Podcast #463 - AMD VEGA 64, Flash Memory Summit, and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 17, 2017 - 11:21 AM |
Tagged: video, T5, Samsung, RX VEGA 64, qualcomm, podcast, PC-Q39, P4800X, NX500, NGSFF, micron, Lian Li, Intel, EK Supremacy EVO, EDSFF, corsair, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #463 - 08/17/17

Join us for AMD Threadripper, Intel Rumors, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison, Sebastian Peak

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:37:18

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:26:30 Jeremy: caveat emptor
    2. 1:32:30 Ken: Prusa i3 MK2S 3D Printer (NOW IN STOCK!)
  4. Closing/outro
 

Source:

Depth-sensing tech from Qualcomm challenges Apple

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, spectra, depth sensing, apple

New camera and image processing technology from Qualcomm promises to change how Android smartphones and VR headsets see the world. Depth sensing isn’t new to smartphones and tablets, first seeing significant use in Google’s Project Tango and Intel’s RealSense Technology. Tango uses a laser-based implementation that measures roundtrip times bouncing off surfaces but requires a bulky lens on the rear of the device. Early Tango phones like the Lenovo Phab 2 were hindered by large size requirements as a result. Intel RealSense was featured in the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet and allowed the camera to adjust depth of field and focal points after the image had been capturing. It used a pair of cameras and calculated depth based on parallax mapping between them, just as the human eye works.

Modern devices like the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8 offer faux-depth perception for features like portrait photo modes. In reality, they only emulate the ability to sense depth by use different range camera lenses and don’t provide true depth mapping capability.

New technology and integration programs at Qualcomm are working to improve the performance, capability, and availability of true depth sensing technology for Android-based smartphones and VR headsets this year. For the entry-level market devices that today do not have the ability to utilize depth sensing, a passive camera module was built to utilize parallax displacement and estimate depth. This requires two matching camera lenses and a known offset distance between them. Even low-cost phones will have the ability to integrate image quality enhancements like blurred bokeh and basic mixed or augmented reality, bringing the technology to a mass market.

The more advanced integration of the Qualcomm Spectra module program provides active depth sensing with a set of three devices. A standard high resolution camera is paired with both an infrared projector and an infrared camera that are utilized for high resolution depth map creation. The technology projects an infrared image with a preset pattern into the world, invisible to the human eye, but picked up by the IR camera. The Spectra image processor on the Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platform then measures the displacement and deformations of the pattern to determine the depth and location of the items in the physical world. This is done in real-time, at high frame rates and high resolution to create a 10,000 data point “cloud” in a virtual 3D space.

depth1.png

For consumers this means more advanced security and advanced features on mobile devices. Face detection and mapping that combines the standard camera input along with the IR depth sensing combination will allow for incredibly accurate and secure authentication. Qualcomm claims that the accuracy level is high enough to prevent photos of faces and even 3D models of faces from unlocking the device thanks to interactions of human skin and eyes with IR light.

3D reconstruction of physical objects will also be possible with active depth sensing, allowing gamers to bring real items into virtual worlds. It also allows designers to accurately measure physical spaces that they can look through in full 3D. Virtual reality and augmented reality will benefit from the increased accuracy of its localization and mapping algorithms, improving the “inside-out” tracking capabilities of dedicated headsets and slot-in devices like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Daydream.

depth2.png

Though the second generation Qualcomm Spectra ISP (image sensor processor) is required for the complex compute tasks that depth sensing will create, the module program the company has created is more important for the adoption, speed of integration, and cost of the technology to potential customers. By working with companies like Sony for image sensors and integration on modules, Qualcomm has pre-qualified sets of hardware and provides calibration profiles for its licensees to select from and build into upcoming devices. These arrangements allow for Qualcomm to remove some of the burden from handset vendors, lowering development time and costs, getting depth sensing and advanced photo capabilities to Android phones faster.

It has been all but confirmed that the upcoming Apple iPhone 8 will have face detection integrated on it and the company’s push into AR (augmented reality) with iOS 11 points to a bet on depth sensing technology as well. Though Apple is letting developers build applications and integrations with the current A9 and A10 processors, it will likely build its own co-processor to handle the compute workloads that come from active depth sensing and offset power consumption concerns of using a general purpose processor.

Early leaks indicate that Apple will focus its face detection technology on a similar path to the one Qualcomm has paved: security and convenience. By using depth-based facial recognition for both login and security (as a Touch ID replacement), users will have an alternative to fingerprints. That is good news for a device that is having problems moving to a fingerprint sensor design that uses the entire screen.

It now looks like a race to integration for Android and Apple smartphones and devices. The Qualcomm Spectra ISP and module program will accelerate adoption in the large and financially variable Android market, giving handset vendors another reason to consider Qualcomm chipsets over competing solutions. Apple benefits from control over the entire hardware, software, and supply chain, and will see immediate adoption of the capabilities when the next-generation iPhone makes its debut. 

Source:

Qualcomm's new Spectra Module Program and ISPs

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2017 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, spectra

Back in May Ryan covered the hardware that comprises Qualcomm's new SOCs, the Snapdragon 660 and 630 which will feature the new Spectra Image Signal Processors.  Today, The Tech Report have published a look at how these powerful new ISPs will change the mobile market.  The Spectra Module Program has been created to offer the a complete package to hardware developers instead of having them create the software themselves and customize the hardware for that software.  Drop by to take a look at the various sensor packages Qualcomm will be offering right here.

spectra-eco.png

"Qualcomm's next-gen Spectra image signal processors bring extensive depth-sensing capabilities to the company's mobile processing platforms. We explore how these capabilities could shape the next generation of mobile devices."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

HTC Vive Standalone VR Headset to expand VR market with low cost, dedicated hardware

Subject: Mobile | July 27, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR, virtual reality, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 835

This article first appeared on MarketWatch and Shrout Research.

During the ChinaJoy 2017 event in Shanghai, VR pioneer HTC announced its standalone VR headset aimed at the China market. This marks the first major player in the virtual reality space to officially reveal a standalone product intended for the broad consumer market that requires a more affordable, portable VR solution.

Standalone VR headsets differ from the current options on the market in two distinct ways. First, they are disconnected from a PC and don’t require attachment to a desktop for processing or display output. The current HTC Vive product that ships in the market, as well as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, require a high-end PC to play VR games and use HDMI and USB connections to power the headsets. This new standalone design also moves away from the slot-in design of the Samsung Gear VR and doesn’t require the user to monopolize their smartphone for VR purposes.

Though mobile-first VR solutions like Gear VR have existed for several years, selling on the market before the PC-based solutions were released, the move of HTC from tethered virtual reality to a wireless standalone unit signals a shift in the market. Consumers see the value and quality experiences that VR can provide but the expense and hassle of in-place configurations have stagnated adoption.

Caption - VIVE Standalone VR headset designed for the Chinese market and....jpg

HTC is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform to power the Vive Standalone VR Headset, the same chipset used in many high-end smartphones on the market today. Qualcomm and HTC can modify traits of the processor to improve performance without worrying about the sensitive battery life of a consumer’s phone. Though we don’t know the specifics of what HTC might have modified for the configuration of this standalone unit, it likely is a mirror of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR hardware development kit that was announced in February. That design includes the capability for six degrees of freedom tracking (moving around a space accurately without external sensors), high resolution displays for each eye, and a full suite of graphics and digital signal processors to handle the complex workloads of VR experiences.

Though HTC is the first to announce and a complete standalone VR product, HTC and others announced their intent to release standalone units in the US later this year through Google’s Daydream program. Lenovo plans to build a VR headset using the same Qualcomm reference design for the Daydream platform.

Facebook-owned Oculus has not officially announced its intent but rumors in July point us to another Qualcomm-powered headset that will sell for around $200. Facebook plans to reveal the hardware in October.

HTC’s decision to target the China market first is driven by its ability to promote its custom Viveport software store in a region that does not offer Google services like the Android Play Store or Daydream. HTC will leverage a customer base that is larger than North America and Western Europe combined, and one that is expected to grow rapidly. IDC statistics show VR headset shipments reaching 10.1 million units this year and target 61 million units by 2020 worldwide. iResearch Consulting estimates Chinese VR market revenues to reach $8.1B in that same time frame.

Growth in VR and AR (augmented reality) is driven by the consumer markets but it is the enterprise implementations that provide the push for expanded usage models. Medical professionals already utilize VR technology to analyze data and mechanical engineers can dissect and evaluate models of products in a virtual space to improve and speed up workflows. Target fields also include factory workers, emergency personnel, the military, delivery drivers, and nearly all facets of business. As VR technology improve usability, comfort, and general societal acceptance, the merger of virtual and augmented reality hardware will create a new age of connected consumers.

Qualcomm Partners with Bosch, OmniVision, and Ximmerse to Shore Up Mobile VR Sensors

Subject: Mobile | June 27, 2017 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, qualcomm, google, daydream, AR

Qualcomm has put forward steady work on creating the vibrant hardware ecosystem for mobile VR to facilitate broad adoption of wireless, dedicated head mounted displays. Though the value of Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View cannot but overstated in moving the perception of consumer VR forward, the need to utilize your smart phone in a slot-in style design has its limitations. It consumes battery that you may require for other purposes, it limits the kinds of sensors that the VR system can utilize, and creates a sub-optimal form factor in order to allow for simple user installation.

sd835vr.jpg

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

Qualcomm created the first standalone VR HMD reference design back in early 2016, powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor. Google partnered with Qualcomm at I/O to create the Daydream standalone VR headset reference design with the updated Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform at its core, improving performance and graphical capability along the way. OEMs like Lenovo and HTC have already committed to Daydream standalone units, with Qualcomm at the heart of the hardware.

Qualcomm Technologies recently announced a HMD Accelerator Program (HAP) to help VR device manufacturers quickly develop premium standalone VR HMDs. At the core of this program is the standalone VR HMD reference design. It goes beyond a simple prototype device, offering a detailed reference design that allows manufacturers to apply their own customizations while utilizing our engineering, design, and experience in VR. The reference design is engineered to minimize software changes, hardware issues, and key component validation.

- Hugo Swart, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

As part of this venture, and to continue pushing the VR industry forward to more advanced capabilities like XR (extended reality, a merger of VR and AR), Qualcomm is announcing agreements with key component vendors aiming to tighten and strengthen the VR headset ecosystem.

hugoswart.jpg

Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

Ximmerse has built a high-precision and drift-free controller for VR applications that offers low latency input and 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) capability. This can “provide just about any interaction, such as pointing, selecting, grabbing, shooting, and much more. For precise 6 DoF positional tracking of your head, tight integration is required between the sensor fusion processing (Snapdragon) and the data from both the camera and inertial sensors.”

Bosch Sensortec has the BMX055 absolute orientation sensor that performs the function that its name would imply: precisely locating the user in the real world and tracking movement via accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.

ov9281.jpg

Finally, OmniVision integrates the OV9282 which is a 1MP high speed shutter image sensor for feature tracking.

These technologies, paired with the work Qualcomm has already done for the Snapdragon 835 VR Development Kit, including on the software side, is an important step to the growth of this segment of the market. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t believe standalone, wireless headsets are the eventual future of VR and AR and the momentum created by Qualcomm, Google, and others continues its steady pace of development.

Source: Qualcomm
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Google

Introduction and Design

In case you have not heard by now, Pixel is the re-imagining of the Nexus phone concept by Google; a fully stock version of the Android experience on custom, Google-authorized hardware - and with the promise of the latest OS updates as they are released. So how does the hardware stack up? We are late into the life of the Pixel by now, and this is more of a long-term review as I have had the smaller version of the phone on hand for some weeks now. As a result I can offer my candid view of the less-covered of the two Pixel handsets (most reviews center around the Pixel XL), and its performance.

DSC_0186.jpg

There was always a certain cachet to owning a Nexus phone, and you could rest assured that you would be running the latest version of Android before anyone on operator-controlled hardware. The Nexus phones were sold primarily by Google, unlocked, with operator/retail availability at times during their run. Things took a turn when Google opted to offer a carrier-branded version of the Nexus 6 back in November of 2014, along with their usual unlocked Google Play store offering. But this departure was not just an issue of branding, as the price jumped to a full $649; the off-contract cost of premium handsets such as Apple’s iPhone. How could Google hope to compete in a space dominated by Apple and Samsung phones purchased by and large with operator subsidies and installment plans? They did not compete, of course, and the Nexus 6 flopped.

Pixel, coming after the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6p and LG-manufactured Nexus 5X, drops the “Nexus” branding while continuing the tradition of a reference Android experience - and the more recent tradition of premium pricing. As we have seen in the months since its release, the Pixel did not put much of a dent into the Apple/Samsung dominated handset market. But even during the budget-friendly Nexus era, which offered a compelling mix of day-one Android OS update availability and inexpensive, unlocked hardware (think Nexus 4 at $299 and Nexus 5 at $349), Google's own phones were never mainstream. Still, in keeping with iPhone and Galaxy flagships $649 nets you a Pixel, which also launched through Verizon in an exclusive operator deal. Of course a larger version of the Pixel exists, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the Pixel XL. Unfortunately I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that stock for the XL has been quite low with availability constantly in question.

DSC_0169.jpg

The Pixel is hard to distinguish from an iPhone 7 from a distance (other than the home button)

Google Pixel Specifications
Display 5.0-inch 1080x1920 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996)
CPU Cores 2x 2.15 GHz Kryo
2x 1.60 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 530
RAM 4GB LPDDR4
Storage 32 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X12 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 4.2
USB 3.0
NFC
Dimensions 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, 143 g
OS Android 7.1

Continue reading our review of the Google Pixel smartphone!

Windows 10, the Snapdragon 835 and its X16 LTE buddy

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2017 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 835, x16 LTE

The Register has heard the names of the three vendors that Qualcomm will tap to produce Win10 machines running on their chips.  The winners are as expected, Lenovo, HP and ASUS will be licensed to sell these mysterious low powered and extremely mobile devices.  Unfortunately that is pretty much all we know, there were no dates nor models announced by Qualcomm or its new partners.  We can certainly speculate that these devices will be as thin as the battery will allow, the cooling solution for a Snapdragon can be extremely compact, assume that you will not see any wired NICs as the RJ-45 jack would be thicker than the device.  We should be able to assume their will be a headphone jack at least.

snapdragon-chip-tiny.png

"The chipmaker says the three vendors will be making PCs that will sport its Snapdragon 835 SoC (system-on-chip) and its X16 LTE chipset for wireless broadband connectivity. Qualcomm says all of the models will be fanless and will offer all-day battery life."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Computex 2017: ASUS, HP, Lenovo to Build Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Windows 10 Machines

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 31, 2017 - 03:30 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, Lenovo, hp, Gigabit LTE, asus

Back in December of 2016, Qualcomm and Microsoft announced a partnership to bring Windows to platforms based on the Snapdragon platform. Not Windows RT redux, not Windows mobile, not Windows Mini, full blown Windows with 100% application support and compatibility. It was a surprising and gutsy move after the tepid response (at best) to the ARM-based Windows RT launch several years ago. Qualcomm and Microsoft assure us that this time things are different, thanks to a lot of learning and additional features that make the transition seamless for consumers.

The big reveal for this week is the initial list of partners that Qualcomm has brought on board to build Windows 10 system around the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform. ASUS, HP, and Lenovo will offer machines based around that SoC, though details on form factors, time frames, pricing and anything else you WANT to know about it, is under wraps. These are big time names though, leaders in the PC notebook space, and I think their input to the platform is going to be just as valuable as them selling and marketing it. HP is known for enterprise solutions, Lenovo for mass market share, and ASUS for innovative design and integration.

win10onSD-15.jpg

(If you want to see an Android-based representation of performance on a mobile-based Snapdragon 835 processor, check out our launch preview from March.)

Also on the show floor, Qualcomm begins its marketing campaign aimed to show the value that Snapdragon offers to the Windows ecosystem. Today that is exemplified in a form factor difference comparing the circuit board layout of a Snapdragon 835-based notebook and a “typical” competitor machine.

board1.jpg

board2.jpg

Up top, Qualcomm is showing us the prototype for the Windows 10 Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform. It has a total area of 50.4 cm2 and just by eyeballing the two images, there is a clear difference in scope. The second image shows only what Qualcomm will call a “competing commercial circuit board” with an area of 98.1 cm2. That is a decrease in PCB space of 48% (advantage Qualcomm) and gives OEMs a lot of flexibility in design that they might not have had otherwise. They can use that space to make machines thinner, lighter, include a larger battery, or simply to innovate outside the scope of what we can imagine today.

Continue reading about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform with Windows 10 announcement!

Source: Qualcomm

Google Daydream Standalone VR Headset Powered by Snapdragon 835

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 17, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, google io 2017, google, daydream

During the Google I/O keynote, Google and Qualcomm announced a partnership to create a reference design for a standalone Daydream VR headset using Snapdragon 835 to enable the ecosystem of partners to have deliverable hardware in consumers’ hands by the end of 2017. The time line is aggressive, impressively so, thanks in large part to the previous work Qualcomm had done with the Snapdragon-based VR reference design we first saw in September 2016. At the time the Qualcomm platform was powered by the Snapdragon 820. Since then, Qualcomm has updated the design to integrate the Snapdragon 835 processor and platform, improving performance and efficiency along the way.

Google has now taken the reference platform and made some modifications to integrate Daydream support and will offer it to partners to show case what a standalone, untethered VR solution can do. Even though Google Daydream has been shipping in the form of slot-in phones with a “dummy” headset, integrating the whole package into a dedicate device offers several advantages.

First, I expected the free standalone units to have better performance than the phones used as a slot-in solution. With the ability to tune the device to higher thermal limits, Qualcomm and Google will be able to ramp up the clocks on the GPU and SoC to get optimal performance. And, because there is more room for a larger battery on the headset design, there should be an advantage in battery life along with the increase in performance.

sd835vr.jpg

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

It is also likely that the device will have better thermal properties than those using high smartphones today. In other words, with more space, there should be more area for cooling and thus the unit shouldn’t be as warm on the consumers face.

I would assume as well that the standalone units will have improved hardware over the smartphone iterations. That means better gyros, cameras, sensors, etc. that could lead to improved capability for the hardware in this form. Better hardware, tighter and more focused integration and better software support should mean lower latency and better VR gaming across the board. Assuming everything is implemented as it should.

The only major change that Google has made to this reference platform is the move away from Qualcomm’s 6DOF technology (6 degrees of freedom, allowing you to move in real space and have all necessary tracking done on the headset itself) and to Google calls WorldSense. Based on the Google Project Tango technology, this is the one area I have questions about going forward. I have used three different Tango enabled devices thus far with long-term personal testing and can say that while the possibilities for it were astounding, the implementations had been…slow. For VR that 100% cannot be the case. I don’t yet know how different its integration is from what Qualcomm had done previously, but hopefully Google will leverage the work Qualcomm has already done with its platform.

Google is claiming that consumers will have hardware based on this reference design in 2017 but no pricing has been shared with me yet. I wouldn’t expect it to be inexpensive though – we are talking about all the hardware that goes into a flagship smartphone plus a little extra for the VR goodness. We’ll see how aggressive Google wants its partners to be and if it is willing to absorb any of the upfront costs with subsidy.

Let me know if this is the direction you hope to see VR move – away from tethered PC-based solutions and into the world of standalone units.

Source: Qualcomm

Podcast #449 - NVIDIA Announcements, Dell predictions, watercooling components

Subject: Editorial | May 11, 2017 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: video, zalman, Z270-A, snapdragon, ryzen, qualcomm, NVIDIA Tesla, fractal design, corsair, asus, aptX, Alphacool, podcast

PC Perspective Podcast #449 - 05/11/17

Join us for NVIDIA Announcements, Dell Predictions, Reviews on watercooling components and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Morry Teitelman, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:26:08
 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Statuscore CPU load / test (also works on Ryzen)
  1. Closing/outro

Source: