New Products for 2017
PC Perspective was invited to Austin, TX on May 11 and 12 to participate in ARM’s yearly tech day. Also invited were a handful of editors and analysts that cover the PC and mobile markets. Those folks were all pretty smart, so it is confusing as to why they invited me. Perhaps word of my unique talent of screenshoting PDFs into near-unreadable JPGs preceded me? Regardless of the reason, I was treated to two full days of in-depth discussion of the latest generation of CPU and GPU cores, 10nm test chips, and information on new licensing options.
Today ARM is announcing their next CPU core with the introduction of the Cortex-A73. They are also unwrapping the latest Mali-G71 graphics technology. Other technologies such as the CCI-550 interconnect are also revealed. It is a busy and important day for ARM, especially in light of Intel seemingly abandoning the sub-milliwatt mobile market.
ARM previously announced the Cortex-A72 in February, 2015. Since that time it has been seen in most flagship mobile devices in late 2015 and throughout 2016. The market continues to evolve, and as such the workloads and form factors have pushed ARM to continue to develop and improve their CPU technology.
The Sofia Antipolis, France design group is behind the new A73. The previous several core architectures had been developed by the Cambridge group. As such, the new design differs quite dramatically from the previous A72. I was actually somewhat taken aback by the differences in the design philosophy of the two groups and the changes between the A72 and A73, but the generational jumps we have seen in the past make a bit more sense to me.
The marketplace is constantly changing when it comes to workloads and form factors. More and more complex applications are being ported to mobile devices, including hot technologies like AR and VR. Other technologies include 3D/360 degree video, greater than 20 MP cameras, and 4K/8K displays and their video playback formats. Form factors on the other hand have continued to decrease in size, especially in overall height. We have relatively large screens on most premium devices, but the designers have continued to make these phones thinner and thinner throughout the years. This has put a lot of pressure on ARM and their partners to increase performance while keeping TDPs in check, and even reducing them so they more adequately fit in the TDP envelope of these extremely thin devices.
Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 01:11 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, security, iot
TrendMicro discovered vulnerabilities in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series, including the 800, 805 and 810 on devices running a 3.10-version kernel. They have privately discussed the issue with Google who have since pushed out updates to resolve these issues on their phones, preventing attackers from gaining root access with a specially crafted app. Unfortunately that is the tip of the iceberg as according to Qualcomm more than a billion devices use Snapdragon processors or modems, many of them IoT devices which have not had this update. With the already fragmented market getting worse as everyone and their dog are now creating IoT devices the chances are very good that your toaster, fridge and other random internet connected devices are vulnerable and will remain so.
You should think twice when considering the balance of convenience and security when you are purchasing internet connected household appliances and other IoT devices. You can see what Slashdot readers think about this here if you so desire.
"Security experts at Trend Micro have discovered a vulnerability in Qualcomm Snapdragon-produced SoC devices. In fact, it is the same vulnerability that cropped up earlier in the month, affecting Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Edge Android handsets. This in itself is concerning as these are devices that are no longer in line for security updates, but more concerning is the fact that the same chips are used in IoT devices."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Radeon Pro Duo spearheads AMD's push for VR dominance @ The Tech Report
- Microsoft Still Accepts Bitcoin, Apologizes For 'Inaccurate Information' @ Slashdot
- Making proteins talk to silicon electronics @ Nanotechweb
- Watch Open Networking Summit This Week via Free Live Video Stream @ Linux.com
- Negotiations continue on Foxconn Sharp deal @ DigiTimes
- Mozilla will release its Servo browser for alpha testing in June @ The Inquirer
- ARM and TSMC join forces to develop 7nm FinFET technology @ The Inquirer
- Here's what an Intel Broadwell Xeon with a built-in FPGA looks like @ The Register
Podcast #388 - Samsung SSD T3, Logitech G933 and G633, Vulkan on Android, HTC Vive Pricing and more!
Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2016 - 02:14 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: YOGA 710, YOGA 510, vulkan, VR, vive, video, T3, T1, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, Oculus, MWC 2016, logitech, LG G5, Lenovo, htc, galaxy s7, G933, G633
PC Perspective Podcast #388 - 02/25/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung SSD T3, Logitech G933 and G633, Vulkan on Android, HTC Vive Pricing and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store (audio only)
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 1:42:11
Week in Review:
0:41:35 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintreepayments.com/pcper
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2016 - 11:43 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, Samsung, galaxy, s7, s7 edge, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 820
I got to spend some time with the brand new Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones at MWC this week in Barcelona. Is this your next Android flagship phone?
Subject: Mobile | February 23, 2016 - 08:14 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon 820, Samsung, s7, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, galaxy
No one is more excited to see the Snapdragon 820 processor in the Galaxy S7 (in some regions) than Qualcomm and Qualcomm's investors. Missing the S6 design win completely was a big blow to the SD 810 but the move to FinFET technology and a new SoC design have put the SD 820 back in the driver's seat for flagship smartphones it seems. While talking with Qualcomm's Peter Carson, Senior Director of Marketing and Modems, I learned quite a bit about the X12 LTE modem integration with the Galaxy S7 as well. As it turns out, the application processor itself isn't the only thing that has impressed OEMs or that will benefit consumers.
Modem marketers have a problem - quantifying the advantages of one LTE modem over another can be troublesome and complex. It's not as simple as X% faster or X% longer battery life, though those aspects of performance see improvement with better modem technology. And while of course the new announcement of Gigabit LTE is getting all the media attention at Mobile World Congress this week, there is a lot of excitement internally about the shipping implementation of the S7's modem.
The Galaxy S7 encompasses the most advanced Qualcomm TruSignal antenna technology implementation to date, combining several features to add real-world benefits to the cellular performance of the device.
First, the S7 will feature the most advanced version of the antenna tuner including a closed loop feedback cycle that will tweak antenna properties in real time based on sensor data and current signal properties. If the proximity sensor is activated or you are rotating or moving the mobile device, the receiver can adjust antenna properties to improve signal reliability measurably.
The best examples fall on the cell edge, where dropped calls are common and low voice quality are found. You can improve the gain of the antenna, that is adversly affected by simply holding the device, for much better reliability and even data throughput. That means fewer dropped calls and network drops for users that have moderate service reliability. Voice quality will get better as well, as the error rates that cause data loss in low signal areas will be reduced.
But even users that have a good signal can get benefits from the tech - gains of just 2-3 db will allow the modem and receiver to go into a lower power state, reducing 20% of the modem power draw. That won't equate to 20% total system battery life improvement but users that depend on their phones for extended use will see benefits from this integration.
Another TruSignal feature included in this modem implementation is smart transmit antenna switching. The simple explanation here is that the modem can swap which antennas are in receive and transmit modes in order to improve the transmit (upload) performance by as much as 10db! Based on properties of the antenna signal, position of the device and if you are in a heavy upload workload (posting some photos to Facebook, a video to YouTube), TruSignal allows the modem to change in real-time.
These techniques are additive so Galaxy S7 owners will find that both the antenna tuner and antenna switching are going to move the cellular performance forward, though Qualcomm isn't saying if ALL implementation of Samsung's new flagship smartphone will implement the features. I would guess that we'll see this on the Snapdragon 820 + X12 powered models only,
but I haven't learned yet which modem the Exynos-powered versions are using yet. Turns out the versions of the S7 that utilize the Samsung Exynos SoC are using a non-Qualcomm modem, so they will not support the features seen here.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 22, 2016 - 05:09 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, snapdragon 820, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, LG, G5
The new LG G5 flagship smartphone offers a unique combination of form factor, performance and modularity that no previous smartphone design has had. But will you want to buy in?
I had a feeling that the Snapdragon 820 SoC from Qualcomm would make an impression at Mobile World Congress this year and it appears the company has improved on the previous flagship processor quite a bit. Both Samsung and LG have implemented it into the 2016 models, including the new G5, offering up a combination of performance and power efficiency that is dramatically better than the 810 that was hindered by heat and process technology concerns.
Along with the new processor, the G5 includes 4GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage with micro SD expansion, a 2,800 mAh battery and Android 6.0 out of the box. The display is 5.3-in and uses LG IPS technology with a 2560x1440 resolution, resulting in an impressive 554 PPI. LG has updated the USB connection to Type-C, a move that Samsung brushed off as unnecessary at this time.
The phones design is pretty standard and will look very familiar to anyone that has handled a G4 or similar flagship smartphone in recent months. It was bigger in the hand than the iPhone 6s but considering the panel size differences, it was more compact than expected.
Modularity is the truly unique addition to the G5 though. The battery is replaceable by sliding out a bottom portion of the phone, released with a tab on the left side. This allows LG to maintain the metal body construction but still offer flexibility for power users that are used to having extra batteries in their bag. This mechanism also means LG can offer add-on modules for the phone.
The first two available will be the LG Cam Plus and the LG Hi-Fi Plus. The Cam Plus gives the phone a camera grip as well as dedicated buttons for the shutter, video recording and zoom. Including an extra 1,200 mAh of battery is a nice touch too. The Hi-Fi Plus module has a DAC and headphone amplifier enbeded in it and can also be used connected to a PC through the USB Type-C connection; a nice touch.
I was overall pretty impressed with what LG had to offer with the G5. Whether or not the modular design gains any traction will have to be seen; I have concerns over the public's desire to carry around modules or affect the form factor of their phones so dramatically.
Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 02:52 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: snapdragon 820, smartphone, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, modular phone, LG G5, LG, ips, G5, Android
LG has officially unveiled their newest flagship Android handset, and in addition to high-end specs the G5 features a unique modular construction.
The LG G5
The G5 is powered by the new Snapdragon 820 SoC, and offers a 5.3-inch, 2560x1440 IPS display (making slightly smaller than the earlier G4, which was a 5.5-inch device with the same resolution). And while the G5 looks every bit a sleek Android flagship, there’s more going on here than the typical sealed handset. LG has implemented a modular design, where optional components can be added from a port on the bottom of the phone.
The LG Cam Plus (left) and Hi-Fi Plus (right)
The first of two announced modules is the LG Cam Plus, which is a camera grip that also adds 1200 mAh to the battery capacity (for a total of 4000 mAh). The second is the LG Hi-Fi Plus, which adds a high-resolution DAC and headphone amp to the phone. The headphone amp is “tuned by B&O”, and the DAC supports up to 32-bit / 384 kHz. The Hi-Fi Plus can also be used as a standalone USB device.
(Image via Android Police)
One of the features that had leaked ahead of the announcement was an always-on display, leading to speculation about the use of an OLED panel. But this is LG we are talking about, and they have implemented a high-DPI (554) IPS display instead. So how does this always-on display feature avoid aggressively draining your battery? The post from ComputerBase offers this analysis:
“Instead, the company opted for an optimization of display drivers and power management in order to realize the permanent display of notifications, time, date and other information on the large main screen. The adjustments for example it is possible to limit the backlight to a part of the screen. According to LG, the activated always-on function consumes thanks to the optimizations per hour 0.8 percent of the battery charge.”
Specs via Android Central:
- Display: 5.3-inch IPS quad-HD quantum display (2560x1440, 554 dpi)
- Processor: Snapdragon 820
- Storage: 32GB UFS ROM, microSD up to 2TB
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
- Rear camera: 16MP main, 8MP wide-angle (135 degrees)
- Front camera: 8MP
- Battery: 2800 mAh removable
- Modules: LG Cam Plus (camera grip with 1100 mAh), LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play
- Dimensions: 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm
- Weight: 159 grams
- Networks: LTE/3G/2G
- Connectivity: Wifi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, USB Type C, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2
- Colors: Silver/Titan/Gold/Pink
- Operating system: Android 6.0.1
There were three additional accessories announced with the phone: The 360 VR (a VR headset) 360 CAM (for creating 360-degree movies and photos) and something called the Rolling Bot (a Wi-Fi connected sphere equipped with a camera, mic, and speaker).
Ryan had hands-on time with the G5 from LG's booth at MWC 2016:
No specific pricing or release date have been announced yet, but we should know more next month when LG is expected to provide more release details.
Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 01:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: VIBE K5 Plus, VIBE K5, Snapdragon 616, Snapdragon 415, smartphone, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, Lenovo, Android
Lenovo has announced a new pair of smartphones in their VIBE series, and these offer very impressive specs considering the asking price.
The VIBE K5 will retail for $129, with the K5 Plus slightly higher at $149. What does this get you? Both are 5-inch devices, with a modest 1280x720 resolution on the standard K5, or FHD 1920x1080 on the K5 Plus. The phones are both powered by Qualcomm SoCs, with a Snapdragon 415 in the K5 (quad-core 1.4 GHz), and the faster Snapdragon 616 (8-core 1.7 GHz) in the K5 Plus.
Here’s a look at the specifications for these phones:
- Screen: 5.0” HD (1280x720) display (K5) or IPS Full HD (1920x1080) (K5 Plus)
- Processor: Qualcomm snapdragon 415 octa-core (K5) or 616 octa-core processor (K5 Plus)
- Storage: 2GB LP DDR3 RAM | 16GB eMCP built-in storage | up to 32GB microSD expandable storage support
- Graphics: Adreno 405: up to 550MHz 3D graphics accelerator
- Camera: Rear: 13MP with 5-piece lens and FHD video recording, Front: 5MP fixed-focus with 4-piece lens
- Connectivity: Dual SIM slots with 4G LTE connectivity + BT 4.1; WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Battery: 2750mAh interchangeable battery
- Audio: 2 x speakers, 2 x mics, 3.5 mm audio jack, Dolby Atmos
- Thickness: 8.2 mm (.32 in)
- Weight: 142 g (5 oz)
- OS: Android 5.1, Lollipop
On paper these smartphones present a compelling value reminiscent of the ASUS Zenfone 2, with the K5 Plus easily the better bargain with a 1920x1080 IPS display and octa-core processor for $149. We’ll have to wait to pass judgment until the UI performance and camera have been tested, but these new VIBE K5 phones certainly looks like a promising option.
The VIBE K5 and K5 Plus will be available in March.
Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 12:56 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon wear
Earlier this month, Qualcomm announced the creation of the Snapdragon Wear platform and the Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC, the very first in a new family of products built to address consumer wearables market. Even though the Snapdragon 400 series of processors had already found its way into a large majority (65% according to Qualcomm) of all of the currently shipping Android Wear watches, Qualcomm hopes that the improvements in the Snapdragon Wear 2100 will further the company's market share and improve on the experiences that users have with wearable products.
Snapdragon Wear 2100 offers several advantages over the Snapdragon 400 series of SoCs:
Utilizing Qualcomm Technologies’ expertise in connectivity and compute, the Snapdragon Wear platform consists of a full suite of silicon, software, support tools, and reference designs to allow mobile, fashion, and sports customers to bring a diverse range of full-featured wearables to customers quickly. Available in both tethered (Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi®) and connected (4G/LTE and 3G) versions, Snapdragon Wear 2100 innovates along four wearables core vectors:
- Smaller Size – 30 percent smaller than the popular Snapdragon 400, Snapdragon Wear 2100 can help enable new, thinner, sleeker designs
- Lower Power – 25 percent lower power than the Snapdragon 400 across both tethered and connected use cases, allowing for longer day of use battery life
- Smarter Sensors – With an integrated, ultra-low power sensor hub, Snapdragon Wear 2100 enables richer algorithms with greater accuracy than the Snapdragon 400
- Always Connected – Next-generation LTE modem with integrated GNSS, along with low power Wi-Fi and Bluetooth delivers an always connected experience
There is no direct mention of comparative performance though, something I am looking to get answered this week.
This week's announcement from Qualcomm is the addition of three new partners for the Snapdragon Wear platform, on top of the launch partner LG. The new names might not be household brands but they will offer a strong growth segment for Qualcomm as more vendors enter the wearables markets through ODMs.
- Borqs – A global leader in software and products for IoT providing customizable, differentiated and scalable Android-based smart connected devices and cloud service solutions, Borqs is offering connected (3G/4G) and tethered (Wi-Fi®/Bluetooth®) smartwatch and kid watch reference designs based on Snapdragon Wear 2100.
- Compal – A global manufacturer of notebook PCs, smartphone, tablet and display products and smart wearable devices, Compal is delivering reference designs and device production based on Snapdragon Wear 2100 supporting both Android Wear and Android operating systems and targeting connected (3G/4G) and tethered (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth) use cases.
- Infomark – An early innovator in the emerging kid watch segment, where the company has previously launched two generations of products (JooN1, JooN2) based on Qualcomm Technologies, Infomark is offering a reference design based on Snapdragon Wear 2100 targeting kid and elderly watch segments.
I should be getting hands-on with hardware built on the Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC from LG and these three new partners this week while at Mobile World Congress 2016, so stayed tuned for more coverage!
Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 12:18 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, qualcomm, vulkan, snapdragon, snapdragon 820, adreno 530
As we prepare for the onslaught of new mobile devices and technologies being announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the low-level Vulkan API begins its campaign to take hold in the PC and mobile spaces, superceding the OpenGL standard that exists today in hopes of providing a more efficient use of compute resources across the industry.
Qualcomm announced official support for the Vulkan API on its Adreno 530 GPU and the Snapdragon 820 processor. Vulkan API support will be coming for upcoming other unannounced Adreno 5xx series GPUs and currently shipping Adreno 4xx GPUs, allowing us to wonder if Vulkan support will find its way into currently shipping handsets.
As Qualcomm points out in its press release on the news, the Vulkan API will bring some important and groundbreaking changes to the mobile space.
- Explicit control over GPU operation, with minimized driver overhead for improved performance;
- Multi-threading-friendly architecture to increase overall system performance;
- Optimal API design that can be used in a wide variety of devices including mobile, desktop, consoles, and embedded platforms;
- Use of Khronos’ new SPIR-V intermediate representation for shading language flexibility and more predictable implementation behavior;
- Extensible layered architecture that enables innovative tools without impacting production performance while validating, debugging, and profiling;
- Simple drivers for low-overhead efficiency and cross vendor portability.
Vulkan API support is being added to Qualcomm's development tools suite this week as well.
“We are pleased to have contributed to the definition of Khronos’ new Vulkan API. Qualcomm Technologies will be among the first to ship conformant Vulkan drivers, starting with Snapdragon 820’s embedded Adreno 530 GPU, and subsequently with our Adreno 4xx series GPUs. Vulkan enables the next generation of graphics performance by adding multi-threaded command buffer generation and explicit control of advanced graphics capabilities within Adreno GPUs,” said Micah Knapp, director of product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “In the coming days, we anticipate supporting Vulkan in the Snapdragon developer tools including Snapdragon Profiler and the Adreno SDK, to help application developers take advantage of this outstanding new API when creating graphics and compute applications for smartphones, tablets, VR HMDs and a variety of other types of devices that use Snapdragon processors.”
A quick look at the Khronos page listing companies with Vulkan conformant drivers shows Qualcomm on the short list, meaning it has provided the standards body with a driver that has passed its first level of certification. With its emphasis on efficiency, the Vulkan API and Qualcomm's early integration could be the most important place that the API ends up. In a technology field where battery life and performance must balance unlike anywhere else, getting this new implementation of graphics and compute could push mobile devices forward quickly.