Russia’s policy on Western technology is clear: It can live without it, especially if key issues like economic sanctions, NSA spying and GPS cooperation aren’t resolved to its satisfaction. It looks like this tough stance extends to US-designed computer chips too, as a Russian business newspaper is reporting that state departments and state-run companies will no longer purchase PCs built around Intel or AMD processors. Instead, starting in 2015, the government will order up to one million devices annually based on the “Baikal” processor, which is manufactured by a domestic company called T-Platforms. An interesting twist, however, is that the Baikal processor is actually based on an ARM (Cortex-A57) design, which means the East / West divorce isn’t quite as complete as it might sound. It could also mean that many Russian bureucrats won’t get the chance to be a Mac or a PC: they’ll have to use some sort of ARM-compatible, presumably Linux-based operating system instead.
Source: ITAR-TASS News Agency
The European Union’s second-highest court has upheld a $1.4 billion fine levied against Intel for anti-competitive practices against chip foe AMD. In the original decision, way back in 2009, the European Commission found that Intel harmed its rival and consumers by giving unlawful rebates to retailers and PC makers like HP, Dell and Lenovo. Intel then appealed, saying the commission “ignore(d) the reality of a highly competitive microprocessor marketplace.” But the Luxembourg General Court found that Intel had a long-term game plan to shut out AMD and “attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of (those) practices.” It therefore ruled that the record fine representing 4.15 percent of Intel’s 2008 revenues was fair, saying the EU could have levied a penalty as high as 10 percent. Intel expressed disappointment with the decision, but it does have one more shot at an appeal: the EU’s Court of Justice. So far, however, it hasn’t said whether it’s willing to drag out the six-year-old case any further.
Source: European Commission
For the last few years, we’ve travelled to Computex in Taiwan to see the latest flock of Ultrabooks, with the latest and greatest models providing the biggest news of the show. This year, though, the highlight of the show wasn’t one particularly great notebook or even one company — though ASUS did steal the show with its mile-long list of new products. Rather, it was a prototype from Intel that teased the next generation of ridiculously thin and light PCs.
You think your Ultrabook or iPad Air is thin, but you have to see Intel’s reference design to grasp the skinniness of 2-in-1 devices powered by the Core M-series of processors. We’ll start to see products integrating Intel’s new line of chips later this year, but just imagine how much slimmer high-powered laptops will be a few Computexes down the line. At a certain point, devices will reach peak thinness, and then the focus will shift to improving battery life and performance in such a compact package — and that’s when everybody wins.
Intel’s look at the future of mobile computing is probably the most significant announcement at a show that’s traditionally all about PCs, but this year’s Computex also shined the light on wearables. True, we didn’t see any hardware that rivals Google Glass or Pebble in features or sophistication, but several prototypes from smaller companies boast clever designs for gadgets that live on your head or wrist. A flexible-battery manufacturer demonstrated a strap design that doubles the life of your smartwatch, offering a solution to one of the biggest complaints about the most popular models. E Ink’s wraparoud-display prototype is also an interesting approach to the next generation of wearables, giving you a ton of space to display info on your wrist.
Computex may not be the “CES of Asia” in terms of high-profile product announcements, and much of the new tech we saw here in Taipei was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of cool stuff to see. We’ve made it easy for you by breaking down our coverage just below — enjoy!
- Hands-on with the Liquid Leap: Acer’s first wearable tries to be everything to everyone
- Acer claims the Liquid Jade is the world’s ‘most compact’ 5-inch smartphone
- Acer shows off ‘Extend’ app allowing you to control your phone from your PC
- Acer claims its €79 Liquid Z200 is the cheapest branded Android phone
- With three SIM slots, Acer’s Liquid E700 is a phone for frequent travelers
- ASUS’ PadFone X goes global: still a 5-inch to 8.9-inch transformer
- ASUS’ Zenbook NX500 is a thin and light laptop with a 4K screen
- The ASUS MeMO Pad 8 is ‘the world’s lightest 8-inch LTE tablet’
- New Fonepads from ASUS offer 3G, extra processing power
- ASUS intros the Transformer Book T300 Chi, a super-thin hybrid laptop
- ASUS Transformer Book V is a Windows hybrid with a detachable Android phone
- Here’s a semi-professional 32-inch 4K monitor from ASUS
- ASUS Transformer Pad refreshed with front speakers, lighter keyboard
- Hands-on with ASUS’ Zenbook NX500: The MacBook Pro meets its match
- ASUS’ 20-inch ‘portable’ all-in-one PC has gesture controls and a carrying handle
- There’s no such thing as too many antennas for ASUS’ high-end router
- ASUS’ new Fonepads are solid tablets, but still awkward for making calls
- Up close with ASUS’ quirky Windows laptop/Android phone hybrid
- ASUS has two Steam Machines and one is incredibly compact
- ASUS’ Chromebook C300 is yet another well-made budget laptop
- ASUS crams 4K gaming into sleek and distinctive laptop
- ASUS introduces us to the ‘world’s largest’ curved LED monitor
- ASUS’ new external Blu-ray drive does 7.1 audio at a fair price
- ASUS shows off a 14-inch USB touchscreen monitor
- Asia’s biggest tech show is ASUS’ show
- Angry owl is angry: ASUS does a badass gaming headset
- Dell adds two budget Android tablets to Venue lineup, prices start at $160
- Dell’s new Inspiron 20 is a giant tablet for work and play
- Dell aims for the mainstream with its two new Windows convertibles
- HP’s back-to-school lineup includes lots of convertibles (and Beats products, too)
- HP hedges its bets, unveils a 14-inch laptop running Android (updated)
- HP’s Pro x2 612 laptop-tablet hybrid brings pen support, a sturdy keyboard
- Intel doubles down on tablets, says it will power 130 models this year
- Intel launches Core M processors for even thinner 2-in-1 PCs
- Intel’s Windows 8.1 Pro Broadwell tablet is thinner than the iPad Air
- Intel’s super-thin ‘Core M’ tablets will be cheaper than you think
- Intel: Where we’re going, we don’t need cables
- With seven different use modes, Toshiba’s Kirabook is a Lenovo Yoga on steroids
- Toshiba stuffs Windows into a 7-inch tablet, whether you want it or not
- Watch strap batteries could double the life of your wearable
- An up close look at the giant gaming PC that’s also a desk
- This $295 battery-powered unicycle could replace your Segway
- E Ink’s working on a smartwatch with a full wraparound display
- The PhoneStation uses your smartphone as a head-mounted display
Typically, you can’t reuse many parts when you switch processor technologies; if you change chips, you change the entire motherboard at the same time. That won’t be true for AMD in the future, though. It’s working on a common chip framework, Project Skybridge, that will let 2015-era ARM and x86 system-on-chip processors share the same pin layout. In other words, a basic motherboard design could handle both CPU types.
This doesn’t mean that you’d get to walk into a computer store, buy a motherboard and use your choice of ARM or x86 hardware in your new desktop. Rather, Project Skybridge would be for mobile and embedded gadgets — neither AMD nor device makers will have to reinvent the wheel just because they’re thinking of building x86-based Android tablets or ARM-based industrial gear. It’s also a hedge against obsolescence. AMD sees the computing world shifting toward ARM, and it doesn’t want to be stuck supporting only Intel’s x86 technology in the long run.
That’s just the start of the semiconductor firm’s expanded ARM plans, too. A 2016 core, K12, will be AMD’s first 64-bit ARM design. Most of its details are a mystery, but AMD says that the new processor focuses on high frequencies (clock speeds) and expanding ARM’s sphere of influence. That suggests that K12 will target heavy-duty tasks. It may not wind up in your pocket, then, but it could handle more duties that were previously reserved for desktops.
For all the success AMD has been having in the console and PC graphics spheres, none of it has really translated into the world of Windows-based tablets and ultraportables. The chip maker insists that’s going to change in 2014, however, and it has released a number benchmarks showing that its latest processors have a lead not only over AMD’s previous generation, but also over the Intel chips that currently reign supreme in these form factors.
We won’t bore you with a gabble of numbers when you can check out charts for yourself in the gallery below, but the main curiosity here is probably the 4.5-watt tablet platform, known as “Mullins.” This replaces last year’s Temash processor, which had impressive gaming skills but failed to catch on in the market. AMD’s in-house scores suggest Mullins offers much better performance per watt, with the new A4 Micro-6400T achieving a 15 percent lead over Intel’s Bay Trail T (the Atom Z3370) in PCMark 8 — a lead that could potentially be significant enough to bring the chip into more slim-line (and passively cooled) Windows 8 machines. What AMD doesn’t reveal, however, is whether devices equipped with this A4 chip will have comparable battery life to Bay Trail, so it’s all academic until actual, commercial devices come around.
That death knell AMD has been ringing for DirectX? Microsoft’s having none of it. The software giant is now teasing the next version of the Windows graphics API, inviting developers to join it at GDC for the official reveal of DirectX 12. The splash page reveals little besides the version’s numeric and announcement time, but it does feature partner logos for Intel, Qualcomm, Nvidia and, of course, AMD. AMD’s disdain for the platform helped birth Project Mantle — a competing API that gives developers lower-level access (and as a result, more leverage over) PC graphics hardware. One of Microsoft’s GDC sessions suggest that something similar is in the works for its own development platform: “You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal… …so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console,” reads the description for one of the firms DirectX presentations. “Come learn our plans to deliver.”
It sure sounds similar, and indeed, it meshes well with recent rumors. Sources close to ExtremeTech say that while the two APIs will have different implementations, both should offer the same benefits. They also say that Microsoft’s “close to the metal” lower-level access API is a relatively new project in Redmond, meaning it probably won’t muscle in on Mantle’s territory until sometime next year. Between that, and the fact that Microsoft has recently taken to limiting Direct X upgrades to Windows upgrades, it’s possible that we might not see DirectX 12 in access until we’re installing Windows 9.
This new, low-end AMD graphics card’s meant for budget-conscious PC gamers, and maybe Steam Machines, too
Not every gamer has the
desire means to get the latest and greatest graphics hardware. Fret not budget-minded PC aficionados, for AMD’s rolling out a new, more powerful low-end GPU that should suit your financial constraints. Called the Radeon R7 265, it brings twice the memory bandwidth of its predecessor, the R7 260x, which AMD claims translates into a 25 percent performance boost. It’ll cost $149 when it goes on sale in late February, and with its debut, AMD’s also dropping the cost of the aforementioned 260x to a scant $119.
Naturally, those meager price points will appeal to cost conscious consumers, but AMD’s announcement could have an effect on Steam Machine OEMs, too. We saw AMD’s higher-end R9 graphics in several of the Steam Machines at CES, and we’ve been playing with a working iBuyPower prototype packing an R7 260x for awhile now. So, it stands to reason that the 260x and 265 will prove awfully attractive options to manufacturers trying to hit the all-important sub-$500 price point needed to compete with other gaming consoles. And, who knows, maybe these new (relatively) inexpensive options will help drive down the prices of both more powerful cards and the GPUs being offered by AMD’s competition.
If you caught our recent coverage of the huge Star Swarm demo, you’ll know that AMD’s Mantle programming tool has already proven itself capable of radically transforming a real-time strategy game. But the console-inspired API has been claimed to deliver performance benefits in FPS games too, starting with Battlefield 4, and the first independent evidence of this is now starting to trickle out. AnandTech and HotHardware have used almost-final Mantle drivers to achieve frame-rate gains of at least 7-10 percent in BF4, rising to 30 percent with some configurations, by doing away with the need for Microsoft’s relatively inefficient DirectX drivers.
In general, it looks like systems with weaker CPUs stand to benefit the most, because Mantle uses the graphics processor in such a way as to reduce CPU bottlenecks. We’ll get a better idea of the size of the improvement once Mantle is released to the public and tested on a wider variety of systems, including laptops and desktops with low-end or integrated AMD GPUs, but nevertheless, these early results bode well for those who are trying to eke better frame rates out of older, cheaper or smaller gaming rigs.
Not interested in buying a Steam Machine this year, but still want a tiny gaming PC? Never fear — CyberPowerPC has just released the Zeus Mini, its latest take on a conventional small computer with full-sized performance. The system is just 4.4 inches thick and 18 inches deep, but it has room for fast video cards like AMD’s R9 290 or NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 780. You’ll also find a high-end AMD Kaveri or Intel Haswell processor inside, and there’s space for a large liquid cooling system if you insist on a silent rig. Zeus Mini prices start at $599 for a basic variant with a 3.7GHz AMD A10 chip and integrated graphics, but demanding players can shell out $1,479 for a flagship model with a 3.5GHz Core i7 and GTX 780 video.
It’s been a busy week for AMD news, what with the launch of the Kaveri APU and then our first real evidence of how the new Mantle drivers can impact on PC gaming. But now’s the time to kick back and check out some full reviews of Kaveri over at the specialist sites. We’ve rounded up some of the best articles after the break, and if you’re looking for brutally short executive summaries, we’ve got some of those for you too.
AnandTech — Based on a suite of traditional, real-world application benchmarks such as WinRAR, Kaveri usually struggled to match a Core i3 — except in those few applications that made good use of GPU compute via OpenCL. With games, on the other hand, Kaveri was usually better than a Core i7 in the more challenging scenarios, and you really should check out the site’s full frame-rate charts. The A10-7850K is actually able to play F1 2013 at max detail and 1080p resolution with a frame rate of 31fps, for example, versus 14fps from a much more expensive Core i7-4770K. Overall, Anandtech concluded that Kaveri could be an “ideal fit” for many people who aren’t power users but who like to indulge in a bit of gaming, but its reviewers also highlighted the fact that AMD has been tepid about supporting dual graphics for those who want to pair Kaveri with an Radeon R7-series graphics card (Kaveri also uses R7 graphics, so theoretically it should be possible to add the two GPUs together).
HotHardware — This site focused on the A8-7600, which can be customized to burn at 45W or 65W and is therefore aimed at small form factors (like HTPCs and Steambox-like gaming builds). In a number of synthetic graphics-focused benchmarks, such as 3DMark, this scaled-down processor was actually very close to (and sometimes better than) AMD’s flagship 95W from the previous generation (Richland), and also often better than any full-powered Haswell chip. Overall, despite it lagging behind Intel in single-threaded tests, HotHardware gave the A8-7600 its “Approved” badge.
ExtremeTech — This site spent a bit more time taking account of AMD’s new HSA technology. In its most practical sense, HSA is a fresh approach to GPU compute, but there is no mainstream software that makes use of it just yet. Instead, ExtremeTech ran a few niche HSA-enabled benchmarks to explore HSA’s potential, and they were pleasantly surprised: a JPEG decoding test showed that the A10-7850K was almost twice as fast as a Core i5-4670S, and even the A8-7600 was quicker than any Intel chips. A second test based on number-crunching within LibreOffice’s Calc spreadsheet application showed that the A10-7850K was about five times faster than the Core i5. Overall, this review concluded that, aside from its obvious gaming prowess, “Kaveri will only be competitive if developers implement the necessary optimizations for HSA,” and that pretty accurately sums up where AMD’s newest APU stands right now.