CES 2016: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820A SoCs To Drive Future Car PCs

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 7, 2016 - 06:55 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 820A, snapdragon 820, qualcomm, LTE, Kryo, adreno

Qualcomm is branching out with its SoCs to the auto industry with its upcoming line of Snapdragon 820 Automotive processors. The planned Snapdragon 820A and 820Am will begin sampling to auto makers and ODMs within the next few months and are aimed at in-car navigation, entertainment, dash displays, HUDs, and safety/driver assist systems.

Sharing a similar pedigree to the mobile-oriented Snapdragon 820, the new automotive series features Qualcomm's custom 64-bit "Kryo" CPU cores, an Adreno 530 GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP capable of processing up to eight car camera sensors, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless. The 802Am adds a Snapdragon X12 LTE modem  which supports a maximum of 600 Mbps down and 150 Mbps upload speeds. Both chips are built on a 14nm manufacturing process and reportedly utilize a modular package and chip design that would allow auto manufacturers to save money on development costs of new vehicles by allowing upgraded hardware to be used with minimal software changes being necessary. End users aren't going to benefit from the modular nature, but the companies making the "infotainment" systems and those integrating them into new vehicles will.

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Qualcomm envisions the 820 Automotive processors driving navigation and entertainment systems as well as being used for digital information displays such as dashboard readouts and windshield HUDs. The chips are also capable of limited driver assist functionality, though they won't be powering a self driving car all on their own yet. They can utilize always on sensors to provide collision alerts and 3D navigation that is aware of relative positioning (it can look for stop signs to assist a GPS which might not be accurate enough to tell you to turn at the correct time). Using between four and eight cameras, the 820Am is able to provide lane departure warnings, front collision warnings, traffic sign recognition, and object detection while backing up using machine learning / computer vision. That last bit is apparently powered by a Qualcomm technology called the Zeroth Machine Intelligency Platform.

There are rumors that Qualcomm will not be pursuing it's custom Kryo CPU cores beyond the Snapdragon 820, though I have my doubts that will happen. The higher margins of the auto industry and opportunity to sell even more chips that can be higher clocked may help to justify the higher R&D in the competitive mobile market. I'm interested to see if these once-mobile SoCs can live up to Qualcomm's promises for future vehicle tech.

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Source: Ars Technica

CES 2016: Razer Stargazer Webcam Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, razer, razer stargazer, webcam, Intel RealSense

Razer has announced the Stargazer webcam with a few tricks up its sleeve. Each of these has a downside or catch though, so be sure to read my commentary.

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The first advanced feature is the sensor. It supports 1080p output, which is common these days, but it can be driven at 60 FPS when dropped to 720p. For video streamers, who usually shrink their webcam to a fraction of the screen anyway, this bump in refresh rate will match that game or desktop capture. 720p is more resolution than a corner of a 1080p broadcast, so you're throwing out pixels anyway. The problem would be streamers who have a full-screen webcam shot. This is common for educational or discussion-based podcasts, which would likely need to choose between 720p60 or 1080p30. I don't think it's possible for any webcam to output both resolutions at the same time, so you'd need to release and renew the device when you switch, which isn't feasible. That said, I'm not sure if there was a major, technical reason for Razer not just shipping 1080p60. There might be.

The second feature the webcam's inclusion of Intel RealSense. This is their technology for gesture recognition, 3d scanning, and background removal. Having the camera automatically key out the background on webcam video is interesting, and probably quite accurate given that it knows 3D positional data. The ability to 3D scan would also be interesting for game and mod developers. The catch? It apparently requires a sixth-generation Core processor (Skylake). This entirely removes AMD and DDR3-era Intel processors from the equation, including the high-end Core i7-4790k. It also requires Windows 10. Note that Razer lists these requirements for the webcam in general, including the Skylake processor, but it might only apply to RealSense features. It also might apply to everything, though.

If these limitations, including the very high system requirements, don't apply to you, then look for the Razer Stargazer in Q2. It will apparently cost about $200 USD.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: Razer

Square Enix Stops Basing Decision on Puns

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 03:13 PM |
Tagged: square enix, shinra, cloud computing

Shinra Technologies was a cloud computing service from Square Enix. Unlike OnLive and PlayStation Now, it wasn't intending to offer existing titles to incompatible devices by hooking input and returning video. They wanted to use this service to create new titles, even with third-parties like Ubisoft, that offload big computational elements to their servers. Those should be latency-insensitive parts, but details would be game dependent of course. This is similar to Microsoft's Xbox program, which is said to power the upcoming game for the Xbox One, Crackdown 3.

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Image Credit: Final Fantasy Wikia

We now say was, because Square Enix killed the program. It was created as a subsidiary to keep it separate from the game development division, which might have given some comfort to third-party developers. It also allowed them to secure funding for the program independently, except that investors did not sign on. Without external capital, Square Enix dissolved the division at a loss of about $17 million USD.

Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 Will Be Deprecated on Tuesday

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, internet explorer

Microsoft has been talking about moving their web browsers to a different support model. They intend to support only the most recent version of their browser, deprecating everything beforehand. This has two benefits. First, they don't need to port security patches to nearly as many targets. Second, web developers can mostly rely upon recently added features, especially ones which do not require special hardware.

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A major stage in this plan occurs on Tuesday. Microsoft will issue a patch to notify users that their old browsers will no longer receive security updates. They are ripping off the band-aid with this one, deprecating Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 simultaneously. Since Internet Explorer 11 is very competitive with Chrome and Firefox in terms of standards support, you will probably hear a few web developers rejoice. Internet Explorer 11 is available for Windows 7 and later.

As a side note, this also means that every supported browser on Windows from Microsoft will be compatible with WebGL. You may not be able to rely upon hardware acceleration, as blacklisted drivers will be forced into a software rendering compatibility mode, but it's good news for Web gaming.

Source: Microsoft

The UHD Alliance finally gets around to creating a standard

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: UHD, 4k

With companies at CES showing off 8K displays it seems that the standards body for UHD felt the need to actually get around to setting a standard for what constitutes a 4K display.   Like USB.org or the IEEE, the UHD Alliance is a body which is supposed to set standards on the various devices we buy so we can know the minimum specifications of the product, unfortunately the UHD Alliance seems to suffer from input lag.  As you would expect, a resolution of 3840 x 2160 is required to bear the "Ultra HD Premium" logo, as well as 10-bit colour and minimum support for colour representation and dynamic range specifications.  The standard applies to both manufacturers and content providers such as Netflix.  You can read more about this slightly tardy standard over at The Register.

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"The UHD Alliance has delivered its promised spec setting down minimum standards for what constitutes 4K. While 4K of some kind has been around for a decade, it was only in 2015 that the industry decided standards were needed."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

CES 2016: Monoprice $199 3D Printer, DLP 3D Printer, CNC Mill

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 04:19 AM |
Tagged: maker, DLP 3D printer, CNC mill, CES 2016, CES, 3d printer

Monoprice has announced a pair of 3D printers at very aggressive price points, with the $199 Maker Spark 3D Printer and $299 Maker DLP 3D printer, as well as the $999 Maker CNC Mill.

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Monoprice Maker Spark 3D Printer

“Monoprice continues its crusade to bring the maker movement to the masses with the debut of three 3D printers boasting solid constructions, exceptional print quality and easy assembly at prices far below the industry standard. New products include a $199.99 ready-to-print Maker Spark 3D Printer featuring preloaded designs, a $299.99 Maker DLP 3D Printer offering laser printing precision and a $999.99 Maker CNC Mill for printing hard materials like wood and metal”

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Monoprice Maker DLP 3D Printer

These are the lowest prices we’ve seen for products in this category, and Monoprice emphasized that these items are complete and ready to use out of the box.

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Monoprice Maker CNC Mill

Availability for all of the announced Monoprice products is set for Q1 2016.

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Source: Monoprice

CES 2016 Podcast Day 3 - New ROG Monitors, M.2 PCIe Drives, a giant case from EVGA and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 02:47 AM |
Tagged: video, ROG, podcast, patriot, nuc, maximus VII, M.2, kingston, Intel, evga, compute stick, CES 2016, CES, asus

CES 2016 Podcast Day 3 - 01/07/16

We wrap up CES 2016 by talking about new ROG monitors from ASUS, Plenty of M.2 PCIe Drives, a giant case from EVGA and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:47:01

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CES 2016: Acer Shows Off Upscale Chromebook 11 With Budget $179 Price

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 12:52 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Chromebook, chrome os, CES 2016, budget, acer

CES 2016 has seen its share of high end product unveilings, but in addition to its premium hardware, Acer is launching a very budget-friendly PC in the form of the Chromebook 11. The new Chromebook 11 is a surprising product that does not compromise aesthetics in order to hit it’s $179 price tag.

 

Running Chrome OS, the budget 11.6” notebook features an aluminum alloy top cover with crosshatch pattern that helps to give it a more high end look. The rest of the laptop is plastic though The Verge claims that the build quality feels nice with a comfortable keyboard and a body that does not flex while typing. The top cover and hinges are a metallic silver while the bottom and area surrounding the keyboard is white. The keys are black with white lettering, and the package (at least from the photos) looks like it belongs to a more expensive laptop! A webcam sits above the display and a large trackpad is nestled below the keyboard. It measures 0.73 inches thick and weighs 2.42 pounds. Acer claims it can withstand corner drops from a height of 60cm (just under 2 ft).

 

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The Verge got hands-on time with the new Chromebook at CES 2016.

 

The left side of the Chromebook 11 holds the DC power input, HDMI output, USB 3.0 port, and a SD card slot while the right side has a SIM card slot, headphone jack, USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock slot.

 

The Chromebook 11 had me excited, but it is not perfect. Acer did not compromise looks, but compromises had to be made somewhere and in the case of the Chromebook 11 it is, unfortunately, in the display which has a mere 720p resolution. That is the big drawback in this notebook, made slightly livable due to it having a matte finish with enough backlight that it can be used outdoors.

 

Internally, Acer is using a quad core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal flash storage.

 

The Chromebook 11 will be available at the end of January starting at $179 in the US and 229 Euros across the pond.

 

I think this would be a good PC for younger students or as a second PC. I was excited about this for $179 while reading about it, but it was tempered by the revelation that the display resolution is stuck at 720p which isn’t horrible but I was expecting a bit more there (at least give me 1366x768...). What do you think about Acer’s newest Chromebook?

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PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: The Verge

The brains that brought you XCOM Long War are making a game

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2016 - 03:27 PM |
Tagged: gaming, x-com, mod, Terra Invicta

The best way to play the rebooted XCOM game is with the XCOM: Long War mod installed, which not only extends your game but makes vast changes to your soldiers advancements and creates an Officer class as well.  They have now created the Long War Studio and are in the planning stages of creating their own game which will be called Terra Invicta.  It will be in a similar vein to XCOM, defending the Earth from alien invaders, though there are indications that the gameplay will be very different.  This does make it unlikely we will see a Long War mod for XCOM 2 in the near future, hopefully their new project surpasses what they have accomplished with the original reboot.  Read more at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

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"The game goes by the name Terra Invicta and it’s currently in “pre-Kickstarter development”, though there’s no word on a launch date for the crowdfunding campaign just yet. The designation “grand strategy” suggests this might be an even longer war and perhaps the tactical battles will be missing entirely?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Meet the new PowerVR Series7XT Plus family of GPUs from Imagination Technologies

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: Series7XT Plus, PowerVR, hsa. GT7200 Plus, GT7400 Plus, CES

Update (Jan 7th, 2016 - Scott Michaud): Imagination sent us an updated diagram, and they wanted to clarify that there is "a 1:1 correspondance between the FP32 ALUs and the integer units." The updated diagram is just below.

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Original article below

PowerVR GPUs are found in a variety of devices from the PlayStation Vita to the last couple of iPhones and at one point was the GPU in Intel APUs.  Their latest offerings are the GT7200 Plus and GT7400 Plus both of which offer quite a few improvements over their previous generations, not least of which is wholesale adoption of heterogeneous computing and its various benefits such as shared virtual memory.

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These GPUs expand their support to INT16 and INT8 data paths, keeping the legacy INT32 paths for applications that require it.  They have also adopted the OpenCL 2.0 API for heterogeneous computing as well as OpenGL ES 3.2 and even Vulkan support.  The GT7200 Plus is in a dual-cluster configuration with 64 ALU cores and the GT7400 Plus doubles that to a quad-cluster with 128 ALU cores.

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Along with the performance and feature upgrades comes a focus on upgrading the machine vision capabilities of the Rogue GPUs to be able to  identify thousands of objects directly from the camera input stream in real-time.  Check out their blog entry for more information on the new chips and if you want a refresher on the technology in these GPUs you can refer back to Ryan's article here.

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Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!