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Sep 15, 2011

AMD Benches FX-Series Bulldozer Against Intel CPUs

At the same time with Intel's IDF, AMD is hosting its own press event meant to showcase the company's latest technologies and chips, and one of the most interesting demonstrations to take place over there is a comparison between a yet-unreleased FX-Series processor and some Intel Core CPUs.

AMD hasn't disclosed the specs of the Bulldozer processor that is used for this comparison, but two different scenarios are being shown to demonstrate the power of its chips.

The first one of these pits an eight-core AMD FX processor against an unspecified Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge CPU, both systems running Handbrake to convert a 5-minute H.264 video in SD resolution.

According to Hardware Info, the Bulldozer chip performs this task with an average of 223 frames per second, while the Core i5 machine gets 188 fps. 

Both systems will be comparable in price according to AMD, but one can't help but notice that Bulldozer requires twice the numbers of cores of Intel to surpass a Core i5 by just 20% in a multi-threaded benchmark like Handbrake.

The second scenario has the same FX-Series processor fighting against a Core i7 980X in Dirt 3 at a 2560x1600 resolution, both systems featuring two Radeon HD 6790 cards setup in CrossFire.

The Intel machine finishes this benchmark with an average frame rate of 80.9 fps, while the much cheaper AMD desktop averaged 82.8 fps.

Despite the good result achieved by AMD, the selection of the graphics cards, the high resolution and the small difference between the two systems cast a shadow of a doubt over AMD's win, as the 2fps gain could also be caused by other factors, such as better CrossFire scaling on the 990FX board.

AMD hasn't made any official statements over the launch date of the first FX-Series processors other than saying these will arrive in Q4 of 2011. However, most rumors seem to point out to an October release.

Ballmer: Windows Phone Sees Slow Sales, But the Future is Bright

Microsoft is confident that their Windows Phone operating system will conquer more hearts than other mobile platforms out there, and that it will prove one of the top OSes on the smartphone market, the company's CEO has confirmed once again. 

For the time being, however, things are not as good as Microsoft might have hoped for, with Windows Phone devices taking off shelves at a slow pace, but the future should change that, it seems. 

Steve Balmer, Microsoft's CEO, confirmed that sales have been disappointing, but he also stressed on the fact that they are making progress with the new OS release, Mango. 

“We haven’t sold quite as many as I would have liked in the first year,” Ballmer said, speaking at the company’s financial analyst meeting, AllThingsD reports.

“I’m not saying I love where we are but I am very optimistic on where we can be. We’ve just got to kick this thing to the next level,” he continued. 

Indeed, users did not rush to buy Windows Phone devices, though Microsoft has been hard at work with attracting as many developers to its side as possible. 

Moreover, the software giant worked on expanding the list of hardware partners for the platform, and managed to add Nokia there earlier this year. 

With Windows Phone Mango almost here, and with new, highly appealing devices right around the corner, it should not be all that difficult for Microsoft to boost up sales, one should agree. 

“With Nokia we have a dedicated hardware partner that is all-in on Windows Phones. They are not doing something on Android or [any other operating system],” Ballmer continued. 

The Finnish handset vendor is expected to launch its first Windows Phones in about one month, and should bring them to shelves on a country-by-country basis, Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO, stated recently. 

Companies like HTC, Samsung, Acer and others will also launch smartphones running under Mango, most probably before the end of the ongoing year, and that should help the platform even more. 

For the time being, however, all that Microsoft has to go forth with appear to be hopes, though they are in line with what analysts already predicted for the platform, namely that it will become one of the top three OSes in the world in the next several years.

Windows 8 Reset and Refresh Make Reinstalling Obsolete

With the introduction of two amazing new features in Windows 8, Microsoft has virtually made reinstalling obsolete. 

Literally with just the push of a button, well, of a Metro option in the revamped Control Panel, and no effort at all from users, Windows 8 can either be Refreshed or Reset entirely. 

The two are different, and customers should not think of the old refresh option that came with the contextual menu when right clicking the desktop.

Refresh is about stripping down all changes that users introduced to Windows 8 in terms of settings, save for their personalization options. In this regard, Windows 8 Refresh can be thought of as a basic Reset. 

“Your files and personalization will not change. Your PC settings will be restored to all their defaults, and all of your Metro style apps will be kept, and all the other apps like malware and extra toolbars will be removed,” explained Steven Sinofsky, president, Windows and Windows Live Division. 

What’s exceptionally empowering about both Reset and Refresh in Windows 8 is that even end users with only the most basic of IT skills will be able to repair their computer from even a major failure. 

Reset allows the Windows 8 slate to be wiped clean and gets the OS to the moment after it was initially deployed. 

“Your personal files and apps will be removed, and your PC settings are restored to their defaults. It's just like your out-of-box experience,” the Windows boss added. 

Developers present in the hall where Sinofsky delivered the opening keynote address for BUILD cheered and applauded when he revealed that Microsoft would allow them to actually control this process. 

“Now, you probably immediately went, wait a minute, I do the clean install, and then I install more than Metro style apps. I'm going to install Visual Studio, I've got a bunch of tools. Well, it turns out what we've done to enable folks like you is, there's a super simple command line tool. You get everything set up, you run the command line tool, and that baseline becomes your refresh image. So, it's super easy,” Sinofsky said. 

What this means is that more advanced users will have the tools necessary for them to control the level of customization and the moment in time where Windows 8 will return after a Reset. 

They can always let the OS go back to the original state, but they can also personalize it with tools, apps, configure settings etc. and only return to a state they created and control. 

Microsoft even provides the option to Reset Windows 8 from a USB key, which means that customers will have the option to save their custom image of the operating system to a thumb drive or an external drive. 

What’s critical to underline is that both Reset and Refresh are extremely fast, with both processes completed in just a few minutes. Certainly a lot faster than the speed at which Windows 8 can be installed.

Windows 8 Developer Preview Build 8102.winmain_win8m3.110830-1739 Milestone 3 (M3) is available for download here.

Apple Enables Lion Internet Recovery with Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2

Apple has released a new firmware update for owners of 2011 MacBook Pro models with the purpose of enabling a new software component - Lion Internet Recovery, as well as to fix a number of issues.

According to the technology mammoth headquartered at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California, “[Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2] enables Lion Internet Recovery which starts Lion Recovery directly from Apple servers over a broadband Internet connection if the built-in recovery is unavailable.”

Lion Recovery is a new feature introduced in Mac OS X 10.7 which lets you restore system software to your Mac without having to use install discs or drives.

Some recently discovered issues are also addressed with Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2, Apple says:

“It also includes fixes that resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Pro (early 2011) models.”

For the less technically savvy user, the company further explains that “The MacBook Pro EFI Update will update the EFI firmware on your notebook computer.”

Apple instructs users to have their computer's power cord connected and plugged into a working power source as the firmware update is being installed.

Users are to expect a gray screen with a status bar indicating the progress of the update as soon as the MacBook Pro restarts.

“It will take several minutes for the update to complete. Do not disturb or shut off the power on your MacBook Pro during this update,” the Mac maker adds.

With the update successfully completed, the Boot ROM version will be: MBP81.88Z.0047.B1E.1109091244, according to Apple.

Weighing in at 4.17 MB, Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2 is to be applied to OS X Lion 10.7 and later.

Download MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2 (Free) here

AMD Demos Trinity Powered Notebook

Just a block away from the Intel Developer Forum, AMD is hosting its own press event, which, apart from the Radeon HD 7000 GPU series demo we reported about yesterday, also includes a notebook that is powered by an upcoming Trinity APU.

The system was showcased running Deux Ex right next to an Intel Sandy Bridge laptop, the AMD machine handling the game with a lot more ease than its counterpart, as you can clearly see from the video enclosed in this article.

AMD expects Trinity to be 50% more powerful that the A-Series Llano APUs that were launched in mid-June.

Much of this power comes from the inclusion of Bulldozer x86 CPU cores, which will be paired together with an updated DX11 GPU architecture.

The Bulldozer cores used in Trinity will go by the code name of Piledriver and, much like the current Llano processors, will lack any sort of Level 3 cache memory as AMD wanted to increase the die area available to the on-board GPU.

According to AMD, Piledriver based APUs will be divided into three main versions for specific price-points and markets. 

Trinity will be the most powerful of these and will cover the performance segment of the APU line, which is now occupied by Llano A8 parts.

Right under Trinity will come Weatherford, which covers the upper-mainstream segment and replaces the Llano based A6-series, while the least powerful of the new Piledriver APUs will be called Richland.

This will target the lower-mainstream market segment and is meant to replace the current dual-core A4-series APUs.

AMD's Trinity accelerated processing units are scheduled to be launched in 2012, should include more than 2 billion transistors, two or four computing cores and are built using 32nm fabrication process. (via AnandTech)

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