MWC 2018: Western Digital Launches SN720 and SN520 M.2 NVMe SSDs

Subject: Storage | February 27, 2018 - 11:03 AM |
Tagged: wdc, WD, ssd, SN720, SN520, sandisk, NCMe, nand, M.2, BiCS, 2280, 2242, 2230

Western Digital launched a few new NVMe SSDs at Mobile World Congress today:

SN720-SN520.jpg

To the left we have the WD PC SN720, a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD boasting speeds of up to 3.4GB/s and IOPS up to 500k. Available capacities are 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB. To the right we have the WD PC SN520, a more power efficient variant running on half of the PCIe lanes, and with specs coming in at roughly half of its faster brother. Capacities are also cut in half, with the range dropping to 512GB, 256GB, and 128GB. Interestingly, all capacities are available in three M.2 form factors (2280, 2242, and 2230).

We don't have a specific part number for the controller, but WD told us they are manufactured on a 28nm process, employ 8 NAND channels, and use DDR4 RAM (not DRAMless). The controller is optimized for interfacing with WD (/Toshiba) BiCS NAND flash, meaning these SSDs should prove to be a well integrated solution.

Press blast from WD appears after the break.

There's a fair amount of performance embedded in AMD's new chips

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2018 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: EPYC, ryzen, amd, embedded, epyc 3000, ryzen v1000

The Register have put up a bit more information about AMD's new embedded versions of Ryzen and Epyc.  The Epyc 3000 will appear in networking, storage and edge computing devices, offering 64 PCIe lanes, eight 10 GbitE, 16 SATA, and up to 4 memory channels per CPU.  The Ryzen V1000 APU will be more for POS and entertainment, with 16 PCIe lanes, dual 10 GbitE, four USB 3.1 and up to four independent 4k displays.  Alternatively, it can support a 5k display, with support for H.265 and VP9 codecs.  Get a look at all the models here.

epyc_3000_models_950.jpg

"The semiconductor firm is aiming Epyc 3000 at networking, storage and edge computing devices and the Ryzen V1000 at medical imaging, industrial systems, digital gaming and thin clients. Both are embedded systems."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

MWC 2018: Samsung Unpacks Galaxy S9 and S9+ Phones

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 845, smartphone, Samsung, MWC 2018, MWC, mobile, Galaxy S9+, galaxy s9, exynos

Samsung unveiled their not-so-secret Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at their 'unpacked' event at MWC today, coming after months of leaks and an accidental post of the launch video yesterday. So, while the existence of these new Galaxy phones was a foregone conclusion, does the final product meet expectations?

Galaxy_S9.jpg

As previously leaked, the design of the Galaxy S9/S9+ is carried over from last year, as Samsung is updating their lineup in the manner of Apple's second-year iPhone "S" refresh. What we have are devices with faster internals courtesy of the Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. and China (read our performance preview of the 845 here), Samsung's Exynos 9810 Octa in the rest of the world, and improved cameras - the latter of which was the focus of the event (sorry).

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The newest term in the smartphone space is "dual iris" thanks to Samsung's adoption of an adjustable iris on one of the dual 12MP rear cameras, which moves from f1.5 to f2.4 based on light level (the second camera is fixed at f2.4). This should result in much better exposures in low light without sacrificing daylight performance. But as vital as still camera quality is on mobile phones, as for so many is has replaced the need for a dedicated point-and-shoot, there is also video to consider. And not just any video.

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Water bottle antics from Samsung's slo-mo demonstration video

Much was made during the event of the Galaxy S9/S9+ exclusive "Super Slow-mo", which takes just 0.2 seconds of video and produces 6 seconds of the sort of slow motion you never knew you couldn't live without before seeing it...in slow motion. (Some impressively slow cat videos were also shown during the event, as well as popcorn being thrown... AND MORE.) Regardless of the usefulness of capturing 0.2 seconds of action at 960 FPS (in HD, no less) - which you can do up to 20 times per video - these slo-mo treasures can be exported right from the phone in GIF format! (Expect uploads of such videos to fill your social feeds later this spring.)

S9_Landscape.jpg

From a design standpoint we are not seeing a new device, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Fans would always like to see the next big thing, of course, but the S8 was already an advanced design when it launched a year ago, marking the start of the all-display trend that Apple joined later on with the iPhone X. Speaking of displays, we know that Samsung has a killer screen already with the Galaxy S8/S8+, and on paper the S9/S9+ have identical 5.8-inch, 1440x2960 18.5:9 aspect AMOLED with the S9 and slightly larger 6.2 inches of the same on the S9+, both still covered in Gorilla Glass 5.

S9_Iris.jpg

Samsung's cluster of camera and iris scanning tech is hidden from view

Two obvious nods to Apple's confusingly-named "X" handset were also introduced by Samsung, with both face/iris unlocking and animated emojis. First, it will be possible to unlock your Galaxy S9/S9+ by looking at it, but have no fear as the fingerprint reader remains - and is no longer next to the camera sensor on the back!

Fingerprint.jpg

The fingerprint scanner is now below the camera sensors

Far more important, as everyone knows: animated emoji. Animoji is not the only facial-recognition-powered animated emoji game in town anymore, though Samsung's implementation of this is a little different since it is creating an avatar based on your own face, which you can then customize. The result is something possibly a little more realistic than an early 2000s sports game create-a-player, but with considerably less work. Progress!

March 16 is the release date for both the Galaxy S9 and S9+, with retail prices starting at $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+. Pre-orders are up now on Samsung's official web store.

Source: Samsung

MWC 2018: Huawei Announces the MateBook X Pro Notebook

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 10:49 AM |
Tagged: thin and light, notebook, mx150, MWC 2018, MWC, MateBook X Pro, matebook, laptop, Huawei

Huawei has introduced their new MateBook with the X Pro, an ultra slim design which features a nearly bezel-less 13.9-inch display that boasts a 91% screen-to-body ratio. More than just display, which is a 3:2 ratio 3K LTPS panel, the MateBook X Pro offers a choice between 8th-gen Intel Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors, and the option of a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU.

MateBookXPro_0225.jpg

"Huawei has applied many of its innovative smartphone technologies to the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro to create effortless and intuitive user experiences. Pioneered by Huawei for the HUAWEI MateBook Series, the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro features the super-fast power button 2.0 which enables login in just 7.8 seconds from power off, and 6.6 seconds from hibernation. In addition, the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro features the world’s first recessed camera which discreetly sits on the keyboard – to activate it, all users need to do is press it and it will pop up, ensuring privacy when it’s not being used. This contributes greatly to the perfect experience of FullView Display."

huawei-matebook-x-pro-3k-display-2.jpg

While the look and especially name of the MateBook X Pro evokes memories of similar products from Cupertino, this seems to be more of a Surface Book competitor, down to the multi-touch 3:2 aspect, 3000x2000 display. A couple of the unique features are the combination power button/fingerprint reader, and a camera that is hidden among the function keys and pops up during use. Audio is also premium for a slim notebook with a four-speaker Dolby Atmos system.

huawei-matebook-x-pro-hidden-camera.jpg

A unique recessed camera design that pops up when needed

Specifications:

  • FullView Display
    • Size: 13.9 inches
    • Resolution: 3000 x 2000
    • Type: LTPS
    • Screen-to-body ratio: 91%
    • Aspect ratio: 3:2
    • Viewing angle: 178 degrees
    • Color: sRGB 100% color gamut
    • Contrast: 1500:1
    • Maximum brightness: 450 nits
    • Touchscreen: 10-point, anti-fingerprint
  • Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8550U / i5-8250U
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce MX150 with 2GB GDDR5 / Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Memory 8GB / 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz
  • Hard Drive: 256GB / 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5 GHz 2x2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth: BT 4.1 (compatible with 3.0 and 2.1+EDR)
  • Camera: Front 1MP
  • Audio Configuration: Quad digital microphones and Quad speakers
  • Battery Material: Lithium polymer 57.4Wh (Typical Capacity)
  • Local video playback: 12 hours (testing conducted by Huawei in a laboratory environment)
  • Buttons and Ports
    • One touch power button
    • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
    • USB-C x2 (both allow data transfer, charging and connection with MateDock 2 and one supports Thunderbolt 3)
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 304mm x 217mm x 14.6mm Weight: approximately 1.33kg
  • Colors: Mystic Silver and Space Gray

onetouch.jpg

The one touch power button with integrated fingerprint reader

The MateBook X Pro will be available this spring with pricing starting at €1499, or approximately $1850.

Source: Huawei

HEATKILLER is not the latest superhero, unless you're running a Threadripper

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 23, 2018 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: water cooler, Threadripper, HEATKILLER IV Pro, amd

You may not see WaterCool.de mentioned frequently in reviews unless you are deeply into watercooling.  They have been producing impressive products for quite a while now and the HEATKILLER IV Pro is no exception.  [H]ard|OCP's tests showed it to be equal in performance to the best they have seen.  If you don't like the clear look of the cooler [H] reviewed the waterblock also comes in copper and copper with nickel plating as well.  See the cooler in action here.

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"WaterCool.de does not mess around when it comes to water cooling enthusiasts computers for well over a decade now. Many of us have been waiting with bated breath for Watercool's entry into the Threadripper cooling market, and it finally is with the HEATKILLER IV Pro. We compare it to five other water blocks."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

PCPer Mailbag #32 - 2/23/2018

Subject: Editorial | February 23, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: video, Ryan Shrout, pcper mailbag

It's time for the PCPer Mailbag, our weekly show where Ryan and the team answer your questions about the tech industry, the latest and greatest GPUs, the process of running a tech review website, and more!

On today's show:

00:37 - Ryzen vs. Coffee Lake for Meltdown/Spectre?
02:50 - NVIDIA CPUs?
04:35 - Selling bare GPUs for water coolers?
07:01 - Hard drive data recovery?
09:35 - Why does Apple use ARM?
11:22 - PCPer's advertising disclosure?
12:44 - Hard drive cloning software?
14:18 - PCPer history?
16:53 - Mobile World Congress?
17:26 - Pinnacle Ridge IPC improvements?
18:43 - Consumer cards for machine learning?
21:47 - Refining display technologies?

Want to have your question answered on a future Mailbag? Leave a comment on this post or in the YouTube comments for the latest video. Check out new Mailbag videos each Friday!

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to make sure you never miss our weekly reviews and podcasts, and please consider supporting PC Perspective via Patreon to help us keep videos like our weekly mailbag coming!

Source: YouTube

Podcast #488 - AMD Ryzen performance, Qualcomm news, and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2018 - 08:58 AM |
Tagged: video, TrueWireless, snapdragon 845, Ryzen 5 2400G, raven ridge, qualcomm, Primochill Vue, podcast, mx master 2s, logitech, Kigen, EPYC, cherry, bitfenix, amd, 850W

PC Perspective Podcast #488 - 02/22/18

Join us this week for AMD Ryzen performance reviews, Qualcomm news, 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, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:20:48

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:12:30 Allyn: UltraVNC
    2. 1:18:10 Josh: My poor wife
  4. Closing/outro
 
 
Source:

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 07:50 PM |
Tagged: VR, snapdragon 845, reference platform, qualcomm, mobile, headset, development

Qualcomm has another mobile-related announcement ahead of MWC, introducing a new VR reference platform based on the Snapdragon 845 in collaboration with HTC. As the new Snapdragon 845 boasts much more powerful graphics from its Adreno 630 GPU compared to the Snapdragon 835 - which was behind the previous mobile VR platform - this represents an important step forward in the mobile VR space.

SVR845.jpg

The increased graphics horsepower isn't the only aspect of the Adreno 630 that should translate into a better mobile VR/AR (now rolled together into the term "XR" for extended reality) experience, as the gains in graphics performance we saw from the SDM845 reference platform are said to come with 30% power savings as well as Adreno Foveation, which allows eye-tracking to direct resources only to the area where the user is looking. Thus Foveation allows for, literally, focused GPU resource allocation, which should translate into better performance with less hardware overhead.

Right view.jpg

The Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform also boasts 6DoF, or "6 degrees of freedom", which incorporates external cameras to improve free movement compared to the previous 3DoF limitations:

"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."

Left view.jpg

Qualcomm's goal with the new Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform is to support "the next wave of smartphone and standalone VR headsets", and it seems that mobile hardware is starting to catch up to the ambitions of what is now being called XR.

Source: Qualcomm

Ryan's Law is not the only suggestion when it comes to SSDs

Subject: Storage | February 21, 2018 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged:

The SSD Review has posted a general guide on SSDs and how to ensure you pick the right one.  There are a huge variety of SSDs on the market now, from the original 2.5" SATA drives straight through to M.2 NVMe gum sticks.  Their guide will ensure you know the importance of matching your motherboard to an SSD, to ensure compatibility and performance as well as covering software and firmware updates.  For the more experience, they also delve into the various UEFI/BIOS settings you should look at to balance performance, stability and possibly battery life.  It is a bit of a long read but worth it if you are feeling confused

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"This report will be chronological, explaining what needs to be considered in your build including motherboard, SSD selection and installation, UEFI/BIOS settings, OS installation, and finally, SSD optimizations that should be considered."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Kingdom Come delivers a challenge to modern GPUs

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: kingdom come, deliverance, gaming

Kingdom Come: Deliverance uses CryEngine 3, which is famous for overwhelming even the highest tier GPUs at 4k resolutions.  [H]ard|OCP's testing reveals that there may be an issue with AMD's cards on this title at the moment.  This may be resolved soon as the two Vega cards performance varied greatly, sometime surpassing the mid-tier NVIDIA cards but then falling below what they should be capable of.  Keep your eye out for a driver update if you are playing this game or plan to.  As far as NVIDIA, not even the 1080Ti can manage playable framerates with all the bells and whistles turned up on 4k.  Check out the details in the full review.

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"We take the new game Kingdom Come: Deliverance and test ten current video cards in it to find how each one performs, how those stack up, and what the highest playable settings are. We test 4K, 1440p, and 1080p, with multiple graphics settings, maximum distance sliders, and find out what you need to play this game and have a good experience."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The Spectre of the lakes may have been appeased

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: spectre, Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, coffee lake

Intel has pushed out a new set of microcode patches which should mitigate Spectre on Skylake, Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake.  The new patches come with a feature which customers have been clamouring for; a lack of the spontaneous reboots which plagued systems that had taken advantage of the originally released fixes.  The Inquirer did not receive any information on the performance hit of these new fixes, though they should be comparable to the effect of the originals.  Drop by for more info and links to Intel's patch roadmap.

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"The latest Spectre-mitigating updates from Intel have passed "extensive testing by customers and industry partners to ensure the updated versions are ready for production," according to Intel's Navin Shenoy. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

AMD goes after $15B embedded space with two new embedded processors

Subject: Processors | February 21, 2018 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, EPYC, embedded, ryzen v1000, epyc 3000

Continuing its expansion of bringing modern processor and graphics designs to as many of its targeted market segments as possible, AMD announced today two new families that address the embedded processor space. The company has already seen double-digital YoY sequential growth in revenue from embedded markets, but the release of the Epyc Embedded 3000 and Ryzen Embedded V1000 family create significant additional opportunity for the company.

amdembed1.png

Embedded markets are unique from traditional consumer and enterprise channels as they address areas from military and aerospace applications to networking hardware and storage devices to retail compute and even casino and arcade gaming. These markets tend to be consistent and stable without the frequent or dramatic swings in architectural preference or market share that we often witness in consumer PCs. As AMD continues to grow and look for stable sources of adjacent income, embedded processors are a critical avenue and one that I believe AMD has distinct advantages in.

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Research firm IDC estimates the market size that AMD can address with this pair of chip families exceeds $14-15B annually. The largest portion of that ($11-12B) includes storage and networking infrastructure systems that the Epyc 3000 line will target. The remaining amount includes IoT gateways, medical systems, and casino gaming hardware and is the purview of the Ryzen V1000.

Competitors in this space include Intel (with its Xeon D-series and Core family of chips) and many Arm-based designs that focus on low power integration. Intel has the most potential for immediate negative impact with AMD’s expansion in the embedded markets as the shared architecture and compatibility mean customers can more easily move between platforms. AMD is positioning both parts directly against Intel with proposed advantages in value and performance, hoping to move embedded customers to the combined AMD solution.

amdembed5.png

The Ryzen V1000 family combines the company’s recent processor and graphics architectures on a single chip, similar in function to the consumer Ryzen design that was released for notebook and desktop PCs. For the embedded customers and devices being targeted, this marks a completely new class of product with two key benefits over competing solutions. First, it allows for smaller and cooler system designs (critical for the cramped working environments of the embedded space) while increasing maximum performance.

amdembed6.png

Second, the V1000 allows integrators to downscale from using a combination of an Intel processor and a separate, discrete graphics chip to a single chip design. This both raises the ASP (average selling price) for AMD, increasing revenue and potential margin, while lowering the price that customers pay in total for system components.

While AMD struggles to find ways to promote the value of higher performance graphics on its new processors, where it has a significant advantage over Intel, for the consumer and business space, in the embedded markets that additional performance value is well understood. Casino gaming often utilizes multiple high-resolution displays for a single device with demand for high-quality rendered 3D graphics, of which the V1000 can now provide in a single chip design. The same is seen with medical imaging hardware, including ultrasound machines for women’s healthcare and cardiovascular diagnostics.

amdembed3.png

The Epyc Embedded 3000 family does not include integrated graphics on-chip and instead offers higher core performance and performance per dollar compared to competing Intel solutions. AMD believes that the Epyc 3000 will double the total addressable market for the company when it comes to networking and storage infrastructure.

amdembed4.png

AMD previously has disclosed its partnership with Cisco that included AMD-built processor options for some families of switches and other networking gear. As the demand for edge computing grows (systems that will exist near the consumer or enterprise side of a network to aid in computational needs of high speed networks), AMD is offering a compelling solution to counter the Intel Xeon family of processors.

Both the Epyc 3000 and Ryzen V1000 chips represent the first time AMD has targeted embedded customers with specific features and capabilities at the hardware level. During the design phase of its Zen CPU and Vega graphics architecture, business unit leaders included capabilities like multiple 10-gigabit network integration, support of four 4K display outputs, ECC memory (error correction capability for mission-critical applications), and unique embedded-based interfaces for external connectivity.

While these were not needed for the consumer segments of the market, and weren’t exposed in those hardware launches, they provide crucial benefits for AMD customers when selecting a chip for embedded markets.

Source: AMD

Qualcomm signs major carriers and retailers for Always Connected PC launch

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2018 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, always connected pc

With availability scheduled to begin next month, Qualcomm is prepping for its final push to prepare the market for what it believes is a revolutionary product category for the PC market. Just before the mobile media and analysts focus attention on Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm hopes it has completed the final step in the launch of its “Windows 10 on Snapdragon” line. Partners like Amazon, the Microsoft Stores, Verizon, and AT&T will provide the cellular LTE connections to maintain an always-connected state and the retail and online locations to purchase them.

By combining Windows 10 and the company’s Snapdragon mobile platform with efficiency and connectivity advantages other PC chip vendors can’t match, Qualcomm is hoping that its creation of this new sub-category of PC that focuses on being always connected through a smartphone-like cellular connection will pay dividends. Compared to Intel processors that target similar form factors of notebook PCs including 2-in-1s and detachable tablets, the Qualcomm chips differentiate by including the capability for LTE connectivity on every design, without having to pay an upgrade cost.

qcwos1.png

The ability for a Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 PC to have an “instant on” button to turn on the screen without a boot or wake-from-sleep process, again in the same way your smartphone works today, is another touted feature. Battery life is the other tent pole, with Qualcomm often citing disingenuous battery life estimates on Intel-powered systems but “beyond all day” battery life for its own.

Getting these Qualcomm-chip Windows notebooks into the market might seem like a trivial task but inserting a new totally new product category into retail and e-tail takes careful management. Qualcomm will have to educate consumers on how its platform is different and what advantages it can offer over other laptops. Retailers will have to undertake most of that education process, as the customer will need guidance to avoid costly returns and support calls.

The added complexity of a cellular connection will mean that some kind of registration process will have to occur before the PC is truly “always connected.” It will need to be added to a data plan on an existing carrier agreement (think adding a new phone to your cell account) or through a pre-paid arrangement.

qcwos4.jpg

A touchier subject surrounds the retail channel and how PCs are sold in today’s market. Despite the years of legal disputes and resolutions, most in the industry still view Intel as wielding incredible power in the retail and online e-tail sales channels. Through practices like rebates, education programs, and sales clerk discounts, it can be hard for a new player to battle the incumbent without a similar amount of marketing muscle and dollars behind them. Even AMD, with years of practice selling its own processors and systems, struggles at time to get the attention and retail shelf space its products deserve.

In the US market, Microsoft will be taking the helm at the retail channel, stocking and selling the three first Qualcomm Snapdragon Windows 10 PCs from HP, Lenovo, and ASUS. Though the quantity of Microsoft stores is limited, placement here is a big win for Qualcomm and its partners. The Microsoft Stores are generally considered the presentation point for the flagship Windows devices, indicating that Microsoft itself puts a lot of weight behind the category that Qualcomm is creating.

For the online markets, Amazon will be the primary location in the US for sales. In talks with Qualcomm executives, it appears that the online giant will be handling a lot of that education and cellular activation. While I am certain that Qualcomm would love to have had a nationwide brick-and-mortar retailer like Best Buy in the mix, the Minneapolis-based company did not buy in.

Qualcomm has other retailers lined up across the globe, including in Australia, Italy, France, and the UK. China will have sales through JD.com, one of the largest online retailers in the world with more than 266M active users. Qualcomm still has many regions to address with availability and wider distribution as the second wave of PCs comes to market in the holiday of 2018, but it believes it has a solid start under its belt.

carrierlogos.jpg

Graphic Source: TechSpot

Operator support is just as crucial for Qualcomm’s new PC category as retail availability. If a consumer buys a device but isn’t offered service from a mobile telecommunications provider along with it, much of the appeal of the device is lost. Carriers in the UK, Italy, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and US (including all four major players Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile), will begin offering plans for the Windows 10 on Snapdragon PCs. Details of what the specific costs will be aren’t being shared and will vary for each carrier.

Affordability of these plans will be critical to the mass market success of the Always Connected PC. Consumers will not pay exorbitant amounts of money to add a device to their existing cell phone plan but providers may be hesitant to offer discounts for a platform that inherently will have potential for greater data consumption. Users on smartphones often get lower resolution video or web pages because of the smaller screen size. But these full capability PCs will likely stream full resolution content and could create additional strain on the networks.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Introduces TrueWireless Stereo Plus and Broadcast Audio

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 10:26 AM |
Tagged: wireless audio, TrueWireless, stereo, qualcomm, occluded, music, Broadcast Audio, bluetooth

Just ahead of MWC, Qualcomm has a pair of announcements to make regarding new Bluetooth wireless technologies, beginning with enhancements to their TrueWireless Stereo technology; a fully wireless solution for devices such as earbuds and the 'hearables' category supported by Qualcomm's new QCC5100 Bluetooth SoC, introduced at CES 2018. This update to TrueWireless Stereo promises "an easier pairing experience with no need to pair individual earbuds" along with "the ability to autonomously role switch each earbud between primary and secondary roles in order to balance power consumption more evenly between the buds for longer playback time".

Diagram_1.jpg

The combination of the new QCC5100 SoC with the Snapdragon 845 is said to offer improved battery life thanks to enhancements lowering power consumption, and the combination of lower latency and a better pairing experience makes this very interesting as we enter a year that will see many Smartphones powered by the new SDM845 platform. Earbuds connected via TrueWireless Stereo Plus each pair with the device individually, rather than the common method of a single earbud connection - "cross-head Bluetooth transmission" - with a second Bluetooth wireless connection from one earbud to the other stereo channel. If that sounds confusing, it really is, and with standard fully wireless options you are at the mercy of the relay connection as far as compression, latency, and channel separation is concerned.

TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design.jpg

TrueWireless Occluded Earbuds Example Design

"Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus is an additional mode of the technology designed to eliminate the need for cross-head Bluetooth transmission by simultaneously connecting the mobile device to both earbuds. In this new operating mode only the relevant audio content is engineered to relay to each bud helping to improve robustness and more evenly balance power consumption. When paired with a QCC5100 series based device and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus can help to reduce power consumption by up to an additional 10 percent, typically helping to deliver an extra hour of listening time before recharge is needed. Additionally, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo Plus supports an even simpler pairing experience when connecting earbuds to the mobile device and helps to reduce latency because both buds are connected directly to the smartphone."

Another annoucement on the Bluetooth audio front comes as Qualcomm's Broadcast Audio technology is being made available on the Snapdragon 845 platform. What is Broadcast Audio? We aren't talking LTE or even FM radio here, as it simply allows "one Bluetooth source to stream audio to numerous headsets or speakers with near perfect synchronization".

Diagram_2.jpg

As Qualcomm explains:

"The technology is designed to support Bluetooth to be used for one-to-many sound broadcasting – helping to extend the capabilities of traditional Bluetooth. Qualcomm Broadcast Audio supports ad-hoc multi-speaker parties, sharing headphones and listening to the same music from a single smartphone, or for group audio tours."

Qualcomm's list of features for Broadcast Audio includes:

  • Simpler set-up and pairing of devices and device management helping users to more easily manage which devices can join
  • Broadcast to numerous devices within Bluetooth range
  • Built-in robustness, automatic retransmission and packet-loss concealment
  • Encrypted audio stream designed to help reduce the risk of eavesdropping

Diagram_3.jpg

This integration will not be limited to the Snapdragon 845, as devices using the new QCC5100 SoC as well as others in Qualcomm's range of Bluetooth chips will support Broadcast Audio.

Source: Qualcomm

ARM Introduces Kigen OS for Cellular IoT

Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: modem, Kigen, iSIM, iot, cortex, cellular, arm

Last year ARM went on a bit of a buying spree thanks to the financial help of its holding company, SoftBank. One of the companies that it scooped up was that of Simulity Labs for around 12 million pounds. The company was developing IoT security products based on eSIM technology and a robust OS that provides provisioning on a cellular network.

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Many believe that the nearly ubiquitous cellular networks that surround us are the key to truly successful IoT products. There are massive cellular deployments around the world. It is a well regulated spectrum. Security through SIM cards is a well known and understood process. It is not impossible to break this security, but it is questionable if it is worth the time and effort to do so.

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ARM has gone ahead and provided the means to productize and push this technology with the aim of providing a vast, secure IoT infrastructure that would be relatively easy to rollout with current cellular networks. There are multiple parts to this technology, but ARM is hoping to offer an all-in-one solution that would provide an inexpensive platform for OEMs and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to roll out products on.

Click here to read the rest of our coverage of ARM Kigen and iSIM!

Source: ARM

Garnering Intel on a brand new discrete GPU company

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2018 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: Intel, discrete gpu

Intel discreetly released a tidbit of information on a new project they are undertaking, a GPU specifically for HPC which will compete with AMD and NVIDIA's current offerings.  We do not know much, The Inquirer was able to ferret out that this will be a two chip solution, with a GPU and FPGA for optimization.  The chips will be fabbed on a 14nm process and contain 1.542 billion transistors, significantly lower than either AMD or NVIDIA's current cards; an interesting fact which we do not know what effect it will have on performance.   Drop by to see if you can glean any more info here.

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"The chip maker showcased a prototype design for an in-house graphics acceleration unit based on a 14-nanometre process at the excitingly named IEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, reported PC Watch."

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Source: The Inquirer

AMD EPYC "Rome" Rumors: 7nm, 64 Cores, 2 Designs

Subject: Processors | February 19, 2018 - 08:33 PM |
Tagged: amd, Zen, Zen 2

WCCFTech found some rumors (scroll down near the bottom of the linked article) about AMD’s upcoming EPYC “Rome” generation of EPYC server processors. The main point is that users will be able to buy up to 64 cores (128 threads) on a single packaged processor. This increase in core count will likely be due to the process node shrink, from 14nm down to GlobalFoundries’ 7nm. This is not the same as the upcoming second-generation Zen processors, which are built on 12nm and expected to ship in a few months.

Rome is probably not coming until 2019.

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But when it does… up to 128 threads. Also, if I’m understanding WCCFTech’s post correctly, AMD will produce two different dies for this product line. One design will have 12 cores per die (x4 for 48 cores per package) and the other will have 16 cores per die (x4 for 64 cores per package). The reason why this is interesting is because AMD is, apparently, expecting to sell enough volume to warrant multiple chip designs, rather than just making a flagship and filling in SKUs with bin sorting and cutting off the cores that require abnormally high voltage for a given clock rate as parts with lesser core count. (That will happen too, as usual, but from two different intended designs instead of just the flagship.)

If it works out as AMD plans, this could be an opportunity to acquire prime market share away from Intel and their Xeon processors. The second chip might let them get into second-tier servers with an even more cost-efficient part, because a 12-core die will bin better than a 16-core one and, as mentioned, yield more from a wafer anyway.

Again, this is a common practice from a technical standpoint; the interesting part is that it could work out well for AMD from a strategic perspective. The timing and market might be right for EPYC in various classes of high-end servers.

Source: WCCFTech

ZTE Axon 9 Leaks Surface

Subject: Mobile | February 19, 2018 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 9, qualcomm, snapdragon 845

So there’s a lot to say about this story. The first bit is that the follow up to my current phone, which is a ZTE Axon 7, will be launching later this year. It will be called the ZTE Axon 9, and a bunch of rumored leaks have just dropped on it.

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Image Credit: ZTE Weibo via GSM Arena

GSMArena cites claims that the device will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. High-end SKUs will have 6GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. Low-end SKUs will have 4GB of RAM. Personally, I haven’t come close to filling up the 64GB of the original ZTE Axon 7, although that’s just me. This is the first time I checked pretty much since I got the phone, and I still have about 33 GB remaining. That said, you are not me, and you probably know how much space you’ll use.

The choice of SoC is interesting. ZTE seems to go straight for the top of Qualcomm’s product stack with their flagship device, which puts it against the performance of, for instance, Samsung’s latest-and-greatest at the time. The ZTE Axon 7 came out a few months after the Samsung Galaxy S7, had the same processor, and was hundreds of dollars cheaper. ZTE wanted market share, but it looks like they might be continuing the trend.

The new device is said to have a 6-inch screen, which makes it slightly larger than the Axon 7, which has a 5.5-inch screen. Both cameras have also been upgraded. The rear camera will be 20 megapixels, while the front-facing one will be 13 megapixels. This doesn't say much about how it will perform, such as how much light is required to get a good image, but we will find out eventually.

At around the same time, US intelligence agencies are warning against purchasing ZTE and Huawei devices because the two companies have ties with the Chinese government. ZTE and Huawei both rebuke the assertions, of course. Personally, I use the ZTE Axon 7 as my only cellphone.

It doesn’t bother me.

Source: GSMArena

Windows 10 on ARM Details

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2018 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, qualcomm, arm

Paul Thurrott found a developer documentation page, Troubleshooting x86 Desktop Apps, on the Windows Dev Center. The goal of the page is to list a few reasons why the software you develop might not be compatible with Windows 10 on ARM and the WOW translation layer. Yup, they’re reusing that name, which was the translation layer for 32-bit Win32 applications running on 64-bit Windows.

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Based on this document, we now know that Windows on ARM:

  • Will not translate x86 drivers, just x86 applications and services.
  • Does not support 64-bit applications (Thurrott.com says they’re working on it.)
  • Does not support (hardware-accelerated) OpenGL 1.1+ or DirectX 1-8
    • Vulkan is not mentioned anywhere, but I’m guessing not.

There are also a few other issues, like the application cannot modify Windows components (ex: the 7-zip entry in the Windows file explorer’s right-click menu) unless it is recompiled for ARM. Thurrott.com also says that Hyper-V is not supported in Windows 10 on ARM.

The amount of software that Windows on ARM can run is surprisingly both broader and narrower than I would have expected. The major issue for me is OpenGL – you would think that the graphics driver would dictate this, not so much the OS APIs. I certainly hope that, especially after their other pushes toward openness, Microsoft isn’t pressuring ARM manufacturers to not ship an OpenGL driver, even though the hardware vendors clearly know how to support OpenGL ES at the very least.

And yes, there could very well be a good reason, and they might even be working on OpenGL support as we speak, but it’s an odd omission (at least for now).

Lastly, this has nothing to do with UWP applications. This document is only about standard Win32 applications running on ARM processors. UWP is designed to be cross-architecture. You just need to include the ARM target when you build and package.

Source: Microsoft

Switch your OS on Nintendo's portable gaming thingamjigger

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2018 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: Nintendo Switch, nvidia, Tegra X1

Sometimes a flaw in a chips design can be used for good, for instance a flaw in Nvidia's Tegra X1 chip which allows a successful install of Linux.  The flaw is in the firmware, so Nintendo will not be pushing a fix out that will disable this feature on current Switches.  For now, those who have managed this trick are not sharing so you will have to wait to try to fry your own Switch for now.   As The Inquirer points out, this is not a terrible issue as the Linux based Switch still needs work to enable you to play anything on it, be it Switch games, legacy Nintendo or Steam.

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"NOT CONTENT with simply getting Linux to boot on the Nintendo Switch, the hacker folks over at fail0verflow have managed to get the hybrid console to behave like a full-fat Linux PC."

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Source: The Inquirer