The Ice Storm Test
Love it or hate it, 3DMark has a unique place in the world of PC gaming and enthusiasts. Since 3DMark99 was released...in 1998...with a target on DirectX 6, Futuremark has been developing benchmarks on a regular basis in time with major API changes and also major harware changes. The most recent release of 3DMark11 has been out since late in 2010 and has been a regular part of our many graphics card reviews on PC Perspective.
Today Futuremark is not only releasing a new version of the benchmark but is also taking fundamentally different approach to performance testing and platforms. The new 3DMark, just called "3DMark", will not only target high-end gaming PCs but integrated graphics platforms and even tablets and smartphones.
We interviewed the President of Futuremark, Oliver Baltuch, over the weekend and asked some questions about this new direction for 3DMark, how mobile devices were going to affect benchmarks going forward and asked about the new results patterns, stuttering and more. Check out the video below!
Make no bones about it, this is a synthetic benchmark and if you have had issues with that in the past because it is not a "real world" gaming test, you will continue to have those complaints. Personally I see the information that 3DMark provides to be very informative though it definitely shouldn't be depended on as the ONLY graphics performance metric.
Subject: Mobile | January 31, 2013 - 02:35 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, RIM, blackberry z10, blackberry q10, blackberry, BB10
Research In Motion (RIM) is no more, but the company will live on as BlackBerry. Earlier this week, the company held a press conference where it made the name change official and introduced two new smartphones running the BlackBerry 10 operating system. It was a lot to take in at the time, and it has taken me this long for me to write about it as I have been torn on how I feel about the new BlackBerry.
First up though, the phones certainly look quite good. They are rather sleek looking utilizing curved edges well. BlackBerry has designed an all-touchscreen Z10 and a smaller Q10 smartphone with physical keyboard that is has just enough Bold DNA to evoke fond memories of my first smartphone.
The Z10 features a 4.2” touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 768 (356 PPI). Beneath the hood is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC clocked at 1.5 GHz along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. For expansion, the phone supports micro SD cards. It can output video over HDMI and the phone includes an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP webcam. NFC and Wi-Fi are included along with LTE support.
Customers in the UK and Canada will be getting their hands on the phone sometime this week. US residents will have to wait until springtime, however. The BlackBerry Z10 is slated for a spring 2013 US launch (around March). In the US, the black version will be available on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for $149 while a white SKU will be $199 and a Verizon exclusive (Verizon will also sell the black model, but reportedly at the higher $199 price).
The Q10 carries the same internal hardware as the Z10 but goes with a smaller 3.1” 720 x 720 touchscreen. Beneath the screen is a physical keyboard reminiscent of the old BlackBerry Bold. Specs and pricing were more-scarce here, but it should see a US release sometime in April 2013.
Both BlackBerry smartphones run the company’s new BB10 operating system. The new OS is a complete overhaul that has several neat features. There is a new BBM client that integrated video chat and screen sharing, an app store with 70,000 launch apps, a work and home workspace separation (which will be great for BYOD workplaces), and a feature called Peek. Peek is invoked by a swipe gesture and allows you to, well, peek at a second application (such as email0 while watching a video or browsing the web. BlackBerry 10 will run multiple applications in the background and has an app switcher similar to Maemo where it displays live icons laid out in a grid. The OS also includes a camera application and editor. The camera app allows you to time-shift a bit after the photo is taken in order to find the best shot (for example, finding the shot where everyone was looking at the camera and/or not blinking). It is nice to see that rolled into a smartphone camera as it is rather useful when trying to get group shots of the family! Having the physical keyboard is sure to be a boon to many former BlackBerry users and may be the deciding factor in those users coming back to BlackBerry after leaving for Android and iOS.
That statement does segway nicely into my worry, however. Essentially “former users” is the key phrase, and after Android and iOS have gobbled up the market I do not know that BB10 and the two new phones will be enough to win back their former users much less new customers that did not grow up using BlackBerry phones. Don’t get me wrong, the phones look really nice, and BB10 as an operating system shows promise. On the other hand, Google and Apple have a colossal head start and the majority of the market share. This is a stranglehold that even OS-juggernaut Microsoft has not been able to crack with its new Windows Phone 8 devices. BlackBerry may be able to win back the hearts of IT departments and grab some of the enterprise market, but I worry that BlackBerry took too long to put out BB10 and supporting hardware to reclaim its former glory.
I suppose I will just have to wait and see how well-received the phones are at the contract prices versus deals that are likely to be given out for Galaxy SIII phones, the Nexus 4, and previous-gen iPhones (keep in mind the Galaxy S4 is rumored to be released soon, so that would make the S3 likely to get a nice discounted on-contract price).
By all that is Brick Breaker, I hope that
RIM BlackBerry finds some way to succeed. Perhaps a partnership with NVIDIA for Tegra-powered BB10 devices? After all, as Ryan mentioned on the podcast NVIDIA is in need of design wins for it's chips and BlackBerry could do with more hardware aimed at more price points.
Enough of my speculation, however. What do you think about the new BlackBerry and it's new devices?
A very interesting blog post by NVIDIA's Brian Caulfield tells the story of "How Project SHIELD Got Built" and you might be surprised about the timeline they were on. In the story Caulfield details the team's move from idea to the CES release in under 12 months:
In less than a year, SHIELD has grown from an idea dreamed up by Jen-Hsun, Tony, and a handful of others into a conspiracy involving hundreds of gaming fanatics across every department at NVIDIA. “We’ve been talking on and off about building something for more than five years, maybe 10,” says Tony.
Caulfield goes on to detail several steps in the process including design, production, the first module shown to Huang, NVIDIA CEO, and more. After realizing that they had the hardware with Tegra 4 and the software (both GeForce Experience and the controller drivers used by games from the TegraZone store), Tony Tomasi surmised that the company should "just build a device with a great controller built in."
The first prototype, assembled in early 2012, was little more than a game controller fastened to a smartphone with wood. From that crude beginning, NVIDIA’s team of industrial designers sculpted a device that could fit in a user’s hands. No outsourcing required: NVIDIA has a team of veterans who have already shaped the look of a number of products built around NVIDIA’s processors, such as the drool-worthy GeForce GTX 690.
Unfortunately no images of that wood-clad version of the SHIELD were shared, but the idea is amusing none the less. NVIDIA does admit that the killer feature of the device is the ability to stream PC games from a GeForce powered machine to the SHIELD remotely.
Streaming games from PCs equipped with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 or better GPUs puts cutting-edge games on SHIELD on day one. As NVIDIA’s smart, funny marketing VP Ujesh Desai put it, when cynical gamers ask the eternal question – ‘but can it play Crysis’ – NVIDIA will have a simple answer ‘yes it does.’
And apparently some developers have been "lobbying" NVIDIA to make a console for years - a fact that I find both interesting and hilarious.
Overall the post is incredibly insightful, if a bit overly "marketing-ish" about the product it discusses. With such a tight timeline on the design and build I am curious to see if NVIDIA will be able to meet the deadline of release they set during CES: Q2 2013. Also, many lines in the blog post are obviously meant to temper the fact that NVIDIA chips will find their way into exactly zero (0) consoles this generation and it is becoming more and more obvious that SHIELD is a reaction to that fact.
We are eager to learn more and get our hands on it again!
Subject: Mobile | January 30, 2013 - 05:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, gx60, gaming laptop, amd, 7970m
If you want a gaming laptop and don't want to spend $2000+ then an AMD powered machine is a really good choice, even if you are attracted to Intel's more powerful CPUs. Not only are the graphics on the A10-4600M better than Intel's offerings, the MSI GX60 comes with a discrete 7970M GPU with 2GB of dedicated RAM. That will beat out all but the most expensive of Intel powered gaming laptops and in certain situations will prove more powerful than even the most expensive laptops. If you opt to have a 128GB SSD installed in the GX60 it will bring the price to about $1500, you could most likely get a 256GB SSD separately instead if you are looking to save some cash. Check out the performance at TechSpot.
"Most people can’t afford to spend a few thousand on a notebook computer, even if it's on a solid gaming machine that doubles as a desktop replacement. To that end, today we'll be checking out a portable from MSI that aims to deliver a solid gaming experience without the excessive cost.
The MSI GX60 comes packed with a quad-core AMD A10-4600M CPU clocked at 2.3GHz alongside AMD Radeon HD 7970M discrete graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, a 15.6-inch non-glare display operating at 1920x1080, 8GB of DDR3 memory in a 4GBx2 configuration, 128GB of flash storage used as the OS drive and a 750GB 7200RPM disk drive for storage."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Toshiba Satellite U945-S4390 Review @ TechReviewSource
- ASUS Taichi 21 Review @ InsideHW
- Asus Taichi 21 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Acer C7 Chromebook @ AnandTech
- ASUS Vivobook X202E/ S200E @ Hardware.info
- Asus VivoBook S400CA Review @ TechReviewSource
- Dell XPS 14 Ultrabook @ Legit Reviews
- Dell XPS 12 @ Hardware.info
- Acer Aspire S7 Touch Screen Ultrabook @ SSD Review
- Dell Latitude 6430u Review @ TechReviewSource
- Poetic Atmosphere Nexus 4 @ LanOC Reviews
- Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 @ Funky Kit
- Cygnett Apollo iPhone 4/4S Case Review @ Madshrimps
- OtterBox Commuter and Defender for iPhone 5 @ OCIA
- HTC One X+ @ The Inquirer
- From Mango to Apollo: The HTC Windows Phone 8X on the Daily @ AnandTech
Subject: Mobile | January 28, 2013 - 03:35 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: white label, tegra 4, tegra, tablet, shield, nvidia, cell phone
If you thought that NVIDIA's entry into the world of the mobile entertainment and gaming device market was odd with the announcement of the Shield Android-powered unit, we have some more rumors sneaking up from Droidlife.com about a possible move to develop and manufacture cell phones and tablets as well.
While many SoC vendors often create proof of concept designs based around their own chips, none of the major players are in the business of building devices meant to find their way into consumers hands. NVIDIA appears to be taking a page from its own book in the world of retail graphics cards and is planning on producing nearly complete cell phones and tablets to be rebranded and sold directly to consumers. PC users are used to this practice already and you can see if happen with ever nearly every GPU launch - graphics cards that have the same specs and design with only a different sticker on the cooler.
The process of white labeling is very frequent in today's laptop designs as well and it is how companies like AVADirect, MAINGEAR and iBuyPower are able to produce and sell custom notebooks.
From what is in the report, NVIDIA has their eyes set on both tablets and smartphones, with plans to start designing and creating their devices around May or June of this very year. If all goes according to plan, we will begin to see a ton of cheap (but not any less in quality terms) 7-10″ tablets hitting the market, all running NVIDIA chipsets.
If this process does take hold in the mid-2013 time frame you can start to expect a lot of low cost options based on Tegra SoCs to hit in the holiday time frame. There are concerns to be dealt with though if in fact NVIDIA attempt the white label move. First, there is potential for "cheap" products, and by that I mean cheaply built, ruining the Tegra name and brand that NVIDIA has been building over the last few years. Also, NVIDIA could offend and upset other vendors like Samsung and ASUS with whom they depend on to make the "high-end" products that many enthusiasts lust over.
As a small player though (in terms of pure sell through) NVIDIA is looking for anyway it can to improve its market share and starting up a white label market for smartphones and tablets is definitely something that could open up new opportunities.
Subject: Mobile | January 18, 2013 - 03:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, GT70 Limited Dragon Edition, 17.3, 1080p, 3630QM
Gaming laptops are attractive to some users, who are willing to pay the premium to have a system which can play the latest games and is still somewhat portable. MSI has been providing these users with solid products over the years and has recently updated their product line with the GT70 Limited Dragon Edition. One of the best features of this laptop is the screen, proper 1920 x 1080 screens are all too rare on laptops. Inside you will find an octo-core Core i7 3630QM, a GTX 675, 8GB DDR3 and even a KillerNIC, enough to get you playing Far Cry 3 in style. The backlit keyboard features a GPU Turbo boost key and a Cooler boost key which should probably both be used at the same time. In fact the only things that MadShrimps would have like to see changed is a different type of SSD and an IPS display instead of the TN that MSI used.
"In recent 2 years, MSI did not focus on the Ultrabook series as many other brands, they mainly focused on high performance of Gaming series Notebooks, that makes MSI to become a well known gaming products company in the market, also shows how important of the Gaming related market."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Asus' VivoBook X202E @ The Tech Report
- Acer Aspire S7 @ TechSpot
- Intel Haswell GT3e GPU Performance Compared to NVIDIA's GeForce GT 650M @ AnandTech
- Lenovo Yoga 13 review: limber laptop @ Hardware.info
- Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11 @ The Inquirer
- NZXT Cryo X60 Notebook Cooler @ Benchmark Reviews
- ASUS VivoTab RT TF600T review: Windows RT according to ASUS @ Hardware.info
- Otterbox iPhone 4 / 4S Defender Series with Realtree Camo Case Review @ Madshrimps
- Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Smartphone Review @ ModSynergy
- Sony Xperia T vs Xperia V review: same cover, different phone @ Hardware.info
- Ubuntu phone OS walkthrough on a Galaxy Nexus, looks so good - I'm ready to buy it @ Tweaktown
- eTeknix: On the go - Part 1
Subject: Mobile | January 13, 2013 - 09:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: memopad, me172v, asus
Right after the completion of CES, ASUS is announcing another new device for emerging markets. The MeMO Pad ME172V is powered by the VIA WM8950 (as rumored back in December), part of the WonderMedia Prizm line of SoCs, with a single core 1.0 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics processing capable of 1080p video playback and basic 3D. ASUS is claiming that the MeMO Pad ME172V is meant for "novice to basic tablet users" rather than "Android enthusiasts, 3D gaming and early hardware adopters, who are better suited to the more powerful Transformer Pad Infinity or Nexus 7 series."
This is a full Android experience that includes access to the Google Play store, ebooks, social networking and web browsing. With a focus on pricing and performance per watt, ASUS still claims that the MeMO Pad ME172V will offer a "smooth and fluid user experience" though I question how much it can handle with a single Cortex-A9 core.
The screen resolution is 1024x600 and the tablet will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with only moderate tweaks from the ASUS UI team. It will be available in either 8GB or 16GB capacities but with a microSD card slot that can be expanded by 32GB.
What about availability? ASUS had this to say:
ASUS MeMO Pad will be available starting this January in selected markets from authorized ASUS resellers. We will carry this device in the US market starting in April with a US specific image (full support for our region including Hulu Plus, Netflix, HBO Go, etc, etc.)
So if you are looking for a $149 tablet, the MeMO Pad ME172V might be the best option when it is available in the US later this spring. We are working with ASUS to get a sample to test out the quality of the build as well as the level of performance and usability you can expect for this low-cost tablet.
Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2013 - 09:05 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm 800, qualcomm 600, qualcomm, krait, ces 2013, CES, arm, adreno 330, adreno 320
Qualcomm introduced two new high end mobile processors at CES earlier this week. Known as the Snapdragon 600 and Snapdragon 800, the new SoCs take the company’s Krait CPU cores to the next level. Both of the new chips are based on a 28nm HPm manufacturing process and feature faster (and more efficienct) CPU and GPU portions.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 is SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.9GHz along with an Adreno 320 GPU, and 4G LTE modem. The Snapdragon 600 also supports LPDDR3 RAM. The Adreno 320 GPU features suport fro OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and Renderscript Compute technologies. According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 600 is 40% faster than the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor used in devices like the Google Nexus 4 smartphone. Also, the Adreno 320 GPU is up to 3-times faster than the previous-generation A225.
The Snapdragon 600 SoC is inteded for smartphones, and we should start to see the new processor shipping with new devices by Q2 2013.
Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 800 processor takes performance up yet another notch over the company’s existing chips. The new SoC includes four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz, an Adreno 330 GPU, support for 2x32-bit LPDDR3 at 800MHz (12.8Gbps), and a 4G LTE modem. The chip also features two image signal processors (ISP) that can handle up to four cameras and 55MP (total) resolution. Devices with the Snapdragon 800 processor will be able to record 1080p30 video as well as encode and decode stored videos with up to 4K resolutions. As far as wireless, the Snapdragon 800 includes a 4G LTE modem and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The upcoming SoC can handle 4K video output and HD audio in the form of DTS-HD, Dolby Digital+, and 7.1 Surround Sound.
The Adreno 330 GPU in the Snapdragon 800 chip also supports OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and Rednderscript Computer technologies. It can output 4K video and reportedly offers up to twice the compute performance versus the Adreno 320 GPU in the Snapdragon 600 processor.
According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 800 processor as a whole is up to 75% faster than the Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC. Qualcomm is aiming this processor at “premium” high end devices including Smart TVs, tablets, consumer electronics devices (ie: blu ray players with apps), and smartphones. Qualcomm expects to see devices powered by the new SoC become available sometime around the middle of 2013 (1H’13).
The new chips appear to offer up some noticeable performance and efficiency improvements over the current generation of Snapdragon processors. The Snapdragon 800 in particular is an impressive-sounding design. I am interested to see how it stacks up against competing chips such as NVIDIA’s Tegra 4, Samsung’s next-gen Exynos lineup, and whatever chip Apple has up its sleeve for the next iPad/iPhone refresh. This year is shaping up to be an exciting year for ARM-based SoCs!
If you are interested in the new silicon, Qualcomm has teased a few more details on its blog.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2013 - 03:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ubuntu for phones, ubuntu, linux, ces 2013, CES, canonical
Earlier this month Canonical showed off a new version of its Ubuntu operating system intended for mobile phones. The Ubuntu for smartphones operating system is meant to extend the Ubuntu UI and UX to the smartphone screen. Canonical wants its OS to span from servers to phones and Ubuntu for phones is the latest step in that plan.
While there is no official hardware yet, the new operating system will be aimed at both low-end and high-end smartphones alike. It will support the standard array of smartphone functions–phone, sms, email, web browsing, and apps–along with the familiar Ubuntu user interface that is navigated by touch gestures. Ubuntu for phones will run on x86 and ARM hardware and is compatible with the Android Board Suppot Package. That means that users can actually run Ubuntu on many existing smartphones which are currently running Google's Android OS. Unlike Android, there is no Java VM, and the Ubuntu for phones operating system can run both HTML5 and native applications. At CES, Canonical demonstrated the OS using a Galaxy Nexus smartphone.
Ubuntu smartphones will feature a familiar Unity-like user interface with a number of tweaks to make it easier to navigate using a touchscreen. The OS will use a feature called Edge Magic, which includes swipe gestures inwards from each side of the phone to open applications, read notifications, change settings, and return to the home screen. Users can also use voice and text commands to control the smartphone. For example, users can swipe left to open the application launcher, drag from the left side to the right side of the screen to display all currently running apps, and drag up from the bottom to open application-specific settings. Swiping from the right acts as the 'back' function while dragging down from teh top opens the notifications and device-wide settings. There are no hardware buttons with Ubuntu for smartphones, and Canonical founder Mark Shuttlework has stated that keeping UI elements hidden until needed was a priority with Ubuntu for phones.
Ubuntu for phones is aimed at a wide range of smartphone hardware. On the low end, Ubuntu needs at least a dual-core ARM Cortex A9, 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. The budget smartphones will run native apps (ideally) faster than similar code on Android due to the apps being closer to the hardware. Multitouch will be supported but the destkop functionality when the phone is docked is not available. On the other hand, high end smartphones will be able to access a full Ubuntu desktop when the phone is docked along with a mouse and keyboard.
Additional features of Ubuntu for smartphones include global search of applications, content, and products, Deep Content Immersion, and personalized artwork on the welcome (lock) screen. Further, Ubuntu One cloud storage, enterprise management tool compatibility, and regular updates are also rolled into the operating system. Ubuntu does include scopes which are similar in function and aesthetics to desktop Ubuntu. The scopes include a list of applications, contacts, videos, and music (among others).
The following chart lists the recommended/referrence specifications for budget and premium smartphones running the Ubuntu mobile OS.
|Entry Level||High End|
|SoC||dual core Cortex A9||quad core Cortex A9 or better|
|RAM||1GB preferred||minimum of 1GB|
|Storage||4-8GB eMMC + SD card||min 32GB eMMC + SD card|
|Display Resolution||WVGA 800x400||720p or 1080p|
Interestingly, users of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone will be able to test drive Ubuntu for smartphones later this year by flashing their device with the new OS. As far as retail hardware with Ubuntu pre-installed, Canonical is reportedly working on developing partnerships with handset makers. Canonical hopes to being shipping devices begining in Q4'13 or Q1'14.
From the various video demonstrations of the Ubuntu for smartphones operating system, it appears extremely slick and user friendly. Curiously, Canoncial was not willing to let CES attendees go hands-on with the reference phone, which may mean that the operating system is not quite ready for prime time. Despite that hesitation, I do think that Ubuntu for smartphones shows a lot of promise as a mobile, touchscreen-controlled operating system.
It is certainly a project that I will be following closely. With the untimely hardware failure of my Nokia N900, I am in need of a new power user-friendly smartphone. And an Ubuntu-powered mobile sounds like the perfect upgrade for me!
What do you think about Canonical's latest venture?
ModdEverything checks out Ubuntu running on a smartphone at CES 2013.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia has released a preliminary report on last quarter’s WP8 handset sales. There is good news and bad news.
On the positive side of things, Nokia managed to sell approximately 4.4 million Lumia-series smartphones running the Windows Phone OS. While not spectacular, it is a healthy ramp-up in Lumia phone sales versus previous quarters. For example, in Q4 of 2011 the company sold 1 million Windows Phone handsets, and then it managed to sell 2.9 million in Q3 of 2012 resulting in both year over year and quarter over quarter growth. Another interesting figure from the report is that Nokia has sold a total of 14.3 million Lumia smartphones to date. Lumia sales in Q4 2012 have also managed to surpass the company’s 2.2 million Symbian OS phone sales in Q4’12.
And now for the slightly-less-good news. The Lumia series (and Windows Phone 8 OS/handsets in general) continue to occupy the spot of ‘mobile OS underdog’ by a significant margin. To put the Lumia/WP8 sales in perspective, according to Android Authority, Samsung made $8.1 billion through sales of approximately 65.7 million Android smartphones. On the other hand, Nokia’s sales of Windows Phone hardware has surpassed its sales of phones powered by Symbian OS (at 2.2 million in Q4’12).
The numbers do seem to suggest that the market for Nokia Lumia handsets is slowly growing so it will be interesting to see sales figures a few years down the road. (Note that historic growth does not necessarily equal future growth. It does suggest that it is on the rise though. heh).
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