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Aug 8, 2012

AMD Working on Trinity 2.0

We’ve always wondered why wouldn’t AMD further develop the successful Trinity architecture and move directly towards Kaveri with GCN graphics. Now there is work in the market that the company might indeed be working on an upgraded version of today’s successful APU.

The rumor doesn’t say anything clear, but there may be a new stepping to the hardware version that could bring lower power consumption for the mobile market or an increased frequency in the desktop sector. While many fear that this would be a Brazos 2.0 move, we don’t share their opinion. AMD never bothered to improve Brazos too much because Intel never bothered to improve the Atom line and as AMD’s Zacate architecture was clearly superior, there was no need for an overhaul or a new chip. AMD’s main foundry partner, Globalfoundries has already said that it is working on further developing the SOI technology and many thought that the two companies will collaborate a little less in the future because AMD is concentrating on the 28nm bulk tech instead of SOI. Things might be completely different.

Like we’ve said in our AMD Trinity Architectural Preview, the fabless CPU designer is conquering the low-end to mid-end desktop market and it is also making a great impact on the mobile segment. AMD needs big volumes of chips and the lowest manufacturing costs possible and this might explain why the company is preferring 28nm bulk technology over SOI technology. Looking at the way AMD has done things with the Trinity launch, we can easily imagine they will proceed in a similar manner next year. The company has launched the mobile parts first and the desktop versions are less of a priority. AMD wants to conquer as much of the mobile market as they can and also wants to ensure a fluent supply for the mobile customers where the margins are bigger then on the desktop market.

Professional market also has much bigger margins than the desktop market so the company is first launching the professional FirePro A300 APUs and only after these are in good supply, will AMD bother with the desktop Trinity launch. Next year, Kaveri will probably come right on time or a little bit later, but AMD is likely to repeat the strategy of concentrating on the mobile market first. The company might want to have an upgraded Trinity 2.0 available for the desktop market when they launch Kaveri for the mobile sector. Kaveri will come with a newer, more powerful and efficient architecture in the mobile land, but AMD will also have a slightly faster Trinity that will likely consume a little less power and bring higher working frequencies.

The 32nm process will have matured even more at Globalfoundries by then. The foundry is already working with FD-SOI, so an upgrade from regular SOI to FD-SOI in the same 32nm manufacturing node could bring significant efficiency and frequency improvements to the designs currently manufactured in 32mn SOI technology.

AMD Fusion logo
Image credits to AMD

Despite of Negative Reactions, Microsoft Might Prepare Surface 2

On October 26th, Redmond-based software giant Microsoft will make available for purchase the very first tablet PC it has ever designed to work with Windows 8.

Called Surface, the device has already seen a negative reaction coming from the company’s hardware partners, but it seems that Microsoft is already looking at the next generation of touch devices. When unveiling Surface, Microsoft said that it was meant to be a symbol, to show the world what great hardware could be designed to go along Windows 8. Moreover, the company’s Corporate Communications Chief, Frank Shaw, posted on Twitter recently that these are only two tablets, and that Microsoft was using a literary license when calling them “our new family of PCs built to be the ultimate stage for Windows.”

However, it appears that things might not be as simple as that, and that the giant is already making the first steps towards a future release of such devices. Of course, nothing has been officially confirmed on the matter, but a recent job listing on Microsoft’s website might be seen as implying that. “The Surface Team focuses on lighting up Microsoft experiences with touch first computing. A fundamental part of our strategy is having desirable and powerful devices that enable the experiences people want, and elicit their excitement,” the announcement reads.

“Creating these devices involves a close partnership between hardware and software engineers, designers, and manufacturing. We are currently building the next generation and Surface needs you!” Microsoft designed Surface with a great deal of innovative materials inside, but it might be looking at more innovation when it comes to the next version, if there will ever be one. The launch of a Surface 2 tablet could result in an even wider series of negative reactions from OEMs around the world, that’s for sure. However, it remains to be seen whether the company is willing to take that risk or not.

Microsoft Surface
Image credits to Microsoft

Retina MacBook Pro Battery Costs $500 to Replace, iFixit Says

After performing a complete teardown and a full analysis of Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display, repair shop iFixit has released 15 repair guides and an estimate of how much it would cost you to replace the non-user-removable battery.

Although iFixit gave the new MacBook Pro the lowest reparability score ever for an Apple laptop, that didn’t stop their tinkering minds from writing no less than 15 repair guides covering key parts like the logic board, the trackpad, speakers and fans, even the flash storage. In them, iFixit details the proper methods that one needs to follow to repair certain parts. They also sell the necessary tools to get the job done.

Calling Apple’s design direction “disturbing,” iFixit notes, “We estimate that third party battery replacements will cost over $500 if technicians follow the safer Apple-suggested procedure and replace the entire upper case assembly along with the battery.”

MacBook Pro with Retina display teardown
Image credits to iFixit

AMD Piledriver FX-8350 Vishera Processor Benchmarked

A screenshot of what’s supposed to be an AMD Piledriver FX-8300 Vishera engineering sample has apparently surfaced on the Internet. The screenshot depicts information about a processor throttling down to 1404 MHz and only using 0.948 V under these conditions.

The picture was posted on the Coolaler forums and, considering the TDP listed, it can only describe the features of an FX-8350 or a FX-8320 processor, as these are the only Piledriver FX parts that have 125-watt TDP, Legit Review reports. This means that AMD is almost ready with the processor, and only testing and verification need to be completed. There is also the possibility that this is a simple fake.

Unfortunately, the CPU-Z screenshot is all that has been made available to the eyes of the public, so we will likely have to wait some more for test results.

AMD FX Processor logo
Image credits to AMD

AMD FX Zambezi on CPU-Z
Image credits to Legit Review

MSI GeForce GTX 660 Ti Power Edition

MSI has been letting people snap pictures of its new GTX 660 Ti design using the famous Twin Frozr cooling solution. We reported about the card here and now we can confirm that it is indeed a GeForce GTX 660 Ti, but the 3GB VRAM specification shown by GPU-Z has been proved wrong.

The hardware experts from videocardz.com have managed to get some more pictures of MSI’s new $299 flagship, and the new data shows that the amount of memory on the card will be in fact 2GB and not 3GB as the GPU-Z screenshot showed. The GK104 GPU is base clocked at 1020 MHz with a 1098 Mhz Boost option, while the memory runs at the same 6008 MHz.

MSI's GeForce GTX 660 Ti Power Edition
Image credits to VideoCardz

Exogear Stackable Battery Pack

Exogear has introduced the Exovolt Plus, a battery pack that can stack with “sub battery” units to create portable charging stations with virtually unlimited power capacity.

Detailed here, the product costs around $90 / €72.95, while every extra stack ships for $50 / €40. That seems like a lot, but the universal device support (30-pin, USB and micro-USB ports) might compensate for the price tag.

For those who want some technical details, each kit is the equivalent of a 5,200 mAh battery and the main piece (Exovolt Plus) gets four LED battery power status indicators. Exogear has the product page up and running at the other end of this link. We don't know for sure when shipments will begin (the company only says the Exovolt is “coming soon”).

Exogear Exovolt Plus and sub batteries
Image credits to Exogear

Zotac ZBOX HTPC with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M

Zotac's collection of ZBOX mini PCs has just grown, or at least received a new possible hardware component.

The company issued a press release in which it reveals the newest graphics card available to buyers of the home-theater personal computer: NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M 512 MB. The rest of the specs are the same: Atom S2550 dual-core CPU (1.86 GHz), 2 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 2.5-inch SATA HDD, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports (1 front, 1 top), Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DVI and HDMI video outputs, etc.

“We’re pleased to inject the power of NVIDIA GeForce graphics to our award-winning ZOTAC ZBOX for users that demand energy-efficiency with a graphics kick,” said Carsten Berger, marketing director, ZOTAC International.  
 “The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics delivers phenomenal high-definition video playback capabilities to make it the perfect home theater PC as well.”

Zotac ZBOX Plus with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M
Images credits to Zotac

Nikon Camera with Android-Loaded Leaked Through Indonesian Filing

There should soon be a particularly verbose announcement on the part of Nikon, but serendipity has dictated that the world learn of the subject matter before that came to pass.

Nikon is about to launch a new camera. This would not be all that strange on its own. After all, that's what Nikon does. What is strange, or at the very least unusual enough to warrant our attention, is the choice of operating systems: the camera will run Android. We've heard of Android cameras before, but only as part of concept design schematics and second-hand rumors. In fact, Samsung's “Galaxy Camera” trademark is the only real evidence that the OS will cross over to this device type in the near future, not counting a very small demo at a trade show a couple of years back from a company whose name escapes our minds for the moment. If what Nikon Rumors has uncovered is true, however, then the dawn of such devices is very near indeed.

The Indonesian Communication Agency filed a document on July 31, 2012, one that mentions a certain Nikon Coolpix S800 or S800c compact camera. Equipped with a 3.5-inch OLED display and a 25-250 mm lens, it will run all Google Play apps on Android 2.3. Wi-Fi will provide the web connection necessary for the download of such apps. Whether or not the device can take calls as well is still up the air, but it is believed that the answer to that dilemma is no. Nikon has released camera-phones before, so it would not be out of place for Coolpix S800 / 800s to be one of them, but that is the hint right there: the Coolpix brand has long been the moniker used for Nikon photo and video cameras. We'll be sure to write about the Coolpix S800 or S800c again should it truly be revealed on August 22.

Nikon logo
Image credits to Nikon

AMD New Radeon HD 7750 with 900 MHz GPU

American fabless CPU and GPU designer, Texas-based company AMD is stealthily introducing a new revision of the HD 7750 GPU that has an increased default frequency. The reason for this move is either the recent Nvidia GTX 650 and 650 Ti launches that we reported here and here, or the simple fact that AMD’s GCN chips have very good yields.

We’re inclined to think that the motivation is a combination of the two. The new cards are using the same cooling system, but they feature a slightly different PCB, videocardz reported. The cooling system has remained exactly the same, as the “Cape Verde” GPU is a very cool piece of technology when compared with other GPUs, but we would have liked to see more custom single-slot designs. The PCB is a little larger, making it exactly like a HD 7770 PCB in dimensions and weight. On the new HD 7750, the GPU is clocked at 900 MHz instead of the 800 Mhz we were used to see on the “older” HD 7750 video cards.

It seems like the price will stay the same so the casual gamers going for an AMD Radeon HD 7750 video card should enjoy the better performance for free. The Radeon HD 7750 graphics processing unit is clocked at 900 MHz when working in full load 3D mode. In 2D mode, the frequency of the GPU will drop to a low 300 MHz. The GPU has a very small 123-square millimeter die size, containing 1.5 billion transistors containing 512 unified shader processors, 32 texturing units and 16 ROPs. The “full” “Cape Verde” comes with 640 shaders and 40 texturing units, but that’s the Radeon HD 7770, and the HD 7750 version has some of the units inactive that add to the 100 MHz GPU frequency handicap.

 AMD New HD 7750 Video Card with the faster 900 MHz Cape Verde GPU and the HD 7770 PCB
Images credits to VideoCardz

MSI OC Certified, New Series Motherboard Brand

Micro-Star International has issued a press release with the express purpose of announcing a new, high-end motherboard brand, not an actual product or product family.

That isn't perfectly accurate of course, since the corporation did mention the MSI Z77 MPower by name, but the main body of text focused on generalities. MSI OC Certified is an extension of MSI's Military Class certification, one that goes beyond even Military Class III tests. For those who need a recap, Military Class III motherboards are tested for stability, high voltage endurance, etc. OC Certified platforms are guaranteed to be able to run in overclocked conditions in high temperatures even when air flow is weak or absent.

To give some perspective, the motherboards are tasked with running an Intel Core i7 central processing unit at 4.6 GHz, well above default frequencies. Enhanced PWM cooling is the greatest asset. MSI promises that, even without airflow from a CPU cooler, a motherboard will survive for 24 hours in a high-temperature room (30 degrees Celsius). “Better Power Stability is tested by running Prime95 for 24-hours in these conditions,” MSI says. MSI Z77 Mpower has, of course, been tested in such a manner. From what we can see in the photo, it comes with four DDR3 memory slots, five PCI Express slots (three full-size and two mini), a black PCB and large heatsinks.

“When an MSI Z77 MPOWER passes the OC Certified test it is able to run in overclocked conditions in high temperatures with little to no airflow,” MSI says. “Final OC results of course vary with the component quality of the entire system and users’ technique, but at least you can count on your mainboard not being the limiting factor.” Unfortunately, we haven't seen it up for sale anywhere yet and MSI did not provide a price tag, so we have to wait a while more before these details come to light.

MSI Z77 MPower motherboard
Image credits to MSI

ARM Mali-600 GPUs Extremely Powerful

The world’s most successful fabless CPU designer, British company ARM has just launched the new Mali-600 GPUs for powerful tablets, TVs and smartphones. The new chips bring more than 1000% the performance exhibited by the popular Mali-400 generation of GPUs.

The new products launched today are the Mali-T624, Mali-T628 and Mali-T678. They are all part of the ARM Midgard GPU family. ARM says that the most powerful Mali-T687 design is an updated version of the fast Mali-T658 and, considering that the T658 was already up to ten times faster than the Mali-T400, we can only imagine how the T678 will perform. The T678 design looks like a doubled Mali-T624 and the Mali-T628 looks just the same, but there is likely a frequency difference between the T678 and T624 architectures. ARM targets the Mali-T678 at the growing tablet market, while the T628 and T624 are designed for smartphones and other applications. Each of the products is said to feature a 50% performance increase, but the company is not clear on what they are comparing them to.

Only the Mali-T678 is clearly characterized in its features table as being 50% faster than the already impressively fast T658. The T678, T628 and T624 are the first designs to include adaptive scalable texture compression (ASTC) technology, which optimizes the GPU performance leading to an increased battery life. The Mali-T678 and Mali-T628 are eight-core designs while the T624 is a quad-core design supporting OpenGL ES 1.1, OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenGL ES 3.0, DirectX 11 FL 9_3, DirectX 11, OpenCL 1.1 full profile and Google Renderscript compute. The architectural diagram, although lacking most of the technical details, shows that there are two memory controllers inside the eight-core chips and two sets of level 2 cache while both groups are administrated by an Inter-core Task Management unit.

ARM has also integrated and has been quite involved with the GPU compute characteristics of the new architecture, and all the new designs come with specific GPU compute features.

Mali-T658 GPU Marketing Shot
Image credits to ARM

ARM Mali-T628 8-core GPU Design
Image credits to ARM

ARM Mali-T624 4-core GPU Design
Image credits to ARM

ARM Mali-T678 8-core GPU Features and Performance Estimations
Image credits to ARM

ARM Mali-T624 8-core GPU Features and Performance Estimations
Image credits to ARM

ARM Mali-T678 8-core GPU Design
Image credits to ARM

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