Tag Archive | "intel"

Who wants the Acer Aspire Switch 12?

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I’ve just finished a big in-depth review of the Acer Aspire Switch 12. It’s the first Core M product that I’ve had the chance to review and I came out of it with a very positive feeling about Core M and the products that it will enable. I also loved the Acer Aspire Switch 12 itself.

Leaving the smoke behind

Core M is a product borne of the feature that was Scenario Design Power (SDP) which itself was an extended ability to monitor and react to processor and product temperature by changing clockrates across CPU and GPU cores. I called it smoke and mirrors at the time because Intel never actually revealed what ‘scenario’ they were talking about. The scenario was actually a continuation of what Intel had done with the Ultrabook project. Touch, 2-in-1, responsive, mobile and, ultimately, fanless systems with Core-class features and enough power to cover mainstream users scenarios were to be the next generation consumer PC.

Early products based on the Y-series Core CPUs were poor. I remember testing the first Yoga 11S and seeing performance levels at half of what an Ultrabook could produce. A Fujitsu Q704 down-clocked by about 50% when you took it out of the keyboard dock to improve battery life and cut case temperature. A fanless HP Pro X2 410 was so sensitive to ambient heat that I could speed it up by pointing a desk fan at the rear of the tablet.

Like the Ultrabook project (which made us suffer with high prices before it finally worked out to be a game-changer,) the road to fanless has been rocky but were there now and Core M is exactly the marketing relaunch that Y-series and SDP needed.

Core M enables

Core M enables more than just new designs. It’s one of the smallest Core processors that Intel produce and with that comes cost reductions. It’s also a gift to designers as it reduces component count and allows flexibility in thermal design.  It enables mainboards to sit close to other components. It reduces the need for big, expensive batteries.

In 2012 we were seeing 45 Wh batteries in Ultrabooks laptops but today’s Core M designs are based around a 35 Wh design and still offer over 5 hours of battery life. In 2007 it took 10-12 watts of energy to drive a web browsing experience. It’s now down to 5-6W now and if someone can work out how to cut the energy required by a screen backlight we’ll be down another 30%. Sealing a battery inside a casing also reduces the need for certified batteries casings and prevents people tinkering. Reducing support costs, shipping costs and storage costs are all part of the plan.

Switch 12

Ideally a consumer tablet is easy to hold and the tablet PCs of the past were a pathetic offering. The Samsung XE700 broke the mold in 2011 with a 826 gram 11.6-inch specification and since then we’ve seen 11.6-inch tablet weights come down to just over 700 grams. In the 10-inch space it’s reached 550 grams which is more than acceptable. As we move towards the removal of most physical ports, a further reduction in battery size, storage size and a slimming of the screen layers we’ll see larger tablets at the same human-friendly weight. With larger tablets comes more space to build a better keyboard and with Core M you reach a point where processing power is at the consumer PC level.  Being able to deliver the perfect consumer tablet along with the most flexible operating system, the power to do everything and a keyboard that is as productive is possible is real 2-in-1. Bigger products generally command a higher price too so the 12.5-inch size we’re seeing are hitting the sweet spot in many ways.

The Acer Switch 12 shows us that there’s another generation to go before we hit all the sweet spots though. This low-cost design (plastics, styling, weight, size) is too heavy to be a consumer tablet but Acer have focused well on making this a very usable tablet in other ways. It’s a great laptop and if you have time you can think of some crazy ways to use it…

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The digitizer brings in more tablet value and the removable wireless keyboard is simple but very, very effective. The Acer Aspire Switch 12 is a good product now and a true 2-in-1 that anyone would be happy to have as an office PC but just think about how the design could improve by being lighter and more stylish. This is a $699 laptop today with the power of a basic Ultrabook of 2013 that cost $999. You’ll see this at $649 or less soon and this time next year we’ll be talking about 20% improvements in power, battery life, weight and again, price. We might also be talking about a wire-free experience. That stand could turn into a removable WiGig breakout box.

A few years ago I bought an Acer W510. This Clovertrail-based 10-inch tablet was light but weak. It served well on holidays and I experimented with it as a desktop but for mainstream users it was far from the mark. Today we’ve reached a refinement called Core M that’s making 2-in-1’s extremely attractive as, well, a true 2-in-1. Windows 10 might just get the praise it needs too and if the Windows Store becomes a first-class citizen of the ‘apps’ world then the stars will align.

For me the stars have already aligned. I love the Switch 12 and I want to keep it. If I didn’t have a Surface Pro 3 here (on long-term loan from Intel) I’d probably order one. I’ve tested video encoding, gaming and I’ve seen some excellent AC WiFi speeds in my office. 20 MB/s file transfers from the local NAS? Yes please! It boots Ubuntu from a USB stick without issues and that’s a security bonus in my opinion. I love the ergonomic and presentation possibilities of the removable keyboard and digitizer. I adore the screen. Most of all I love how I can do everything I need without any noise whatsoever.

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If you’re thinking about the Acer Aspire Switch 12 too then you need to remember that the ASUS Transformer T300 Chi is coming soon, for the same price. It’s likely to have a better keyboard and it will definitely have a lighter tablet. It will probably perform as well as the Switch 12 and it has a sensible clam-shell design. It looks a lot more stylish. The built-in stand on the Acer Switch 12 does it for me though and there’s one more thing you need to know. The Acer Switch 12 is more lappable than most laptops.

The Acer Aspire Switch 12 is very lappable!

The Acer Aspire Switch 12 is very lappable!

More information on the Acer Aspire Switch 12 in our mobile PC database here. All Core M products under 1300 grams are listed here.

Intel Compute Stick – Quad-core Atom PC for $89. Details, Video.

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Intel Compute Stick - Available Spring 2015

Intel Compute Stick – Available Spring 2015

This Atom Z3745D-based HDMI dongle is ready to plug into your TV or monitor. It will be pre-installed with Windows 8.1 or Linux and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage, a standard USB port and a micro SD card slot for extra storage. A Micro-USB port is also on board for power supply. Basically it’s a Baytrail-T tablet without the screen, battery and speakers.

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Ultra Mobile Extras – CES 2015 #1

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CES is huge, scary, entertaining, unhealthy and informative all at the same time but I really wish I was there. The advantage of being in the office this year though is that even if it’s 3am I can wade through a ton of feeds to pick out relevant news items. Here are the news items I haven’t blogged in full today, Day 1 of CES 2015.

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Intel CES 2015 Keynote Summary (Images and Notes)

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Photo-story of the Intel CES 2015 keynote. (Including notes)

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New Core M variants signal maturing 14nm process

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Intel are introducing new Core M SoC variants. All have higher base clockrates on the CPU and GPU which indicates that the quality emerging from the Core M production process is increasing. That means yields for the low-end Core M models are increasing and that ultimately, prices can start to trend down. The new SKUs are: Core M-5Y10c, Core M-5Y31, Core M-5Y51 and the Core M-5Y71.

See a list of Core M PC’s in our database here.

Core M die

Core M die

All new models have the same 4.5W base TDP but, for consumers, the performance of a Core M under normal conditions is going to depend on internal thermal ‘headroom.’ In fact the TDP figure is largely useless now due to burst TDP and configurations that can increase or increase the TDP.

  • Core M 5Y10c  800 MHz-2 GHz , GPU: HD 5300 300 / 800 MHz, 4.5 Watt TDP
  • Core M 5Y31  900 MHz -2.4 GHz, GPU:HD 5300 300 / 850 MHz,4.5 Watt TDP
  • Core M 5Y51  1.1 / 2.6 GHz, GPU: HD 5300 300 / 900 MHz, 4.5 Watt TDP
  • Core M 5Y71 1.2/ 2.9 GHz, GPU: HD 5300 300 / 900 MHz, 4.5 Watt TDP

Core M is available in a number of PCs already (we keep a list of Core M mobile PCs here) and inital feedback is that it’s not quite as good in these products as we saw in demonstrations at IDF in September. The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro offers class leading thickness and weight for a 2-in-1 but performance sits somewhere between Atom and the performance seen in Ultrabooks. Some products are including eMMC storage too.

The 14nm ‘y-series’ Broadwell SoC is a big help to PC designers that want to offer think designs at light weight and we see it evolving into Celeron and Pentium branded designs for fanless low-cost laptops and Chromebooks during 2015.

Source: CPU World via Liliputing

Intel Core M Overview, benchmarks and product Previews.

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Core M die

The Intel Core M processor, officially launched last week, offers Ultrabook performance in a processing unit that’s about half the size of the current CPUs found in Ultrabooks with a 6W TDP profile. What does that mean? I’ve seen it benchmarked to Ultrabook performance levels on an 680gram fanless tablet. It works!

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Quick Benchmarking session with the Core M 5Y70

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In an Intel-led Core M benchmarking meeting today I saw a set of controlled benchmarks from a 6W TDP Core M product. The tests were performed in an 685 gram 12.5-inch Llama Mountain reference tablet with a machined aluminum rear casing that is optimal for this design. We also saw a copper-based rear casing that can handle a lot more thermal energy but you won’t see that happening in consumer products. The benchmark scores we saw were more than I had expected.

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Over at Ultrabooknews: Intel Core M Overview, benchmarks and product Previews

 

Three benchmarks were run, once, on a rested system in a warm room.

Sunspider: 119ms at 2.8 2.6 Ghz.  (Surface Pro 3 with Core i5 is 113ms at 2.4Ghz Turbo)

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3DMark Icestorm unlimited: 48230

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Cinebench R11.5 – 2.65 (Surface Pro 3 with Core i5: 2.77)

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Note that these are the scores from a high-end 6W TDP Core M 5Y70. The 4.5W TDP Core M SoCs won’t perform this well and in a product with a less-than-perfect thermal design there could be heat issues that prevent Turbo Boost reaching these high levels.

GPU performance needs to be further tested and long-term gaming could impact Turbo Boost capability.

This is the best you’ll see from Core M at 2.8 2.6 Ghz but it’s important to remember that this is best-of-Core M right now. I’m going to be pushing to get the new Lenovo Helix 2 in for testing so at that point we’ll get our first real-product results.

Tip: Check out the Surface Pro 3 review at Notebookcheck.net for a controlled set of performance figures.

Disclaimer: Intel have paid for my attendance at IDF this year.

8 Intel Core-M laptops just got announced. (Intel IFA 2014 keynote update)

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Intel just announced, or rather, just launched Core M. 8 products were highlighted.

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On the slide: Acer Aspire Switch 12, ASUS Transformer Book T300Fa, HP Envy x2, ASUS Transformer T300 Chi, Lenovo Thinkpad Helix 2, ASUS Zenbook UX305, Wistron N-Midas.

Update: I had seconds to get pics of the 8 Core M laptops before they were pulled off the stage. Can you match the devices to the product names?!

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Core, at 4.5W TDP is going to enable fanless computing and finally, thin and light powerful tablets.

In my opinion we’ve just entered a more difficult world of performance testing as from what I’ve seen, 50% of the performance of this platform relies on Turbo Boost which hinges on thermal design. I look forward to going deep and getting hands-on ASAP!

Here’s the Lenovo Helix 2 that I had hands-on with earlier today. (For Notebookcheck.net)

I’ll try and track down the other devices after the keynnote.

Intel Core M will enable differentiation without compromise.

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Intel’s Core M reminds me of a moment in 2008 when I briefly tested a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. It was one of the few UMPCs around that used a Core Solo processor instead of the very low-end pre-Atom CPUs and it was a breakthrough in handheld PC performance. Core M is going to allow manufacturers to make exactly the same sort of breakthrough from ‘just enough’ into mainstream performance on a handheld PC except this time it’s fanless. Core M is going to be the first CPU that allows manufacturers to make different types of tablet PC without the compromises of size, heat and noise that have been associated with previous high-power Windows tablets.

That much was clear from early information we got about the Core M / Broadwell Y processing platform at Computex. A 600 gram 10-inch tablet running ‘Core’ without fans is special but yesterday Intel gave us more details about how they’ve achieved performance, sizing and TDP improvements.

Core M 1

Before we sing the praises of fanless Windows tablets too loud let us consider the Surface Pro 3 vs the HP Pro X2 410. Both of these use Core i5 CPUs but the HP Pro X2 is fanless. It also gets hot and throttles the performance so much that you can easily get into situations where an Atom-based tablet might be better. The latest Core CPUs use thermal measurements to calculate short-term CPU overclocking but if the system gets too hot, you end up with an under-clocked system. It means that the Surface Pro 3, which has a quiet fan, is much, much more powerful than the HP Pro X2. Fanless systems can be a disadvantage.

We don’t quite know how much Core M devices will be affected by throttling yet. Larger devices with more airspace, and I expect to see some interesting 12-13-inch designs soon,  will have the advantage over thinner designs with less ‘thermal headroom’ but leading edge designs may be able to squeeze more out of the platform. This slide from Intel is really worth studying. In it you can see how device thickness impacts on the TDP limits. At the extremes, that’s with a 7mm thick 10-inch design, you’ve got just 3W of TDP to play with.  Ambient temperature becomes more critical too and I demonstrated that with the HP Pro X2 410 in my review at Notebookcheck.

Core M 4

What is certain though is that in terms of marketing, Core M-based fanless Windows tablets will offer some real differentiators. Light weight, thin designs, silent operation and, you can be sure, 1.6-2.4Ghz clock ranges will sound impressive. Underclocking to 600Mhz won’t be in the list of features though so we’ll have to look carefully at the first tests. I’ll certainly be looking out for this when I attend the Intel Developer Forum in September.

Core M tablets and 2-in-1s will be high-end devices. They need to be to cover the costs of this leading edge CPU on its new manufacturing process. Although Intel says that the “14 nm product yield is now in healthy range” and that considering the 14nm process produces more chips per wafer you can guarantee that Broadwell-Y will have lower yield than other SKUs. Each one will have to be carefully tested to see if it meets Intel’s standards.

Those high-end devices will offer some nice features though. Although there are Atom-based platforms that offer reasonable Gen-7 Intel graphics and Intel Quick Sync video hardware the CPU and video processing here is going to be in another league. It’s not desktop-gaming capable but it’s certainly going to enable fast ‘Pro-Am’ 1080p video editing and rendering. GPGPU acceleration for HTML5 is also likely to be in a different league meaning the ever-important Web applications will be faster.  Given that gaming capability is not a key feature the platform would match requirements for a high-end Chromebook quite nicely. There’s power here for some impressive X86 Android gaming experiences too and we shouldn’t forget that Core M won’t be just for Windows, at least when the pricing comes down.

In terms of battery life Intel have revealed a few features and optimisations that could help significantly in some scenarios. Video playback and typing, as I’m doing here, should get a significant battery-life boost from the optimised power control elements in the new platform.  TDP is said to down by up to ‘2x’ (meaning 3W TDP SKUs are probably in the pipeline) for the same performance level. That’s impressive. Due to die size reductions there’s more space for battery too although it’s likely that some of this space needs to be used for airflow improvements. Given the cost of batteries I wouldn’t expect any increases. On the contrary, you might see battery sizes reduce on the lower-end and thinner products.

 

Core M 5

Core M 2

You’ll find a detailed analysis at the new Broadwell architechture over at Anandtech so don’t forget to check that out too.

In summary the Core M range of SoCs, like other ‘Y-series’ or ‘SDP’ oriented designs will offer a lot to the designer and a lot to the marketing manager and we’ll have to be careful to analyse what this really translates to in terms of performance for power users. There may not be enough in Core M to run a complete daily desktop experience and for consumers, the prices could be high but thin and light fanless designs are critical and it looks like Intel have enabled a product range that can offer that. Given some good, showcase designs – and the ASUS Transformer Book Chi could be one of them – there could be enough here to elevate Intel-based tablets into a unique position and that’s exactly what Intel need. Core M is the differentiator-enabler.

Source: Intel. Press materials are here.

Intel’s Mobility Event at Computex was packed with info and goodies.

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Although I wasn’t at Computex last week I covered it like a hawk both here and at Ultrabooknews. Yesterday I went through the complete video recording of the Intel mobility keynote and it was well worth it.  If you have any interest in mobile computing at all you should watch the whole video, embedded below. The first part of the video is about gaming, AIO and 4K monitors. There’s some impressive stuff going on there but that’s not what I want to focus on. Skip past that (about 12 minutes in) and it’s tablets, 2-in-1s, RealSense, WiGig, wireless charging, Llama Mountain and even a new Acer 2-in-1 that will come at a $199 price point, possibly. Here’s some detail, background and thoughts on what I saw.

Hardware

Llama Mountain and the Core-M announcement (made in the Day 1 keynote) were the main topic of discussion on most sites covering the events but I noticed a few additional points worth highlighting. Core-M at 10-inch will have “about twice the performance of an arm tablet.” By saying that, Intel have admitted that their Core-M brand is in the same fighting ring as ARM. That’s not good for Core in my opinion. Core-M is a re-branding of the Y-series Core i3/i5/i7 that we’ve seen before on Ivy Bridge and Haswell. It’s down clocked with tight ‘Turbo’ controls and it gives designers an easier and cheaper way to work with Core in the mobile PC arena. Interestingly for my websites is that it bridges the two by crossing over both Baytrail and Core U-series (Ultrabook) solutions. What’s not exactly clear here is whether Core-M is just Broadwell Y-series or whether it will cover some high-end Atom products too. If it does it will be quite the trick. Personally I think it’s just Broadwell Y for powerful tablets and 2-in-1s. Note that this is not just a Windows play. Android is included and I suspect Chromebooks/tabs too. The Llama Mountain 10-inch reference design with Core-M at 550 grams is impressive. We’ve seen Clovertrail and Baytrail-based 10-inch tablets at this weight but not Y-series. I have a Y-series Haswell fanless tablet here and it’s heavy so this is a great step forward. 600 grams is the maximum I think that any tablet (of any size that targets consumers) should be. Llama Mountain is impressive and inspiring and Intel should turn this into a developer kit item (and of course, give them away at their developer conference in September!)



One product that really opened my eyes was this. Intel say that this Acer product, which I’m sure is a 2-in-1 due to the frame controls, will come to market for $199. $199 for a 2-in-1? They’ve just launched the Switch 10 at …but wait a minute. This is the Switch 10! Did Kirk accidentally pick up the wrong device on stage? How can they make it cheaper than most cheap 8-inch Windows tablets? The lowest cost netbooks cost $199. This can’t be right? If it is right, it might even be wrong to do this from a business perspective.


Wireless

I was hoping for WiGig news at Computex but I wasn’t expecting Intel to put their weight behind it like this. Intel wants to be “number 1 in WiGig silicon in the world” TX/RX. WiGig (more info) is important and could enabled CPU-less tablets if it works out as planned. “…We’ll build reference designs to eliminate all cables from Ultrabook and 2-in-1 PCs.” This is something Intel are planning post-Broadwell and it not only allows a tablet to be thinner but it could save a lot of costs. Get an integrated WiFi/WiGig card inside and you save a lot of port, space and design costs. Waterproofing becomes easier too. Expect some sort of demo mid-late next year. Intel’s WiGig silicon is known as Maple Peak. WiGig docking is coming in the first half of 2015. (Actually it’s already available from Dell but I think Intel is referring to docks made with Intel inside.


On WiDI – the consumer-grade screen mirroring and extending solution – Intel highlighted a new product from Actiontec. Screenbeam Mini 2 is looking like the Chromecast of WiDi solutions and it’s badly needed. Current solutions are big , expensive and problematic. The Screenbeam Mini launched in Taiwan during Computex and is on sale there for about $US 50. It needs to be cheaper in my opinion but maybe this version 2 is going to reduce the price.  My Actiontec ScreenBeam testing here.


It’s noteworthy that Intel said that WiDi is the “best Miracast experience. ” They’ve taken second row on wireless display. I don’t like wireless charging. It’s very lossy and that goes against the grain when it comes to by focus on efficient computing. However, having seen the 20W charging pad working with an Ultrabook I may be about to change my mind. The Dell Venue 8 Pro was demonstrated with wireless charging too and it’s all under A4WP standards.


Also worth seeing is the RealSense live beautifying webcam demo. Check it out in the video.

Intel’s fanless mobile PC reference design is 7.2mm thin and uses Core M 14nm processor.

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Intel are currently presenting on stage at Computex. The press-release reveals what’s about to be demonstrated.

The world’s first 14nm fanless mobile PC reference design from Intel is a 12.5 inch screen that is 7.2mm thin with keyboard detached and weighs 670 grams. The innovative design is based on the first of Intel’s next-generation 14nm Broadwell processors, purpose-built for 2 in 1s and will be in market later this year. Called the Intel® Core™ M processor, it will deliver the most energy efficient Core processor in the company’s history.

So it looks like the days of the U-series processor are over. Perhaps the Y-series too. More importantly it looks like ASUS have used the Intel reference design in their Transformer Book Chi product. Both have a 12.5-inch screen. Both use the ‘next-generation’ Intel core. One is 7.3mm thick, the other is 7.2mm thick. OK, maybe the casing is different!

Update: The reference device is known as Llama Mountain.

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The Surface Mini didn’t launch yesterday. Next stop, Computex June 4, 12:00pm

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Surface Pro 3 Image  (19)

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 was launched yesterday. It’s an ultra-mobile Ultrabook…without a keyboard, but impressive nonetheless. I’ve written an editorial for Ultrabooknews that you might want to check out. Readers here, however, may have been more interested in a Microsoft Surface Mini. It didn’t happen.

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Top 10 Ultra Mobile PCs

Acer Aspire E11 ES1
11.6" Intel Celeron N2840
Acer Aspire Switch 10
10.1" Intel Atom Z3745
HP Pavilion X2 10
10.1" Intel Atom Z3745
Lenovo Ideapad Flex 10
10.1" Intel Celeron N2806
Asus E202
11.6" Intel Pentium N3700
Lenovo IdeaPad A10
10.1" ARM Cortex A9 (Dual-Core)
Lenovo ThinkPad P40
14.0" Intel Core i7 5500U
HP Spectre x2
12.0" Intel Core m3 6Y30
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200
11.6" Intel Pentium N3700
Asus Transformer Book T100HA
10.1" Intel Atom X5 Z8500