Mighty Mite; the ARM Cortex A15 and Samsung

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2011 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: Exynos 5250, Samsung, cortex a15, arm, 32nm

Samsung is the first to put ARM's new chip into a product, the Cortex A15.  While only 500MHz faster on paper, enhancements to the architecture have wonks predicting double the performance of the Cortex A9.  This little chip will be capable of outputting 2560 x 1600 video over DisplayPort as well as supporting SATA, UART, and USB 3.0.  This is a rather impressive list for a chip from a manufacturer that many have ignored.  You can bet that the power consumption on this chip will be minuscule, but the capabilities are not.  Check out SemiAccurate for the full story.

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"Samsung (SEO:005930) has started sampling a processor based on the latest microarchitecture, the A15, from ARM. The processor is fabbed using 32nm high-k metal gate low-power process technology. The processor clocks in at 2GHz, but thanks to advances in the microarchitecture, it is roughly twice as powerful as an A9-based processor running at 1.5GHz.

Samsung has named its new chip the Exynos 5250."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Just Delivered: Samsung Infuse 4G

Subject: Mobile | November 9, 2011 - 07:08 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, Infuse 4g, froyo, AT&T, Android

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

I've been rocking an aging Nokia N900 smart phone for quite some time now. It was a good phone but I felt that it was time to take advantage of the upgrade pricing, and pick up a new phone with better support and hardware. Fed Ex today dropped off a smart phone in this ever unassuming box. Let's hope the phone is shinier than the box!

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After opening the box and taking out all of the components, I was left with quite a bit of kit. The phone in question is a Samsung Infuse 4G (for AT&T), and the box includes all the various retail odds and endsa that go with it. The Android smart phone is fairly thin, and although made of plastic it feels sturdy. Weighting in at 4.9 ounces, the phone resembles a small tablet with a massive 4.5" Super AMOLED+ capacitive multi-touch display with a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels. Powering the display is a single core Hummingbird processor running at 1.2 GHz, 512 MB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage via an internal microSD card.  Unfortunately, the phone is only running Android 2.2 and Samsung is using their own TouchWiz UI on top of the OS.  Despite that, the phone does still feel very snappy in terms of scrolling, bringing up menus, and transitioning between applications.  I'll have to play around with it some more though.

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Notable accessories Included in the box are a 1750 mAh battery, 2 GB MicroSD card (and SD card adapter), and wired headset as shown in the image below. Also a nice touch is a combination USB/AC charger and USB cable, which will be easier to manage than carrying around two chargers for my old phone (the AC charger and separate USB cable). The phone is capable of supporting up to a 32 GB microSDHC card for maximum storage.

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As far as very first impressions go, I'm really liking the Samsung Infuse. Although the display is one of the largest on a phone I've ever used, the phone is surprisingly light. It doesn't hurt that the display is very sharp and the colors are great, either. Now excuse me while I run out and get a screen protector before I scratch this thing!

Of hens teeth and hard drives

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: hdd, thailand, flooding, western digital, Samsung

According to SemiAccurate both Western Digital and Samsung will cease shipping hard drives to suppliers and retailers because of the devastating flooding in Thailand.  Both companies need to find a new source for head stacks and drive motors and Western Digital will need temporary manufacturing facilities while they wait for the flood waters to recede and repairs to start on their damaged factory.  Expect to see this have large effects on the industry as major suppliers like Dell, Acer, ASUS and HP do not tend to keep large supplies of hard drives lying around in storage which means that only the models with SSDs inside will be able to be manufactured and shipped out.  That reduction in production in turn will effect motherboard, GPU and CPU manufacturers as the demand for their products drop.  While you will not convince the 11,000+ Thai people who have been displaced by the flooding that the fate of Western Digital's factory is the biggest impact of this disaster, for many in the western world it is the only reason they are paying attention to this story.

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"According to sources that we have spoken with in the Taiwanese market both Samsung and Western Digital have decided to suspend shipments of disk drives to PC makers in Taiwan due to a parts shortage."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Hard Drive Prices Spike on Thailand Flooding

Subject: General Tech, Storage | October 27, 2011 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: wdc, shortage, Seagate, Samsung, hitachi, hdd, Hard Drive

Chances are good you have heard about the recent flooding in Thailand - as Yahoo puts it: "The country's worst flooding in half a century, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain, has killed 373 people since mid-July and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.5 million."  Obviously this is a horrific disaster and we feel for the people affected by it.

But there is a tech angle to the story that has been showing up in many of our discussions as late and is the impact this disaster has had on the production of spindle-based hard drives.  Looking for a 2TB hard drive today on Newegg.com this is what I found:

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Prices for hard drives have sky rocketed in the last week or so due to the pending shortage of them across the world.  Many of the top manufacturers have facilities based in Thailand for production as well as partners that are responsible for supplying companies like Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung and Hitachi with the parts they need to produce platter-based drives. 

While we used to talk about finding 2TB hard drives in the $89 price range, the best prices we could find on comparable units today start at $129; and this is for the slower units.  Western Digital Caviar Black drives are starting at unit prices of $229 now!

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Pricing graph from Pricegrabber.com for Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB

If you are careful and shop around, you can still find drives like this for the $149 price point at sellers like Amazon are bit slower to update their prices.  (Scratch that, after publication this was already at $199!)  But don't just blindly purchase drives at this point - do your research!

WD drives aren't the only ones affected.  When doing a search for a Seagate 2TB drive, these were our results:

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When asked for comment, a representative of one of the affected manufacturers expressed concern for the people of Thailand first, but when pressed, said:

"The entire hard drive business is affected. Two of our factories are inundated with water, which supports 60% of our output. But a ton of suppliers that the entire industry uses are also flooded so we are all impacted."

While looking over at WD's press center we found this comment from John Coyne, President and CEO:

In mid-October, to protect our employees and our equipment and facilities, we temporarily suspended production at our two factories in Thailand, which have been inundated by floodwater. In addition, many of our component suppliers have been impacted, leaving material for hard drive production considerably constrained. We are working with suppliers to assess the extent of their impact and help devise short- and long-term solutions. This is a complex and dynamic challenge that will require extensive rebuilding for the Thai people and government, and present unprecedented obstacles to the hard drive industry for multiple quarters.

Obviously with a majority of the facilities affected we can only expect these prices hikes to increase and to linger.  That fact that Coyne specifically notes "multiple quarters" indicates that users likely won't see a return to the pricing we were used to until at least mid-2012.  With competition from solid-state drives heating up, this could be bad timing for companies dependent on spindle drives as the driving revenue source: comparing a $300 SSD to a $90 standard drive is a much different decision than that same $300 SSD and a $240 standard drive of high capacity. 

According to this report from Xbit labs, the industry has "two to four weeks" of hard drive inventory available.  The author claims that this points to the situation not being so dire, but with the WD's CEO stating the effects will be seen for "multiple quarters", I am guessing we will see a major buy-up of inventory from system builders like HP and Dell that will cause drive shortages much more quickly than anticipated.  

PC Perspective will keep tracking the effects on driving pricing and if any player in the business has other input they want to offer us.  Stay tuned!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specs, Design and Ergonomics

Introduction

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Courtesy of Samsung

 

Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphone debuted in the U.S. with Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile in September and we finally got our hands on a review sample. The Samsung smartphone runs on Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" operating system and includes an 8 MP camera with LED flash and 1080p video, front facing 2 MP camera, and Samsung’s custom TouchWiz user interface.

 

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Courtesy of Samsung

 

T-Mobile and Sprint’s version sports a 4.52-inch display, but AT&T’s version has a 4.3-inch screen that matches the original international version of the Galaxy S II. We are reviewing T-Mobile's Galaxy S II with 16GB of internal memory (there are two options for 16 and 32 GB). The Sprint and AT&T versions are outfitted with a dual-core 1.2 GHz Orion processor, but the T-Mobile version we are reviewing today sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU.

Read the rest of our review of the Samsung Galaxy S II!

Hope you weren't holding your breath for Ice Cream Sandwich

Subject: General Tech | October 7, 2011 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: Android, ice cream sandwich, Samsung, nexus prime

It looks like the release of the full specs of Samsung's Nexus Prime yesterday was nothing more than a tease as today we find out that the release of the phone and Google's new Ice Cream Sandwich will be delayed.  Not only do we not know the new schedule for release, we also do not know the reason for the delay.  The Inquirer mentions the possibility that the release of the phone would be overshadowed by the iPhone 4S and iOS 5, though it could also be simply because of the leaks about the phone that have occurred recently.  Whatever the true reason, you won't able to snack on a sandwich anytime soon. 

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"KOREAN HARDWARE GIANT Samsung has confirmed it has pushed back its product announcement that was due to take place next week.

It was extremely likely that the company was going to announce, along with Google, the Nexus Prime smartphone at the Cellular Telephone Industries Association conference in San Diego next Tuesday. The phone will be the first to run Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), but the announcement now has no date or venue."

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Source: The Inquirer

Samsung and Micron Developing Hybrid Memory Cube Technology

Subject: Memory | October 7, 2011 - 08:52 AM |
Tagged: memory, hybrid memory cube, HMC, micron, Intel, Samsung, ram, DDR, DRAM

Micron Technology and Samsung Electronics, in cooperation with Intel, Altera Corporation, Open Silicon, and Xilinx among others have formed the “Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium” to develop and encourage adoption of a new storage interface specification. This new storage technology is based on Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) technology, which is comprised of PCB, a thin logic layer, and stacks of DRAM chips. These memory chips are stacked vertically on top of one another and connected via TSV.

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A mock up of a HMC (Source: CNET)

According to Tech Connect Magazine, Micron’s Vice President for DRAM Marketing is quoted in stating “HMC brings a new level of capability to memory that provides exponential performance and efficiency gains.” Hybrid Memory Cube technology is claimed to be capable of using 70% less power than current DDR3 memory modules (DIMMs) while being up to 15 times faster.

Reinforcing Micron’s position is Intel’s CTO Justin Rattner who talked very highly of the technology and it’s massive bandwidth and I/O improvements versus traditional DDR style memory designs. The Hybrid Memory Cube is capable of sustained transfer rates of 1 terabit per second, and is “the most energy efficient DRAM ever built” by a bits transferred per amount of energy consumed.

Both Intel and Micron have expressed that the HMC technology will be a boon for data centers and high performance computing that demands low power and high bandwidth memory storage. Assuming the numbers pan out, the Hybrid Memory Cube will be quite a leap in memory efficiency and will further accelerate adoption rates of so called “cloud” applications as well as more efficient high performance servers used in scientific research endeavors. All in all, the idea of the Hybrid Memory Cube is cool stuff, and it will be interesting to see if the actual memory will live up to its grandeur name.

Not an Ultrabook but it could be, Samsung's Series 9

Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2011 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, Series 9, ultraportable

If you are in the market for an ultraportable Intel notebook, instead of waiting to see what becomes of the Ultrabook you could consider the Samsung Series 9.  A 13" notebook powered by a Core i5-2537M with 8GB of DDR3-1333 and a 256GB Samsung SSD pretty much matches anything that is on the market.  At $1300 it is a bit expensive but for a 12.9" x 8.9" x 0.64" notebook with that much power you have to expect a steep entry fee.  The Tech Report were impressed overall with some negative points from the keyboard's quality and the battery life which was not as long as they had hoped, you can't expect much more than four hours from the notebook.

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"This 13" notebook has much in common with Apple's MacBook Air—an almost impossibly slim chassis, a very light weight, a low-voltage Sandy Bridge processor, and solid-state storage. Did Samsung hit a home run with this laptop, and is it worth the money?"

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

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Samsung Releases Engineering Samples of 32GB Green DDR3 For Future Servers

Subject: Memory | August 19, 2011 - 10:47 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, DIMM, ddr3, 30nm

Samsung recently released engineering samples of new 32GB DDR3 memory modules for evaluation. Specifically, the new modules are registered dual inline memory modules (RDIMMs) that use a “three dimensional through silicon via (TSV) package technology” that provide higher performance and density.

The new DIMMs are made from Samsung’s four gigabit 30 nanometer class NAND, and is capable of delivering 1,333 Mb/s. Further, they consume 4.5 watts of power per hour, which Samsung claims is among the lowest power consuming enterprise DIMMs. Compared to LRDIMMs (load reduced modules), the Samsung modules offer 30 percent energy savings.

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The company claims that these power savings are the direct result of the through silicon via technology that allows them to vertically stack the NAND and maintain power levels comparable to single stacked chips. Further, the company stated that they are working with CPU and controller engineers to hasten the adoption rate of higher capacity DIMMs.  No word yet on pricing or whether these DIMMs will ever see full production and enterprise usage in their current form.

Source: Samsung

Samsung Announces New 830 SATA 3 SSDs for Consumers

Subject: Storage | August 17, 2011 - 07:08 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, mlc, 830 SDD

Samsung today announced a new lineup of consumer solid state drives (SSD) with the SATA 3 (6Gb/s) interface called the SSD 830 Series. We reported last week on this series of SSD's OEM variant, the PM830 Series, and this week is the unveiling of the consumer versions.

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The new 830 SSD series builds on its Samsung 470 predecessors while upgrading the controller interface to SATA 3 (6Gb/s), providing twice the amount of available bandwidth. Further, the consumer drives differentiate themselves from the PM830 OEM versions in three distinct manners, including capacity sizes, exterior design, and bundled components.

On the aesthetic front, the 830 drives have a dark brushed aluminum body with a silver colored Samsung logo and orange corner accent, while the OEM PM830 drives are more simple in design with a dark casing and information sticker.

Further proving that the drives are meant for consumer usage, Samsung provides a full upgrade bundle that (in addition to the SSD itself) includes a copy of Norton Ghost to image an old drive onto the new SSD, a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter bracket, all the necessary cables, and detailed instructions on how to use the drive. A notebook oriented upgrade bundle will also be available that includes the SSD itself, manuals, Norton Ghost software, and a USB to SATA adapter to image the old drive onto the new SSD before switching the new drive into the laptop.

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The full upgrade kit for desktops.

The new 830 SSD lineup will come in consumer friendly capacities of 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB (for comparison, the OEM PM830 versions only come in capacities greater than 128GB).

Unfortunately, Samsung has not yet announced pricing or detailed specifications on the new drives, instead opting to withhold that information until the official product launch in October 2011. If the OEM versions are any indication on the speed front; however, the consumer versions are looking at MLC NAND capable of respectable 500MB/s read and 350MB/s write speeds.

Update 8/25/2011:  We recently came across a few more tidbits of information on the Samsung 830 consumer SSDs.  Specifically, the drives will be powered by a triple ARM9 based controller that is similar to their previous generations.  The NAND flash that the drives will use is 20nm class rated, which is marketing speak for any NAND manufacturing node that is between 20nm and 29nm.  In Samsungs case, they are likely utilizing 25nm MLC NAND for their 830 series drives.  Finally, the company will be releasing their own "software toolbox" to keep the SSDs healthy by performing secure erase, monitoring, and user adjustible over-provisioning.  Over-provisioning is a process that reserves a specificied amount of NAND cells so that the SSD controller can replace bad and/or worn out cells and keep performance and capacity at stable levels.

End of Update.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the new drives as we get closer to the official launch date.

Image credit: Samsung