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 1600mhzÂ 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 carryÂ 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?Â Can you plug a keyboard and mouse into an Android tablet and get to work in a corporateÂ 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.
â€¢ 3 USB ports
â€¢ 3.5-mm headset jack
â€¢ 10/100/1000-Gbps switch ports for wired connections and Power over Ethernet (PoE)
â€¢ Additional speaker for wideband hands-free communications
â€¢ DisplayPortâ„¢ to connect to a larger display for an immersive video experience and for a virtualized desktop experience
â€¢ Two handset options: standard and slimline
So lets summarise that as Â 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 aÂ separateÂ 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. Â 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:
Â 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.
â€¢ Removable 5200 mAh battery
â€¢ 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. Â 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. Â The price is right in my opinion.Â 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 anÂ interestingÂ 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 SoloÂ but that was at a time when there was noÂ competitionÂ from ARM-based devices, $1200 tablets were common and thereÂ wasn’tÂ an Atom processor around. The latest tablet example would be the Eee Slate EP121Â 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 â‚¬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.Â In this article I’m taking it up a notch in processing power to an Intel ‘Sandy Bridge’ based 13â€ 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 12â€ screen or less.
Total camera + PC solution to weigh less than 2KG and cost less than 1000 Euro
Source video should be 720p
Video sent to YouTube should be 480p minimum
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 13â€ 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 11â€ version of the 900X3A available to order if the 13â€ 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 withÂ 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.Â 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 â€“ 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 â‚¬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 â€“ 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.Â 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 10â€ 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.
In around 2hrs, Doug Davies, head of the tablet and netbook division will be holding a session where we expect to hear more about Medfield, Cedar Trail, Android, Meego and more. We’ll bring you that news as soon as we can.
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.
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.
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?
Amongst a packed keynote from Intel at Computex today that includes Ultrabooks, Ivy Bridge, Cedar Trail and cloud talk, Intel showcase a Medfield tablet running Android Honeycomb.
At least, that’s what a pre-event press release via Engadget says. The event and press release hasn’t even happened yet! (Scheduled for about 2.5hrs from the time of this post)
The press release is interesting though and goes onâ€¦
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.
Is it Oaktrail or is it Cedar Trail. Given that Cedar Trail is likely to be a big component of Intel’s keynote in about 4hrs (with netbook and tablet details scheduled for another keynote tomorrow) then that’s where I would but my money.
Notebook Italia got a glimpse of the ultra-thin device which has ports re-located to the rear due to the thinness of the chassis. Remember the Cedar Trail is rumoured to have a PowerVR graphics core and WiDi support. The power envelope should be around 4-5W TDP for the platform and that matches the thermal limitations I’m seeing in that design, even if I can’t go and touch it from here! Also keep an ear open for ‘always updated’ which is something that would require new hardware and software.
The other interesting thing is that the designers have squeezed in a convertible screen without bulking the design out as central hinges tend to do. Still, this is only a reference design; practicalities often get ignored for those!
I’ve been talking about this since, well, over a yearago. 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 â€œAsustek 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.â€
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.
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.
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 â€“ 200Mhz) 13 million triangles per second
GMA600 (PowerVR SGX535 â€“ 400Mhz) 26 million triangles per second (assumed)
GMAxxx â€“ (PowerVR SGX545 â€“ 400Mhz) 80 million triangles per second (low power version)
GMAxxx â€“ (PowerVR SGX545 â€“ 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.Â 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.
We’ve just put the Samsung TX100 specs in the database along with an expected launch price of $699. It’s been confirmed today though that the Pc7 series / TX100 is going to come in, with a 1.5Ghz Oaktrail / GMA 600 processing engine, 32Gb ssd, 2Gb of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium for $649.
Those of you thinking about $299 netbooks might be a little shocked at the price but remember the TX100 is aimed at flexibility and portability with a good battery life. Windows 7 may not excite you either but its productive, plus, there are two more operating systems on the horizon that should sit well with the Oaktrail platform. Meego is still in progress and should be well optimized in terms of power efficiency but more exciting to the masses is the possibility of an official Intel Honeycomb build. It is being worked on for Oaktrail, Moorestown and Medfield although neither Intel or Samsung have mentioned anything about it. They should because I’m sure there are people put there interested in the advantages of a 2-way virtualised OS build.
The CPU could be a little weak compared to dual-core Atom Netbooks but if it has a fast SSD, it should help along with the 2x boost in GPU power over previous Menlow devices.
The TX100 is an important device for Intel. Samsung have done great work with mobile Intel devices in the past, lets hope they also do a good job with this one.
Posted from WordPress for Android with the Galaxy Tab
Technical sessions at Intel’s IDF in Beijing have all finished now so it’s time to go through some of the presentation material, the press releases and interview information from various sources to put together a summary of what Intel are planning with Cedar Trail in the netbook market. some details are still misssing but at this stage we can put together a fairly complete picture.
Intel’s netbook strategy comprises two platforms. The first, and the one that appears on most netbooks, is the Pinetrail platform. That is due for an update later this year and the new platform will be known as Cedar Trail, the one we’re discussing here.
The second platform is a more specialist, low end [performance] platform that grew out of the Menlow UMPC platform. Oaktrail, which uses the Z6xx Lincroft cpu is shipping now and offers a lower TDP with refined graphics and enhanced power-saving features. Oaktrail is for embedded, tablet and thin, light and rugged netbook solutions. Information on Oaktrail can be found here.
Netbook market predictions.
While excitement in the netbook sector has cooled off somewhat and most commentators agree that some parts of the market are seeing competition from tablets, the sales numbers remain significant.
Note that this is the total addressable market. AMD Fusion, ARM and VIA-based devices will be competing for this market too. For Intel to compete it needs to address the top, bottom and specialist segments of the market.
Information on Cedar Trail is being tightly controlled this week at Intels IDF event in China. Launch isn’t expected until the second half of the year with devices being ready for the Oct, Nov buying season so clearly the platform isn’t final yet.
We’ve learnt that the video decoding hardware is on-board which indicates a new GPU and we’ve been told that Intel Wireless Display (with no mention of 1080p by the way) will join Wireless Audio and wireless syncing.
If you pay close attention to the video you’ll hear about four more features that haven’t been mentioned in press releases.
First, Doug Davis talks about a ‘frequency’ improvement for the CPU. This could mean a useful boost into 1.8 or 2.0Ghz territory which we already know Atom is capable of from the Atom Z500 series cpus. Combined with dual-cores and the process improvements we could see quite a significant jump in cpu power of 30% or more.
Secondly, you’ll hear a mention of a 50% lower thermal design point. That would bring the platform down to around 4 watts which is a huge improvement that would save significant battery life when used in high load working conditions. Possibly 30% again.
Listen to the mention of ‘Always Updated’ which will allow applications to get updates when in standby. That’s interesting wording be cause it doesn’t say ‘always on.’ This could be linked with the fourth feature mentioned to provide quick wake, poll, sleep cycles.
Quick boot is the fourth feature. If this is to work with Windows it could be a trick that allows very quick standby state recovery. Perhaps an on-die memory cache? I don’t know but it could be very useful, especially when coupled with a boot-and-poll sequencer.
Details of two Oaktrail parts have been revealed by Intel today confirming pretty much everything we knew already! Availability of the Oaktrail parts are ‘now’ but as I mentioned in a tweet a few days ago, the first products shipping with Oaktrail won’t appear until at least May.
Two part numbers have been confirmed. The Z670 and Z650 (1.5Ghz and 1.2Ghz)Â are both 3W CPUs and will be paired with the SM35 chipset at 0.75W. Remember that on the previous Z-series generation, codenamed Menlow, the two-chip solution came in at around 5W for the same capability. Both parts are manufactured on the 45nm process.
We’ve been fairly sure that the graphics core would be another PowerVR design for a long time but Intel finally confirmed that it’s the GMA600 clocked up to 400Mhz. That’s twice the speed of the GPU on Menlow and it should provide a noticeable boost. We’re not sure of the core design yet.
Importantly, the memory controller is now on-die with the GPU and CPU and this should also provide a noticeable boost as it did on Pinetrail in 2010. Other features include Intels ‘Deeper Sleep’ , ‘Enhanced Speed Step’ and, as on the previous generation, 1080p hardware decoding.
The SM35 chipset provides a new SATA interface USB is limited to V2.0 only. HDMI ports are supported.
This slide refers to the Z6xx series in embedded, long-term-support versions. Apparently the consumer version of the Z670 is shipping ‘now.’
Intel are talking about 35 Oaktrail design wins. Some of them are shown below.
Asus Eee Pad Slider, Evolve III, Fujitsu Stylistic Q500, Lenovo Ideapad Slate, Motion Computing L900
Next Gen Netbook Platform â€“ 2H 2011 â€“ to Include hardware video decoding.
Intel will be leaking various details of the new Netbook platform over the next 24hrs but have already confirmed some of the Cedar Trail predictions I made last week. Wireless Display and Wireless Audio will be included on the platform along with a 1080p hardware decoding. Either this indicates a shift to a Z-series style GPU core or a totally new GPU design. I suspect the latter in order to include much needed 3D enhancements.
Intel have dominated my mobile device choices for nearly 5 years but all that has changed in the last 4 months. Today, my UMPC retires and my netbook gets an upgrade.
For the last two, years my main computers have been a Quad-Core desktop that I use for hosting live sessions, podcasts and some video editing, and two mobile devices. The Gigabyte Touchnote Convertible Netbook has been my laptop and a Fujitsu U820 (actually a Japanese version U/B50N) UMPC has been used as my hot-desktop (as shown in this article.)
Today, the two mobile PCs drop away and are replaced with an AMD-based netbook solution and an ARM-based tablet. The Acer Aspire One 522 and Galaxy Tab have become my mobile device choices which means there is no longer a UMPC in my life.
The Fujitsu U820 had previously been my ultra mobile computer for expo’s and conferences and I remember using it successfully at SXSW in 2009. Over the last 5 months though its usefulness has waned because the Galaxy Tab has taken over. It fits *my* usage patterns a lot better. I sacrificed some ‘Full Internet Experience’ for weight, battery life, location, social networking apps, built-in camera, always-on and 3G. I talked about this ‘changeover’ last year. It’s now happened.
The Touchnote was still working well and I had no problems with it. After 2 years it’s proved to be rugged and capable but when the Acer Aspire One 522 came along last week it gave me so much more, in less weight and cost. Now that the Tab has taken over ultra-mobile duties to an acceptable level, there’s also no need for the U820.
I’ll miss the touchscreen on the Touchnote but I’m getting better battery life, more processing power,Â way better HD and graphics acceleration and my 4GB RAM, SSD and Home Premium upgrade are adding to the experience i’m getting from the Acer Aspire.
The Acer Aspire One 522 is now my daytime desktop as well as my lightweight notebook.
What happens next?
As 7â€ tablets get better and better with improved software, faster processing engines and higher quality connectivity there’s more and more that can be done on them. I’m already creating articles, emails, Tweets, IM and images but I see improved video and camera hardware and software coming too. I see accessories that could help the tablet become a unit that everything could be done on if needed. I would have no problem whatsoever using a solution like this for a week if weight and energy restrictions demanded it. The need for an ultra-light netbook is reducing for me. Having said that, the requirement for a PC with a keyboard doesnt drop away completely.
7â€ screens aren’t comfortable for rich content generation and editing so I still see the need for a netbook or notebook for ‘bum-on-seat’ activities. What I see happening is that my netbook will get taken up a notch into a 11.6 or 12.1â€ territory that allows me to improve my video work. It’s a project I’ve already started. That could happen very soon as the Asus Eee PC 1215b nears availability.
Smartphone load drops.
As for the pocketable device in my life, I’m finding I use a smartphone less and less now. Dropping back to a 3.5â€ or even 4â€ experience for Internet and social networking activitiesÂ is painful and I’d rather take the Tab with me than have a large smartphone. My smartphone is now a voice, sms, MP3, USB storage and emergency internet device. The N8 fits in so well here because it also has a stunning camera that allows me to photoblog with ease.
Because of my tablet use, I don’t expect to be putting much load on my smartphone any more and the list of requirements changes totally.
Intel’s next netbook move.
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.Â 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.
Can Intel enter the always-on tablet space?
AMD appear to be a long way off from having a soft/hard stack that satisfies the requirements for an ultra mobile computing device but I still see big opportunities in the near, 1-2 year timescale for Intel. 2011 truly is just the start of a new era of multi-device computing and Intel have been working on developing solutions to hit all areas of the market for the last 3 years or more. Wi-Di (wireless display), hardware security, thermal monitoring, overclocking and Intel Insider are features that could really add something to a mobile platform and as we look towards higher processing platform capability (including faster busses and rich connectivity) Intel do have an advantage, especially where screen and wireless connectivity take the lions share of the battery drain. As for always-on, their Moorestown and Medfield hardware, coupled with their software solutions, appear to have that covered. Android for consumption; MeeGo for a cross-over Linux-based solution. Windows for a full, pro-computing solution. They have had serious problems getting a partner to make a compelling device but lets talk about this again after the MeeGo conference in May and the Nokia MeeGo product which could also air at that time.
And don’t think I haven’t forgotten about all the advantages that come with having a traditional mobile PC soft and hard architecture. USB host, multitasking user interface, mouse-over, business software, security, multi-user, extended display, remote desktop, upgrades and hacks, printing, ad-hoc Wi-Fi and a thousand other features that you forget about until you need them. If anything, my desire for high quality, flexible productive systems has gone up in the last months and this might sound strange but since the Japan disaster last week, I’ve been looking at mesh networking and emergency computing again and find that an X86 UMPC would be the best place to start. To that end, I’ll be loading up the U820 as my emergency computer.
The video below shows one of two designs for a 7â€ Oaktrail Tablet from ECS. Remember ECS design and manufacture devices for others so you might, if others are interested, see this reach the market under another brand. We hear that production is possible the May timeframe.
ECS are aiming for a sub 400gm weight and 6hrs of battery life and the following specificationsâ€¦