NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Update for November: Android 5.0, "Green Box", GRID Gaming Service

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 13, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid

Today, NVIDIA has announced the November update for their SHIELD Tablet, which is really about three announcements that are rolled up together.

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As expected, the SHIELD Tablet is getting a roll-up to Android 5.0 Lollipop and its new, “Material Design” style guide. NVIDIA's took the opportunity to refresh the SHIELD HUB (my shift key must think that this is an MSI announcement by now...) in the same design specification. While interesting, the two other announcements probably beat it out, especially the GRID streaming service (and how it relates to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4).

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But before we get to GRID, let's talk “The Green Box”. In May, NVIDIA sent us a green crowbar to mark the availability of Half-Life 2 and Portal on the NVIDIA SHIELD. These were full, native ports of the PC title to ARM and Android that is exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD. With the November update, Half-Life 2: Episode One has also been ported to the platform. The three games, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Episode One, are also packaged in “The Green Box” bundle, which will be included free-of-charge with the SHIELD Tablet 32GB. Note that, while the games are included with the tablet, they require a controller to play, which is not included.

Now we talk about GRID.

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Netflix is a popular service where people can watch a variety of movies from their rolling catalog. It will not replace ownership of certain, intrinsically valuable titles, but there is probably options for anyone who wants to consume some form of entertainment. GRID is a similar service for video games, and it is not the first. We took a look at a preview of OnLive in 2010, connecting to a server about 2400 miles away, which is over twice the maximum intended range, and found the experience somewhat positive for games except Unreal Tournament 3 at that relatively extreme latency. Another company, GaiKai, was purchased by Sony and rebranded as PlayStation Now. It will serve up a selection of games from the PS3 catalog. Again, content on these services can be pulled at any time, but if you are just looking for the entertainment value, something else will probably be there to scratch your itch.

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The interesting part that I have been teasing throughout this entire post is the performance of NVIDIA GRID. PlayStation Now is rated at 192 GFLOPs, which is the theoretical GPU compute throughput of the PS3's RSX chip. GRID, on the other hand, is rated for 2448 GFLOPs (~2.5 TFLOPs). This is higher than the PlayStation 4, and almost twice the GPU performance of the Xbox One. On the PC side, it is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 760 Ti.

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This compute rating has a hidden story, too. Back in 2011, Epic Games demoed “Samaritan” in Unreal Engine 3. This was the bar that Epic Games set for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to mark a new console generation. When Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled at the end of E3 2012, it was embodied in the Elemental Demo, which also ran at (you guessed it) 2.5 TFLOPs. At the PlayStation 4 (1.9 TFLOPs) announcement, the demo was scaled back with reduced particles and lighting complexity. It was not shown at either Xbox One (1.3 TFLOPs) announcement at all.

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What all of that means is simple: NVIDIA GRID is the only fixed hardware platform (that I am aware of) to meet Epic's vision of a next-gen gaming system. I say fixed, of course, because the PC can over-double it per card, with some games scaling to four discrete GPUs. This also says nothing about the CPU performance, system memory, or video memory, but it has the GPU in the right place for a next gen platform.

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The NVIDIA GRID preview will launch in November for North America, with East Coast and West Coast servers. It will expand in December for Western Europe, and in “Q2” for Asia Pacific. The service will be free for SHIELD users until June 30th, 2015. The Android 5.0 Update for the SHIELD Tablet will be available on November 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Raspberry Pi Gets an A+ for Education

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education

The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.

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I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.

Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.

The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.

Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Core M 5Y70 Specifications

Back in August of this year, Intel invited me out to Portland, Oregon to talk about the future of processors and process technology. Broadwell is the first microarchitecture to ship on Intel's newest 14nm process technology and the performance and power implications of it are as impressive as they are complex. We finally have the first retail product based on Broadwell-Y in our hands and I am eager to see how this combination of technology is going to be implemented.

If you have not read through my article that dives into the intricacies of the 14nm process and the architectural changes coming with Broadwell, then I would highly recommend that you do so before diving any further into this review. Our Intel Core M Processor: Broadwell Architecture and 14nm Process Reveal story clearly explains the "how" and "why" for many of the decisions that determined the direction the Core M 5Y70 heads in.

As I stated at the time:

"The information provided by Intel about Broadwell-Y today shows me the company is clearly innovating and iterating on its plans set in place years ago with the focus on power efficiency. Broadwell and the 14nm process technology will likely be another substantial leap between Intel and AMD in the x86 tablet space and should make an impact on other tablet markets (like Android) as long as pricing can remain competitive. That 14nm process gives Intel an advantage that no one else in the industry can claim and unless Intel begins fabricating processors for the competition (not completely out of the question), that will remain a house advantage."

With a background on Intel's goals with Broadwell-Y, let's look at the first true implementation.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core M 5Y70 Broadwell-Y Processor!!

Samsung's Galaxy Alpha; hefty build, light on extras

Subject: Mobile | November 3, 2014 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy alpha, android 4.4.4

The Galaxy Alpha seems made for those who want a heftier version of a Galaxy phone, the 4oz phone sports a metal side gives it a more solid feel than the S5 and previous models.  On the other hand the USB, audio and and buttons on that band of metal are not waterproof unlike its siblings so there is a trade off.  The screen is a bit disappointing at 4.7" and 720x1280 resolution which is compounded by the lack of MHL A/V output from the USB port meaning you will need Chromecast or another solution to send A/V to an external device.  The price is very similar to the S5 and other competition, the features and lack thereof are what might drive your decision as it did The Registers recommendations here.  There is no word on its ability to bend as of yet.

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"The Galaxy S3, S4 and S5 have all felt a bit too toy-like for their price tag. Technically impressive they may have been, but the build quality was, and is, too Fisher Price. The new Galaxy Alpha is Samsung’s counterpunch. It is a phone that tries to put aesthetics and build quality on an equal footing with the length of the specification sheet. Now who else does that? Oh yes."

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Source: The Register

Lenovo Officially Acquires Motorola Mobility For $2.91 Billion

Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 11:40 PM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, finance, Android

Lenovo officially acquired Motorola Mobility from Google in a deal worth $2.91 billion (both cash and stock) today. Following the acquisition, Motorola will exist as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenovo. Motorola will retain its headquarters in Chicago's Merchandise Mart along with satellite offices (including Silicon Valley) and approximately 3,500 employees. Note that Google will retain the majority of Motorola's patent portfolio along with the Advanced Technology and Projects research division.

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Lenovo now owns the Motorola brand as well as the Moto and DROID trademarks. Lenovo expects to sell 100 million smartphones within the first year following the acquisition. These smartphones will allegedly continue to feature a stock Android experience with a focus of quick OS updates. Specifically, this Motorola blog post states:

"We will continue to focus on pure Android and fast upgrades, and remain committed to developing technology to solve real consumer problems. And we will continue to develop mobile devices that bring people unprecedented choice, value and quality." -

Lenovo has indicated that it plans to aggressively pursue selling Motorola devices in China, emerging markets, and even stateside. That last bit is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the buyout. Lenovo has been producing smartphones for a couple of years now, and while the mobile devices have held promise, they have yet to be made available in the US market. Now that Lenovo owns Motorola, the company has the branding power, experience, and carrier relationships to bring their devices stateside in a big way. 

Google was not necessarily bad for Motorola but the potential conflicts of interest with other Android phone manufactures, I think, resulted in Google being much more reserved with Motorola when it came to producing new Android hardware. Now that Lenovo holds the future of Motorola, I think the company will be free to compete with new hardware running any manner of OS but especially Android. I'm interested to see where Motorola will go from here and the kinds of devices we'll see from the now Lenovo-owned company. 

Source: Motorola

MSI's GT80 Titan laptop with a mechanical keyboard coming soon

Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: msi, GT80 Titan, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx brown, gaming laptop

The full details are still a little sparse but we do know one thing for sure, the MSI GT80 Titan will be the first gaming laptop with an integral mechanical keyboard, it also happens to be backlit.  The laptop is an 18" model and though it may look large in the pictures MSI reports it will be 17% thinner and 22% lighter than similar machines.  They have also incorporated the SteelSeries Engine with CloudSync to allow you to save and synchronize settings via SteelSeries cloud storage.  Check out the full PR below.

City of Industry, Calif. – October 30, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, unveils the GT80 Titan, the world’s first gaming laptop with a mechanical keyboard.

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First of its kind, MSI’s GT80 Titan ushers the future of gaming by integrating a SteelSeries gaming keyboard with Cherry Brown MX switches into the 18-inch gaming beast. Mechanical keyboards provide superior tactile feedback, increases durability, and enhances overall gaming experience by eliminating key jamming even during the most heated battle sessions.

“Performance is key for gamers and the GT80 Titan will forever change the mobile gaming experience,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “We are proud to be at the forefront of the gaming evolution and will continue to provide solutions that deliver the most outstanding gaming experience in the world.”

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MSI’s newest gaming laptop uses standard Cherry switches and a standard keycap with 27mm of thickness, nearly 5 times of traditional laptop keyboards. It is also the world’s slimmest and lightest 18-inch gaming laptop, measuring 17% thinner and 22% lighter than its closest competitor. To fully optimize the keyboard, the GT80 Titan features an enhanced SteelSeries Engine with CloudSync, allowing users to save and synchronize settings via SteelSeries cloud storage.

Source: MSI

New 13-Inch Windows 8.1 Tablet Rounds Out Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 Lineup

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 09:08 PM |
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, Windows 8.1, Lenovo, Bay Trail, atom z3745, atom

Lenovo made a new 13-inch Windows 8.1 tablet official today rounding out the company's Yoga Tablet 2 family. The aptly named Yoga Tablet 2 With Windows (13") combines the design and hardware features of the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro with the smaller 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Android or Windows) siblings. This tablet lacks the Pico projector of the Pro model, but keeps the JBL audio hardware, QHD IPS display, and kickstand. It further adds a larger version of the Bluetooth AccuType keyboard seen on the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 Windows model. Aimed at productivity tasks, the Bay Trail-powered PC is equipped with additional memory and storage along with an ample 12,800 mAh battery rated at up to 15 hours of general usage (including video/audio playback and web browsing). It will be available for purchase next month for $699.

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The Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows 13-Inch is a 2.27 pound (tablet only) PC featuring a 2560x1440 IPS display, JBL audio with a Wolfson Master Hi-Fi codec (two front facing 1.5W stereo speakers with a rear firing 5W subwoofer), 1.6MP webcam for video conferencing, and a bundled AccuType keyboard cover. External IO includes one micro HDMI video output, one micro USB port, and micro SD card slot, and an analog audio jack. The tablet and keyboard are all ebony black which sets it apart from the other mostly silver-clad Yoga Tablet 2s.

Internally, Lenovo has chosen the quad core Intel Atom (Bay Trail) Z3745 clocked at 1.86GHz, 4GB of LPDDR3 memory, and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded upon by adding a micro SD card up to 64GB. There is no cellular data support, but the tablet does include dual band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios. A large 12,800 mAh Lithium Polymer battery powers the tablet for up to 15 hours, according to Lenovo.

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The tablet runs the full version of Windows 8.1 and comes with a one month trail of Office 365 (which recently started offering 'unlimited' cloud storage).

It will be available for purchase in November on Lenovo.com for $699.

I like the black design and the inclusion of a keyboard along with the usage of Windows 8.1 makes this a better choice for business users than the Android-running Yoga Tablet 2 Pro model. The specifications look pretty good for what it is, though I question how many Lenovo will sell at that price point. You can find older generation convertible tablets, even from Lenovo, running the faster Intel Core (Ivy Bridge and similar) chips in that price range not to mention regular laptops should you not need the hybrid/tablet nature. It is kind of in an odd middle ground between the budget Bay Trail devices and starter ultrabooks though the high resolution IPS display and audio do not hurt.

Do you think it has a place in the market and will you be picking one up?

*For reference, the 13" Yoga Tablet 2 Pro has an MSRP of $499 while the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows, with keyboard) has an MSRP of $399. The $200 or $300 premium (depending on the comparison) gets you (at least) a device with more memory and storage and potentially an added keyboard or a larger device.

Source: Lenovo

ARM Announces Mali-T800 Series of Mobile GPUs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 04:30 AM |
Tagged: arm, mali-T800, mali

While some mobile SoC manufacturers have created their own graphics architectures, others license from ARM (and some even have a mixture of each within their product stack). There does not seem to be a specific push with this generation, rather just increases in the areas that make the most sense. Some comments tout increased energy efficiency, others higher performance, and even API support got a boost to OpenGL ES 3.1, which brings compute shaders to mobile graphics applications (without invoking OpenCL, etc.).

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Three models are in the Mali-T800 series: the T820, the T830, and the T860. As you climb in the list, the products go from entry level to high-performance mobile. GPUs are often designed in modularized segments, which ARM calls cores. You see this frequently in desktop, discrete graphics cards where an entire product stack contains a handful of actual designs, but products are made by disabling whole modules. The T820 and T830 can scale between one to four "core" modules, each core containing four actual "shader cores", while the T860 can scale between one to sixteen "core" modules, each core with 16 "shader cores". Again "core modules" are groups that contain actual shader processors (and L2 cache, etc.). Cores in cores.

This is probably why NVIDIA calls them "Streaming Multiprocessors" that contain "CUDA Cores".

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ARM does not (yet) provide an actual GFLOP rating for these processors, and it is up to manufacturers to some extent. It is normally a matter of multiplying the clock frequency by the number of ops per cycle and by the number of shader units available. I tried, but I assume my assumption of instructions per clock was off because the number I was getting did not match with known values from previous generations, so I assumed that I made a mistake. Also, again, ARM considers their performance figures to be conservative. Manufacturers should have no problem exceeding these, effortlessly.

As for a release timeline? Because these architectures are designed for manufacturers to implement, you should start seeing them within devices hitting retail in late 2015, early 2016.

Source: ARM

Fancy a look at the MSI GS70 Stealth Pro?

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 970M, GS70 Stealth Pro, gaming laptop

Hardware Heaven just put up a quick overview of the new MSI GS70 Stealth Pro with the GTX 970M, i7-4710HQ, 16GB of DDR3-1600, a pair of Toshiba m.2 SSDs in RAID0 and a 1TB HDD.  The screen is 17.3" at 1920×1080 and for those using this as a desktop replacement the HDMI and two mini-DisplayPort connections will allow 4K or triple display setups.  It is less than 2cm thick but thanks to the all metal design it should not bend as much as certain other recently released mobile devices.  The benchmarks of a variety of games showed the i7-4710HQ to perform similarly to the i7-4800MQ but the real star was the 970M; check it out here.

To really delve deep into this new mobile GPU check out Ryan's review.

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"Last week NVIDIA launched their latest mobile GPU, based on their Maxwell architecture which powers the likes of their high end GTX 980. Today in our MSI GS70 Stealth Pro Review (GS70 2QE) we take a look at a laptop which uses the new GTX 970M in games such as Alien Isolation and The Enemy Within."

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Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GeForce GTX 980M Performance Testing

When NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 graphics cards last month, part of the discussion at our meetings also centered around the mobile variants of Maxwell. The NDA was a bit later though and Scott wrote up a short story announcing the release of the GTX 980M and the GTX 970M mobility GPUs. Both of these GPUs are based on the same GM204 design as the desktop cards, though as you should have come to expect by now, do so with lower specifications than the similarly-named desktop options. Take a look:

  GTX 980M GTX 970M
GTX 980
(Desktop)
GTX 970
(Desktop)
GTX 880M
(Laptop)
CUDA Cores 1536 1280 2048 1664 1536
Core (MHz) 1038 924 1126 1050 954
Perf. (TFLOP) 3.189 2.365 4.612 3.494 2.930
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 3GB 4GB 4GB 4GB/8GB
Memory Rate 2500 MHz 2500 MHz 7.0 (GT/s) 7.0 (GT/s) 2500 MHz
Memory Width 256-bit 192-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Architecture Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Kepler
Process Node 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
DirectX Version 12.0 12.0 12.0 12.0 11.0

Just like the desktop models, GTX 980M and GTX 970M are built on the 28nm process technology and are tweaked and built for power efficiency - one of the reasons the mobile release of this product is so interesting.

With a CUDA core count of 1536, the GTX 980M has 33% fewer shader cores than the desktop GTX 980, along with a slightly lower base clock speed. The result is a peak theoretical performance of 3.189 TFLOPs, compared to 4.6 TFLOPs on the GTX 980 desktop. In fact, that is only slightly higher than the GTX 880M based on Kepler, that clocks in with the same CUDA core count (1536) but a TFLOP capability of 2.9. Bear in mind that the GTX 880M is using a different architecture design than the GTX 980M; Maxwell's design advantages go beyond just CUDA core count and clock speed.

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The GTX 970M is even smaller, with a CUDA core count of 1280 and peak performance rated at 2.365 TFLOPs. Also notice that the memory bus width has shrunk from 256-bit to 192-bit for this part.

As is typically the case with mobile GPUs, the memory speed of the GTX 980M and GTX 970M is significantly lower than the desktop parts. While the GeForce GTX 980 and 970 that install in your desktop PC will have memory running at 7.0 GHz, the mobile versions will run at 5.0 GHz in order to conserve power.

From a feature set stand point though, the GTX 980M/970M are very much the same as the desktop parts that I looked at in September. You will have support for VXGI, NVIDIA's new custom global illumination technology, Multi-Frame AA and maybe most interestingly, Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR). DSR allows you to render a game at a higher resolution and then use a custom filter to down sample it back to your panel's native resolution. For mobile gamers that are using 1080p screens (as our test sample shipped with) this is a good way to utilize the power of your GPU for less power-hungry games, while getting a surprisingly good image at the same time.

Continue reading our review of the GeForce GTX 980M Mobile GPU!!