LucidLogix Announces XLR8 Tech To Improve Embedded and SoC GPU Performance

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 03:48 AM |
Tagged: virtualization, tegra, Lucidlogix, gpu, gaming, game, embedded, CES2012, CES

Earlier today Lucid (LucidLogix), the company behind quite a few GPU virtualization technologies, announced yet another piece of GPU virtualization software. This time; however, instead of wrangling as much performance as possible from multi-GPU beasts, this technology- codenamed "XLR8"- is aimed at the mobile market of tablets, smartphones, and laptops with integrated graphics. Such products are powered by integrated GPUs in AMD's APUs and Intel's Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, and by the GPUs in mobile SoCs (system on a chip) like Nvidia's Tegra and ARM's Mali graphics processors. XLR8 uses "unique CPU multithreading" to feed the mobile GPUs as efficiently as possible.

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According to Lucid, many of the PC graphics issues are magnified when it comes to embedded GPUS including visual tearing, pipeline inefficiencies, power management, and artifacting. Offir Remez, president of Lucid further stated that most of the big, popular PC games have playability issues on mobile platforms and on computers with integrated graphics. "If it's got a GPU, we can improve the end user experience."

The company further expanded that the XLR8 technology works by disabling unnecessary and redundant processes in addition to "unique multithreading" to improve system (gaming) responsiveness up to 200 percent. The XLR8 software monitors battery drain and power draw while shutting down background processes to increase CPU frame generation and minimizing redundant GPU rendering processes.

If this sounds a lot like marketing speak, it certainly does. On the other hand, Lucid has been able to push some useful virtualization technology into desktops, so maybe mobile platforms are just the next step for the company. The company is currently demonstrating the XLR8 software in private at CES and is being tested by hardware partners.  Mobile SoC are getting faster and more powerful, and on battery powered devices there is always room for efficiency improvements.  Once reviewers manage to get their hands on some actual hardware, and XLR8 is past the concept/testing stage you can bet that people will have a better understanding of what exactly XLR8 is capable of.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Intel Aims For ARM With New x86 Smartphone Reference Design

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 01:46 AM |
Tagged: x86, smartphone, Intel, CES, Android

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What do you do if you’re a big company with lots of money, but are having trouble convincing manufacturers to adopt your technology in their products because your competitors are already established in the market?

You build the product yourself.

That’s what Intel has done with its new smartphone reference platform. Revealed at the company’s keynote by CEO Paul Otellini, the reference platform is a fully functional smartphone running an x86 port of Android. It was demonstrated at the keynote and used to play games, watch video and output video to a monitor via HDMI.

Intel has been down this many times before, of course, but never had much success. That was before a fully functional reference platform was made available, however.  The device shown today could potentially be put on store shelves as-is (after a few more months of testing, perhaps). It is thin, it is light, it has a 4-inch display with a resolution of 1024x600 and it runs Android.  This is no thick and bulky test mule – it’s a functional example that can be used by vendors as a starting point so they don’t have to build a device from the ground up.

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Such a strategy can help get Intel’s foot in the door, and in fact already has. After showing the reference design, Otellini announced a multi-year “strategic partnership” with Motorola. If things go as planned, Motorola should be shipping out phones with Intel processors inside them in the second half of this year. 

Lenovo showed another phone even closer to release. Known as the Lenovo K800, it should be out within months. There’s just one problem (for us) – it’s China only. 

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Inside the reference design is an Intel Atom Z2460 running at up to 1.6 GHz. This is not an Atom in brand name only - the architecture is basically the same as any other Intel Atom processor. Unlike almost every other modern smartphone processor, this is a single-core part (for now). 

Though down a core to the competition, Intel suggested that the reference design is generally quicker than all current smartphones. Some early CPU benchmarks from Anandtech seem to back up that assertion. However, the graphics component isn’t up to par with today’s best, a fact that became evident when Intel showed a game demo using the reference device. It looked okay, but was clearly inferior to games running on Tegra 3.

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While the hardware seems to be coming together, software remains a potential roadblock. Intel showed their smartphone running Android 2.3 ported for x86. Because of how Android handles code, most Android apps are compatible despite the change in processor architecture.

Just one problem – some apps make specific references in their code to ARM features, and these apps will not function on x86. Intel is attempting to compensate for that using on-the-fly ARM to x86 code conversion.  It’s hard to judge how well that works without testing it first-hand, but at least Intel has a plan for dealing with the issue. 

My excitement about this announcement is tempered by the lack of available products. Timing is critical. The reference hardware might be quicker than today’s most popular smartphones, but new designs are constantly emerging, each quicker than the last. Releasing this product six months from now may result in a competitive product – but a delay forcing it into the holiday season could yet again spoil Intel’s dreams of smartphone dominance.

But even if Intel’s partners don’t translate this reference platform into products quickly, it at least shows that Intel is headed in the right direction. ARM is entrenched, but Intel has the resources and the engineers required to provide serious competition. CES 2013 could end up being the conference where x86 and ARM devices go toe-to-toe.  

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Intel

Hands-on With a Giant Smartphone - or Small Tablet - The Samsung Galaxy Note

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 12:04 AM |
Tagged: tablet, Samsung, mobile phone, galaxy, CES

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One of the more unusual products debuted by a major manufacturer this CES has to be the Samsung Galaxy Note. It’s a 5.3” device that runs Android 2.3 with the Samsung TouchWiz interface.

The Note is unusual because of its size. The 5” to 7” range is a bit of a no man’s land in the world of mobile devices. Such products are considered too small to be a real tablet, but also too large to be a decent phone. Though there have been attempts to enter products in this range, they haven’t sold in huge numbers.

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Apparently, Samsung thinks the market is worth some serious effort. They’re making a big deal of this device – to my eye, it looked as if there were more of these available on the show floor than any product the company offers. And as if to drive the point home, the CES bus I took back from the convention center today – like most of the buses at CES – was wrapped in Samsung Galaxy Note advertisements.

So what’s it like? Well, it’s like a big phone. Or a small tablet. Since it runs Android 2.3 and uses TouchWiz, the interface is basically identical to the rest of Samsung’s massive line of Android phones. Plastic is the material of choice in the construction of the chassis, which doesn’t lend the product a premium feel. 

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It does make the Samsung Galaxy Note light, however. Official numbers put it at 178g (about .4 pounds) which is less than half the weight of your typical 7” tablet.  The thickness of 9.25mm (about .4 inches) doesn’t seem outstanding, but the curved rear cover helps reduce perceived thickness. 

Samsung is known for its mobile displays, and the Note doesn’t disappoint. It uses a Samsung AMOLED with a resolution of 1280x800. This allows the small Note to offer as many or more usable pixels then much larger tablets, and it also contributes to an extremely sharp image. Unfortunately there wasn’t streaming video available to view at the time I used the device, but games look excellent. Maximum display brightness was high, as well. 

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Like the ASUS MeMO, the Note includes a stylus. Useful? Not so far as I can tell. Sure, it does a fine job of accepting handwriting, but I have a hard time seeing this smaller device used as an electronic notepad. Is there really an audience for that outside of some enterprise environments? 

Inside there is a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor as well as 1GB of memory and 16 or 32 gigabytes of internal storage. In my use the device felt smooth, but no more so than most other high-end smartphones I looked at both during CES and before.

The Note is equipped for use with cellular networks including HSPA, 4G LTE and EDGE. North American availability will come via AT&T. Pricing is not announced - $199 is of course typical for high-end handsets, but Samsungs have gone for higher prices before. The $249 to $299 price range (with contract) seems more likely.

Will the Note be a success? Perhaps. Samsung has already sold over a million units in Europe, where the Note was introduced late last year. However, the Note so far is planned to ship in North America without Ice Cream Sandwich support built in (an upgrade will bring it, but there’s no release date). That could be a major knock against the Note. Availability will be in spring, so we’ll soon find out the Note’s fate.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Samsung

Panasonic Launches Ruggedized ToughPad A1 and B1 Tablets

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 11:52 PM |
Tagged: toughpad, tablet, ruggedized, Panasonic, mobile, CES, Android

Panasonic dropped a new tablet on us at CES. Literally, they dropped the tablet on stage to show just how tough their new ruggedized ToughPad really is. The A1 and B1 ToughPad tablets are Android powered 10" and 7" tablets rated to be dust and water resistant. Both tablets are MIL-STD-810G and IP65 rated and ready to perform in very extreme work environments.

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The ToughPad A1 is Panasonic's 10" Android tablet and brings some decent hardware to bear. On the outside, the ruggedized exterior and rubberized edges absorb shock and keep dust and water out. The front of the tablet includes a 10" multi-touch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 and 500 nit brightness. The touchscreen can be used by either finger gestures or an included digitizer. Further, the front of the tablet houses a 2 megapixel front camera as well as microphone, ambient light, accelerometer, and digital compass sensors. The tablet internals include a 1.2 GHz Marvell dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, and optional 3G or 4G modems. A lithium Ion battery rated at 7.4 volts, 4690 mAh is also nestled inside. A microSDHC card slot, micro USB 2.0, and micro-HDMI connector as well as a stylus holder are also present. The device runs Android 3.2 and supports TPM chips and hardware encryption. It weighs 2.1 pounds (the price of going rugged, I suppose) and has an MSRP of $1200 USD.

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The B1 model is the 7" version and will be available in the fall. Exact specifications on this model are not yet known; however, expect it to follow closely in line with it's bigger sibling's dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, ruggedized exterior, and hefty price tag.

Unfortunately, all I can think about when looking at this tablet is how the heck Panasonic expects to sell this for $1200 bucks. This is definitely not a consumer tablet and moreso something businesses will invest in for workers in harsh (to electronics anyway) environments.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2012: Razer's Project Fiona -- PC Gaming tablet PC tablet

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: razer, CES 2012, CES

If you believe our title to be awkward, please glance downward a little at the concept image. While I do not want to lash on Razer for trying something that no-one has it must be said that aesthetically the concept must be altered. Hardcore PC Gamers are a unique breed, but I expect that even the most bold of gamers would be shy at holding this around in public. Now that we are past the design, let us look at what Razer claims in terms of expected hardware.

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It looks like Razer is fitting a bit into Booth Category One.

Razer is being very careful about giving out too many specific details due to the concept nature of the device, but they suggested that they aim for the following:

  • Intel Core i7
  • 10.1” 1280x800 display
  • Full Screen interface supporting multi-touch “hybrid” for PC Gaming.
  • 3-axis gyro, magnetometer, accelerometer
  • Force feedback
  • Dolby 7.1 surround sound
  • Wifi b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0

You should notice a lack of information about the expected video card but the screen resolution paired with the CPU choice should slightly indicate their intent.

What do you think? What changes, if any, would you request before you hand over your wallet?

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: RazerZone

CES 2012: MSI GUS II External Thunderbolt Graphics Upgrade System

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: CES, thunderbolt, msi, gus ii, gus, external graphics

While wandering around the MSI suite at The Venetian today I came across a very interesting new device.  The GUS II is an external discrete graphics card dock that connects to a notebook PC (or small-form factor, etc) via a Thunderbolt connection. 

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Thunderbolt is a somewhat new interface that extends the PCI Express bus outside of the machine allowing for performance as high as 10 Gb/s per channel in its full implementation.  Current Intel implementations that ship with the Macbook Air and likely included in the first batch of Thunderbolt-capable Ultrabooks are built around Eagle Ridge that offers two bi-directional channels.  Still, even with a 10 Gb/s rating, we are seeing more than enough bandwidth for a discrete graphics card.

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You can see that device obviously won't fit your new Radeon HD 7970 3GB in there but the GUS II will support cards with as much as 150 watts of power consumption via the included external power brick.  75 watts of power is supplied by the internal PEG slot while the internal 6-pin ATX power connector supplies another 75 watts.

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MSI was running an HD 5770 inside the GUS II on a MacBook Pro running Windows 7.  Unigine Heaven was playing on the graphics card outputs and it was definitely running at speeds and quality settings that the GPU in the Macbook would not have been able to.

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MSI mentioned they were hopeful the price would be in the $150 range which is actually quite a good surprise considering they are going to be including the Thunderbolt cable in the box - an accessory that is notoriously expensive today. 

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All that is holding up the GUS II from release at this point is compatibility and driver support from AMD and NVIDIA.  Because you are essentially adding in another PCI Express graphics card to system that might only have been prepared and QA'd for a single one, there are some issues to work out.  Even with the hardware in a basically complete state, there is no time table for release though hopefully we can get this pushed into the mainstream soon.

Thunderbolt might finally bring us the dockable and upgradeable graphics we have always envisioned for notebooks.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Hands-on with Samsung's New Series 9 Ultrabook

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged:

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Samsung is no stranger to high-end, luxurious laptops. We saw the first Samsung Series 9 at last CES, and even then it was extremely thin and light. Now the company, embracing the incoming wave of ultrabooks, has revised the Series 9 and introduced a new Series 5 ultrabook along side it.

I was not a fan of the original Series 9. Though it was very thin, light and fairly well built, it did not feel as luxurious as its high pricing suggested. This new Series 9, however, does far more to strike my fancy. Like the out-going version, this laptop makes heavy use of a brushed metallic finish to achieve an industrial, durable but still luxurious appearance. 

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While I still find the overall design of the laptop to be a bit cold (a surgeon’s scalpel is the first comparison that comes to mind), those who with a grudge against gloss will love what Samsung is offering.

The display offers a standard resolution of 1600x900 and appeared to be matte on all the floor models I saw. Despite this, image quality appeared good and brightness was high. There’s still not the same “pop” that you find in the very best glossy LCDs, but it’s close. Also notable is the display bezel, which is extremely thin. This reduces the overall size of the laptop.

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Speaking of size, the Series 9 will be available in both 13” and 15” models. Go for the smaller of the two and you’ll only have to carry around 2.5 pounds of weight and deal with about a half-inch of thickness. The 15” weighs 3.5 pounds. Though I did not get the chance to handle the larger model, I expect that it won’t feel much heavier because the extra weight will be spread across a larger chassis.

As for the hardware, well – it’s typical for a high-end ultrabook. You’ll find Core i5 low-voltage processors to be standard along with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. Pricing starts at $1399. Samsung is boasting that the SSD allows for a boot time of just under 10 seconds. I tested this using one of the floor models and found that the system booted to Windows login in 10.5 seconds. That's close enough for me - and much quicker than your average laptop.

Though I’m personally more excited about the HP Spectre, the Samsung Series 9 will no doubt prove to be a tough competitor. Since the two offer similar hardware and an identical starting price, the battle between them will all come down to design – the flash of the glass-clad Spectre against the more traditional brushed metal of the Series 9.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Samsung

ASUS Transformer Prime and its faithful companion core

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: eee pad, transformer prime, asus, tegra 3

The Tech Report just wrapped up a review of the ever popular EeePad Transformer Prime, the tablet with a keyboard for a dock.  This particular model is updated with the 5-core Tegra 3 processor, which means faster performance and the presence of the ultra-low power GeForce GPU that NVIDIA has been so secretive about.  There were more improvements than simple processing power, a SuperIPS+ mode which makes the screen bright enough to easily read in direct sunlight and more consistent colour reproduction.  The improvements seem to come with a cost as the battery life is less than the previous models although not prohibitively so.  Check out the good and the bad of the first Tegra 3 powered device on the market.

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"With an updated Tegra 3 processor and a sleek new design, the Transformer Prime may be the hottest tablet around. We take a closer look to see if Asus has created another compelling iPad alternative."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

 

Video Perspective: ASUS MeMO 701 and ASUS Transformer Prime TF700T Hands on!

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 04:15 AM |
Tagged: CES, transformer prime, tf700t, memo, asus

Matt already posted up a pictorial look at the new ASUS Eee Pad MeMO 701 but I wanted to share a video demonstration we made while visiting the ASUS suite.  Enjoy!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

HP Envy 14 Spectre Offers Glass Design, We Go Hands-on

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 01:42 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, hp, envy, CES

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It’s raining ultrabooks at CES. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for any individual manufacturer to stand out from the crowd. There was one that caught our eye, however – the HP Envy 14 Spectre.

We’ll go in to the specifications in a moment because they’re not what separate the Spectre from the crowd. It’s the design that commands attention. Instead of using an aluminum lid like most competitors HP decided to use lightweight black glass. This instantly distinguishes the laptop from anything else on the market. While most ultrabooks look like MacBook Air clones, the Spectre is unique at first glance.

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UPDATE: We have a video walkthrough of the new HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook for you!

You’d think scratches would be a concern, but the scratch-resistant glass used on the lid appears reasonably tough. In fact, it will likely prove more durable than plastic (which tends to scratch) or aluminum (which tends to dent). The only unavoidable issue will be smudging. The floor model had more than a few fingerprints on it. 

Once opened, the Envy 14 reveals a more conventional silver metallic (the palmrest is glass-covered, but remains a metallic silver color) interior similar to the rest of the Envy line. A Beats Audio analog volume knob (along with Beats Audio speakers) ties it in with the new Envy 15 and 17. 

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Although just 20mm (.78) thin, the Envy 14 Spectre seems to offer keyboard feel on par with its larger and thicker cousins without sacrificing the backlight. There’s also a ton of palmrest space and a large touchpad. Multi-touch gestures are among the smoothest available on a Windows laptop. Perhaps the only downside is weight. At 3.79 pounds, it is noticeably heavier than most competitors. While this contributes to the laptop’s luxurious feel it could reduce the convenience of on-the-go use.

HP plans to ship the Envy 14 with Core i5 and i7 low-voltage processors, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB solid state hard drives. A 1600x900 display will be standard. Also included is an NFC chip that will allow for short-range wireless sharing. It’s not a stretch to speculate it could also eventually work with the wireless payment features Intel showed during this morning’s ultrabook conference.

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Battery life is projected to be 9 hours, and while this will no doubt end up being generous, it’s far better than the 6 hour estimates given by most competitors. Battery size may be the reason for the extra weight.

The Envy 14 Spectre will be on sale in February or March at an introductory price of $1399. That’s a lot of money, but initial impressions suggest that laptop is worth the price of admission. Quality is quite possibly better than the MacBook Air. If the display and performance proves to be as good as promised this pricey laptop could be a hit.  

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: HP