Unleash Ubuntu with the ASUS Zenbook; or vice versa

Subject: Mobile | April 9, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: linux, asus, zenbook, UX301LA-DH71T, ubuntu 14.04, ubuntu, haswell

There is a lot to like about this particular 13.3" ASUS Zenbook, perhaps the most noticeable is the IPS display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution and a capacitive display capable of tracking 10 contact points.  There is another reason to fall in love with this notebook, it can run Ubuntu with all of the features enabled without any extra work required.  The specifications under the hood are rather impressive as well, a Core-i7 4558U with Intel Iris Graphics 5100, 8GB of DDR3-1600 and two 128GB SSDs capable of supporting RAID.  Those of you looking for a powerful notebook which does not require Windows to run properly would be wise to read this review at Phoronix.

zebnook.jpg

"As I wrote about at the beginning of March, I bought the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA-DH71T Haswell-based ultrabook to replace an Apple Retina MacBook Pro as my main system. I've been using this latest Zenbook with Intel Iris Graphics and dual SSDs for several weeks now as my main system and have taken it on four business trips so far and it's been running great. Paired with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA makes a rather nice lightweight yet powerful Linux system."

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Source: Phoronix

Qualcomm Reveals New Flagship Snapdragon 808 and 810 64-Bit SoCs Coming In 2015

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: SoC, snapdragon, qualcomm, LTE, ARMv8, adreno, 64-bit

Qualcomm has announced two new flagship 64-bit SoCs with the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810. The new chips will begin sampling later this year and should start showing up in high end smartphones towards the second half of 2015. The new 800-series parts join the previously announced mid-range Snapdragon 610 and 615 which are also 64-bit ARMv8 parts.

The Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm's new flagship processor. The chip features four ARM Cortex A57 cores and four Cortex A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration, an Adreno 430 GPU, and support for Category 6 LTE (up to 300 Mbps downloads) and LPDDR4 memory. This flagship part uses the 64-bit ARMv8 ISA. The new Adreno 430 GPU integrated in the SoC is reportedly 30% faster than the Adreno 420 GPU in the Snapdragon 805 processor.

Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC.jpg

In addition to the flagship part, Qualcomm is also releasing the Snapdragon 808 which pairs two Cortex A57 CPU cores and four Cortex A53 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with an Adreno 418 (approximately 20% faster than the popular Adreno 320) GPU. This chip supports LPDDR3 memory and Qualcomm's new Category 6 LTE modem.

Both the 808 and 810 have Adreno GPUs which support OpenGL ES 3.1. The new chips support a slew of wireless I/O including Categrory 6 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC.

Qualcomm is reportedly planning to produce these SoCs on a 20nm process. For reference, the mid-range 64-bit Snapdragon 610 and 615 use a 28nm LP manufacturing process. The new 20nm process (presumably from TSMC) should enable improved battery life and clockspeed headroom on the flagship parts. Exactly how big the mentioned gains will be will depend on the specific manufacturing process, with smaller gains from a bulk/planar process shrink or greater improvements coming from more advanced methods such as FD-SOI if the new chip on a 20nm process is the same transistor count as one on a 28nm process (which is being used in existing chips).

The 808 and 810 parts are the new high-end 64-bit chips which will effectively supplant the 32-bit Snapdragon 805 which is a marginal update over the Snapdragon 800. The naming conventions and product lineups are getting a bit crazy here, but suffice it to say that the 808 and 810 are the effective successors to the 800 while the 805 is a stop-gap upgrade while Qualcomm moves to 64-bit ARMv8 and secures manufacturing for the new chips which should be slightly faster CPU-wise, notably faster GPU-wise and more capable with the faster cellular modem support and 64-bit ISA support.

For those wondering, the press release also states that the company is still working on development of its custom 64-bit Krait CPU architecture. However, it does not appear that 64-bit Krait will be ready by the first half of 2015, which is why Qualcomm has opted to use ARM's Cortex A57 and A53 cores in its upcoming flagship 808 and 810 SoCs.

Source: Qualcomm

Lenovo Launches New Tab A7-50, A8, and A10 Android Tablets

Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: tablet, tab a8, tab a7-50, tab a10, mtk 8121, mediatek, Lenovo, android 4.2

Today, Lenovo announced a refreshed lineup of its A-series tablets including the A7-50, A8, and A10. The new tablets take a common hardware platform and scale it from a 7-inch tablet to a 10-inch tablet with optional keyboard. All three tablets run the Android 4.2 operating system and will be available in May.

Lenovo A7 7-inch Android Tablet.jpg

The Lenovo TAB A7-50 Android 4.2 tablet.

The new Lenovo TAB A-series is powered by a quad core MediaTek 8121 SoC clocked at 1.3 GHz paired with 1GB of LP-DDR2 memory and 16GB of internal flash storage. Users can add an additional 32GB of storage with a micro SD card. Networking is handled by an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radio along with an optional SIM card slot on certain models (cellular functionality not available in the North American market). The tablets come with IPS touchscreens with a resolution of 1280 x 800. Lenovo includes a 2MP webcam and a 5MP rear facing camera on all three A-series tablets. The A10 further adds stereo speakers and compatibility with a keyboard dock.

Lenovo rates all three tablets at eight hours of battery life.

Lenovo A8 8-inch Android Tablet.jpg

The Lenovo TAB A8 tablet.

Beyond the Lenovo TAB A10 being available with a Bluetooth keyboard dock, the only major differences between the new three A-series tablets are physical dimensions, screen size, and weight. The Lenovo TAB A7-50 measures 198x121.2x9.9mm and weighs 0.70 lbs. The TAB A8 meanwhile measures 217x136x8.9mm and weighs slightly more at 0.79 lbs. Finally, the TAB A10 measures 264x176.5x8.9mm and weighs 1.2 lbs.

The Lenovo TAB A10 with its Bluetooth keyboard dock.

The 7-inch Lenovo Tab A7-50 has an MSRP of $129 while the 8-Inch Tab A8 has an MSRP of $179. The 10.1-inch Tab A10 has a base price of $249 and is also available as a tablet and keyboard bundle for $299.

What do you think about Lenovo's new A-series lineup? On one hand, you have three size options at competitive prices, but on the other you only have a single option as far as internal specifications and screen resolution no matter the screen size. If you can live with the MTK 8121 and 1GB of RAM, they could be a viable option.

Read more about Lenovo tablets such as the Yoga 8 and Yoga 10 at PC Perspective.

Source: Lenovo

NVIDIA Launches Jetson TK1 Mobile CUDA Development Platform

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 25, 2014 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: GTC 2014, tegra k1, nvidia, CUDA, kepler, jetson tk1, development

NVIDIA recently unified its desktop and mobile GPU lineups by moving to a Kepler-based GPU in its latest Tegra K1 mobile SoC. The move to the Kepler architecture has simplified development and enabled the CUDA programming model to run on mobile devices. One of the main points of the opening keynote earlier today was ‘CUDA everywhere,’ and NVIDIA has officially accomplished that goal by having CUDA compatible hardware from servers to desktops to tablets and embedded devices.

Speaking of embedded devices, NVIDIA showed off a new development board called the Jetson TK1. This tiny new board features a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC at its heart along with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC storage. The Jetson TK1 supports a plethora of IO options including an internal expansion port (GPIO compatible), SATA, one half-mini PCI-e slot, serial, USB 3.0, micro USB, Gigabit Ethernet, analog audio, and HDMI video outputs.

NVIDIA Jetson TK1 Mobile CUDA Development Board.jpg

Of course the Tegra K1 part is a quad core (4+1) ARM CPU and a Kepler-based GPU with 192 CUDA cores. The SoC is rated at 326 GFLOPS which enables some interesting compute workloads including machine vision.

Computer Vision On NVIDIA CUDA.jpg

In fact, Audi has been utilizing the Jetson TK1 development board to power its self-driving prototype car (more on that soon). Other intended uses for the new development board include robotics, medical devices, security systems, and perhaps low power compute clusters (such as an improved Pedraforca system).It can also be used as a simple desktop platform for testing and developing mobile applications for other Tegra K1 powered devices, of course.

NVIDIA VisionWorks GTC 2014.jpg

Beyond the hardware, the Jetson TK1 comes with the CUDA toolkit, OpenGL 4.4 driver, and NVIDIA VisionWorks SDK which includes programming libraries and sample code for getting machine vision applications running on the Tegra K1 SoC.

The Jetson TK1 is available for pre-order now at $192 and is slated to begin shipping in April. Interested developers can find more information on the NVIDIA developer website.

 

NVIDIA SHIELD: New Features and Promotional Price Cut

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | March 25, 2014 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: shield, nvidia

The SHIELD from NVIDIA is getting a software update which advances GameStream, TegraZone, and the Android OS, itself, to KitKat. Personally, the GameStream enhancements seem most notable as it now allows users to access their home PC's gaming content outside of the home, as if it were a cloud server (but some other parts were interesting, too). Also, from now until the end of April, NVIDIA has temporarily cut the price down to $199.

nvidia-shield-gamestream-01.jpg

Going into more detail: GameStream, now out of Beta, will stream games which are rendered on your gaming PC to your SHIELD. Typically, we have seen this through "cloud" services, such as OnLive and GaiKai, which allow access to a set of games that run on their servers (with varying license models). The fear with these services is the lack of ownership, but the advantage is that the slave device just needs enough power to decode an HD video stream.

nvidia-shield-gamestream-02.jpg

In NVIDIA's case, the user owns both server (their standard NVIDIA-powered gaming PC, which can now be a laptop) and target device (the SHIELD). This technology was once limited to your own network (which definitely has its uses, especially for the SHIELD as a home theater device) but now can also be exposed over the internet. For this technology, NVIDIA recommends 5 megabit upload and download speeds - which is still a lot of upload bandwidth, even for 2014. In terms of performance, NVIDIA believes that it should live up to expectations set by their GRID. I do not have any experience with this, but others on the conference call took it as good news.

As for content, NVIDIA has expanded the number of supported titles to over a hundred, including new entries: Assassin's Creed IV, Batman: Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Daylight, Titanfall, and Dark Souls II. They also claim that users can add other apps which are not officially supported, Halo 2: Vista was mentioned as an example, for streaming. FPS and Bitrate can now be set by the user. A bluetooth mouse and keyboard can also be paired to SHIELD for that input type through GameStream.

nvidia-shield-checkbox.jpg

Yeah, I don't like checkbox comparisons either. It's just a summary.

A new TegraZone was also briefly mentioned. Its main upgrade was apparently its library interface. There has also been a number of PC titles ported to Android recently, such as Mount and Blade: Warband.

The update is available now and the $199 promotion will last until the end of April.

Source: NVIDIA

Ubuntu powered Nexus 4

Subject: Mobile | March 19, 2014 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: nexus 4, Ubuntu Mobile

We have yet to see the launch of the purpose built Ubuntu smartphones but that didn't stop The Inquirer from getting a preview of the new Ubuntu Mobile OS.  By installing the current version of the OS on a Nexus 4 they got a chance to see and use the new mobile OS.  Similar in design to the version we have seen previously on tablets it will likely feel a bit odd to those used to a multi-window OS like Android though the interface wall allow customization.  There will indeed be a Canonical App store but the open nature of Ubuntu will allow third-party stores to be set up, over and above supporting third-party apps.  Check out the hands on review here.

ubuntu-smartphone-open-apps-540x334.JPG

"CANONICAL ANNOUNCED earlier this year that the first Ubuntu smartphones will be made by BQ and Meizu. That created a wave of interest in how the open source Linux operating system (OS) distribution will look and work on a smartphone or tablet."

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Source: The Inquirer

GDC 14: WebCL 1.0 Specification is Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:03 AM |
Tagged: WebCL, gdc 14, GDC

The Khronos Group has just ratified the standard for WebCL 1.0. The API is expected to provide a massive performance boost to web applications which are dominated by expensive functions which can be offloaded to parallel processors, such as GPUs and multi-core CPUs. Its definition also allows WebCL to communicate and share buffers between it and WebGL with an extension.

WebCL_300_167_75.png

Frequent readers of the site might remember that I have a particular interest in WebCL. Based on OpenCL, it allows web apps to obtain a list of every available compute device and target it for workloads. I have personally executed tasks on an NVIDIA GeForce 670 discrete GPU and other jobs on my Intel HD 4000 iGPU, at the same time, using the WebCL prototype from Tomi Aarnio of Nokia Research. The same is true for users with multiple discrete GPUs installed in their system (even if they are not compatible with Crossfire, SLi, or are from different vendors altogether). This could be very useful for physics, AI, lighting, and other game middleware packages.

Still, browser adoption might be rocky for quite some time. Google, Mozilla, and Opera Software were each involved in the working draft. This leaves both Apple and Microsoft notably absent. Even then, I am not sure how much interest exists within Google, Mozilla, and Opera to take it from a specification to a working feature in their browsers. Some individuals have expressed more faith in WebGL compute shaders than WebCL.

Of course, that can change with just a single "killer app", library, or middleware.

I do expect some resistance from the platform holders, however. Even Google has been pushing back on OpenCL support in Android, in favor of their "Renderscript" abstraction. The performance of a graphics processor is also significant leverage for a native app. There is little, otherwise, that cannot be accomplished with Web standards except a web browser itself (and there is even some non-serious projects for that). If Microsoft can support WebGL, however, there is always hope.

The specification is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

GDC 14: EGL 1.5 Specification Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:02 AM |
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, opencl, gdc 14, GDC, EGL

The Khronos Group has also released their ratified specification for EGL 1.5. This API is at the center of data and event management between other Khronos APIs. This version increases security, interoperability between APIs, and support for many operating systems, including Android and 64-bit Linux.

khronos-EGL_500_123_75.png

The headline on the list of changes is the move that EGLImage objects makes, from the realm of extension into EGL 1.5's core functionality, giving developers a reliable method of transferring textures and renderbuffers between graphics contexts and APIs. Second on the list is the increased security around creating a graphics context, primarily designed for WebGL applications which any arbitrary website can become. Further down the list is the EGLSync object which allows further partnership between OpenGL (and OpenGL ES) and OpenCL. The GPU may not need CPU involvement when scheduling between tasks on both APIs.

During the call, the representative also wanted to mention that developers have asked them to bring EGL back to Windows. While it has not happened yet, they have announced that it is a current target.

The EGL 1.5 spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

GDC 14: SYCL 1.2 Provisional Spec Released by Khronos

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 19, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: SYCL, opencl, gdc 14, GDC

To gather community feedback, the provisional specification for SYCL 1.2 has been released by The Khronos Group. SYCL extends itself upon OpenCL with the C++11 standard. This technology is built on another Khronos platform, SPIR, which allows the OpenCL C programming language to be mapped onto LLVM, with its hundreds of compatible languages (and Khronos is careful to note that they intend for anyone to make their own compatible alternative langauge).

khronos-SYCL_Color_Mar14_154_75.png

In short, SPIR allows many languages which can compile into LLVM to take advantage of OpenCL. SYCL is the specification for creating C++11 libraries and compilers through SPIR.

As stated earlier, Khronos wants anyone to make their own compatible language:

While SYCL is one possible solution for developers, the OpenCL group encourages innovation in programming models for heterogeneous systems, either by building on top of the SPIR™ low-level intermediate representation, leveraging C++ programming techniques through SYCL, using the open source CLU libraries for prototyping, or by developing their own techniques.

SYCL 1.2 supports OpenCL 1.2 and they intend to develop it alongside OpenCL. Future releases are expected to support the latest OpenCL 2.0 specification and keep up with future developments.

The SYCL 1.2 provisional spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

GDC 14: OpenGL ES 3.1 Spec Released by Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, gdc 14, GDC

Today, day one of Game Developers Conference 2014, the Khronos Group has officially released the 3.1 specification for OpenGL ES. The main new feature, brought over from OpenGL 4, is the addition of compute shaders. This opens GPGPU functionality to mobile and embedded devices for applications developed in OpenGL ES, especially if the developer does not want to add OpenCL.

The update is backward-compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 applications, allowing developers to add features, as available, for their existing apps. On the device side, most functionality is expected to be a driver update (in the majority of cases).

opengl-es-logo.png

OpenGL ES, standing for OpenGL for Embedded Systems but is rarely branded as such, delivers what they consider the most important features from the graphics library to the majority of devices. The Khronos Group has been working toward merging ES with the "full" graphics library over time. The last release, OpenGL ES 3.0, was focused on becoming a direct subset of OpenGL 4.3. This release expands upon the feature-space it occupies.

OpenGL ES also forms the basis for WebGL. The current draft of WebGL 2.0 uses OpenGL ES 3.0 although that was not discussed today. I have heard murmurs (not from Khronos) about some parties pushing for compute shaders in that specification, which this announcement puts us closer to.

The new specification also adds other features, such as the ability to issue a draw without CPU intervention. You could imagine a particle simulation, for instance, that wants to draw the result after its compute shader terminates. Shading is also less rigid, where vertex and fragment shaders do not need to be explicitly linked into a program before they are used. I inquired about the possibility that compute devices could be targetted (for devices with two GPUs) and possibly load balanced, in a similar method to WebCL but no confirmation or denial was provided (although he did mention that it would be interesting for apps that fall somewhere in the middle of OpenGL ES and OpenCL).

The OpenGL ES 3.1 spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

Microsoft, Along with AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, Will Announce DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2014 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, amd

The announcement of DirectX 12 has been given a date and time via a blog post on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs. On March 20th at 10:00am (I assume PDT), a few days into the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, the upcoming specification should be detailed for attendees. Apparently, four GPU manufacturers will also be involved with the announcement: AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm.

microsoft-dx12-gdc-announce.jpg

As we reported last week, DirectX 12 is expected to target increased hardware control and decreased CPU overhead for added performance in "cutting-edge 3D graphics" applications. Really, this is the best time for it. Graphics processors are mostly settled into highly-efficient co-processors of parallel data, with some specialized logic for geometry and video tasks. A new specification can relax the needs of video drivers and thus keep the GPU (or GPUs, in Mantle's case) loaded and utilized.

But, to me, the most interesting part of this announcement is the nod to Qualcomm. Microsoft values DirectX as leverage over other x86 and ARM-based operating systems. With Qualcomm, clearly Microsoft believes that either Windows RT or Windows Phone will benefit from the API's next version. While it will probably make PC gamers nervous, mobile platforms will benefit most from reducing CPU overhead, especially if it can be spread out over multiple cores.

Honestly, that is fine by me. As long as Microsoft returns to treating the PC as a first-class citizen, I do not mind them helping mobile, too. We will definitely keep you up to date as we know more.

Source: MSDN Blogs

Verizon ALLSET Pre-Paid Plans Offer Rollover Mobile Data

Subject: Mobile | March 4, 2014 - 01:33 AM |
Tagged: verizon, rollover data, mobile data, data caps, allset

Verizon has taken the wraps off of a new pre-paid cell phone plan called “ALLSET.” The plans offer unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and 500MB of base data for $35/month for feature phones and $45 a month for smartphones. At first glance, they are pretty standard fare, and not the cheapest pre-paid option either. However, Verizon has added a bit of a twist to the pre-paid equation by allowing ALLSET users to add “Bridge Data” on top of the base plan’s 500MB cap that can be rolled over to future months if not used right away.

Verizon AllSet Plans.jpg

The ALLSET plans come with a 500MB (or 1GB if enrolled in Auto Pay) of cellular data each month that cannot be saved. From there, users can purchase up to two data packages that can be saved or rolled over to future months if not used right away. The Bridge Data packs work out to $5 for 500MB, $10 for 1GB, or $20 for 3GB. Users can save the $5 (500MB) pack for a month while the $10 (1GB) and $20 (3GB) packs can be saved or have the remaining bits rolled over for up to three months after purchase. The base data is used first, after which the first package is used completely before dipping into the second package (if purchased at all), which is important to consider in relation to the expiration dates.

In another bit of good news for ALLSET users, Verizon allows the mobile hotspot feature which is extremely rare for the cellphone industry (without charging an additional fee).

The system is not perfect due to the short expiration dates (at most 90 days) for rollover and the fact that base data cannot be saved (only the additional bridge data packs), but it is definitely a step in the right direction and a feature I have been wanting to see for years now. Hopefully this encourages other providers to consider rollover data plans, and the competition forces relaxed restrictions on the expiry of rollover data.

Samsung Launching 11-Inch and 13-Inch Chromebook 2s

Subject: Mobile | March 3, 2014 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, exynos 5, chromebook 2, Chromebook, chrome os, arm

Samsung is bringing a new Chromebook to market next month. Coming in 11-inch and 13-inch form factors the new Samsung Chromebook 2 offers updated hardware and more than eight hours of battery life.

The Chromebook 2 will be available in 11.6” and 13.3” models. The smaller variant will come in white or black while the larger SKU is only available in gray. The lids use a soft touch plastic that resembles stitched leather like that found on some Samsung smartphones. The 11.6” is 0.66-inches thick and weighs 2.43 pounds. The 13.3” model is 0.65-inches thick and weighs 3.09 pounds. The 11.6” Chromebook 2 has a 1366x768 display while the 13.3” Chromebook uses a 1920 x 1080 resolution display.

Samsung Chromebook 2 11-Inch In Black.jpg

Internally, the Chromebook 2 is powered by an unspecified Exynos 5 Octa SoC at either 1.9GHz (11.6”) or 2.1GHz (13.3”), 4GB of DDR3L memory, and 16GB internal SSD storage. Internal radios include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Samsung rates the battery life at 8 hours for the 11.6” Chromebook and 8.5 hours for the 13.3” Chromebook.

Beyond the wireless tech, I/O includes one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI, one headphone output, and one micro SD card slot. This port configuration is available on both Chromebook 2 sizes.

Samsung Chromebook 2 13-Inch In Gray.jpg

Samsung is launching its Chromebook 2 in April at $319.99 and $399.99 for the 11.6” and 13.3” respectively. This new Chromebook is coming to a competitive market that is increasingly packed with Bay Trail-powered Windows 8.1 notebooks (and tablets) that are getting cheaper and Android tablets that are getting more features and more powerful thanks to new ARM-based SoCs. I'm interested to see what platform users start gravitating towards, is the cloud-connected Chrome OS good enough when paired with good battery life and a physical keyboard?

Are you looking forward to Samsung's new Chromebook 2?

Source: Ars Technica

Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming To Sprint MVNOs In Q2 2014

Subject: Mobile | March 2, 2014 - 12:21 AM |
Tagged: virgin mobile, Sprint, Samsung, mvno, galaxy s5, boost mobile

Samsung officially launched the Galaxy S5 at MWC last month, with tweaked software and slightly improved hardware specifications. The new smartphone will launch in 150 countries, including the US, on April 11th. Unfortunately, Samsung did not disclose the exact pricing and carriers that will offer the device at launch. Naturally, the big US carriers will all get the latest flagship at some point this year, but beyond that it is hard to say who will pick it up and who will pass. With that said, at least two MVNOs are confirmed to be offering up the Galaxy S5 later this year.

Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that run pre-paid cell phone plans without contracts that run hardware on Sprint's cellular network. The two carriers announced on their respective Facebook pages that the Galaxy S5 is officially coming to their network in the second quarter of this year. Both companies are remaining silent on the pricing of the smartphone though, with a Virgin Mobile representative stating that the company did not have pricing information yet.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming to Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile Sprint MVNOs.jpg

Users can expect to pay nearly full price for the Galaxy S5 as the pre-paid carriers do not subsidize the price over a multi-year contract. I would expect the phone to go for around $800, however. While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay upwards of $800 out of pocket only to run it on a cheap MVNO, there are still cost savings to be realized so long as you are not upgrading every year. More options are always nice, and seeing a flagship smartphone coming to MVNOs so soon after launch is a welcome change. Here's hoping more MVNOs jump on board, especially those using alternative networks for pre-paid customers living in areas with poor Sprint coverage.

Source: Engadget

HP Launches Bay Trail-Powered X360 Convertible Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 26, 2014 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: x360, Windows 8.1, tablet, hp, convertible tablet, convertible, Bay Trail

At MWC 2014, HP showed off an interesting convertible laptop similar in form factor to Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The HP X360 is a Bay Trail-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 that brings the 360-degree hinged hybrid laptop/tablet form factor to an affordable $460 price point. The red plastic and brushed aluminum PC is available for purchase now and will begin shipping in early March.

HP X360 Angled.png

HP's new X360 tablet measures 12.12” x 8.46” x 0.86” and weighs in at a portable 3.08 pounds. It is noticeably larger than other Bay Trail tablets like the ASUS T100 and Dell Venue series, but it also has an integrated keyboard and trackpad attached via a permanently attached double hinge to the 11.6” LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1366x768. The chassis is a glossy red plastic while the keyboard cover and palm rest use a brushed aluminum surface that surrounds a large gesture compatible touchpad and a chiclet-style keyboard that appears to be well spaced for an 11.6” machine (excluding the arrow keys which are bunched up in the bottom-right corner in order to allow full sized shift and enter keys). A silver chassis version is also in the works, but will not be available until later this year.

HP X360 Back Panel.png

The HP X360 features external I/O more akin to a traditional laptop than a tablet with the following connectivity options.

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (10/100 Ethernet)
  • 1 x headphone/mic combo jack
  • 1 x SD card slot
  • 1 x SIM card slot

Internally, the HP X360 uses an Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and a 2 cell Lithium Ion battery rated for up to four and a half hours of use. HP has further packed its tablet with Beats Audio technology. Interestingly, the Pentium N3520 CPU is a quad core chip based on Intel's Bay Trail (Atom) architecture which uses Silvermont cores and Intel HD graphics. The CPU is clocked at 2.166 GHz base and 2.42 GHz Turbo with 2MB of cache.

The X360 can be used as a laptop or a tablet in several configurations by swinging the display around appropriately. It is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga system, though HP is using a slightly different hinge design.

HP X360 Tablet Mode.png

The real advantage of the HP X360 is its price. At a starting price of $389 for the 4GB model, the X360 is much cheaper than the (admittedly more powerful) Yoga alternatives while still being a capable machine for note taking and media consumption. It lies in a middle ground between Bay Trail-powered tablets and Haswell-powered laptops. For an $80 premium over the ASUS T100, users get a more traditional convertible PC with more storage (albeit slower mechanical storage) and a faster clocked processor.

Personally, I'm tempted and have been debating between this and the T100 as a second portable machine to replace my aging Dell XT with comparably abysmal battery life (heh).

You can find more information on the new X360 (HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 PC) on this HP product page.

Source: HP

Phone companies branding tablets? What's next; dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria ...

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2014 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: verizon, Ellipsis 7, 4g lte, phablet

Not content with selling phones and hotspots, Verizon combined both into a phablet called the Ellipsis 7 4G LTE tablet.  It features a 1280x800 7" HD IPS display and runs Android 4.2.2 on an quad-core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM.  At $120 with a 2 year contract, plus connectivity charges of course, it is not a bad price for an LTE capable tablet and even the $300 price tag without a contract beats the price of many phones on the market.  Of course price is not everything, which is why you should check out Legit Reviews full coverage of the tablet here.

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"The Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet is a new release from 'The Worlds Most Reliable Network'. The Ellipsis 7 is targeted at those looking for productivity on the go, as well as a touch of entertainment. A 7" tablet is small enough to toss into a jacket pocket or purse, but large enough to use for most tasks without an issue. The Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet isn't just a Wi-Fi tablet like many of the tablet out there, the Ellipsis 7 is connected to the Verizon 4G LTE network and has all the benefits that come with it. If you're interested in the Verizon Ellipsis 4G LTE tablet you can pick it up on Amazon.com for as little as $119.99 with a 2 year contract, or $299.99 without a contract. Read on to see how it performs!"

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Video Perspective: CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Laptop Cooler by Cooler Master

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2014 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: video, laptop cooler, cooler master, CM Storm SF-17, CM Storm

When we were testing the ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX gaming notebook over the last few weeks we wanted to try out another component that high end laptop gamers might be interested in: notebook coolers.  Obviously with a beast of a machine like the EON17-SLX, we couldn't just go with something you might find on the shelves at Best Buy.  Instead, today we have a video overview of the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Laptop Cooler by Cooler Master.

This cooler includes a 180mm fan, 4-port USB hub and a red LED light bar to give some style to your gaming setup.

You can find the Cooler Master CM Storm SF-17 cooler on Amazon.com for $59.

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

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 05:30 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.

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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 - 02:17 PM |
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.  

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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 Announces XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced Wireless Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 04:00 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.