Be careful which ASUS Zenbook SSD you pick up

Subject: Mobile | March 12, 2012 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd, asus zenbook, asus

The SSD Review stumbled upon a dirty little secret about the ASUS Zenbook SSD; specifically the SSD part of the name.  It seems that when you buy one, you might be picking up a model with an AData XM11 SSD or it might be a Sandisk U100 but unfortunately they are the same price and a similar model number making them very difficult to tell apart ... until you use it.  The SandForce drive AData drive is significantly faster than the Sandisk drive which uses its own proprietary controller.  The difference is not crippling but it is certainly noticeable when benchmarking and using the system.  The final result was that size does matter, the 11.6" UX21 has SandForce while the 13.3" UX31 does not, though both are still very nice Ultrabooks.

SSDR_Sandisk-SSD.jpg

"If we told you that we spent $2400 to right a wrong in proving something that you as a consumer should be aware of, would you believe us? This report closely examines the ASUS Zenbook. Within the ‘Zen’, ASUS may provide either of two SATA 3 SSDs, these being the AData ‘SandForce Driven’ XM11 or the Sandisk U100. There is no price difference between the two, the product number is the same and the consumer has no way of knowing which they will receive. The performance drop between the two is somewhat unbelievable, however, and we thought this report important enough to invest in one of each Zenbook to educate the consumer on the reality of their potential Zenbook purchase."

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Source: SSD Review

NVIDIA Tegra 3 Processor Accelerates Many High End Applications

Subject: Mobile | March 10, 2012 - 03:53 AM |
Tagged: tegra 3, tegra, quad core, nvidia, mobile

NVIDIA's Tegra 3 mobile processor may not have much market share (yet), but it sure is powerful! In a recent blog post, the company reiterated just how much it is accelerating applications on mobile platforms including photo editing, remote desktop clients, and even mobile video editing. They further got comments from several of the app developers that stated the Tegra 3 was the piece that made their applications run so smoothly. Granted, some of this is marketing and promotion; however, that fact doesn't make their mobile quad core (4+1 power saving core) SoC any less impressive hardware wise.

Tegra 3.jpg

Some of the applications NVIDIA heralded include Snapseed, PowerDirector, Splashtop, and Photaf. Snapseed and PowerDirector are photo editor and video editing applications respectively while Photaf is a photo stitching app that allows you to combine multiple shots into panoramas.

Finally, Splashtop is an application that takes advantage of the Tegra 3 to bring a remote desktop client to Android that proclaims to be fast enough to run games as well as the more traditionally desktop access. Both Splashtop and Photaf are available now on Google Play for you to test out while PowerDirector and Snapseed are coming later this year to Android.

Below is the above mentioned video of the Android application developers talking about the benefits of the quad core Tegra 3 processor.

What do you guys think of NVIDIA's "4+1" core processor?   Will it stand up to the new Apple A5X chip (according to NVIDIA it wont while Apple says the opposite (obviously), but we'll have to wait until we have an iPad in house to see who's chip is actually faster)?

Source: NVIDIA

Intel in the Cloud with Ray-traces

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | March 8, 2012 - 04:02 AM |
Tagged: ray tracing, tablet, tablets, knight's ferry, Intel

Intel looks to bring ray-tracing from their Many Integrated Core (Intel MIC) architecture to your tablet… by remotely streaming from a server loaded with one or more Knight’s Ferry cards.

The anticipation of ray-tracing engulfed almost the entirety of 3D video gaming history. The reasonable support of ray-tracing is very seductive for games as it enables easier access to effects such as global illumination, reflections, and so forth. Ray-tracing is well deserved of its status as a buzzword.

intel-ray.jpg

Render yourself in what Knight’s Ferry delivered… with scaling linearly and ray-traced Wolfenstein

Screenshot from Intel Blogs.

Obviously Intel would love to make headway into the graphics market. In the past Intel has struggled to put forth an acceptable offering for graphics. It is my personal belief that Intel did not take graphics seriously when they were content selling cheap GPUs to be packed in with PCs. While the short term easy money flowed in, the industry slipped far enough ahead of them that they could not just easily pounce back into contention with a single huge R&D check.

Intel obviously cares about graphics now, and has been relentless at their research into the field. Their CPUs are far ahead of any competition in terms of serial performance -- and power consumption is getting plenty of attention itself.

Intel has long ago acknowledged the importance of massively parallel computing but was never quite able to bring products like Larabee against anything the companies they once ignored could retaliate with. This brings us back to ray-tracing: what is the ultimate advantage of ray-tracing?

 

Ray-tracing is a dead simple algorithm.

 

A ray-trace renderer is programmed very simply and elegantly. Effects are often added directly and without much approximation necessary. No hacking around is required in the numerous caveats within graphics APIs in order to get a functional render on screen. If you can keep throwing enough coal on the fire, it will burn without much effort -- so to speak. Intel just needs to put a fast enough processor behind it, and away they go.

Throughout the article, Daniel Pohl has in fact discussed numerous enhancements that they have made to their ray-tracing engine to improve performance. One of the most interesting improvements is their approach to antialiasing. If the rays from two neighboring pixels strike different meshes or strike the same mesh at the point of a sharp change in direction, denoted by color, between pixels then they are flagged for supersampling. The combination of that shortcut with MLAA will also be explored by Intel at some point.

intel-41914.png

A little behind-the-scenes trickery...

Screenshot from Intel Blogs.

Intel claims that they were able to achieve 20-30 FPS at 1024x600 resolutions streaming from a server with a single Knight’s Ferry card installed to an Intel Atom-based tablet. They were able to scale to within a couple percent of theoretical 8x performance with 8 Knight’s Ferry cards installed.

I very much dislike trusting my content to online streaming services as I am an art nut. I value the preservation of content which just is not possible if you are only able to access it through some remote third party -- can you guess my stance on DRM? That aside, I understand that Intel and others will regularly find ways to push content to where there just should not be enough computational horsepower to accept it.

Ray-tracing might be Intel’s attempt to circumvent all of the years of research that they ignored with conventional real-time rendering technologies. Either way, gaming engines are going the way of simpler rendering algorithms as GPUs become more generalized and less reliant on fixed-function hardware assigned to some arbitrary DirectX or OpenGL specification.

Intel just hopes that they can have a compelling product at that destination whenever the rest of the industry arrives.

Source: Intel Blog

Apple Launching Quad Core Graphics A5X Powered iPad 3 With Retina Display

Subject: Mobile | March 7, 2012 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: tablet, mobile, ipad 3, ipad, ios, apple

Apple officially launched the new Apple iPad 3 tablet today, and consumers will be glad to know that many of the rumors around the Internet are not far from the truth. The new iOS powered tablet will be packing a retina display, new A5X with "quad core graphics," and an optional 4G LTE radio. The retina display on the iPad 3 is 2048x1536 pixels, and works out to 264 PPI (pixels per inch).

Ipad3.jpg

The iPad 3's hardware will further include an updated A5 SoC that also includes a quad core graphics aspect, whatever they mean by that. Phil Schiller states that the new A5X chip "has four times the performance of NVIDIA's quad-core Tegra 3 chip." Apple has also updated the camera in the iPad 3 such that it has a 5 megapixel camera with image stabilization, hybrid IR (infrared) filter, and backside illuminated senor capable of recording 1080p video.

On the 4G LTE front, both AT&T and Verizon will carry the iPad 3 in the US, and the 4G radio will also work on Rogers, Bell, and Telus' networks in Canada. In other markets, the iPad 3 will still be able to connect to 3G networks. According to Ars, the new Apple tablet will maintain the same physical dimensions, and will enable 10 hours of battery life while on 3G or Wi-Fi and 9 hours of battery life when the 4G LTE radio is in use.

The iPad 3 will come in either black or white colors, and will be available for purchase March 16th in the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany (among others), and March 23th for the rest of the world. The iPad 2 will also stay around at a lower price point of $399 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model and $529 for 3G.

The iPad 3 will come in at the following price points:

Apple iPad 3 Model Price point (USD)
16 GB Wi-Fi $499
32 GB Wi-Fi $599
64 GB Wi-Fi $699
16 GB 4G LTE $629
32 GB 4G LTE $729
64 GB 4G LTE $829

Lastly, despite rumors, the iPad 3 will not be getting Siri access, and the physical home button is still present.  Pre-orders for the new tablet start today, and more information on the pre-order is available over at apple.com/ipad.  What do you guys think of the new tablet, will you be picking one up when it launches?

Source: Ars Technica

And now for a brief commercial break...

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 4, 2012 - 04:29 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel

Intel… really likes Ultrabooks.

Over the last year Intel has been attempting to push their Ultrabook platform in an attempt to promote the PC platform as both elegant and mobile. They only want to do what is best for the PC -- especially the ones which contain the most and the highest profit margin Intel parts. Is that really too much for the big blue to ask?

The real irony would be if this ad campaign increases Eyefinity sales…

Within the last year Intel has pushed Ultrabooks from as many different angles as they possibly can. They bargained with manufacturers to take the risk and develop these higher-end laptops. They set aside 300 million dollars toward technologies to further Ultrabooks in any way possible from batteries to software. Intel now completes their Ultrabook platform support triangle: they advertise the heck out of them.

So what do you see from this, a WOW or a FAIL?

Source: Youtube

Raspberry Pi Linux Computer Launches, Pre-Orders Sold Out

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 29, 2012 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, mobile, linux, hdmi, computer

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced yesterday that their little Linux computer would be launching in the early hours of the morning today. Instead of the original plan of Raspberry Pi handling the pre-orders and shipping them from the UK, they ended up partnering with RS Components and Premier Farnell to handle all their orders and distribute them to customers. The non profit foundation states that this move will save customers money on shipping as the two companies have distribution centers worldwide and they will be able to get more boards out because they will be able to sell enough boards to meet demand.

Raspberry Pi.jpg

Today, RS and Farnell were offering up the Model B Raspberry Pi boards for pre-order, and the first 5,000 orders from each company will receive their Raspberry Pi boards from the initial 10,000 unit batch. Surprisingly, the two companies' servers were getting hit extremely hard earlier today and it was almost impossible to not see at least a couple error pages requiring a painfully long refresh. According to the article, the Raspberry Pi computer sold out "within hours." Even though the initial batch of boards is spoken for, customers can continue to pre-order boards that will be delivered as soon as the next batch has finished production. Those unlucky enough to miss the first 10,000 aren't completely out of luck; however, as it is rumored that production of more boards should be getting underway and have an estimated delivery date a bit more than a month away. How true that is, remains to be seen however.

Personally, I managed to snag one of the first Raspberry Pi boards from Farnell Export, but it was an order fraught with error pages and being uncertain just how many I ordered as the confirm order page kept error-ing out. Luckily, I received an email from them confirming my order of a single Raspberry Pi and am now eagerly waiting for it to arrive. The last estimated delivery figure I received puts it about a month out, however.

modelb_blue_label.png

In another bit of good news, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is still planning to release the cheaper Model A board later this year, and they managed to up the RAM to a full 256 MB of RAM which is twice the original 128 MB of RAM they planned.  This update to the Model A means that the Model B is now only differentiated by the addition of two USB ports and an Ethernet port.

Did you manage to snag a Raspberry Pi this morning?  From how hard the servers were getting hit last night, I'm starting to think that the Raspberry Pi Linux computer may be more popular than actual pie!  If you are still interested in pre-ordering a Raspberry Pi, RS Components and Premier Farnell have you covered.

Source: Maximum PC
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Alienware

Introduction, Design, User Interface

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Gaming. Laptop. Portable. These may well be the three most contradictory words in the PC industry. It’s been possible to game on laptops for years, but making a high-quality gaming experience portable is a goal rarely achieved.

Alienware made a stab at resolving the contradiction in 2010 when it released the M11x, but the result was questionable. No one can argue that the M11x isn’t portable, but its gaming performance is no better than a 15.6” laptop with mid-range discrete graphics. There simply isn’t enough room in the chassis to cool a larger, more powerful GPU. Worse, the M11x is simply too small for most people to use every day. 

Enter the Alienware M14x. The larger display size of this laptop makes it possible to equip a more powerful GPU as well as a full-power Core i5 processor rather than a low-voltage model. Let’s look at the full specifications.

alienwarem14xspecs.png

We can already see that the M14x will easily outperform its smaller cousin. The better hardware increases price as well as size, however – the base is $1099 and our review unit, featuring upgrades like a quad-core processor and 1600x900 resolution, rings in at $1274.

Continue reading our review of the Alienware m14x Gaming Notebook!!

MWC 12: Android 5.0 this fall? Google drops sweet hints.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 28, 2012 - 07:27 PM |
Tagged: MWC 12, Android 5.0, Android

Android Ice Cream Sandwich is currently getting rolled out to compatible devices at a leisurely pace. The OS itself is for the most part well appreciated by both developers and end-users. As the rollout progresses and minor maintenance patches are created: Google is looking forward to the next major version.

JellyBean.png

Just get Ice Cream Sandwich and they already talking about the future. U Jelly? : D

ComputerWorld went out to Barcelona to check out Mobile World Congress and of course could not resist reporting on Android. In an interview with Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google VP of Engineering for Mobile, we are treated to a few indirect statements about the next major version of Android.

The major release timeframe for Android is said to continue to be an annual endeavor. An annual release schedule would slate Android J (5.0) to an autumn timeframe. During the discussion, Lockheimer noted that there is flexibility with when developers wish to roll out updated. While that personally sounds like Google is allowing OEMs and carriers to take as long as they desire to implement the new Android releases it appears as if ComputerWorld has heard rumors of Android 5-power phones appearing as early as summer.

Despite ComputerWorld’s best effort, Google would not confirm the dessert associated with Android 5. Best guesses point to the name Jelly Bean, which are supported by a glass jar of Jelly Beans on the show floor.

MWC 2012: Nvidia Shows Off Tegra 3’s Muscles With 5 New Games

Subject: Mobile | February 28, 2012 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: tegra 3, tablet, nvidia, MWC, mobile world congress, gaming

 Nvidia has always been happy to show off the gaming capabilities of Tegra 2 and Tegra 3. No surprise there – the company’s roots are in PC graphics, which goes hand-in-hand with PC games. When we reviewed the Transformer Prime there were several beautiful pre-installed games, such as Shadowgun, that showed off the hardware. Now Nvidia has come up with not one but five more new titles to brag about at Mobile World Congress – including a new Sonic the Hedgehog game.

Let’s have a look at them.

Dark Kingdom THD

This is a role-playing game built in the vein of games like Diablo and Torchlight. The visuals are impressive and a game like this should control well on a tablet, so this could prove to be an excellent title. I do wish the graphics offered more variety, however – they look a bit dark and dreary to me. 

Eden to GREEEEN THD


Hey, are you tired of tower defense games yet? I hope not, because that’s what Eden to GREEEEN is, albeit it one that has somewhat less restrictive mechanics than most titles in the genre. Of the games that Nvidia showed at Mobile World Congress this is easily the least attractive, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to play.

Golden Arrow THD

goldenarrow.jpg

This is a hack-and-slash title that apparently will be including a lot of lens flare and explosions. I’m not sure that sounds appealing, but if you’re into that sort of thing, go for it. There’s no video available for this title right now, so we don’t have a lot to go on.

Hamilton’s Great Adventure THD

 

This game, which is already available on other platforms (you can even pick it up on Steam), is a puzzle game that asks players to navigate hazardous terrain on their quest to collect treasure and do over adventure-y things. The versions of this game that have come out for other platforms have received a fair amount of praise, so Nvidia is wise to be bragging about adding this to its stable.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II

 

 

Nvidia has been bragging about Tegra 3’s console-quality graphics, so why not poach one of console gaming’s most popular franchises? Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II looks to be a straight port of the version that will be available on game consoles, which means platforming at light speed with excellent 3D graphics. I sincerely hope that the controls are solid, because if so, this could be one of the best games on any tablet.

Availability for the titles shown by Nvidia is generally vague, but can be summed up as vaguely “spring.” The Sonic game, for example, will be coming out for Xbox 360 on May 16, so the tablet version will probably release sometime close to that date.

 

Source: Nvidia

Take a look at Dell's low cost Vostro line of laptops

Subject: Mobile | February 27, 2012 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: dell, vostro V131

Dell's Vostro line offers a wide variety of models from a $400 Celeron ULV based model with 2GB of memory and a 320GB HDD to the $825 model that Hardware Canucks reivewed.  That model gives you more power, with an i5 2430M, 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD with a 13.3" 1366x768 LED screen.  The 6-cell battery doesn't quite last as long as models with an 8-cell battery but still beat most other competitors 6-cell models.  There were a few issues that arose during the review, not least of which is the lack of a dock.  For home users who do not worry about such extras, the review is well worth checking out.

 

HC_V131-8.jpg

"Dell has been angling most of their product stack towards value oriented market segments and the newest addition to the Vostro lineup –the V131- seems to follow this same path but with some interesting twists along the way. As with many of Dell’s notebooks, it is available in a number of flavors ranging in price from just $399 to $900. Unfortunately, Dell's website has it is tucked away from the prying eyes of most end users."

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