Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: EVGA

NVIDIA Tegra Note Program

Clearly, NVIDIA’s Tegra line has not been as successful as the company had hoped and expected.  The move for the discrete GPU giant into the highly competitive world of the tablet and phone SoCs has been slower than expected, and littered with roadblocks that were either unexpected or that NVIDIA thought would be much easier to overcome. 

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The truth is that this was always a long play for the company; success was never going to be overnight and anyone that thought that was likely or possible was deluded.  Part of it has to do with the development cycle of the ARM ecosystem.  NVIDIA is used to a rather quick development, production, marketing and sales pattern thanks to its time in high performance GPUs, but the SoC world is quite different.  By the time a device based on a Tegra chip is found in the retail channel it had to go through an OEM development cycle, NVIDIA SoC development cycle and even an ARM Cortex CPU development cycle.  The result is an extended time frame from initial product announcement to retail availability.

Partly due to this, and partly due to limited design wins in the mobile markets, NVIDIA has started to develop internal-designed end-user devices that utilize its Tegra SoC processors.  This has the benefit of being much faster to market – while most SoC vendors develop reference platforms during the normal course of business,  NVIDIA is essentially going to perfect and productize them.

Continue reading our review of the NVIDIA Tegra Note 7 $199 Tablet!!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Design

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With few exceptions, it’s generally been taken for granted that gaming notebooks are going to be hefty devices. Portability is rarely the focus, with weight and battery life alike usually sacrificed in the interest of sheer power. But the MSI GE40 2OC—the lightest 14-inch gaming notebook currently available—seeks to compromise while retaining the gaming prowess. Trending instead toward the form factor of a large Ultrabook, the GE40 is both stylish and manageable (and perhaps affordable at around $1,300)—but can its muscle withstand the reduction in casing real estate?

While it can’t hang with the best of the 15-inch and 17-inch crowd, in context with its 14-inch peers, the GE40’s spec sheet hardly reads like it’s been the subject of any sort of game-changing handicap:

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One of the most popular CPUs for Haswell gaming notebooks has been the 2.4 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo) i7-4700MQ. But the i7-4702MQ in the GE40-20C is nearly as powerful (managing 2.2 GHz and 3.2 GHz in those same areas respectively), and it features a TDP that’s 10 W lower at just 37 W. That’s ideal for notebooks such as the GE40, which seek to provide a thinner case in conjunction with uncompromising performance. Meanwhile, the NVIDIA GTX 760M is no slouch, even if it isn’t on the same level as the 770s and 780s that we’ve been seeing in some 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch gaming beasts.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD rounding out the major bullet points. Nearly everything here is on par with the best of rival 14-inch gaming models with the exception of the 900p screen resolution (which is bested by some notebooks, such as Dell’s Alienware 14 and its 1080p panel).

Continue reading our review of the MSI GE40 2OC!!!

(WinSupersite) Surface 2 Reviewed

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 1, 2013 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, Surface 2

The Surface 2 is what happened to the Surface RT. Microsoft decided that "RT" has no place on this product except, of course, its software ("Windows RT") because they painted themselves into a corner on that one. The message is something like, "It's Windows RT 8.1 but not Windows 8.1; in fact, you cannot run that software on it". I expect, and you probably know I have voiced, that this all is a moot point in the semi-near future (and that sucks).

Microsoft's "Official" Surface 2 overviews.

Paul Thurrott down at his Supersite for Windows reviewed Surface 2 in terms of the original Surface RT. The inclusion of Tegra 4 was a major plus for him yielding "night and day" improvement over the previous Tegra 3. In fact, he thinks that everything is at least as good as the original. There is not a single point on his rubric where the Surface RT beats its successor.

Of course there is a single section where the Surface 2 lacks (it is shared with the Surface RT and I think you can guess what it is). The ecosystem, apps for Windows RT, is the platform's "Achilles Heel". It is better than it once was, with the inclusion of apps like Facebook, but glaring omissions will drive people away. He makes this point almost in passing but I, of course, believe this is a key issue.

It is absolutely lacking in key apps, and you will most likely never see such crucial solutions as full Photoshop, iTunes, or Google Chrome on this platform. But if we're being honest with ourselves here, as we must, these apps are, for better or worse, important. (The addition of Chrome alone would be a huge win for both Windows RT and Surface 2.)

I agree that this is the problem with the Windows RT platform and, in Google Chrome's case, the blame belongs to no-one but Microsoft. They will explicitly deny any web browser unless it is a reskin of Internet Explorer (using the "Trident" rendering system and their Javascript engine). You will not see full Firefox or full Google Chrome because Gecko, Servo, Webkit, and Blink are not allowed to be installed on end-user machines.

You are paying Microsoft to not let you install third party browsers. Literally.

Not only does this limit its usefulness but it also reduces the pressure to continue innovation. Why add developer features to Internet Explorer when you can control their use with Windows Store? Sure, Internet Explorer has been on a great trajectory since IE9. I would say that versions 10 and especially 11 could be considered "top 3" contenders as app platforms.

The other alternative is the web, and this is where Internet Explorer 11 plays such a crucial role. While many tier-one online services—Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player and Prime Video, and so on—are lacking native Windows RT aps, the web interfaces (should) work fine, and IE 11 is evolving into a full-featured web app platform that should present a reasonable compromise for those users.

Only if Microsoft continues their effort. No-one else is allowed to.

Now that I expanded that point, be sure to check out the rest of Paul Thurrott's review. He broke his review down into sections, big and small, and stuck his opinion wherever he could. Also check out his preview of the Nokia Lumia 2520 to see whether that (if either device) is worth waiting for.

Transformers finally vanquished the Ultrabook

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2013 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: asus, transformer t100, transformer book

The ASUS Transformer Book T100 is two devices, a 10.1" 1366 x 768 tablet powered by a quad-core BayTrail based Atom Z3740 @ 1.33GHz base speed and Intel's HD graphics and 2GB of RAM.  Storage is dependent on the model, both 32GB and 64GB models are available and you can expand that with up to another 64GB with an additional SD Card.  The dock adds a keyboard as well as more connectivity options such as USB 3.0.  If you want to see how it performs you can see The Tech Report's full review here.

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"Despite its low $350 starting price, the Transformer Book T100 offers a quad-core Bay Trail SoC, a 10" IPS touchscreen, 10+ hours of battery life, a USB 3.0-equipped keyboard dock, and the full-fat version of Windows 8.1. We take a closer look at the most uniquely compelling notebook/tablet hybrid to date."

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ARM TechCon 2013: Altera To Produce ARMv8 Chips on Intel 14nm Fabs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2013 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: techcon, Intel, arm techcon, arm, Altera, 14nm

In February of this year Intel and Altera announced that they would be partnering to build Altera FPGAs using the upcoming Intel 14nm tri-gate process technology.  The deal was important for the industry as it marked one of the first times Intel has shared its process technology with another processor company.  Seen as the company's most valuable asset, the decision to outsource work in the Intel fabrication facilities could have drastic ramifications for Intel's computing divisions and the industry as a whole.  This seems to back up the speculation that Intel is having a hard time keeping their Fabs at anywhere near 100% utilization with only in-house designs.

Today though, news is coming out that Altera is going to be included ARM-based processing cores, specifically those based on the ARMv8 64-bit architecture.  Starting in 2014 Altera's high-end Stratix 10 FPGA that uses four ARM Cortex-A53 cores will be produced by Intel fabs.

The deal may give Intel pause about its outsourcing strategy. To date the chip giant has experimented with offering its leading-edge fab processes as foundry services to a handful of chip designers, Altera being one of its largest planned customers to date.

Altera believes that by combing the ARMv8 A53 cores and Intel's 14nm tri-gate transistors they will be able to provide FPGA performance that is "two times the core performance" of current high-end 28nm options.

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While this news might upset some people internally at Intel's architecture divisions, the news couldn't be better for ARM.  Intel is universally recognized as being the process technology leader, generally a full process node ahead of the competition from TSMC and GlobalFoundries.  I already learned yesterday that many of ARM's partners are skipping the 20nm technology from non-Intel foundries and instead are looking towards the 14/16nm FinFET transitions coming in late 2014. 

ARM has been working with essentially every major foundry in the business EXCEPT Intel and many viewed Intel's chances of taking over the mobile/tablet/phone space as dependent on its process technology advantage.  But if Intel continues to open up its facilities to the highest bidders, even if those customers are building ARM-based designs, then it could drastically improve the outlook for ARM's many partners.

UPDATE (7:57pm): After further talks with various parties there are a few clarifications that I wanted to make sure were added to our story.  First, Altera's FPGAs are primarly focused on the markets of communication, industrial, military, etc.  They are not really used as application processors and thus are not going to directly compete with Intel's processors in the phone/tablet space.  It remains to be seen if Intel will open its foundries to a directly competing product but for now this announcement regarding the upcoming Stratix 10 FPGA on Intel's 14nm tri-gate is an interesting progression.

Source: EETimes
Author:
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM is Serious About Graphics

Ask most computer users from 10 years ago who ARM is, and very few would give the correct answer.  Some well informed people might mention “Intel” and “StrongARM” or “XScale”, but ARM remained a shadowy presence until we saw the rise of the Smartphone.  Since then, ARM has built up their brand, much to the chagrin of companies like Intel and AMD.  Partners such as Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Rockchip, and NVIDIA have all worked with ARM to produce chips based on the ARMv7 architecture, with Apple being the first to release the first ARMv8 (64 bit) SOCs.  The multitude of ARM architectures are likely the most shipped chips in the world, going from very basic processors to the very latest Apple A7 SOC.

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The ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures are very power efficient, yet provide enough performance to handle the vast majority of tasks utilized on smartphones and tablets (as well as a handful of laptops).  With the growth of visual computing, ARM also dedicated itself towards designing competent graphics portions of their chips.  The Mali architecture is aimed at being an affordable option for those without access to their own graphics design groups (NVIDIA, Qualcomm), but competitive with others that are willing to license their IP out (Imagination Technologies).

ARM was in fact one of the first to license out the very latest graphics technology to partners in the form of the Mali-T600 series of products.  These modules were among the first to support OpenGL ES 3.0 (compatible with 2.0 and 1.1) and DirectX 11.  The T600 architecture is very comparable to Imagination Technologies’ Series 6 and the Qualcomm Adreno 300 series of products.  Currently NVIDIA does not have a unified mobile architecture in production that supports OpenGL ES 3.0/DX11, but they are adapting the Kepler architecture to mobile and will be licensing it to interested parties.  Qualcomm does not license out Adreno after buying that group from AMD (Adreno is an anagram of Radeon).

Click to read the entire article here!

ARM TechCon 2013 Will Showcase the Internet of Things

Subject: Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 26, 2013 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: techcon, iot, internet of things, arm

This year at the Santa Clara Convention Center ARM will host TechCon, a gathering of partners, customers, and engineers with the goal of collaboration and connection.  While I will attending as an outside observer to see what this collection of innovators is creating, there will be sessions and tracks for chip designers, system implementation engineers and software developers.

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Areas of interest will include consumer products, enterprise products and of course, the Internet of Things, the latest terminology for a completely connected infrastructure of devices.  ARM has designed tracks for interested parties in chip design, data security, mobile, networking, server, software and quite a few more. 

Of direct interest to PC Perspective and our readers will be the continued release of information about the Cortex-A12, the upcoming mainstream processor core from ARM that will address the smartphone and tablet markets.  We will also get some time with ARM engineers to talk about the coming migration of the market to 64-bit.  Because of the release of the Apple A7 SoC that integrated 64-bit and ARMv8 architecture earlier this year, it is definitely going to be the most extensively discussed topic. If you have specific questions you'd like us to bring to the folks at ARM, as well as its partners, please leave me a note in the comments below and I'll be sure it is addressed!

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I am also hearing some rumblings of a new ARM developed Mali graphics product that will increase efficiency and support newer graphics APIs as well. 

Even if you cannot attend the event in Santa Clara, you should definitely pay attention for the news and products that are announced and shown at ARM TechCon as they are going to be a critical part of the mobile ecosystem in the near, and distant, future.  As a first time attendee myself, I am incredibly excited about what we'll find and learn next week!

Imagination Technologies Unleashes Warrior MIPS P5600 CPU Core Aimed at Embedded and Mobile Devices

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Networking, Processors, Mobile | October 19, 2013 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged: SoC, p5600, MIPS, imagination

Imagination Technologies, a company known for its PowerVR graphics IP, has unleashed its first Warrior P-series MIPS CPU core. The new MIPS core is called the P5600 and is a 32-bit core based on the MIPS Release 5 ISA (Instruction Set Architecture).

The P5600 CPU core can perform 128-bit SIMD computations, provide hardware accelerated virtualization, and access up to a 1TB of memory via virtual addressing. While the MIPS 5 ISA provides for 64-bit calculations, the P5600 core is 32-bit only and does not include the extra 64-bit portions of the ISA.

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The MIPS P5600 core can scale up to 2GHz in clockspeed when used in chips built on TSMC's 28nm HPM manufacturing process (according to Imagination Technologies). Further, the Warrior P5600  core can be used in processors and SoCs. As many as six CPU cores can be combined and managed by a coherence manager and given access to up to 8MB of shared L2 cache. Imagination Technologies is aiming processors containing the P5600 cores at mobile devices, networking appliances (routers, hardware firewalls, switches, et al), and micro-servers.

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A configuration of multiple P5600 cores with L2 cache.

I first saw a story on the P5600 over at the Tech Report, and found it interesting that Imagination Technologies was developing a MIPS processor aimed at mobile devices. It does make sense to see a MIPS CPU from the company as it owns the MIPS intellectual property. Also, a CPU core is a logical step for a company with a large graphics IP and GPU portfolio. Developing its own MIPS CPU core would allow it to put together an SoC with its own CPU and GPU components. With that said, I found it interesting that the P5600 CPU core was being aimed at the mobile space, where ARM processors currently dominate. ARM is working to increase performance while Intel is working to bring its powerhouse x86 architecture to the ultra low power mobile space. Needless to say, it is a highly competitive market and Imagination Technologies new CPU core is sure to have a difficult time establishing itself in that space of consumer smartphone and tablet SoCs. Fortunately, mobile chips are not the only processors Imagination Technologies is aiming the P5600 at. It is also offering up the MIPS Series 5 compatible core for use in processors powering networking equipment and very low power servers and business appliances where the MIPS architecture is more commonplace.

In any event, I'm interested to see what else IT has in store for its MIPS IP and where the Warrior series goes from here!

More information on the MIPS 5600 core can be found here.

Lenovo Launches Miix2 Windows 8.1 Tablet Powered By Bay Trail-T SoC

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 16, 2013 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, tablet, miix2, Lenovo, Bay Trail-T

Today, Lenovo launched a new tablet called the Miix2. The successor to the original Miix, the Miix2 is an 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet powered by Intel's new “Bay Trail-T” Atom processor. The tablet measures 8.5” x 5.2” x 0.32” and weighs 350 grams (~12 ounces).

The Lenovo Mix 2 has an 8-inch 1280x800 IPS display that supports 10-point capacitive multi-touch. There is a 2MP front webcam and a 5MP rear camera. A Windows button sits below the display when in portrait mode. A detachable cover can be fitted to the side of the tablet and act as a stand when in landscape mode. The $20 cover also comes with a capacitive stylus.

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Internally, the Miix2 features a quad-core Intel Bay Trail-T processor, 2GB of RAM, up to 128GB eMMC storage, support for up to 32GB of micro SD external storage, Wi-Fi, and 3G in select countries. The eMMC storage options include 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB. The company claims up to 7 hours of battery life for the Miix2.

The new Bay Trail-T powered tablet will come pre-loaded with Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system (the full x86 version) and a full license of Office Home and Student 2013 productivity suite.

The specifications are not amazing, but serviceable. Hopefully Lenovo introduces an alternative SKU with an active digitizer, a higher resolution display, and physical keyboard for business users. For now though, Lenovo has a decent consumer-level Windows 8.1 tablet for $299 that will be available at the end of October.

What do you think about the Miix2? 

Source: Lenovo

A tablet of a different colour, the Thor Quad FHD

Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2013 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: iconbit, tablet, Thor Quad FHD, android 4.1

iconBIT is certainly not a brand that most people would recognize but they might be worth checking out when you are sourcing a new tablet.  It is run by a Cortex A9 @ 1.6GHz with the usual Mali MP400 GPU and comes with 16GB of storage with the older Android 4.1 OS installed.  The 10.1" screen is 1920x1080 allowing for proper HD playback and at 630g it is a little heavier than some tablets but also has sturdier construction.  MadShrimps liked the tablet overall and are glad to see some competition for the big names but perhaps their favourite part was that it ships with a matching leatherette cover.

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"The Thor Quad FHD tablet from iconBIT is quite balanced, featuring a Rockchip RK3188 Quad Core CPU at 1.6GHz, Mali MP-400 MP4 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of NAND Flash. Of course, we also have a microSDHC card slot for expanding the storage (supports up to 32GB cards). Besides those mentioned, it is also notable the inclusion of the 5MP camera with flash on the back, which provides better quality shots compared to lower specced models."

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Source: MadShrimps