The First with the Tegra K1 Processor
Back in May a Chinese company announced what was then the first and only product based on NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 SoC, the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9. Since then we have had a couple of other products hit our news wire including Google’s own Project Tango development tablet. But the Xiaomi is the first to actually be released, selling through 50,000 units in four minutes according to some reports. I happened to find one on Aliexpress.com, a Chinese sell-through website, and after a few short days the DHL deliveryman dropped the Tegra K1 powered machine off at my door.
If you are like me, the Xiaomi name was a new one. A privately owned company from Beijing and has become one of China’s largest electronics companies, jumping into the smartphone market in 2011. The Mi Pad marks the company’s first attempt at a tablet device, and the partnership with NVIDIA to be an early seller of the Tegra K1 seems to be making waves.
The Tegra K1 Processor
The Tegra K1 SoC was first revealed at CES in January of 2014, and with it came a heavy burden of expectation from NVIDIA directly, as well as from investors and the media. The first SoC from the Tegra family to have a GPU built from the ground up by NVIDIA engineers, the Tegra K1 gets its name from the Kepler family of GPUs. It also happens to get the base of its architecture there as well.
The processor of the Tegra K1 look very familiar and include four ARM Cortex-A15 “r3” cores and 2MB of L2 cache with a fifth A15 core used for lower power situations. This 4+1 design is the same that was introduced with the Tegra 4 processor last year and allows NVIDIA to implement a style of “big.LITTLE” design that is unique. Some slight modifications to the cores are included with Tegra K1 that improve performance and efficiency, but not by much – the main CPU is very similar to the Tegra 4.
The focus on the Tegra K1 will be on the GPU, now powered by NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture. The K1 features 192 CUDA cores with a very similar design to a single SMX on today’s GeForce GTX 700-series graphics cards. This includes OpenGL ES3.0 support but much more importantly, OpenGL 4.4 and DirectX 11 integration. The ambition of bringing modern, quality PC gaming to mobile devices is going to be closer than you ever thought possible with this product and the demos I have seen running on reference designs are enough to leave your jaw on the floor.
By far the most impressive part of Tegra K1 is the implementation of a full Kepler SMX onto a chip that will be running well under 2 watts. While it has been the plan from NVIDIA to merge the primary GPU architectures between mobile and discrete, this choice did not come without some risk. When the company was building the first Tegra part it basically had to make a hedge on where the world of mobile technology would be in 2015. NVIDIA might have continued to evolve and change the initial GPU IP that was used in Tegra 1, adding feature support and increasing the required die area to improve overall GPU performance, but instead they opted to position a “merge point” with Kepler in 2014. The team at NVIDIA saw that they were within reach of the discontinuity point we are seeing today with Tegra K1, but in truth they had to suffer through the first iterations of Tegra GPU designs that they knew were inferior to the design coming with Kepler.
You can read much more on the technical detail of the Tegra K1 SoC by heading over to our launch article that goes into the updated CPU design, as well as giving you all the gore behind the Kepler integration.
By far the most interesting aspect of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 tablet is the decsion to integrate the Tegra K1 processor. Performance and battery life comparisons with other 7 to 8-in tablets will likely not impact how it sells in China, but the results may mean the world to NVIDIA as they implore other vendors to integrate the SoC.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 20, 2014 - 03:41 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: shield tablet, shield 2, shield, nvidia
In Europe, NVIDIA set up a simple, official page. Its title is "THE ULTIMATE IS COMING | NVIDIA". On it are the words, "The Ultimate Is Coming" as well as a countdown to 9 AM EDT on Tuesday, July 22nd. At the same time, North Americans get "Ultimate Quest", a text adventure game which ends on -- surprise -- Tuesday with a giveaway of "something big" for the first players who finish.
Allegedly leaked slide - Not Official!
All images credit: Videocardz (and they have more).
What is it? It is very likely the rumored SHIELD tablet, especially considering Videocardz has convincing slides which are definitely made in NVIDIA's style. What made SHIELD so unique was its controller form factor (and NVIDIA's software support). According to the slides, the controller will now be a wireless accessory to the base tablet. What will come standard is a stylus, the "DirectStylus 2 with 3D Paint". This seems like an odd addition, unless they have already planned use cases.
Allegedly leaked slide - Not Official!
As for the tablet? The slides claim Tegra K1, 2GB of RAM, 1920x1200 display, 5MP (HDR) front and rear cameras, and a MicroSD card slot. Previously, leaks suggested a 640x480 front-facing camera, which did not make sense to me. With the original SHIELD lacking a camera, it seemed very odd to relaunch with a bad one. 5MP, especially if it is a good sensor, is much more reasonable (especially for the front-facing one).
Allegedly leaked slide - Not Official!
The leaks also suggest interesting price points, especially for such a powerful tablet. These details can change at a moment's notice, though, so I won't really acknowledge it (apart from embedding the slide below). They do seem to be targeting the end of the month for North America, or middle August for Europe, which is a very quick launch. Then again, it is ready enough to be a prize for a contest which ends on Tuesday.
Allegedly leaked slide - Not Official!
I except we will see how much of this, if anything, holds up on Tuesday.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | July 19, 2014 - 03:29 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, maxwell, mobile gpu, mobile graphics
Apparently, some hardware sites got their hands on an NVIDIA driver listing with several new product codes. They claim thirteen N16(P/E) chips are listed (although I count twelve (??)). While I do not have much knowledge of NVIDIA's internal product structure, the GeForce GTX 880M, based on Kepler, is apparently listed as N15E.
Things have changed a lot since this presentation.
These new parts will allegedly be based on the second-generation Maxwell architecture. Also, the source believes that these new GPUs will in the GeForce GTX 800-series, possibly with the MX suffix that was last seen in October 2012 with the GeForce GTX 680MX. Of course, being a long-time PC gamer, the MX suffix does not exactly ring positive with my memory. It used to be the Ti-line that you wanted, and the MX-line that you could afford. But who am I kidding? None of that is relevant these days. Get off my lawn.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 16, 2014 - 01:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: win8 mobile, win 8.1, nokia, lumia, skype, microsoft, cyan
If you own a Nokia Lumia phone which runs Win 8.1 then there is an update with quite a few interesting features available. US customers will see a Cortana update while all users will gain the ability to search their phone with Bing, an IE11 update, encrypted S/MIME and improved VPN support. There are quite a few app updates and users of the 1520 and Icon get Nokia Rich Recording and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 which improves both audio and video options. Check out Cyan at The Register but don't stop there because according to The Inquirer you will no longer need to be a Premium Skype member to make group calls from your mobile device as it is now a free feature for all.
"Nokia is rolling out Windows Phone 8.1 as an over-the-air update that comes bundled with "Cyan," a special feature package that's exclusive to Lumia devices."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The Linux Supercomputers We Secretly Fear Will Become Sentient @ Linux.com
- Linksys WRT1900AC Dual Band Smart WiFi Wireless AC Router Review @ Legit Reviews
- Can nothing trip up the runaway cash monster that is Intel? Well... @ The Register
- ASMedia, Asustek executives suspected of insider trading @ DigiTimes
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 16, 2014 - 04:11 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, google play, Android, android l
If you have looked at Google's recent design ideologies, first announced at Google I/O 2014, you will see them revolve around skeuomorphism in its most basic sense. By that, I do not mean that they want to make it look like a folder, a metal slab, or a radio button. Their concept is that objects should look like physical objects which behave with physical accuracy, even though they are just simulations of light.
Image Credit: Android Police (and their source)
Basically, rather than having a panel with a toolbar, buttons, and columns, have a background with a page on it. Interface elements which are affected by that panel are on it, while more global actions are off of it. According to Android Police, who make clear that they do not have leaked builds and readers should not believe anything until/unless it ships, the Google Play Store will be redesigned with this consistent, albeit broad, design metric.
Basically, if you are navigation bar, pack your desk and get out.
If true, when will these land? Anyone's guess. One speculation is that it will be timed with the release of Android "L" in Autumn. Their expectation, however, is that it will be one of many updates Google will make across their products in a rolling pattern. Either way, I think it looks good... albeit similar to many modern websites.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 16, 2014 - 03:37 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: quarterly results, quarterly earnings, quarterly, Intel, earnings
Another fiscal quarter brings another Intel earnings report. Once again, they are doing well for themselves as a whole but are struggling to gain a foothold in mobile. In three months, they sold 8.7 billion dollars in PC hardware, of which 3.7 billion was profit. Its mobile division, on the other hand, brought in 51 million USD in revenue, losing 1.1 billion dollars for their efforts. In all, the company is profitable -- by about 3.84 billion USD.
One interesting metric which Intel adds to their chart, and I have yet to notice another company listing this information so prominently, is their number of employees, compared between quarters. Last year, Intel employed about 106,000 people, which increased to 106,300 two quarters ago. Between two quarters ago and this last quarter, that number dropped by 1400, to 104,900 employees, which was about 1.3% of their total workforce. There does not seem to be a reason for this decline (except for Richard Huddy, we know that he went to AMD).
Image Credit: Anandtech
As a final note, Anandtech, when reporting on this story, added a few historical trends near the end. One which caught my attention was the process technology vs. quarter graph, demonstrating their smallest transistor size over the last thirteen-and-a-bit years. We are still slowly approaching 0nm, following an exponential curve as it approaches its asymptote. The width, however, is still fairly regular. It looks like it is getting slightly longer, but not drastically (minus the optical illusion caused by the smaller drops).
Subject: General Tech, Displays, Mobile | July 15, 2014 - 05:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: displaylink, club 3d, 4k
Why would you want a USB 3.0 4K display adapter you might ask? Perhaps you have an ultrabook with limited display outputs that do not output in 4K resolution but somehow you managed to get your hands on a 4K display for work or leisure and have a need for the full resolution. Club 3D now has a family of USB adapters for you, the CSV-2302 USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 4K, CSV-2301 USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 1600p and the CSV-2300D USB 3.0 to DVI-I graphics adapters. This is the first implementation of the DisplayLink DL-5500 chipset and it does indeed support 10bit colour if your display can handle it.
The MSRP for this device when it starts to ship in about 2 weeks will be ~$142.
Club 3D officially launches the next generation of USB 3.0 Graphics adapters capable of outputting high resolutions to DVI-I (2048x 1152p), DisplayPort (2560x 1600p) and the world’s first USB 3.0 to DisplayPort Graphics (CSV-2302) adapter which supports 4K or Ultra High Definition resolution at 3840x 2160p.
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) Port of a desktop computer or notebook is multifunctional and can be used to connect a large variety of (storage) devices, keyboards, mice and and other peripherals like monitors. Back in 2011, Club 3D introduced its first SenseVision USB Graphics adapters. These small external graphics adapters can be used to connect a DVI or HDMI monitor to the USB 2.0 output of a Desktop Computer or Notebook and create a multi screen setup.
The SenseVision USB adapters proved to be very successful across the globe! Not only with travelers but also in (semi) professional environments where more monitors mean more productivity.
The new Club 3D USB 3.0 Graphics adapters are fully ‘Plug and Display’ certified and the USB 3.0 to 4K Graphics Adapter (CSV-2302) is the very first to use the brand new DisplayLink DL-5500 chipset enabling 4K Ultra High Definition output to DisplayPort enabled 4K monitors at 30Hz. The Club 3D USB 3.0 to 4K Graphics Adapter (CSV-2302) is the first device available worldwide with the revolutionary new DisplayLink SoC implemented.
This Graphics adapter uses little resources of your system so it won’t affect performance ensuring at the same time a great image quality. It’s the ideal solution for anyone wanting to expand desktop space in order to use multiple programs simultaneously.
- 3840x2160 output at 30Hz
- Backwards compatible with QHD and HD monitors
- DP 1.2 interface (DisplayPort)
- HDCP 2.0 for protected video playback
- Integrated DisplayPort Audio
Subject: Mobile | July 14, 2014 - 03:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: memo pad 7, memopad, asus, Android 4.4.2
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has a 7" 1280x800 IPS display, a BayTrail Atom Z3745 Quad-Core that can run up to 1.86GHz, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage with support for SD cards up to 32GB. All in all this seems like the stats you would expect from a $150 tablet, but the challenge is to be usable enough to not be returned. Legit Reviews tested out this tablet and were impressed by the graphics performance of the new Atom but were disappointed by the WiFi speeds which were significantly slower than their preferred tablet, the ~$200 Nexus 7.
"Budget friendly Android tablets are a dime a dozen these days, but they all aren’t created equally and there are some very bad tablets out there. When you get into the sub $150 tablet market you need to be very careful with what tablet you go with as companies start cutting costs by reducing the hardware specifications and that can lead to subpar performance and an overall bad user experience. If you’ve ever purchased an inexpensive tablet thinking that they were all the same, you usually find out in under three minutes that you screwed up and will be running to return it."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Adata PV100 4200mAh USB Battery @ eTeknix
- Kingston Mobilelite Wireless G2 @ Hardware Asylum
- Thermaltake Massive Notebook Coolers (V20, SP, TM) Review @ OCC
- Steelseries Stratus Bluetooth iOS Mobile Gaming Controller @ eeTeknix
- Motorola Moto G Smartphone Review @ Hardware Secrets
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2014 - 04:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, VIA, isaiah II, Intel, centaur, arm, amd
There might be a third, x86-compatible processor manufacturer who is looking at the mobile market. Intel has been trying to make headway, including the direct development of Android for the x86 architecture. The company also has a few design wins, mostly with Windows 8.1-based tablets but also the occasional Android-based models. Google is rumored to be preparing the "Nexus 8" tablet with one of Intel's Moorefield SoCs. AMD, the second-largest x86 processor manufacturer, is aiming their Mullins platform at tablets and two-in-ones, but cannot afford to play snowplow, at least not like Intel.
VIA, through their Centaur Technology division, is expected to announce their own x86-based SoC, too. Called Isaiah II, it is rumored to be a quad core, 64-bit processor with a maximum clock rate of 2.0 GHz. Its GPU is currently unknown. VIA sold their stake S3 Graphics to HTC back in 2011, who then became majority shareholder over the GPU company. That said, HTC and VIA are very close companies. The chairwoman of HTC is the founder of VIA Technologies. The current President and CEO of VIA, who has been in that position since 1992, is her husband. I expect that the GPU architecture will be provided by S3, or will somehow be based on their technology. I could be wrong. Both companies will obviously do what they think is best.
It would make sense, though, especially if it benefits HTC with cheap but effective SoCs for Android and "full" Windows (not Windows RT) devices.
Or this announcement could be larger than it would appear. Three years ago, VIA filed for a patent which described a processor that can read both x86 and ARM machine language and translate it into its own, internal microinstructions. The Centaur Isaiah II could reasonably be based on that technology. If so, this processor would be able to support either version of Android. Or, after Intel built up the Android x86 code base, maybe they shelved that initiative (or just got that patent for legal reasons).
But what about Intel? Honestly, I see this being a benefit for the behemoth. Extra x86-based vendors will probably grow the overall market share, compared to ARM, by helping with software support. Even if it is compatible with both ARM and x86, what Intel needs right now is software. They can only write so much of it themselves. It is possible that VIA, being the original netbook processor, could disrupt the PC market with both x86 and ARM compatibility, but I doubt it.
Centaur Technology, the relevant division of VIA, will make their announcement in less than 51 days.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | July 7, 2014 - 04:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tegra k1, OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, google io, google, android extension pack, Android
Sure, this is a little late. Honestly, when I first heard the announcement, I did not see much news in it. The slide from the keynote (below) showed four points: Tesselation, Geometry Shaders, Computer [sic] Shaders, and ASTC Texture Compression. Honestly, I thought tesselation and geometry shaders were part of the OpenGL ES 3.1 spec, like compute shaders. This led to my immediate reaction: "Oh cool. They implemented OpenGL ES 3.1. Nice. Not worth a news post."
Image Credit: Blogogist
Apparently, they were not part of the ES 3.1 spec (although compute shaders are). My mistake. It turns out that Google is cooking their their own vendor-specific extensions. This is quite interesting, as it adds functionality to the API without the developer needing to target a specific GPU vendor (INTEL, NV, ATI, AMD), waiting for approval from the Architecture Review Board (ARB), or using multi-vendor extensions (EXT). In other words, it sounds like developers can target Google's vendor without knowing the actual hardware.
Hiding the GPU vendor from the developer is not the only reason for Google to host their own vendor extension. The added features are mostly from full OpenGL. This makes sense, because it was announced with NVIDIA and their Tegra K1, Kepler-based SoC. Full OpenGL compatibility was NVIDIA's selling point for the K1, due to its heritage as a desktop GPU. But, instead of requiring apps to be programmed with full OpenGL in mind, Google's extension pushes it to OpenGL ES 3.1. If the developer wants to dip their toe into OpenGL, then they could add a few Android Extension Pack features to their existing ES engine.
Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 "Rivalry" Demo from Google I/O 2014.
The last feature, ASTC Texture Compression, was an interesting one. Apparently the Khronos Group, owners of OpenGL, were looking for a new generation of texture compression technologies. NVIDIA suggested their ZIL technology. ARM and AMD also proposed "Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression". ARM and AMD won, although the Khronos Group stated that the collaboration between ARM and NVIDIA made both proposals better than either in isolation.
Android Extension Pack is set to launch with "Android L". The next release of Android is not currently associated with a snack food. If I was their marketer, I would block out the next three versions as 5.x, and name them (L)emon, then (M)eringue, and finally (P)ie.
Would I do anything with the two skipped letters before pie? (N)(O).