Vector graphics explained: how to make logos, advertisements, and UIs that absolutely pop

Vector graphics are all around us, and provide an important way to visually communicate information, whether it’s corporate branding, street signage, or a flier in the window of a cafe. But vector graphics themselves are even more fascinating when you look behind the shapes and fonts that combine to communicate a message at a glance, and recognize them for what they really are, and why they are such a powerful tool in any designer’s toolbox.

Before we dive into what vector graphics are, let’s shed some light on the two main kinds of computer graphics: vectors and rasters. Chances are you’re already familiar with the latter thanks to many of the most common file formats – JPEGs and PNGs – falling in this category. The former is less mainstream but is essential to digital design, with the most common file formats being EPS, AI, or SVG, among a couple of other lesser used types. 

If we see an image on a billboard or an ad in a subway car, that image started off as one of these two essential types of graphic before they made it out into the material world, but the two graphics down take the same path from the digital pen to the advert on the wall.

Vector graphics are images made from mathematically-defined points such as points, lines, and curves. They’re 2D in nature but with the help of colors, textures, and layers, they can be made to look 3D. Vector images are saved on your device as a set of commands that represents a list of attributes of the stored image, and it’s this characteristic that makes them so incredibly useful for a graphic designer.  

 What are vector graphics used for? 

A graphic advertizing a hot summer sale with vector palm trees in the background

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Since vector graphics are essentially just mathematical functions defining a shape, they are easily scalable, editable, and overall simpler to work with. They’re used for a variety of tasks, but advertising and marketing are by far the top use cases for vector graphics. 

Vectors are an ideal choice for logos, business cards, posters, and other materials used in promotional campaigns. What makes them suitable for advertising is their scalability among a couple of other attributes. You can enlarge or reduce a vector image by any proportion and it won’t suffer a loss in quality.

If you took the mathematical function that defines a perfect circle, it doesn’t matter that you input as that circle’s radius, it will always form the same shape at any size.

Hence, businesses turn towards vector graphics for images that need to be scaled up and scaled down for, for instance, a billboard and a business card respectively. Since they’re not only painless to work with but also easy to store, they make for a great choice for both online and print design. This gives businesses an extra advantage of working with vectors as it enables them to ensure uniformity among their online and print marketing campaigns.

Vector graphics carry the immense potential to make illustrations look engaging. With the addition of attractive colors and eye-catching designs, mere lines, points, and curves can be enhanced to grab the attention of consumers. Hence, they’re also a personal favorite of web designers and app developers. Websites and apps often use vectors for interfaces, fonts, landing pages, and infographics.

Another common use of vectors is the designs you see on products, clothing, or merchandise. Since they’re relatively easy to duplicate, brands and individuals opt for them to amp up their products.

What makes vector graphics different?

A side by side comparison showing how rasters pixelate when zoomed in but vectors do not

The left image is rasterized, and so it cannot scale as cleanly as the vector image on the right, which does not pixelate no matter how much you scale it up nor does it lose detail no matter how much you scale it down. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As mentioned above, their ability to be scaled without losing quality gives vectors the biggest edge over raster graphics. Since vectors are essentially lines, points, and curves held together via a mathematical equation, they can be resized to the size of your liking without getting blurry. There is zero chance of pixelation as there are no pixels involved in the process, unlike in raster images. Because of this quality, vectors are termed “resolution-independent.”

Another feature unique to vector graphics that is closely related to mathematical equations being their building blocks is their small file sizes. Since vector images don’t store pixels, unlike rasters, they do not require a lot of memory on your device. The images are saved as mathematical relationships translated into code. This makes it easy for businesses to save a number of vector images on their devices without overburdening their systems.

File size and loading time are interrelated. Since vector images have small file sizes, they also load faster. Hence, it is easier and faster to both transfer and load vector images on various devices and programs. 

As mentioned previously, vector images are also easy to duplicate making it very simple for designers to create copies of an existing design, making it simple to tesselate or tile an image. Another interesting feature of vector images is that they can easily be converted to raster images. Raster images, however, do not have the ability to be converted into vectors, at least not easily.

As vector images are not made from pixels, they have a sharper and more precise look to them. Have you ever noticed how a JPEG image loses sharpness when it’s zoomed in a lot? Vector images won’t ever give you that issue.

How do you make vector graphics?

The user interface for Adobe Illustrator showing a stylized Toucan

The user interface for Adobe Illustrator, one of the most popular programs for producing vector graphics. (Image credit: Adobe)

Out of the many programs available for making vector images, Adobe Illustrator is the most popular and also the industry standard. However, you have to spend a good bit of money to be able to use it. Among the best free Adobe Illustrator vector alternatives, Vecteezy and Inkscape are some of the best graphics design software going, especially if you’re on a tight budget or just starting out in graphic design.

Learning how to make vector graphics is fairly easy once you know how to use these programs. It may take you some practice to be able to make complex designs but you can make a simple graphic using just a couple of tools on Illustrator or other alternative vector design software. The most commonly used tools for vector designs  in Illustrator are the Pen tool, Curvature tool, Shape tools, and the Shape Builder tool, and these four tools alone will let you create almost anything. 

Let us look at how to make a simple house on Illustrator. If you don’t have Illustrator, don’t worry, Inkscape has pretty much the same functionality, though the interface might be different.

  • First, use the Rectangle tool in the Shape tool group in the toolbox.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • Then drag the shape of the base of the house onto the artboard.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • Next, select the Polygon tool from the Shape tool group. Create a hexagon with a diameter about as wide as the roof should be across. After you draw the shape, look along the blue box frame of the  shape for an anchor point slightly to the side of the center anchor for that side.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • By clicking and holding on this anchor point, you can drag the mouse to increase or decrease the number of side to the polygon. drag it until there are only three sides.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • Using the rotator handle at the corners of the shape frame, rotate and position the triangle so that it forms the roof.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • You may need to use one of the handles to size the shape to fit on the artboard.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • At this point the triangle and rectangle are two separate shapes that can be colored separately, separated, have effects applied to them without it affecting the other shape.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • If we select the Shape Builder tool though, we can turn two shapes into one. Do this by using the Selection tool while holding down shift to select the two shapes. With the shapes selected (it helps to click on the lines of the shape rather than trying to click the center), select the Shape Builder tool from the toolbox. Then, left click outside of the shapes you want to combine and drag the mouse over the two shapes that form the house.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)
  • When you let go of the mouse button, the shapes will automatically combine into a single shape, eliminating any edges between them, and taking on all of the characteristics of the first shape drawn through with Shape Builder.

An Adobe Illustrator Artboard showing the steps to constructing a shape

(Image credit: Future)

And that’s it. This vector image, even though rather basic, can be scaled up as large as a city block but it will not blur or lose its shape.

There’s a lot more to know about how to best utilize vectors to add depth and texture to an object, but this little house is a start, and it just might be the start of a new graphics design career.

Hidden Android code hints at another Google Pixel 7 upgrade

The Google Pixel 7 got its initial unveiling back at Google IO in May, but we don’t yet know everything about this upcoming flagship phone. Now newly discovered references in debug documentation for Android give us another hint about what’s on the way.

As reported by Android Police, the documentation includes a mention of a Hall effect sensor: that’s a sensor that can detect the presence of a magnet, most often deployed to tell a phone when a case is closed over it.

When it comes to flip covers, a variety of useful functions can be enabled if the phone knows whether that cover is open or closed. Essentially, it expands the possibilities for Pixel 7 accessories – and it’s a feature that the Google Pixel 6 range didn’t have.

Details, details, details

While it’s perhaps not the biggest upgrade that the Pixel 7 could possibly get over the Pixel 6, it does show that Google is thinking about the details when it comes to its next handset – and that it’s also considering accessories and the wider ecosystem.

There are actually drivers for a Hall effect sensor included in the software for the Google Pixel 6a, although there’s been no official confirmation from the manufacturer that the smartphone does indeed include such a sensor.

All will be revealed – probably – at some point in October, and we will of course bring you everything you need to know when the Pixel 7 goes on sale. In the meantime, expect a few more leaks and rumors to surface.


Analysis: all eyes on the Pixel 7

It’s been a tough few years for the Google Pixel phone series, but there is a general feeling that the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro were the best handsets that Google has put out yet – even if the sales figures haven’t really given Apple or Samsung anything to worry about.

That means that the Pixel 7 has something of a tough act to follow. We know that the main processor is going to get a significant upgrade, which should mean apps move along quicker and the AI response is even slicker.

There has been talk of a few camera upgrades, though a lot of the improvement in terms of picture taking and video recording might be done on the software side, which is of course something that Google has been known for with its Pixel range in the past.

On the other hand, the smartphone displays are likely to be more or less the same as they were on their predecessors, if the rumors and leaks up to this point are to be believed. The real test will come when we’ve actually got these phones in our hands to test.

Rollerdrome is Doom Eternal on roller skates – and it’s as good as it sounds

I’m rollerskating at maximum velocity and still a sniper’s laser sight is pinned to my torso. I wait for the final moment, just when they’re about to pull the trigger, to dodge the incoming bullet and fire my shotgun – right at the brute swinging a spiked club at my forehead. After beelining for the nearest half-pipe, I spin a nose grab mid-air to replenish my pistol ammo, and land on a grind rail – heading straight for the marksmen.

Now it’s just a case of shooting a few homing rockets out of the air, engaging slow motion, and unloading my dual pistols – all before wall-grinding to safety. I feel like a gun-toting martial artist on wheels. I look like a high-speed jumpsuit of death. And I’m having an amazing amount of fun.

This is Rollerdrome, an upcoming single-player arena shooter from Roll7 that signs you up to the titular fictional bloodsport. Made up of a series of deathmatches that string together into a complete single-player narrative campaign, Rollerdrome challenges you to fight waves of enemies across combat arenas strewn with skatepark paraphernalia. With nothing but a slim arsenal of weapons in hand and a pair of rollerskates on your feet, you’ll be pumping up combos, ticking off challenges, and performing a whole bunch of sick tricks worthy of the most extreme sports games.

Several enemies firing towards the player character in Rollerdrome

(Image credit: Roll7)

While lead producer Drew Jones pithily describes Rollerdrome as “a shooter on rollerskates”, studio fans might recognize it more as a mash-up of two of Roll7’s previous releases. Combining the fluid cell-shaded skating of Olli Olli with the frenetic arena survival of Laser League, the game’s taken a strikingly odd premise to what could be its zenith.

“The goal was not just to create a game that’s a blending of genres, so much as to create a game that’s its own genre,” says head of QA David Jenkins. “And not to have a game that is just, ‘Oh, it’s a skating game and you can shoot people in it’, or ‘Oh, it’s a shooting game and you happen to be wearing roller skates’. It’s very much its own separate sort of system.”

Beyond Thunderdrome

After spending several hours playing the game’s first six levels, it’s the skating half that’s really taken me. Rollerdrome is robust enough to hand you a range of tricks to perform – spins, grabs, and grinds – and intuitive enough to make even the most advanced techniques a breeze to pull off – like acid dropping down a quarter pipe or extending your air time. It’s all buttery smooth, too, with a fluidity that sells the magnificence of your violent performance.

Gunplay isn’t left out of that equation, either. With proximity mines to dodge, laser sights to shake off, homing missiles to avoid, and flaming beams of ionizing energy to think about, Rollerdrome’s freneticism is made manageable by a generous lock-on targeting system and nifty bullet time. Your reticle will automatically shift to enemies when you’re in close proximity, and slow motion can be engaged to let you rain down hell on your opponents while nipping about at furious speeds.

“It’s kind of gung-ho; throw caution to the wind,” says Jones. “These enemies are out to get you and you’ve got to take them on. If you try and play it a bit more conservatively, you’re not going to get as much [from the game] as you would if you just take the fight to the enemies.”

Rollerdrome’s gunplay is simple but elegant. It struck me as a rudimentary imitation of the Doom reboot

A slick ammo and health system incentivizes that aggression further, as you’ll need to dispatch enemies to replenish your fragile health bar, while performing a variety of tricks to refuel your limited ammo supply. Starting with a pair of pistols, I soon unlocked a shotgun and grenade launcher to take into fights, and was impressed by the mileage the game was able to wring out of even this small array. You’ll need to think carefully about your weapons, switching between them at pace to bypass each enemy’s defenses.

It’s simple but elegant. Rollerdrome’s gunplay struck me as a rudimentary imitation of Doom Eternal, as you dance between enemies, swap weapons on the fly, and barrel forward to keep your health and ammo afloat. Add to that the set of skill challenges that come with each level – which range from performing a particular trick, to wall-grinding a specific object, to beating a set score – and the scope for mastery is huge.

False start

Rollerdrome's protagonist leaping into the air

(Image credit: Roll7)

Where Rollerdrome starts to fluff its performance, however, is outside of the deathmatches. Set within a retro-futurist dystopia, marred by monopolistic corporations that quell civil unrest by televising hypnotic bloodsports, Rollerdrome punctuates its levels with snippets of worldbuilding. Between each set, you’ll walk around empty locker rooms and sports halls, reading newspaper clippings or listening to radio segments to get a whiff of the world beyond.

“There’s such an obvious well of inspiration in the ‘70s genre films, such as Rollerball and Running Man,” says Jones. “So once we had the bloodsport element, a lot of the setting, theme and time just slotted into place.”

Not that it made much of an impression on me. The main plot is fed to you so sporadically and with such little fanfare that I largely zoned out of the narrative entirely. I found myself more intrigued by my latest high score than the fate of this fictional world. A series of rollerskating deathmatches may well be fertile ground on which to tell a story of corporate moral turpitude, but with that story so divorced from the main events of the game, it amounted to little more than a forgettable aside. Hopefully Rollerdrome’s narrative promise blossoms in a full playthrough.

Wheeler-dealer

Kar Hassan skating in Rollerdrome

(Image credit: Roll7)

The most surprising thing about Rollerdrome is its single-player exclusivity. The idea of a rollerskating, cell-shaded arena shooter sounds like the perfect starting ground for the next hit battle royale or left-field competitive phenomenon in the mode of Rocket League. With Roll7 already packing some multiplayer development experience, why did it approach Rollerdrome as a single-player experience?

“The trap that we really didn’t want to fall in was to go too wide on a new subgenre of video game,” says Jones. “We had enough on our plates, and enough to figure out with the core idea of the game and the single-player idea that we started off with. We really wanted to pick a focused experience and just push that as far as we possibly could.”

For the most part, it looks like Roll7 has done exactly that. Rollerdrome might stumble over the tricky launch ramp of sprinkled storytelling, but offers such a finely balanced mix of skating and shooting that you’ll find yourself engrossed anyway. It might be time to dust off those rollerblades that have been sitting in the garage, because by the time Rollerdrome releases on August 16, you’ll want to hit the skatepark.

The best gaming PCs are cheaper than you think

If you love PC gaming, you’re going to want a sweet gaming PC, but there are many things to consider before getting one, the biggest being budget.

Trying to build the absolute best gaming PC imagineable can be obscenely expensive and buying one prebuilt isn’t much better, but there are ways to get cheaper ones; particularly when you build your own, but even if you get them pre-built. 

More than anything, the best computer for gaming is ultimately the best one you can actually afford, but you don’t want to just settle for any old PC. Here are some tips for how to get the very best gaming machine possible for any budget.

Budget gaming PCs

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the pretty good prebuilt gaming PC, believe it or not.

Let’s start with the brand name. People tend to opt for PCs made by well-known brands like Alienware, Corsair or MSI. It makes sense that they would, particularly when shopping for a relatively expensive PC, considering how difficult comparing PCs can be – if a company is successful, it feels more likely that its products will be well made. And you may well have heard enough about them to have an idea of whether you can trust them with your money.

One study, Why the Devil Wears Prada: Cross-National Meanings of Branded Products by Robin Couter et. al for the University of Connecticut School of Business, found that consumers associate big brand products with quality. They also said that people associated branding with status and identity, after all, many people like to look good and have the best of the best.

But enough of the formal stuff. The point is, you don’t have to go with well-known manufacturers.

Usually, even the best budget gaming PC is going to use cheaper parts, but cheaper parts do not always mean bad or lower performance. Some also use parts that are not by big-name manufacturers; they might strip back on the aesthetics; a smaller case without extra trimmings like RGB lighting saves a sweet penny.

Still, how do you find out if a lesser-known product or company is worth it?

For individual computers, a great way is customer reviews. Amazon has a great platform for this. You can learn a lot from reading reviews, and you can ask questions, too.

Sometimes you just want to know if this or that company you’ve never heard of is worth considering, and quickly. For that, Trustpilot, which hosts user reviews of companies and gives them a score, is great for that.

It’s not just no-name manufacturers that make budget PCs. Even large ones do it, usually built with cheaper parts, like MSI’s Trident 3 10th ($1,153.27, around £949, AU$1,674) or the HP Victus 15 L, starting from as cheap as $750 (around £617, AU$1,086), or the CyberPowerPC Wyvern Gaming PC, which you can cop for a nice $936.33 (around £770, AU$1,356) on Amazon.

And this isn’t even accounting for retailer sales events when these gaming PCs typically become even cheaper.

Gaming laptops

A PC gamer playing a game on a gaming laptop

(Image credit: Canva)

Then, there are gaming laptops. Now, hear us out, you might prefer a desktop, but with one of the best gaming laptops, you can still have a cool gaming setup, and without a tower, monitor screen, and keyboard taking up space further pressuring the purse strings.

When it comes to laptops we know the obvious perks of owning one. The fact that it’s mobile means you can take it with you wherever you need to go; you can take your gaming with you on holiday, or if you have to travel for work.

If you need a laptop anyway, buying a gaming one will save you from buying a desktop –  you’ll save money, even though you pay more for power in a laptop. And many laptops can play the best PC games admirably, possessing some of the best processors and mobile GPUs, and feature some fantastic displays.

The most budget PC of all

Let’s just take a moment to think about the PCs that have loved and served us for many years, only to have us discard and replace them with a newer, better model. You will never be forgotten.

In fact, we want to advocate on behalf of the discarded old PC, because there’s no reason for you to get rid of them. Ever heard of a makeover? Well, that’s where we’re going with this. You already have a case, we’re sure, salvageable parts, and the extra peripherals that would cost you extra, like a mouse, monitor, and keyboard – so why not upgrade it?

While it can feel intimidating if you’ve never touched the inside of a PC before, this is a great chance for you to learn. You should make a clear plan of what an upgraded version of your PC would look like. What do you want it to do?

You can check out online retailers like Newegg and Ebuyer. There’s User Benchmark to check how your PC measures up, and it’ll make it clear what’s old and bad about your PC, and there are also sites that help you to pick parts for your PC like PC Part Picker. Also, be sure to read our tech reviews to get a breakdown of PC components that may be right for you, and don’t forget your local PC shop is an option too.

All in all, it’s possible to get a great gaming PC for a budget price. So, explore your options and don’t limit yourself because you think it’s impossible.

Microsoft says hydrogen fuel cells could be the future of data center power

Microsoft says it has produced a zero-carbon emissions replacement for the diesel-powered generators used for backups in data centers, in the event of power outages and other service disruptions.

In a blog post announcing the news, Sean James, Microsoft’s director of data center research, called the breakthrough a “moon landing” moment for the data center industry

Data center sustainability is a huge deal whatever way you look at it; the cornerstones of modern cloud hosting currently use nearly 1% of global electricity demand contributing 0.3% of all global CO2 emissions, according to research from the International Energy Agency.

How does it work?

Microsoft’s backup generator was powered by two fuel cells residing inside two 40-feet-long shipping containers.

The set-up can reportedly generate up to 3 megawatts of power, which is enough to replace one diesel generator or up to 1,800 homes.

Microsoft has been experimenting with fuel cell technology since 2013, and has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030.

It’s not just hydrogen that offers the chance to make the future of data centers more sustainable, however. 

Fujitsu is working with Icelandic start-up Atmonia to produce sustainable Amonnia, which could be burned to effectively power data centers if the heavily emitting Haber-Bosch process could be replaced.

Hydrogen power also has many high-profile detractors, despite Microsoft’s show of faith, with Elon Musk describing the technology as “the dumbest thing I could possibly imagine for energy storage” at a recent event.

“I’m excited about the idea of working on something that can make a difference in the world, and hydrogen has a ton of potential to be a huge game changer,” said Sean James, Microsoft’s director of datacenter research. “When a lot of people think of renewable energy, they think of wind turbines and solar panels, and they don’t necessarily think of hydrogen.”

“I know I didn’t. I think that will definitely change.”

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 cases appear in new leak

August 10 is going to be a big day for Samsung fans, as we’re getting the formal unveiling of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Galaxy Z Flip 4 (and more besides). Ahead of the event, a new leak has revealed some of the official cases we can expect to see launching alongside the foldable phones.

As spotted by SamMobile, one retailer in Germany has already started listing a few accessories for both the Z Fold 4 and the Z Flip 4, showing off different elements of the design of both smartphones at the same time.

These cases don’t seem to have changed massively from those we got with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, suggesting that there haven’t been any major shifts in the designs of the foldable handsets either.

Cases and pricing

For the Galaxy Z Fold 4, it looks as though there’s a Slim Standing Cover that does double duty as a case and a stand for the device, and according to the retailer that’s going to go on sale for €43.47 (about $45 / £37 / AU$64). A single piece protector, meanwhile, will cost €19.13 ($20 / £16 / AU$28).

When it comes to the Galaxy Z Flip 4, there’s a Flap Leather Cover for €72.84 (about $74 / £61/ AU$107), and a Clear Cover with Ring for €28.72 (about $29 / £24 / AU$42). These prices might just be placeholders or tentative estimates however, and might differ when the accessories actually go on sale.

We don’t have long to wait until August 10, and we’re going to get to see the Galaxy Watch 5, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro at the same event as well. We’ll bring you all the announcements as they’re made, along with details of any accessories that Samsung is unveiling too.


Analysis: the importance of an ecosystem

Samsung certainly isn’t shy of pushing out a suite of accessories and add-ons alongside its main devices – it knows the importance of offering not just phones, tablets, smartwatches and all the rest, but also complementary products to go alongside them.

Apple is leading the way here, with laptops and phones and smartwatches and tracking devices and streaming boxes, all working seamlessly with each other. Plus, there are plenty of official cases and chargers and cables for users to pick through too.

You can see that this is something that Google is trying to emulate. Google hasn’t always been able to get hardware right, but the Google Pixel 6 was seen as a success for the company, and it’s bringing out the Pixel Watch as well later in the year.

One edge that Samsung does have over both of these competitors is that it has two well-established foldable phones in its line-up – available in various colors and with various accessories as well. While both Apple and Google are expected to launch folding phones at some point, Samsung has a clear head start here.

This major breakthrough could end PC overheating worries for good

Silicon might be the de facto standard for today’s computing, but it might be due for a change if new research from MIT, the University of Houston, and other institutions is to be believed.

Cubic boron arsenide, a chemical compound cooked up from a combination of boron and arsenic, could apparently be a better semiconductor, bypassing some of the weaknesses of silicon when it comes to heat sensitivity. 

In fact, according to research published in Science,  Cubic boron arsenide has the “third-best thermal conductivity of any material — next to diamond and isotopically enriched cubic boron nitride”.

Is this the future?

The research said that more work would be needed to determine whether cubic boron arsenide can be “made in a practical, economical form, much less replace the ubiquitous silicon”. 

But even in the near future, the material could find “some uses where its unique properties would make a significant difference” according to the researchers. 

That being said, the research outlined the vast potential that the compound has.

Cubic boron arsenide is apparently much more accommodating to “holes” — electrons’ positively charged counterparts.

The lower heat sensitivity of cubic boron could also make a huge difference.

“Heat is now a major bottleneck for many electronics,” said MIT postdoc Jungwoo Shin who co-authored the paper. “Silicon carbide is replacing silicon for power electronics in major EV industries including Tesla, since it has three times higher thermal conductivity than silicon despite its lower electrical mobilities”. 

“Imagine what boron arsenides can achieve, with 10 times higher thermal conductivity and much higher mobility than silicon. It can be a game changer.”

It’s not just cubic boron arsenide that is threatening to overtake silicon one day.

Researchers from the University of Illinois built 4-bit and 8-bit processors entirely out of plastic, which apparently had an 81% success rate, at least for the 4-bit models. 

It’s important to note that silicon never really had a monopoly in the world of semiconductors anyway.

Gallium arsenide, built from gallium and arsenic, is widely used in lasers as an alternative to silicon.

Via MIT News

Intel Arc graphics cards could be in serious trouble – will Team Blue throw in the towel?

*Update: After this story published, Intel was able to respond to our request. Intel pointed us to a tweet by Raja Koduri, Intel’s executive vice president and general manager of the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) Group. We have updated this story with Koduri’s statement.* 

There’s finally some news on Intel Arc Alchemist’s release date, but not the kind that anybody outside of Nvidia and AMD really wanted to hear: Arc Alchemist and Battlemage might get the ax entirely over unfixable hardware flaws that are kneecapping their performance, and it’s threatening to scrap Intel’s entire Arc discrete graphics line.

This report comes from YouTuber Moore’s Law is Dead, and it is a doozy, full of internal politics, bitterness, and recriminations at Intel over the company’s graphics unit being unable to actually deliver the discrete graphics cards that have been hyped up for more than a year.

I highly suggest you watch the video for all the tea, but the key takeaway is that internal sources at Intel told Moore’s Law is Dead that there is a potentially unfixable hardware flaw in the Arc Alchemist GPU that the graphics unit had hoped to address using a driver fix, but that fix isn’t working. That’s the hardware challenge, reportedly, and it might extend to Battlemage as well. If this is true, then it definitely would explain why the Intel Arc launch has been, well, strange.

Where things get real messy is that the Intel Arc graphics unit has been doing PR for Arc Alchemist cards that Intel told investors would have launched to western markets by the end of the second quarter of this year. We are now in Q3, the cards have not launched, and Intel insiders outside of the graphics unit are angry that the graphics unit is doing PR saying that cards are ready when they do not appear to be ready at all.

On top of that, there are apparently issues with Intel AIB partners who, according to a purportedly leaked presentation, were lined up to produce Intel Arc cards starting at the end of July. Moore’s Law is Dead is saying that none of the board partners he’s spoken with have any idea what is going on, and the AIBs are not at all happy with the situation.

Finally, cue Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO, who is reportedly now looking into whether the entire Arc discrete graphics project should just be canceled. As Moore’s Law is Dead highlights in the video, there were some strong hints of this frustration during Intel’s earnings call this week where Gelsinger acknowledged the disappointing earnings and said that while the global chip shortage was still very much an issue, problems of “execution” on Intel’s part also contributed to Intel’s falling far short of earnings expectations for Q2.

So, that is more or less the report that Moore’s Law is Dead presented, and we have not independently confirmed anything ourselves. For Intel’s part, Intel’s AXG chief Raja Koduri tweeted out Intel’s commitment to Arc Alchemist this year. 

“We are very much committed to our roadmap,” Koduri said. “We are ramping Alchemist and will continue to improve the experience. You will see more updates from us this quarter. AXG is also on track to ramp 4 new product lines by the end of the year.”

So, um, when exactly are we going to see these cards? Asking for a friend

It’s still too soon to tell what exactly is happening with Intel Arc, but Moore’s Law is Dead’s report isn’t coming out of nowhere. Intel Arc Alchemist is more than a month late from its target launch date in the US, and the smattering of cards we have seen in the wild have been bizarrely inconsistent, with performance throttling from single lines of code to the head-scratcher that Intel’s first discrete graphics card was going to launch in China and India first.

Fair enough, those are two of the largest consumer markets in the world, and China has more than enough tech heads that want to get their hands on some Intel cards, too, but there’s no way to shake an uneasy feeling about all this. This doesn’t feel like a well-planned product launch, and the recent PR appearances by some Intel reps on the graphics card team invariably fail to answer the question everybody is asking, which is when are these cards coming out? 

Sure, they’re available in China and India, so they are technically “out”, but I mean globally. That’s a question Intel can’t seem to answer right now, and it’s a damned shame if there ever was one.

Budget builders can’t catch a break

Earlier this week, I wrote about the problem of semiconductor manufacturers like Nvidia, AMD, and, yes, Intel, pursuing increasingly more powerful hardware in an arms race with rivals and how that is having very real consequences in the real world. The wholesale abandonment of any pretense towards energy efficiency in all but the most basic Chromebook processor is disturbing.

Not as bad but still awful is the pricing out of an increasing number of people, mostly gamers but also academics and researchers who actually do need high-performance GPUs for scientific work, and who are simply not the target consumers for these cards anymore. 

There are rumors that Nvidia’s RTX 4090, when it launches later this year, will cost less than the RTX 3090. That’s a nice start, but the RTX 3090 costs $1,499. Will the RTX 4090 cost $1,449? $1,299? You know what else costs $1,499? A 3-credit-hour graduate course at the City University of New York-Brooklyn College. The cost of the RTX 3090 was obscene, frankly, when it launched, and it remains so.

It used to be you could rely on AMD to come in with a lower-cost option for the rest of us who couldn’t afford a GeForce card anymore, but that ship is sailing, too. There is still value to be found among graphics cards out there, which is why the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti is at the top of our best graphics card list, but that herd is thinning rather quickly.

That, ultimately, was my hope for Intel Arc. As a newcomer to the graphics card cold war between Nvidia and AMD, there was room for Intel to sweep in with a solid budget to lower-midrange lineup and clean up on that cost-conscious-friendly market. I hope Moore’s Law is Dead turns out to be dead wrong on this, but it’s looking rather iffy out here for all the gamers stuck on aging hardware like the RTX 1050 and AMD RX 470.

If Intel does end up shelving or axing Arc entirely, it will be a real blow to budget-minded gamers and builders out there, and the budget side of things could really use a solid win these days.

Sony is aiming to increase PS5 supplies for the holiday season

Sony has said it’s aiming to increase the production of PS5 consoles in order to increase supply ahead of the end of 2022 and the holiday season.

Sony made the announcement in its latest earnings results, in which it also explains that software sales and gameplay engagement have dropped year-on-year, stating that engagement in particular is “a much lower level of engagement than we anticipated in our previous forecast.” 

As a result of this, Sony says it intends “to take action to increase user engagement in the second half of the fiscal year, during which major titles including first party software are scheduled to be released”. Its primary way of doing this will be by “increasing the supply of PlayStation 5 [PS5] hardware and promoting the new PlayStation Plus service.”

Sony says it’s not changing its initial forecast that it will sell 18 million units for this financial year. This optimism stems from “a recovery from the impact of the lockdown in Shanghai and a significant improvement in the supply of components”. Sony is hopeful that it can increase production and increase supply ahead of the holiday period, saying, “we are working to bring-forward more supply into the year-end holiday selling season.”

This isn’t the first time Sony has talked about ramping up production this year. As recently as June, Veronica Rogers, Head of Global Sales and Business Operations at SIE, told GamesIndustry.biz, “we are planning on a significant ramp-up in PS5 production this year and we are working endlessly to make sure that PlayStation 5 is available for everyone who wants one.”

It’s been since the console’s launch in November 2020 that Sony and anyone looking to pick up a PS5 has been battling against stock shortages. Despite these shortages, the console is still selling, now having reached 21.7 million units sold globally. It’s worth noting, though, that the supply woes are causing havoc for Sony, with reports that the Xbox Series family of consoles has recently started outselling the PS5 in Japan which is a pretty big deal.

Looking up

It’s safe to say that the PS5 has been hard to come by thanks to a mix of high demand, component shortages, the pandemic and scalpers. This news is, at least, promising for those who are still desperately searching for PS5 stock. It feels reasonable to expect, however, that it’ll be a steady build of availability rather than a sudden deluge of consoles. 

Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger said as recently as May 2022, for instance, that the global chip and semiconductor crisis which has impacted consoles could actually continue well into 2024. Gelsinger said that the chip shortage has started to impact the manufacturing machines that are responsible for creating chips in the first place.

“That’s part of the reason that we believe the overall semiconductor shortage will now drift into 2024, from our earlier estimates in 2023, just because the shortages have now hit equipment and some of those factory ramps will be more challenged,” Gelsinger said. 

But things are definitely looking up. Alongside this news from Sony, Valve announced just this week that thanks to an easing of supply chain issues, it can ramp up production of the Steam Deck and fulfil all reservations by the end of 2022. 

Overall, things are looking brighter and hopefully, with Sony’s components constraints seemingly easing in Shanghai, we’re going to start seeing more PS5 stock become available for those looking to make the most of upcoming platform exclusives like God of War: Ragnarok and new features like the recently-added 1440p support

I bought this crappy laptop for college and it was the best decision I ever made

Picture this: it’s 2008 and I’m in my first year of college, badly needing my own laptop but not having a ton of spare income (read: barely any at all). At this point Dell, which had firmly established itself as a brand thanks to the desktops it provided to mine and other high schools, was my number one choice due to being a solid maker of low and mid-range laptops with affordable pricing.

After careful saving I settled on a Dell Inspiron 1525, which was its mid-range option. Of course back then none of that mattered to me. I just needed something that could let me take notes, watch movies, play games, and also let me customize it with a yellow back plate, I didn’t need to have the best gaming laptop or a MacBook or anything like that, just something that worked.

That laptop lasted me almost a decade and I loved it to pieces. It really was one of the best student laptops that might have ever existed. My note-taking game became flawless, I could stream movies and play them on DVD, type out research papers without needing the computer lab (and for a commuting student this was vital), and so much more. 

This yellow Dell Inspiron 1525, which I even named Madeline, was my baby and to this day I treasure the time we had together. And looking back, it was an absolute piece of crap that I had to repair countless times. But despite that, it taught me so many valuable lessons about how to properly choose a laptop that best suits your needs, and with everyone getting ready to go back to school in a month’s time, I hope more people make a similar choice to the one I made.

Size and weight are very important 

Let me start by saying that the Dell Inspiron 1525 weighs exactly six pounds. And I carried that laptop with me seven days a week between school and work at school. To be fair this weight came from the built-in DVD drive, which I wouldn’t have traded for the world. But as you can imagine, this was quite the burden for a young adult to be lugging around every day along with all her books.

What made it even bulkier was the 15.4-inch screen, which increased the size quite a bit and most likely contributed to the weight along with the optic drive. And considering that most of my use for this laptop was mundane, it was completely unnecessary to be carrying around a six-pound paper writing machine.

Instead, my focus should have been on finding a more portable laptop or, even better, a home PC. With the latter, I wouldn’t be able to notetake but it would make for a more stable machine with a much longer shelf life. Unfortunately, Chromebooks didn’t exist until after I left college so that wasn’t an option. But regardless, I should have spent more time researching my purchase, and I could have saved my self a lot of backache.

Lesson one: make sure that the screen size and weight suit your needs.

Build quality is really important 

Ol’ Madeline gave me about ten years of useful life before conking out, something I don’t even think the best laptop in the world could really do nowadays, so she was a tough old girl. Considering the average life cycle for a laptop nowadays is about three to five years, Madeline literally ran circles around lesser laptops. However, this came with its own issues, something I hadn’t anticipated or planned for.

About two years into my ownership, I realized that the hinges were a bit…off. They stopped opening properly to the point that it would lift part of the back plate off the rest of the laptop whenever I opened it. Luckily this issue was mostly fixed through the university techs replacing the whole piece.

I also realized very quickly that this laptop got very hot, very rapidly. As in do not have this laptop on your lap unless you like it to be very toasty. Apparently, this was because the 1525 used a single heatsink, which wasn’t abnormal but this model was the most common one with that issue. But past Allisa never looked into this because she didn’t understand how important this sort of build issue was. So I learned it the hard way.

At one point the battery also failed on me, and I had to purchase and then have installed a brand new one. The positive is that this greatly increased the wattage and therefore the battery life, but the downside was that now I had a battery that jutted out of the back.

Lesson two: due diligence goes a long way

I miss built-in optical drives 

Remember when I mentioned that one of the main causes of the 1525’s weight was the optical drive? I wish that was a common issue with modern-day laptops. Sure, it’s great to have ultra-thin laptops that are easy to carry around, since more variety addresses more needs. But there’s no way to find a laptop with a drive at all.

We can argue the many reasons why this particular feature was phased out, but the fact is this design choice severely limits what a laptop is capable of and restricts it to digital-only products and downloads. Also, they no longer double as DVD players, which is a travesty.

Thinking back to my Dell Inspiron 1525, the fact that I could pop in a movie whenever I wanted to or install games or programs or burn CDs gave me so much more flexibility. That laptop did more for me in a few years than any other laptop has done for me since then.

Lesson three: you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.

Take care of your computer, and it will take care of you (usually)

Over the years, me and my Dell Inspiron 1525 – my Madeline – have gone through many, many ups and downs. And while that busted-up old beast gave me more than a fair share of headaches, I still love it with all my heart, and the lessons I learned from it I wouldn’t trade for the world.