Subject: Mobile | December 16, 2011 - 06:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tegra, SoC, qualcomm, PowerVR, mobile, Android, adreno
Quite a few mobile device manufacturers are implementing graphics processors and image processors based on Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR technology. Popular licensees of Imagination Technologies PowerVR core patents include Intel, LG, Samsung, Sony, and Texas Instruments (a big one in regards to number of SoCs using PowerVR techs for mobile phones).
Interestingly, Qualcomm is not currently licensing the graphics processor portfolio that man other mobile OEMs license. Rather, Qualcomm is licensing the PowerVR display patents. The intellectual property features the PowerVR de-interlacing cores and de-judder purposed FRC (Frame Rate Conversion) core. The de-interlacing core(s) can do either “motion adaptive (MA) or motion compensated (MC) de-interlacing” as well as a few other algorithms to deliver smooth graphics. Further, the FRC cores take 24 FPS (frames per second) source material and outputs it as either 120 Hz or 240 Hz while applying image processing to keep the video looking smooth to the eye. The method for grabbing and extrapolating “extra” frames to take a 24 FPS video and display it on an LCD screen that refreshes at 120 Hz by displaying each one of those 24 frames five times every second involves a bit of math and algorithmic magic; a simplistic explanation can be read here.
It will be interesting to see how Qualcomm applies the image processing technology to their future SoCs (system on a chip) to entice manufacturers into going with them instead of competition like Texas Instruments or Nvidia’s Tegra chips. The Verge speculates that this Qualcomm and Imagination Technologies deal may be just the first step towards Qualcomm licensing more PowerVR tech (possibly) including the GPU portfolio. Whether Qualcomm will ditch their Adreno GPUs remains to be seen. If I had to guess, the SoC maker will invest in more PowerVR IP, but they will not completely abandon their Adreno graphics. Rather, they will continue developing next generation Adreno graphics for use in their SoCs while also integrating the useful and superior aspects of PowerVR graphics and display technologies. Another option may be to develop and sell both platforms (possibly with one being high end competition to Tegra and the other being for the rest of phones as competition to other low end, low power chips) to hedge their bets into the future of mobile SoCs which is a rapidly advancing industry where change and what is considered the top tech happens quickly.
Apple pulled off a four times increase in pixel density on it’s smartphone displays with the iPhone 4 which they dubbed the “Retina Display.” Meanwhile the company’s current 13” MacBook Pro is shackled to a 1280x800 display with an approximate pixel density of 116 pixels per inch. The low resolution (especially vertically) can make reading web pages or working with large documents a hassle as it involves quite a bit of scrolling up and down. New rumors; however, suggest that the Cupertino based company may be looking to step up the display resolution in the next iteration of the MacBook lineup. Allegedly, Digitimes has heard from “sources in the upstream supply chain” that the displays will have as high as a 2880x1800 resolution (and an approximate 261.25 PPI). Pretty impressive for a 13” display!
The current MBP
Whether we will actually see new MacBook models release with such a display remains to be seen; however, it would certainly be a welcomed move as the computer display innovation market has been rather stagnant for the past few years, even going so far as to go backwards in ~24” monitors from 1200 vertical pixels to the now standard 1920x1080 resolution. Perhaps this move by Apple will entice other monitor manufacturers to step up their game and bring 4K gaming to the PC, eventually. Heck, while we are on the topic of monitor tech traveling laterally instead of forward, what ever happened to that curved display from Alienware? Personally, I’m rooting for Apple on this one as the monitor market could use a wake up call!
Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 03:56 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mobile, lending, kindle, ebook. book, devices
Amazon has launched a new service to augment its existing Amazon Prime subscription service this week that is sure to please ebook fans who happen to own a Kindle e-Reader. The new service dubbed the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library adds a free ebook renting option for Kindle devices.
The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a subscription service like the Amazon Prime Instant Video service, except that instead of videos, Amazon will let you rent one book from the lending library for free. And as long as you maintain the Prime membership, you can keep the book for as long as you need to finish it. Once you’re done, you are able to turn in the book and exchange it for another ebook. Another plus is that any highlighting and bookmarking done to the borrowed books will remain persistent across rentals, meaning if you ever re-borrow the book all of your markups will remain intact.
There are some caveats to the rental service, however. You may have noticed that I emphasized the term “lending library” when describing the service. I did this because (again, much like instant video rentals) the ebooks that you are allowed to rent will be from a smaller subset of the library of Kindle books that you are able to purchase outright. Amazon is looking to expand the library of books that you will be able to rent; however, in some respects book publishers can be more restrictive (and old fashioned) than members of the RIAA and MPAA are in allowing their content on subscription services. According to Tom’s Hardware, amazon is, in some cases, being required to buy a title outright from the publisher every time it is rented (!). The company has said that it is even going to these extremes to try and show publishers the benefits of incremental growth in audience and revenue that can be achieved with such a lending (subscription) service.
The other caveat is that Amazon is currently only offering free rentals to Prime members who own Kindles, meaning that users of the smartphone and Kindle PC applications are out of luck. Further, there are restrictions on the Prime accounts that are eligible. Naturally, a full Amazon Prime account is required, meaning that you must be the primary account holder to use this service. It is unclear at this point whether the discounted student versions of Prime will be able to use this service (I’ve hear conflicting reports where some are saying they’ve gotten it to worth and some people have reported that it is not working for them).
Despite the caveats listed above, should Amazon’s subscription service be a success (I think it will be), it will likely entice other platforms to adopt similar subscription services. Once Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Amazon all integrate some sort of subscription services, book publishers will (hopefully) be forced to make more content available. For now though, the Amazon juggernaut will have to brute force it’s way into a decent subscription library. If you are curious about the titles offered, you can see the selection here. There are a few top 100 bestseller books as well, and the library can only grow from here. Will you be checking out the new rental system with your Kindle?
Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2011 - 12:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, keyboard, mobile, touchpad, chill innovation
The tiny Chill Innovation KB-1BT Bluetooth Micro Keyboard is 155mm x 61mm x 12mm (6.1" x 2.4" x 0.5") so you obviously can't expect full sized keys especially with the 31mm2 (1.2"2) trackpad on the side. What you can expect is to hook up the keyboard wirelessly to any device that can manage Bluetooth, the USB connection is to recharge the keyboard. MektuMods enjoyed using the device but question its value, the model they reviewed was 70 Euros (~$100USD) to purchase.
"There are several keyboard/mouse bundles available these days. The new KB-1BT combines these two items into a single package. This is something that one could imagine using while watching movies via HTPC or writing a document with an iPad. So, is it worth your money? Let us find out..."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition @ Bjorn3D
- Thermaltake MEKA G-Unit Gaming Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
- RAZER BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition - Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ Madshrimps
- SteelSeries 7G Mechanical Keyboard @ Tweaktown
- SilverSton?e SST-EC03B USB 3.0 PCI Express Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- Silverstone SST-TS07B Enclosure & EC03B Internal USB3.0 PCIe Card @ kitguru
- Mad Catz Street Fighter X Tekken Arcade FightStick Pro @ Benchmark Reviews
- Microsoft Explorer Touch Mouse @ Techspot
- Microsoft Touch Mouse Review @ Real World Labs
- Logitech Couch Mouse M515 Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: Displays | September 30, 2011 - 01:27 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: mobile, low power, panel self refresh
The idea behind Panel Self Refresh is a sound one, when displaying static images there is no need for the GPU portion of your processor to be refreshing it at full speed. If you simply leave the displayed image in the frame buffer you can turn off the GPU and get significant power savings. It will not help when you are streaming media but if you are reading emails or a pdf file or even browsing pictures, you should see some extension to the life of your battery. Hardware Secrets describes the technology in their article here.
"Manufacturers are always looking for innovative ways to save battery life on laptops. With the embedded DisplayPort 1.3 interface (eDP 1.3), VESA, the Video Standards Association behind DisplayPort, came up with a new idea, the Panel Self Refresh (PSR). Let's see how it works."
Here are some more Display articles from around the web:
- Samsung T27A950 HDTV Monitor @ Overclockers Online
- Samsung T27950 LED Monitor Review @ t-break
- Dell U2311H: E-IPS, Full Adjustments, and DisplayPort @ AnandTech
- Samsung SyncMaster T27A950D Review @ TechReviewSource
- Asus PA238Q Monitor Review @ t-break
- OHKI 42-inch Full HD 3D TV with PVR @ Tweaktown
- Samsung UN46D8000 Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: Processors | August 22, 2011 - 10:53 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mobile, fusion, E-Series, APU, amd
AMD today announced three new Accelerated Processing Units (APU) to bolster up the mobile lineup. Specifically, two new E-Series and one new C-Series APU are inserting themselves into the lineup. The new chips bring enhanced graphic capabilities, HDMI 1.4a, and DDR3 1333 support. "Today's PC users want stunning HD graphics and accelerated performance with all-day battery life and that's what AMD Fusion APUs deliver," said Chris Cloran, vice president and general manager, Client Division, AMD.
According to MaximumPC, the new E-450 APU takes the top slot, bringing two CPU cores clocked at 1.65GHz, a Radeon HD 6320 GPU clocked at a base of 508MHz and maximum of 600MHz, and a power sipping TDP of 18 watts. The second new E-Series APU carries the same 18 watt TDP and dual CPU cores as the E-450; however, it is clocked at a lower 1.3GHz. Further, the chip’s Radeon HD 6310 GPU is clocked at 488MHz. The new E-Series APUs feature battery life increases to the tune of up to 10.5 hours of Windows idle time.
The new C-Series APU is the C-60, and is a 1GHz dual core chip with a Radeon HD 6290 GPU. The APU is able to turbo its CPU cores to a maximum of 1.33GHz, while the GPU has a base clock of 276MHz and a maximum clock speed of 400MHz. Further, the chip has a 9 watt TDP, and boasts 12.25 hours of “resting battery life,” which AMD benchmarked using Windows Idle on a C-60 based netbook.
Currently, AMD has shipped more than 12 million APUs, and more than five million of the C-Series and E-Series processors in Q2 2011. More information on the specific benchmarking metrics AMD used can be found here.
It seems as though T-Mobile users’ streak of bad luck just keeps on coming. According to AllThingsD, the US cellular provider is changing its lowest tier 200MB data plan’s overage policy from throttling to overage charges. Specifically, once users exceed their allotted data, they will be charged $0.10 per megabyte, which is the bad news. The slightly better (but still not quite good) news is that the overage charges will be capped at a maximum of $30.
T-Mobile stated that it will begin notifying customers once they reach 90% of the 200MB data allotment, or 180MB, in addition to giving customers the ability to move to a higher tier data plan with a larger data allotment.
The changes in their data plan from customers being throttled to a lower data speed after going over their data allotment to being charged overage fees will happen tonight at midnight, so (new) customers who wish to become grandfathered into the plan should sign up quickly.
What are your thoughts on carrier data caps? Do you believe overage charges are the answer? Share your opinions in the comments below!
Subject: Displays, Mobile | August 12, 2011 - 04:51 AM | Tim Verry
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.
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?
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 3, 2011 - 01:21 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
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?
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