Podcast #289 - Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: x240, video, tegra, podcast, origin, nvidia, MWC, litecoin, Lenovo, Intel, icera, eos 17 slx, dogecoin, bitcoin, atom, amd, 750ti

PC Perspective Podcast #289 - 02/27/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:17:30
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:21:48 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

MWC 2014: Qualcomm Snapdragon 610 and 615 are 64-bit, 8-core with LTE

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdrdagon 615, snapdragon 610, snapdragon 410, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 14, MWC, adreno 405, adreno

Intel, Mediatek and Allwinner have all come out with new SoC announcements at Mobile World Congress and Qualcomm is no different.  By far the most interesting release is what it calls the "first commercial" 64-bit Octa-Core chipset with integrated global LTE support.  The list of features and technologies included on the chipset is impressive.  

The Snapdragon 615 integrates 8 x ARM Cortex-A53 cores that opterate on the newer 64-bit ARMv8 architecture while supporting 32-bit for backwards compatibility.  Qualcomm is not using a custom designed CPU core for this chipset but the company has stated it will have its own custom 64-bit core sometime in 2015.  This 8-core model is divided into a pair of quad-core clusters that will be tuned to different clock speed and power levels, offering the ability to run slightly more efficiently than would be possible with all cores tuned to the highest performance.

snapdragon.jpg

Snapdragon 610 is essentially the same design but is limited to a quad-core, single cluster setup.  

Both of these parts will integrate the Qualcomm custom built Adreno 405 GPU that brings a DX11 class feature set, along with OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.2.  The Adreno 405 performance is still unknown but it should be able to compete with the likes of PowerVR's Series6 used in the Apple A7 and Intel Merrifield parts.  Quad HD resolutions are supported up to 2560x1600 and Miracast integration enables wireless display.  H.265 hardware decode acceleration also found its way into the 615/610.

Connectivity features of the Snapdragon 615/610 include 802.11ac wireless as well as the company's 3rd generation LTE modem.  Category 4 and carrier aggregation are optional.

Qualcomm has publicly stated that the move to 8-core processors with software lacking the capability to manage them properly was a poor decision.  But it would appear that the "core race" has infected just about everyone.

Check out the full details in the press release after the break!!

MWC 2014: Allwinner launches UltraOcta A80 processor with big.LITTLE and PowerVR

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 11:17 AM |
Tagged: ultraocta a80, PowerVR, MWC 14, MWC, big.little, Allwinner

The wheels keep turning from Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona with Allwinner's announcement of the UltraOcta A80 SoC.  Dubbed the "world's first big.LITTLE octa-core (8-core) heterogeneous SoC to included PowerVR Series6 GPU technology", the UltraOcta A80 combines four Cortex-A7 and four Cortex-A15 cores in a single chip design.  

The UltraOcta A80 is aimed at tablets, portable game consoles, set-top boxes, media players and other devices that require "premium performance" level parts.  The first devices will apparently hit "soon" but no other details were offered.  

a80-diagram.jpg

ARM is definitely on-board with Allwinner for this product as it is the poster child example of how the big.LITTLE design philosophy can be implemented to offer both high performance and low power results in one SoC.  This chip is built on 28nm process technology and also includes high performance graphics with the PowerVR G6230 GPU.  This GPU includes two "clusters" for a total of 64 ALUs (called cores in other SoC).  Keep in mind that this Series6 GPU is about half the performance of the G6400 series included in the iPhone 5s and even Intel's new Merrifield and Moorefield processors.

The Allwinner UltraOcta A80 will also support 4K video encode and decode with H.265 thrown in for good measure.  I am very curious to see the load on the SoC during these types of high quality video processes as the amount of acceleration on the chip isn't known yet.

View the full press release after the break!

MWC 2014: Intel Atom Moorefield and Merrifield officially unveiled

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 01:00 AM |
Tagged: z3480, PowerVR, MWC 14, MWC, moorefield, merrifield, Intel, atom

Intel also announced an LTE-Advanced modem, the XMM 7260 at Mobile World Congress today.

Last May Intel shared with us details of its new Silvermont architecture, a complete revamp of the Atom brand with an out-of-order design and vastly improved performance per watt.  In September we had our first real-hands on with a processor built around Silvermont, code named Bay Trail.  The Atom Z37xx and Z36xx products were released and quickly found their way into products like the ASUS T100 convertible notebook.  In fact, both the Bay Trail processor and the ASUS T100 took home honors in our end-of-year hardware recognitions.  

Today at Mobile World Congress 2014, Intel is officially announcing the Atom Z35xx and Z34xx processors based on the same Silvermont architecture, code named Moorefield and Merrifield respectively.  These new processors share the same power efficiency of Bay Trail and excellent performance but have a few changes to showcase.

lte02.jpg

Though there are many SKUs yet to be revealed for Merrifield and Moorefield, this comparison table gives you a quick idea of how the new Atom Z3480 compares to the previous generation, Atom Z2580 and Clover Trail+.  

soc02.jpg

The Atom Z3480 is a dual core (single module) processor with a clock speed as high as 2.13 GHz.  And even though it doesn't have HyperThreading support, the new architecture is definitely faster than the previous product.  The cellular radio listed on this table is a separate chip, not integrated into the SoC - at least not yet.  PowerVR G6400 quad core/cluster graphics should present performance somewhere near that of the iPhone 5s with support for OpenCL and RenderScript acceleration.  Intel claims that this PowerVR architecture will give Merrifield a 2x performance advantages over the graphics system in Clover Trail+.  A new image processor allows for 1080p60 video capture (vs 30 FPS before) and support Android 4.4.2 is ready.  

soc01.jpg

Most interestingly, the Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs do not use Intel's HD graphics technology and instead return to the world of Imagination Technology and the PowerVR IP.  Specifically, the Merrifield chip, the smaller of the two new offerings from Intel, is using the PowerVR G6400 GPU; the same base technology that powers the A7 SoC from Apple in the iPhone 5s.  

soc08.jpg

A comparison between the Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs reveals the differences between what will likely be targeted smartphone and tablet processors.  The Moorefield part uses a pair of modules with a total of four cores, double that of Merrifield, and also includes a slightly higher performance PowerVR GPU option, the G6430.  

Intel has provided some performance results of the new Atom Z3480 using a reference phone, though of course, with all vendor provided benchmarks, take them as an estimate until some third parties get a hold of this hardware for independent testing.  

soc06.jpg

Looking at GFXBench 2.7, Intel estimates that Merrifield will run faster than the Apple A7 in the iPhone 5s and just slightly behind the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 found in the Samsung Galaxy S4.  Moorefield, the SoC that adds slightly to GPU performance and doubles the CPU core count, would improve performance to best the Qualcomm result.

soc03.jpg

WebXPRT is a web application benchmark and with it Intel's Atom Z3480 has the edge over both the Apple A7 and the Qualcomm S800.  Intel also states that they can meet these performance claims while also offering better battery life than the Snapdragon S800 as well - interestingly the Apple A7 was left out of those metrics.

soc07.jpg

Finally, Intel did dive into the potential performance improvements that support for 64-bit technology will offer when Android finally implements support.  While Kitkat can run a 64-bit kernel, the user space is not yet supported so benchmarking is a very complicated and limited process.  Intel was able to find instances of 16-34% performance improvements from the move to 64-bit on Merrifield.  We are still some time from 64-bit Android OS versions but Intel claims they will have full support ready when Google makes the transistion.

Both of these SoCs should be showing up in handsets and tablets by Q2.  Intel did have design wins for Clover Trail+ in a couple of larger smartphones but the company has a lot more to prove to really make Silvermont a force in the mobile market.  

MWC 2014: Intel Announces XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced Wireless Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 01:00 AM |
Tagged: xmm, MWC 14, MWC, lte-advanced, LTE, Intel, 7260

Intel also announced Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs at Mobile World Congress today.

In 2011, Intel acquired SysDSoft to improve and accelerate the companies transition into the mobile wireless controllers, LTE in particular.  As a result, Intel released the XMM 7160 modem in 2013 which included the X-GOLD 716 baseband controller that could support LTE and HSPA functions.  This modem was adopted by a handful of OEMs in the market with Cat 4 bandwidth up to 150 Mbps (downstream) and 50 Mbps (upstream), LTE voice implementation and globally capability with 15 bands.

lte03.jpg

This modem was available as a multi-chip solution for mobile device vendors to implement but was shipped in a M.2 module. The latter form gave a quick option for notebook and tablet vendors to include in ready-built systems.

lte05.jpg

At Mobile World Congress today though, Intel is announcing its next generation modem, the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced.  As the name implies, this update includes support for LTE-Advanced that adds in features like carrier aggregation and a pair of downlink channels for up to 300 Mbps data rates.  Carrier aggregation can be used for additional bandwidth performance or to disperse spectrum in a more efficient way to improve reliability.  Intel claims that this controller and modem meets the maximum specification levels of LTE today.

lte06.jpg

The XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced includes the X-GOLD 726 that is truly a global market ready part with frequency compatibility on LTE FDD/TDD, WCDMA/HSPA+, TD-SCDMA/TD-HSPA/EDGE.  This iteration uses fewer components, thus is smaller and easier to integrate than the 7160, and will be "on shelf" as early as next quarter.  There is no CDMA support included, though. For users on Verizon and Sprint, we'll have to see if handset makers for those carriers have adjusted their timelines for LTE-only devices.  AT&T and T-Mobile, in the US, will have no issues with 4G and 3G support.

This modem is meant to compete directly with the stranglehold that Qualcomm has on the LTE market (and one source tells me that carriers "are dying for an alternative" to help drive down costs).  Though it might seem odd in some ways, I fully expect this XMM 7260 modem to be paired with non-Intel SoC devices, including smartphones and tablets.  In fact, it is quite possible that the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced modem might have more successful adoption than the upcoming Merrifield SoCs, also announced today. Device manufacturers might be satisfied with their choice in SoCs, not demanding an alternative in x86, but also might appreciate a new modem.

As a side note, the XMM 7260 is being built on TSMC's 28nm process technology rather than on Intel's own fabs (this isn't the first time it has happened).  I don't expect this to be a concern for performance but it is interesting to see a chip that Intel is placing so much emphasis on being constructed outside its own walls.

The XMM 7269 LTE-Advanced modem is currently in certification and is expected to be available for integration in Q2, 2014.

MWC 2014: NVIDIA and Wiko Release First Tegra 4i Smartphone

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: wiko, Tegra 4i, tegra, nvidia, MWC 14, MWC

NVIDIA has been teasing the Tegra 4i for quite some time - the integration of a Tegra 4 SoC with the acquired NVIDIA i500 LTE modem technology.  In truth, the Tegra 4i is a totally different processor than Tegra 4.  While the big-boy Tegra 4 is a 4+1 Cortex-A15 chip with 72 GPU cores, the Tegra 4i is a 4+1 Cortex-A9 design with 60 GPU cores.  

t4idie.png

NVIDIA and up-and-coming European phone provider Wiko are announcing at Mobile World Congress the first Tegra 4i smartphone: Wax.  That's right, the Wiko Wax.

wax.jpg

Here is the full information from NVIDIA:

NVIDIA LTE Modem Makes Landfall in Europe, with Launch of Wiko Tegra 4i LTE Smartphone

Wiko Mobile, France’s fastest growing local phonemaker, has just launched Europe’s first Tegra 4i smartphone.

Tegra 4i – our first integrated LTE mobile processor – combines a 60-core GPU and our own LTE modem to bring up to 2X higher performance than competing phone chips.

It helps the Wiko WAX deliver fast web browsing, best-in-class gaming performance, smooth video playback and great battery life.

Launched at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, the Wiko WAX phone features a 4.7-inch 720p display, 8MP rear camera and LTE / HSPA+ support.

The phone will be available throughout Europe – including France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, UK and Belgium – starting in April.

Within two short years, Wiko has become a major player by providing unlocked phones with sophisticated design, outstanding performance and the newest technologies. It has more than two million users in France and is expanding overseas fast.

Wiko WAX comes pre-installed with TegraZone – NVIDIA’s free app that showcases the best games optimized for the Tegra processor.

As a refresher, Tegra 4i includes a quad-core CPU and fifth battery saver core, and a version of the NVIDIA i500 LTE modem optimized for integration.

The result is an extremely power efficient, compact, high-performance mobile processor that unleashes performance and capability usually only available in costly super phones.

MWC 2014: Lenovo S860, S850, S660 Phones Announced

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 23, 2014 - 09:01 PM |
Tagged: smartphones, MWC 14, MWC, Lenovo

Also at Mobile World Congres, Lenovo expanded their smartphone portfolio with three additions. Each of these belong to the S-series, although they are only loosely related to one another. North American readers will probably not be able to purchase them, of course; Lenovo's US and Canada websites do not even have a section for smartphones (products like the Vibe Z can be searched directly - but are not available). I take that as a sign.

lenovo-mwc14-smartphones.jpg

Anyway, the three phones belong to the S-series but each has a distinct customer in mind. The S860 seems to picture a business user who travels and wants to talk for long periods of time between charges. The similarly named S850 cuts back on RAM and charge capacity, replacing it with aesthetics (colors and an all-glass exterior) and a slightly lower price for users looking for design. Finally, the S660 is the lowest-price of the three, sacrificing things like camera, storage, and screen resolution for users who do not care about any of that.

Let us compare the three phones in a table.

  S860 S850 S660
Display 5.3" 720p 5" 720p 4.7" 960x540
Processor (SoC) MediaTek Quad-Core, 1.3 GHz
RAM 2GB 1GB
Dual SIM Card Yes
Storage 16GB 8GB
Battery Capacity 4000mAh 2000mAh 3000mAh
Battery Life
24 hours
(3G voice)
Unlisted "All Day"

All three phones will be available this year, either at retail or on Lenovo's website. The Lenovo S860 is expected to retail for $349, the S850 should be $269, and the S660 comes in at $229.

Source: Lenovo

MWC 2014: Lenovo YOGA Tablet 10HD+ Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 23, 2014 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: tablet, MWC 14, MWC, lenovo yoga, Lenovo

At Mobile World Congress 2014, Lenovo has announced the YOGA Tablet 10 HD+. Just last month, we discussed the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10 which were presented in October. Those tablets each had a 1280x800 display (even the 10-inch model), both sizes use the same MediaTek MT8125 SoC (Wi-Fi, MT8389 for 3G), and it is 1GB of RAM all-around. Performance was expected to be in the ballpark of a Tegra 3 device.

Lenovo-yoga-tablet-hand.jpg

These are all areas which are bumped for the new YOGA Tablet 10 HD+. The 10.1-inch screen is now at 1080p quality, the SoC is a Qualcomm Snapdragon Quad running at 1.8 GHz, and the RAM is doubled to 2GB. It will running Android 4.3 with an alleged over-the-air (OTA) update to 4.4 KitKat, at some point.

android-yoga.png

Make sure to bend at the knee and put your hands toge... oh right.

Comparing between the Yoga Ultrabooks, running Windows, and the YOGA Tablets, running Android, would probably not be wise. They are very different designs. The Ultrabooks hinge with an always-attached keyboard while the tablets have a keyboard-less stand. Rather than the Ultrabooks trying to make a keyboard comfortable in tablet usage, the tablets use the small metal hinge to prop up the screen. They key aspect of the cylindrical hinge is its usage as a handle and the volume it provides as battery storage. Ryan found the old versions' 18-hour rated battery life to be fairly accurate, and the new 10 HD+ is rated for the same duration (actually, with a bonus 1000 mAh over the original Tablet 10). Another benefit of its battery location is that, if you are holding the tablet by its hinge, the battery's weight will not have much torque on your fingers.

Of course, now comes the all-important pricing and availability. The Lenovo YOGA Tablet 10 HD+ will be released in April starting at $349. This is higher than the prices of the Tablet 8 and Tablet 10, $199 and $274 respectively, but you also get more for it.

Lenovo Press Release after the break.

Source: Lenovo

MWC 2014: Lenovo DOit Apps Announcement

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2014 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: MWC 14, MWC, Lenovo, DOit

Lenovo, according to their tagline, is for those who do. Until now, they never quite define, "Do what?" At Mobile World Congress, they launched their lineup of mobile applications under their collective brand, "DOit". DOit! Suddenly, it all became clear.

lenovo-doit-camera.jpg

In all seriousness, Lenovo DOit is a collection of five apps which range from backup to camera usage which the company is announcing at Mobile World Congress. These apps are:

  • SHAREit: allows users to share photos, apps, contacts, and so forth on a peer-to-peer connection.
  • SECUREit: provides antimalware, data usage monitoring, and an encryption services.
  • SYNCit: stores an online backup of contacts, SMS text messages, and calls.
  • SNAPit: is an alternative camera app with its own set of features.
  • SEEit: manages your photo gallery and allows users filters and effects.

These apps attempt to put Lenovo's spin on the needs of their end-users. SHAREit as an example, which is available for Google, iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows XP/7/8, is developed around the hypothetical user who wants to share large data files between mobile devices. It seems like, because their example user would want to share across multiple devices, that they opened it up to other platforms and devices. On the other hand, SNAPit and SEEit are only available on Lenovo devices because it is an enhancement.

The availability of this suite varies on the device. SHAREit is available now on the Google Play store as a free app with iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows XP/7/8 allegedly coming before the end of the month. SYNCit and SECUREit is available on Google Play for free, but not for iOS or Windows. SNAPit and SEEit are only available pre-loaded on Lenovo smartphones and tablets, alongside other three apps.

The Lenovo announcement should be available at their news site.

Source: Lenovo

ASUS PadFone Infinity Bows at MWC 2013

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2013 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 600, qualcomm, padfone infinity, padfone, MWC 13, MWC, asus

Mobile World Congress 2013 pulled up stakes yesterday in Barcelona, but the buzz will echo worldwide for quite a while. While fewer companies are unveiling flagship devices at the big industry shows, one new entrant into the mobile sphere definitely caught our eye: the ASUS PadFone Infinity.

k1JmbteG4BVcbkOJ_1000.jpg

Image via ASUS.com

Not to be confused with ASUS's 7" phablet Fonepad, the PadFone Infinity is the company's third version of its two-in-one phone/tablet, and it has taken major strides beyond its predecessors, the PadFone and the PadFone 2.

On its own, the handset is a 5" LTE phone, powered by Qualcomm's 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 Quad-core CPU, with 2 GB of RAM and the integrated Andreno 320 GPU that can crank out 1080p video sweetness (improving on the PadFone 2's 720p), and with 64 GB of onboard storage. Also included is 50 GB of free ASUS Webstorage for two years.

The PadFone Infinity ships with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (although the demo video embedded below says 4.1) and is the first in its family to sport an anodized aluminum unibody with a brushed-metal back case.

cP4Xg9chqbfQALZr_1000.jpg

Image via ASUS.com

But slide it into the PadFone Station, and suddenly you're holding a full-HD, 10.1" tablet. Basically, it's like getting two devices on a single carrier contract.

The devices' battery performance is fairly impressive, at least when taken in tandem. The phone lists 19 hours of 3G talk time, which can triple when connected to the Station. The phone's battery claims 6.5 hours of browsing and nine hours of video playback, to each of which you can add 7.5 hours when connected to the Station.

The phone's 5" display--up from 4.3" and 4.7" in the first two generations respectively--features 1920x1080 pixels (the same as the pad's 10.1" screen) with a resolution of 441 PPI. (Compare at 326 PPI on the iPhone 5's Retina Display.)

trj5D6v3kVwZohhe_1000.jpg

Image via ASUS.com

The dimensions of each device are relatively svelte. The phone is 8.9 mm thick, tapering sharply to 6.3 mm at the edges, and weighing in at 141 grams (roughly 5 ounces, for the metrically challenged). The pad is 10.6 mm thick and adds 530 grams (nearly 19 ounces) to the overall weight.

On the chassis you'll find a MyDP port, which supports Micro-USB 2.0 and 1080p video-out, 3.5 mm audio, and a Nano SIM slot. The front camera shoots 2 megapixels, while on the rear is an almost obscene 13MP, f/2.0 camera that features a burst mode of 8 frames per second. It shoots 1080p MPEG4 video at 30fps or 720p at 60fps.

ASUS says the PadFone Infinity will be available in April in Taiwan and in "selected other countries from early Q2 2013" at the hefty price of 999 euros (roughly US $1,300). Sadly, there is no word of a U.S. release.

Check out ASUS's demo video: