Tag Archive | "intel atom"

Intel Atom Z2580 Launched – Dual Core for High-End Smartphones and Tablets

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At a Intel press event, still going on as I write, Intel has just announced that Z2580 that we tipped earlier today. It’s a dual-core version of the current Intel smartphone platform which is capable of running Android x86 and other x86 software.

…the  Atomâ„¢ Z2580 processor that doubles the performance of the Atom processor Z2460, and features an advanced multimode LTE/3G/2G solution. Intel will sample the Z2580 in the second half of the year with customer products scheduled in the first half of 2013.

In addition to the Z2500 series, there’s now a new Z2000 series at 1Ghz aimed at a lower-cost segment.

Addressing the growing handset opportunity in emerging markets where consumers look for more value at lower prices, Intel disclosed plans for the Intel® Atom™ processor Z2000.

The Z2000 is aimed squarely at the value smartphone market segment, which industry sources predict could reach up to 500 million units by 20151. The platform includes a 1.0 GHz Atom CPU offering great graphics and video performance, and the ability to access the Web and play Google Android* games. It also supports the Intel® XMM 6265 3G HSPA+ modem with Dual-SIM 2G/3G, offering flexibility on data/voice calling plans to save on costs. Intel will sample the Z2000 in mid-2012 with customer products scheduled by early 2013.

Also announced was news that Medfield will now be enabled to 2Ghz.

“Extending the leading performance and energy efficiency of the Intel™ Atom® processor Z2460, formerly codenamed “Medfield,” Intel announced that the platform will now support speeds up to 2GHz.”

More details if we get them in the press conference that continues…..

Intel Dual-Core Clover Trail for Phones, Tablets (And Win 8) Due Today

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Very quickly before we go to the next meeting I want to relay some reliable information I’ve had this morning about Intel’s next generation phone and tablet platform.

Clover Trail (and CloverTrail +) is likely to be launched today.

The platform is Dual Core (that’s likely to be 2×1.6Ghz for Win 8 and Android Tablets) and there will be a version for smartphones.

Z2580 is the name of the platform.

More later today.

Cisco Cius. Video Review and Hardware Analysis

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It’s clear that tablets are moving to the enterprise. The iPad has already infiltrated many markets (pilots are getting iPads to carry  manuals for example) and you’ll find them in many media companies. Android is moving that way too with Honeycomb leaning towards touch and mouse input methods. The operating systems are moving forward quickly (although there are still many limits) and the apps are following. What about the hardware though? Can you plug a keyboard and mouse into an Android tablet and get to work in a corporate fashion? Cisco seems to think so and on analyzing some more information and hands-on with the Cisco Cius, I’m liking what I see. This is a very flexible thin-client and mobile computing device that could show the way for true pro-mobile computing solutions of the future.

 

Cisco Cius (2)

 

Android, Intel, Tablet are three words that many wouldn’t really expect to go together but it’s no secret that Intel have been working on Android for well over a year. They’ve been working on core items like power control and trying to dovetail the software with their new ultra-mobile platforms. The version of Atom inside the Cisco Cius is unique in that it can’t run Windows – another surprise from Intel. I also note that we’re seeing an non-Windows Intel tablet from a major brand here. Isn’t that what Intel wanted to do with MeeGo and Nokia?

Cisco Cius specifications, links, gallery available through our Cisco Cius information page.

Moving on, the tablet is only half of the product because the media dock is the really interesting bit. Docks are worth their weight in gold, especially when it’s one that’s a feature-rich as this.

• 3 USB ports

• 3.5-mm headset jack

• 10/100/1000-Gbps switch ports for wired connections and Power over Ethernet (PoE)

• Additional speaker for wideband hands-free communications

• DisplayPort™ to connect to a larger display for an immersive video experience and for a virtualized desktop experience

• Two handset options: standard and slimline

So lets summarise that as  a quality docking station.

A bit more about the tablet software. It includes support for Cisco’s secure remote applications architecture. It’s thin-client for the big-boys basically and it integrates with cisco’s security, VPN and prioritisation support on their routers. A ‘VXI Endpoint’ is the Cisco term for this.

You’ve also got a Cisco marketplace with approved apps and a separate API and developer community. One assumes the IT people can remove access to the Google Market because that’s there too highlighting the fact that this is a fully approved X86 build of Android. Intel have done well to get past this point because it means a lot of value-add for their customers. One wonders if it could affect the value of Intels AppUp solution.  The Cisco store includes apps from Citrix, VMWare and Wyse for remote access solutions although these are available in the market. [I’m using Wyse Pocket Cloud Pro to test Android to Vista server remote desktop right now. It’s nice to see Chrome on the Android screen.]

The Android build is only 2.2 unfortunately. Intel are working on Honeycomb but it’s not clear if Cisco will roll-out that upgrade for the Cius. I assume it would be a big software job.

Cisco Cius specifications, links, gallery available through our Cisco Cius information page.

Don’t forget that you’ve also got:

  • HD video encoder hardware on the front facing cam. 720p 30fps should make for some great conferencing sessions. (Cisco WebEx is built-in)
  • SIP support
  • Removable battery

I’ve been looking around for reviews of the Cius and there isn’t much out there at the moment but the video below is worth a watch. It’s an honest overview from an owner who seems happy with the device overall but has a problem with battery life. Yes, you were wondering about that weren’t you. Intel, Tablets and battery life often don’t go together.

Take a look at the video below and you’ll hear a comment about the battery “draining like crazy.” It’s difficult to get a perspective on this comment so I asked the author. This is what he said:

 I have the most current firmware and I would say the standby time is around 5 hours. It would around 3 hours if I used it regularly.

If we were talking about a small battery here I’d say ‘OK’ but we’re not. The Cius packs a 19Wh battery in 520gm. Here’s what Cisco say about battery life.

• Removable 5200 mAh battery
• Battery estimated use times will be provided at a later date (battery is expected to last up to 8 hours for typical business use)

There’s quite a difference between 3hrs and 8hrs there. Given that this is a 2.2W TDP Morestown platform that should idle way down to sub 1w territory with Android, a screen-off, Wifi-on scenario should be returning at least 15 hours. With the screen on, add 1W. In-use, add another Watt and you should be at a minimum of 4hrs usage. I don’t understand what’s going wrong here. Maybe Intel have some work to do on the Android build still?

The video is worth watching because you’ll see smooth transitions across the board and you’ll see some apps demonstrated. I only wish we could have seen some benchmarks. Sunspider would be important as would Quadrant and a simple Benchmark Pi test.  Is the browser based on Chrome rather than the Android browser? [Update: It uses the standard Android browser.] Are there any other special features hidden in the system settings too?

Apart from the battery life issue which needs to be confirmed, there are two other issues. This is a Wifi-only device right now which is not good for mobility. 3G is expected later this year via Verizon in the U.S.A. Secondly, you’re looking at $750 for the tablet and (my) estimated street price of $400 for the dock. It sounds a bit heavy for a thin client based on Android (considering I can do the same on my Iconia Tab wifi for about $500) but don’t underestimate the value of a rich dock. Charging, USB, headset, display port, gigabit Ethernet and handset is a lot of flexibility there. As for the tablet itself, yes, $750 is a lot for the hardware but this isn’t just any old Android hardware, it’s a software bundle too.  The price is right in my opinion. This is a corporate solution so don’t forget, if you’re looking at 200 of these units, you’ll be getting a huge reduction on those prices. 30% at least.

What we need now is for someone to make a consumer version of the Cisco Cius. Drop the handset and the Cisco-specific software, fix that battery life issue, style it up a little and you could be looking at an interesting crossover Android device. Fingers crossed for a real browser on the Intel Honeycomb build. It’s on the Google TV build so why not on a tablet build?

Cisco Cius, Owner Report

Cisco Cius specifications, links, gallery available through our Cisco Cius information page.

Oaktrail Windows Tablet Reviews Start Slowly at GottaBeMobile

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A few days ago I found a CPU-Mark score for the ‘Oaktrail’ Z670 CPU. It confirms to us in no uncertain terms that the 1.5Ghz single core Atom CPU is, relative to other X86 CPUs, extremely weak and really no different from the first generation Atom CPUs that came before it. The difference with Oaktrail is that the memory and graphics speeds should be vastly superior to that which we saw on the ‘UMPC’ platform, Menlow, over the last few years. Coupled with quality components and good engineering it should be able to provide an acceptable Windows tablet experience and offer some interesting battery life scenarios too. In theory.

cl900 windows tablet

In practice we’re going to have to wait for more Oaktrail Windows tablet hands-on and it looks like the wait for the first Oaktrail based devices has finally come to an end. In Germany the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 is now shipping and, even better, the guys at Gottabemobile have got both the Fujitsu Q550 and Motion Computing CL900 in their hands. Sumocat (@sumocats) has the Q550 and Chris Lucksted (@DangerousWit) has the CL900.

Lets start with the Q550 and it’s not a good start at all. A ‘bitter core’ is how Sumocat refers to the processor and in the video he’s included in his Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 review, you can see the tablet struggling to handle the Gottabemobile home page with flash turned on. This is an area where GPU, memory and disk speed have little affect because it’s mostly about the CPU working to render the page and execute javascript and flash – a tough challenge and one that got worse since Atom was introduced. The performance we’re seeing here is nothing better than Tegra 2 tablets running Honeycomb. Again, back when Atom was introduced, there was no ARM competitor so this lack of CPU performance increase is now very apparent. Application startup time is fast though and, of course, you’ve got a full desktop operating system at your fingertips which is still the only answer for some customers but it seems obvious that this CPU performance issue is going to be a shock to many customers. Is it the same on the CL900?

Part 1 of the CL900 review series is already up. Unfortunately this article doesn’t include any comments about performance or battery life so we’ll have to wait although reading this line was quite the tease…

a 43 WHr battery providing up to 8 hours of runtime with a 4:1 work/charge ratio allowing the CL900 to charge from zero to full in two hours.

I’m not sure if that’s the marketing talking there or the real world testing. An average 5W drain would be something to talk about. Flipping back to the Q550 review you’ll see some discussion of that in the comments. Sure enough, with the screen brightness turned low, but still usable, there was an indicated 8hrs battery life on the Q550. This is with the 4-cell, 38Wh battery which means Oaktrail is indeed running in a very low power envelope.

It’s the power-envelope that’s the key here. It’s allowed the 10” Windows tablet design to drop the fans and shrink to under 2lb (about 800gm.) The question is, is it fast enough? The trade-off could be too much for some, especially as we’re talking about pro-mobile users here. The Q550 customers aren’t exactly casual internet users.

I’ll be interested to see some SSD speed tests and GPU tests done on the Oaktrail platform and to do some more tests on the SSD (which could, in theory, be struggling and blocking if it’s not good enough.) We’ll also have to wait for more tests. The CL900 part 2 review is expected today.

Ultrabooks To Bring Mainstream Closer To Mobility

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As you might have read in the press release from earlier, Intel announced a range of activities and products at Computex today but whichever way you look at it, their pivot-point just moved closer to mobility. Not only did Intel showcase a Medfield tablet running an official X86 build of Android (which will have marketplace support) but they launched a new initiative called ‘Ultrabooks.’ Backed by a trademark, they will aim to move 40% of consumer / mainstream laptop sales under this ‘brand’ before the end of 2012. That’s a huge number of devices. In the region of 20-80 million by my estimate.

ASUS-UX21-Series-back-angle-02

An article over at Anandtech does a great job of defining what an Ultrabook but basically it’s about bringing power consumption down, battery life up to ‘all day’ standards along with lightweight design, mainstream processing power, security and responsiveness. For mobility fans, that means devices around the netbook weight with notebook processing power, just what I need for my ultra mobile video editing project!

I’ve kicked off a new database of products and news over at Ultrabooknews.com. Lets track this thing!

Two other features of the Ultrabook need to be taken into consideration and I’m really pleased to see this. Intel are realising that always-on, or at least, always-updated, is something that people are starting to expect. It’s a feature that ARM-based devices have always had and Intel need to step up to the challenge. While Windows will always present some challenges (until Windows 8 I suspect) they have a couple of workarounds in the mix here. Rapid Start will speed up the return-from-standby process just as some devices have done in the past. The more interesting technology though is SmartConnect. I suspect this is a timed start-up and shutdown phase with a ‘boot and poll sequencer’ as I’ve mentioned before for Cedar Trail but there could be more to it than that as platforms develop. An always-on component is possible.

As Ultrabook platforms move towards the 10W TDP mark (It is expected that they will centre around 15W TDP) there are some interesting possibilities for ultra mobile devices with a good level of processing power for grab-and-go or modular PCs. Don’t expect ultra-low-cost though! What it means is that Atom is going to move down a notch. Lower power envelopes are where Atom was meant to be but it also means that Atom is likely to widen its range to serve low-cost laptops and desktops.

The Intel press releases for todays keynote are here.

Tomorrow we will hear from AMD and we expect them to push Fusion down into lower TDP ranges. Stay with us as we track that one tomorrow. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Ultrabooks and the platforms associated with it?

Press Release Reveals Intel Plans Ahead of Keynote. Ultrabooks and Android Feature.

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While not too surprising in terms of content, this leaked press release, a few hours ahead of Intel’s Computex Keynote, highlights a big shift towards ultra mobile and Atom-based solutions.

Key points of the press release are the accelerating Atom program, a Medfield tablet running Honeycomb, Ultrabooks, Cedar Trail and 10 tablets based on Oaktrail. We suspect these tablets will be included in the demo but we’re interested in the missing items!

Update: The tablets shown on the Intel booth are from: Fujitsu, Lenovo, Motion, MSI, Open Peak, Toshiba, Viliv, and WeTab and ODM customers – BYD, Clevo, Compal, CZC, ECS, Foxconn, Inventec, Lengda, Malata, Pegatron, Quanta, Topstar and Wistron. Not all of these are running the Oaktrail platform.

We’re in contact with a few teams on the ground at Computex and will bring you their news, images and videos later.

 

Intel’s Maloney Talks Mobile Growth, Industry Opportunities at Computex
New Roadmaps Across Intel® Core™ and Atom™ Processor Families to Usher in Next Wave of Laptops and Connected Mobile Devices
NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
Intel defines new category of mainstream thin and light mobile computers, called Ultrabookâ„¢.
Intel aims to shift 40 percent of consumer laptops to the Ultrabookâ„¢ by end of 2012.
Separately, Intel is accelerating the Atomâ„¢ processor roadmap to a one-process-generation per year cadence to enable a wider range of optimized solutions for multiple market segments.
Intel highlighted its next-generation, fanless netbook platform, codenamed “Cedar Trail,” a range of new Atom processor-based tablets available today, and a “Medfield” tablet reference design for sub-9mm designs, weighing less than 1.5 pounds and supporting a choice of operating systems.
COMPUTEX, Taipei, May 31, 2011 – Intel Corporation Executive Vice President Sean Maloney today said that by the end of 2012, 40 percent of the consumer laptop market segment will encompass an emerging new breed of no-compromise computers, called “Ultrabookâ„¢,” which will increasingly combine best-in-class performance, improved responsiveness and security in thin, elegant form factors.
During the opening keynote speech at Computex, one of the world’s largest technology trade shows, Maloney provided further details on the significant changes Intel is making to the Intel® CoreTM processor roadmap to enable this new category. He also reiterated Intel’s push to accelerate the pace of innovation for Intel® AtomTM processor-based system-on-chips (SoCs) for netbooks, smartphones, tablets, and other companion devices.
“Computing is taking many forms,” said Maloney. “Technology innovation is a catalyst, and we believe the changes Intel is making to its roadmaps, together with strong industry collaboration, will bring about an exciting change in personal computing over the next few years.”
The “Ultrabookâ„¢”
Intel’s vision is to enable a new user experience by accelerating a new class of mobile computers. These computers will marry the performance and capabilities of today’s laptops with tablet-like features and deliver a highly responsive and secure experience, in a thin, light and elegant design. The Ultrabookâ„¢ will be shaped by Moore’s Law and silicon technology in the same way they have shaped the traditional PC for the past 40 years.
Maloney described three key phases in the company’s strategy to accelerate this vision, which begins to unfold today with the company’s latest 2nd Generation Intel® CoreTM processors. This family of products will enable thin, light and beautiful designs that are less than 20mm (0.8 inch) thick, and mainstream price points under US$1,000. Systems based on these chips will be available for the 2011 winter holiday shopping season and include the UX21, ASUS* Ultrabookâ„¢. ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih joined Maloney on stage to showcase the company’s new ultra-thin laptop based on the latest 2nd Generation Intel Core processor.
“At ASUS, we are very much aligned with Intel’s vision of Ultrabookâ„¢,” said Shih. “Our customers are demanding an uncompromised computing experience in a lightweight, highly portable design that responds to their needs quickly. Transforming the PC into an ultra thin, ultra responsive device will change the way people interact with their PC.”
Building on the latest 2nd Generation Intel Core technology, Maloney outlined the next generation Intel processor family codenamed “Ivy Bridge,” which is scheduled for availability in systems in the first half of 2012. Laptops based on “Ivy Bridge” will bring improved power efficiency, smart visual performance, increased responsiveness and enhanced security. “Ivy Bridge” is the first high-volume chip based on Intel’s 22 nanometer (nm) manufacturing technology that uses a revolutionary 3-D transistor design called Tri-Gate announced in May. Maloney also highlighted complementary USB 3.0 and Thunderboltâ„¢ technologies which are part of Intel’s ongoing work to drive the PC platform forward.
Following “Ivy Bridge,” planned 2013 products codenamed “Haswell” are the third step toward achieving the Ultrabookâ„¢ and reinventing the capabilities of the laptop in ultra thin and light, responsive and more secure designs. With “Haswell,” Intel will change the mainstream laptop thermal design point by reducing the microprocessor power to half of today’s design point.
Accelerating the Intel® Atom™ Processor Roadmap
Maloney highlighted key milestones and additional details on upcoming generations of Intel Atom processor-based platforms for tablets, netbooks and smartphones. The Atom processor will outpace Moore’s Law, accelerating from 32nm through 22nm to 14nm within 3 successive years. Having a cadence of a new-process-generation every year will result in significant reduction in transistor leakage, lower active power and an increase of transistor density to enable more powerful smartphones, tablets, and netbooks with more features and longer battery life.
Reaching its 100 million-unit milestone this month, Intel is preparing its next-generation netbook platform, codenamed “Cedar Trail.” “Cedar Trail” is the first netbook platform based on Intel’s 32nm technology, and will enable ultra-thin, fanless designs with new capabilities such as Intel® Rapid Start technology which provides fast resume, Intel® Smart Connect Technology which enables an always updated experience even during standby, Intel® Wireless Display and PC Synch, which let users wirelessly update and synchronize documents, content and media across multiple devices. In addition, the new platform is expected to enable more than 10 hours of battery life and weeks of standby. “Cedar Trail” will support leading operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows*, Google Chrome* and MeeGo*.
In addition, Maloney showcased more than 10 tablets, running on three different operating systems, that are available today based on the Intel Atom processor Z670. The platform already has more than 35 design wins since its launch in April, with several convertibles, sliders and other innovative designs on shelves now and more coming through the rest of the year.
Maloney also discussed “Medfield,” Intel’s first purpose-built 32nm platform for smartphones and tablets. “Medfield” has been optimized for both low power and high performance and will deliver long use-time, rich media and gaming, and advanced imaging capabilities. To illustrate this point in tablets, Intel showcased a “Medfield” design running Google Android* 3.0 (“Honeycomb”) for the first time. In production later this year, the platform will enable sub-9mm designs that weigh less than 1.5 pounds for tablet designs in market the first half of 2012. It will support a range of operating systems including Android and MeeGo.
According to Maloney, “The work Intel is doing with the Intel® Atomâ„¢ processor roadmap, coupled with the significant changes we are making to our Intel® Coreâ„¢ processor roadmaps, will continue to enhance Intel’s ability to deliver complete hardware solutions with a choice of software platforms across a full spectrum of computing — from back-end servers that power the cloud to the billions of devices that access the cloud.”
The Cloud’s Rapid Expansion
More people and devices connecting to the Internet will lead to unprecedented growth in cloud-based services for storage, synchronization and entertainment, according to Maloney, and Intel is poised to grow with it. He said that one new Intel-based server is needed for roughly every additional 600 new smartphones or 122 new tablets connecting to the Internet. He also reiterated the company’s “Cloud 2015” vision of a world of interoperable “federated” clouds that allow enterprises to share data securely across public and private clouds; “automated” networks that allow the movement of workloads between servers in the data center for better utilization and energy efficiency, and “device-aware” clouds that know what types of applications, commands and processing.
In closing, Maloney stressed the critical role of the Taiwan IT industry in the next transformation of computing. He called for collective innovations that will lead the industry into the next era as computing takes many new forms and becomes ever more pervasive and affordable. “The Taiwan IT industry will be instrumental in realizing this vision,” said Maloney.
More information about today’s announcements is available at www.intel.com/newsroom/computex/index.htm
About Intel
Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is a world leader in computing innovation. The company designs and builds the essential technologies that serve as the foundation for the world’s computing devices. Additional information about Intel is available at newsroom.intel.com and blogs.intel.com.
Intel, Intel Core, Atom, the Intel logo and Ultrabook are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the United States and other countries. * Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.

Another use for the Oaktrail Tablet – Intel Honeycomb in 2H 2011.

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tx100 honeycombI’ve been talking about this since, well, over a year ago.  Intel’s new-generation mobile platforms, including Oaktrail, Moorestown and Medfield, could couple well with Android. I don’t mean a community X86 project, I mean official, Google approved, power-optimised versions of Android. Honeycomb included.

Image right: Mock-up

Digitimes just reported that “Asustek Computer and Lenovo are to launch Oak Trail/Android 3.1 tablet PCs soon and also Cedar Trail/ Chrome models in the second half of the year.”

Dual mode tablets will be possible and there’s even a chance that virtualization could let multiple OS’ run concurrently. Oh how I hope Intel get on stage at Computex and show Windows, Meego and Android running on the same device. Why? Because it’s a great choice for the pro-customer and when it comes to productivity, we need more CPU power than ARM-based solutions can deliver today. Intel should also be able to achieve ‘always-on’ with these new platforms too. When I asked Intel about Android a year ago they said that power optimisation work was lagging MeeGo. Lets see next week how far MeeGo has come. I’ll try and find someone in Intel to give us a Honeycomb update too.

Anyone fancy a triple-OS Samsung TX100?

VIa netbooknews.

Intel Switch to PowerVR Graphics for CedarTrail (Unconfirmed)

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There’s good and bad news to be drawn out of the news that Intel will go with a PowerVR core on Cedar Trail, the next generation of Netbook platform. VR-Zone report that Cedarview (the processing engine in the Cedar Trail platform) will include an SGX545 graphics core and not Intel graphics as had previously been suggested here.

VR-Zone – Cedarview to sport PowerVR graphics.

The good news is that it brings the netbook platform in-line with other Atom platforms used for TV, ultra-mobile, embedded and tablet products and simplifies the builds for MeeGo and Android. The bad news is that the drivers for past versions of the SGX core used in Menlow (Z5xx-series CPUs) were never that good. Linux support, in particular, was a big problem.

Intel will, of course, be aware of that and will have to take steps to improve it because if 30 million sales of netbooks have unstable or poorly implemented drivers, it could have a serious impact.

As for the theoretical performance of the SGX545, I can only offer these figures that I dig out of web searches this morning. They aren’t confirmed.

GMA500 (PowerVR SGX535 – 200Mhz) 13 million triangles per second

GMA600 (PowerVR SGX535 – 400Mhz) 26 million triangles per second (assumed)

GMAxxx – (PowerVR SGX545 – 400Mhz) 80 million triangles per second (low power version)

GMAxxx – (PowerVR SGX545 – 640Mhz) 128 million triangles per second.

There’s a potential 10x improvement over GMA500 there but these figures are fairly meaningless as memory bus, cpu processing power and other implementation issues (including driver software) will affect the true performance.  The diagram shown on VR_Zone though shows a target of 2x Pinetrail. While that’s probably not going to beat the 3D performance of AMDs Zacate platforms, it’s a welcome boost that will drive non-gaming devices well and, we assume, keep the power requirements down. For non-gamers, the balance of CPU, GPU, media and power drain is likely to be good.

My outstanding question:Will Intel enable ‘shutdown’ idle (sub 200mw system drain) for screen-off scenarios on Cedar Trail like it is trying to do on Oaktrail, Moorestown and Medfield? This is something they may work with Microsoft on for Windows 8

The news has not been officially confirmed by Intel but that might happen at Computex later this month. If not, wait for hands-on at IDF 2011 in September where we expect final launch and product availability to be announced.

IDF Beijing: Oaktrail to run 3.75W TDP. Next Gen Netbook Platform to get HD Video Acceleration

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Z670 and Z650 Launched with 3W TDP

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)  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.

Z6xx details
This slide refers to the Z6xx series in embedded, long-term-support versions. Apparently the consumer version of the Z670 is shipping ‘now.’

We’re working with a couple of OEDs to get a sample of an Oaktrail Tablet in the studio soon for more testing. We’re confident of good battery life on Oaktrail but need to test more on the performance side of things. Here’s our ECS Oaktrail Tablet hands-on at CeBIT.

Intel are talking about 35 Oaktrail design wins. Some of them are shown below.

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Asus Eee Pad Slider, Evolve III, Fujitsu Stylistic Q500, Lenovo Ideapad Slate, Motion Computing L900

Next Gen Netbook Platform – 2H 2011 – 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.

Fanless designs are mentioned in the early press teaser although Joanna Stern managed to get an interesting quote out of Intel. Apparently the Cedar Trail platform will get a ‘big boost’ in performance. Are they going dual-core across the range or is this just a reference the a new GPU that could compete with AMD’s Fusion APUs?

Expect more on Cedar Trail over the next 24hrs.

Source: Intel Press

Intel to give First Looks at ‘New Generation’ Netbook platform at IDF Beijing

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IDF Beijing is the first Intel Developer Forum of 2011 and it starts on 12th April. While it’s not as big as IDF San Francisco in Sept it serves an important event for Intel in Asia because it is about now that ODMs will be looking at platforms for the Q4 market. IDF Beijing could provide us with important clues as to what advances will be made and how Intel want to market their platforms and software solutions in 2011.

In previous Beijing events we’ve seen…

IDF Beijing 2010 – Tunnel Creek. Next-gen embedded Atom platform

IDF Beijing 2009 – New Mids

IDF Beijing 2008 – Intel Atom products – first availability info.

IDF Beijing 2007 – MIDs are the new UMPCs

IDF Beijing 2011 includes a raft of Atom and mobility-focused sessions. Digitimes also say that Intel are encouraging notebook manufacturers to develop Android/Intel solutions for demonstration at IDF.  Doug Davis, General Manager, Netbook and Tablet Group will be giving a keynote so that’s the one to watch. I suspect that the Android Tablets won’t be the big news from his keynote though.

Taking a detailed look at the session catalogue there’s one session that stands out and having just put my thoughts down about the next generation netbook platform [extract below] this is one session I will be watching carefully.  Cedar Trail needs to make more than just an evolutionary step – critical architecture changes are needed to put value-add and GPU performance into the platform.

Here’s the detail from the session catalogue:

Designing a New Generation of Netbooks with the Intel® Atom™ Processor Based Platform

This session will introduce a new set of platform features and innovations that will allow HW manufacturers and developers the opportunity to build the next generation of exciting netbook designs that will delight the consumer. In addition, attendees will get first looks at the next generation Intel® Atom™ processor based platform.
Topics covered in this session:
• Platform capabilities enabled by Intel® WiFi solutions that deliver new netbook usage models
• Features and benefits overview of the next generation Intel Atom processor based platform
• Thermal solutions for cool and quiet fanless netbook designs
• Exciting demonstrations

I’ve highlighted the important lines but also take note of the Intel Wifi note. In my opinion that relates to Wireless Display and Wireless Audio. That’s exactly what needs to happen to create a unique value-add. The new netbook platform is currently known as Cedar Trail.

Here are my thoughts on Cedar Trail:

I confess that I didn’t have a lot of faith in AMD’s Brazos solution but they did it. They’ve made a classic disruptive move which will change the face of the netbook forever and, unless Intel repond quickly, take share away from Intel in the low-cost computing market. Well-known features/keywords like ‘HDMI’ and ‘1080p’ that are recognizable to the man on the street will differentiate AMD from Intel and where the price is the same, there’s little to think about. Games are also possible on AMD netbooks and it leaves little room for Intel to play in when it comes to Cedar-Trail.  They’ll have to increase the CPU power (1.66ghz dual-core is a nice figure that looks better, and performs better than the AMD 1.0Ghz solution) and add their thermal monitoring to allow overclocking on a core-by-core basis. 2.0Ghz ‘Turbo’ will be worth seeing. They’ll also have to add the 1080p capability from their Menlow and Moorestown platforms. To beat AMD they will need Wireless Display and hardware-accelerated H.264 and WMV encoding features to help with video format conversion. Longer battery life is a must and this is something Intel is highly likely to deliver with amazingly low quiescent states and very tightly-coupled wireless solutions. Given the likelihood that they will have a lower platform TDP and enable a smaller motherboard size, Intel solutions are likely to be thinner and lighter.

A convergence of the Oaktrail and  Pinetrail platforms into Cedar Trail (in terms of GPU architecture) is also needed in order to unify the platform for other software stacks but what would also be interesting would be Intels ‘power island’ or ‘power gating’ technology brought to netbooks. That could bring ‘always-on’ with compatible operating systems such as MeeGo, Android or even Chrome OS.

Intel need to deliver something special with Atom at IDF Beijing. Smartphones based on their technology are still missing from the market; Intel-based tablets are largely Windows-based and still not being delivered with Oaktrail; MeeGo is still unproven and the Intel netbook platform is being challenged by AMD.

Other Sessions planned for 2011

  • Developing Intel® Atomâ„¢ Processor Based Tablets
  • Optimizing Touch Experience on Intel® Atomâ„¢ Processor Based Platforms
  • Intel® Atomâ„¢ Processor Power Optimization Guide

The complete session guide is here.

IDF 2011 website is here.

If you’re at IDF Beijing and are interested in reporting for us, please get in touch via the contact form.

Ultra Mobile Video Editing Part 1

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I wrote a few days ago on my personal blog about my mobile video editingI project aims. Soon after I posted that, I had a long talk with @jkkmobile who, like me, is always looking for ways to improve speed and quality while keeping the weight down. We both deeply understand the tech involved, the requirements and challenges and have come up with a set of initial thoughts that we hopebare worth sharing.

To recap, the three areas of interest are cloud-based processing, arm-based smartphone and tablet processing and traditional x86 laptops. The target for this project is a sub €600 solution that is able to post 16:9 HQ quality (480p) edited content with watermarks, titles, crossfade and other cpu-bound processes. The computer solution should weigh less than 1.5 kg. Trust me, this is quite a challenge as you’ll see below.

We quickly discussed the idea of cloud-based editing but while that might be possible over good cable networks, over 3g networks it is too unreliable and too slow. We’re both interested in this as a future possibility and Clesh is a service we’re watching closely.

As for ARM based editing on smartphones and tablets, again, there are issues. While the technology is maturing quickly and there are some interesting software solutions out there (Reel Director on IOS, Movie Studio on Honeycomb Android) these solutions need tight integration of hardware and software. We’re thinking of future cameras that include camera hardware you just don’t get in ‘general purpose’ smartphones and Tablets. For a smooth and fast editing experience we also need to wait for at least the next generation of ARM platforms. There’s definitely an opportunity for someone to make a niche ARM/ANDROID camera for mobile reporters although we’re not sure that the carriers would be too pleased about the upload usage! Software needs to mature too. Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t post the occasional 30 second clip from a phone without editing. I plan to do some of that using the Galaxy Tab which, although not a 16:9 solution, records in 720×480 and has some very simple and easy sharing tools.

Todays video editing solutions are very much about traditional computing. X86 processors, desktop operating system, rich software, common file formats and separate devices for the camera and editing parts of the process. Many will actually tell you that you shouldn’t even think about a low cost laptop. As for netbook, people that do video editing for a living often laugh.

Having used a netbook for editing and posting videos at expos’s I know its possible. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it because JKK and I have over 20 million combined YouTube views and most of these were done on-the-go with a netbook but as I mentioned in the last post, the requirements have changed over the last 2 years and 4:3 VGA videos aren’t acceptable to many. Its a trend, it works against the mobile user but I (JKK already produces videos in 16:9) have to play along now if I’m to be taken seriously.

JKK and I agree that there are a number of approaches that can be made in the x86 world.

Firstly we’ve discounted the idea of using Apple Mac products with iMovie for mobile video editing due to the import process which converts video into the AIC format usable by the video editing software. The process simply takes too long. There are other software solutions though which could be interesting on the MacBook Air product, as long as there is no import processing. This needs further research but even if the import problem could be solved, the price of the Apple MBA products is outside our range. I’m focusing this project on low-cost and lightweight solutions.

In our discussion we repeatedly came back to Nvidias CUDA technology which allows a certain amount of general purpose computing to be done on the graphics module. It is truly a game-changing technology but it does require software to be re-written to take advantage of it.

You see, graphics modules (gpu) are very specific processing engines for 2d, 3D and video decoding. In some cases the GPU can also handle encoding but these basic processes are often not what you need for video editing. Consider a fade, an overlay, a watermark or a transition. These processes require general purpose processing on a frame by frame basis. This is why CUDA is so interesting for mobile and low power video editing; it breaks the requirement for pure CPU processing.

CUDA doesn’t just appear in high end graphics solutions because it also appears in the Nvidia ion2 platform that is offered with the netbook-class Pinetrail CPU. Beware though, this ion2 variant doesn’t include the CUDA you need for video processing. The lowest power processing platform that we have found that includes full CUDA capability is the Ion2 12″ Netbook platform. it couples the D525 dual-core, 1.8Ghz Atom with the full 16-core CUDA engine. They are not the best mobile cpus (speedstep is missing) but they are in a processing class that easily outpaced traditional netbook platforms. The ion2 solution also allows the platform to fall back to the embedded graphics thus saving power when the GPU is not needed. The platform also idles down to a very low power drain state. For our purposes, its a very interesting platform.

Examples of devices that use this platform are the Acer EeePC 1215n and the Acer Lamborghini VX6 which even offers a useful 3GB of memory. Both are around 1.5kg in weight.

But what about dropping CUDA and going for a general purpose CPU with a bit more power than Atom? It’s possible. The Lenovo U160 offers CPU options up to core i5. Could a boost in cpu equal the CUDA solution? It would certainly be more useful for general purpose activities and opens up the choice of software to that which isn’t optimized for CUDA. Using a higher-end architecture with faster bus speeds and one well matched to a GPU for more efficiency might bring benefits.

Two choices in the low-cost area that I’m looking at are the Lenovo U160 and the Acer Aspire 1830T. Both are available with a low power Core i5 and weigh about 1.4kg. The Acer has the better performance and battery life of the two according to reports I’ve read. Cost is relatively high though and it is going to be tough to find a solution under 600 Euro.

The other interesting thoughts we discussed was that of the keyboard requirement. Could we used Tablet PCs and save weight and space?

Editing movies is largely a mouse operation which means it could be suited to tablet operation. In general though, battery sizes are smaller (and spares more expensive.) I haven’t seen any Tablets with the CUDA 12″ netbook platform and there are only a few low cost options with laptop cpus. The Hanvon B10 is one of them. We see the advantage of the ‘modular’ tablet solution but we’re both wanting to keep or lapping scenario, the keyboard and the protection it brings when folded together.

JKK and I discussed a bunch of other important items too. Fast SSD helps a lot. Using fast SD cards means you can edit from the SD card without having to copy it to the hard drive first.

We also discussed file formats, bitrate and sizes. We’re currently in agreement that h.264 is the format that provides most flexibility but there’s a huge CPU load associated with h.264 that is used to compress files down much further than standard mpeg4 part 2 codecs. The important thing to note is that our initial and most important file transfer is from an SD card in a PC. The bitrate and file size can be large without affecting the transfer time significantly. Final compression into h.264 at 2 or even 3 mbps doesn’t save that much in final file size and its not important to us how YouTube sends the file out so why even bother with h.264?.

It seems to me that a recording format of Mpeg-2 at a bitrate of 10mbps would be acceptable for our sub 10 minute clips. They would be relatively easy to work with. One thing to note on this is that CUDA  might not work with mpeg2 which brings us back to using a general purpose CPU. Testing is needed here. If we can find video editing software that uses CUDA for mpeg-2 editing (note that we also need to choose our output file format carefully too) then mpeg2 could be exactly the right choice of source codec.

There is other slight problem here in that there are very very few cameras that record in mpeg2 now.

Resolution, bitrate and aspect ratio.
16:9 is the ratio we need to aim for with YouTube. The lowest acceptable resolution is 854×480 with a bitrate of around 2mbps. This triggers HQ encoding in YouTube although I’ve had no problems with my 640×480 resolutions showing as HQ. Another option would be 720×480 which isn’t quite 16:9 but doesn’t look as bad 640×480.

Note: Recording in the resolution you want to output in will save processing.

Recording in 720p (1280×720) is another option but could require re-encoding to 480p before using in an editor because it’s a huge jump in pixels per frame. Ideally the camera will allow 480p and 780p at various bitrates. If you consider the requirement for viewfinder and Mic input you will only really find solutions in the video camera world. Combining a digital camera with these video requirements results in very little choice.

As for bitrates for the final upload file, it will depend on final codec and resolution. To ensure a reasonable chance of using 3g services to upload the file, a bitrate of around 2mbps needs to be used. For a 480p resolution it means you really need an advanced codec like h.264 to preserve the quality.

So in summary, mpeg2 at 854×480  at a relatively high bitrate seems like a good source and editing choice. Output files should be the same resolution but at around 2mbps bitrate in the h.264 codec.

What does jkkmobile use? He currently records in mpeg2 at a 16:9 ratio. Resolution is 960×540, bitrate either 6 or 9mbps. He converts that down to 854×480 which is 480p resolution. I’m not sure what format and bitrate he outputs to send to YouTube. If he has enough cpu power he will be using h.264 but he may be using wmv or something else that it is a little easier on the CPU. He certainly has the optimal settings for source files.  His camera is a Canon FS100 which you can’t buy any more. There are other SD cameras from Canon that also offer 16:9 capture though.

A quick step back to the world of camera products shows that 1080p rules and it’s difficult to know exactly what alternative resolutions a device will offer. In addition, h.264 is the popular codec which at anything bigger than 480p resolution, will be a problem.

Can CUDA do all that we require or are we going to have to rely 100% on a general purpose CPU? From what I have read and been told, most video editing software that is CUDA-enabled is doing so on output to h.264 only. I’ve seen test result with mpeg2 source formats too so mpeg2 again looks like the best source format.

There is only one way to find out. I’m arranging an Asus 1215n loan device for CeBIT next week and I plan to do as much testing as I can. I will use JKKs cam to create some 16:9 mpeg2 source and test it with some CUDA-enabled software. Power Director from Cyberlink looks like a good starting point.

Many thanks to Think4IT Solutions for offering to help us with this project.

Stay tuned for part 2 which should come after CEBIT.

Posted from WordPress for Android with the Galaxy Tab

Linpus to Showcase MeeGo-Based Tablet Solution at MWC. Our Sneak Peek Video Now!

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Linpus, a company that has been working on Linux distributions for netbooks for a number of years under their ‘Linpus Lite’ brand have been invited to MWC to demonstrate their current offering in the MeeGo and Qt booths. The solution is targeted at manufacturers of netbooks and tablets based on MeeGo. Like MeeGo, the Linpus solution will be a ‘base’ on which to build on through contractual work by Linpus. We’ve seen a tablet UI before but this is more than that.

Our predictions for Intel and MeeGo activities at MWC are detailed here.

We saw a glimpse of the Linpus product in our travels through the MeeGo Summit last November but I was lucky enough to be given a preview version of Linpus Lite Multi-Touch Edition for testing and feedback here in the Carrypad studio this week.

Unfortunately, the target device, a Lenovo S10-3T is out of the studio right now so I couldn’t get everything up and working well enough for a full video demo but I did boot it on the Tegatech Tega V2 tablet where I was able to test the UI and apps, a key part of the Linpus solution.

Linpus MeeGo Tablet (2).jpg Linpus MeeGo Tablet

Click through for gallery.

Note that this is a presentation suite rather than a full, polished OS but it gives you an idea of the sort of work the OS distributors (aka Operating Systems Vendors, OSVs) are prepared to put in with MeeGo. You’ll see an on-screen keyboard, an active desktop and a glimpse of the applications that Linpus have developed for the solution. It’s far from customer-ready but it’s worlds apart from what you’ve seen on MeeGo builds so far.

The video below is also available in 480p resolution.

More on MeeGo here.

More on  Linpus Lite Multi-Touch Edition here.

We’ll be at MWC next week.