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Apr 17, 2012

Sprint Launches Eco-Friendly LG Optimus Elite Android Phone with NFC Support

LG Optimus Elite is the fourth eco-friendly handset launched by Sprint in the last two year. The first “green” handset released by the carrier was the LG Remarq, followed by LG Rumor Reflex and LG Viper 4G LTE.

The Optimus Elite is expected to arrive in Titan Silver and White on Earth Day, April 22. It will be exclusively available from Sprint's online store for only $29.99 USD with a new two-year agreement and $50 mail-in rebate via reward card.

Beginning May 18 the smartphone will be available in additional channels, including Sprint retail. 

In addition, Sprint confirmed that the LG Optimus Elite will be released through Virgin Mobile as well, but timing and pricing options will be announced closer to launch.

Aside from its eco-friendly features, LG Optimus Elite sports a decent 3.5-inch capacitive touchscreen, as well as a 5-megapixel rear photo snapper with LED flash and video recording.

“As a leader in environmental responsibility and sustainability, Sprint continues to expand its portfolio of eco-friendly devices and services by providing consumers with strong device choices,” said David Owens, vice president-Product Development, Sprint. 

It appears that this is the spiritual successor of the popular LG Optimus S smartphone. The Optimus Elite is powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system and packs an 800 MHz single core processor.

There are no details on the amount of memory, but those who purchase the Optimus Elite can download Box application on their phones and receive 50GB of free cloud storage from LG.

Last but not least, LG Optimus Elite comes with NFC (Near Field Communication), which enables users to take advantage of various services, including Google Wallet.

“LG Optimus Elite is a dynamic and affordable green option for customers who want to go green without sacrificing the latest features. We are thrilled to make this available as we celebrate Earth Day and think about what each of us can do to support sustainability,” concluded Owens.

Samsung GALAXY S Advance and GALAXY Pocket Officially Introduced in India

South Korean handset maker Samsung has just announced the upcoming availability of Galaxy S Advance and Galaxy Pocket phones in India.

Samsung Galaxy S Advance and Galaxy Pocket will be available via major retailers across the country for a suggested retail price of Rs 26,900 (520 USD or 395 EUR) and Rs 8,150 (160 USD or 120 EUR), respectively.

According to IBNLive, with the launch of these two devices Samsung has a portfolio of 19 smartphones available in India.

Samsung Galaxy S Advance is a mid-range phone, which is powered by Google’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system integrated with the company’s TouchWiz 4.0 user interface.

The smartphone packs a dual-core processor clocked at 1 GHz and 768 MB of RAM, which should be enough for a possible Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade.

Furthermore, the Galaxy S Advanced embeds 2GB of ROM, 8GB of internal memory and microSD card slot for memory expansion (up to 32GB).

In addition, the device sports a stunning 4.0-inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen (480 x 800 pixels) that features Corning Gorilla Glass coating for extra protection.

There’s also a 5-megapixel rear camera that features autofocus, LED flash and HD (720p) video recording, as well as a secondary 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls.

On the other hand, the Galaxy Pocket is a budget-friendly device that comes with a much smaller 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen (240 x 320 pixels), as well as a sub-par 2-megapixel photo snapper with video recording.

On the inside, the phone is equipped with an 832 MHz single-core processor and 3GB of internal memory, which can be expanded up to 32GB via microSD card.

Samsung Galaxy Pocket runs Google’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread platform with TouchWiz UI on top. It also features HSDPA and Wi-Fi support, FM Radio with RDS, as well as GPS and Bluetooth 3.0.

ASUS U32U 13.3-Inch Ultraportable Up for Sale in the US

Amazon has listed the ASUS U32U ultraportable as available for order and shipment.

The price is $449.99, or 342.64 Euro, according to exchange rates, although it is more likely that, should the notebook reach the old continent, the price will be closer to 400, or even the full 450 Euro.

Anyway, the 13.3-inch laptop (LED-backlit HD panel, 1,366 x 768 pixels resolution) has an AMD E-450 APU at the heart.

That means that two 1.65 GHz cores are backed by a Radeon HD 6320 GPU.

Other specs include 4 GB RAM, an HDD (320 GB), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 3-in-1 card reader, HDMI, Altec Lansing speakers, an aluminum case and an 8-cell battery that lasts for up to 10 hours.

All in all, it is actually a nice and strong computer. It makes one wonder why people don't seem to like AMD-powered notebooks that much, or why companies don't make so many.

EVGA Releases GeForce GTX 680 SC Signature Cards

As NVIDIA has ceased manufacturing GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards, the GTX 680 collection continues to grow, in no small part thanks to the company's OEMs, in this case EVGA. 

One would think that there are already more than sufficient versions of the GeForce GTX 680 graphics card to go around. 

Alas, EVGA does not share this view, or at least doesn't think “enough” necessarily means that there is no room for more. 

What the company did was launch the GeForce GTX 680 SC Signature and Signature+ video controllers. 

Like all their peers/rivals, they rely on the GK104 Kepler graphics processing unit (GPU). 

The clock speeds are as follows: 1,084 MHz for the base GPU clock (instead of 1,006 MHz), 1,150 MHz for the GPU boost clock (1,058 MHz stock) and 6,208 MHz for the 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM (6,008 MHz stock). 

Indeed, both the Signature and Signature+ share the same speed settings, leaving it to the cooler to set them apart. 

Then again, that isn't quite true. The cooler is the same, but the Signature+ has a backplate, for extra heat dissipation. 

Every other asset of the GTX 680 is similar to those on the original release: a memory interface of 256 bits, 1,536 CUDA cores, compatibility with the PCI Express 3.0 interface and four display outputs: two DVI, one HDMI and a DisplayPort connector. 

Finally, EVGA chose a 5 phase PWM design for the newcomers and equipped them with an 8-pin and a 6-pin PCI Express power connector (the stock board has two 6-pin plugs). 

Dropping by the EVGA website will net prospective buyers all the information, down to the price tag: the GeForce GTX 680 SC Signature is rated at $529.99 / 403 Euro, while the GeForce GTX 680 SC Signature+, backplate and all, costs $549.99 / 418 Euro. Alas, shipments aren't being carried out yet.

$249 "iPad mini" to Ship By the Millions in Q3, Says Chinese Report

Chinese web portal NetEase is dishing out details regarding a potential 8-inch Apple iPad launching later this year, with initial shipping estimated at 6 million units.

The report may seem fairly credible, considering that NetEase also weighs in on the actual number of shipping units in the first batch of these unconfirmed 8-inch tablets.

The Chinese web portal, quoted by gaming site Kotaku, stresses that Apple is releasing a 7.85-inch iPad in order to “counter attack” the army of Windows tablets about to be released.

Apple’s “iPad mini”, as some analysts have come to name this rumored Apple product, will reportedly cost somewhere between US$249 and $299 (189 to 227 EUR).

MacRumors chimes in to support the speculative report, claiming that a 7.85-inch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 would boast a pixel density of 163 pixels per inch - “exactly the same density as the non-Retina iPhone and iPod touch models”.

In other words, almost every title in the iTunes App Store would display well on the new tablet’s screen.

While all these elements seem to lend credence to the NetEase report, it is worth pointing out that Apple has recently slashed the price of the iPad 2, making it a suitable rival to the slew of tablet computers hoping to eat away at Apple’s market share.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Apple isn’t considering the iPad mini. After all, even the well-connected John Gruber said he knew of such a device being prototyped in Apple’s labs.

The real question is: does Apple want to pour development and manufacturing resources into an all-new niche product (let alone the fact that Apple doesn’t do niche products) when the iPad 2 already fills that gap?

Probably not. But we wouldn’t want to seem all-knowing, so we’ll let Tim Cook & Co. have the final say in this.

Google Chrome Adds Support for the HTML5 Date Input Type

It seems that Chrome is making progress with HTML5 input types lately. It recently added support for the "color" input, which enables users to visually pick a color rather than write a HTML color code, and has now added support for the "date" input field which, well, enables users to pick a date via a calendar rather than typing it.

The new feature only works in Chromium and possibly in Chrome Canary, but should trickle down to Chrome 20 dev soon enough.

"By specifying type='date', input element shows little triangle next to its input box. By clicking it, users can now use date picker to fulfill the date parameter far easier than ever without any JavaScript!," Chrome's Eiji Kitamura announced.

You can try out the new feature by grabbing a recent Chromium build and heading over to HTML5Rocks' test page. You'll notice that all HTML5 form types listed there now work in Chrome.

NVIDIA Looking For Other 28nm Chip Makers

Despite repeated claims to the contrary, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has been stated (again) to be having trouble coping with 28nm chip orders.

That is to say, it cannot produce enough 28nm-based graphics processing units (GPUs) and system-on-chip devices.

That means that Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) can't make as many Radeon HD 7000 cards as it would like, NVIDIA is similarly limited in regards to the GeForce GTX 680 and Qualcomm has a strained flow of chips too.

The last time we covered this perceived shortage was less than a week into the ongoing month (April, 2012).

Now, Digitimes says that NVIDIA and Qualcomm are seriously considering other potential manufacturers, as their main (and only) one cannot handle demand.

We aren't sure what kind of orders Taiwan's primary foundry has been landed with, but they are said to have “surged.”

At any rate, NVIDIA, for instance, has sampled its chips to Samsung Electronics (AMD's current situation and stance was left unexplored).

What's more, Qualcomm has placed orders with United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) and Globalfoundries.

In the meantime, TSMC has been setting up the stage for an increase in production capacity, but it is unlikely that a difference will be made before 2013.

Also, besides yield problems, it is being speculated that TSMC has been trying to control availability of 28nm chips, since insufficient yield rates would affect gross margin. At any rate, a new capacity expansion should be announced this month.

Consumers oughtn’t to be too freaked out by any of this. Retailers should still have a decent supply of AMD and NVIDIA video cards. After all, even if boosting production is hard, the initial 28nm TSMC yield was more or less decent.

Alas, with both AMD and NVIDIA expected to bring out new video cards later this year (and we mean besides dual-GPU monsters), the current flow is no longer enough.

Microsoft to Enable Windows Phone Apps Launch Faster

For some Windows Phone users, applications loaded on their devices might seem very sluggish, making the phone itself appear slow and unappealing.

If the latest technology that Microsoft Research is looking into will arrive on devices, this problem could easily be solved in users' advantage. 

In fact, apps and games on Windows Phone could soon become the fastest loading software on a mobile operating system. 

This technology will keep applications pre-loaded in the background, and will make them instantly accessible when people need to use them. 

Dubbed Falcon: Fast App Launching with Context, the new pre-loading system can be seen at work in the video embedded at the bottom of this article.

“We have identified ways in which context can benefit key OS services such as memory management, scheduling, I/O and security. As a first step, we have built a prototype of Falcon: Fast App Launching with Context,” Microsoft Research explains.

“As mobile apps become more deeply integrated into our everyday lives, mobile app interactions ought to be rapid and responsive.”

They explain that the prototype is meant to address the problem of sluggish applications running on Windows Phone devices. 

“Falcon uses context such as user location and temporal access patterns to predict app launches before they occur. Falcon then provides apps systems support for effective app-specific pre-launching, which can dramatically reduce perceived delay,” Microsoft Research continues. 

Falcon is being designed as an OS modification of Windows Phone, and arrives as part of Context Data OS, or ConDOS.

“We use novel features derived through extensive data analysis, and a novel cost-benefit learning algorithm that has strong predictive performance and low runtime overhead,” Microsoft notes.

“Analysis shows that the user can save up to 35 seconds on a single app launch, resulting in significantly improved user experience.”

What would be interesting to see is whether the feature would make it inside lower-end Windows Phone devices as well. Having apps pre-loaded in the background might eat up RAM, which is very limited inside these handsets.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Western Digital Releases VelociRaptor 1 TB HDD

HDDs are the name of Western Digital's game, and there never passes too much time without some new storage device making its way out of its labs.

What we mean to say is that a new hard drive unit has appeared, called WD VelociRaptor and featuring a capacity of 1 TB.

Long story short, it is a magnetic platter-based storage device that has enterprise-grade specifications, but isn't solely restricted to that field.

In fact, not only can Apple Mac systems benefit from the drive, but so can high-performance personal computers, assuming owners figure it is worth paying the price.

Speaking of which, the 1 TB VelociRaptor has a MSRP of $319.99, which is pretty much the same thing as 244 Euro.

There are 500 GB and 250 GB versions of the product as well, tagged at $209.99 / 160 Euro and $159.99 / 122 Euro, respectively.

"WD is committed to providing customers with the best performing and most reliable SATA hard drives and our WD VelociRaptor family of drives underscores that promise," said Darwin Kauffman, vice president and general manager of WD's enterprise storage. 

"With ever-increasing demand for greater capacity, the new 1 TB WD VelociRaptor drive delivers the ultimate combination of speed and storage for the power user."

Western Digital's VelociRaptor has a platter rotary speed of 10,000 RPM (rotations per minute), the SATA 6.0 Gbps interface and a cache memory of 64 MB.

There is also a 3.5-inch heatsink, for placing the 2.5-inch unit inside a PC case without the thermal load growing that much.

Other specs include transfer speeds of up to 206MB/s, a low power consumption (the same as on the lower-capacity, 600 GB predecessor), Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward / RAFF (optimizes operation and performance when the drives are used in vibration-prone, multi-drive chassis) and NoTouch ramp load technology (the recording head never touches the disk media, ensuring significantly less wear to the recording head and media, as well as better drive protection when in transit).

Script: Chive

Chive is a PHP web-based GUI for managing MySQL databases. Chive is just another great solution if you got tired of phpMyAdmin, SQL Buddy, MyWebSql or trueDAT, and would like to spice up your database work.

Unlike the aforementioned utilities, Chive also boasts an SQL query runner with syntax highlighting, inline editing of all displayable content (rows and cells), support for foreign keys and direct database authentication.

Also, time-constraint developers will be glad to know that it also runs out of the box. Unzip it, move it to a web folder and access it, logging in with one of the MySQL username / password combos.

To keep up with updates or contribute to the project, go to Chive's Launchpad page.

Download Chive here.

AMD’s New Steamroller Architecture to Bring Significant Performance

AMD is reportedly concentrating on their Fusion promise they’ve made six years ago when they’ve acquired the GPU design company, ATI. Therefore, their next radically new processor architecture will first be introduced in the company’s APUs during the next year.

AMD’s Bulldozer has been a huge disappointment for the CPU and computer enthusiasts around the world.

All the main characteristics of Bulldozer are basically logical good ideas and seem to synergically be able to bring serious performance improvements over the Stars architecture.

The only problem is that this synergy that we’re all been talking about simply is not happening in AMD’s new FX processors.

The problem seems to be the significant latencies that occur around the CPU’s units and the low IPC approach they’ve taken hoping for high frequencies that would attenuate the undesired latencies.

The end result is a CPU that performs worse than its predecessor while working at much higher frequencies and benefiting from more cache.

It was clear that AMD needed different core architecture. The design direction with Bulldozer was a seemingly a good one, as two integer units and one shared floating point units really are more efficiently used than an identical cores with the same number of INT units and FPUs.

The core architecture will significantly change and, if we are to take AMD’s word for it, the Steamroller cores will perform generally 33% better than Bulldozer cores.

This doesn’t mean that the CPU won’t benefit from other performance enhancing developments such as a better memory controller or more cache with lower latencies.

So, even if we won’t see a new line of FX CPUs based on this new Steamroller architecture during 2013, we are certain to see new updated versions of the Brazos and Llano platforms, as Pile Driver seems to be a 2012 only product.

The new design replacing the Pile Driver cores in the 2013 APUs will be called “Kaveri” and the “Bobcat” cores in the Brazos line will benefit from updated “Jaguar” cores.

We’ll have to wait until very late 2013 or early 2014 to see an updated FX line of CPUs based on the Steamroller architecture.

Rugged Samsung Memory Card Shrugs Off 2-Ton Roller

Reviewing a piece of technology usually involves benchmarks and other software tests, but things have to change when looking at the physical side of things. 

In fact, when examining so-called “rugged” products, people sometimes get creative. 

It so happens that the folks at German site Smartphonetech went quite a bit beyond the norm when playing with a rugged Samsung Plus Extreme Speed Series microSD memory card. 

Not only did they toss it in a washing machine, but they even put it in the middle of the road (red X and everything) and ran it over with a 2-ton roller. 

Of course, it's not like all that weight bore down on just the card, but still. 

You can find the card put through such torment here. Well, it's not precisely that card, but still the same type.

Intel Gives All Ivy Bridge Laptops Anti-Theft Protection

Since laptops tend to get lost or misplaced, Intel has a certain service/feature called Anti-Theft, one that will be part of all Ivy Bridge laptops and is already found on many notebooks. 

VR-Zone is where the news came out that all Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks would have Anti-theft

Long story short, if you've lost your laptop or had it stolen, you just need to call the customer service hotline or find another computer, or just use the smartphone, to access the Anti-Theft service website and do it from there. 

Assuming the notebook is web-connected, a hardware-level security failsafe will be triggered, preventing the machine from booting. 

You can also program an auto lockdown timer when you first set up your account. That way, you can be sure that your data is safe. 

Be warned though: setting up a timer means you have to input a password every time the duration expires.

RIM Releases BlackBerry PlayBook OS v2.0.1.358

Today, Canadian mobile phone maker Research In Motion announced the availability of BlackBerry PlayBook OS v2.0.1.358 for all owners of the tablet PC. 

The new software was made available for download over-the-air and is now up for grabs for free.

The update brings along a series of enhancements to the tablet PC’s browser, which are meant to improve the performance users benefit from when accessing specific websites. 

Additionally, the new OS flavor brings better support for Android applications, and optimizations for the Video Chat, PIM and BlackBerry Bridge applications loaded on the tablet PC. 

Various other changes were also included in the new software update, the Canadian smartphone designer announced.

Additionally, users should benefit from better performance on their PlayBook devices, courtesy of various bug fixes that have been packed inside the new OS version.

As soon as the new update is available for a specific device, users will receive a notification on the matter on the tablet’s screen. 

“Users will automatically receive a software update notification on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet status ribbon, or they can check for the software update at any time by going to the settings menu under “Software Updates” and tapping “Check for Updates”,” the mobile phone maker announced. 

“Users who purchase and activate a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet on or after April, 17 2012 will automatically be updated to v2.0.1 as part of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet setup process,” the company continues. 

The new software weighs a little over 350MB. Before kicking off the update process, users should make sure that the device is fully charged. They should also backup all data on their devices, so as to make sure that no important files are lost during the process. 

RIM announced the availability of a new software update for the tablet PC last week, when it also unveiled plans to make changes to app sideloading capabilities of its device.

ARM Announces the Quad Core Cortex A15 Design

After the success it enjoyed with the dual core Cortex A15 designs, ARM is announcing today the Cortex-A15 quad core design on its official blog.

The introduction of highly efficient CPU designs based on the Cortex A15 architecture caught everybody by surprise. The surprise wasn’t in the fact that the CPU was more advanced or better performing, but in the level of performance it was able to attain.

A dual core Cortex A15 design is generally just as fast, if not faster than a quad core Cortex A9 without having the downside of requiring a highly multi-threaded application, specially optimized, to show its full potential.

Using a dual core Cortex-A15 will yield much better results than a quad core Cortex A9, especially in single threaded or dual threaded applications that represent more than 90% of the mobile applications in the market right now.

Rarely do we get the chance of a twofold performance improvement from a generation to the next, while keeping the power usage in check.

Well, if a dual core Cortex-A15 is roughly equal, if not faster than a quad core Cortex A9 at its peak performance, a quad core Cortex A15 will double that performance while staying within the power consumption characteristic of the Cortex A9 hard macro.

With the addition of the Cortex A15 MP4 hard macro, ARM delivers three significant firsts in its portfolio.

The  Quad Core A15 is ARM’s first 28 nm design and first quad core hard macro and the first hard macro based on the highest performance ARMv7 architecture.

The configuration of ARM’s quad core Cortex –A15 MP4 hard macro includes two 32 KB Level 1 caches with ECC support with single bit parity for Level 1 Instruction Cache. It has 2 MB of Level 2 cache complete with ECC, NEON floating point units, 224 interrupts and 6 power domains.

The working frequency is 2 GHz and the performance is higher than 20,000 DMIPS.

SONY Presents the 1.5TB Optical Disc Archive

Less than a year after renouncing the MiniDisc Walkman products and after a less than successful twenty-year long campaign for the wide adoption of the MiniDisc format, SONY reportedly announces another custom storage format.

It is called the Optical Disc Archive and it is likely that it uses some sort of cassette with a great number of Blu-ray discs crammed inside.

A single layer BD-R can store up to 25 GB of data, while a double-layer BD-R will fit up to 50 GB of data. The newer, more advanced formats like the triple-layer BDXL-R discs can hold up to 100 GB of data, while the BD-RE XL or XL4 discs with four layers will fit 128 GB.

SONY says that the cassettes will be available in capacities ranging between 300 GB and 1.5TB.

This means that, using XL4 type discs with four layers, such a cassette will contain 3 to 12 such Blu-ray discs inside.

Nothing from these cassettes will fit into your standard Blu-ray drive, may it be a 5.25” computer unit or a living room Blu-ray player.

The Optical Disc Archive unit will connect to your computer through a USB 3.0 cable, and data will be saved with a likely speed of 50 MB/s, or even higher.

Speed wise, 50 MB/s is quite acceptable, as this is double the average maximum writing speed of most of the USB 2.0 memory thumb drives out right now. But filling up a 1.5TB cassette will take more than eight and a half hours of continuous data transfer and recording, and that’s quite a lot.

There is no information yet on the type and capabilities of the cassettes, if they’re rewritable or not.

Availability is set for late fall 2012 and pricing has not yet been announced.

Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs Get Price Cut Ahead of Launch

For some reason or other, Intel has decided to set lower prices than originally planned for its upcoming collection of central processing units, or so it is said. 

The folks at VR-Zone claim to have found some information regarding the price tags of the upcoming Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs. 

Apparently, the Santa Clara, California-based company cut between $7 and $8 off the tags of each. 

That's 5.32 Euro and 6.08 Euro, respectively, according to exchange rates anyway. 

The 3.4 GHz Core i5-3570K, for instance, was expected to be tagged at $225 or so (171 Euro, give or take), but now it is set to cost $212 (161 Euro). 

Another relevant example is the Core i7-3770K, the high-end chip. Previously expected to sell for $320 (243 Euro), it is rated at $313 now (238 Euro). 

For those who haven't heard yet, the formal release of the first Ivy Bridge CPUs will happen on April 23.

Windows Phone Tango Update for Nokia Lumia 710 Spotted in China

Nokia has almost finished deploying Windows Phone Mango CR1 (8107) and CR2 (8112) updates for its Lumia phone and is now readying a new major upgrade that will improve its smartphones even further.

Windows Phone Tango CR3 (8773+) is almost ready to go live as the update has just been spotted on Nokia’s Care Suite servers. However, it looks like the update will go live in China, followed by a global rollout soon after.

According to the folks over at WPCentral, the ROM build that has just popped up on Navifirm is 1600.3029.8773.12111 and will soon be pushed to Nokia Lumia 710 units in China.

Also known as Windows Phone Tango, this update brings support for 256 MB devices, MMS enhancements and a few bug fixes and overall improvements. The update is expected to be available for download via Zune Desktop software within the next few days.

AMD and PTC Work Together to Boost AMD FirePro Performance

Professional graphics designers now have, or will soon have, an extra reason to consider buying AMD FirePro professional graphics cards when making a workstation.

Advanced Micro Devices and product development software maker PTC have announced a partnership for improving Creo performance.

More precisely, they intend to make 3D transparency in PTC Creo Parametric 2.0 run up to 900% faster.

Similarly, they believe that it is possible to boost shaded 3D frame rates and interactivity by over four times.

Coupled with the optimizations in the Catalyst Pro drivers, this should lead to better workflow, performance and reliability on all FirePro adapters.

"PTC and the AMD FirePro team have collaborated to deliver Creo graphics performance and workflow optimizations to help designers create, innovate and deliver products that meet their customers' needs," said Brian Thompson, vice president, MCAD Product Management at PTC. 

"The new performance enhancements in Creo Parametric 2.0 include GPU-accelerated transparency and 3D viewport performance enhancements. AMD FirePro professional performance-optimized graphics cards and drivers help users fully realize the power of Creo 2.0."

The joint effort of the two companies has taken the form of a very fast GPU-accelerated 3D transparency mode and GPU-accelerated OpenGL functions.

Users will get better workflow efficiency, improved decision-making effectiveness and may even “build overall awareness throughout the design process.”

EyeFinity multi-display scenarios may be used at users' discretion as well. Large worksheets could benefit greatly here, especially since AMD GeometryBoost technology doubles raw geometry performance.

"The latest AMD FirePro professional graphics cards and drivers have been specifically engineered to enhance the productivity of PTC Creo Parametric 2.0 users," said Antoine Reymond, senior strategic alliance manager, workstation graphics, AMD. 

"Technical designers rely on software and hardware tools to optimize their workflow and enable them to effectively design without performance bottlenecks. Our collaboration with PTC helps ensure design professionals using AMD FirePro professional graphics cards will experience a significant boost in performance, resulting in superior productivity and design intuition."

Asus Padfone, Transformer Pad Infinity and Transformer Pad 300 Get Priced in Europe

Asus Padfone has been previously launched in Taiwan and is expected to go on sale on April 20 for prices ranging between 465 EUR (610 USD) and 745 EUR (980 USD).

Early this week, Asus launched its Padfone, Transformer Pad 300 and Transformer Pad Infinity 700 in Italy and put a price on all three devices, which will probably be similar in all European countries.

According to the folks over at NotebookItalia, Asus Padfone will be available for purchase for 700 EUR (915 USD), but the deal also included the tablet dock (Padfone station). 

However, the keyboard dock will be retailed as a separate accessory for 149 EUR (195 USD). There’s no word on the headset stylus yet, but there’s a high chance this one will be sold separately as well.

Asus confirmed that its Padfone tablet/phone combo device will hit shelves in Europe sometime in late May, while an LTE-enabled version of the device is expected to arrive in September.

In the same piece of news, Asus confirmed the Transformer Pad 300 would be available for 399 EUR (520 USD) for the Wi-Fi model and 499 EUR (655 USD) for the 3G variant, respectively.

Both models come with the same 32GB amount of storage and are expected be available on the market in mid-May, as the cheapest Asus tablet.

Last but not least, the Asus Transformer Pad 700 Infinity will be released on the market on June 10 and will only feature Wi-Fi connectivity. Asus confirmed a 599 EUR (785 USD) suggested retail price for the Transformer Pad 700 Infinity.

It will come with 64GB of internal memory, but it won’t include the optional keyboard dock, which will be sold a separate accessory. For the time being, Asus did not unveil any plans to launch a 3G version of the Transformer Pad 700 Infinity.

14nm “Broadwell” Intel SoC Coming in 2014-2015

We've spoken about 14nm-based chips before, but now we get to look at a “true” Intel system-on-chip device, one that will further integrate the platform-controller hub (PCH) with the CPU. 

According to ComputerBase.de, Intel is definitely approaching the time when it can launch a system-on-chip device which routs over 90% of the system I/O through the CPU socket. 

In other words, the product will be a “true” SoC, although it will demand a socket change. 

Broadwell will be the follow-up to the Haswell architecture, which will have already implemented support for DDR4 memory and better graphics (Crystalwell Technology). 

That said, the 14nm-based chip will have a multi-chip module design, which means that the CPU and northbridge will be on the same die, while the PCH will be on the other. 

The release of the Broadwell will happen in 2014 or 2015.

Microsoft Unveils Four Windows 8 SKUs

Windows 8, the next version of Microsoft’s popular operating system, will arrive on shelves with increased flexibility to fit user’s needs, and this applies to its various editions as well. 

Following a long series of rumors on the number and variety of Windows 8 SKUs that Microsoft will make available later this year, the Redmond-based software giant stepped up and provided us with all the necessary details on the matter. 

First, we should note that Windows 8 has been confirmed as the official product name for the upcoming x86/64 editions of Windows.

There will be two Windows flavors loaded on all PCs and tablets that are powered by x86 processors (both 32 and 64 bit), namely Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

The latter was meant to enable tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals to take advantage of a wider range of Windows 8 technologies. It packs encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity atop Windows 8’s features. 

“Windows Media Center will be available as an economical “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro. If you are an enthusiast or you want to use your PC in a business environment, you will want Windows 8 Pro,” Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc explains in a blog post.

“For many consumers, Windows 8 will be the right choice. It will include all the features above plus an updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support and the ability to switch languages on the fly, which was previously only available in Enterprise/Ultimate editions of Windows,” he continues.

Along with these, there will be a Windows 8 edition specifically designed for those enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements. Dubbed Windows 8 Enterprise, it will include Windows 8 Pro’s features, along with specific features for IT organization. 

The Enterprise flavor of Windows 8 will arrive with enhanced features for PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualization, new mobility scenarios, and more. 

It should also be noted that Microsoft plans the release of local language-only editions of Windows 8 for China and some other emerging markets as well. 

The fourth Windows 8 SKU is Windows RT, which was previously referred to as Windows on ARM or WOA. It will be available only preinstalled on tablets and PCs powered by ARM processors. 

Windows RT will arrive with touch-optimized desktop versions of Microsoft’s next flavors of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. 

Applications designed for it make use of the new Windows runtime, or WinRT, which was made official in September last year. It opens the door to “a new generation of cloud-enabled, touch-enabled, web-connected apps of all kinds.”

Additional info on the various Windows 8 editions, such as details on pricing and limited-time programs and promotions available for users will be unveiled in the next months. 

You can have a look at the main differences between Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT in the aforementioned blog post.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview is available for download via this link.

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