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Jun 9, 2012

ASUS' 24-Inch Padfone Docking Monitor

ASUS' Padfone started off as a smartphone with a special dock that allowed it to assume the role of a 10-inch tablet.

A 24-inch all-in-one computer has now been added to the list. More precisely, ASUS brought the 24-inch ASUS Padfone Docking monitor to Computex 2012, as reported by Engadget. The phone dock is located at the foot of the monitor. Unfortunately, the panel lacks touch support, so you'll have to rely on the keyboard and mouse included in the package. Spec-wise, the ASUS Padfone Docking monitor has a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, four USB 3.0 ports and, for using it as any regular displays, HDMI input, VGA and DVI.

We don't know when sales will begin, or for what price. For other weird things that ASUS brought to Computex, see the Zeus dual-GPU motherboard, the 8 GB Mars III dual-Kepler video card and the 40-phase Wolverine platform.

Samsung Preps Galaxy S III Flavor with Quad-Core, 2GB of RAM

Samsung’s Galaxy S III Android flagship device was unveiled to the world with a quad-core application processor inside, complemented by 1GB of RAM.

Since this CPU did not offer support for LTE networks, Samsung announced a new version of the device to address that, with a Snapdragon dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM to complement the lack of two cores. Basically, users in the non-LTE markets would get a quad-core phone, while those in LTE markets would have to settle with a dual-core one, while enjoying more RAM.

However, it seems that the higher amount of RAM might soon arrive to the quad-core flavor of Galaxy S III as well, at least this is what a leaked document that emerged on phoneArena shows. The device is said to be en-route to SK Telecom, and would also support LTE, making it the ultimate Android smartphone. However, we’ll take the report with a grain of salt for now.

Samsung Builds 14nm and 20nm Chip Manufacturing Plant

While Intel's engineers are receiving honors for inventing 3D Tri-gate transistors, Samsung is setting up a new semiconductor fabrication line in Hwaseong, South Korea.

Since the semiconductor industry is still in a bit of a bind, chip makers have to step up their technological advancement. UMC has already begun working on 28nm chips, and has set up a 14nm plant too. Now, Samsung is doing something similar. With an investment of 2.25 trillion Korean won, it hopes to build a new fabrication line by next year. According to exchange rates, that sum is the equivalent of $1.9 billion and 1.5 billion Euro. The plant will be located in Hwaseong, South Korea. It will produce chips based on the 20nm and 14 nm manufacturing process technologies. “With the construction of our new System LSI fabrication line, Samsung will be able to respond to the demand of the global IT industry and strengthen our ability to support our customers’ requirements even further,” said Stephen Woo, president of Samsung Electronics’ system LSI business.

Samsung new fabrication line will produce 300mm wafers. The chips will be mostly smart mobile solutions (tablets, phones, maybe even Mini PCs. The chip industry has been suffering because of years of weak DRAM demand and, more recently, a decrease in NAND Flash chip sales too. As such, the companies involved had to become more creative in their efforts to rekindle interest. Toshiba and SanDisk revealed 19nm SSDs, for example. There were, of course, companies who did worse than the rest. Elpida would be one of them. Even though it overtook Micron on the DRAM market, it is about to be bought by the latter, after essentially going bankrupt.

Samsung isn't exactly in such danger, but it had to make some changes to its plans regardless. Meanwhile, its many lawsuits continue.

ZTE Tania Gets Launched in China

Chinese mobile phone maker ZTE has made official another new device for its homeland market, the ZTE Tania, which runs under Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.

The handset was announced for China Unicom, and it features a series of small enhancements when compared to the initially unveiled specifications. The smartphone’s application processor was upgraded from 1GHz to 1.4GHz, which should deliver a nice bump in performance capabilities. It is accompanied by 512MB of RAM and 4G of internal memory.

The rest of the phone’s hardware specifications remain unchanged, and users will enjoy the same 4.3-inch touchscreen display that can deliver an 800 x 480 pixel resolution, as well as a 5-megapixel photo snapper on the back, with video recording capabilities. ZTE Tania arrives in China in black and white shades. No specific info on its price tag has emerged.

Even AMD Throws in Its Two Cents Regarding Tablets

Now that Advanced Micro Devices has shown its mettle on the tablet segment, it has taken a more active role in shaping consumer perception and expectations.

Computex 2012 has proven to be less one-sided than the other trade shows of the past year. No longer has a single product type or company stolen the show. Advanced Micro Devices contributed quite a bit to this. Though Intel tried to draw as many people as possible to its ultrabook and Ivy Bridge-filled booth, AMD's Trinity got a lot of attention too. One reason for this was the game play demo of an A-Series APU breezing through a game that gave Ivy Bridge trouble. Another was the fact that AMD has already scored tablet design wins, like the Acer model based on Trinity.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company has now gone on record in regard to its expectations for the slate segment. In an interview with Fox Business, the company's CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Rory Read expressed his belief that, in about five years, 20% of all tablets would run Windows 8. It wasn't exactly the sort of forecast we'd been hoping, not because we think 20% is a low number but because we were looking forward to some predictions more specific to AMD's product line. It is possible that AMD will more deeply explore the issue during AFDS (AMD Fusion Developer Summit) next week (June 11-15). Maybe it will even say how many APU-powered tablet models there are and how many are bound to ship this year and the next.

Until then, though, we have only this small bit about Windows 8 slates in general (and yes, that Acer Iconia Tab we have mentioned above does run Windows 8). We should see a nice showdown between Trinity/Hondo-based slates and Clovertrail models. Advanced Micro Devices has only one big obstacle to surmount at this point: lack of support for the Android operating system.

Eurocom Sells Fox 4.0 Notebook with NVIDIA Graphics

The GeForce GTX 680M graphics card is strong but not something that companies can actually use on a mainstream product, so Eurocom chose a different GPU when it made the Fox 4.0.

Granted, the Fox 4.0 is still part of the upper half of the consumer laptop market. Pretty much every notebook with discrete graphics is nowadays. We say this because entry-level mobile GPUs aren't used anymore. The integrated graphics in Intel and (especially) AMD processors have made them obsolete. Nevertheless, compared to the likes of MSI's GTX 680M GT70, or Eurocom's own Racer 2.0 and Neptune 2.0, the Fox 4.0 (the base configuration anyway) appears quite tame. Instead of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M, the IT player chose the GeForce GT 650M, with 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Also, while the Intel Core i7 quad-core CPUs are anything but mid-range, the memory amount can be very low (4 GB DDR3-1600).

Moving on, storage space is provided by a 500 GB hard drive and a DVD unit. Everything else is the same as on any other notebooks: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0 support, USB 2.0, VGA, audio jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, etc. As for the screen itself, it is a 15.6-inch LED-backlit panel with a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. “The Fox 4.0 is a 15.6” system that is very thin and light, with a very long battery life. It is the perfect system for anyone who leads a fast paced life and needs their notebook to be by their side 24/7” says Mark Bialic, Eurocom president.

People so inclined can still turn the Eurocom Fox 4.0 into a beast if they want to. In addition to the default storage unit (which can be a 1 TB HDD or 600 GB SSD), two more can be added. Likewise, the RAM capacity can be pushed to 16 GB, the DVD drive can be switched for a Blu-ray unit, etc. The 2GB GeForce GT 650M is the only constant really (not counting the battery).

Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 Combines GTX 660M with Ivy Bridge

Lenovo did not let Computex 2012 pass without contributing somehow, and by this we are referring to more than the Windows 8 ThinkPad Tablet, the U310 and U410 Ultrabooks and the IdeaTab S2109 Tablet.

There is a new laptop up for order on the company's website, although it would be just as accurate to say that there is a whole new bunch of them. Basically, the new IdeaPad Y580 is available in six different configurations. Depending on how much people are willing to pay, the resolution, storage and optical media will improve. The cheapest system has a price of $1,299, but there is a sale going on right now, so the tag is a much more appealing $1,039. According to exchange rates, those sums correspond to 1,038 Euro and 830 Euro, respectively.

The money will get buyers a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU at 2.3 GHz and 6 MB cache (3rd generation Intel Core I7-3610QM Processor). Speaking of which, the chip is paired with 8 GB of DDR3-1600 MHz RAM (random access memory) and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX660M 2GB discrete GPU. Also, the hard drive is a common 500 GB, 7,200 RPM model, while the 15.6-inch screen features a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels (HD). The rest of the specs are pretty standard: Bluetooth (4.0), HDMI out, 6-cell battery, a DVD writer, Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2200BGN) and an HD camera.

That said, the other five versions of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 get increasingly better screens (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), optical drives (Blu-ray) and storage (1 TB HDD + 32 GB SSD caching). The CPU, graphics, RAM and everything else stays the same though. People interested in learning more about the product, or maybe ordering one right off the bat, only need to stop by this page. The maximum sum is $1,699 (1,357 Euro), but the eCoupon code provided by the company will bring the sum down to $1,239 (990 Euro).

Biostar Shows Hi-Fi AMD Trinity Motherboards

Well-known motherboard company Biostar has decided to get back in the high-end computer mainboard market segment. The company is usually manufacturing affordable motherboard solutions, but it has experimented with higher-quality designs before, and this year’s Computex is yet another such occasion.

The Hi-Fi line from Biostar reportedly comes with a high SNR CODEC likely manufactured by Realtek and with OPAMP circuitry that uses higher grade electrolytic capacitors. The entire audio circuitry uses a separated PCB base and is isolated from the ground layer of the rest of the mainboard. This will help lower the interference from other components on the motherboard like most high-end audio solutions require. Another useful feature is the special set of capacitors that are able to handle any electrostatic discharge of up to 15,000 volts. The most capable model is the BIostar Hi-Fi A85X. This one comes with four DIMM slots able to handle up to 32 GB or DDR3 2400 MHz + memory.

There are a total of three PCI-Express x16 slots, but when all of them are occupied, the first two will be set in x8 mode and the third is an x16 slot connected to the FCH that only has 4 PCI-Express lanes available for data transfer. The FM2 socket is fueled by a 10-phase VRM which can only improve overclocking results. There are seven internal SATA III ports and an eSATA port on the I/O panel. There, we also find a DVI connector, a VGA port, HDMI and DisplayPort. There is also the Hi-Fi audio panel, four USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connector and a legacy PCI slot.

As expected, this model comes with UEFI BIOS. The more affordable Hi-Fi A85W comes with only two PCI-Express x16 slots that are connected separately. The top one is connected by 16 PCI-Express lanes to the Trinity APU, while the other one has a 4-lane connection to the FCH. Most of the same connectivity is still there except the eSATA port and we have to mention the lesser VRM of only 6 phases powering the FM2 socket and the two legacy PCI 32-bit expansion slots. The cheapest is the Hi-Fi A85S, and this one is a micro-ATX motherboard that still comes with mostly solid capacitors and the same dual PCI-Express x16 slot configuration as the Hi-Fi A85W. The eight SATA III ports are all internal just as on the Hi-Fi A85W, and the connectivity is mostly the same.

AMD Radeon HD 7970 Takes Over World 3D Mark11 Record

Nvidia’s Kepler architecture is very impressive, as it sometimes overtakes AMD’s Tahiti-based cards, despite AMD’s chip having 21% more transistors and a 50% wider memory BUS.

The rough power of AMD’s GCN architecture is still a considerable advantage for the Texas-based fabless GPU designer. In most GPU compute applications that don't have CUDA optimizations inside, AMD’s raw power shows huge performance advantage over Nvidia’s Kepler. On the other hand, Kepler uses less power and a less complex PCB.

The 3D Mark11 E score (Extreme Preset) record was achieved also by a Radeon HD 7970 card. Now, Polish overclocking enthusiast Xtreme Addict reportedly managed to achieve a score of P15745 points using an MSI Lightning Radeon HD 7970 video card overclocked to a high 1750 MHz. So now, the record for highest 3DMark11 P score is also in AMD’s camp.

First AMD Brazos 2.0 Motherboard Shown by Sapphire

The fight for the high sales/low price market segment has been won by AMD for the past year, and the company is getting ready to conquer even a higher percentage of the market.

AMD needs huge volumes and it’s likely that the company will have to face shortages this summer, as spreading Brazos 2.0 and Trinity over all the market segments AMD is currently successful in will be pretty difficult. The Texas-based fabless CPU designer positioned Brazos for low-power small systems, netbooks, low-cost notebooks and cheap PC systems. Llano was also targeted for the low and mid-end notebook and desktop lines. Now AMD adds Windows 8 tablets, hybrids, mid to high-end UltraThin notebooks, all-in-one systems, and so on. As the company’s products are quite successful in their respective markets, the company has to ensure very high volumes of chips ready to ship out to customers.

The first Brazos 2.0-based motherboard was reportedly spotted at this year’s Computex show and it is coming from Sapphire. The Pure Mini E2-1800 comes with two SO-DIMM slots for a maximum of 8GB DDR3-1333 memory and features both a mini-PCIe and a full PCIe x16 slot. The board is powered by AMD’s E2-1800 APU. The next generation of low-power APUs from AMD is still based on TSMC’s now very mature 40nm process. Improvements come in the form of an increased clock frequency and a heap of new features like USB 3.0, for example.

The E2-1800 MHz APU runs at a 1700 MHz frequency. It has two “Zacate” processing cores, each with 512 KB or Level 2 cache and integrates a very capable iGPU, called AMD Radeon HD 7340. The AMD Radeon HD 7340 iGPU has 80 shaders and runs at a default frequency of 523 MHz, but it can turbo up to 680 MHz when the 3D tasks thrown at it are very demanding, but the total TDP is just 18 watts. Sapphire’s Brazos 2.0 motherboard uses mostly solid capacitors and we applaud the manufacturer for building affordable motherboards with quality in mind.

AMD LiveBox Mini PC Runs Fusion and 1 GB RAM

The world can never have too many mini PCs, especially when said mini PCs are made out of versatile processors and sell for a pittance.

In this case, we can't really guarantee the product will be cheap. Advanced Micro Devices didn't say what price we should expect, or when shipments would be ready to start. But that's the thing: it's AMD, of all people, that brought a mini PC to Computex 2012. Engadget has the scoop. Called LiveBox, it gave visitors something else to gawk at besides the Lightning Bolt technology. We aren't looking at a Trinity machine here. Instead of an A-Series chip, AMD chose a Fusion C-60 APU, at 1 GHz. Said processor includes the Radeon HD 6290 graphics card and is backed by 1 GB of RAM. In short, it is more than strong enough for web surfing, e-mails and YouTube video playback.

As for connectors, Intel tossed in Gigabit Ethernet, a SIM card slot (quad-band 3G WCDMA), Bluetooth 4.0 and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Finally, storage space is provided by a 64 GB Samsung SSD. The only noticeable drawback of the test model, besides running Windows 7 rather than 8, is the lack of USB 3.0. There's nothing stopping AMD from adding it between now and the time of arrival though. For those wondering, this is not the first sign that AMD was going to make a grab for the multimedia PC market. That much was made clear when this competitor to Google's Chromebox made itself seen.

All in all, we can safely say that the mini PC market is more vibrant than ever, with ARM, Linux, VIA and many other throwing their two cents on top of the pile. Head on over here for a list of items that Advanced Micro Devices LiveBox will have to compete with.

ARM-Based $74 PC Put Through Its Paces

Dropping by AliExpress online will show that a certain MK802 ARM PC is up for sale, so you can go and order one right now if you want.

Many people will be reluctant to jump in blind though, so to speak. Fortunately, Brad Linder from Liliputing has what we all need: information. We'll get the facts out of the way first: MK802 is a small stick based on an Allwinner A10 ARM Cortex A8 processor. Said chip has a clock speed of 1.5 GHz and is backed by 512 MB of RAM (random access memory). Meanwhile, NAND Flash chips provide 4 GB of storage space. Not only that, but Rikomagic even tossed in a micro SD card slot, a full-size USB 3.0, mini USB and a mini HDMI port.

People may have started to put two and two together: this is that same old $74 / 59 Euro Android PC that we spotted late last month. And now we get to the point where we finally say what is worthwhile and what isn't. The good news is that the price hasn't gone up between now and then. The bad news is that the overall performance is one star less than people may have been hoping. It's not actually bad, from what we can tell, but it's not something to gush over either. For one, the item tends to heat up pretty quickly. Secondly, it doesn't have an on/off switch and neither can it go into any sort of sleep mode.

As soon as it is plugged into an USB port (or a power cord), it turns on, which means that you'll have to always remove it if you don't want it to constantly draw energy. On the bright side, the Android 4.0 software makes all apps compatible with it, and there may eventually appear one that enables that coveted low-power mode. Finally, light web browsing and streaming video to a TV work as advertised. All in all, even if the pre-installed Google maps, Gmail and YouTube apps could run better, they still run satisfactorily. Add to that the small size, weight and price, and the deal becomes quite sweet.

AMD Radeon HD7970 X2 with IceQ X2 Cooling Pictured

HiS has been a longtime partner of ATi and AMD and the company is well known for building high-quality video card using very effective and silent cooling systems. Now, HiS is planning to release a dual-GPU video card based on AMD’s Tahiti GPU.

We don’t know yet the exact naming of the card, but it is sure to have “Radeon HD7970 X2” and “IceQ X2” in its naming scheme. The cooling system used is not exactly the same with the one that HiS announced three months ago. Check out the gallery to see how the original IceQ X2 looked when it was announced. The fan blades are different and the total thickness of the card make it occupy three expansion slots.

HiS’ dual Radeon 7xxx card is likely to function at AMD’s default GPU and memory frequency for the standard Radeon HD 7970. This may not be as impressive as PowerColor’s Devil 13 dual-GPU video card, but it is better than what Nvidia was able to do with their GTX 690 that works at slightly lower frequencies.

Sapphire Somehow Turns Radeon HD 7750 Low Profile

HTPCs are often little more than glorified media players with web browsing, but it is perfectly possible to make truly strong compact PCs. All it takes is a strong CPU and a small enough video card.

CPUs are easy to solve. As long as a micro-ATX or mini-ITX motherboard has the required socket, even high-end chips can be used. Graphics cards are trickier, since the moderately strong ones (or above) usually aren't all that small, not to mention that they have big, thick coolers. Sapphire decided to offer an exception and it chose AMD's Radeon HD 7750 card to achieve its purpose.

Normally shaped as a standard-sized, dual-slot board, the adapter was turned into a low-profile model featuring a thin, single-slot fansink. Sapphire didn't even need to sacrifice performance. The clock speeds are within reference AMD parameters (800 MHz for the Cape Verde GPU, 1,125 MHz / 4.5 GHz effective for the 1 GB GDDR5 VRAM). The only concession was to the outputs. While the dual-Link DVI was left alone, the DisplayPort and HDMI were replaced by their miniature counterparts. Fortunately, Sapphire has included adapters for them. Finally, the board has a 2+1+1 phase VRM and high-grade driver-MOSFETs on the GPU phases. It makes do with the energy provided by the PCI Express slot. Unfortunately, no price or availability date was provided.

AMD Demos Lightning Bolt Technology at Computex 2012

It looks like ASUS' solution to give AMD-based systems support for Intel's Thunderbolt technology was made more for its own benefit than AMD's. We say this because all evidence suggests AMD does not, in fact, need Thunderbolt at all.

For some reason, no one besides the folks at NetbookNews has reported on AMD's Lightning Bolt technology. For those who don't remember, AMD first revealed the project back at CES 2012, as an alternative to Thunderbolt. Communicating over DisplayPort, the connection is shown, in the Computex 2012 Compal hands-on video embedded above, supplying video to four monitors at once, on top of the monitors of the laptop itself.

That's a lot of strain for a single AMD Trinity APU to handle, but the chip doesn't seem to be having any problems. A “displaybox” is used to divide the signal of a single cable between four HDMI/DisplayPort outputs. Not bad for a prototype, if we do say so ourselves. Thanks to Shashwat for the tip.

Canon Outs EOS Rebel DSLR Camera

After writing about so many laptops, tablets, motherboards and processors, we finally get to switch gears a bit, thanks to Canon and its new DSLR camera.

The new product that the company has released is called EOS Rebel and is Canon's first digital single-lens reflex camera to boast a 3-inch, 1.04m dot LCD touchscreen. More than just a means to preview the photos and videos being or about to be shot, the panel allows for pinch-zoom and navigation via swipes. Not only that, but the panel has a special hinge that lets it rotate and swivel, opening up a slew of new angles from which pictures or videos may be taken. Speaking of which, video is encoded in HD quality and, thanks to a quiet AF servo, it allows less noise to make it into the footage. Furthermore, smoothness and image stabilization will depend on whatever lens buyers choose to acquire alongside the Rebel. Videographers will find the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM most suitable, while people looking for portability may want the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM.

"Our Rebel line of cameras bridges the gap between the casual photographer and someone looking to advance their photography and capture moments in new and creative ways," said Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager, imaging technologies & communications group, Canon U.S.A. "The EOS Rebel T4i boasts full HD video with AF and touch-screen navigation, inspiring even more photographers and videographers to explore the creative options made possible with DSLR cameras and lenses." When it comes to photos, Canon's DSLR can enter burst mode and take high-speed continuous shots at 5 fps (frames per second). The Hybrid CMOS AF allows for a selection between normal stills or Live View Mode, when the touchscreen can be used to tap subjects and shoot off a frame as soon as they are touched.

Canon will begin shipping the EOS Rebel T4i at the end of the month (June, 2012), for $849.99 / 682 Euro. Lenses, depending on type, will add $100 / 80 Euro or more on top of that (standalone, the lens kits will cost double).

PowerColor HD7970 X2 Devil13 Clocked Over 1 GHz and Priced

PowerColor’s Vortex III cooling system will take care of cooling the video card and your banker should take care of the funds needed to purchase the monster.

The Taiwanese video card company is reportedly planning to charge $1,200 for the PowerColor HD7970 X2 Devil13 graphics adapter in the United States. In Europe, the gamers will certainly “enjoy” a higher price of €1,200 and that’s just because they live on the Old Continent. The thing is that PowerColor is not looking for an upper limit on the TDP and heat dissipation so the HD7970 X2 Devil13 will be clocked considerably higher than the default frequency of the normal AMD Radeon HD 7970.

AMD’s reference Radeon HD 7970 has a 925 MHz default clock for the GPU, but the PowerColor HD7970 X2 Devil13 will be clocked around 1050 MHz for each of the card’s two GPUs. Techpowerup reports that the card will be available at the end of next month.

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