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Thursday, June 19, 2014

AMD aims for 25-fold boost in chip energy efficiency by 2020

By Jared Newman Jun 19, 2014

AMD has set an ambitious goal for the next six years: By 2020, the chipmaker wants its Accelerated Processing Units to become 25 times more power-efficient. By comparison, the energy efficiency of AMD chips only increased tenfold over the last six years. AMD says it wants to refocus on power consumption given that personal computers now consume one percent of the world's energy worldwide, and servers consume another 1.5 percent. The crazy part is that AMD thinks it can outpace Moore's Law, which states that a given area can pack in twice as many transistors—and therefore double computing power or efficiency—every two years. Although AMD has warned in the past that Moore's Law will slow down, the company now claims it can break ahead of the efficiency curve by at least 70 percent over the next six years.

The key, as AMD has explained before, lies in heterogeneous system architecture enabled by AMD's APUs. In these chips, the CPU and GPU sit on the same die, and in the latest chips can also share the same memory pool. This allows AMD to more efficiently shift some of the workload over to the graphics processor, while also improving performance. Cutting down the communication needed between CPU and APU will also help energy efficiency, the company says. AMD is touting other advances as well, such as intelligent power management that maximizes the amount of time spent in idle mode.

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Intel's next-gen processor, Broadwell, is (mostly) a 2015 thing

by Brooke Crothers June 18, 2014

Don't hold your breath if you're expecting lots new Macs and mobile Windows products this year running on Intel's newest processor. Products like the new iMac, announced Wednesday, and Surface Pro 3, announced last month, have made this clear: both still rely on Intel's Haswell processor announced a year ago at the 2013 Computex. "We expect the initial Broadwell-based devices, including fanless 2-in-1s built on the Core M processor, will be on shelves by the end of this year with more products and broader OEM availability in 2015," Intel told CNET on Wednesday. 

The operative phrase here is "broader availability in 2015." So, expect limited availability of products like the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi that use Intel's power-frugal Core M Broadwell chip and other announcements in the fourth quarter but volume availability, for the most part, of mobile products on store shelves won't happen until 2015. Public comments from Intel to date have said availability of the chipmaker's first 14-nanometer processor will be in the "second half of 2014" or by the holiday season.

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Amazon looks to take on Samsung, Apple with Fire Phone

Amazon jumped into the smartphone fray Wednesday, unveiling the Fire Phone at a press event in Seattle.
By Philip Michaels & Susie Ochs Jun 18, 2014

Amazon’s phone will be available exclusively through AT&T, mirroring an arrangement that Apple had with the carrier with the iPhone’s 2007 debut. The 32GB Fire Phone will cost $199 with a two-year contract. You can preorder it now, with the phone arriving on July 25. For a limited time, the phone comes with a full year of Amazon Prime service (which normally costs $99 a year), for both new and current Prime subscribers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that he’s been asked about an Amazon-built phone more frequently than anything else. Inside the company, though, Bezos told event attendees there’s a different question being asked: “Can we build a better phone for Amazon Prime members? Well, I’m excited to tell you that the answer is yes.” 

In taking the wraps off the much-anticipated phone, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said it was built out of premium materials. The Fire Phone features Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides, along with a 4.7-inch LCD screen. The phone has a rubberized frame and aluminum buttons. On the audio side, the Fire Phone boasts dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus virtual surround sound. The phone’s magnetic earbuds come with a flat cable that doesn’t tangle easily, according to Bezos. Perhaps the phone’s most headline-grabbing feature is the one rumored long before Wednesday’s press event: a 3D interface. The Fire Phone isn’t exactly 3D—Bezos called it Dynamic Perspective, and it works more like a hyped-up version of the parallax effect found in Apple’s iOS 7 operating system. Four 120-degree cameras on the front of the phone track your head position on the X, Y, and Z axes, which lets images on the Fire Phone’s screen move as you move the phone or reposition your head. Amazon built custom lock screens to show off the Dynamic Perspective effect, and even provided an SDK for developers to build the technology into their own apps.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Skype Realtime Translation Coming by End of 2014

App will continue to be free for consumer use
By Jason Mick - May 28, 2014

Microsoft Corp. is racing Google Inc. to have the platform with the best voice translation. And it appears that at long last, the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator has almost been made a reality.

Just weeks ago, Quest Visual -- whose app "Word Lens" offer real-time translation via a smartphone camera of Spanish printed signage -- was acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum. Google said it will continue to support the standalone app for Android and its rival Apple, Inc.'s iOS for now, but that ongoing development will shift to tightly-integrated, platform-exclusive features integrated into Android OS, Chrome OS, and Google's web API. There are currently a number of apps claiming real-time voice translation on Android; virtually all of them use the Google Translate API.

On Google and Windows Phone, there's the third party "iTranslate" app that includes the feature iTranslate AirTranslate (it offers real-time translation of phone calls to a speaker of a different language). iTranslate is well established, calling itself the "most used" iOS translation app. But it will soon have some tough competition.

Microsoft announced this week at the inaugural Code Conference (#CodeCon) in Rancho Palo Verdes, Calif. that a beta of Skype was coming with real-time translation by the end of 2014.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

HP’s $100 Android tablet arrives with Jellybean

By Brett Watz May 22, 2014

Despite their capabilities, tablets are still more of a luxury item rather than a necessity. While Apple’s iPad and iPad Mini still sell at good volumes, it along with other Android tablets have seen sales decline, likely due to the higher price tag they carry. The key is being able to offer a solid experience at a price that consumers are comfortable “throwing away” for a luxury item. HP has released a new Android tablet, the HP Plus 7, that hits the sweet spot of an overall decent experience (at least we are assuming from the specs) at only $100 USD. The HP Plus 7 features a 1024 x 600 display with quad-core ARM Cortex A7 processor at 1 Ghz with 1GB of RAM, neither of which will knock anyone’s socks off, but still are decent nonetheless. The HP Plus 7 also includes 8 GB of onboard storage with a MicroSD slot for expandable storage and 802.11n wireless connectivity. The tablet does feature both a rear-facing 2MP camera and 0.7MP front-facing camera; again, nothing to write home about but decent enough for the occasional video chat. Unfortunately, the tablet does not include Bluetooth, but HP is throwing in 25 GB of cloud storage via Box free with every purchase. Battery life will also be a trade-off for this budget tablet, as it’s 2800mAh battery will only last for about 6 hours of use. The HP Plus 7 weighs in at about 0.65 pounds.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Report: Samsung making VR headset, plans to beat Oculus and Sony to market

by Eddie Makuch on May 22, 2014

The mobile division of technology giant Samsung is working on a virtual reality device that will be announced this year, sources with knowledge of the matter told technology blog Engadget, which also recently revealed the Halo: Master Chief Collection. The tipsters said that unnamed developers already have prototype versions of the headset, which are reportedly powered by Galaxy devices. The final consumer model, on the other hand, is believed to run on a next-generation Galaxy smartphone and/or tablet. Samsung's rumored virtual reality device is said to mirror the Oculus Rift or Sony's Project Morpheus in form factor. It's believed to have an OLED screen that is as good or better than the latest Oculus Rift development kit. What's unclear, however, is how the headset will sync up with your phone or tablet, and if it will require a separate camera to track depth, as both the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus do. According to the Engadget report, Samsung is not only aiming to beat the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus headsets to market, but also to sell their device for less than the competition. What's the purpose of Samsung's virtual reality device? According to Engadget's sources, it's being made to support Android games, though a list of titles is not available. Samsung said: "Samsung doesn't comment on rumor and speculation."

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AMD rolls out second gen R-Series APUs

By Laura Hopperton May 21, 2014

Following the May 2012 launch of the original R-Series family, AMD has lifted the lid on its second generation embedded R-Series APU, formerly codenamed Bald Eagle. Aimed primarily at embedded applications such as gaming and digital signage, the device combines multi-core x86 CPU architectures and multipurpose programmable GPUs in a single chip that supports up to four independent displays. The APU builds on the success of the first generation R-series by making use of AMD's Steamroller CPU architecture, powering up to four x86 CPU cores with maximum boosted clock speeds ranging from 2.2 to 3.6GHz. It also features the company's Radeon HD 9000-series GPU architecture, with frequencies ranging from 533 to 686MHz and support for Microsoft DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL.

"AMD's second generation embedded R-series APU is the first embedded processor to support Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) features," said Kevin Tanguay, director of Embedded Gaming Products at AMD. "This allows applications to seamlessly make use of the CPU and GPU through Heterogeneous Queuing and access the same memory through Heterogeneous Unified Memory Architecture."

Available in 17 and 35W power envelopes, the APUs come with DDR3-2133 and ECC memory support, along with support for PCI Express Gen 2 and Gen 3.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ARM says $20 smartphones coming this year, shows off 64-bit Cortex-A53 and A57 performance

By Sebastian Anthony on May 6, 2014 

At its rather exclusive ARM Tech Day 2014 in Austin, the British company has given us more details on the future of its mobile efforts — in specific, its upcoming Cortex-A53 and -A57 CPU cores. ARM also said that, after passing the the $60 mark last year, the cheapest Android phones will be just $20 “in the next few months.” According to ARM, these cheap devices will cause the low- and mid-range smartphone and tablet markets to more than double over the next five years, resulting in almost 2.5 billion total mobile device shipments by 2018… and they’ll (probably) all use ARM chips.

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