The LG V60 and VELVET Review: A Classic & A Design Restart

It’s been a few months since LG has released the LG V60, and since then the company has also finally managed to launch the new Velvet phone to western markets outside of Korea, such as Germany. The two new 2020 phones are quite contrasting devic…

It’s been a few months since LG has released the LG V60, and since then the company has also finally managed to launch the new Velvet phone to western markets outside of Korea, such as Germany. The two new 2020 phones are quite contrasting devices for LG – representing what one could say the company’s classic design philosophy versus a newer, more refreshing design language. They’re also contrasting devices in terms of their specifications and positioning, with the V60 being a successor flagship devices with a high-end SoC, whilst the new Velvet is a “premium” design with the new Snapdragon 765, coming at a lower price point and some compromises in terms of specification – but not too many as to call it a mid-range phone.

Both phones are overdue a closer look, and that’s precisely what we’ll be doing today.

Analog Devices To Buy Maxim Integrated

Today Analog Devices has announced that it will be acquiring Maxim Integrated in a transaction estimated at $21bn. The combined company value is said to end up being valued at $68bn, creating a significant player in the analog IC market.

Analog Dev…

Today Analog Devices has announced that it will be acquiring Maxim Integrated in a transaction estimated at $21bn. The combined company value is said to end up being valued at $68bn, creating a significant player in the analog IC market.

Analog Devices are most popularly known by their signal processing discrete ICs, such as amplifiers, ADCs and DACs, although their product portfolio extends to a very wide range of other designs.

Maxim Integrated is most popularly known by their power management ICs as well as sensors. For example, they have been the main the main battery PMIC (And until recent years, a lot of other phone-centric PMICs) provider for Samsung mobile devices for the better part of the last decade.

Although the two companies have some overlapping product segments which likely will see consolidation, the overall two business seem like they will be complementary to each other as they both specialize in different areas. Analog Devices in particular says that the transaction is meant to boost its market share in the automotive and data centre markets thanks to Maxim’s application specific products, while continuing to offer Analog Devices own broader market products.

In a market where we see a ton of consolidation and many vendors opting to vertically integrated their solutions, it becomes important to have a broader product portfolio in order to maintain leadership positions. The new consolidated Analog Devices and Maxim Integrated entity will have the breath to compete against big players such as Texas Instruments.

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 865+: Breaking the 3GHz Threshold

Today Qualcomm is announcing an update to its extremely successful Snapdragon 865 SoC: the new Snapdragon 865+. The Snapdragon 865 had already seen tremendous success with over 140 different design wins, powering some of the best Android smartphone de…

Today Qualcomm is announcing an update to its extremely successful Snapdragon 865 SoC: the new Snapdragon 865+. The Snapdragon 865 had already seen tremendous success with over 140 different design wins, powering some of the best Android smartphone devices this year. We’re past the hectic spring release cycle of devices, and much like last year with the S855+, for the summer and autumn release cycle, Qualcomm is providing vendors with the option for a higher-performance binned variant of the chip, the new S865+. As a bit of a arbitrary, but also important characteristic of the new chip is that this is the first ever mobile silicon to finally pass the 3GHz frequency mark.

xMEMS Announces World’s First Monolithic MEMS Speaker

Speakers aren’t traditionally part of our coverage, but today’s announcement of xMEMS’ new speaker technology is something that everybody should take note of. Voice coil speakers as we know them and have been around in one form or an…

Speakers aren’t traditionally part of our coverage, but today’s announcement of xMEMS’ new speaker technology is something that everybody should take note of. Voice coil speakers as we know them and have been around in one form or another for over a hundred years and have been the basis of how we experience audio playback.

In the last few years, semiconductor manufacturing has become more prevalent and accessible, with MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems) technology now having advanced to a point that we can design speakers with characteristics that are fundamentally different from traditional dynamic drivers or balanced armature units. xMEMS’ “Montara” design promises to be precisely such an alternative.

xMEMS is a new start-up, founded in 2017 with headquarters in Santa Clara, CA and with a branch office in Taiwan. To date the company had been in stealth mode, not having publicly released any product till today. The company’s motivations are said to be breaking decades old speaker technology barriers and reinventing sound with new innovative pure silicon solutions, using extensive experience that its founders have collected over years at different MEMS design houses.

The manufacturing of xMEMS’ pure silicon speaker is very different to that of a conventional speaker. As the speaker is essentially just one monolithic piece manufactured via your typical lithography manufacturing process, much like how other silicon chips are designed. Due to this monolithic design aspect, the manufacturing line has significantly less complexity versus voice coil designs which have a plethora of components that need to be precision assembled – a task that is quoted to require thousands of factory workers.

The company didn’t want to disclose the actual process node of the design, but expect something quite crude in the micron range – they only confirmed that it was a 200mm wafer technology.

Besides the simplification of the manufacturing line, another big advantage of the lithographic aspect of a MEMS speaker is the fact that its manufacturing precision and repeatability are significantly superior to that of a more variable voice coil design. The mechanical aspects of the design also has key advantages, for example higher consistency membrane movement which allows higher responsiveness and lower THD for active noise cancellation.

xMEMS’ Montara design comes in an 8.4 x 6.06 mm silicon die (50.9mm²) with 6 so-called speaker “cells” – the individual speaker MEMS elements that are repeated across the chip. The speaker’s frequency response covers the full range from 10Hz to up to 20KHz, something which current dynamic driver or balanced armature drivers have issues with, and why we see multiple such speakers being employed for covering different parts of the frequency range.

The design is said to have extremely good distortion characteristics, able to compete with planar magnetic designs and promises to have only 0.5% THD at 200Hz – 20KHz.

As these speakers are capacitive piezo-driven versus current driven, they are able to cut power consumption to fractions of that of a typical voice coil driver, only using up 42µW of power.

Size is also a key advantage of the new technology. Currently xMEMS is producing a standard package solution with the sound coming perpendicularly out of the package which has the aforementioned 8.4 x 6.05 x 0.985mm footprint, but we’ll also see a side-firing solution which has the same dimensions, however allows manufacturers to better manage internal earphone design and component positioning.

In the above crude 3D printed unit with no optimisations whatsoever in terms of sound design, xMEMS easily managed to design an earphone of similar dimensions to that of current standard designs. In fact, commercial products are likely to looks much better and to better take advantage of the size and volume savings that such a design would allow.

One key aspect of the capacitive piezo-drive is that it requires a different amplifier design to that of classical speaker. Montara can be driven up to 30V peak-to-peak signals which is well above the range of your existing amplifier designs. As such, customers wishing to deploy a MEMS speaker design such as the Montara requires an additional companion chip, such as Texas Instruments’ LM48580.

In my view this is one of the big hurdles for more widespread adoption of the technology as it will limit its usage to more integrated solutions which do actually offer the proper amplifier design to drive the speakers – a lot of existing audio solutions out there will need an extra adapter/amp if any vendor actually decides to actually make a non-integrated “dumb” earphone design (As in, your classical 3.5mm ear/headphones).

TWS (True wireless stereo) headphones here obviously are the prime target market for the Montara as the amplifier aspect can be addressed at design, and such products can fully take advantage of the size, weight and power advantages of the new speaker technology.

In measurements, using the crude 3D-printed earphone prototype depicted earlier, xMEMS showcases that the Montara MEMS speaker has significantly higher SPL than any other earphone solution, with production models fully achieving the targeted 115dB SPL (The prototype only had 5 of the 6 cells active). The native frequency response here is much higher in the higher frequencies – allowing vendors headroom in order adapt and filter the sound signature in their designs. Filtering down is much easier than boosting at these frequencies.

THD at 94dB SPL is also significantly better than even an unnamed pair of $900 professional IEMs – and again, there’s emphasis that this is just a crude design with no audio optimisations whatsoever.

In terms of cost, xMEMS didn’t disclose any precise figure, but shared with us that it’ll be in the range of current balanced armature designs. xMEMS’ Montara speaker is now sampling to vendors, with expected mass production kicking in around spring next year – with commercial devices from vendors also likely to see the light of day around this time.

Samsung Lets Note20+/Ultra Design Slip

We still haven’t had any official announcements from Samsung regarding the Note20 series as of yet, expecting the company to only reveal the new phone series sometime in early to mid-August if past release dates are any indications. Yet in a sur…

We still haven’t had any official announcements from Samsung regarding the Note20 series as of yet, expecting the company to only reveal the new phone series sometime in early to mid-August if past release dates are any indications. Yet in a surprise blunder, the company has managed to publicly upload two product images of the upcoming Note20+ or Ultra (naming uncertain) on one of its Ukrainian pages.

Whilst we usually don’t report on leaks or unofficial speculations as part of our editorial standards – a first party blunder like this is very much an exception to the rule.

The leak showcases the seemingly bigger sibling of the Note20 series as it features the full camera housing and seemingly same modules as the Galaxy S20 Ultra. There’s been a design aesthetic change as the cameras are now accentuated by a ring element around the lenses, making the modules appear more consistent with each other, even though there’s still clearly different sized lenses along with the rectangular periscope zoom module. The images showcase actual depth on the part of the ring elements, so they may extend in three dimensions.

The new gold/bronze colour also marks a return for Samsung for such a more metallic option.

We expect the Note20 series to be a minor hardware upgrade over the S20 devices, with the most defining characteristic naturally being the phone’s integrated S-Pen stylus.

Related Reading:

Best Android Phones: March 2021

We’re well into 2021 now and the new release schedule of devices is in full swing. January has been unusually eventful in that Samsung has announced and released their new Galaxy S21 line-up much earlier than in prior years, making into our recommendation list for all the company’s new models.

We’re well into 2021 now and the new release schedule of devices is in full swing. January has been unusually eventful in that Samsung has announced and released their new Galaxy S21 line-up much earlier than in prior years, making into our recommendation list for all the company's new models.

Qualcomm Announces New Snapdragon Wear 4100 & 4100+: 12nm A53 Smartwatches

Today Qualcomm is making a big step forward in its smartwatch SoC offerings by introducing the brand-new Snapdragon Wear 4100 and Wear 4100+ platforms. The new chips succeed the aging two 2018 originating Wear 3100 platforms and significantl…

Today Qualcomm is making a big step forward in its smartwatch SoC offerings by introducing the brand-new Snapdragon Wear 4100 and Wear 4100+ platforms. The new chips succeed the aging two 2018 originating Wear 3100 platforms and significantly upgrading the hardware specifications, bringing to the table all new IPs for CPU, GPU and DSPs, all manufactured on a newer lower power process node.

The OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 Pro Review: Becoming The Flagship

It’s been a couple of months since OnePlus released the new OnePlus 8 & OnePlus 8 Pro, and both devices have received plenty of software updates improving the device’s experiences and camera qualities. Today, it’s time to finally…

It’s been a couple of months since OnePlus released the new OnePlus 8 & OnePlus 8 Pro, and both devices have received plenty of software updates improving the device’s experiences and camera qualities. Today, it’s time to finally go over the full review of both devices, which OnePlus no longer really calls “flagship killers”, but rather outright flagships.

The OnePlus 8, and especially the OnePlus 8 pro are big step-up redesigns from the company, significantly raising the bar in regards to the specifications and features of the phones. The OnePlus 8 Pro is essentially a check-marked wish-list of characteristics that were missing from last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro as the company has addressed some of its predecessors’ biggest criticisms. The slightly smaller and cheaper regular OnePlus 8 more closely follows its predecessors’ ethos as well as competitive pricing, all whilst adopting the new design language that’s been updated with this year’s devices.