New Solar Cell Enhanced LCDs Could Improve Mobile Device Battery Life

Subject: Displays, Mobile | August 12, 2011 - 04:51 AM |
Tagged: solar cell, mobile, lcd, display

According to Ars Technica, researchers at UCLA announced on Tuesday a new LCD screen containing photovoltaic cells that promises to reduce back-light energy waste and improve battery life on mobile devices.

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My N900 eats up battery with an hour of Angry Birds, but can go for two days with the display off. Where's my happy medium? 

The researchers have placed what they are calling polarizing organic photovoltaics inside the LCDs in such a way that light that is normally filtered out and blocked in areas to create the displayed images can now be (mostly) recovered. While the process does not result in 100% reclamation of energy due to energy loss during the conversion process(es) and heat given off by the back-light, in a mobile device any amount of energy that can be recovered is desirable. Ars Technica states that up to 90% of a battery’s power is used to power the back-light of the display. Further, of that percentage, up to 75% is lost to the polarizing layers. By infusing the polarizing layer with photovoltaic cells and reclaiming as much of the otherwise wasted light as possible, battery life could be dramatically extended.

Mobile devices are getting beefier multi-core processors and graphics chips, numerous wireless radio connections (4G, WiFi, Bluetooth), and large power hungry displays; however, battery technology advancements have been rather stagnant and flat. As a result of this, having to make processors, displays, and other components as efficient as possible to make up the difference of battery technology not keeping up with other advancements, interesting tweaks like the photovoltaic infused displays become that much more important.

Whether this particular technology will catch on and work as well as they claim remains to be seen; however it is nonetheless an interesting experiment. More data on the researchers’ project will be published in the Advanced Materials journal in September 2011. What are your thoughts on the idea?

Source: Ars Technica

Samsung Announces New High Performance SSDs for Mobile

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2011 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: ssd, SATA3, Samsung, mobile

Samsung recently announced volume production of a new lineup of SSDs using the fast SATA 3 (6Gb/s) interface and will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities.  The new SSDs are called the PM830 series, and Samsung expects the drives to replace their SATA 2 (3Gb/s) drives by year-end.

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Wanhoon Hong, executive vice president, memory sales & marketing, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics stated that Samsung's new SSDs "will raise the performance bar to the next level for ultra-slim notebooks and tablets."  In addition, he believes that the new high capacity drives will spur competition in that segment and increase market interest in SSDs with greater-than 256GB capacities.

The new PM830 drives use Samsung's 20nm class (their term for a process node somewhere between 20 and 29), 32 Gigabit MLC NAND flash with a toggle DDR interface in addition to a proprietary controller.  Samsung claims that the controller and flash are able to take advantage of the SATA 6Gb/s interface by delivering 500MB/s sequential read speeds and 350MB/s sequential write speeds.  Further, the drive uses AES 256-bit encryption to secure private and corporate data.

The new SATA 6Gb/s solid state drives are targeted at OEMs for use in notebooks and tablets.  They are currently only available to OEMs; however, a consumer variant of the drive is forthcoming and will be announced at a later date.

Source: Samsung

Qualcomm Commits To Gaming Market With Software and SoCs

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 3, 2011 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm, PC, mobile, gaming, console

Mobile gaming has seen a relatively sharp rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the rise of powerful smartphones and personal media players like the iPod Touch and its accompanying App Store.  Mobile networks, powerful System On A Chips (SoC) that are capable of 3D graphics, lighting, and physics, and a large catalog of easy to download and play games have created an environment where people actually want to play games on their mobile devices.  Many people now indulge themselves in quick Angry Birds sessions while in long lines, on work breaks, or wherever they have time when out and about.  

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One area where mobile devices have not caught on; however, is at home.  Mobile devices face stiff competition from game consoles and the PC.  That competition has not stopped numerous manufacturers from trying to implement an all-in-one mobile console that was portable and easy to plug into a larger display when at home.  Everything from cheap controllers with logic inside that allows them to play old arcade games to smart phones with HDMI outputs costing hundreds of dollars have passed through the hands of consumers; however, the mobile console has yet to overcome the sheer mind share of consumers who prefer dedicated game consoles and their PCs.

According to Anandtech, Qualcomm, a popular manufacturer of ARM SoC for smart phones has announced its plans to pursue that vision of an integrated, mobile console.  They claim that the increased power provided by next generation SoC technology will allow tablets and smartphones to deliver graphics that are better than those of current dedicated game consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360.  Due to Sony and Microsoft wanting to extend the lives of consoles well into the future, mobile technology may well surpass it.  The company "is committed to delivering both the hardware and the software support needed to bring developers to these mobile platforms," according to Anandtech.

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Qualcomm wants to bring portable consoles to the masses powered by their SoCs and backed by their software.  The tablets and smartphones would be able to connect to displays using HDMI or wireless technology in addition to supporting controllers (or acting as a controller itself).  Further, the games library will be the culmination of software from all platforms and will rival the graphical prowess of the current consoles.  Qualcomm hopes that a large library and capable hardware will be enough to entice consumers to the idea of a portable console becoming their all-in-one gaming device.

Portable consoles are similar to tablets and 3D television in that there is a major push for it every few years, a few devices come out, and then it dies off to be reborn again a few years later.  Whether Qualcomm is able to pull off the plans for a portable console remains to be seen; however, the device is bound to catch on at some point.  At the very least, this is certainly not the last time we will hear about the portable console.  You can see more of Qualcomms plans here.

What do you believe is holding back the portable console from catching on with consumers?  Is it a good idea in the first place?

Source: Anandtech
Author:
Subject: Editorial, Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

Meet Vellamo

With Google reporting daily Android device activations upward of 550,000 devices a day, the rapid growth and ubiqutity of the platform cannot be denied. As the platform has grown, we here at PC Perspective have constantly kept our eye out for ways to assess and compare the performance of different devices running the same mobile operating systems. In the past we have done performance testing with applications such as Quadrant and Linpack, and GPU testing with NenaMark and Qualcomm's NeoCore product.

Today we are taking a look at a new mobile benchmark from Qualcomm, named Vellamo. Qualcomm has seen the need for an agnostic browser benchmark on Android, and so came Vellamo. A video introduction from Qualcomm's Director of Product Management, Sy Choudhury, is below.

 

With the default configuration, Vellamo performs a battery of 14 tests. These tests are catagorized into Rendering, Javascript, User Experience, Networking, and Advanced. 

For more on this benchmark and our results from 10 different Android-power devices, keep reading!

Gateway Introduces Updated ID and NV Series Notebooks

Subject: Mobile | July 8, 2011 - 03:15 AM |
Tagged: sandy bridge, notebook, mobile, gateway, AMD A series

Gateway recently unveiled two new updated notebooks from their ID and NV series. Featuring HDMI, USB 3.0, LED backlit displays, and powered by Intel Sandy Bridge (2nd generation Core) processors, the ID47 and NV57 (and NV55) notebooks bring a welcome refresh to their lineup. The updated notebooks further feature 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, a 1.3MP webcam, and battery lives of 8 hours for the ID series and 4 hours for the NV notebooks.

An interesting addition to the traditional laptop layout of speakers, keyboard, and touchpad is a number of hot keys that launch social widgets to access the various social networks including Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. Users are then able to post updates and upload images and videos in addition to viewing the social network’s feeds.

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The ID47 notebook with brushed metal design

The Gateway ID47 is a traditional 13” chassis that holds a 14” LED backlit HD display with full edge to edge glass. The chassis itself comes into two designs, either an “Infinity Blue” or a “Brushed Platinum” look that Gateway claims resembles tranquil water and an industrial look respectively. Regardless of which design one chooses, the top right of the aluminum notebook lid features a stainless steel laser-engraved logo.

Further, a revamped keyboard, 20% larger trackpad, integrated DVD drive, and a mesh speaker bar. The notebook’s full dimensions are 12.97 (width) x 8.95 (depth) x .85 to 1.13 (height) inches. Gateway claims that the notebook is comfortable to carry and easily portable.

In Canada, certain ID series notebook models will be available with a 15.6 in HD widescreen LED backlit displays, and will be further powered by NVIDIA GeForce GT graphics and will use NVIDIA Optimus switchable graphics technology.

On the other hand, the NV series is a 15.6” form factor, and has a 15.6” HD LED backlit display. The new notebooks also come in two design flavors, including a geometric pattern or a digital wave pattern on the matte chassis lid. The chassis further features a chiclet keyboard and geometric or digital wave pattern on the palm rest. The NV series is then further broken up, into the NV57 and NV55 series. The NV57 notebooks are powered by Intel Sandy Bridge processors and Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 128 MB of dedicated system memory for the processor-integrated GPU. In contrast, the NV55 laptops are powered by AMD A series processors.

The ID and NV series are available for purchase now at retailers around the US and Canada with a MSRP starting at $699.99 US and $799.00 CAD for the ID series and $529.99 US and $499.00 CAD. On the bundled software side of things, the notebooks come with Windows 7 Home Premium, a backup program called MyBackup, in addition to “useful extras including Nook for PC, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Reader, WildTangent Demo Games, Skype, Norton Online Backup, and Microsoft® Office 2010 (preloaded for online purchase).”

Source: Gateway

NVIDIA’s Kal-El Enables Realistic Physics and Dynamic Lighting For Mobile Devices

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2011 - 12:26 AM |
Tagged: tegra, nvidia, mobile, cpu

NVIDIA recently unveiled a new four core CPU for mobile devices at Mobile World Congress which promises to power 2560x1600, 300 DPI displays as well as enable realistic dynamic lighting and physics in mobile games, features that until recently were only possible in the realm of gaming laptops and desktops.

The quad core ARM CPU has been paired with a new 12 core GeForce graphics processing unit. The CPU alone is able to outperform the older Tegra 2 chip by close to 2x. With the additional GPU cores; however, NVIDIA has even more performance, and the ability to implement great looking games for mobile tablets and so called “super phones.”

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At a resolution of 1280x800 (according to Engadget), the new Kal-El graphics demo shows off a new game featuring a glowing ball that acts as a truly dynamic light source in addition to realistic cloth physics. Using all four processing cores of the CPU allowed NVIDIA to implement cloth that reacts to the changing gravity of the game in a dynamic- and very realistic looking- manner. The mobile chip saw approximately 80% usage across all cores during the game demo. When NVIDIA disabled two of the CPU cores, the game became nearly unplayable, with the two remaining cores maxed out, the demo’s frame rate dropped to below 15 frames per second.

The new “Tegra Super Chip” will certainly allow mobile game developers to design immersive and realistic looking worlds as well as enhancing consumers’ ability to watch 1080p HD video with ease. The only drawback of the chip seems to be that battery technology is much slower to advance than transistor technology; therefore, it will be interesting to see how the new NVIDIA chip performs in that regard.

Source: NVIDIA

Intel Talks Software And Demos Local File Syncing, Standby, And Hibernate Tech At Investor Meeting 2011

Subject: General Tech | May 17, 2011 - 08:38 PM |
Tagged: sync, mobile, lan, Intel

Intel held its annual Investor Meeting today, where the chip maker talked software, the state of the business, as well as new hardware and leveraging microarcitecture leadership. This installment focuses on the software side of things.

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 During the various keynotes that were held throughout the day for the Investor Meeting 2011, one ideal seemed to present itself in some form or another, and summarized the message Intel presented to the world.  The idea was that of a consistent user experience across every computing platform accomplished by leveraging Intel software applications with Intel hardware advancements to deliver a productive and easy to use computing experience whether it is on a cell phone or a dual CPU production workstation.  Intel is a market leader in micro-architecture and x86 processors, as well as in sold state drives and high performance computing.  Soon, thanks to advancements in transistor technology, Intel will also have a large presence in the mobile market with low power x86 SoCs.  Their dominance in desktop computing hardware, along with their good relations with many software developers allows the chip maker a great deal of influence in the technology industry.  On the software side of things, Intel has a team of engineers who work inside Microsoft's closely with their software engineers to ensure that the popular operating system delivers a solid experience for x86, and specifically Intel, powered computers.  Intel is also heavily invested in open source software and has helped in creating open source operating systems and applications.  In the mobile market, Intel is still a proponent and developer of MeeGo, for instance.

This influence and investment in both hardware and software research and development has made Intel a leader in the technology industry.  Intel plans to leverage this influence to deliver the most consistent user experience across all platforms, and the process has already begun.  Intel has several software technologies that are capable of harnessing their architecture technology to make computers easier to use and more productive.  They showed off three (new) pieces of such software during one of their keynotes, including PC Sync, and Fast Flash Standby which encompasses an active standby/sleep mode and fast recovery hibernation modes.

Intel quick sync in action.png

PC Sync is a program much akin to Dropbox in that it promises to keep all of the files that you select in sync between all of your different devices.  David Perlmutter and a co-worker showed PC Sync working live as they synced files between two computers.  The program differs from Dropbox; however, in the fact that it only works over your local network, and thus it is inherently more secure and faster than services that must first sync files to an Internet server before downloading to the target computer(s).

The other interesting software demonstrated was Intel's Fast Flash Standby technology.  This software improves upon the traditional sleep and hibernation modes in Microsoft Windows.  The standby mode will put the computer to sleep by saving the system state to RAM and entering a low power mode just like the standard Windows' affair; however, the software will also automatically wake up the system at periodic intervals to download updates such as email, tweets, and Facebook messages, and then will return the computer to its sleep state so that once the computer is woken, the system is already updated and ready to go.  Intel has also improved upon the hibernation sleep mode by utilizing flash memory to greatly reduce the time necessary to enter hibernation and resume from the sleep mode.  In the demo, the system state was saved to a fast flash drive, and not only did the computer quickly hibernate but it resumed from hibernation in 5 seconds.

Intel also talked about mobile software.  Android and MeeGo are both software platforms that Intel is interested in powering with its mobile processors.  The 7" tablet and concept smart phone they showed off were both running android.  Intel's Senior Vice President and General Manager for its Software & Services Group, Renée J. James stated that Intel is well positioned to create an application ecosystem when it enters the mobile market, and that developers have stated that they plan to develop for them.  Further, Renée stated that 90% of Android applications are a run-time and can easily be made to run on Intel's mobile devices.

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Intel also addressed the shareholders' concerns of how Windows 8 on ARM would affect Intel.  The Windows 8 SKU for ARM will be a ARM focused operating system, and will run ARM applications.  The SKU will be well suited for ARM powered mobile devices where mobile and cloud applications can be used.  On the other hand, there will also be a "full" Windows 8 with Windows 7 mode that will offer the full featured Windows experience, including backwards compatibility with legacy applications--which the ARM SKU will not offer.  Because of this full featured Windows 8 operating system version is tailored for x86, Intel believes that it will have the "best of both worlds" for the consumers in being able to have the full fledged OS and ability to use existing Windows applications made for x86.  Renée remained confident in Intel's continued position despite an OS version for ARM chips.

Further, Intel recognized its McAfee acquisition.  The president of McAfee then took the stage to explain that the company was committed to delivering security products across the Intel line.  He also stressed that with the ever increasing presence of malware on the Internet, the current method of security programs using "blacklisting" techniques was not sustainable.  The cloud, he surmised, was both a security concern as well as a resource for security programs, and that he expects to have software that is backed by large Internet databases cataloging malware definitions to be the standard in the coming years until a technique stronger than blacklisting becomes usable.

For a hardware company, Intel has also delved heavily into software by working with developers and acquiring software companies.  They recognize that it takes more than hardware to create a quality computing experience and only with the right balance of both hardware and software is a consistent user experience across all of their devices possible.

Source: Intel

Intel Talks Mobile Hardware And Shows Off 32nm Medfield Android Smart Phone At Investor Meeting 2011

Subject: Mobile | May 17, 2011 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: mobile, Medfield, Intel, Android

Intel held its annual Investor Meeting today, where the chip maker talked software, the state of the business, as well as new hardware and leveraging microarcitecture leadership.  This installment focuses on the mobile hardware aspects.

Partway through the Intel Investor Meeting 2011, David Perlmutter stepped on stage for his keynote speech.  As the Vice President and General Manager of the Intel Architecture Group, he delved into the advancements that Intel has made in smaller transistor manufacturing, and how those advancements will help Intel to break into the mobile and handheld computing market with low power and high performance SoCs (System on a Chip).  During the meeting, Intel stated that it has always been known for performance, but not necessarily for being low power.  With their recent advancements in moving to smaller manufacturing nodes; however, Intel has positioned itself to have power efficient processors that are low power and with power to deliver a fluid user experience in mobile devices.  David explains that power efficency follows along with Moore's Law in that as the transistors get smaller (and with Intel's advancements such as 3D transistors), the chips become much more power efficient.  With each successive shrink in manufacturing nodes, Intel has seen higher transistor switching speeds and lower current leakage compared to previous generations:

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What as these new power efficent chips amount to, is Intel's new ability to break into the mobile market and become extremely competitive with the ARM architecture(s).  David showed off two examples during the Investor Meeting 2011 in the form of an Android smart phone and 7" tablet powered by 32nm Medfield mobile chips.

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The Medfield powered Android smart phone.

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An Intel powered Android tablet that will be available to developers soon.

The phone is a hyper threaded, 32nm Intel Medfield mobile processor that runs the Android 2.x operating system and is poised to compete with the current dual core ARM powered smart phones.  A dual core version of the mobile SoC is also planned in the future.  When questioned if the rumored quad core ARM smart phones would pose a problem for Intel's planned single and dual core phones, David responded that the number of cores is only one aspect of performance, and is a measurement "much like megahertz was in the '90s" and hinted not to count Intel's processors out even when competing against quad core ARM processors.

The tablet did not recieve as much attention as the concept phone; however, we do know that it is capable of running Android Honeycomb, is 7", and will be powered by a very similar 32nm Medfield chip.

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Intel projects that by 2015, not only will they have passed 14nm manufacturing nodes (which are planned for 2014) but the SoCs will have 10 times the graphics and computational power as their chips released this year.

From the keynotes at this year's meeting, Intel is both enthusiastic and confident in their ability to finally dive into the mobile market in force and become a heavywieght competitior to ARM.  Their plans to bring the x86 instruction set and power sipping chips to the handset and netbook markets is a bold move, but if their projections hold true may result in a massive market share increase and further innovation in an even more competitive mobile market.

Source: Intel

Chromebook Follow-Up: Subscription Plan Pricing For Launch Models

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: subscription, mobile, Chromebook

Maximum PC recently reported details regarding just what the Google Chromebook subscription will cost for the various models and what each subscription entails. While you can read about the Chromebook and the various subscriptions in this previous article, specific pricing for the subscriptions for each of the launch models are detailed below:

  Enterprise (monthly) Education (monthly)

Consumer (no subscription)

Acer Chromebook (WiFi) $28 $20 $349
Acer Chromebook (3G) $31 $23 $TBA
Samsung Series 5 (WiFi) $30 $20 $429
Samsung Series 5 (3G) $33 $23 $499

 

Futher details that were clairified regarded mobile data and minumum orders.  Each subscription will include 100MB of 3G data with those Chromebooks that have 3G hardware.  Also, in order to recieve a subscription contract, both businesses and schools must order a minimum of 10 devices.

Just as with cell phone plans, there are early termination fees for those schools and/or businesses that wish to back out of their contracts.  Google has stated that the early termination fee will be equal to the remainder of their contract.  For example, if a small business has twenty users and five months left on their contract, in order to get out of said contract, the business would need to pay $2800 if their users all had the base Acer WiFi model.  

Needless to say, it would be smarter to just ride out the contract (if possible for the institution), because at least then the business would still retain support for the devices versus buying out the contract for the same amount of money and losing all support for their devices.  It will be interesting to see if Google will hold businesses and schools to this ETF or if they will renege and change their policy to appear more enticing to the market.

Source: Maximum PC

Google Announces the Chromebook, Students To Receive $20 Per Month Subscription

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 12, 2011 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: mobile, laptop, Chromebook

First there was the laptop. Then the notebook. The netbook is the most recent addition to mobile devices with hardware keyboards. That is, until today. Google has officially launched a new cloud OS based mobile device dubbed the ChromeBook.

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As a netbook with an operating system that amounts to little more than a web browser, the device purports to not only match the functionality of a "normal" netbook, but surpass it thanks to file storage residing in the cloud, automatic updates to the OS, virtually unlimited applications, and an eight second boot time.

Google further states that the device is capable of all the promises feats while remaining secure. Security is accomplished by several independent strategies. The OS splits up system settings and user settings, and each ChromeBook allows only one "owner" per device. The owner is able to allow other users to log in to the device as well, whether it is with their Google account or as a guest. Guest Mode does not sync or cache data, and all system settings are kept out of the session, including network configuration. Each process is sandboxed in an effort to reduce the likely hood of cross-process attacks. Further, the browser and plugin processes are not given direct kernel interface access. Toolchain hardening seeks to limit exploit reliability and success. The file system has several restrictions, including a read-only root partition, tmpfs-based /tmp, and User home directories that can not have executable files.

Further, ChromeBooks utilize a secure automatic update system and Verified Boot that seeks to eliminate attacks tampering with the underlying code. All updates are downloaded over SSL, and are required to pass various integrity checks. The version number of updates is not allowed to regress, meaning that only updates with a version number higher than those already installed on the system are allowed to install. Further, on the next boot-up, the updates undergo a further integrity check in the form of what Google calls "Verified Boot."

According to Google, Verified Boot "provides a means of getting cryptographic assurances that the Linux kernel, non-volatile system memory, and the partition table are untampered with when the system starts up." The process depends on a "chain of trust" which is created using custom read-only firmware rather than a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) device. The read-only firmware checks the integrity of the writable firmware, and if it passes then the writable firmware is used to check the integrity of the next component in the boot up process. While Verified Boot does not protect against dedicated attackers, it does allow a safe recovery option when re-installing as well as detecting changes made by a successful run-time attack and files or write-able firmware changes made by an attacker with a bootable USB drive.

In future iterations of the OS, Google is pursuing driver sandboxing as well as implementing a secure method for auto-logins. Further, Google states that they are interested in pursuing biometric security if they are able to ensure their authentication software is secure when using low cost hardware. Also on the agenda is implementing a "single signon" system that would allow users to log into third party sites using credentials generated by their Google account.

Acer_ChromeBook.jpg

Hardware running Chrome OS is not new, however. Google's CR-48 notebook has been in the wild for months, allowing thousands of users the chance to try out the new operating system and its accompanying hardware. Both Acer (11.6", $349) and Samsung (12.1", $429 wifi only) have stepped up to the plate and are offering ChromeBooks at launch. What is new; however, is the way in which users are able to purchase the hardware. While consumers will still be able to purchase a ChromeBook from retailers, Google has announced a new subscription option for school and business users. The new subscription service would allow students to receive a ChromeBook for $20 a month, while business users would pay $28 a month.  In order to get the subscription price schools and businesses must enter into a three year contract.  The subscription price includes the "hardware, operating system, updates and cloud-based management" along with online, email, and telephone support directly from Google. The monthly subscription further includes regular hardware refreshes.

It is apparent that Google sees its largest market for ChromeBooks as being large businesses and schools, which can then manage a fleet of ChromeBooks for their users for a much lower cost versus maintaining hundreds of traditional computers. While large IT departments are likely to see the cost benefits, It remains to be seen how consumers will react to this subscription based model. Subscriptions have become more prevalent, with the majority of the US using cell phones with monthly contracts. On the other hand, users --students especially-- are used to buying a computer outright. Will the lure of low cost subscription ChromeBooks be enough to break consumers' traditional thoughts on purchasing computers?  Will students accept remotely administrated computers in exchange for a low cost subscription?

Source: Google