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.
The Z-01 APU was announced yesterday in a blog and press release but AMD have just demonstrated it on stage at Computex. It looks like they’ve re-named the low-power C-50 part they’ve already talked about, a variant of which I believe is already in the Acer Iconia W500 Tablet so don’t get too excited as we’re talking about a 5.9W TDP here, not an ARM-architecture competitor just yet. It lines up nicely besides Oaktrail as a platform that can enable a good Windows tablet experience.
Interestingly, AMD accepted that Windows tablets haven’t had a huge amount of success recently and tipped a hat to Android by demonstrating a runtime version of Android which is provided by Bluestacks. We’ve already seen this briefly on the Viewpad 10 Pro.
Bluestacks running on an Acer Iconia Tab W500 â€“ (Screen grab from live stream)
Announced features of the Z-01 are:
AMD Z-01 APU with AMD Radeonâ„¢ HD 6250 discrete-class graphics. This APU features two 1 GHz â€œBobcatâ€ CPU cores and checks in at TDP of 5.9 watts.
Full intelligence and operability of the WindowsÂ® 7 OS
Consistency in user interface and applications from work to home
Full access to view and edit work and personal documents created in Microsoft Office and other leading applications
Free and automatic online Windows 7 OS updates to enable the most current features
Full compatibility with iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry and other leading mobile phones
Seamless connectivity with virtually any USB device
HDMI support to enable a full 1080p visual experience
Full compatibility with XBOX 360 Media Extender Functionality
The first product to officially use the Z-01 will be the MSI Windpad 110W which has previously been reported as having a C-50 APU. We’re not sure if it’s going to ship with the Bluestacks Android layer.
In a press release, MSI state that the Windpad 110W will have six-plus hours of battery time â€“ â€œthe longest of any tablet with Windows architecture.â€ which is actually BS because I’ve got two here in the studio that will beat that. They’re based on last-gen Intel platforms too!
AMD do a great job with Fusion and the marketing is as smooth as silk so we’re reserving judgment until we get that 110W in our hands. As for Bluestacks it looks like Myriad have a competitor which is great news for us consumers!
Meet:Mobility Podcast 68 is now available along with a special first hand-on report from Sascha with an early release of the Asus Iconia Tab A500
In the podcast we discuss some limitations of the AMD Fusion platform the Cedar Trail Netbook platform, attack the pricing of high-end tablets and talk about ‘High Dynamic Range Computing’ Listen in to find out more.
Don’t forget to give us some feedback on iTunes or a tweet to @meetmobility We’re still ad-free!
You may recall that I lost a number of days work last week. Test results, screen caps and a whole bunch of text went out the window when I did a factory re-install on the device I was both testing and writing the article on. That will teach me!
The article was Part 4 of the Ultra Mobile Video Editing series and was a detailed look at two Brazos-optimised video editing applications on the Lenovo S205 AMD E-350 device. The results were, in general, quite impressive with both Cyberlink Power Director 9 and Corel VideStudio X4 showing use of the platforms features. In some cases, hardware video decoding and effects rendering was significantly speeded up through use of AMD Brazos features. In some cases, the results weren’t so good. It all depended on the type of output file.
After I lost my work on the reivew I wrote an overview of AMD APP enhancements amd i’ve just updated that with input from AMD and Cyberlink. The key thing to know with the C and E-Series APUs is this â€“ AMDs video encoding acceleration subsystem (which used to be called Avivo) which is used by many of the AMD enhanced video editors and converters, is not implemented on the E-350 (or its drivers.) It’s likely to be because it’s actually slower than the CPU but the end result is that there are limits to the enhancements that can be made.You can’t expect General Purpose GPU (GP-GPU) enhancements.
The diagram above shows the Cyberlink PowerDirector Brazos acceleration process. Note that the encode stage is 100% CPU bound. Actually this Cyberlink diagram is slightly wrong because there are some encode enhancements implemented in specific effects code that has been written to use Open CL/APP by Cyberlink.
Corel Video Studio X4 (above) and Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 (bottom) video editing panes.
Click to enlarge. These are the hardware acceleration features in Video Studio (left) and PowerDirector.
Ultra Mobile Video Editing Test Results.
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 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
Editing solution must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
Testing results. (Summarised from paper notes taken during testing.)
Source file: H.264 720p 8mbps 25fps. Output file H.264 720p 5mbps.Â All possible acceleration turned on. System power settings set to ‘always on’ (full power.)
1 â€“ Corel VideoStudio X4 managed to do this test in 3.7x real time which, for such a heavy processing job, is impressive. PowerDirector 9 took significantly longer.
2 â€“ In this test, the video decoding accelerations and memory transfer accelerations implemented tend to have little effect as the processing is very CPU intensive. Hardware video decoding and memory optimisations start to have a more significant effect where output files are smaller and use a less complex codec. 720p H.264 input and MPEG-2 DVD file output is a good example. Resutls were the same with and without accelerations enabled. Using the AMD System Monitor (V0.91) very little GPU activity was seen.
3 â€“ Using Corel VideoStudio, the E-350 CPU was 1.5x faster than the C-50 and 2X faster than an N450 CPU on this specific video encoding test.
4 â€“ For this project (480p minimum output size requirement) there wasn’t an output profile on either software suite that supported the required 852×480 output resolution. 852×480 is a favorable resolution for enabling HQ/480pÂ experience on YouTube.
5 â€“ By adding DivX Pro to the Lenovo S205 I was able to create the required output in an AVI container. I was not successful in getting MP3 audio into the container but I’m confident this is possible. Divx Pro is a 19 Euro license. Divx Pro is a similar implementation of MPEG4 to H.264 (MPEG 4 Part 10) The rendering speed was approx 2.2X real time. This was the best result I achieved in all the tests I did and one that proves the AMD E-350 is capable of producing fast results for my specific video editing and upload requirements. Based on this test it appears that Divx Pro is more tunable (for both resolutions and encoding speed) than the H.264 codecs used in these editing suites.
6 â€“ I was able to output a 720×576 file with 16:9 aspect ratio (correct when re=sized to 852×480) using Power Director 9. The rendering speed was an impressive 1.8x real time. This option as sub-optimal as some resolution is lost when the rendered file is squashed into a 720-wide frame.
The YouTube processes on both Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 and Corel Videostudio X4 don’t support an HQ profile. On Cyberlink, the profiles outpur WMV files which took much longer then H.264 files to output. (Aprox 5.5x real time)
VideoStudio took a very long time to start from fresh boot. Over 60 seconds. PowerDirector 9 is about 25 seconds to start up in the same scenario.
Both video editing suites were fluid in their editing processes.
Power Director has some effects that are implemented in OpenCL for a significant acceleration advantage.
Editing 720p content with these two software packages is quite acceptable for small, in-field projects. Rendering profiles need to be chosen carefully though to get the best out of the system. For my requirements â€“ a 720p H.264 file input and a 480p file output for optimal YouTube uploading I found that a combination of Corel VideoStudio and Divx Pro worked best. Hardware and memory acceleration works in this process and with an 8mbps H.264 720p file input and 480p 30fps file output with ‘fastest’ Divx encoding settings and a 2Mbps bitrate. Rendering rate was 2-2.5x real time depending on audio codex setup. (Using high-power ‘always on’ battery settings on the system.) The images below show most of the configuration settings used.
With most of the process being CPU-load though, one wonders what a dual-core N570 CPU would achieve with the same test. I will be looking to get that result added to this report as soon as possible.
Let us all know about your mobile video editing experiences in the comments/discussion below.
Stay tuned for the next part of this series where I will be testing a standard laptop CPU and chipset, possibly an Intel Sandy Bridge system.
I’ve been working on a big ultra-mobile video editing article since last Wednesday that gives you all you need to know about video editing on the Lenovo S205. Unfortunately, I just re-installed the S205 OS and forgot to backup the directory where the draft article was. I’m hoping to recover the file this afternoon but I can at least tell you one thing â€“ The Lenovo S205 (and possibly Acer 522) don’t support the important AMD Video Converter (Avivo) software from AMD because they have special driver builds that do not include this layer. The Avivo software, as far as I understand, is the base software on which video encoding software (as in video converters and video editing software) that are AMD APP-enabled, hook into to get a GPU hardware boost from the E-350 APU for rendering H.264 and MPEG-2.
Update:07 April 2011
I have had a conversaion with an engineer from Cyberlink who confirms that AVIVO-based encoding acceleration is not supported on these [E-Series, We suspect C-series too] AMD Fusion devices. In fact, what’s really happening here is something more important. AMD Fusion [E-series, C-series] does not support video encoding acceleration. The APP (was ATI Stream) feature that is used by the AMD Video converter base software (was AVIVO) is not implemented. Information from Cyberlink…
Fusion APU does not support Accelerated Parallel Processing (aka ATi Stream) for video encoding. The current AMD drivers do not allow HW acceleration to be enabled for video encoding on the Fusion APUs, and this is by AMD design.
I wish AMD, Cyberlink, Corel and the other companies promoting AMD APP would have been kind enough to point this out earlier. Take a look at this marketing brief…I would call it very misleading.
Transcoding is a very time-consuming and computationally intensive process. With the new AMD Fusion UVD 3 (Unified Video Decoder), and AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology, CyberLink PowerDirector â€“ the world’s first 64-bit video editing software â€“ offers up to 3.7x faster video rendering speed, allowing users to produce professional-looking videos in less time. MediaEspresso, universal media conversion software, now offers ultra-fast transcoding capability via the UVD 3 Decoder, enabling consumers to enjoy up to 2.75x speedup in performance, significantly reducing waiting time while giving users more time to share and enjoy their HD videos. [Ref: Cyberlink Press Release]
That’s a carefully crafted statement right there. PowerDirector does use APP, but only for some effects. You want to speed-up a section of video that has a fireworks effect on it, yes, PD9 will use APP to accelerate it. MediaEspresso doesn’t use APP. Al it uses are 1) The hardware video decoder which, when your output files are small and simple, provides a big boost. When your files are large and complex, 720 H.264 for example, the percentage advantage of the hardware decoder drops to almost zero. 2) It uses some “optimizations to enable Direct Memory Access between the CPU and GPU memory. Using DMA, we are able to save precious CPU cycles when the CPU is accessing the decoded video frames stored in the GPU memory.” Source: Cyberlink
So that clears up the question mark over my test results.Â Fusion enhanced video software can use 1) UVD, the hardware decoder, to accelerate decoding of source video 2) Some optimisations to speed up memory optimisations 3) Specific effects process written to use the APP API.
So will AMD Video Conversion (Avivo) support come in future driver sets? I also ask myself the question, if you can write code to implement affects enhancements, why can’t you write code to improve the video encodingÂ process? Is this something this might come in the future? These questions remains unanswered for the time being.
End of Update. 07 April 2011
Update: 12 April 2011
It appears that I kicked a little bees-nest with this post as both Cyberlink and AMD have been in touch. The information and contact is much appreciated. Both AMD and Cyberlink wanted to clarify that the video encoding limitations don’t / won’t apply Fusion-wide. i.e. The E-Series APU that we’re testing here is aimed at consumer markets but there will be other products that will widen the use of APP.
The AMD E-Series parts are designed with the latest technology in their class making it a fully capable platform. While entry-level AMD VISION systems are capable of video transcode and editing, they are primarily designed with a focus on content consumption. VISION Premium and VISION Ultimate are the recommended systems for content creation. Upcoming AMD Fusion products designed for these mainstream and enthusiast markets will bring the capabilities of the current AMD Fusion products to new levels and introduce new and exciting levels of APP support.
So. Clearly there will be new products soon. I’ve been pointed to the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in a couple of emails so maybe they (AMD, Cyberlink) will be announcing new products then?
Cyberlink also sent a PDF which highlights the Brazos acceleration in their products. Here’s the diagram that shows the UVD (Decode) and DMA (Memory transfer) accelerations.
I posed a question to Cyberlink – can you do anything else to enhance performance through APP? The answer -They are looking at it and expect to implement for APP use in the future. Cyberlink are at the Fusion Developer Summit and holding a talk on Optimizing Video Editing Software with OpenCL. Details can be found in the event catalogue here.
End of update – April 12th
How stupid is that? AMD will be pleased to hear that that part of their platform is crippled on the Lenovo S205. Especially as they’re promoting it. (See Update above. The limitation was actually designed into Fusion from day 1)
Yes, I’ve tried updating all drivers but I can’t get the video encoding acceleration working at all even with new versions of Catalyst 11.2 or 11.3. I’ve tried 5 different software packages that claim to get a boost from the Fusion GPU but none of them get any speed increase at all. Some of them don’t even see the hardware.
I can get some specific code in one video editing program working (an effects overlay that is written to use AMD’s APP API) but that’s about it.
This is such a shame because the S205, when using Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 is really looking good even without the hardware rendering acceleration. The editing process itself is very smooth. There’s a need for some new profiles to enable my specific usage case and an SSD would improve the lengthy start-up time but I was seeing H.264 being rendered at 5mbps in 720p at about 3.7x real time. (slower than real time.) The rendering speed for 720p h.264 could be brought into the 2x range if Avivo was working and that’s very usable indeed.
My final test before sending the article out was to run the software again after a factory reset on the S205. I didn’t quite back everything up before I did it! I’ll bring you more details soon but right now I’m working on recovering 4-days of work on the article! Update: Looks like I lost it. I’ll put together a new one over the next few days. (See update above)
Many thanks to NotebookItalia.it who I discussed test results and thoughts with during this test. They have an article up showing vido rendering tests on C-50 and E-350 CPUs here. (Translation)
There’s one thing that was clear from last nights live testing of the Aspire One 522 â€“ I’m the worst person in the world to demonstrate 3D games. Interestingly though, that’s because I never have devices that can play games. In the last 5 years we’ve seen just a handful of mobile devices that can play games and the fact that I was thrown into Half-Life 2 and Unreal Tournament demos shows that the Acer Aspire One 522 is quite unique â€“ and an indicator of where netbooks are going next. We tried hard to find showstoppers and major issues, design problems, heat and noise or anything that would confirm that this is a cheap device but no, after 3 hours, it was clear that the Aspire One 522 is a real bargain and a true upgrade option for those with first or even second generation netbooks.
Highlights and Lowlights
1080p playback via local or YouTube works flawlessly on-screen (1280×720) or via HDMI
In normal use, this is a 6 hour working device with a 3-hour gaming capability, 5 hours or more video playback and up to 10 hours with radios-off in low-power use as a text-entry device.
No heat or noise to speak of although the fan is constantly spinning and can sometimes be heard or felt through the chassis.
The Hard Disk seems to be a bottleneck in some situations
Mono speaker just about does its job
The glossy screen appears to be a little washed out compared to high-end displays
Wifi reception is better than average
No USB 3.0 or charging USB port
Plastics very thin
Access to memory and HDD is easy. Upgrade to 4GB is possible (Only 2GB available in Windows 7 Starter)
Gaming needs more testing but viewers on the live session seemed very excited!
Battery life / weight ratio is very good
A word of warning though, in terms of CPU processing power, there’s not a lot of difference here between the Intel Pinetrail platform in single or dual-core variants. in a pure-CPU video rendering test we saw the Aspire One coming in at 15% faster than a Intel N450 CPU which puts it between the N450 and N550 in terms of processing power. Compared to first-gen netbooks, that’s a great improvement but its far from mainstream.
It’s the ‘balance’ of CPU, HD Video and 3D that works so well with the Acer Aspire One 522 (and, we suspect, other Fusion C-50 APU -based devices) and if Intel don’t one-up the C-50 with Cedar Trail in a significant way, they will lose a good percentage of netbook sales. At â‚¬299, there’s very little room for beating AMD on price.
So here are the three videos we made during the 2.5hrs online last night. As usual they are captures of the low-quality stream but I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of them. Thanks again to everyone that joined and helped-out in the live session. Spread the word â€“ this is how reviews should be done!
Part 1 – Overview and first impressions.
Part 2 – Heat, battery life, video performance, browsing tests
Part 3 – Video testing, webcam, high and lowlights, Crystalmark test
The ASUS Eeepc 1215B might be outside the 10â€ and 1KG limit we generally apply on UMPCPortal but there’s a few things to note. 1 â€“ This could be one of the lightest, and cheapest devices you could use for mobile 720p video editing and 2 â€“ The technology could filter into high-end, if quite large, UMPCs.
I didn’t get a chance to do a Crystalmark test for a quick overview of the system performance but I did check out the Windows performance score. The CPU is the lowest of the scores, pegging the index at 3.8
One of the biggest potential changes in the netbook market is being driven by AMD who think that high quality GPU and video decoding should be included. The C-50 / Ontario ‘APU’ is the part we need to take note of in the Fusion range and Netbooknews are now providing us with one of the first English language reports of an Ontario-powered device. This is the unboxing of the Toshiba N550d with a great Harmon Kardon speakers. The benchmarks will follow.
I’ve done my own analysis based on some reports that are already out there and I think that the X86 part of the platform is going to come in at just under Atom N550 performance. The 3D and HD performance will blow the Intel netbook platform, Pinetrail, away but it will be at the expense of about 10%-20% battery life. For those wanting 3D and HD video, its a small price to pay. For those more interested in general office-style computing, the high end dual core Atoms will probably be the way to go for the 1-1.3kg range of devices.
Are you waiting to see how that 1Ghz dual-core AMD Fusion platform benchmarks before buying your next 10â€ device? I am. As someone who’s had a netbook for nearly two years now I am probably in the same boat as millions of other people â€“ I’m looking for an upgrade. I’m not buying until i’ve assessed Fusion though which means I’m scouring the web for information every day.
I’ve seen reports on the 1.6Ghz dual-core Zacate E-Series devices but they’re not targeted at the 10â€ segment. The one that’s going up against the Atom is the Ontario series. The C-50 being the dual-core 1.0Ghz version, the C-30 the single-core 1.2Ghz version. While the latter has been benchmarked, its the C-50 that is more interesting for day-to-day work.
The Toshiba NB550D has just hit the German online channels in the last week and is showing up for around 325 Euro (lowest price.) which puts it head to head with the ASUS EeePC 1015PN (with ION graphics.) The question is, which platform has the better day-to-day performance. The two platforms has a similar total TDP but the AMD part is going to be a lot better in 3D and HD video performance. With Flash 10.1 and HTML5 canvas elements taking advantage of GPU, the AMD advantage might be more significant that it first seems for non-gamers. For gamers, the advantage is clear.
Enough of the pre-amble. What have I found?
Well we’ve got a price as mentioned above. It’s Windows Starter 7 and 1GB of RAM for the 325 Euro price which doesn’t impress me so assume a 400+ price for 2GB and Windows 7 HP. The EeePC comes in at a minimum of 429 with those specs. That’s the entry point you want to be looking at if you’re upgrading though.
Secondly, we’ve got some unboxing pics.
The unboxing comes via eprice (translation link) and there are more images available. The keyboard reminds me instantly of the one on the Toshiba AC100. That’s good. I like the look of the speakers too.
Unfortunately the author doesn’t go as far as to benchmark the device (although I’d expect it to happen soon) but there are some YouTube tests. I’m looking at the results thinking, hmmm, that’s very similar to what I saw on the Samsung N350. The 720p videos are playing with >50% CPU load.
720P video playback time when most of the water is running between 56 to 68% will go to 7X% or even to 9X% off
All I can say at the moment is that given the C-30 performance data and this YouTube performance data it’s going to be a very close match between the CPU performance of the C-50 and N550 but as I said earlier, if you get the extra 3D performance and it translates to noticeable improvements in web and UI speed, Cedar Trail is going to have to really bump up the GPU performance in order to compete. (Unless, of course, it brings in significant power savings. Intel’s Oaktrail platform indicates that it might.)
Let’s keep an eye out for more data points, and battery life figures, over the next week.
In our podcast on Monday, we spoke briefly about AMD’s ‘Atom killer.’ Coming from the ultra-mobile sector we were fairly negative about the potential impact of Fusion architecture. A comment on Carrypad made me think twice and take a closer look at the low-end of the Fusion processors (or APU’s â€“ Accelerated Processing Units- as AMD calls them) to see just what might be possible with Ontario.
I’ve seen a demo of Zacate, the dual-core 1.6Ghz version of the APU and yes, it was impressive. What demo isn’t? What was deeply imprinted on my mind though was the scary TDP of 18W. Even if that part is able to get things done and let an OS sleep faster than others, thus reducing average drain, designing around it is going to result in netbook sized devices. It’s nothing for mobile tablets.
Zacate is dual-core running at 1.6Ghz so seeing an opportunity for another part, AMD have cut down the clock and managed to reduced the design power to 9W with the Ontario part. (The overall platform is called Brazos.) We’re probably looking at 900Mhz to 1.2Ghz clock speed on a single-core here. Remember, this is a dual-core out-of-order CPU so not directly comparable with the 1.5Ghz Atom parts.
The power-envelope will be similar too. The N550 is an 8.4W part.
At this point though, it’s time to say ‘stop’ because once again, we’re talking about a netbook platform. Sure, we’ll see it in a tablet or two (it’s highly likely to be in the Acer slate) but don’t expect them to be much less than 1KG and average less than 8 to 10W drain. With the standard 30Wh battery inside this isn’t going to break new ground in terms of battery life and with battery life the #1 consideration for ultra-mobile computing, what’s the point of talking about HD decoding and GPU-accelerated HTML5?
AMD’s Zacate and Ontario will help bring competition to the netbook sector for sure and that’s a good thing. It will highlight how badly the Atom Netbook platform needs HD video decoding and a boost in 3D performance (although that is likely to be fixed in the Cedar Trail product in 2011) but it isn’t something for the ultra-mobile market. Looking at the roadmap, it looks like the 28nm ‘Wichita’ might be competition for Oaktrail with Windows but don’t expect huge leaps forward.
What the X86-based ultra mobile market needs is a change of platform AND operating system to permit always-on, ultra-low-power sleep states, high integration of Wi-Fi and 3G on new platforms. This is why ARM/Android devices are idling, connected, at 0.5W and a netbook is taking 10x that amount! It’s also why MeeGo and Oaktrail/Moorestown are being developed. Migrating away from Windows desktop support is probably the best long-term strategy there is.