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Dec 4, 2011

Intel Confirms It Has 14nm Test Circuits Ready in Its Labs

Intel disclosed recently that the company has already finalized the very first test circuits built using the advanced 14 process technology which the chip maker plans to use for manufacturing its 2014 processors code named Broadwell.

The info was disclosed by Pat Bliemer, Managing Director for Northern Europe and Benelux at Intel, in an exclusive interview with the Nordic Hardware website.

According to the company’s rep, the technology is ready for building 14nm products in laboratory conditions, which means that Intel has a huge advantage in terms of manufacturing compared to its competitors that still struggle to go under 20 nanometers.

The news is hardly surprising considering that Intel was also was the first company to start mass producing chips using the 32nm node.

Furthermore, as another industry first, the chip maker has recently announced that it initiated volume production of Ivy Bridge CPUs fabricated using the 22nm technology with 3-D transistors, better known as Tri-Gate transistors.

Pat Bliemer could also confirm that Intel's Tick-Tock strategy is proceeding according to schedule, which means that the first processors based on the 14nm node should make their appearance in 2014, when Broadwell is expected to arrive.

The Broadwell CPU comes as a "tick" on Intel’s roadmap, meaning that this is actually the 14nm die shrink of the Haswell architecture which is expected to arrive sometime in 2013.

Unlike Haswell however, its 14nm variant will feature a more integrated design which will make it Intel’s first true SoC design as it includes features such as Ethernet, Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 right on the chip’s die.

The rest of Broadwell’ specs are not known at this time, but these chips will definitely support many of the architecture improvements Intel plans to include in its Haswell core, like AVX2 and DirectX 11.1 support.

LG Optimus Link Dual SIM Officially Introduced

Korean handset manufacturer LG announced the availability of the Optimus Net almost six months ago. The company also stated at the time of the launch that it will release a dual SIM version of the smartphone.

Although LG did not reveal any details concerning the exact release date of the device, it appears that the company kept its promise and announced the dual SIM variant of the Optimus Net, in Russia.

The handset was recently launched in Russia as LG Optimus Link Dual SIM and is now available for purchase for 8,990 rubles (290 USD or 215 EUR) off-contract. It's also out in Brazil as LG Optimus Net Dual.

Aside the dual SIM functionality, both LG Optimus Net and Optimus Net Dual SIM have similar features. The phones are powered by Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread platform and feature deep social networking integration via a dedicated Social+ widget.

They are equipped with the same 800 MHz single core processor and an Adreno 200 graphics processing unit.

In addition, they pack 150 MB onboard memory, 512 MB of RAM, 512 MB of ROM and microSD card slot for memory expansion (up to 32GB, 2GB memory card included).

It is also worth mentioning that the Optimus Net Link Dual SIM comes with a special button that allows users to switch between SIM cards.

Furthrmore, with the pre-loaded SmartShare application users can take advantage of the implemented DLNA function, which allows them to view videos and photos captured with the phone's camera, on bigger TV screens.

On the back, the Optimus Net Link Dual SIM sports a 3-megapixel camera with autofocus and video recording capabilities. There's also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 support, along with FM radio and HSDPA.

According to LG, the phone's 1500 mAh battery should provide up to 330 hours of standby time or up to 5 hours of talk time

Nvidia Wants to Ship 25 Million Tegra 3 Chips in 2012

Nvidia has high hopes for its recently launched Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip (SoC) device as in 2012 it plans to ship no less than 25 million such chips, which could make it more popular than the previous iteration of Tegra.

These SoC are supposed to go into smartphones, tablet PCs and automobiles, according to industry sources cited by the DigiTimes publication.

Nvidia’s goal is indeed impressive, but those in the industry doubt that the Santa Clara chip maker will be able to achieve it as its Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip failed to achieve the same 25 million target in 2011.

According to the same publication, Tegra 2’s low sales performance was due to its inability to capture enough share from the smartphone market, which is currently dominated by Qualcomm.

Although Nvidia still faces strong competition from players such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments with Tegra 3, the company seems to be confident that its early release will enable it to reach its 25 million shipping target.

Furthermore, in 2013 the company is aiming to achieve further growth with the launch of the first Windows on ARM (WoA) devices.

Nvidia’s Tegra 3 SoC is the industry’s first quad-core ARM-based mobile SoC and it packs four Cortex A9 cores based on an ARM architecture paired together with a fifth companion core built using low power process technology.

Nvidia chose this arrangement in order to increase the power efficiency of its design, as the companion core handles many of the tasks the device runs when in idle mode.

The chip was already used by Asus in the popular, but not yet available, Transformer Prime tablet, with other hardware makers, such as Acer and Lenovo, being expected to follow in 2012.

AMD Bulldozer CPUs Selling Out Surprisingly Fast

Reviewers may have been generally disappointed in the Bulldozer central processing units, but even with the outcry on the Internet, the chips are selling well.

Then again, Advanced Micro Devices never actually said that Bulldozer would smack Intel chips around.

Bulldozer always was described as something that would be at the level of Core i5, but people probably hyped it up more than they should because it was given the FX moniker.

Either way, the 8-core FX-8150 and FX-8120, FX-6100 and FX-4100 don't suffer from a lack of buyers.

Of course, getting sold out could be indicative that the inventories of such CPUs aren't all that big, but that doesn't take away from how the units are, at the end of the day, gone from shops and retailers.

Meanwhile, AMD Stopped Shipping 45nm Phenom II and Athlon II CPUs, so look for one quick if you like them better.

Old Age Human Memory Loss Not an Issue for Memo Touch Tablet

Memo just announced a device that, in a way, is a throwback to the times when tablets were only heard of in specific fields, like medicine, only it used media slate looks. 

Memo Touch, LLC just launched a special-purpose tablet that bears its name.

Basically, the Memo Touch tablet is intended for elderly citizens that can't exactly claim to have the best short-term memory.

Based on Archos 101, it delivers gentle cues when the time comes to see a doctor, take medication, do certain exercises.

That is assuming the very same memory loss doesn't end up making owners forget where they last left a certain thing.

With comprehensive calendar tools, family members can set up events, to-do items, phone numbers, share personalized messages or photos, etc.

All this is easy to achieve through the companion website: family members can set up access to weather forecasts, the list of daily medication and when they should be taken, etc.

“Memo establishes an entirely new product category of memory assistants designed to reduce the confusion and loss of independence caused by memory impairment,” says Merilee Griffin, Ph.D., president of Memo Touch, LLC.

“Memo can be easily customized to meet the needs of people with a wide range of abilities. Memo's display can be as simple as the day, date and time and a single reminder, or it can include optional features such as a calendar, to-do list, the weather, phone numbers, a list of medications, and photo albums. A Help button is available to automatically send a text, email or both to the caregiver if needed.”

Memo touch has a price of $299 (222.15 Euro) and is sold with a six-month or 12-month subscription to the website ($174 / $300, or 129.28 / 222.89 Euro).

“Memo is your assistant that can be there when you can't, to remind your loved one of important tasks,” said Griffin.

AMD May Prepare Radeon HD 6930 to Counter Nvidia’s GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores

With the recent launch of the GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores, Nvidia managed to give those looking for a great price/performance graphics card another option for turning to its GPUs, but not to be outdone by its competitor AMD is reportedly also thinking about releasing an Radeon HD 6930 GPU in order to counter this recent threat coming from the green camp.

Just like Nvidia has done with the GTX 560 Ti 448 Cores, AMD also plans to use a cut back version of its most powerful GPU in existence, the Cayman graphics core, for this new card.

However, unlike its older brothers that are based on the Cayman architecture, the Radeon HD 6930 will use what according to Hardware Luxx is called the Cayman CE GPU supposed to include 1280 stream processors.

The reduction is quite significant when compared with the 1536 stream processors found in the HD 6970, but it should allow AMD to reuse a part of its Cayman GPUs that failed to pass the tests required for them to be installed in HD 6970 or HD 6950 graphics cards.

The new stream processor count should be paired together with 80 texture units, 32 ROP units , and the same 256-bit wide memory interface, which can be connected to either 1GB or 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

Together with the rest of the specs, the clock frequencies of the Radeon HD 6930 will also be reduced compared to those of its older brothers.

This means that the GPU will work at 750MHz, while the memory is supposed to run at 1.2GHz (4800MHz data rate).

Just like Nvidia’s recently launched solution, the Radeon HD 6930 also won’t come with a reference design from AMD, so graphics card makers are expected to use the cooling solutions and PCB’s they developed for the HD 6950.

As far as pricing is concerned, all we know at this point in time is that in Europe the card should sell for somewhere between 170€ and 200€, while availability seems to be expected for mid-December.

Nvidia Graphics Driver Leaks GeForce 600M-Series GPUs

A new Nvidia graphics driver provided for Asus’ notebooks has leaked a series of notebook GPUs that the chip maker wants to introduce in the near future as members of the GeForce 600M product family.

The driver in question is marked as version 295.18 and apart from some cryptic "N13P" and "N13E" code names also mentions a series of low-end graphics cards such as the GeForce GT 635M, GeForce GT 630M, and 610M as well as the high end GeForce GTX 670M GPU.

According to the Computer Base website, it’s not yet clear how many of the low-end parts listed are actually new GPUs and how many are rebrands of the current 500M-series chips, but the GTX 670M is definitely a new GPU.

This isn’t however the first time that we have come to cross our ways with the GTX 670M as this GPU was also spotted in the second part of November when it was unveiled that it will pack a 192-bit wide memory bus.

Two of the other three low-end GPUs mentioned by the driver were also detailed in that previous report.

The Asus driver is dated November 19, and outside of these chips includes a part dubbed “NVIDIA GK107-ESP-A1,” which should be an early 28nm GPU based on the Kepler architecture with an A1 revision.

No details regarding the release date of any of these chips are available at this time. However, Nvidia is expected to launch its first, smaller chips in the GeForce 600M-series, in December of this year. The rest of the graphics cores will make their appearance in 2012.

Outside of these graphics processors, Nvidia’s notebook GPU lineup is expected to include at least 9 other SKUs, ranging from low-end to maninstream and high-end parts.

AMD Stopped Shipping Phenom II and Athlon II CPUs

Despite Bulldozer not being the success that everybody has hoped for, AMD has now stopped shipping Phenom II and Athlon II processors fabricated on the 45nm node, except for one such chip in the P II line.

The new processors based on the Llano and Bulldozer architecture AMD released this year will slowly but surely take the place of the current Athlon II and Phenom II chips as these will start disappearing from the stocks of retailers around the world.

The only chip that will survive, according to Nordic Hardware, will be Phenom II X4 960T based on the Zosma core that is effectively a six-core Thuban part with two of its computing cores disabled.

Of the two brands that AMD stopped shipping, Athlon was the most successful, as it spanned an impressive number of architecture since it was first introduced in mid-1999.

This also included the successful AMD K8 architecture, which gave the company a substantial lead in its fight against Intel, to be later dethroned by its rival’s Core 2 Duo processors based on the Conroe arch.

Many things have changed since then, and 2011 marked one of the most important years in AMD’s recent history as the chip maker refreshed its entire CPU lineup with new processors based on the Llano and Bulldozer architecture.

The Llano chips, called APUs – Accelerated Processing Units, in particular have proven to be very successful for AMD that for years struggled to compete with Intel in the CPU market.

Bulldozer however hasn’t been the success that the Sunnyvale-based chip maker has hoped for, but despite this AMD has to move on and this implies getting rid of the older 45nm Athlon and Phenom II parts.

Don’t know about you, but although I knew that this moment will eventually come, it’s still hard to get used to the idea of parting ways with the Athlon and Phenom brands. After all, most of us have fond memories of the K8 days.

Team Group Quad-Channel Xtreem LV Memory Kit Revealed

Since high-end motherboards and the Intel Sandy Bridge-E line of chips support super high-end, quad-channel memory, Team group decided to release two such kits, as well as a pair of dual-channel kits for good measure.

The quad-channel kits are Xtreem LV DDR3 2400 CL9 and DDR3 2400 CL11.

Their names are quite self-explanatory: their operating frequency is of 2,400 Mhz and their only real difference is the latency.

While the former has 9-11-11-28, the latter works at 11-11-11-28.

The modules enable kits with capacities of 4 GB (2 x 2 GB), 8 GB (2 x 4 GB or 4 x 2 GB) and even 16 GB (4 x 4GB).

Meanwhile, the Xtreem LV DDR3 dual channel kits, also two in number, have clock speeds of 2,600 MHz and 2,133 MHz, respectively, as well as latencies of 10-15-15-31 and 9-11-11-28.

Finally, the Xtreem LV DDR3 2133 CL9 stands apart from the others through its low-voltage specification (1.5 V).

No prices were given for the X-shaped heatsink-wearing memory.

Raspberry Pi $25 (€18.5) ARM-Based Computer Almost a Reality

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is making great progress with the development of its $25 (€18.5) credit-card sized computer as recently it received the first batch of PCBs back from manufacturing.

Only 100 printed circuit boards for this ARM-based computer powered by a 700MHz Broadcom SoC have arrives so far, but this is a cornerstone in its development as it pretty much means the final design is ready, if no major problems rear their ugly head.

The other good news is that the Foundation plans to sell these first Raspberry Pi computers after the PCBs are populated with components and properly tested.

The details are not set in stone, but most probably they will be auctioned off as a way of raising some extra cash.

We’ll keep you updated with how things evolve for the Raspberry Pi from now on and if you want to know more about this small but awesome ARM computer head on over to the project’s Webite by following this link.

Asus Transformer Prime Rooted with One-Click Razorclaw Tool

Even though the Transformer Prime won’t become available in the US for a few more weeks, the Asus tablet was already rooted using a one-click tool built especially for the original Transformer.

As many other reviewers out there, Phil Nickinson from Android Central has also received a Transformer Prime from Asus to test.

However, unlike the rest of those who got their hands on the Prime, Nickinson wanted to take his experiments with the Asus tablet one step further and so it tried a couple of rooting tools on the second gen Transformer.

Nickinson struck gold when it came across an app called Razorclaw, which was specifically built to root the original Transformer, but seems to also work on the Prime.

The instructions are really simple to follow and only require users to download and install the Razorclaw tool, and then run it on their Transformer Prime in order to gain superuser access.

The process is indeed extremely simple so you shouldn’t encounter any difficulties along the way, apart from getting your hands on a Transformer Prime that is.

Micron and IBM Make 15 Times Faster 3D Memory Chips

The memory market is in the ditch, so a nice breakthrough might be just what it needs to climb back up, a breakthrough like the one Micron and IBM are developing.

Technically, the idea for the new memory technology appeared some time ago.

Known as 3D memory chips, it, or they, are a something that more than one chip maker is looking at, like IBM and Micron.

The latter has a type of semiconductor that carries the moniker of Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC).

The two started the month of December on a high note, showing that they had discovered a way to make the already impressive 3D chips 15 times faster.

The first memory chip to use CMOS manufacturing technology with through-silicon vias (TSVs) is what they described in their announcement.

The 32nm chips will not only have bandwidth of 128 GB/s, but also an energy efficiency improvement of 70%.

Not only that, but the size is more compact as well: 10 percent of the so-called footprint of conventional memory.

For the sake of comparison, currently available chips have a limit of 12.8 GB/s.

“HMC is a game changer, finally giving architects a flexible memory solution that scales bandwidth while addressing power efficiency,” said Robert Feurle, vice president of DRAM Marketing for Micron.

“Through collaboration with IBM, Micron will provide the industry's most capable memory offering.”

The 3D memory chips will only start selling in about three years and will be more fully detailed (the TSV in particular) at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in Washington, DC, on December 5.

“This is a milestone in the industry move to 3D semiconductor manufacturing,” said Subu Iyer, IBM Fellow.

“The manufacturing process we are rolling out will have applications beyond memory, enabling other industry segments as well. In the next few years, 3D chip technology will make its way into consumer products, and we can expect to see drastic improvements in battery life and functionality of devices.”

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