Posted on 17 February 2009
While it’s very exciting to be thinking about OMAP 4 and Sparrow, they are a long, long way away from being a reality in a device. More interesting today are the Cortex A8-based products. Texas Instruments have the OMAP3 platform which includes a Cortex A8 core and you can find it in a number of leading-edge computing products like Open Pandora, the BeagleBoard and, when it launches, the Palm Pre. As these and other OMAP34xx devices reach the market, Ti will be feeding in a new range of OMAP3 platforms known as the OMAP36xx series. The platform doesn’t change much in terms of building blocks but there are important incremental improvements all round. The platforms will be available for sampling in Q3 2009 which probably means 2010 production and products.
Most important are the improvements brought by moving to a 45nm process (as the Intel Atom uses) which are said to improve efficiency by up to 25%. An extra 30 minutes mobile browsing time here and there is never a bad thing! Key features reported on the press release are shown below.
- 45 nm CMOS process technology delivers higher performance with lower power consumption versus the OMAP34x family, including an approximately 25% reduction in power and 75% improvement in graphics performance.
- Robust multi-tasking platform that supports running multiple applications in parallel by simultaneously exercising the CPU, multimedia performance and 2D/3D graphics engines.
- Dedicated 2D/3D graphics hardware accelerator, enabling more immersive user interfaces and compelling graphics for applications like realistic 3D gaming.
- Smart pixel technology via OpenGL ES 2.0 delivers stunning imaging capabilities through advanced reflection effects and life-like facial features.
- Supports multi-standard 720p HD functionality for HD video recording and playback.
- Integrated image signal processor (ISP) supporting up to 12 megapixel (MP) imaging for enhanced photographic image quality and fast shot-to-shot camera performance.
- Pre-integrated support for mobile connectivity, including TI’s current and future combo WiLinkTM Wi-Fi solutions, NaviLinkTM GPS solutions, and BlueLinkTM Bluetooth(r) solutions.
More details on the Ti product pages
Posted on 10 February 2009
Maybe its just something that Intel said but it looks like the Atom vs Cortex (ARM V7) fight is continuing into the next round at MWC. ARM have just send out a press release highlighting that there will be a Cortex-A8 processor vs Intel Atom power comparison on the stand at MWC!
Note that it say’s ‘power’ comparison. Well it’s not exactly hard to demo that one. The best Intel Atom device takes 3-4W. The best Cortex based devices take about 2W under similar usage scenarios. Simple. The problem is, it could take twice as long to do something on a Cortex device. I hope they demo web pages rather than the mostly irrelevant video playback comparison that most companies fall back on. Lets see decoding of a full-screen YouTube SD video in CPU and running 5 tabs of flash-enabled web pages, constantly refreshing!
Other highlights include a Ubuntu 9.04 Alpha release, Cortex A9 demo, Pegatron Netbook.
- first public demonstration of two new technologies working together that will be key to the future of the mobile industry: The ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore™ multicore processor delivering notebook performance with the power footprint of mobile, and Symbian OS SMP capability
- Launch of wide range of innovative devices including the G1 handset and the first Cortex™-A8 processor-powered mobile phones.
- Cortex-A8 processor vs Intel Atom power comparison
- Pegatron Netbook running Ubuntu
- Hybrid Notebook
- Ubuntu with Firefox 3
- Phoenix Technologies™ Hyperspace™ running on Cortex-A8 processor
- Thinkfree™ office suite with Sun’s Java SE on Qualcomm SnapDragon™-powered Inventec Netbook
- TI® OMAP™ Zoom2 reference design running Android.
- Alpha release of Ubuntu 9.04 for ARM will be shown running on Cortex-A8 processor-based systems. Ubuntu 9.04 is scheduled for full release in April 2009.
No hint of a new Nokia Tablet there but maybe Nokia want to keep it to themselves! Don’t get you’re hopes up too high though. We’re not expecting a new tablet to be available until the summer.
Press release here.
Posted on 29 January 2009
The Palm Pre will probably be the most powerful smartphone ever when it launches and browsing is likely to be significantly faster than any other smartphone before it. The browser is built on Webkit so there’s likely to be a good degree of accuracy and the connectivity options look good too so in many respects, this is going to be a great mobile Internet device.
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Posted on 10 January 2009
Engadget seem quite impressed with the Pegatron Freescale-based netbooks. 8.9-inch screen, 8 hour battery life, 8GB of storage and retail prices near the $199 mark. Pegatron will be working with Ubuntu to get the ARM-compatable distribution cleaned up and ready for a late Spring launch.
Maybe it’s just the design that Engadget are impressed with though. “The limitation here is obviously straight-up processing power — it’s not very impressive, and certainly slower than Intel’s Atom” say Engadget but it’s clear (check the video below) that it’s a whole lot faster than ARM devices we’ve seen in the past. Cortex A8 seems to be hitting the right mark.
Pics and more commentary at Engadget.
Pegatron and Freescale team for low-power, ultra-cheap netbooks and nettops – Engadget.
Video below from Notebooks.com shows the device in action.
Posted on 31 October 2008
Not content with having one of the most powerful ARM-based platforms out there, the Open Pandora team have decided to increase the RAM on the devices to accommodate Ubuntu after some successful tests by members of their community. (Video below)
“Expect to fly through the mobile Internet soon.” says one blog post. “RAM is very expensive but we have decided if we want a real ultra mobile PC style device which is pretty future proof for a few years we need it. Ubuntu is 20% faster already – not to mention you will be able to run several large apps now without worrying.” says a forum entry. It seems that adding Bluetooth to the spec wasn’t enough for the Open Pandora team. They want to add RAM, run desktop operating systems and take over the mobile Internet world. Well, sort of. It looks like there’s still a lot of work to do to get a decent OS and UI layer organised but judging by some of the passion in the forums, it shouldn’t take long.
I wonder if this is a response to the growing mobile Internet trend? Although the Pandora design may not be the most attractive due to its game controls, it wouldn’t take much to make a separate case for it if someone thought it was worth investing. Keep an eye on this grown-up smartphone because its looking more and more interesting by the day.
Fast forward to 2:30 for Firefox browsing action.
Posted on 16 September 2008
When I wrote about Opera 9.5 Mobile a short while back I highlighted how it was a great browser with no hardware to run it on. What I said was that the processing power and screen size wasn’t enough for the software. The user interface was good but in order for it to be taken seriously as a crossover mobile/desktop, entertainment/productivity browser, it needed better hardware so when we heard about the new Archos devices recently and their Cortex ARM general purpose processors we knew there was a chance for some serious challenges to the Intel-based MIDs. The Archos devices have a rich, enjoyable touch user interfaces, very good video performance (see video below) and a suite of content and application accessory offerings that can be bolted on to improve the package further. Add the possibility of getting a 3G-enabled version and you got the makings of what could be one of the best MIDs yet. [More after the pic…]
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Posted on 02 September 2008
Here’s another one of those ‘we can beat Atom’ tests where the fine detail of the result is irrelevant. The important thing here is that, like the VIA Nano comparison test, significant, market-changing progress has been made.
I’ve been talking about ARM’s Cortex A8 for a while now and keeping an eye on it in terms of its suitability for Mobile Internet Devices. Its a powerful computing core and people like Ti are using it to build very small, power-efficient media and Internet-capable platforms. Apart from Pandora, we’ve seen it being promoted for use in OHA Android phones and even for netbooks.
But how fast is the Cortex A8? How fast would Firefox 3 run on a Cortex-based Android smartphone? And how accurate would it be? Intel keep pusing the ‘real internet’ and about how many errors you’ll find with smartphone browsers but when you’re running Firefox 3 on both platforms, the difference disappears. Intel also talking about speeds but when the processing power is the same on both hardware, that difference disappears too. ARM’s partners have already fought back against the Intel Atom machine a few times in the past (Nvidia here and here) but this video strikes right at the heart of Atom/Moblin. It shows Firefox 3 running at impressive speeds. Forget the normalised comparison at the end of the video, any browser that can average under 10 seconds per page as shown in this demo is going to be good enough for almost everyone. Its twice as fast as previous ARM-based devices and completely removes the 9-second disadvantage that I’ve talked about before. [see video below]
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Posted on 05 August 2008
Another one falls to the acronym!
Access, developers of one of the leading Linux-based mobile operating systems for mobile phones, the Access Linux Platform (ALP) has announced that its positioning its operating system for Mobile Internet Devices. The report comes via LinuxDevices but there’s a press release here.
ACCESS will be supporting the growth of the Mobile Internet Device (MID) market with the capability of running ACCESS Linux Platform on the emerging MID format, giving MID manufacturers the same complete, flexible, commercial-grade, Linux mobile platform available for mobile handsets to access a wide range of Internet and Web 2.0 services. The flexibility of ACCESS Linux Platform will enable licensees to create differentiated experiences, including UI innovations and support for larger displays.
ALP uses a NetFront browser layer which also supports frameless pages (widgets) that can be used as applications. This widget support and a widget community was also announced in the press release. I’ve used NetFront on a Sharp CL3200 before but that was a few years ago now. I’ve made a note to test it out as soon as I have the hardware available. It’s available here if you want to try it out on WM. Recent comments I’ve read suggest that its a high quality browser so if you try it out, let me know how it goes.
The report also says that Access will be demonstrating it’s Access Linux Platform on Cortex-based demonstrator boards. Now that’s something I’d really like to see, especially with that larger display but come on guys, demonstrators?
Posted on 21 May 2008
The pricing game in the cheap notebook category getting rather silly. I’m seeing a lot of ‘tricks’ being used that will make it very difficult for consumers to sort the wheat from the chaff. The low-end Alpha 400 from Bestlink, a RISC-based Eee-a-like is another example. I’m not going to spend any time reporting details of the device (see LinuxDevices for that) or discuss whether it’s a good choice or not but I will report exactly what came into my mind when I read the news about it. Devices like these are nothing much more than smartphones running Linux and placed in notebook casings. I sound very negative when saying that but it shouldn’t be taken that way because while current solutions don’t provide enough oomph to give most users a serious alternative to a full notebook PC, they do show that we are moving to a point where the smartphone could be the only processing device you need. The idea of a smartphone running inside a notebook form factor really is a trick that needs to be observed. [Analysis after the break.]
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