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Jul 11, 2012

Intel Haswell GT3 iGPU at Least 400% Better than Sandy Bridge Graphics

Intel’s integrated graphics processing units have historically been manifesting horrible performance. Many computer enthusiasts have always been complaining about the chip not being able to run countless games and applications that required the GPU to perform well.

Most of this ended when Intel launched Ivy Bridge. Although not quite a particularly powerful GPU, the Ivy Bridge iGPU is able to run at very high speeds, has a very special and useful function in Intel’s QuickSynk and will run most of the games developed in the previous decade. Seeing that the competition on the low and mid-end market is getting tougher and tougher as its main competitor is offering APUs featuring $100 GPUs, Intel seemingly decided to work harder on its iGPUs. The power AMD’s Trinity iGPUs offer today is roughly greater than what was available on a $100 video card two years ago, and this simple fact is absolutely amazing. From a computing perspective, AMD holds the huge advantage of a very capable GPU architecture with great drivers and very good performance and the next generation is only going to be better, much better.

Almost everybody is working on GPU computing these days, and AMD holds the clear hardware advantage. Knowing that it has the software development upper hand, Intel is dead-set on improving its iGPU hardware and the Haswell iGPU is going to be a much bigger step even than Ivy Bridge. As reported by Overclockers.ua Intel is fitting the new top iGPU with 40 execution units, 160 ALU and 4 texture units. Comparing this to Ivy Bridge’s 16 execution units, 64 ALUs and 2 texturing units will only help us understand the magnitude of the performance improvement.

Intel Haswell Processor sample
Image credits to Intel

Intel Haswell Processor iGPU Comparison
Image credits to Intel

CyanogenMod 9 Nightly for Galaxy S III at AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile

Galaxy S III came to the market with Google’s Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich loaded on it right from the start, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to load some custom software on it.

In fact, there are those who are eagerly waiting for such ROMs to emerge for their devices, and it seems that they are in lock. All owners of a Galaxy S III smartphone on the airwaves of AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile can now download and install CyanogenMod 9 nightly builds on their phones.

No support for Verizon’s flavor is available, but that might arrive as soon as the Developer Edition that Samsung announced several hours ago is out on the market. In the meantime, owners of any of said models should head over to the CM website to grab the available software (for AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile versions, respectively).

Samsung SGH-i687 with Windows Phone 8 to Land at AT&T

South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung is reportedly gearing up for the release of new Windows Phone devices that would land on shelves at wireless carrier AT&T in the United States.

A certain Samsung SGH-i687 handset from the company was recently spotted in a User Agent Profile, and is said to be destined for this operator, although no official confirmation on the matter has emerged. The phone is listed with Internet Explorer 10 inside, which suggests that it will be made available with Windows Phone 8 right from the start.

Moreover, it is expected to pack a WVGA touchscreen display, along with support for the carrier’s LTE network. While no official details on the phone’s release date have emerged, we can assume that it is set for a late 2012 launch, based on Microsoft’s announcements on the matter.

Samsung SGH-i687 UAProf
Image credits to wap.samsungmobile.com

Control Robots with Speech Recognition and Raspberry Pi

We've been talking about Raspberry Pi for some time and people have found a lot of uses for this amazing little device. The ingenuity has gone a little further than anyone could imagine and it seems it will be possible to control robots using the mini PC.

In a blog post on the official Raspberry Pi blog, the developers of the mini PC have presented the work of Aon², an aerospace engineer that tested a speech recognition system using the Raspberry PI, in order to control a robot. The speech recognition technology is called an LVCSR – a Large-Vocabulary Continuous Speech Recognition decoder. In this case, Raspberry PI is running Debian and has an USB microphone attached.

Detailed instructions about the process can be found on his websiteRaspberry Pi relies on an ARM processor with a clock speed of 700 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, an SD card slot and a 5V Micro USB connector that supplies the power. It also features RCA and HDMI ports.

AMD, ARM, MediaTek, Imagination and Texas Instruments Founded HSA Foundation

Many of our readers heard about HSA and probably already found out about the AMD-funded HSA Foundation, but not that many really know what it is all about and what the main differences from Nvidia or Intel’s approach are.

The news unveiled at AMD’s AFDS 2012 event was that it, along with Imagination Technologies, ARM, MediaTek and Texas Instruments have founded the Heterogeneous System Architecture Foundation with initial funding from AMD. The main goal of the foundation is to work on, develop and standardize all future HSA technologies. Currently, there are two main directions for a software developer to head on when attempting to achieve the highest performance for its program. The first direction is x86 or generally CPU programming and optimization, may that be x86, RISC, ARM, MIPS or any other CPU architecture.

There are millions of programmers that know how to work and optimize for general purpose processing architectures like x86 or ARM. One other direction for the software developer is GPU compute programming and parallelization, but only specific tasks can take advantage and achieve greatly increased performance if they are specially optimized for GPU compute. On the other hand, the software developer must keep in mind that he must invest in GPU compute programmers or to specialize his own team on the concept. Then, he must weigh the performance increase predictions against the cost of the GPU compute extra programming work and the investments in hiring programmers that know how to do it.

AMD’s HSA vision consists in a special programing tool library that will effectively create a layer between the programmer and the hardware. Practically the software programmer will write and code programs just like he used to or use very small modifications and simple optimizations, but the HSA layer will know how to best execute the code to take advantage of the hardware. They are not saying that there won’t be any GPU compute work to do, but AMD is emphasizing on the fact that there is a much smaller effort involved in programming using the HSA method for HSA hardware than doing device specific coding like CUDA.

There is much sense in AMD’s initiative, as Intel practically agrees with them by also emphasizing that coding and porting for its Xeon Phi GPU compute architecture requires much less effort and investment than optimizing for CUDA. Having huge and influential companies like Texas Instruments and ARM backing the initiative can only reassure AMD that HSA is going to make a serious impact on the industry.

Heterogeneous System Architecture - HSA Foundation
Images credits to AMD

Corsair 8GB VengeanceLP DDR3-1600 Memory Kit Modules

Well-known memory modules manufacturer Corsair, also known for its high-quality power supply units and SSDs is already shipping its new VengeanceLP 8 GB DDR3 DIMMS. The modules work at a standard 1600 MHz frequency and feature cool, black aluminum heatspreaders.

Had you been expecting anything out of the ordinary about these new modules, you’re in for a disappointment. As reported by Overclockers.ua The default latencies are 10, 10, 10, 27 and the default voltage is 1.5V. Corsair says that its new 8GB VengeanceLP DDR3-1600 memory modules come with complete support for Intel’s XMP and are backed by a lifetime warranty.

The pricing is slated at a high $71, and the official release date is the 14th of July, 2012. For about €78, the European buyers will get simple LP DDR3-1600 DIMMs with a full warranty from Corsair.

Corsair VengeanceLP DIMM
Image credits to overclockers.ua

iPhone 5 “ES” Leaked

Photos of an “iPhone 5 engineering sample” corroborate all rumors about the next-generation smartphone from Apple, including a taller body, changes to the hardware on the back and the sides, and more. The antenna placement seems to be identical as well.

GottaBeMobile got hold of these images from “a trusted source inside the Apple supply chain.” This metal iPhone 5 design sample can be regarded as a type mold which acts as a good indicator of the height, width, and other design aspects. The iPhone 5 appears to retain the outer-frame antenna design introduced in 2010 with the iPhone 4, and perpetuated by the iPhone 4S. Hopefully, Apple won’t run into any more trouble in this department, as the company will also have to worry about battery life, and other elements that can be considered crucial to the end-user’s experience with such an expensive device. The camera placement seems to be unchanged, though the back camera lens cutout appears to be a tad larger than the one found on the iPhone 4S.

The mold also shows a rear-facing microphone placed between the camera and LED flash. This mic is believed to be used for both video recording and noise cancellation to improve sound quality for footage shot with the device, as well as phone calls. The iPhone 5 is taller for a reason – that being the (rumored) larger, four-inch display. There has been some speculation as to whether developers will run into trouble trying to scale up their apps to fit the wider screen. Some say it’s not as hard as non-programmer minds think, whereas others are convinced it will pose development issues for those who have a well-established user base with 3.5-inch screens (current-generation iPhone and iPod touch).

Purported engineering sample of Apple (iPhone 5) next-generation smartphone (front)
Image credits to gottabemobile.com

Purported engineering sample of Apple (iPhone 5) next-generation smartphone (back)
Image credits to gottabemobile.com

Android ICS 4.0.4 Alpha 4 Build Available for Nokia N9

Nokia has just started to push the PR 1.3 update to its Nokia N9 users, yet those who would like to try something new have the option to get Android 4.0.4 up and running on their smartphones.

Android 4.0.4_r2.1 (ICS) for Nokia N9 is now available courtesy of people behind NITDroid, and has reached version Alpha 4, it seems. The new build is based on Android Open-Source Project (AOSP) v 4.0.4_r2.1 (IMM76L), and can be installed only on Nokia N9 devices that are currently running PR 1.3. For those out of the loop, we should note that the software does not require for users to completely remove MeeGo from their smartphones. In fact, it has been designed so as to offer dual-boot capabilities, enabling users to choose the OS to boot into after power up. Moreover, the Android 4.0.4 on Nokia N9 will provide users with access to application through the Google Play store, as well as with specific software coming from Google themselves (the Google Apps).

Not all things are working as they should at the moment – after all, this is still an alpha release – but most of them do, and users should receive a more than acceptable experience from their devices if they choose to install the new build. 3D drivers, OpenGL, hwrotation, touchscreen (multitouch) hw buttons (volume, power), ECI accessory (headset buttons), USB networking, sleep mode, alarm driver, basic video decoding (sw) and playback, WiFi (only basic functionality), Bluetooth and wireless connectivity are working at the moment. Users will also see working battery status, charging indication, sensors: accelerometer, compass, audio, and root access, along with a fakeGPS functionality (ability to trick system and set any location as GPS fix). The new release also comes with a series of fixes from the previous Alpha 3 build. Those who would like to learn more on Android for Nokia N9 or give it a try should head over to this forum post on NITDroid.

Nokia N9
Image credits to Nokia

Intel Itanium Processor Manual Reveals 9500 Poulson Models

Last time we talked about the Itanium processors, it was, thankfully, to provide some info on the chips themselves, and their codename, instead of updating people on the lawsuit they are involved in.

Ever since Oracle said it was dropping development of Itanium processor software, HP and Intel have been holding the opposite line. HP outright sued Oracle while Intel assured the world, repeatedly, that Itanium chips would keep being refined and released for at least ten more years. The effects have been mixed. Oracle has had to suffer serious backlash (and court losses), but HP's Itanium servers started selling less and less. Meanwhile, even Intel encountered some issues in its development and manufacture of the Poulson, the upcoming Itanium 9500 series. And by issues, we mean that, even though Intel didn't officially say anything, word came out that the next-generation Itaniums had been delayed (they were supposed to launch last month, July 2012). They will now launch in the third quarter (July-September).

Fortunately, that does not mean we have no new information to provide. Indeed, though the launch was moved back, Intel finished the Reference Manual for the processor 9500 SeriesAlso known as the Software Development and Optimization Guide, it contains specs and the names of four SKUs (stock-keeping units). In order of capability, they are 9520, 9540, 9550 and 9560. All Poulson Itanium are 8-core chips with 16 KB instruction on each core and 16 KB data first-level cache memory. The full cache capacity can go as high as 32 MB, of which some is divided into 512 KB instruction and 256 KB data mid-level caches. That said, the clock speeds are as follows: 1.73 GHz for the 9520, 2.13 GHz for the 9540, 2.4 GHz for the 9550 and 2.53 GHz for the 9560. As for the rest, Itanium Poulson benefit from 4 full-width and 2 half-width Quick Path Interconnect links, dual-channel DDR3 RAM support, Hyper-threading and Virtualization. The manufacturing process is 32nm.

Intel logo
Image credits to Intel

Cintiq 24” Painter’s Tablet

We remember Panasonic’s and DRS Tactical Systems’ rugged tablets for professional use, but what Wacom had in mind with its Cintiq tablets series is something totally different.

Targeted for professional artistic use, the Cintiq 24HDtouch features a high-quality 1920 by 1200 pixel resolution screen. As most of you already figured, the Cintiq 24HD uses a 16:10 display format that’s currently almost unavailable on the market.

Five or six years ago, 16:10 displays were touted as the true high-definition and featured the 1920 x 1200 resolution, but then display manufactures decided to skip on quality and charge the same amount of money for 16:9 1920 x 1080 screens that are cheaper to make and feature the same diagonal size. A 1920 by 1200 screen with a 16:10 format offers you more working space and a less distorted point of view, as professionals like painters and architects are always bothered by 16:9 screens.

iPhone with Windows 8 Looks Like

A theme called “Metroon” can be downloaded from the ModMyi repo for just $1.50 (about €1.2) for the sole reason of slapping the Windows 8 Metro UI on your iPhone.

The tile-centric user interface is indeed a sight, especially on Apple hardware. The theme doesn’t alter the functionality of the handset, but merely replaces your Springboard with the tiles in Windows 8. Hit desktop view and you’ll be taken straight back to your beloved Apple environment (iOS). Don’t fret just yet, though. It requires a jailbroken device and the package uses dreamboard, and some people claim it slows down their devices, according to jailbreaknation.com.

Jailbroken users with a dollar fifty in hand can access the ModMyi repository in Cydia and download Metroon straight away.

Metroon theme
Image credits to jailbreaknation.com

Manual Upgrades to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Available for GSM Galaxy Nexus

Google has started to deliver the new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean software update to the HSPA+ flavor of Galaxy Nexus over the air, yet only a few people will receive it immediately.

The update will roll out in stages, which means that many users will still have to wait a few days before it reaches them. Moreover, those who own a standard GSM version of the device, as well as those using Galaxy Nexus on CDMA / LTE networks will have to wait a bit longer for it to arrive. However, the update is also available for manual download from the web, and those who would like to install it can grab it this way, through their computers. One thing that should be noted right from the start, however, is that it will require for the device to be rooted, and that an unlocked bootloader is also a great thing to go with. Unfortunately, there is no way to install the update if you are running the full stock ROM on your smartphone, and those who haven’t tweaked their devices yet can either wait for the official OTA update to arrive, or can choose to unlock the handset and get Jelly Bean up and running today.

The software requires for either JRN84D (Android 4.1) or IMM76I (Android 4.0.4) firmware versions to be installed on the target handset, a recent post on Android Police reads. This is only the update build for the Galaxy Nexus, not the full ROM, which means that it should leave all personal files on the device unharmed.  There are two different update files available for download at the moment, both for the takju variant of Galaxy Nexus, which is being sold directly through Google (one for each of said firmware versions). No files for yakju, the international unlocked GSM flavor, have emerged as of yet. The specific steps to root, unlock the Galaxy Nexus and install the new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean upgrade on it can be found in this thread on XDA-Developers.

Just keep in mind that, although the process is rather simple, it still requires the rooting of your phone, which will void warranty. As usual, users will be the only ones to be held responsible provided than anything goes wrong during the installation process.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Image credits to Samsung

13-inch Retina MacBook Pro Benchmarks Emerge

A benchmark unearthed from Geekbench logs in late June for an unreleased “MacBookPro10,2” model suggests Apple could be on track to release a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Analyzed by AppleInsider, the benchmark shows a MacBook Pro running OS X 10.8 Build 12A2056. The machine is equipped with an Intel Core i7-3520M Ivy Bridge processor running at 2.9 GHz. The Geekbench score of 7806 is below the score of 10999 obtained by the new 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro, but higher than the scores of around 5000 earned by 13-inch MacBook Pros shipped in early 2011. In other words, this is an upgraded machine that hasn’t yet been released. The test machine is said to have 4GB of DDR3 RAM clocked at 1600 megahertz.

DigiTimes reported this week that Apple could be on track to launch this system in October.

Macbook Pro Retina 13" Benchmark result
Image credits to Geekbench via AppleInsider

iPhone 5 Already Up for Pre-Order in China

Chinese retailer Sohu has put up banners featuring a big iPod touch picture, a smaller picture of an iPhone “teardrop” concept, and the option to pre-order your own iPhone 5 before Apple could even get on the horn to tell them it’s coming.

That’s right, the ever quick-to-capitalize China has done it again. Since it had no actual device to copy off the design and some key features for a quick replica, retailer Sohu decided there was still some cash to be squeezed from the hype surrounding Apple’s upcoming smartphone. The demand for Apple products in China is, indeed, skyrocketing. The Cupertino giant is ever more present in the country, and just yesterday they released the new iPad with Retina display there. All signs of good business in the months to come. Apple is widely expected to unveil its sixth-generation iPhone, or the iPhone 5, during a special event reportedly scheduled for fall.

Some analysts believe there’s also an iPad mini in the cards for this event, and one analyst in particular predicts there will be a fourth Apple TV refresh as well, in what would spell an event overcrowded with announcements. If recent hardware leaks are any indication, the next-generation iPhone from Apple will boast a Retina display with a bit more real estate (4 inches on the diagonal), a unibody chassis carved from aluminum (no indication of Liquidmetal use so far), a new (smaller) dock connector, larger speaker grills, and an overall new design featuring both matte and sleek surfaces, particularly on the back. Some rumors say Apple might try to sell its first batch of multi-colored iPhones this year (much like the iPod line). Below is a video featuring iPhone 5 renderings based on leaked parts.

iPhone 5 pre-order banner in China
Image credits to digi.it.sohu.com

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Update Available for Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ Devices

Made official in late June, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is about to make its way into several Android devices, such as Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, Motorola XOOM and many more.

However, the first device to be launched with Jelly Bean onboard is the Google Nexus 7 tablet, which is expected to arrive on the market later this month. In fact, it’s been confirmed that the Nexus 7 will be delivered with Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, a newer version of the operating system that was officially announced two weeks ago. For the time being, it’s unclear if other Android devices that have been confirmed for a Jelly Bean upgrade will be getting the same version of the platform. In this regard, Google has just announced the immediate availability of the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update for Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ devices. Keep in mind that this upgrade is not compatible with “standard” Galaxy Nexus devices, but Google promised to expand the availability of the update to other Android smartphones and tablets soon.

According to Google, “up next for Jelly Bean: all Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, Motorola XOOM and of course, Nexus 7, which will ship with Jelly Bean later this month.” With Jelly Bean, users will have a faster, more fluid and smoother experience. Furthermore, notifications are now expandable and actionable, while keyboard is now more accurate than previous versions of Android. Google also redesigned the entire search experience, so users will get a new interface and much faster Voice Search. There’s also a new application included in the update, which is called Google Now. This application informs users on the weather, traffic or provides them with various information on request, even before starting their days.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean logo
Image credits to Google

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