartan Laser’d my way through them. Meanwhile, the consoles’ faster load times mean you can jump into levels more quickly. Amusingly, 343 actually had to rein in the load times so they didn’t affect matchmaking.

Overall, the optimizations certainly don’t fill the void left by Halo Infinite‘s delay, but they’re nonetheless nice to have in the meantime.

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia, Windows
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99

Positioned as the definitive version of Mortal Kombat 11, the game’s new Ultimate edition includes Kombat Pack 1, the aftermath Expansion and the Kombat Pack 2, giving players access to 37 playable characters, two full story campaigns and a wide array of modes. For reasons that remain unclear, Rambo is also in the game now and voiced by Sylvester Stallone himself (yes, you read that correctly).

If you’ve played a Mortal Kombat title before, you’ll know what to expect here. The game is rife with sometimes disgusting over-the-top blood-filled violence, features the same wacky franchise mainstay characters and a plotline that really doesn’t make sense. With all that said, there’s still something charming about Mortal Kombat 11‘s simplified special system and generally stripped-back combat. Nearly anyone can still pick up the game and have a great time button mashing away. There’s also a wealth of tutorials available if you want to understand the game’s mechanics on a deeper level.

Apart from improved load times, Mortal Kombat Ultimate also runs at a 4K dynamic resolution on the Series X.

NBA 2K21

NBA 2K21

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, PC, Google Stadia, Windows
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
ESRB rating: E for Everyone
Price: $79.99

NBA 2K21 is an extremely graphically impressive video game. This is because it’s one of the few third-party titles built from the ground up to take advantage of the ample power the Xbox Series X offers.

Everything from players’ faces and animation, to even the sweat dripping down their faces looks stunning in dynamic 4K 60fps with HDR. If you’ve seen videos of NBA 2K21 in action on YouTube, they truly don’t do the game justice given the limitations of video quality on the platform. That said, there are moments where the visuals fall apart, like, for example, when a player stares off into the distance for no reason — say hello to the uncanny valley.

On the negative side of things, NBA 2K21 is full of obtrusive microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics across nearly all of its modes. It’s also really not that much of an upgrade over last year’s game in terms of features and gameplay, with most of the upgrades being purely visual. The only notable change to gameplay is a surprisingly compelling new shooting mechanic that requires the player to aim their shots and have precise timing.

Still, as far as sports titles that actually take advantage of what the Xbox Series X has to offer, NBA 2K21 is in a league of its own.

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