Take another look though, ignore some of the news articles riding on the back of the headline PR and you’ll see something interesting. Firstly there’s no obvious consideration of PC evolution into the tablet market. Secondly, there’s a huge opportunity opening up in the 8-13” segment. As tablet users start to prefer those smaller, cheaper tablet devices, more value and capability is needed in the larger screen segment.
CES 2013 has kicked off and this year I’m in the studio reporting across the handheld and Ultrabook PC space. For UMPCPortal that means ‘Clovertrail’ and ‘Bay Trail’, the latter being important as it’s the first time the Atom platform will get a new architecture.
Clovertrail has brought the handheld PC space alive again and we’ve reported a number of times on Clovertrail-based products over the last three months. As the only PC platform that’s Connected Standby capable it’s a huge step forward and although the current designs use at least 10-inch displays there’s potential here for 8.9-inch and even 7-inch display Clovertrail devices.
During CES we’ll be looking for information on the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx, Fujitsu Arrows QH55J, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet2, Dell Latitude 10 and the HP Envy 2. Naturally we’re looking out for new devices based on Clovertrail too. We’ll bring you the news as we find it.
Moving on to Bay Trail then, it’s the next generation, 22nm-based Atom architecture and it’s a big change. Leaked roadmaps mention a 2014 availability (1st Quarter) so don’t get too excited just yet but some of the details are very interesting. You’ll see a higher TDP but don’t worry because there’s a lot more on-board here including a variant of Intel’s graphics unit. A move away from PowerVR means better control over drivers and hope for Linux fans!
The SoC is known as Valleyview-T (where Clovertrail used a Cloverview SoC) and it will offer up to 4 cores. Display support will be improved above 1920×1080 and the graphics could be much more powerful. We expect huge improvements in media encoding and decoding efficiency and speed. Storage will still be eMMC based but USB3.0 support will be added.
With Intel’s Haswell platform reaching down into 8W TDP space and Bay Trail reaching up where Pentiums and Celeron processors were operating a few years ago there’s little space left for these brands. Haswell will also offer Connected Standby features so there’s a possibility that there will be a crossover of platforms in the 10-12.5-inch space with ‘Pro’ tablets offering true desktop capability and the consumer tablets focusing on style, weight, value and mobility.
Intel’s press conference is happening later today so I’ll be analyzing it for answers to the above questions.
Early reviews of CloverTrail devices are positive and that’s making investors and analysts sit up and take note. Deutsche Bank have just issued a note to their customers saying some very positive things about the platform and notes that it is competitive against ARM-based solutions.
Back at IDF September, Intel and Google finally announced that they’d be working together to get Android up and running on x86 devices. While there were a number of Android-running x86 tablets and a smartphone prototype or two floating around IDF, it wasn’t immediately apparent what the major advantage of Android 0n x86 devices would be for your everyday consumer. In fact, it wasn’t even apparent exactly why any of the existing Android manufactures would want to create x86 Android devices, given that up until now, pretty much all of their R&D has been focused on ARM devices. However, Intel may actually be perfectly positioned to be able to stimulate the growth of an upcoming segment of Android device — one which truly converges mobile and desktop functionality into one device. Chippy has coined such hybrid functionality: ‘High Dynamic Range Computing’ (HDRC), and the time might just be right for Intel to ignite this segment and find their own place in the Android market.
Any consumer-available Android device that you can get your hands on today uses ARM architecture which is fundamentally incompatible with the x86 architecture that Intel products are based on. Android was originally built to run exclusively on ARM (though being open-source, some community projects were able to do some porting to x86). It wasn’t until several years after Android was on the scene that Intel and Google finally got together to work on full hardware-level Android on x86 support. That work is still ongoing. We’ve had our hands on Android devices running with Intel’s x86 architecture, but it is clear that there is still much optimization to be done. Once everything is complete though, won’t a device running Android on ARM be, for the user, indistinguishable from a device running Android on Intel’s x86?
If ARM has battery life, Intel has power. It’s an interesting dichotomy — we’ve watched as ARM-based devices have continuously scaled up to meet performance demands as the Android device market has grown. Intel has the opposite problem; they’ve got power, but have been constantly trying to scale it down to work with mobile at the tablet/smartphone level. Intel’s Atom series is a notable effort in the last several years to scale things back far enough that users could get reasonable performance and reasonable battery life out of a netbook. Once Intel can achieve the same thing at the smartphone and tablet level (and they’ve been working on this for years), they’ve got the expertise to push the processing end of things far beyond what we currently see from ARM — not to mention that the same x86 architecture that will be found in Intel-based phones and tablets is capable of booting full-fledged desktop operating systems.
If Intel plays their cards right, they could do very well in the Android market by stimulating the HDRC segment. HDRC isn’t really a mainstream thing at this point — most people have their desktop computer and they’ve got a smartphone and maybe a tablet. They view these two devices as fundamentally different. The promise of HDRC is creating a device that scales so well that it can converge these two categories of devices, which are viewed as different, into a single unit. This is a serious challenge because essentially it asks for a single device that is instant-on and has phone-like (all day) battery life, but, when plugged in, can be as powerful as one would expect from a laptop or desktop. Intel has the expertise for the high-end of the HDRC spectrum, we see this daily from the desktop computers that we work on. If they can combine this with phone/tablet-like low-power functionality, they could blow ARM out of the water and define the HDRC space that mobile technology has been steadily moving toward for the last 5 years.
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 Atom™ 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…..
The Intel Smartphone is here at CES and we’ve just had hands-on. It’s running a Medfield-based platform (Intel Atom Z2460 – 1.6Ghz with Hyperthreading) with Android 2.x
The design is a certified reference design connected to the AT&T network here and the Android build includes all the Google goodness too. We tested a few apps and responsiveness was good. The phone comes with micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports and the video is hardware accelerated. The 4” 1024×600 screen doesn’t make the design at all bulky.
As for performance, we’re getting the idea that this could be a scorcher. A Sunspider test here resulted in 1290ms – and remember that’s with Android 2.x. We saw some video and game demos too and they were all smooth. Scroll down for a video hands-on with the Intel Smartphone.
I’ve posted a detailed review of the ASUS UX21 over at Ultrabooknews and even if you think the device is too big, I encourage you to read the article to learn about the platform and it’s differences to Oaktrail, Cedar Trail and other low-power platforms. The UX21 idles down well and gets things done so fast that the total battery used for tasks is, in many cases, less than on a low-power platform. The effect is known as ‘HUGI’ by Intel – Hurry Up Get Idle – and it seems to work.
The platform provides a high dynamic range of operating modes from simple web-based work in a netbook-like 8W power to gaming and video editing to a quality that you would never achieve on an Atom-based platform.
It’s interesting to think of where this could lead to. Will Atom-based devices just dissolve into a low-cost category? Will there be an interesting option for ‘Ultraslates’ in the future? Could Intel create an even more efficient, smaller and small platform based on their leading technologies. My feeling is ‘Yes’ and I talked about it in an article earlier this year.
I suggest reading the UX21 article though for more details and proof that there are some Ultra Mobile possibilities with the high-end mobile computing platforms.
Despite all the fuss about Ultrabooks and Tablets there’s still a significant market for netbooks out there as small, low-cost ‘just enough’ laptops. Developing countries, students, secondary laptops, travel laptops or simply the lowest cost laptop possible, the Netbooks are a valid choice. With the next generation, using Cedar Trail as the CPU cplatform, it gets even better with significant improvements to 3D graphics that should smooth-out quite a few Windows 7 and application experiences. There are improvements in efficiency too that could enable some lighter 10″ tablet formats and thinner netbook designs. Expect Ultrabook-style devices too with SSD’s, sealed designs and of-course, a much lower price than the current Ultrabooks.
But Cedar Trail is delayed. . .again, apparently because the graphics driver certification hasn’t been completed. In the meantime AMD Fusion netbooks push further into the market.
With Oaktrail-based devices not quite hitting the mark where consumer experience is concerned, [where are those 1.8Hz Oaktrail options?] it’s important that Cedar Trail reaches the market as soon as possible.
Anyone waiting to buy a new Netbook? Would you like to see more Netbook coverage here? We will be at CES in Jan so we’ll get some details of new models, performance and availability then. In the meantime, check the related links below for some more Cedar Trail background.
This is the seventh report on sizing trends in PCs below 12” screen size (and above 5”) appearing in the German market through the popular price comparison engine, Geizhals.at (*1) The last one was done in Feb 2011. Once again we’ve seen a big jump in overall numbers. The 7″ segment and 10″ segment have grown while the 11″ segment has shrunk. The 10″ market dominates more in this report than it did in the report of Feb 2011 although there is a clear trend occurring in the 7″ space where growth in products has occurred in all of the last 4 reports.
Number of SKUs in the market
The number of choices in the mobile screen space (above smartphones) has grown over 2x from approx 240 SKUs to over 630 SKUs.
Screen size distribution
The big jump in numbers is clear to see from the top graph. Total numbers jumped by 115 with most of that growth coming from the tablet form factor and the 10″ netbook/notebook sector. Big increases in the 7″ tablet sector (now the biggest number so far) and a reduction in the numbers of 11″ devices mean that percentage distribution has changed a lot. The iPad2 introduction caused the growth in the 9″ segment.
In the 10″ netbook space which accounts for 75% of the 10″ category there are now 18 AMD C-Series SKUs and 315 Atom SKUs. 64 of the Atom-based devices (20%) use the high-end N570 version.
In interesting statistic is that 1 in 5 devices on the market in the 5-11″ segment are from ASUS.
Across all categories, ARM-based CPU designs account for 23% of all devices, almost exclusively in the tablet sector. It will be interesting to see how that changes over the next 2 years with the introduction of Windows for the ARM processor.
In terms of weight, the tablets mean that the average weight of a device has gone down. 28% of the devices weigh under 1KG.
Meego appears for the first time along with the cheapest and lightest netbook ever launched. The ASUS Eee PC X101.
Chromebooks did not enter the sub 12″ screen space yet. (Acer 700 not available in Germany)
Sandy Bridge (2nd Generation Intel Core CPUs) enters the sector with 14 SKUs from 5 devices.
Total number of tablet form-factor devices: 193 (30% of total)
X86/Windows Laptop – Eee PCR101D at 199 Euros. (Was: Samsung N145 at 228 Euro)
Non-Windows Laptop (X86-CPU) – Eee PC X101 (Meego) at 169 Euros
ARM Tablet – Debitel One Pad (Android 1.5) at 59 Euro
In terms of netbook trends, the search and news volumes seem to be steady after their large drop in Q1 (see Google Trends.) Numbers of devices in the market have increased and obviously the introduction of Cedar Trail in Q4 will create news, products and searches in the netbook category. The trend for netbook products, news and search is going to be level-to-rising for Q4 That may, or may not, relate to sales numbers.
In terms of handheld PCs, our focus here at UMPCPortal, it’s a sad story. The online market is now almost totally clear of 5-9″ X86-based Windows devices. It will be interesting to see how the Windows 8 market affects this in 2012.
Warning: Please remember that this is a single data-source analysis of what is happenning today, in the German market. This is not a complete market analysis report. You may use the data and images but please also reference this article which includes this warning.
*1 Based on SKUs, not model families. Data taken from Geizhals An English language (and UK market) version of Geizhals is available at Skinflint.
There’s an interesting post over at the French site blogeee.net today. They’ve put the latest AMD E-series Fusion platforms up against the new 1.8Ghz ‘Cedar Trail’ N2800.
It’s not exactly fair to be comparing the E-series with Cedar Trail like for like as they have vastly different thermal characteristics but there’s an interesting result to be seen in the GPU test results.
The new PowerVR-based graphics in the Cedar Trail platform are turning in 3x what the N570-based platform does. That’s excellent news.
As far as raw CPU power goes the tests don’t show any comparison but I would expect the dual-core Cedar Trail platform at 1600mhz to be about the same as the E450. The 1.8Ghz N2800 should turn in better CPU performance.
With the N2800 having a design rating of 6.5w and the E-450 at 18W you can see which one has more chance of appearing in smaller, lighter devices. One wonders if it might be a better choice than Oaktrail for Windows tablets.
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.
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?
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.
HD video encoder hardware on the front facing cam. 720p 30fps should make for some great conferencing sessions. (Cisco WebEx is built-in)
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?
The more I test Intel Sandy-Bridge based systems the more I am becoming convinced that laptop silicon will eventually extend as a high-dynamic-range platform into to ultra-mobile PCs and tablets. The reason is that the new laptop platforms are using advanced processes and techniques and are extremely efficient at getting things done. ‘Hurry Up Get Idle’ is a simple concept that means if you can get the same job done quickly, you can turn off or idle a pc and thus reduce the power used. The area under the power curve is smaller.
In practice, its difficult to make HUGI work because a lot of the tasks we do are either very short, can only work as fast as a human can input or rely on data coming from other sources. PC’s aren’t very good at idling either but from my recent video editing tests, I can see that there’s at least one scenario where it works very well.
The problem with getting laptop silicon into a handheld product is the thermals. Intel leads the way in this market and their products provide plenty of thermal monitoring and control but it will take a little bit more than what is currently on offer to be able to easily design and produce a 7″, tablet running a laptop-style processor. It’s been done before though. Samsung, experts in electrical engineering, produced a 7″ Tablet running a 1.3Ghz Core Solo but that was at a time when there was no competition from ARM-based devices, $1200 tablets were common and there wasn’t an Atom processor around. The latest tablet example would be the Eee Slate EP121 and for a 1.06KG laptop, the Samsung 900X1A gets close but that’s a little larger and heavier than a handheld device should be.
As silicon processes get better though and thermal control, dedicated silicon and single-chip solutions become more common, you can expect both Intel and AMD to try to offer the ultimate processing power in the handheld space. You can expect these products to have premium prices and to be targeted at niche markets but with Windows 8 as a catalyst and competition increasing from the latest ARM designs, offering these niche product is one way that the X86 chip makers can retain an advantage and one way manufacturers can differentiate their products.
In Part 4 we looked at a €399 AMD Fusion-based Lenovo S205. Through a number of video editing software tests I managed to get an acceptable 720p rendering speed out of the device which would be OK for short projects. For 480p output, it was good though. In this article I’m taking it up a notch in processing power to an Intel ‘Sandy Bridge’ based 13” laptop. It’s the lightweight Samsung 900X3A and given the right software, it’s proving to be a fantastic machine for 720p editing, rendering and uploading for YouTube.
Before we start though, a reminder of the aim and parameters set for the project. 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 video editing software to cost less than 600 Euros
PC to be less than 1.5KG with 12” 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
Video editing sotware must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
At 1.33KG the Samsung Series 9 (900X3A) is light but with the 13” screen, is bigger than I’d like to see. The screen size (1366×768) does have some advantages at this size though. It’s matt and bright too which means it is good for working outdoors. A 128GB fast SSD helps too. There is an 11” version of the 900X3A available to order if the 13” screen is not to your tastes. If it looks and sounds like an expensive laptop, it is. It’s well outside the target price of 600 Euro. You won’t be able to find the 900X3A for much less than 1400 Euro at the moment but don’t let that put you off because this is a premium device that’s one of the first in the market. Intel are promising sub $1000 devices based on the same platform as the 1.4Ghz Core i5 in the Samsung 900X3A and as time goes on, those prices will drop further and during 2012 I expect devices of this calibre to be coming down fast to 600 Euro.
First thing to note is the lack of full-size SD card slot. It’s a big minus in my opinion. A micro-SD card slot is available but I really don’t recommend swapping micro-SD cards about. The full-size adaptor with eventually fail and there’s a high risk of dropping or losing a micro-SD card. The solution is to use a USB adaptor for the SD card or a standard USB connection. High-speed cards are a must for high bitrate videos so make sure your adaptor is a quality one. The Series 9 supports USB3.0 but you shouldn’t need that. One of the ports can be used as a charging port when the device is off too which could be handy.
The excellent SSD in the Series 9 works at up to 220MB/s so for large programs like Power Director 9, there’s no hanging around waiting for it to load up. YOu might find it load faster than on most desktops in fact. Moving files around, duplicating and general file work is quick too which really helps to smooth things along.
The CPU/GPU combination in the Series 9 is known as ‘Sandy Bridge.’ It’s the second-generation Core processor from Intel and makes significant processing power gains over the previous generation. It’s an expensive platform but as well as raw CPU power and acceptable low-end gaming GPU power it also includes a hardware video decoder and hardware video encoder for some formats. Support for the video encoder is not widespread though. HDMI-enables full extended screen working but remember that the audio is routed digitally and you’ll need an audio decoder in your monitor.
As with the Lenovo S205, I’m using 12Mbps 25fps 720p from a Nokia N8 and converting it to 720p at 30fps with a bitrate of 6mbps. The laptop is set to high-power mode (no mains power.) Remember, this isn’t a comparison of video editing suites, it’s a test to see how much editing and rendering power and time can be had from the Samsung 900X3A (and by definition, from other notebooks based on the same CPU/GPU/Chipset combination.
Video Editing Software
Cyberlink Media Espresso.
Cyberlink Media Espresso does a fantastic job of converting video. A 7 min H.264 video was converted in just over 60 seconds which is exceptional. It matches the frame rate automatically though and despite setting a 6mbps bitrate, the conversion completed with a 4mbps bitrate. It bodes well for video rendering using Power Director, the video editing tool from the same company. Note that this is a pure video conversion tool and no clip editing or sequencing is possible.
One feature in Media Espresso which could be a real advantage for mobile video creators is the YouTube upload feature. I was able to throw in a 6mbps 720p file for upload which was converted down to 1.8mbps to match YouTube minimum requirements. It results in fast upload speeds and fast conversion speeds at YouTube. A 180MB 1080p file was converted down to low-bitrate 720p and just 33MB in size. Upload speed was obviously 5x faster than the original and the conversion time at YouTube was about 2 mins for 360p and another minute for 720p. Ignoring the video editing tools for a bit, this is one tool that could seriously help beat the clock on uploading YouTube videos. When you’ve got time you can always upload the high-bitrate version at a later time.
Cyberlink Power Director
Over the last 5 years I’ve seen consistent support from Cyberlink for low-level hardware. Early VIA UMPCs had video decoding hardware that was supported by Cyberlink. The recent AMD Fusion platform is well supported and the same is true here with the Intel Quick Sync Video technology.
Despite trying a wide range of settings though, I couldn’t get Power Director to work as fast during standard video clip conversion as Media Espresso. Using a single clip without any affects I was able to achieve a 6:48 conversion time for the original 7:38 clip which is good, about 3 times faster than the Lenovo S205 with the same challenge, but there seems to be a more complex operation going on in Power Director that results slower conversion speeds than with Media Espresso. Using the default hardware acceleration settings (hardware decode only) I only saw a 30% average CPU load. Turning off the hardware decoding though does result in higher CPU load and slower processing (about 2x.) It wasn’t until I spotted the ‘Trial Software’ watermark on the rendered video clip that I realised what might be happening. The Intel Quick Sync encoder can’t work efficiently if there’s an overlay being applied. I’m checking this theory with Cyberlink right now and will update the post when I get new information or am able to test without the text overlay being forced.
Update: Thanks to Cyberlink I was able to test a fully licensed version of Power DIrector. I couldn’t get any more speed or CPU load out of the system so clearly there’s something else that may need optimising. 720p conversion rates remained at just under the 1X real-time mark – about 3x faster than the AMD E-350 based Lenovo S205 and easily 5x faster than a standard Intel Atom netbook.
At this stage we can say that Intel Quick Sync does work in Power Director and this test case, a 720p 12mbps source, gives a 2x increase in rendering speed (with watermarking) but there could be more. Using other clips, 1920×800 at 8mbps for example, I began to see some limits where the hardware encoder wasn’t helping to increase the speed (but was helping to keep CPU usage low and therefore battery drain minimised)
In the best cases (using Intel Quick Sync video) I saw an average of about 18W being used with a peak of 25W, possibly while the Sandy Bridge Turbo feature was being used (until the thermal controls turned it off.) In terms of speed per watt energy consumed, that’s easily the best I’ve seen so far. On a fully loaded battery, the Samsung Series 9 900X3A could encode about 2.5 hours of 720p timeline cuts, fades, titles and sequencing. On the Lenovo S205, you’ll get about 1hr of encoding completed. On a netbook, well, you don’t want to go there with 720p editing and encoding!
Heat and Turbo
Intel’s Turbo Boost technology is interesting and useful in some situations. In video rendering situations though it’s not so useful due to the way it works. Thermal monitoring means that if the CPU core reaches a fixed temperature, the Turbo boost feature will be restricted. In CPU-bound, multicore tasks like video rendering, both cores will reach operating temperature very quickly and Turbo will be turned off. In some cases I saw just 9 seconds of Turbo boost but it depends on ambient temperature and the process being used. For video editing (not final rendering) Turbo boost works well because it’s only need occasionally. It has major advantages but not in video rendering.
SVRT is a feature in Power Director that detects if the source and destination file formats, frame rates and bitrates are the same. In they are the same (or similar in some cases) the source file is not re-rendered completely. Only fades, titles and effects will be re-rendered.. In other cases, the file is ‘passed through’ to the output thus vastly increasing rendering speeds. With the N8 source files I was unable to achieve this. Interestingly, by passing the source files through Media Espresso it converted them to a format that was compatible with the SVRT process.
This pre-conversion process may not be the highest-quality way to treat video clips but for our YouTube target, it’s an interesting process and could, for videos over say 5 minutes, could shorten the rendering time. There’s a second advantage to having Media Espresso in the toolchain too because it does a very good job of converting and uploading files for YouTube. There’s also the option of using some simple clean-up tools although that will extend the rendering time by a lot.
Again, this article is not meant as a review of video editing software but during the series I’ve mainly been focusing on two software packages. The Cyberlink solutions covered above and the Corel Video Studio Pro X4 solution that I’ll talk about now. The reason? They both offer sub €100 solutions, include support for hardware and specialist libraries like OpenCL and they include enough capability for the average mobile video process. These aren’t pro tools but where speed is important and YouTube is the audience, pro tools are often too much.
Using Corel Video Studio Pro X4 I wasn’t able to get quite the speed of rendering that I saw on Power Director and there was no indication that Intel Quick Sync Video was supported although the ‘hardware encode’ option did appear. I wonder if the Intel Quick Sync technology is actually used. After 20 or 30 different tests I was not satisfied with the speed and efficiency of Video Studio Pro X4 and abandoned this a a choice for the Sandy Bridge platform.
Adobe Premier Elements is another popular mid-range editing suite and it does support Intel Quick Sync technology via an Intel plugin (available here.) In my tests I felt confident that more was being pulled out of the Series 9 that with the other two programs although power usage was higher by about 10% than on Cyberlink Power Director 9. Because of the plugin there are specific settings for using the Intel Quick Sync technology and it’s possible to force the use of the hardware. In an initial test though, the video failed to finish its conversion. In all cases video direct from the N8 was misinterpreted as 500fps video and could not be used until I passed the source video through Media Espresso, process that takes time and obviously will degrade the source material.
By using these ‘cleaned’ files and creating a 1 minute timeline of fades, titles and including a ‘demo software’ the process was completed in nearly 2X real time – 37 seconds for a 60 second video. I had no problem in editing or rendering these pre-converted files.
In a test of a standard bridge camera 720p file I downloaded a sample from a Canon SX30is in 720p at 21mbps. The file was easy to work with in Adobe Premier Elements and rendering speed down to 6mbps with fades and edits was almost as fast as with the ‘converted 6mbps file from the N8. Conversion down to sub-2mbps for YouTube and subsequent upload and availability was
The software is very flexible in creating output formats although the user interface didn’t seem as intuitive to me as Power Director. Given that Intel Quick Sync support will be important for the professional version of Adobe Premier, it’s very likely that the Intel Quick Sync technology will get continued support and end up as a core part of the software. At this stage though, it might not be prudent to rely on this two-part solution for professional use.
For the purposes of this article though, it proves the potential power of the 2nd-generation Core i5 platform.
Both Adobe Premier Elements and Cyberlink Power Director confirm that a 1.3KG laptop can be used for comfortable and efficient 720p video editing and rendering. The hardware encoding and decoding in the 1.4Ghz Core i5 platform is clearly helping and in comparison with the Lenovo S205 that I previously tested, you can get a lot more done within the duration of a single battery charge. That’s very important for mobile users. Given our requirements, the Samsung 900X3A is a little expensive and with only 100GB of disk free, there are some storage limits that will have to be offset with a USB3 hard drive but as a platform, Sandy Bridge (at a measly 1.4Ghz) proves it can offer 720p editing and rendering in 1.3KG. Of the video editing suites tested, Power Director and Adobe Premier Elements come out on top for performance with Adobe Premier Elements leading the way assuming source files work correctly with the system. Cyberlink Media Espresso works amazingly fast to convert files down to usable sizes for even faster editing and rendering and also, fast upload times.
In the video below I give you a demo of edit, render, convert, upload and view on YouTube. It’s a 720p 22mbps file from a Canon SX30IS (This sample was used) and the whole process takes 8 minutes.
Note on stability
In tests with Adobe Premier Elements, I saw a number of program crashes. This is of major concern as project work was lost as a result. I didn’t experience crashes on the other editing packages.
Note on Quality
The quality parameters for this project are fairly loose. I’m not looking for the best quality codec but I’m looking for an acceptable 720p full-screen experience on YouTube. At 2mbps, 720p videos are going to be lacking in a lot of finer detail but for YouTube, that’s the way it is. Editing in higher bitrates and converting using Media Espresso for a final YouTube upload leaves the original available for use later if required.
For me, this ends my work to analyse low-end solutions because I know that in Sandy Bridge-based Ultrabooks I’ve found my solution. The next stage is to buy a device, make a final decision on the software and get to work creating content. Right now the Asus UX21 and Cyberlink Media Espresso and Power Director 9 are at the top of the list due to ease and smoothness of use and acceptable rendering speeds.
Thanks to Samsung Germany and Cyberlink for their help with this article. (Loan hardware and software provided.)
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.
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.
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.