Samsung Releases 8-Core and 6-Core 32-Bit Exynos 5 SoCs

Subject: Processors | February 26, 2014 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Samsung, exynos 5, big.little, arm, 28nm

Samsung recently announced two new 32-bit Exynos 5 processors with the eight core Exynos 5 Octa 5422 and six core Exynos 5 Hexa 5260. Both SoCs utilize a combination of ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 CPU cores along with ARM's Mali graphics. Unlike the previous Exynos 5 chips, the upcoming processors utilize a big.LITTLE configuration variant called big.LITTLE MP that allows all CPU cores to be used simultaneously. Samsung continues to use a 28nm process node, and the SoCs should be available for use in smartphones and tablets immediately.

The Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5422 offers up eight CPU cores and an ARM Mali T628 MP6 GPU. The CPU configuration consists of four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 2.1GHz and four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. Devices using this chip will be able to tap up to all eight cores at the same time for demanding workloads, allowing the device to complete the computations and return to a lower-power or sleep state sooner. Devices using previous generation Exynos chips were faced with an either-or scenario when it came to using the A15 or A7 groups of cores, but the big.LITTLE MP configuration opens up new possibilites.

Samsung Exynos 5 Hexa 5260.jpg

While the Octa 5422 occupies the new high end for the lineup, the Exynos 5 Hexa 5260 is a new midrange chip that is the first six core Exynos product. This chip uses an as-yet-unnamed ARM Mali GPU along with six ARM cores. The configuration on this SoC is four low power Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.3GHz paired with two Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. Devices can use all six cores at a time or more selectively. The Hexa 5260 offers up two higher powered cores for single threaded performance along with four power sipping cores for running background tasks and parallel workloads.

The new chips offer up access to more cores for more performance at the cost of higher power draw. While the additional cores may seem like overkill for checking email and surfing the web, the additional power can enable things like onboard voice recognition, machine vision, faster photo filtering and editing, and other parallel-friendly tasks. Notably, the GPU should be able to assist with some of this parallel processing, but GPGPU is still relatively new whereas developers have had much more time to familiarize themselves with and optimize applications for multiple CPU threads. Yes, the increasing number of cores lends itself well to marketing, but that does not preclude them from having real world performance benefits and application possibilities. As such, I'm interested to see what these chips can do and what developers are able to wring out of them.

Source: Ars Technica

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

Video Perspective: Gaming on an Overclocked AMD A10-7850K APU

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 26, 2014 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged:

Overclocking the memory and GPU clock speeds on an AMD APU can greatly improve gaming performance - it is known.  With the new AMD A10-7850K in hand I decided to do a quick test and see how much we could improve average frame rates for mainstream gamers with only some minor tweaking of the motherboard BIOS.  

Using some high-end G.Skill RipJaws DDR3-2400 memory, we were able to push memory speeds on the Kaveri APU up to 2400 MHz, a 50% increase over the stock 1600 MHz rate.  We also increased the clock speed on the GPU portion of the A10-7850K from 720 MHz to 1028 MHz, a 42% boost.  Interestingly, as you'll see in the video below, the memory speed had a MUCH more dramatic impact on our average frame rates in-game.  

In the three games we tested for this video, GRID 2, Bioshock Infinite and Battlefield 4, total performance gain ranged from 26% to 38%.  Clearly that can make the AMD Kaveri APU an even more potent gaming platform if you are willing to shell out for the high speed memory.

  Stock GPU OC Memory OC Total OC Avg FPS Change
Battlefield 4
1920x1080
Medium
22.4 FPS 23.7 FPS 28.2 FPS 29.1 FPS +29%
GRID 2
1920x1080
High + 2xAA
33.5 FPS 36.3 FPS 41.1 FPS 42.3 FPS +26%
Bioshock Infinite
1920x1080
Low
30.1 FPS 30.9 FPS 40.2 FPS 41.8 FPS +38%

DirectX 12 and a new OpenGL to challenge AMD Mantle coming at GDC?

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2014 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, DirectX, amd

UPDATE (2/27/14): AMD sent over a statement today after seeing our story.  

AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle, and AMD is very excited to share the future of our own API with developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference.

Credit over to Scott and his reader at The Tech Report for spotting this interesting news today!!

It appears that DirectX and OpenGL are going to be announcing some changes at next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  According to some information found in the session details, both APIs are trying to steal some of the thunder from AMD's Mantle, recently released with the Battlefield 4 patch.  Mantle is na API was built by AMD to enable more direct access (lower level) to its GCN graphics hardware allowing developers to code games that are more efficient, providing better performance for the PC gamer.

mantle.jpg

From the session titled DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform we find this description (emphasis mine):

For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.

However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.

Come learn our plans to deliver.

Another DirectX session hosted by Microsoft is titled DirectX: Direct3D Futures (emphasis mine): 

Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!

In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware. 

If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.

Now look at a line from our initial article on AMD Mantle when announced at its Hawaii tech day event:

It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.

This is all sounding very familiar.  It would appear that Microsoft has finally been listening to the development community and is working on the performance aspects of DirectX.  Likely due in no small part to the push of AMD and Mantle's development, an updated DirectX 12 that includes a similar feature set and similar performance changes would shift the market in a few key ways.

olddirectx.jpg

Is it time again for innovation with DirectX?

First and foremost, what does this do for AMD's Mantle in the near or distant future?  For now, BF4 will still include Mantle support as will games like Thief (update pending) but going forward, if these DX12 changes are as specific as I am being led to believe, then it would be hard to see anyone really sticking with the AMD-only route.  Of course, if DX12 doesn't really address the performance and overhead issues in the same way that Mantle does then all bets are off and we are back to square one.

Interestingly, OpenGL might also be getting into the ring with the session Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL

Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.

This description seems to indicate more about new or lesser known programming methods that can be used with OpenGL to lower overhead without the need for custom APIs or even DX12.  This could be new modules from vendors or possibly a new revision to OpenGL - we'll find out next month.

All of this leaves us with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered when we get to GDC in mid-March.  Will this new version of DirectX be enough to reduce API overhead to appease even the stingiest of game developers?  How will AMD react to this new competitor to Mantle (or was Mantle really only created to push this process along)?  What time frame does Microsoft have on DX12?  Does this save NVIDIA from any more pressure to build its own custom API?

Gaming continues to be the driving factor of excitement and innovation for the PC!  Stay tuned for an exciting spring!

Source: Tech Report

Samsung Launches Galaxy S5 Flagship Smartphone With Improved Hardware Running Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2014 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 801, Samsung, qualcomm, galaxy s5, adreno 330

Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy S5 smartphone at Mobile World Congress earlier this week. Packing evolutionary updates over the S4, the new flagship handset will be available in 150 countries on April 11th for an undisclosed price (expect it to cost around $800 unlocked with unsubsidized versions available from the major carriers).

The Galaxy S5 is slightly bulkier than its predecessor at 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm and 145 grams. Despite this, the general look and feel of the smartphone remains unchanged, with rounded edges, a front dominated by a massive 5.1” 1080p Super AMOLED display (along with a 2MP webccam and a fingerprint reader) and a leather-esque texturized backplate hosting a 16MP rear camera. The device uses a covered micro USB 3.0 port and a gasket between the back cover and internals to achieve dustproof and water resistant ratings. The physical size upgrade is accompanyied by new color options (blue, white, gold, or black), updated internals, improved cameras, software tweaks, and a new fingerprint reader.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Charcoal Black.jpg

Connectivity includes a headphone jack, micro USB 3.0 port, and a slew of wireless radios including NFC, Category 4 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a IR transmitter.

Internally, the Samsung Galaxy S5 packs a respectable bit of hardware. Notably, Samsung decided to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor over its own Exynos 5 Octa chip in the US (an upcoming variant of which may be used in some markets, but not the US version). This SoC is a quad core clocked at 2.5GHz with Adreno 330 graphics clocked at 578MHz. For comparison, the US Galaxy S4 used a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC clocked at 1.89GHz with Adreno 320 graphics. Note that international versions will use an upcoming variant of the Exynos 5 Octa 5422 versus the Exynos 5 5410 in the Galaxy S4.

That boils down to a clockspeed bump in CPU and graphics for the North American Galaxy S5 and a clockspeed (GPU and CPU) bump and the ability to utilize all eight big.LITTLE cores simultaneously instead of only the four Cortex-A15 or four Cortex-A7 cores at a time as in the S4. Nothing mind blowing, but the new phone will see at least a slight performance boost as a result of the incremental upgrade.

Beyond the core SoC, the Galaxy S5 features 2GB of RAM, either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, and support for up to 128GB of expandable microSD card storage. A slightly more capacious 2,800 mAh battery powers the smartphone.

  Galaxy S5 Galaxy S4
Display 5.1" 1080p Super AMOLED 5" 1080p Super AMOLED
Processor (SoC) - US version Snapdragon 801 @ 2.5GHz Snapdragon 600 @ 1.9GHz or Snapdragon 800 @ 2.3GHz in later models
Processor (SoC) - International version Exynos 5 Octa 5422 Exynos 5 Octa 5410
Graphics (SoC integrated) - US version Adreno 330 Adreno 320
RAM 2GB 2GB
Storage 16GB or 32GB + 128GB SD 16GB or 32GB + 64GB SD
Battery Capacity 2800mAh 2600mAh
Dimensions 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm
Weight 145 grams 130 grams

The Galaxy S5 will come with the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system and a toned-down TouchWiz user interface. Samsung has scaled back the TouchWiz UI and pre-installed applications with the S5 which is a welcome change in the right direction. Further, the camera application now allows selective focus that can be adjusted after the shot has been taken as well as other photo modes that have been made more obvious and easier to access than on the S4. Speaking of cameras, the front-facing camera is a mere 2MP, but the rear camera (with LED flash) is an impressive 16MP model capable of recording UHD video and HDR video and stills.

The Galaxy S5 is now official, and I have been letting the specifications sink in. It is true that the smartphone is at best an evolutionary upgrade over the S4 rather than the revolutionary flagship some might have been expecting. However, I argue that the S5 is a fine device that features just enough useful tweaks over its predecessor to make it a worthwhile purchase. If you were unable to wait out the S5 and recently picked up an S4 for a good price, it will be difficult to justify an upgrade to the new flagship, but if you are coming in fresh from an even older smartphone now that your contract is up for renewal or looking to add a new line it looks to be a solid high performance Android phone.

What do you think, will you be picking up the Galaxy S5 or going with something else?

Source: Samsung

Oculus Rift Development Kit Production is Suspending

Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 08:33 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, Oculus

The current Oculus Rift development kit will being to sell out, region-by-region, as their current inventory depletes. This is because "certain components" which they require are no longer available nor will they be produced. They claim to be looking for alternate suppliers but do not know how long that will take. In case you are wondering, they will be floating a stash of units to fulfill replacement requests (RMAs).

oculus-ryan.jpg

As of five days ago, they currently have stock in the following regions:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • European Union
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia
  • Switzerland
  • Norway

Of course, there is now speculation that Oculus is preparing to launch a new development kit revision. It is obvious that something new is in the works, especially since they presented a prototype at this year's CES, less than two months ago. The cynical way to take this is that they are looking to deplete their stock before releasing a new unit. The other direction is that they were intending to sell the first kit for a little while longer but one or two parts became difficult to acquire. Either way, unless finding a replacement source is easy enough and they do resume production of the original kit, we might be seeing a refresh at some point.

The question is then, "How long will that take?"

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.

verizon-ellipss-7-7-645x452.jpg

"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!"

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

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.

sf17-3.jpg

sf17-4.jpg

The Bigger They Are: The Titan They Fall? 48GB Install

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: titanfall, ssd

UPDATE (Feb 26th): Our readers pointed out in the comments, although I have yet to test it, that you can change Origin's install-to directory before installing a game to have them on a separate hard drive as the rest. Not as easy as Steam's method, but apparently works for games like this that you want somewhere else. I figured it would forget games in the old directory, but apparently not.

Well, okay. Titanfall will require a significant amount of hard drive space when it is released in two weeks. Receiving the game digitally will push 21GB of content through your modem and unpack to 48GB. Apparently, the next generation has arrived.

titanfall.jpg

Honestly, I am not upset over this. Yes, this basically ignores customers who install their games to their SSDs. Origin, at the moment, forces all games to be installed in a single directory (albeit that can be anywhere) unlike Steam, which allows games to be individually sent to multiple folders. It would be a good idea to keep those customers in mind... but not at the expense of the game itself. Like always, both "high-end" and "unoptimized" titles have high minimum specifications; we decide which one applies by considering how effectively the performance is used.

That is something that we will need to find out when it launches on March 11th.

Source: PC Gamer

Kaveri loves fast memory

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: ddr3, Kaveri, A10 7850K, amd, linux

You don't often see performance scaling as clean as what Phoronix saw when testing the effect of memory speed on AMD's A10-7850K.  Pick any result and you can clearly see a smooth increase in performance from DDR3-800 to DDR3-2400.  The only time that increase seems to decline slightly is between DDR3-2133 and 2400MHz, with some tests showing little to no increase between those two speeds.  Some tests do still show an improvement, for certain workloads on Linux the extra money is worth it but in other cases you can save a few dollars and limit yourself to the slightly cheaper DDR3-2133.  Check out the full review here.

image.php_.jpg

"Earlier in the week I published benchmarks showing AMD Kaveri's DDR3-800MHz through DDR3-2133MHz system memory performance. Those results showed this latest-generation AMD APU craving -- and being able to take advantage of -- high memory frequencies. Many were curious how DDR3-2400MHz would fair with Kaveri so here's some benchmarks as we test out Kingston's HyperX Beast 8GB DDR3-2400MHz memory kit."

Here are some more Memory articles from around the web:

Memory

Source: Phoronix

AMD Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 Driver Released

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 25, 2014 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: amd, Mantle, TrueAudio, Thief 4, thief

AMD released their Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 graphics drivers today, coinciding with the launch of Thief. The game, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, is another entry in "Gaming Evolved" and their "Never Settle" promotion. Soon, it will also support Mantle and TrueAudio.

AMD-Catalyst.jpg

Being Theif's launch driver, it provides optimizations for both single-GPU and Crossfire customers in that title. It also provides fixes for other titles, especially Battlefield 4 which can now run Mantle with up-to four GPUs. Battlefield 3 and 4 also supports Frame Pacing on very high (greater than 2560x1600) resolution monitors in dual-card Crossfire. It also fixes a couple of bugs in using Crossfire with DirectX 9 games, missing textures Minecraft, and corruption in X-Plane.

Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 driver is available now at AMD's website.

Source: AMD

New Intel Graphics Drivers Further Spread Quick Sync Video

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 25, 2014 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, Intel, iGPU, haswell

Recently, Intel released the 15.33.14.3412 (15.33.14.64.3412 for 64-bit) drivers for their Ivy Bridge and Haswell integrated graphics. The download was apparently published on January 29th while its patch notes are dated February 22nd. It features expanded support for Intel Quick Sync Video Technology, allowing certain Pentium and Celeron-class processors to access the feature, as well as an alleged increase in OpenGL-based games. Probably the most famous OpenGL title of our time is Minecraft, although I do not know if that specific game will see improvements (and if so, how much).

Intel-logo.svg_.png

The new driver enables Quick Sync Video for the following processors:

  • Pentium 3558U
  • Pentium 3561Y
  • Pentium G3220(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Pentium G3420(Unsuffixed/T)
  • Pentium G3430
  • Celeron 2957U
  • Celeron 2961Y
  • Celeron 2981U
  • Celeron G1820(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Celeron G1830

Besides the addition for these processors and the OpenGL performance improvements, the driver obviously fixes several bugs in each of its supported OSes. You can download the appropriate drivers from the Intel Download Center.

Source: Intel

BYOD is going to lead to BYOB in the IT Room

Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: security, nightmare, byod

The new generation of workers arriving on the scene are of a connected generation, fully conformable with technology and ways of sharing; though with neither clue nor care about security.  That extends from doing an end run around Sharepoint and sFTP sites in favour of Dropbox and Google Drive, blissfully unaware that the Terms and Service agreement spell out that they now have a copy of your proprietary data for quality assurance purposes thus breaking security agreements made with clients.  The software is only a part of the problem as Bring Your Own Device arrives on the scene with your new hires.  Benchmark Reviews has put up an overview of what that may mean for many companies and discusses the benefits of implementing true Mobile Device Management software.  With proper MDM you can, for the most part, retain some control over the devices connected to your systems, attempting to blacklist the many apps which will happily share any of your company's information stored on the phone and in many cases be able to wipe the device remotely after the inevitable accidental loss of such a device.

MDM's mitigating the problems created by BYOD is good in theory but it overlooks one major issue that this will cause.  Your IT staff are now going to be bombarded by requests to fix these random devices, from Microsoft and Apple to Sony and Google through Lenovo and Samsung, every tablet or portable device in every possible configuration of OS and software will show up on your IT peoples desks.  Regardless the original official policy, once you accept BYOD your IT people will spend huge amounts of time figuring out basic troubleshooting for devices they've never seen before as you can bet there is no budget to give IT one of each device and time to get familiar with it. 

In many cases your techies won't even be able to say with certainty that the device is capable of doing what the user wants in the first place.  How will you explain to someone who picked up a Surface that WinRT is not going to be able to be added to the domain for ActiveSync access or that your Samsung just isn't going to connect to that Sharepoint site you do a lot of work on?  What will you do when someone hands you a Huawei MediaPad X1?  BYOD may attract young new minds to your company but realize that there is a cost to be paid in both lawyers fees when your client discover how much of their data has been accidentally shared as well as in the time your already overworked IT staff have to support your actual infrastructure.

headdesk-here.jpg

"Let’s face it, smart phones and tablets have become a common part of life. It is not unusual to walk into a place and see a majority of the people with their eyes down, totally engrossed in a mobile device. This is something that happens out in everyday life and is becoming increasingly more common in the workplace. Laptops and desktops are starting to be replaced by tablets and laptop-tablet hybrids. No matter the business industry, just like computers, tablets and smartphones are becoming essential in almost all areas of business."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Western Digital launches surveillance-oriented WD Purple series of 3.5" HDDs

Subject: Storage | February 25, 2014 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, surveillance, Purple

Western Digital has several lines of hard disks to choose from. You have Greens, Blues, Blacks, enterprise RE's, and even ones named after dinosaurs. Then came a mix of RE and GP in the form of the RE4-GP. Then came the Red series, which carried some more of the enterprisey features from the RE series over into a NAS-tailored drive that sipped power like a Green. Then there was the AV-GP which took a green and tweaked the firmware to better handle multiple video streams being read to and written from the disk simultaneously.

You'd figure they had every possible angle covered, but apparently there was a hole to fill. Turns out the home / small business surveillance market is a bit of a big deal. We're talking about those security systems you see capturing 16 or even 32 video streams simultaneously. Add the fact that these larger systems tend to store their streams to a RAID as opposed to a single disk. What was needed was a drive capable of handling a greater number of simultaneous streams than an AV-GP, while also carrying over the RAID features of the Red, and doing so without driving costs into the enterprise territory of the SE/RE.

Behold the solution:

WDPurple_CoverOn_Left_4TB 022014.jpg

The WD Purple is an Advanced Format HDD that is optimized for recording up to 32 HD video streams simultaneously:

WD Purple efficiency slide.png

Writing 32 separate streams to a hard drive would usually lead to the heads thrashing about, trying to keep up with what appears to be random writes. The Purple has much smarter firmware that has been tuned for this specific purpose (seen above maintaining 50% idle time while handling 32 HD streams). While these firmware optimizations would hurt performance in normal consumer use, for heavy surveillance usage, this is likely the closest you can get to SSD performance for this application - without high cost/GB of using solid state as a solution to such a capacity hungry problem.

Speaking of cost/GB, Purple drives are quite reasonable, starting at $89 for 1TB up to $199 for the flagship 4TB capacity.

Press blast after the break:

CompuLab Launches Haswell-Powered SFF Intense PC 2

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 10:22 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, SFF, mintbox, linux, ipc2, haswell, compulab

CompuLab, the company behind the MintBox, launched its small form factor Intense PC 2 last month in four SKUs using Intel's latest Haswell processors. The systems are now available for purchase starting at $388 for the base model. The Intense PC 2 shares a similar form factor to the existing Intense PC and MintBox systems (resembling a consumer router), but features new hardware and IO options.

CompuLab IPC2.png

The Intense PC 2 measures 6.3” x 7.4”x 1.57” and has an aluminum chassis that acts as a passive heatsink for the internal components. The case is dark gray with a finned top surface. The front of the system can be customized with FACE modules that offer different IO options. However, by default the Intense PC 2 has two USB 3.0 ports and three indicator LEDs on the front and the following IO ports on the rear:

  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports (Intel NICs)
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs
  • 1 x DisplayPort video output
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x RS232
  • 3 x (2 x analog, 1 x digital S/PDIF)
  • 1 x SIM card slot
  • 2 x antenna connectors

The FACE modules can expand connectivity to include VGA ouptuts, video capture inputs, additional networking, and additional USB ports (among other options).

IPC2 IO.jpg

Internally, the Intense PC 2 has a small motherboard that comes with an Intel Celeron, i3, i5, or i7 Haswell processor, up to 16GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz memory (two slots), a single mSATA port, and a single mPCIE port (the mSATA port is a combo mSATA/mPCIe port). An 802.11ac+Bluetooth 4.0 radio is included as part of the package. The 15W TDP CPU can be passively cooled, and at the high end you can get up to an Intel Core i7 4600U with HD 4400 graphics. The dual core (plus hyperthreading) chip can turbo up to 3.3 GHz. The table below from the CompuLab specification sheet (PDF) details the hardware layouts of the various IPC2 SKUs.

IPC2.jpg

The Intense PC 2 is aimed at desktop users as well as the industrial sector. The passively cooled mini PC can be easily used as a desktop, home server, router+802.11ac access point, HTPC, or Steambox (streaming endpoint mainly), for example. It is also capable of driving signage and large 4K displays for adversiting and other tasks.

IPC2 pricing.jpg

The Intense PC is available in four base SKUs ranging in price from $388 to $902. Adding an SSD and/or pre-installed OS add to that base price. CompuLab offers a 5 year warranty on the SFF system.

Source: CompuLab

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.

snapdragon.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Antec bumps up it's Kuhler series with the 1250

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 24, 2014 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: antec, all in one, water cooler, KUHLER H20 1250

As you might expect from the name, the Antec Kuhler 1250 is a larger version of the popular all in one liquid CPU coolers. This model is designed for overclockers, with a radiator measuring 159mm x  120mm x  27mm which does limit the amount of enclosures it will fit in unless you plan on an external mount.  As it is only $10 more than the smaller 950 it comes out ahead on [H]ard|OCP's dollar to performance ratio; at $120 it is a bit of an investment but for overclockers it is a decent solution to heat problems.

1392128145hPRSBkUZjM_2_1.jpg

"Antec and its All-In-One sealed system CPU coolers have been around for a good while now. We still have some of its first series working well here in the HardOCP offices. Today we have Antec's newly designed high end Kuhler model 1250. It has some unique offerings all based on new cold plates and big double fan radiator."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

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.  

a80-diagram.jpg

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

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

View the full press release after the break!

Microsoft is hoping price cuts will make Win8 more attractive

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, win8

DigiTimes does not specifically mention Surface but there are not too many devices running Windows 8 which can be purchased for under $250.   By reducing the licensing fee by $35 for machines that are at that price level Microsoft might make system builders a little more interested to include low cost Windows 8 machines in their lineup as they can sell at a higher margin or at a lower MSRP.  Of course consumers would still have to buy them for those companies to make a profit and it seems very unlikely that a 10% price reduction will convince people they need a Surface or similar device when there are so many other alternatives available.  It does make you wonder if you could get your hands on a Win8 license at a lower cost if you promise to install it on a cheap system.

Surface-Press-02-380-80.jpg

"Microsoft plans to further decrease Windows 8.1 licensing rates for entry-level PCs priced below US$250 and tablets, from nearly US$50 currently to about US$15, according to Taiwan-based PC supply chain makers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

MWC 2014: Intel Atom Moorefield and Merrifield officially unveiled

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 04:00 AM |
Tagged: z3480, PowerVR, MWC 14, MWC, moorefield, merrifield, Intel, atom

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

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

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

lte02.jpg

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

soc02.jpg

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

soc01.jpg

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

soc08.jpg

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

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

soc06.jpg

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

soc03.jpg

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

soc07.jpg

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

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