Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 5, 2014 - 11:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, project tango, nvidia, google, Android
Today, Google announced their "Project Tango" developer kit for tablets with spatial awareness. With a price tag of $1,024 USD, it is definitely aimed at developers. In fact, the form to be notified about the development kit has a required check box that is labeled, "I am a developer". Slightly above the form is another statement, "These development kits are not a consumer device and will be available in limited quantities".
So yes, you can only buy these if you are a developer.
The technology is the unique part. Project Tango is aimed at developers to make apps which understand the 3D world around the tablet. Two examples categories they have already experimented with are robotics and computer vision. Of course, this could also translate to alternate reality games and mapping.
While Google has not been too friendly with OpenCL in its Android platform, it makes sense that they would choose a flexible GPU with a wide (and deep) range of API support. While other SoCs are probably capable enough, the Kepler architecture in the Tegra K1 is about as feature-complete as you can get in a mobile chip, because it is basically a desktop chip.
Google's Project Tango is available to developers, exclusively, for $1,024 and ships later this month.
Also, that price is clearly a pun.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 4, 2014 - 08:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: computex, computex 2014, arm, cavium, thunderx
While much of the news coming from Computex was centered around PC hardware, many of ARMs partners are making waves as well. Take Cavium for example, introducing the ThunderX CN88XX family of processors. With a completely custom ARMv8 architectural core design, the ThunderX processors will range from 24 to 48 cores and are targeted at large volume servers and cloud infrastructure. 48 cores!
The ThunderX family will be the first SoC to scale up to 48 cores and with a clock speed of 2.5 GHz and 16MB of L2 cache, should offer some truly impressive performance levels. Cavium claims to be the first socket-coherent ARM processor as well, using the Cavium Coherent Processor Interconnect. The I/O capacity stretches into the hundreds of Gigabits and quad channel DDR3 and DDR4 memory speeds up to 2.4 GHz keep the processors fed with work.
Here is the breakdown on the ThunderX families.
ThunderX_CP: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, dual socket coherency, multiple 10/40 GbE and high memory bandwidth. This family is optimized for private and public cloud web servers, content delivery, web caching, search and social media workloads.
ThunderX_ST: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, multiple SATAv3 controllers, 10/40 GbE & PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric for east-west as well as north-south traffic connectivity. This family includes hardware accelerators for data protection/ integrity/security, user to user efficient data movement (RoCE) and compressed storage. This family is optimized for Hadoop, block & object storage, distributed file storage and hot/warm/cold storage type workloads.
ThunderX_SC: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, 10/40 GbE connectivity, multiple PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric for east-west as well as north-south traffic connectivity. The hardware accelerators include Cavium’s industry leading, 4th generation NITROX and TurboDPI technology with acceleration for IPSec, SSL, Anti-virus, Anti-malware, firewall and DPI. This family is optimized for Secure Web front-end, security appliances and Cloud RAN type workloads.
ThunderX_NT: Up to 48 highly efficient cores along with integrated virtSOC, 10/40/100 GbE connectivity, multiple PCIe Gen3 ports, high memory bandwidth, dual socket coherency, and scalable fabric with feature rich capabilities for bandwidth provisioning , QoS, traffic Shaping and tunnel termination. The hardware accelerators include high packet throughput processing, network virtualization and data monitoring. This family is optimized for media servers, scale-out embedded applications and NFV type workloads.
We spoke with ARM earlier this year about its push into the server market and it is partnerships like these that will begin the ramp up to wide spread adoption of ARM-based server infrastructure. The ThunderX family will begin sampling in early Q4 2014 and production should be available by early 2015.
Kaveri Goes Mobile
The processor market is in an interesting place today. At the high end of the market Intel continues to stand pretty much unchallenged, ranging from the Ivy Bridge-E at $1000 to the $300 Haswell parts available for DIY users. The same could really be said for the mobile market - if you want a high performance part the default choice continues to rest with Intel. But AMD has some interesting options that Intel can't match when you start to enter the world of the mainstream notebook. The APU was slow to develop but it has placed AMD in a unique position, separated from the Intel processors with a more or less reversed compute focus. While Intel dominates in the performance on the x86 side of things, the GPU in AMD's latest APUs continue to lead in gaming and compute performance.
The biggest problem for AMD is that the computing software ecosystem still has not caught up with the performance that a GPU can provide. With the exception of games, the GPU in a notebook or desktop remains under utilized. Certain software vendors are making strides - see the changes in video transcoding and image manipulation - but there is still some ground AMD needs to accelerate down.
Today we are looking at the mobile version of Kaveri, AMD's latest entry into the world of APUs. This processor combines the latest AMD processor architecture with a GCN-based graphics design for a pretty advanced part. When the desktop version of this processor was released, we wrote quite a bit about the architecture and the technological advancements made into, including becoming the first processor that is fully HSA compliant. I won't be diving into the architecture details here since we covered them so completely back in January just after CES.
The mobile version of Kaveri is basically identical in architecture with some changes for better power efficiency. The flagship part will ship with 12 Compute Cores (4 Steamroller x86 cores and 8 GCN cores) and will support all the same features of GCN graphics designs including the new Mantle API.
Early in the spring we heard rumors that the AMD FX brand was going to make a comeback! Immediately enthusiasts were thinking up ways AMD could compete against the desktop Core i7 parts from Intel; could it be with 12 cores? DDR4 integration?? As it turns out...not so much.
Subject: General Tech, Displays, Mobile | June 3, 2014 - 04:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vesa, dockport, DisplayPort, amd
Remember DockPort? The three in one connection we have discussed in the past? The Thunderbolt-ish connection for devices with DisplayPort which allows transmission of audio and video plus USB data and power all on one connector. It's here! (even if the devices aren't quite common yet)
NEWARK, CA (3 June 2014) The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) today announced the release of the DockPort standard. Developed by several VESA member companies, DockPort is an optional extension of the DisplayPort standard that will allow USB 3.1 data and DC power for battery charging to be carried over a single DisplayPort connector and cable that also carries high-resolution audio/video (A/V) data.
This new extension of the DisplayPort standard is fully backward compatible with all existing DisplayPort devices. When a DockPort-enabled DisplayPort source such as a computer or tablet is connected with a DockPort-enabled DisplayPort sink such as a display monitor or docking station A/V plus USB data and power will be transferred over a common cable through a single connector. If either the source or sink device is not a DockPort-enabled, then source and sink will recognize only the DisplayPort A/V data stream.
As computing platforms become increasingly mobile, it becomes necessary to reduce the number of external connectors, explained Steve Belt, Corporate Vice President - Strategic Alliances & Solutions Enablement AMD, a VESA member company. With DockPort, VESA has developed a technology standard that enhances elegant docking designs, reduces mobile form factors, and enriches the user experience with streamlined, one-cable access to a wide range of external displays, peripherals and storage.
DockPort is the first royalty-free industry standard that combines these three essential interface functions into a single connector. VESA first revealed its intention to develop this standard at the 2014 International Consumer Electrics Show. It anticipates that several vendors will demonstrate DockPort-enabled DisplayPort systems at Computex Taiwan, which begins today.
Until today, most mobile computing platforms required three separate interfaces to support power charging, data transmission and external video, said Chris Griffith, Business Development Manager for Consumer and Computing Interface at Texas Instruments, a VESA member company. With DockPort, VESA has elegantly merged this ungainly tangle of wires into a single, sleek connector, combining power charging with the industrys most popular data transportUSBand the industrys highest-speed A/V transportDisplayPort. DockPort can reduce system implementation cost as designers can reduce external connectors and simplify docking implementations.
VESA is developing a compliance test protocol to certify systems that meet the DockPort standard. Systems that satisfy this test protocol will be permitted to display VESAs new DockPort logo on their packaging as a guide for consumers seeking this capability.
The new DockPort standard demonstrates the enormous adaptability of the DisplayPort standard, according to VESA Board Chair Alan Kobayashi, Fellow & Executive R&D Management for DisplayPort Group at MegaChips Technology America. On the one hand, DisplayPort is a flexible A/V transport protocol that easily coexists with other protocols, like USBit plays nicely with others. On the other hand, DisplayPort is also a robust and proven connector design whose electro-mechanical properties can accommodate data and power over a common passive copper cable and interface.
Subject: Mobile | June 2, 2014 - 08:46 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: UHD, M.2, gaming laptop, core i7, computex 2014, computex, ASUS ROG, asus, 4k, 15.6 inch
The GX500 is ASUS’s new ultrabook-thin 15.6" gaming laptop from the ROG series, and it features a very impressive 4K screen.
This...isn't your average gaming laptop
Just 0.75” thick (but weighing a robust 4.85lbs - though not bad for a 15.6" gaming machine) the GX500 has some very impressive specs. Running up to an Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M graphics, and what sounds like an awesome UHD 3840 x 2160-pixel display with ASUS “VisualMaster technology” for a claimed 100% NTSC wide color gamut, which is a world-first on a notebook according to ASUS.
The GX500 also includes a M.2 SSD running on a full PCIe x4 connection, and features a dual-fan cooling system to keep thermals in check in what ASUS says is the worlds thinnest 15” gaming notebook.
ASUS has not announced pricing, but states that it will be dependent upon configuration. The ASUS ROG GX500 will be available in Q3 2014.
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In many ways, the Google Nexus 7 has long been the standard of near perfection for an Android tablet. With a modest 7-inch screen, solid performance and low cost, the ASUS-built hardware has stood through one major revision as our top selection. Today though, a new contender in the field makes its way to the front of the pack in the form of the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C). At $150, this new 7-inch tablet has almost all the hallmarks to really make an impact in the Android ecosystem. Finally.
The MeMO Pad 7 is not a new product family, though. It has existed with Mediatek processors for quite some time with essentially the same form factor. This new ME176C model makes some decisions that help it break into a new level of performance while maintaining the budget pricing required to really take on the likes of Google. By coupling the MeMO Pad brand with the Intel Bay Trail Atom processor, the two companies firmly believe they have a winner; but do they?
I have to admit that my time with the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C) has been short; shorter than I would have liked to offer a truly definitive take on this mobile platform. I prefer to take the time to work the tablet into my daily work and home routines. Reading, browsing, email, etc. This allows me to filter though any software intricacies that might make or break a purchasing decision. Still, I think the ASUS design is going to live up to my expectations and is worth every penny of the $150 price tag.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has a 1280x800 resolution IPS screen. This 7-inch device is powered by the new Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core SoC with 1GB of memory and 16GB of on-board storage. The front facing camera is of the 2MP variety while the rear facing camera is 5MP - but you will likely be as disappointed in the image quality of the photos as I was. Connectivity options include the microUSB port for charging and data transfer along with 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz WiFi (sorry, no 5.0 GHz option here). Bluetooth 4.0 allows for low power data sync with other devices you might have and our model shipped with Android 4.4.2 already pre-installed.
The rear of the ASUS MeMO Pad is a pseudo rubber/plastic type material that is easy to grip while not leaving fingerprints behind - a solid combination. The center mounted camera lens takes decent pictures - but I can't put any more praise on it than that. It was easy to find image quality issues with photos even in full daylight. It's hard to know how disappointed to be considering the price, but the Nexus 7 has better optical hardware.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 27, 2014 - 02:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tablet, HP 7 Plus, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer
Years ago, HP purchased Palm with the intention of producing tablets based on WebOS. After a very short time on the market, the company pulled the plug and liquidated their stock for $99. These tablets, of course, sold instantly. Now, HP has developed an Android tablet which actually intends to be sold at that $99 price point.
Called the HP 7 Plus, this tablet has a quad-core SoC from Allwinner Technology, based on the low-power ARM Cortex A7 architecture. This is the architecture that you often see paired with Cortex A15 cores in their "big.LITTLE" arrangement. Complementing this processor is 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, 640x480 front-facing and 2MP rear-facing cameras, and about five (5) hours of battery life. It is capable of Miracast over WiFi, which is an impressive feature for its price.
The operating system is Android 4.2.2, Jelly Bean. While this is not the most recent distribution of Android, it should definitely serve users looking for an under-$100 tablet. Seriously, this space is huge and often a crap shoot in terms of reliability. If HP released a decent device, it could be a winner.
The HP 7 Plus is apparently available now, but out of stock, for $99.99. I do not know whether they already released and sold out immediately, or if it is still waiting on its first shipment.
Subject: Mobile | May 24, 2014 - 08:47 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 8.1, thinkpad 10, Lenovo, ips display, Intel, Bay Trail
Lenovo made the previously-rumored ThinkPad 10 tablet official earlier this month. The business-friendly tablet starts at $599 and will be available in a couple of weeks. Lenovo has packed in quite a bit of hardware into a 10-inch aluminum chassis to create a device capable of up to 10 hours of battery life (productivity not guaranteed).
The official ThinkPad 10 specifications closely match the previous rumors, but we do know a few more finer details. In particular, Lenovo has gone with an aluminum shell hosting a 10.1” 1920x1200 IPS display with 10-point multi-touch (and Gorilla Glass technology), two cameras (2MP webcam and 8MP rear camera), an optional digitizer pen, and a number of docking options.
Fans of handwriting recognition will be pleased with the confirmation of a digitizer while typists will be able to pair the 10-inch tablet with a keyboard dock. Lenovo is also offering a Quickshot cover accessory which is a soft screen cover/case that has a corner that can be easily folded to reveal the camera (and performing this action automatically opens up the camera app).
The tablet dock (which doubles as a charger) is a docking station that adds two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port, and one Ethernet port. On the other hand, the keyboard dock has an angled slot for the ThinkPad 10 to sit in (there is no angled hinge here) and features a physical keyboard and small trackpad.
Finally, if you are more into the Microsoft Surface-style touch keyboard, Lenovo offers a case with an included touch-sensitive keyboard (keys with no physical actuation).
Internally, the ThinkPad 10 uses a Bay Trail Atom Z3795 SoC, either 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of (eMMC 4.5.1) internal storage. Internal radios include 802.11n, Bluetooth, and cellular (3G and 4G LTE). The tablet itself has a micro HDMI video output, micro SD card slot for storage, and a single USB 2.0 port.
All decked out, you are looking at an aluminum-clad tablet weighing less than 1.4 pounds running the full version of Windows 8.1 that starts at $599 for the tablet itself. The four optional accessories (the docks and cases) will cost extra (see below). Note that the touch-sensitive keyboard case and a ruggedized case will be made available later this summer following the June launch of the tablet and other options.
The $599 price ($728 with keyboard) may scare away consumers wanting an entertainment device, but business users and content creators with frequent travel needs (see our own Ryan Shrout) will appreciate the niche features, battery life, and build quality.
For those curious, the accessory costs will break down as follows:
- Ultrabook Keyboard: $129
- Tablet Dock: $119
- Quickshot cover: $59
- Rugged Case: $69 (available later this summer)
- Touch Case: $119 (available later this summer)
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 22, 2014 - 01:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tegra k1, nvidia, iris pro, iris, Intel, hd 4000
The Chinese tech site, Evolife, acquired a few benchmarks for the Tegra K1. We do not know exactly where they got the system from, but we know that it has 4GB of RAM and 12 GB of storage. Of course, this is the version with four ARM Cortex-A15 cores (not the upcoming, 64-bit version based on Project Denver). On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, it was capable of 25737 points, full system.
Image Credit: Evolife.cn
You might remember that our tests with an Intel Core i5-3317U (Ivy Bridge), back in September, achieved a score of 25630 on 3DMark Ice Storm. Of course, that was using the built-in Intel HD 4000 graphics, not a discrete solution, but it still kept up for gaming. This makes sense, though. Intel HD 4000 (GT2) graphics has a theoretical performance of 332.8 GFLOPs, while the Tegra K1 is rated at 364.8 GFLOPs. Earlier, we said that its theoretical performance is roughly on par with the GeForce 9600 GT, although the Tegra K1 supports newer APIs.
Of course, Intel has released better solutions with Haswell. Benchmarks show that Iris Pro is able to play Battlefield 4 on High settings, at 720p, with about 30FPS. The HD 4000 only gets about 12 FPS with the same configuration (and ~30 FPS on Low). This is not to compare Intel to NVIDIA's mobile part, but rather compare Tegra K1 to modern, mainstream laptops and desktops. It is getting fairly close, especially with the first wave of K1 tablets entering at the mid-$200 USD MSRP in China.
As a final note...
There was a time where Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, said that the difference between high-end and low-end PCs "is something like 100x". Scaling a single game between the two performance tiers would be next-to impossible. He noted that ten years earlier, that factor was more "10x".
Now, an original GeForce Titan is about 12x faster than the Tegra K1 and they support the same feature set. In other words, it is easier to develop a game for the PC and high-end tablet than it was to develop an PC game for high-end and low-end machines, back in 2008. PC Gaming is, once again, getting healthier.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 17, 2014 - 01:07 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Lawsuit, google, apple
If we all could just get along and get back to work...
On Friday, May 16th, Apple and Google (including the remains of its Motorola Mobility division) released a joint statement marking the end of all patent litigation between the two companies. The two companies have been in legal warfare for three-and-a-half years, now. The two companies will also "work together in some areas of patent reform". It is unclear what that actually means.
This decision does not seem to affect Apple's ongoing litigation with Samsung. Those two companies are still in a famous and fierce skirmish over mankind's greatest UX innovations, like slide-to-unlock and the little bounce that happens when you scroll to the end of a list too fast. Those are, honestly, the issues that we are facing. I have a suggestion for an area to reform...
... but that has been beaten to death for years, now. It, at least, shows a willingness to cooperate going forward. It also shows a slight bit more promise for products like Ubuntu on phones, Firefox OS, and even smaller initiatives. You can say what you like about the current litigation, but closing the road for independent developers with great and innovative ideas is terrible and bad for society. Unique smartphones could be made, each with slide-to-unlock, just like unique OSes can use icons and web browsers can use tabs.
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