Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | August 22, 2013 - 01:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation 4, Kabini, hUMA, amd
UPDATE: I have added new info at the bottom of this post with more commentary from AMD (kind of).
You might have seen some reports in the last couple of days claiming that the upcoming Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will have a big advantage over the Xbox One thanks to its unique ability to support AMD's hUMA memory architecture. hUMA, heterogeneous unified memory architecture, is an exciting new memory technology that AMD has built into upcoming APUs.
Josh published a story on hUMA that sums it as so:
The idea behind hUMA is quite simple; the CPU and GPU share memory resources, they are able to use pointers to access data that has been processed by either one or the other, and the GPU can take page faults and not rely only on page locked memory. Memory in this case is bi-directionally coherent, so coherency issues with data in caches which are later written to main memory will not cause excessive waits for either the CPU or GPU to utilize data that has been changed in cache, but not yet written to main memory.
There's just one problem with these various reports (VR-Zone, ExtremeTech): they're incorrect. After sending some emails to our representatives at AMD I was told that "Kabini doesn't support hUMA" which is the APU that both the PS4 and Xbox One processors are based on. AMD further clarified with us:
Our spokesperson made inaccurate statements about our semi-custom APU architectures and does not speak for Microsoft, Sony or the AMD semi-custom business unit responsible for co-developing the next generation console APUs.
So while the PS4 will still be a faster system thanks to its higher SIMD processor (GPU core) count, there is no support for a true heterogeneous unified memory architecture in either upcoming console platform.
NOTE: I have had several people point out that it's possible Sony and Microsoft worked on their own custom memory architectures that will perform similar functionally to hUMA. That is entirely possible but means that official hUMA support isn't on the SoCs.
UPDATE: AMD contacted me again to make another comment. Essentially, they said that the correction statement to the original statement claiming hUMA was part PS4 was "inaccurrate" but that this correction does NOT mean the opposite claim is true. Even when pressed for a more specific and debate-ending comment, AMD wouldn't give us any more information.
So does the PS4 have support for some type of heterogeneous unified memory? Maybe. And the Xbox One? Maybe. At this point, I'd stop listening to anything AMD has to say on the subject as they are likely to recant it shortly thereafter. Many readers have emailed me with their thoughts and I personally feel that its more likely the original statement from AMD (that the PS4 will have the edge with a hUMA design) will turn out to be the truth in the long run...
Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2013 - 11:52 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xperia z, xperia, triluminos, sony, Android
Sony has a new smartphone on the way called the Xperia Z Ultra. This 6.4” tablet-sized smartphone uses high end hardware and will be available in Q3 2013.
The Xperia Z Ultra measures 17.9 cm x 9.2 cm x 0.65 cm and weighs in at 212 grams (approximately 0.47 lbs). The front of the device is dominated by a large 6.4” Triluminos display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p (342 PPI). Users will be able to use touch or a capacitive stylus to interact with the screen. The back of the smartphone includes an 8MP camera (no flash). The chassis is IP55 and IP58 rated as being dust resistant and waterproof.
Hardware.info was able to get some hands-on time with the upcoming Sony phablet.
Internally, the Xperia Z Ultra features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC clocked at 2.2 GHz along with Adreno 330 graphics, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and support for microSD cards. Wireless radios include 4G, NFC, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. A 3,000 mAh battery provides power to the smartphone, which Sony rates at 14 hours of usage per full charge. It will run Google's Android operating system.
Hardware.info managed to get some hands on time with the Xperia Z Ultra, and it looks like a promising device. The crew stated that the display had some of the best viewing angles they have seen on Sony devices, for example. According to the site, Sony will be releasing the Xperia Z Ultra in the third quarter of this year for 719 Euros, which works out to about $940 USD. However, keep in mind that if/when the smartphone does come to the US, it will likely be subsidized to a much lower price point.
Computex 2013: Sony Unveils New Haswell-Powered VAIO Duo 13 Tablet and VAIO Pro 11" and 13" Ultrabooks
Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 5, 2013 - 09:53 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vaio pro, vaio duo 13, vaio, tablet, sony, computex 2013, computex
Tablets and ultrabooks are proving popular devices at Computex, and Sony recently joined the release party with three new Haswell-powered VAIO notebooks. The VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 are thin and light laptops while the VAIO Duo 13 is the company's first Haswell-powered convertible tablet (slider style).
All three new mobile devices share Full HD 1920 x 1080 Bravia Triluminos touchscreen displays, ClearAudio+ sound, Haswell processors, and respectable battery life.
The VAIO Duo 13 is a 13" notebook that can be converted into a slate tablet by sliding the screen forward and having it lay on top of the keyboard. The keyboard is back-lit and sits above a tiny trackpad that is much wider than it is tall. Other features include a stylus, 8MP camera with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software called CamScanner, and a claimed 15 hour battery life according to Sony and as tested by MobileMark 2007.
Internal specifications match those of the VAIO Pro series, with a dual core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD, and a beefy 6,320 mAh battery.
Aside from the small trackpad, this looks like a solid device that matches Intel's "It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it” mantra. At the very least, it looks like a worthy (and improved) successor to the company's existing VAIO Duo 11 convertible tablet.
The VAIO Duo 13 will be available for purchase in Carbon Black or Carbon White later this month for $1,399.
Sony has also announced two new thin-and-light ultraportable VAIO Pro notebooks. As the product names suggest, they are 11” and 13” ultrabooks.
The VAIO Pro 11 weighs in at an ultra-light 1.92 pounds (0.87kg) and offers up a 1920 x 1080 display, backlight keyboard, trackpad (again, rather tiny), and decent internals.
Specifically, the base model Pro 11 notebook is powered by an Intel 4th Generation Core i5-4200U (dual core at 1.6GHz) processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. For a bit more, you can upgrade to a Core i7-4500U and a 256GB SSD. The base model has an MSRP of $1,150.00 USD.
Sony's VAIO Pro 13 steps up to a larger 13” display (albeit still 1080p). The larger form factor is still only 2.33 pounds (1.06kg), however which is nice to see. The base model contains a Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB PCIe SSD. Users can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, however. The MSRP for the base model is $1,250.00 USD.
For only $100 over the base VAIO Pro 11, you can get a larger screen and faster storage drive which is pretty good. Judging by the reviews, such as this one by The Verge, the Pro 13 is the one to get as the Pro 11 is almost too small with a hard-to-read screen and cramped keyboard. On the other hand, if you need portability however, it is hard to beat the Haswell-powered Pro 11.
Both the VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 will be available later this month for $1,150 and $1,250 respectively.
What do you think about Sony's new offerings? Any Duo 11 users out there wishing for a larger form factor?
Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2013 - 11:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, semi-custom business unit, ps4, gaming, financial report, amd
Sony, a company with an annual profit of 436 billion Yen ($458 million USD) in its fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 saw PS3 and PS2 sales decline and a slight bump up in PSP and PS Vita sales. In a recent earnings call covered by Euro Gamer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Masaru Kato stated that the company expects this year to be even better with the launch of its upcoming PlayStation 4 console. Sony does not believe it will incur any significant losses with the PS4 and that sales will "increase significantly." Unlike the PS3 which used a Cell chip that was expensive to develop, the PlayStation 4 uses mostly-traditional PC hardware. With the upcoming console, AMD did the majority of the development legwork which saved Sony money. As a result, Sony believes that the PS4 will turn a profit much faster than it took the PS3.
Looking into Sony's next fiscal year ending March 2014, the company is putting a renewed focus on smartphones and smart TVs. In the previous year, Sony saw combined PS3 and PS2 sales decline to $16.5 million from $18 million the prior year. Sony expects to sell approximately $10 million worth of PS3s in the upcoming fiscal year. While the company's PS2 console had a wild ride, it is no longer included in the company's sales forecast. Sales of Sony's mobile PSP and PS Vita gaming consoles are expected to decrease to a mere $5 million as well. Basically, Sony has a lot riding on its PlayStation 4 console. It expects to see its next-generation console make up for the decreased sales of its existing hardware.
Either way, a profitable Sony is a good thing, and I hope that the upcoming console is priced to sell while also resulting in a tidy profit for the company. I expect the Xbox-PS3-PC gamer flame-war to be especially entertaining this year, as the consoles are essentially using lower-end PC hardware (heh) and the two consoles specs are more-similar than ever.
Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2013 - 02:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation eye, playstation 4, gaming, dualshock 4, APU, amd
Sony teased a few more details about its upcoming PlayStation 4 console at the Games Developer's Conference earlier this week. While the basic specifications have not changed since the original announcement, we now know more about the X86 console hardware.
The PS4 itself is powered by an AMD Jaguar CPU with eight physical cores and eight threads. Each core gets 32 KB L1 I-cache and D-cache. Further, each group of four physical cores shares 2 MB of L2 cache, for 4MB total L2. The processor is capable of Out of Order Execution, as are AMDs other processor offerings. The console also reportedly features 8GB of GDDR5 memory that is shared by the CPU and GPU. It offers 176 GB/s of bandwidth, and is a step above the PS3 which did not use a unified memory design. The system will also sport a faster GPU rated at 1.843 TFLOPS, and clocked at 800MHz. The PS3 will have a high-capacity hard drive and a new Blu-ray drive that is up to 3-times faster. Interestingly, the console also has a co-processor that allows the system to process the video streaming features and allow the Remote Play game streaming to the PlayStation Vita at its native resolution of 960x554.
The PlayStation Eye has also been upgraded with the PS4 to include 2 cameras, four microphones, and a 3-axis accelerometer. The Eye cameras have an 85-degree field of view, and can record video at 1280x800 at 60 Hz and 12 bits per pixel or 640x480 and 120Hz. The new PS4 Eye is a noteworthy upgrade to the current generation model which is limited to either 640x480 pixels at 60Hz or 320x240 pixels at 120Hz. The extra resolution should allow developers to be more accurate. The DualShock 4 controllers sport a light-bar that can be tracked by the new Eye camera, for example. The light-bar on the controllers uses an RGB LED that changes to blue, red, pink, or green for players 1-4 respectively.
Speaking of the new DualShock 4, Sony has reportedly ditched the analog face buttons and D-pad for digital buttons. With the DS3 and the PS3, the analog face buttons and D-pad came in handy with racing games, but otherwise they are not likely to be missed. The controllers will now charge even when the console is in standby mode, and the L2 and R2 triggers are more resistant to accidental pressure. The analog sticks have been slightly modified and feature a reduced dead zone. The touchpad, which is a completely new feature for the DualShock lineup, is capable of tracking 2 points at a resolution of 1920x900–which is pretty good.
While Sony has still not revealed what the actual PS4 console will look like, most of the internals are now officially known. It will be interesting to see just where Sony prices the new console, and where game developers are able to take it. Using a DX11.1+ feature set, developers are able to use many of the same tools used to program PC titles but also have additional debugging tools and low level access to the hardware. A new low level API below DirectX, but above the driver level gives developers deeper access to the shader pipeline. I'm curious to see how PC ports will turn out, with the consoles now running X86 hardware, I'm hoping that the usual fare of bugs common to ported titles from consoles to PCs will decrease–a gamer can dream, right?
Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2013 - 04:00 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, sony, tap20, vaio, iosafe, n2, synology, NAS, Z77, dragon, msi, pata, apacer, seasonic, thermaltake, urban
PC Perspective Podcast #241 - 03/07/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the Sony VAIO TAP 20, ioSafe N2 NAS, new Z77 motherboards and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the 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
Program length: 1:04:57
Podcast topics of discussion:
- 0:01:25 We did a Tomb Raider stream
- Week in Reviews:
- 0:22:2 00 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
News items of interest:
- 0:24:25 ASUS PadFone Infinity from MWC
- 0:27:10 Apacer Launches New PATA SSDs
- 0:32:00 Seagate will cease 7200 RPM mobile HDDs this year
- 0:34:50 Thermaltake launches Urban S21 case
- 0:38:55 Double your HDD density with HGST
- 0:43:00 MSI has new gaming series of MB coming out, based on Z77
- 0:49:30 NVIDIA refreshes Quadro with Kepler GPUs
- 1-888-38-PCPER or firstname.lastname@example.org
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
An AIO and Tablet Design
When new and interesting architectures and technology are developed, it enables system designers to build creative designs and systems for consumers. With its renewed focus on power efficiency as well as performance, Intel has helped move the industry towards new form factors like the Next Unit of Computing and the evolution of the All-in-One design.
Today we are taking a look at the new Sony VAIO Tap 20 system, an AIO that not only integrates a 10-point touch screen on a 20-in 1600x900 resolution display and an Ivy Bridge architecture ultra low voltage processor, but also a battery to make the design semi-mobile and ripe for inclusion in high-tech homes.
Check out our quick video overview below and then follow that up with a full pictorial outline and some more details!
This isn't Sony's first foray into all-in-one PCs of course but it is among the first to combine this particular set of features. In what is essentially an Ultrabook design with a large screen, the Tap 20 combines an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 750GB hard drive. Here is the breakdown:
|Sony VAIO Tap 20 System Setup|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Memory||4GB DDR3-1600 (1 x SODIMM)|
|Hard Drive||750GB XXRPM HDD (2.5-in)|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD 4000 Processor Graphics|
|Display||1600x900 20-in touch screen (10 point)|
2 x USB 3.0
SD / Memory Stick card reader
Headphone / Mic connection
|Operating System||Windows 8 x64|
The display is pretty nice with a 1600x900 reoslution though I do wish we had seen a full 1080p screen for HD video playback. As with most touch screens, the display quality is under that of a non-touch IPS monitor but even up close (as you tend to use touch devices) you'll be hard pressed to find any imperfections. Viewing angles are great as well which allows for better multi-person usage.
On the left we find the power connection and a hard wired Ethernet connection that compliments the integrated 802.11n WiFi.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 20, 2013 - 06:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sony, ps4
We're currently in the middle of Sony's Playstation announcement and right off the bat they discussed system specifications.
(Update 2: Press conference was over a few hours ago, and we now have an official press release.)
The Playstation 4, as it will be titled, is very similar to a mid-range gaming PC. When discussing with developers, they requested for Sony to stick with a typical x86-based architecture. Of course that does not stop Sony from describing it as a “Supercharged PC architecture”. Still, they do seem to have quite a decent amount of hardware in this box.
- 8-core x86 CPU
2 Teraflops GPU integrated on same
- I did not hear AMD mentioned, but it totally is.
- 8GB GDDR5 RAM (shared)
- Stereo Camera on the controller with a light bar, like the Wii, to judge distance to TV.
- Also touch sensor in the controller.
- (Update/correction: At least a ...) Spindle-based Hard Drive
While these specifications have been sufficiently leaked in the recent past, we have not been able to pin down exactly how much RAM is provided. We found the development kit contained 8GB of system memory. The problem is that development kits require more RAM than the system it pretends to be to account for development tools and unoptimized assets.
As it turns out, the system itself will contain 8GB of GDDR5 shared between the CPU and GPU, which is quite a lot. Developers will need to finally push the PC platform past the 4GB RAM+VRAM 32-bit barrier in order to keep up with the next generation consoles.
Most of our gaming limitations were due to art assets being limited by memory constraints. Thanks to the new Sony console, PC releases could finally be taken off the 512MB-long leash of Sony and Microsoft.
(Update 2, cont.: The press release has official tech specs as below but are "subject to change")
Single-Chip Custom Processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 Teraflops, AMD next-generation Radeon(tm)-based graphics engine
|Hard Disk Drive||Built-in|
|Optical Drive (Read-Only)||
BD 6x CAV
DVD 8x CAV
|I/O Ports||Super-Speed USB (USB3.0), AUX|
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)
So clearly Sony was slightly rounding up when they claimed it was a 2 Teraflop GPU. Still, this looks to be a healthy computer.
We now have the official confirmation we needed that AMD Jaguar cores will power the PS4. Given AMD's big wins in the console platforms, I would wonder if game developers would be able to take some of the tricks they will learn in a few years and be able to start optimizing PC gamers for AMD CPUs.
GPUs too for that matter... this could mean a lot for AMD's PC gamers.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 23, 2013 - 02:42 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: southern islands, sony, ps4, playstation 4, orbis, Kaveri, bulldozer, APU, amd
Earlier today a report from Kotaku.com posted some details about the upcoming PlayStation console, code named Orbis and sometimes just called the PS4. Kotaku author Luke Plunkett got the information from a 90 page PDF that details the development kit so the information is likely pretty accurate if incomplete. It discusses a new controller and a completely new accounts system but I was mostly interested in the hardware details given.
We'll begin with the specs. And before we go any further, know that these are current specs for a PS4 development kit, not the final retail console itself. So while the general gist of the things you see here may be similar to what makes it into the actual commercial hardware, there's every chance some—if not all of it—changes, if only slightly.
This is key to keep in mind because here are the specs listed on the report:
- 8GB of system memory
- 2.2GB of graphics memory
- 4 module (8 core) AMD Bulldozer CPU
- AMD "R10xx" based GPU
- 4x USB 3.0 ports and 2x Ethernet connections
- Blu-ray drive
- 160GB HDD
- HDMI and optical audio output
We are essentially talking about an AMD FX-series processor with a Southern Islands based discrete card and I am nearly 100% sure that this will not match the configuration of the shipping system. Think about it - would a console developer really want to have a processor that can draw more than 100 watts inside its box in addition to a discrete GPU? I doubt it.
Instead, let's go with the idea that this developer kit is simply meant to emulate some final specifications. More than likely we are looking at an APU solution that combines Bulldozer or Steamroller cores along with GCN-based GPU SIMD arrays. The most likely candidate is Kaveri, a 28nm based product that meets both of those requirements. Josh recently discussed the future with Kaveri in a post during CES, worth checking out. AMD has told us several times that Kaveri should be able to hit the 1.0 TFLOPs level of performance and if we compare to the current discrete GPUs would enable graphics performance similar to that of an under-clocked Radeon HD 7770.
There is some room for doubt though - Kaveri isn't supposed to be out until "late Q4" though its possible that the PS4 will be the first customer. It is also possible that AMD is making a specific discrete GPU for implementation on the PS4 based on the GCN architecture that would be faster than the graphics performance expected on the Kaveri APU.
When speaking with our own Josh Walrath on this rumor, he tended to think that Sony and AMD would not use an APU but would rather combine a separate CPU and GPU on a single substrate, allowing for better yields than a combined APU part. In order to make up for the slower memory controller interface (on substrate is not as fast as on-die) AMD might again utilize backside cache, just like the one used on the Xbox 360 today. With process technology improvements its not unthinkable to see that jump to 30 or 40MB of cache.
With the debate of a 2013 or 2014 release still up in the air, there is plenty of time for this to change still but we will likely know for sure after our next trip to Taipei.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 13, 2012 - 02:55 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, sony vaio, sony, Ivy Bridge, Intel, convertible tablet
Not content to let the other OEMs have all the Windows 8 tablet fun, Sony has announced a new 11” convertible ultrabook – the VAIO Duo 11 – that uses a sliding hinge to transform from a notebook into a tablet.
The Vaio Duo 11 weighs in a 2.86 pounds and measures 12.6 inches x 7.8 inches. It features an 11.6” IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and 10 point multitouch. Also, it has stereo speakers, a 2.4 megapixel webcam, full (backlit) qwerty keyboard, and pressure sensitive digitizer. Interestingly, the Duo 11 does not have a trackpad. Instead, it has a small touch sensitive trackball that resembles the pointing sticks on IBM/Lenovo PCs but on the Vaio Duo 11 the nub does not move. In that respect, it is more like the trackpad on some Blackberry Phones, but smaller. There are two mouse buttons below the spacebar, however. Other specifications include a magnesium alloy chassis.
Sony is calling the hinge the “Surf Slider” and the display slides forward to lay the display flat over the keyboard for tablet mode. As Ars Technica points out, when the computer is in notebook mode, there is a ribbon cable to the display that is exposed which is less than ideal.
Ports around the sides of the device include a VGA video output, card reader, and headphone jack on the left, and two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI output, and a power button on the right. Reportedly, there is also an Ethernet jack.
Fortunately, Sony did not have to compromise as much on the internal specifications to achieve the 11” form factor. The Vaio Duo 11 includes an Intel Core i3 (Ivy Bridge) processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and a 128 GB solid state drive.
Image credit: CNet. See their full review here.
The convertible ultrabook will come pre-loaded with Windows 8. It will also include Wi-Fi that can establish ad-hoc wireless connections with other devices by tapping the NFC radios together.
Sony’s Vaio Duo 11 will go on sale October 26, 2012. Prices will start at $1,099.99, with more expensive models adding more storage or a faster processor. It is a bit pricey, but this PC is positioned as an ultraportable convertible tablet, and in that respect it is priced competitively with the competition.
You can find the full press release on Sony's website.