Intel bets $300m on their Ultrabook-ie. Next step: broken leg

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 11, 2011 - 02:23 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel

Intel has this little platform that they are attempting to push against the world known as the Ultrabook, a category of ultra-thin and light laptops that range 11-inch to 17-inch screens with high performance and high price. The actual cost of an Ultrabook is somewhat hotly debated between Intel and others. On the Intel side of the fence, the claim for the cost of parts in an Ultrabook range between $475 and $710; this bill of materials comes days after manufacturers discussed component costs around the $1000 mark. To further push the Ultrabook platform, Intel just released a statement announcing a $300 million fund to invest in technologies that further the Ultrabook platform.

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Is Intel getting themselves into a jackpot?

Intel described their intents with the fund in this snippet from their press release:

Ultrabooks will deliver a highly responsive and secure experience in a thin, light and elegant design and at mainstream prices. To help realize that vision, the Intel Capital Ultrabook Fund aims to invest in companies building hardware and software technologies focused on enhancing how people interact with Ultrabooks such as through sensors and touch, achieving all day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improved storage capacity. The overall goal of the fund, which will be invested over the next 3-4 years, is to create a cycle of innovation and system capabilities for this new and growing category of mobile devices.

It looks as though Intel is putting their money where their mouth is. While $300 million is not exactly huge in the scale of Intel revenue it is a substantial sum and equal (less inflation) to what they used to back Centrino over eight years ago. While their last investment went to subsidizing wireless access points, marketing, and similar programs this investment should be mostly focused on the technology itself -- both hardware and software -- with battery, input, and interface specifically mentioned. Part of me muses about Meego in terms of the Ultrabook platform potentially even as a supplement to Windows. We shall see what Intel has in store for the platform that could, and bludgeoned forward with heaps of raw cash when it could not.

Read on for the press release in full.

ASRock's small unassuming HTPC hides real power

Subject: Systems | August 2, 2011 - 07:23 PM |
Tagged: asrock, CoreHT-252B, htpc

Inside the 195mm (7.6") x 70mm (2.8") x 186mm (7.2")  ASRock CoreHT-252B HTPC you will find a Core i5 2520m, 8GB DDR3-1333, a Lite-ON Blu-ray combodrive and a 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Black HDD.  Pretty much all that you would need to run a proper HTPC and in a form that will look fine sitting under a TV.  For input and output you have S/PDIF, mic-in, headphone-out, HDMI 4.1a and VGA as well as 2 USB 3.0, 4 USB 2.0 and an eSATA3 port for data transfer if you don't want to use the wired or wireless NICs.  They sell it without an OS, which can be welcome for those wanting to build a MythTV or other non-Windows MCE HTPC and Overclockers Club were also glad of the upgrade options that this HTPC offers.  Head to their full review here.
 

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"If, on the other hand, you want an HTPC that can also act as a desktop replacement, look no further. There's adequate power for rendering of all sorts and the included RAM ought to cover most non-professional needs, but, if more is required, the board does support 8GB. Storage can be upgraded to include another 2.5" storage drive, and the included WD Scorpio Black could easily be replaced with an SSD. If more power is needed, the board will support the Core i7 2720m for more processing power (two more cores and threads!). A Blu-ray drive and wireless 802.11n wireless are included as standard."

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Seconds of Raspberry Pi: $25 a slice, $35 with whip cream

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 30, 2011 - 07:53 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi

I must say, that unlike cake: pie is the foundation of everlasting relationships – like circumference and diameter! That, and cake always seems to end up in lies (yes, that horse is still twitchin’). While my personal favorite flavor is blueberry I might just become fond of Raspberry Pi in the near future. We originally reported on the organization dedicated to providing computing technology to the masses a few months ago when they showed off their prototype computer-in-a-usb-stick. More progress on the logistics as well as a firm specification on the PCB have occurred since then and it aligns nearly perfectly with original predictions.

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That… doesn’t really look edible…

(Picture from Raspberry Pi)

The original prediction was a $25 device 700 MHz device backed by 128MB of RAM and an OpenGL ES 2.0 1080p-capable GPU. While that is still true, a second model will be released for $35 with double the RAM and an extra USB port for peripheral connectivity due to the addition of the SMSC LAN9512 two-device USB hub. The alpha board is slightly larger than the final design due to the ports required for debugging purposes and contains an extra couple layers on the PCB that will not be present in the final version. It is still expected to ship within the next 9 months (12 from original post) with the target narrowed slightly to likely sometime in 2011.

Source: Raspberry Pi

Western Digital offers a great way to store and stream your media

Subject: Systems | July 25, 2011 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: htpc, western digital

The Western Digital TV Live Hub is a 1TB external HDD with some extra tricks up its plastic sleeve.  It's outputs include ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI, Composite A/V, Component video and optical out, with support for an even wider variety of audio and video codecs but not for some premium services like iTunes and Amazon.  Think Computers loved the onscreen interface controlled by the remote as well as the fact that it comes with a 1TB HDD so that you don't have to spend more money to get the full functionality of the media device, they would have loved to see some video cables included as well.

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“For most people their TV is the center of entertainment in the living room. You watch cable television on it, you play your video game consoles on it and you watch DVD and Blu-ray movies on it. We all know there are devices for that, but what about all of the media you have on your PC? All the videos you have taken, shows you have downloaded and even the photos you have. No one wants to sit around a small computer screen and watch these. This is where the Western Digital TV Live Hub comes in. It is a HD media player that supports pretty much any file type and has a 1TB hard drive for all of your media. Let’s take a look an see what Western Digital has brought to the table in the HD media player market!"

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HTPC

Server building and U

Subject: Systems | July 20, 2011 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: rack mount, server, 3U

If you read PC Perspective on a regular basis the chances are very good that you have purchased individual components and assembled yourself a PC from them.  There is a lesser chance that you have built a server, especially one using a rack mountable casing.  The terminology is different, less about ATX and more about rack unit or U.  U is a measurement of size, with a 1U case bearing a remarkable resemblance to a pizza box, with a height of 1.75 inches (44.45 mm) with a width depending on the style of racks you are installing into, with 19" and 23" being the standard.  OCC takes you through the assembly of both an ATX case as well as a 3U case and recommendations of OS and software based on the intended use of your new server in this article.

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"Hardware is one of the most important items in building a server, regardless of its overall purpose. Without enough power or memory to run the necessary applications, the server would subsequently be useless. Depending on its intended usage, however, the hardware may vary slightly. It is often a good idea to sit down and create a plan beforehand. Personally, I live by a rule of thumb that purchasing more than needed is better than having the server become congested or even fail when it is needed the most. For this guide, I will be putting together two different types of servers. The first will be a gaming server, designed to host multiple instances of LAN-based games. The second will be a file/web server, intended to back up data and make items accessible from any computer in a network. As always, hardware can vary depending on your needs; this is just a general overview of a configuration that I would use, based on the available hardware that I have on hand. Keep in mind that any computer can function as a server as long as the necessary software is installed. Therefore, you may even have old parts that can be reused for your server."

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Systems

Can you go with wireless HDMI over USB 2.0 with VStream?

Subject: Systems | July 13, 2011 - 04:55 PM |
Tagged: wireless, htpc, hdmi

At its heart the VStream WPCTV1080H is comprised of an L-shaped USB 2.0 dongle for your PC and a second dongle which plugs into the base station which also has a  power cord and HDMI plug.  This setup, along with a 2.4GHz dual core processor, is intended to transmit up to a 1080p signal wirelessly from the computer with the dongle to the base station and on to your TV.  The Tech Report gave the $120 VStream a try and found that the bandwidth available over USB 2.0 caused some problems, ranging from dropped frames and colour banding when watching movies to nasty aliasing on 2D application, especially when they tried using it to connect to a 24 " monitor and used it to browse the web.  Lets hope there is a USB 3.0 version in the works, or even a wireless DisplayPort model.

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"This $120 adapter promises to output 1080p video wirelessly via nothing more than a USB dongle. Does it fulfill its promise, and is it worth the money?"

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

PC: for all your Xbox gaming needs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | July 11, 2011 - 09:57 PM |
Tagged: xbox, pc gaming

Last week we reported on Microsoft rolling their Games for Windows initiative into Xbox.com and I essentially said that unless Microsoft is trying to roll their now established Xbox brand into Windows that they are missing the point of PC gaming. This week we hear rumors that, in fact, Microsoft may be trying to roll their now established Xbox brand into Windows. According to Insideris, Windows 8 will allow you to play Xbox 360 games on your PC. That said, despite speculation as a result of this news, it does not state whether it will be the complete catalog or a subset of 360 games that are compatible with the PC.

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Which came first? The console or the Newegg?

What does this mean for PC gaming? I am unsure at this point. A reasonable outcome would be that Xbox becomes a user-friendly brand for Microsoft’s home theatre PC initiatives which adds a whole lot more sense to the Windows 8 interface outside of the tablet PC space. This is a very positive outcome for the videogame industry as a whole since it offers the best of Xbox for those who desire it and the choice of the PC platform.

This however opposes Microsoft’s excessively strict stance on closed and proprietary video gaming platforms. Could Microsoft have been pushing their proprietary platform to gut the industry norms knowing that at some point they would roll back into their long-standing more-open nature of Windows? Could Microsoft be attempting to lock down PCs, meeting somewhere in the middle? We will see, but my hopes are that proprietary industry will finally move away from art. After all, why have a timeless classic if your platform will end-of-life in a half-dozen years at best?

Source: Insideris

A PC Macbook Air: Can Intel has?

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | July 10, 2011 - 06:45 AM |
Tagged: Intel, ultrabook

Intel has been trying to push for a new classification of high-end, thin, and portable notebooks to offset the netbook flare-up of recent memory. Intel hopes that by the end of 2012, these “Ultrabooks” will comprise 40% of consumer notebook sales. What is the issue? They are expected to retail in the 1000$ range which is enough for consumers to buy a dual-core laptop with 4 GB of RAM and a tablet. Intel is not fazed by this and has even gone to the effort of offering money to companies wishing to develop these Ultrabooks; the OEMs are fazed, however, and even with Intel’s pressing there is only one, the ASUS UX21, slated to be released in September.

Asus sticking its neck out. (Video by Engadget)

For the launch, Intel created three processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture: the i5-2557M, the i7-2637M, and the i7-2677M. At just 17 watts of power, these processors should do a lot on Intel’s end to support the branding of Ultrabooks having long battery life and an ultra-thin case given the lessened need for heat dissipation. Intel also has two upcoming Celeron processors which are likely the same ones we reported on two months ago. Intel has a lot to worry about when it comes to competition with their Ultrabook platform though; AMD will have products that appeal to a similar demographic for half the price and tablets might just eat up much of the rest of the market.

Do you have a need for a thousand dollar ultraportable laptop? Will a tablet not satisfy that need?

(Registration not required for commenting)

Source: ZDNet

Step into the HTPC arena to witness the battle for iGPU dominance

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 09:33 PM |
Tagged: htpc, llano, sandybridge; a3850; i3 2100, amd, Intel, APU

In one corner is the $140 AMD A8-3850 and in the other is the $135 Intel Core i3-2100T, with matching motherboards both about $100.  We have seen how the new Llano chips stack up in computation and gaming but their use in HTPC systems is also important and requires different benchmarks.  Bjorn3D takes a look at the two chips ability to properly render Blu-ray at the proper 23.976 fps naturally as well as taking advantage of Direct X Video Acceleration.  Take a look to see how AMD's new APU can handle a role as an HTPC.

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"In addition to being a capable mainstream APU, the Llano and the new Lynx platform have the potential to be a perfect match for a more capable HTPC system. In this article we are taking a look at the HTPC capabilities of the A3850 and a Gigabyte A75 motherboard, and contrasting it to a comparable Intel system with a Core i3-2100T and an ASRock H67 motherboard."

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Systems

Source: Bjorn3D

Putting together a silent and powerful mATX system

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: Silverstone, Fortress FT03S, zotac, Z68-ITX Wi-Fi, mATX

Using the Silverstone Fortress FT03S, an mATX case measuring 235mm x 284mm x 487mm (9.25" x 11.18" x 19.17") Hardware Heaven crafted a great machine for HTPC use or for those wanting a quiet and diminutive work station.  Inside is a Zotac Z68 board, a Core i3 2100, an Intel 80GB X25-M SSD, two 4GB Corsair Vengenace DDR3 DIMMs, a Sony Blu-Ray drive, an Asus Essence STX Sound Card and the Sapphire Ultimate HD6670 as a discrete GPU.  All of that seems a fairly tight fit, but Hardware Heaven shows that even more powerful parts could be contained within.  Check out the full build process here.

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"Last month we took a look at building a Fusion based HTPC which was based around an m-ITX motherboard and silent case. This system offered good media playback and decent general computing however there are consumers who require more performance from a compact system. Therefore today we are going to look at building a compact, stylish system based on Intel's Z68 chipset in ITX form (The Zotac Z68-ITX) and the Core i3-2100."

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Systems