Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 11, 2014 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: webgl, tegra k1, nvidia, geforce, Chromebook, Bay Trail, acer
Today Acer unveiled a new Chromebook powered by an NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor. The aptly-named Chromebook 13 is 13-inch thin and light notebook running Google’s Chrome OS with up to 13 hours of battery life and three times the graphical performance of existing Chromebooks using Intel Bay Trail and Samsung Exynos processors.
The Chromebook 13 is 18mm thick and comes in a white plastic fanless chassis that hosts a 13.3” display, full size keyboard, trackpad, and HD webcam. The Chromebook 13 will be available with a 1366x768 or 1920x1080 resolution panel depending on the particular model (more on that below).
Beyond the usual laptop fixtures, external I/O includes two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI video output, a SD card reader, and a combo headphone/mic jack. Acer has placed one USB port on the left side along with the card reader and one USB port next to the HDMI port on the rear of the laptop. Personally, I welcome the HDMI port placement as it means connecting a second display will not result in a cable invading the mousing area should i wish to use a mouse (and it’s even south paw friendly Scott!).
The Chromebook 13 looks decent from the outside, but it is the internals where the device gets really interesting. Instead of going with an Intel Bay Trail (or even Celeron/Core i3), Acer has opted to team up with NVIDIA to deliver the world’s first NVIDIA-powered Chromebook.
Specifically, the Chromebook 13 uses a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, up to 4GB RAM, and up to 32GB of flash storage. The K1 offers up four A15 CPU cores clocked at 2.1GHz, and a graphics unit with 192 Kepler-based CUDA cores. Acer rates the Chromebook 13 at 11 hours with the 1080p panel or 13 hours when equipped with the 1366x768 resolution display. Even being conservative, the Chromebook 13 looks to be the new leader in Chromebook battery life (with the previous leader claiming 11 hours).
A graph comparing WebGL performance between the NVIDIA Tegra K1, Intel (Bay Trail) Celeron N2830, Samsung Exynos 5800, and Samsung Exynos 5250. Results courtesy NVIDIA.
The Tegra K1 is a powerful little chip, and it is nice to see NVIDIA get a design win here. NVIDIA claims that the Tegra K1, which is rated at 326 GFLOPS of compute performance, offers up to three times the graphics performance of the Bay Trail N2830 and Exynos 5800 SoCs. Additionally, the K1 reportedly uses slightly less power and delivers higher multi-tasking performance. I’m looking forward to seeing independent reviews in this laptop formfactor and hoping that the chip lives up to its promises.
The Chromebook 13 is currently up for pre-order and will be available in September starting at $279. The Tegra K1-powered laptop will hit the United States and Europe first, with other countries to follow. Initially, the Europe roll-out will include “UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Switzerland.”
Acer is offering three consumer SKUs and one education SKU that will be exclusively offering through a re-seller. Please see the chart below for the specifications and pricing.
|Acer Chromebook 13 Models||System Memory (RAM)||Storage (flash)||Display||Price MSRP|
|CB5-311-T9B0||2GB||16GB||1920 x 1080||$299.99|
|CB5-311-T1UU||4GB||32GB||1920 x 1080||$379.99|
|CB5-311-T7NN - Base Model||2GB||16GB||1366 x 768||$279.99|
|Educational SKU (Reseller Only)||4GB||16GB||1366 x 768||$329.99|
Intel made some waves in the Chromebook market earlier this year with the announcement of several new Intel-powered Chrome devices and the addition of conflict-free Haswell Core i3 options. It seems that it is now time for the ARM(ed) response. I’m interested to see how NVIDIA’s newest model chip stacks up to the current and upcoming Intel x86 competition in terms of graphics power and battery usage.
As far as Chromebooks go, if the performance is at the point Acer and NVIDIA claim, this one definitely looks like a decent option considering the price. I think a head-to-head between the ASUS C200 (Bay Trail N2830, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, and 1366x768 display at $249.99 MSRP) and Acer Chromebook 13 would be interesting as the real differentiator (beyond aesthetics) is the underlying SoC. I do wish there was a 4GB/16GB/1080p option in the Chromebook 13 lineup though considering the big price jump to get 4GB RAM (mostly as a result of the doubling of flash) in the $379.99 model at, say, $320 MSRP.
Read more about Chromebooks at PC Perspective!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 13, 2013 - 05:43 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, ue4, UE3, asm.js
Its shortcoming is the difficulty and annoyance when hand coding (without compiling it from another language). The browser is used more by encouraging the adoption of web standards through discouraging the usage of web standards. You can see where the politics can enter.
Still, it makes for great demos such as the cloth physics applet from James Long of Mozilla or, more amazingly, Unreal Engine 3. The upcoming UE4 is expected to be officially supported by Epic Games on asm.js (and obviously WebGL will be necessary too) but, of course, Epic will not prevent UE3 licensees from doing their own leg-work.
NomNom Games, a group within Trendy Entertainment (Trendy is known for Dungeon Defenders), became the first company to release a commercial 3D title on these standards. Monster Madness, powered by Unreal Engine 3, runs in web browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome without plugins (although it will fail-down to Flash 11.6 if your browser is unsupported for the web-native version). Monster Madness is a top-down cell shaded shoot'em-up.
You can play, for free, with an anonymous token here. You can also visit their website to learn more about the closed beta for registered accounts. It is natively supported on Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. I am not entirely sure why IE11 is not supported, now that Microsoft supports WebGL, but there is probably a customer support or performance reason for it.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, webgl
Tools for web developers are pretty astonishing these days. You are able to investigate the driving elements and objects as they are being executed within the browser -- and even modify them. This typically means that you can play around with the various functions and parameters while the app is loaded. You receive immediate feedback about your changes.
Web Standards continue to encompass 3D and other game-related tasks. As a result, developer tools are beginning to take advantage of their browser's managed architecture making it easier to tweak and debug content. In other words: you can poke your 3D scene as it is being rendered.
Now this is quite interesting. Basically all of the GPU's involvement in drawing a 3D scene comes down to two scripts (at least for WebGL 1.0): a vertex shader and a fragment shader. These are operations that run once for every vertex in a scene and once for every pixel an object in a scene occupies, respectively. Together they form a "program" which gives an object's geometry something tangible for users to see.
Here is an example of Unreal Engine 3 being modified at runtime.
The developer tools within Firefox 27 will allow you to modify these scripts at runtime and even turn specific draw calls on or off. This should vastly speed up the rate at which developers modify their effects especially when it comes to fine tuning specific variables such as the rate that waves flow in a water material.
Firefox 27 is expected to be the release version in early February; it is currently in the Aurora channel.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2013 - 08:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, artillery games
Artillery Games is taking it beyond a demo. They are developing a fully 3D Real Time Strategy (RTS) title, trailer above, based upon these web standards. The team of 11, 12 including the company pet, consists of many ex-Googlers along with alum from Intel, Lucasarts, Adobe, and more. Their video is quite impressive and, I would say, comparable to an XCOM: Enemy Unknown or StarCraft II level of graphical quality.
That is pretty good, considering we are comparing the Real Time Strategy to full RTS releases.
Being compatible with web browsers also affords quick turnaround for developers. Changes will not require a lengthy compile process as web standards are compiled at run-time anyway. Modifications should require, at worst, a browser refresh and, at best, swap by the next animation frame. This level of rapid iteration should help developers polish their creations quickly.
Speaking of quick, a private beta is expected before the end of the year. Full release is scheduled for some time in 2014. Their demo is shown on Firefox and Google Chrome. They have not mentioned anything about Internet Explorer 11, the first IE release with WebGL support, but who knows.
Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2013 - 12:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: webgl 1.0.2, webgl, web browser, tegra, programming
The Khronos Group recently announced that the WebGL 1.0.1 specification is compliant across mobile and desktop systems on a number of platforms. Chrome 25 and Firefox 19 support WebGL 1.0.1 on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Further, mobile devices with Tegra SoCs can tap into WebGL using a WebGL-enhanced Android browser.
Additionally, the WebGL 1.0.2 specification and its extensions have been submitted for ratification, and is expected to be formally released in April. According to the press release, the following features are being rolled into the WebGL 1.0.2 specification:
- "adds many clarifications for specification behavioral precision
- mandates support for certain combinations of framebuffer formats, to ease developer adoption;
- clarifies interactions with the encompassing HTML5 platform, including the browser compositor and high-DPI displays;
- dramatically increases the number of conformance tests to roughly 21,000 to improve both the breadth and depth of test coverage - thanks principally to work by Gregg Tavares at Google and the OpenGL ES working group."
Khronos President and NVIDIA Vice President of Mobile Content Neil Trevett stated that "The close cooperation between browser and silicon vendors to ensure the GPU is being reliably and securely exposed to the Web is ongoing proof that Khronos is a highly productive forum to evolve this vital Web standard." Meanwhile, WebGL Working group chair Ken Russell indicated that WebGL 1.0.2 is "a major milestone in bringing the power of the GPU to the Web.”
Although there are security concerns to consider, WebGL does open up some interesting opportunities for new web services. The full press release can be found here.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Mobile | December 30, 2012 - 04:48 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, w3c, html5
I use that title in quite a broad sense.
I ran across an article on The Verge which highlighted the work of a couple of programmers to port classic Realtime Strategy games to the web browser. Command and Conquer along with Dune II, two classics of PC Gaming, are now available online for anyone with a properly standards-compliant browser.
These games, along with the Sierra classics I wrote about last February, are not just a renaissance of classic PC games: they preserve them. It is up to the implementer to follow the standard, not the standards body to approve implementations. So long as someone still makes a browser which can access a standards-based game, the game can continue to be supported.
A sharp turn from what we are used to with console platforms, right?
I have been saying this for quite some time now: Blizzard and Valve tend to support their games much longer than console manufacturers support their whole platforms. You can still purchase at retail, and they still manufacture, the original StarCraft. The big fear over “modern Windows” is that backwards compatibility will be ended and all applications would need to be certified by the Windows Store.
When programmed for the browser -- yes, even hosted offline on local storage -- those worries disappear. Exceptions for iOS and Windows RT where they only allow you to use Safari or Trident (IE10+) which still leaves you solely at their mercy to follow standards.
Still, as standards get closer to native applications in features and performance, we will have a venue for artists to create and preserve their work for later generations to experience. The current examples might be 2D and of the pre-Pentium era but even now there are 3D-based shooters developed from websites. There is even a ray tracing application built on WebGL (although that technically is reliant on both the W3C and Khronos standards bodies) that just runs in a decent computer with plain-old Firefox or Google Chrome.
Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2012 - 12:29 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, nokia
WebGL is a web standard which attempts to bring the capacities of OpenGL to websites; I will refer to web applications as websites because that is what they are. There were a few WebGL experiments to demonstrate 3D capabilities as well as concepts for sites such as search engines. There is concern over providing that level of functionality to an application, such as a web browser, whose purpose is to routinely accept data from untrusted sources. Microsoft specifically has been outspoken over WebGL which leads to questions about their motives: a harshly learned lesson from ActiveX; or fears that developers will adopt an OpenGL-based standard? Regardless of Microsoft’s intentions, their newfound cellphone partner, Nokia, has just released a 3D mapping system developed in WebGL.
There needs to be a decoder ring for cellphone company drama.
While obviously not an alternative to Google Maps, Nokia’s “Maps 3D WebGL” is quite aesthetically pleasing. Buildings are rendered with quite high detail and perform quite smoothly if you are in one of the zones mapped with 3D building data. You are free to orbit and view the scene from any direction by turning the compass near the bottom of the screen. All in all it is a cool website to show off what the future could encompass when GPUs are allowed to be used for mainstream purposes. Have fun.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 17, 2011 - 04:35 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, microsoft
WebGL: Heaven or Hell?
(Image from MrDoob WebGL demo; contains Lucy model from Stanford 3D repository)
WebGL is an API very similar to OpenGL ES 2.0: the API used for OpenGL features in embedded systems, particularly smart phones. The goal of WebGL is to provide a light-weight, CSS obeying, 3D and shader system for websites that require advanced 3D graphics or even general purpose calculations performed on the shader units of the client’s GPU. Mozilla and Google currently have support in their public browsers with Opera and Apple shipping support in the near future. Microsoft has stated that allowing third-party websites that level of access to the hardware is dangerous as security vulnerabilities that formerly needed to be exploited locally can now be exploited from the web browser. This is an area of expertise that Microsoft knows all too well from their past attempts at active(x)ly adding scripting functionality to the web browser evolving into a decade-long game of whack-a-mole for security holes.
But skeptics to Microsoft’s position could easily point to their effort to single out the one standard based on OpenGL, competitor to their still-cherished DirectX standard. Regardless of Microsoft’s motives it seems to put to rest the question of whether Microsoft will be working towards implementing WebGL in any release of Internet Explorer currently in development.
Do you think Microsoft is warning its competitors about its past ActiveX woes, or is this more politically motivated? Comment below (registration not required.)
Get notified when we go live!