Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2013 - 02:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: computex, notepal u2 plus, mobile, laptop cooler, laptop, cooler master, computex 2013
Cooler Master has released a new notebook cooler called the NotePal U2 Plus that is the latest model in the NotePal U-series. This cooler supports up to 17" laptops and allows you to move the two included fans for optimal cooling (ie, actually put the fans over the vents).
Other features of the NotePal U2 Plus include raised feet that lift up your laptop at a slight angle to make long typing or gaming sessions more comfortable, according to Cooler Master. The cooler feet also aid in cable management by allowing you to loop your long cords around the included hooks. Finally, the NotePal U2 Plus can attach to your laptop and be carried with along using an elastic strap and the cooler feet to hold your notebook in place.
The new Cooler Master notebook cooler is available now with an MSRP of $29.99.
A Reference Platform - But not a great one
Believe it or not, AMD claims that the Brazos platform, along with the "Brazos 2.0" update the following year, were the company's most successful mobile platforms in terms of sales and design wins. When it first took the scene in late 2010, it was going head to head against the likes of Intel's Atom processor and the combination of Atom + NVIDIA ION and winning. It was sold in mini-ITX motherboard form factors as well as small clamshell notebooks (gasp, dare we say...NETBOOKS?) and though it might not have gotten the universal attention it deserved, it was a great part.
With Kabini (and Temash as well), AMD is making another attempt to pull in some marketshare in the low power, low cost mobile markets. I have already gone over the details of the mobile platforms that AMD is calling Elite Mobility (Temash) and Mainstream (Kabini) in a previous article that launched today.
This article will quickly focus on the real-world performance of the Kabini platform as demonstrated by a reference laptop I received while visiting AMD in Toronto a few weeks ago. While this design isn't going to be available in retail (and I am somewhat thankful based on the build quality) the key is to look at the performance and power efficiency of the platform itself, not the specific implementation.
Kabini Architecture Overview
The building blocks of Kabini are four Jaguar x86 cores and 128 Radeon cores colleted in a pair of Compute Units - similar in many ways to the CUs found in the Radeon HD 7000 series discrete GPUs. Josh has written a very good article that focuses on the completely new architecture that is Jaguar and compared it to other processors including AMD's previous core used in Brazos, the Bobcat core.
British chip design company ARM recently released an unaudited financial report with details on its Q1 2013 performance. The mobile SoC giant announced that it saw 2.6 million ARM chips in the first quarter of this year, a 35% improvement over last year and further evidence that ARM still dominates the low-power mobile market.
In fact, the chip designer made $94.9 million in licensing all those ARM chips, which was a big chunk of the company’s total Q1 2013 revenue of $263.9 million. Revenue was up by 26% versus the first quarter of the previous year (Q1 2012), which was only $209.4 million. Further, ARM’s profit (pre-tax) is 89.4 million pounds or approximately $137 million USD.
ARM saw revenue from both licensing and royalties increase year over year (YoY) by 24% and 33% which indicates that more companies are jumping into the mobile and embedded markets with ARM chips or licenses to make custom designs of their own. According to the report, the company sold five-times more Mali GPUs, saw a 50% increase in ARM-powered embedded devices, and noticed a 25% increase in ARM mobile devices year over year respectively. ARM has also started moving ARMv8 (64-bit ARM) licenses. Of the total 22 licenses in Q1 2013, 7 of the licenses were for ARM’s Cortex-A50 series processors along with a single ARMv8 license (a total of 9 to date). In Q1 2013, ARM also sold three Mali GPU licenses, and one of those was for the company’s high-end Skymir GPU.
In all, ARM had a good first quarter and is showing signs of increased growth. With ARMv8 on the horizon, I am interested to see the company’s numbers next year and how they compare year over year as ARM attempts to take over the server room in particular. The profits and revenue are modest in comparison to X86 giant Intel's Q1 2013 results, but are not bad at all for a company that doesn’t produce chips itself!
Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2013 - 01:43 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wireless display, Raspberry Pi, paperwhite, mobile, kindle, e-ink
The Raspberry Pi makes for a cheap and low power media PC, file server, or desktop but the lack of a display means that it is not very portable. Recently a hack was posted online by Max Ogden that enables the Rasbperry Pi to be used on the go by pairing it with an Amazon Kindle and its e-ink display. His wireless display setup was actually based on a previous hack that allowed the Pi to be paired with the 3rd-generation Kindle. Ogden's hack takes things a step further by supporting the latest Paperwhite versions as well as no longer requirig a wired connnection between the display and the Raspberry Pi.
By loading the Raspberry Pi with Raspian Linux and adding a terminal emulator to the Kindle, the Kindle connects to the Pi over an SSH session where the Pi console and any keyboard input can be seen on the Kindle's e-ink display. The hardware needed to make the setup work includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, a Wi-Fi USB NIC, The Raspberry Pi, a supported Kindle, and a battery pack with enough juice to power everything. A wired or wireless keyboard and Wi-Fi dongle can be added to the Raspberry Pi Model B, bu Model A users will need to add a USB hub as the $25 model only supports a single USB port on the device itself.
Max Ogden shows off his new portable battery-powered Raspberry Pi with wireless e-ink display.
There are some limitations to this setup. One is a bit of latency between typing and seeing the characters appear on the screen due to the low refresh rate inherent in e-ink displays and the wireless connection. Ogden estimates that this delay is around 200ms, and is noticeably but bearable while typing. The other major limitation is that the display can currently only be used to display the Pi console, and not the GUI of Raspian. For writing code or articles, you could get by with a command-line text editor like nano or vi--at the very least it would be a distraction-free writing environment as you could not procrastinate and browse Reddit or watch videos even if you wanted to (heh).
If you are interested in setting up your own wireless Raspberry Pi display, you should check out Ogdens blog for a list of recommended hardware as well as Rod Vagg's tutorial on configuring the Kindle Paperwhite with the correct software.
This is one of the more-useful Raspberry Pi hacks that I've seen so far. Hopefully, a future hack will come along that will also allow one of these e-ink devices to display the GUI desktop environment and not just the terminal.
Subject: Processors | April 3, 2013 - 08:35 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mobile, Lenovo, electrical engineering, chip design, arm
According to a recent article in the EE Times, Beijing-based PC OEM Lenovo many be entering the mobile chip design business. An anonymous source allegedly familiar with the matter has indicated that Lenovo will be expanding its Integrated Circuits design team to 100 engineers by the second-half of this year. Further, Lenovo will reportedly task the newly-expanded team with designing an ARM processor of its own to join the ranks of Apple, Intel, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Huawei, Samsung, and others.
It is unclear whether Lenovo simply intends to license an existing ARM core and graphics module or if the design team expansion is merely the begining of a growing division that will design a custom chip for its smartphones and Chromebooks to truly differentiate itself and take advantage of vertical integration.
Junko Yoshida of the EE Times article notes that Lenovo was turned away by Samsung when it attempted to use the company's latest Exynos Octa processor. I think that might contribute to the desire to have its own chip design team, but it may also be that the company believes it can compete in a serious way and set its lineup of smartphones apart from the crowd (as Apple has managed to do) as it pursues further Chinese market share and slowly moves its phones into the United States market.
Details are scarce, but it is at least an intriguing protential future for the company. It will be interesting to see if Lenovo is able to make it work in this extremely-competitive and expensive area.
Do you think Lenovo has what it takes to design its own mobile chip? Is it a good idea?
NVIDIA releases the GeForce GT 700M family
NVIDIA revolutionized gaming on the desktop with the release of its 600-series Kepler-based graphics cards in March 2012. With the release of the GeForce GT 700M series, Kepler enters the mobile arena to power laptops, ultrabooks, and all-in-one systems.
Today, NVIDIA introduces four new members to its mobile line: the GeForce GT 750M, the GeForce GT 740M, the GeForce GT 735M, and the GeForce GT 720M. These four new mobile graphics processors join the previously-released members of the GeForce GT 700m series: the GeForce GT 730M and the GeForce GT 710M. With the exception of the Fermi-based GeForce GT 720M, all of the newly-released mobile cores are based on NVIDIA's 28nm Kepler architecture.
Notebooks based on the GeForce GT 700M series will offer in-built support for the following new technologies:
Automatic Battery Savings through NVIDIA Optimus Technology
Automatic Game Configuration through the GeForce Experience
Automatic Performance Optimization through NVIDIA GPU Boost 2.0
Subject: Processors | March 12, 2013 - 02:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: VLIW4, trinity, Richland, piledriver, notebook, mobile, hd 8000, APU, amd, A10-5750
The differences between Richland and Trinity are not earth shattering but there are certainly some refinements implemented by AMD in the A10-5750. One very noticeable one is support for DDR3-1866 as well as better power management for both the CPU and GPU; with new temperature balancing algorithms and measurement the ability to balance the load properly has increased from Trinity. Many AMD users will be more interested in the GPU portion of the die than the CPU, as that is where AMD actually has as lead on Intel and this particular chip contains the HD8650G, with clocks of 720MHz boost and 533MHz base and increase from the previous generation of 35 and 37MHz respectively. You can read more about the other three models that will be released over at The Tech Report.
"AMD has formally introduced the first members of its Richland APU family. We have the goods on the chips and Richland's new power management tech, which combines temperature-based inputs with bottleneck-aware clock boosting."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD Richland APU Preview: Trinity Gets a Facelift @ Hardware Canucks
- 2013 AMD Mobile APU (Richland) @ Bjorn3D
- Westmere-EP to Sandy Bridge-EP: The Scientist Potential Upgrade @ AnandTech
- AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 @ ixbt.com
- AMD FX-8350 @ iXBT Labs
- The new Opteron 6300: Finally Tested! @ AnandTech
- Intel Core i5-3570K vs. i7-3770K Ivy Bridge @ techPowerUp
AMD Exposes Richland
When we first heard about “Richland” last year, there was a little bit of excitement from people. Not many were sure what to expect other than a faster “Trinity” based CPU with a couple extra goodies. Today we finally get to see what Richland is. While interesting, it is not necessarily exciting. While an improvement, it will not take AMD over the top in the mobile market. What it actually brings to the table is better competition and a software suite that could help to convince buyers to choose AMD instead of a competing Intel part.
From a design standpoint, it is nearly identical to the previous Trinity. That being said, a modern processor is not exactly simple. A lot of software optimizations can be applied to these products to increase performance and efficiency. It seems that AMD has done exactly that. We had heard rumors that the graphics portion was in fact changed, but it looks like it has stayed the same. Process improvements have been made, but that is about the extent of actual hardware changes to the design.
The new Richland APUs are branded the A-5000 series of products. The top end is the A10-5750M with HD-8650 integrated graphics. This is still the VLIW-4 based graphics unit seen in the previous Trinity products, but enough changes have been made with software that I can enable Dual Graphics with the new Solar System based GPUs (GCN). The speeds of these products have received a nice boost. As compared to the previous top end A10-4600, the 5750 takes the base speed from 2.3 GHz to 2.5 GHz. Boost goes from 3.2 GHz up to 3.5 GHz. The graphics portion takes the base clock from 496 MHz up to 533 MHz, while turbo mode improves over the 4600 from 685 MHz to 720 MHz. These are not staggering figures, but it all still fits within the 35 watt TDP of the previous product.
One other important improvement is the ability to utilize DDR-3 1866 memory. Throughout the past year we have seen memory densities increase fairly dramatically without impacting power consumption. This goes for speed as well. While we would expect to see lower power DIMMs be used in the thin and light categories, expect to see faster DDR-3 1866 in the larger notebooks that will soon be heading our way.
Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2013 - 02:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: web browser, mobile, chrome, Android
Chrome for Android will allegedly be getting a speed boost thanks to a new SPDY-assisted proxy service. If a recent patch is any indication, future versions of Chrome may adopt a proxy service similar to Opera Turbo, Amazon Silk, or BlackBerry Proxy. Google would take advantage of its SPDY protocol to compress and multiplex web sites. We requests would be sent through Google, where Google would take the HTTP/HTTPS pages, compress and otherwise optimize them, and send them to your Android smartphone.
While on Wi-Fi or a wired connection, the performance merits of such proxy services are minimal at best (and at worst can actually slow down page loads). With that said, over a mobile network--especially if you are living in an area with (at best) 3G speeds, the new SPDY proxy service could make a huge difference in page load times. If my experiences using Opera and its Turbo proxy service over a 3G connection for the past month is any indication of the potential benefits of such a setup, some pages will load much faster, a few sites will actually load slower than browsing without the proxy, and the majority of websites will fall somewhere in between those two extremes, providing a slightly faster web browsing experience. Google may be taking things a step further by introducing its SPDY protocol to speed up the HTTP requests, which is an interesting tactic beyond the basic compression and/or caching that the existing alternatives employ.
Details on the hinted-at Google-run SPDY proxy service are scarce, but I hope that it holds true. There are some privacy considerations, but if you are just reading articles and have resigned yourself to the fact that Chrome/Google tracks you anyway (heh) it is a nice optional feature to have!
Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2013 - 04:49 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Seagate, mobile, laptop, hard drives, 7200 rpm
Seagate Technology, the world’s second largest hard drive manufacturer (by market share), recently announced that it will be ceasing production on notebook hard drives featuring 7200 RPM spindle speeds. According to X-Bit Labs, Seagate Director of Marketing and Product Management David Burks stated that “We are going [to] stop building our notebook 7200rpm hard disk drives at the end of 2013.”
Stopping production of high-end notebook hard drives is a curious move for a company that is still dependent on hard drives to survive--with just a toe in the Solid State space with its hybrid hard drives. On the other hand, the market for such high-end notebook drives is likely feeling pressure from Solid State drives for pure performance at any price, cheap hard drives paired with a small mSATA caching SSD, and high-capacity 5400 RPM drives at extremely cheap prices. Users that would have traditionally favored 7200 RPM drives for an extra price during laptop configuration are now faced with more choices on the performance at modest price increases front with caching options. Further, with the advent of interfaces like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, it is now more acceptable to go with a low capacity, cheaper, Solid State Drive for the operating system and applications while using external hard drives for your storage needs without incurring a transfer speed bottleneck that USB 2.0 exhibited.
Reportedly, Seagate will stop production of its Momentus 7200.4, Momentus 7200.2, and Momentus Thin notebook drive lineups. Further, the storage company will put more focus into further fleshing out its Momentus XT drives. The XT series features a spindle hard drive and small bit of SLC NAND flash for caching frequently accessed files. Hopefully the renewed focus on its hybrid hard drive series will result in drives with larger caches. That may necessitate the move to MLC flash to keep costs down, but I think a HHD with 32GB+ of MLC or TLC flash would be an acceptable compromise.
What do you think of the move? Customers will likely be able to get their hands on 7200 RPM mobile drives well into 2014 thanks to stock on hand at the various OEMs and retailers (and alternative options from other HDD manufacturers), so the fallout is likely to be minimal. Still, is it the right move for Seagate?
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