Intel to Merge PC and Mobile Businesses

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel

Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.

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And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.

At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.

The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.

Source: WSJ

Testing Updated NVIDIA GRID on SHIELD Tablet with Lollipop

Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2014 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: tegra, shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid

In December of last year we took NVIDIA's GRID technology through some testing and discussed our experiences in text and video. At that point you were able to play 8 specific games under the guise of a beta program. The experience was pretty good and a definite improvement over my first attempt at streaming games (OnLive). Here is what I wrote last year:

Overall my experience with the first beta of GRID was very positive including both latency and image quality.  Yes, there were definitely times when we got a lot of macro-blocking due to bandwidth hiccups, but they were infrequent.  You could tell pretty much anytime there was motion on the screen that you were watching a video rather than native gameplay, but I think the effect is much less apparent now than it was when I first tried services like OnLive.

Input latency is also definitely seen, and was most evident in my testing with Street Fighter IV.  You can even see some of it in our video embedded on this post.  That is something that NVIDIA claims to have really optimized for with their integrated H.264 encoding on the server GPUs, but getting more servers in more locations will help tremendously moving forward.

Today, along with the official roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollipop software update for the SHIELD Tablet, the NVIDIA GRID service goes into official release. What exactly that means is up in the air, as the service is still set to be free to all SHIELD and SHIELD Tablet users through June 2015. What I can tell you is that the quality of the experience has been improved and the game selection has expanded quite a bit, with more to come.

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Setup of GRID is much easier now, as long as you have the appropriate hardware to get GRID service up and running. That means a SHIELD Portable or SHIELD Tablet with SHIELD Controller. These are the items that stand out beyond that:

  • Internet connection with at least a 10 Mbps download speed
  • Home network with 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server
  • NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router

I have asked for the location of the GRID servers geographically, as that will definitely be a factor in your ability to get the appropriate 60 ms or lower ping time. (UPDATE: NVIDIA tells me that the current locations are Oregon and Virginia.) The list of compatible routers has been growing over the last year as well including some from Netgear, D-Link, Buffalo and ASUS. If you don't already have one of these routers, you can still TRY to use the GRID service but it won't be officially supported by NVIDIA.

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LEGO Batman 2

The games available to play on NVIDIA GRID has expanded as well.

  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare
  • Astebreed
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Borderlands
  • Borderlands 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • Darksiders
  • Darksiders 2
  • Dead Island
  • Dirt 2
  • LEGO Batman 2
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
  • Race Driver GRID
  • Strike Suit Zero
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Street Fighter X Tekken
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Trine 2
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV

There are some great titles in here including Borderlands, Saint's Row, The Witcher 2, the Batman games, etc. and if you haven't played them before then getting access to them for free is awesome. Even better, NVIDIA has committed to adding one new game each week between now and June of next year. NVIDIA upgraded the login / account system to move away from being associated solely with the device and instead uses your Google account login information to register save data.

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In terms of game quality and gaming experience, I would say that GRID continues to improve. I spent some time with DiRT 2, LEGO Batman 2, Street Fighter IV and The Witcher 2 and in all cases the games looked great, with very little macro-blocking or stutter. We tested on both our office connection (1.0 Gbps fiber) and my home connection (30 Mbps cable) and the results were pretty much the same.

For those concerned with latency of input, there is definitely still some there, most apparent in fighting game like Street Fighter IV. With Borderlands and Borderlands 2 being the only FPS games in the collection, you could likely assume that the twich-style actions of these types of shooters would be most affected. Titles like Street Fighter IV and DiRT 2, for those of us that don't consider ourselves experts, can be adjusted to; you can make your mind compensate for the added input differences of playing games locally.

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DiRT 2

With the SHIELD Tablet, another possible use for GRID is to play these streaming games on your TV. The tablet itself has an HDMI output and is capable of outputting 1080p to your big screen. With the SHIELD Controller you can get a true couch gaming experience with GRID; I am looking forward to showing this to my niece and nephews over the Thanksgiving holiday and getting some reactions and feedback.

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The Witcher 2

The other big news today is the release of SHIELD Tablet software update 2.0 that includes Android 5.0 and Lollipop, updates for the new GRID release and an updated NVIDIA Dabbler V2.0 program. We'll have more thoughts on that software update very soon but you can get more details on the upgrades Lollipop provides for NVIDIA's tablet right here.

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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

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