Ultrabooks might not be able to play the latest blockbuster titles at max settings like a full blown liquid-cooled gaming desktop, but there’s still a heck of a lot of great titles that they can play. I’ve been using the Asus UX31E (Core i5 Sandy Bridge with Integrated HD3000 graphics) to happily play Minecraft, Tribes Ascend, Half-Life 2, Day of Defeat Source, Bit Trip Runner, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, and plenty more. Having my Ultrabook running at peak performance means I get a competitive advantage and the most enjoyment thanks to my games running smoothly and responsively. This guide will tune up your Ultrabook to run at maximum performance and will benefit your graphical applications even if you aren’t a gamer!
Acer America has just announced two new Ultrabooks as part of a new ‘Timeline Ultra’ series. On offer is a 14″ and 15.6″ display, the latter of which has a full numpad on the keyboard. The bezels appear to be nice and thin but the resolution leaves much to be desired. Discrete graphics from Nvidia are included as well as optical drives. Both come in at rather affordable prices, but we’re unsure that the inclusion of the optical drive is such a great idea.
Genuine Ultrabooks use integrated graphics which, while not as powerful as a ‘discrete’ GPU, allow the systems to be slim and power efficient. Even though the graphical capabilities of current Ultrabooks won’t satisfy those looking to play the latest blockbuster titles at full settings, there are still plenty of excellent games that will run perfectly on an Ultrabook. I’ve got six great games to share with you that will run great on your Ultrabook and offer hours of entertainment (all together hardly more expensive than a single blockbuster title!) For reference, the current generation of Ultrabooks use Intel’s HD 3000 integrated graphics. The next generation (using Ivy Bridge), which we’ll see launch this year, uses HD 4000 graphics which should offer a significant increase in graphical horsepower. For now, my recommendations and performance-evaluations are based on an Ultrabook using the current-gen HD3000 ‘GPU’ and Core i5 processor. Also note that your experience may vary depending upon the processor that your Ultrabook is equipped with (Core i3, i5, or i7), amount of RAM, whether or not you have up-to-date drivers, and your power settings (check back with us at UltrabookNews for a guide to optimizing your Ultrabook’s power configuration).
As someone that is looking for a comfortable and mobile 720p video editing solution, the Intel Quick-Sync Video component is one of the most exciting for me. It contains both decode and encoding hardware that can really help when converting or rendering a video. Although the demo you see below was done on a Samsung Series 9, it’s using the same 2nd-Generation Core platfom as Ultrabooks will.
Nvidia’s Tegra and Tegra 2 hardware has been quite popular over the last year, bringing powerful CPU and GPU performance to tablets and smartphones in a standardized package. Today, Nvidia is showing off the next version of Tegra, codenamed Kal-El, which will power tomorrow’s tablets and smartphones.
Kal-El is the next iteration of Nvidia’s mobile CPU/GPU series and features the world’s first mobile quad-core CPU, and a whopping dodeca-core GPU (that’s 12, folks!). Nvidia is expecting five times the performance of Tegra 2 out of Kal-El!
They say that seeing is believing:
This impressive video demo shows some intense dynamic lighting and real-time physics. Both lighting and animations are traditionally pre-rendered onto scenes in mobile games and cannot be interacted with in real-time. Nvidia says that Kal-El’s four CPU cores and twelve GPU cores make dynamic lighting and real-time physics animations practical for the first time on mobile devices.
In the demo you’ll watch as the demonstrator disables two of the four CPU cores to simulate how the game would run on a dual-core CPU. The results aren’t very pretty as the cores max-out and the framerate drops to at least half of what it was. Returning to four cores shows each core running around 70% and the game playing very smoothly. What’s great is that Nvidia expects the production CPU to be 25-30% faster than the hardware being used for this demonstration!
The game will be available on the Android Marketplace (likely through the Tegra Zone application) once it’s complete.
Nvidia has been sending out Kal-El samples to production customers since February and expect Kal-El devices to begin production this August.
You’d think that creating a WiFi-only of one of the most popular 7â€ tablets would be as easy as not installing the components that make cellular communication possible, but it looks like Samsung may have made some more significant changes to their WiFi-only Galaxy Tab which appears to be using an older CPU and a slower GPU.
Perhaps as cost-saving measure, the WiFi-only Galaxy Tab is using a â€œ1GHz A8 Cortex processorâ€ according to the official product pageâ€, while the 3G equipped version of the Galaxy Tab is using a â€œC110, 1GHz, Cortex A8 Hummingbirdâ€ processor.
Both devices are using 1GHz A8 CPUs, but the 3G equipped version of the Galaxy Tab uses the PowerVR SGX 540 GPU while the WiFi only version is using the previous generation.
We haven’t had out hands on the WiFi-only Galaxy Tab to find out how this change impacts performance, but here’s a tidbit from a user on the XDA forum:
â€œI need only wifi so I bought wifi version. However I found the performance is not good. I see noticeable lag when pulling down the notification bar. I go and check out 3G version. It’s lot better.â€
We’ve reached out to Samsung for an official comment and will update when we hear from the company.
Thanks to the tipster slim_thumb who sent this in!
Update: Looks like the GPU isn’t the only thing that Samsung has downgraded for the WiFi-only version. According to the official product page, the WiFi-only Galaxy Tab is using Bluetooth 2.1 instead of 3.0 as on the 3G equipped version. This could be a clerical error on the site, a software restriction, or truly downgraded Bluetooth module. We’re still waiting to hear back from Samsung.
Technical sessions at Intel’s IDF in Beijing have all finished now so it’s time to go through some of the presentation material, the press releases and interview information from various sources to put together a summary of what Intel are planning with Cedar Trail in the netbook market. some details are still misssing but at this stage we can put together a fairly complete picture.
Intel’s netbook strategy comprises two platforms. The first, and the one that appears on most netbooks, is the Pinetrail platform. That is due for an update later this year and the new platform will be known as Cedar Trail, the one we’re discussing here.
The second platform is a more specialist, low end [performance] platform that grew out of the Menlow ultra mobile PC platform. Oaktrail, which uses the Z6xx Lincroft cpu is shipping now and offers a lower TDP with refined graphics and enhanced power-saving features. Oaktrail is for embedded, tablet and thin, light and rugged netbook solutions. Information on Oaktrail can be found here.
Netbook market predictions.
While excitement in the netbook sector has cooled off somewhat and most commentators agree that some parts of the market are seeing competition from tablets, the sales numbers remain significant.
Note that this is the total addressable market. AMD Fusion, ARM and VIA-based devices will be competing for this market too. For Intel to compete it needs to address the top, bottom and specialist segments of the market.
You may recall that I lost a number of days work last week. Test results, screen caps and a whole bunch of text went out the window when I did a factory re-install on the device I was both testing and writing the article on. That will teach me!
The article was Part 4 of the Ultra Mobile Video Editing series and was a detailed look at two Brazos-optimised video editing applications on the Lenovo S205 AMD E-350 device. The results were, in general, quite impressive with both Cyberlink Power Director 9 and Corel VideStudio X4 showing use of the platforms features. In some cases, hardware video decoding and effects rendering was significantly speeded up through use of AMD Brazos features. In some cases, the results weren’t so good. It all depended on the type of output file.
After I lost my work on the reivew I wrote an overview of AMD APP enhancements amd i’ve just updated that with input from AMD and Cyberlink. The key thing to know with the C and E-Series APUs is this â€“ AMDs video encoding acceleration subsystem (which used to be called Avivo) which is used by many of the AMD enhanced video editors and converters, is not implemented on the E-350 (or its drivers.) It’s likely to be because it’s actually slower than the CPU but the end result is that there are limits to the enhancements that can be made.You can’t expect General Purpose GPU (GP-GPU) enhancements.
The diagram above shows the Cyberlink PowerDirector Brazos acceleration process. Note that the encode stage is 100% CPU bound. Actually this Cyberlink diagram is slightly wrong because there are some encode enhancements implemented in specific effects code that has been written to use Open CL/APP by Cyberlink.
Corel Video Studio X4 (above) and Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 (bottom) video editing panes.
Click to enlarge. These are the hardware acceleration features in Video Studio (left) and PowerDirector.
Ultra Mobile Video Editing Test Results.
The parameters I’ve set for the project are shown below and you can read about why these parameters have been set here.
PC and software to cost less than 600 Euros
PC to be less than 1.5KG with 12â€ screen or less.
Total camera + PC solution to weigh less than 2KG and cost less than 1000 Euro
Source video should be 720p
Video sent to YouTube should be 480p minimum
Editing solution must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
Testing results. (Summarised from paper notes taken during testing.)
Source file: H.264 720p 8mbps 25fps. Output file H.264 720p 5mbps.Â All possible acceleration turned on. System power settings set to ‘always on’ (full power.)
1 â€“ Corel VideoStudio X4 managed to do this test in 3.7x real time which, for such a heavy processing job, is impressive. PowerDirector 9 took significantly longer.
2 â€“ In this test, the video decoding accelerations and memory transfer accelerations implemented tend to have little effect as the processing is very CPU intensive. Hardware video decoding and memory optimisations start to have a more significant effect where output files are smaller and use a less complex codec. 720p H.264 input and MPEG-2 DVD file output is a good example. Resutls were the same with and without accelerations enabled. Using the AMD System Monitor (V0.91) very little GPU activity was seen.
3 â€“ Using Corel VideoStudio, the E-350 CPU was 1.5x faster than the C-50 and 2X faster than an N450 CPU on this specific video encoding test.
4 â€“ For this project (480p minimum output size requirement) there wasn’t an output profile on either software suite that supported the required 852×480 output resolution. 852×480 is a favorable resolution for enabling HQ/480pÂ experience on YouTube.
5 â€“ By adding DivX Pro to the Lenovo S205 I was able to create the required output in an AVI container. I was not successful in getting MP3 audio into the container but I’m confident this is possible. Divx Pro is a 19 Euro license. Divx Pro is a similar implementation of MPEG4 to H.264 (MPEG 4 Part 10) The rendering speed was approx 2.2X real time. This was the best result I achieved in all the tests I did and one that proves the AMD E-350 is capable of producing fast results for my specific video editing and upload requirements. Based on this test it appears that Divx Pro is more tunable (for both resolutions and encoding speed) than the H.264 codecs used in these editing suites.
6 â€“ I was able to output a 720×576 file with 16:9 aspect ratio (correct when re=sized to 852×480) using Power Director 9. The rendering speed was an impressive 1.8x real time. This option as sub-optimal as some resolution is lost when the rendered file is squashed into a 720-wide frame.
The YouTube processes on both Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 and Corel Videostudio X4 don’t support an HQ profile. On Cyberlink, the profiles outpur WMV files which took much longer then H.264 files to output. (Aprox 5.5x real time)
VideoStudio took a very long time to start from fresh boot. Over 60 seconds. PowerDirector 9 is about 25 seconds to start up in the same scenario.
Both video editing suites were fluid in their editing processes.
Power Director has some effects that are implemented in OpenCL for a significant acceleration advantage.
Editing 720p content with these two software packages is quite acceptable for small, in-field projects. Rendering profiles need to be chosen carefully though to get the best out of the system. For my requirements â€“ a 720p H.264 file input and a 480p file output for optimal YouTube uploading I found that a combination of Corel VideoStudio and Divx Pro worked best. Hardware and memory acceleration works in this process and with an 8mbps H.264 720p file input and 480p 30fps file output with ‘fastest’ Divx encoding settings and a 2Mbps bitrate. Rendering rate was 2-2.5x real time depending on audio codex setup. (Using high-power ‘always on’ battery settings on the system.) The images below show most of the configuration settings used.
With most of the process being CPU-load though, one wonders what a dual-core N570 CPU would achieve with the same test. I will be looking to get that result added to this report as soon as possible.
Let us all know about your mobile video editing experiences in the comments/discussion below.
Stay tuned for the next part of this series where I will be testing a standard laptop CPU and chipset, possibly an Intel Sandy Bridge system.
Details of two Oaktrail parts have been revealed by Intel today confirming pretty much everything we knew already! Availability of the Oaktrail parts are ‘now’ but as I mentioned in a tweet a few days ago, the first products shipping with Oaktrail won’t appear until at least May.
Two part numbers have been confirmed. The Z670 and Z650 (1.5Ghz and 1.2Ghz)Â are both 3W CPUs and will be paired with the SM35 chipset at 0.75W. Remember that on the previous Z-series generation, codenamed Menlow, the two-chip solution came in at around 5W for the same capability. Both parts are manufactured on the 45nm process.
We’ve been fairly sure that the graphics core would be another PowerVR design for a long time but Intel finally confirmed that it’s the GMA600 clocked up to 400Mhz. That’s twice the speed of the GPU on Menlow and it should provide a noticeable boost. We’re not sure of the core design yet.
Importantly, the memory controller is now on-die with the GPU and CPU and this should also provide a noticeable boost as it did on Pinetrail in 2010. Other features include Intels ‘Deeper Sleep’ , ‘Enhanced Speed Step’ and, as on the previous generation, 1080p hardware decoding.
The SM35 chipset provides a new SATA interface USB is limited to V2.0 only. HDMI ports are supported.
This slide refers to the Z6xx series in embedded, long-term-support versions. Apparently the consumer version of the Z670 is shipping ‘now.’
Intel are talking about 35 Oaktrail design wins. Some of them are shown below.
Asus Eee Pad Slider, Evolve III, Fujitsu Stylistic Q500, Lenovo Ideapad Slate, Motion Computing L900
Next Gen Netbook Platform â€“ 2H 2011 â€“ to Include hardware video decoding.
Intel will be leaking various details of the new Netbook platform over the next 24hrs but have already confirmed some of the Cedar Trail predictions I made last week. Wireless Display and Wireless Audio will be included on the platform along with a 1080p hardware decoding. Either this indicates a shift to a Z-series style GPU core or a totally new GPU design. I suspect the latter in order to include much needed 3D enhancements.
It has been clear for some time that Adobe were working with the ARM and Intel community and would eventually acknowledge that there are components on many devices that can decode H.264 better than a CPU. The Menlow platform has always supported H.264 decoding in hardware but the YouTube experience has been extremely poor because Flash doesn’t known about DXVA (Direct X Video Acceleration.) The same applies to many smarphone platforms too. OMAP 3 for example (as seen on N900, Archos 5, Palm Pre) has the silicon dedicated to this process but it’s not used. The CPU is left struggling, draining battery and giving the user a very poor experience.
Adobe Systems Incorporated today unveiled AdobeÂ® FlashÂ® Player 10.1 software for smartphones, smartbooks, netbooks, PCs and other Internet-connected devices, allowing content created using the Adobe Flash Platform to reach users wherever they are. A public developer beta of the browser-based runtime is expected to be available for WindowsÂ® Mobile, PalmÂ® webOS and desktop operating systems including Windows, Macintosh and Linux later this year. Public betas for GoogleÂ® Androidâ„¢ and SymbianÂ® OS are expected to be available in early 2010. In addition, Adobe and RIM announced a joint collaboration to bring Flash Player to BlackberryÂ® smartphones, and Google joined close to 50 other industry players in the Open Screen Project initiative.
Windows Mobile, Palm, Windows, Linux and Mac get the public beta first with Android and Symbian getting betas in 2010. As for full releases, expect the desktop to get it first with handset manufacturers and carriers feeding it in later in 2010. The iPhone platform isn’t mentioned in the release so maybe Apple will double their efforts on HTML 5 and native video support.
You can bet that GPU-accelerated flash will be included in Moblin 2.1 in 2010 for the Pineview and Moorestown platform but Intel do lose a big advantage when the smartphone platforms get the same software. After that point it’s all about design and software.
One of the things I expected to find out at the Intel Developer Forum this year were details about Pinetrail and Moorestown graphics. GMA950 on the current netbook platform clearly needs a boost in the video codec department and if Moblin 2 is only going to support Moorestown and Pinetrail along with the current generation of netbooks, it makes sense that they have the same graphics core right? It fits perfectly with Intel’s ‘Continuum’ of devices on the Atom platform. Unfortunately the information on the graphics was limited to notes about OpenGL 2.0 ES and a mention of a PowerVR core in a ‘Sodaville’ Atom-based media processor presentation (image right.)
During a session at IDF this week though, I had fairly concrete confirmation from people in-the-know that the graphics on the Moorestown platform would be a GMA500 (PowerVR SGX core) as you’ll find in the Menlow (Poulsbo chipset as seen on the Asus T91, Viliv X70 and other mobile and long battery-life-focused solutions.) I was a little surprised that it’s the GMA500 but have no reason to disbelieve the info I was given.
Dovetailing nicely with that information though is continuing speculation that Pineview, the CPU+GPU on the Pinetrail netbook platform is also going to use the GMA500. The original info comes from a June article by HKEPC but LinuxDevices seem fairly confident that it is in fact a GMA500 core in Pinetrail.
Its looking like we’re going to have a very closely-matched range of platforms come mid-2010 then.
Pinetrail â€“ Netbook platform. Atom 1.66Ghz + GMA500 GPU
Menlow â€“ MID platform. Atom ranging from 800Mhz-2.0Ghz + GMA 500 GPU (with PowerVR SGX core)
Moorestown â€“ Atom CPU (clockrate unknown) + GMA 500 GPU (With PowerVR SGX core)
Sodaville â€“ AtomÂ CPU + PowerVR SGX core.
Note: In each case the graphics may be clocked at different speeds ranging from 133 â€“ 400Mhz. On current devices we see a 133Mhz graphics clock.
The exciting thing about this is that everything is aligned well to keep it simple for developers and there’s just one operating system that will sit on top of all these to provide optimised kernel, drivers, SDK and app-store. Moblin. From smartphones to netbooks through set-top boxes, PNDs, PMPs, Web tablets and more. One platform for developers that covers, in the 2010-2012 timeframe, an addressable market of over 400 million units, in just the mobile internet device and smartphone segment. Add a few hundred million on top of that for netbooks!