Thursday, January 31, 2013

AnandTech Article Channel

AnandTech Article Channel

Epic Games Releases Epic Citadel for Android Devices - We test it out

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 05:31 PM PST

Epic Games granted us a huge wish and released Epic Citadel for Android devices publicly this week, and included a benchmark inside. Getting Epic Citadel for Android and thus a benchmark of a real game engine (Unreal Engine 3) running atop Android has been a longtime wish, and we immediately started testing some devices. Epic claims to have updated visuals for the Android Epic Citadel release, and correspondingly released an update for the iOS version, although the iOS version still lacks a benchmarking mode. 

The visuals inside Epic Citadel are impressive, which almost goes without saying. Performance walking around the map is also smooth, almost too smooth. I suspect Epic spent a lot of time optimizing the Android version for optimal performance on a wide set of hardware. Keep in mind that Epic Citadel is designed more as a proof of concept for developers, and to prove that Unreal Engine 3 can be performant across a wide range of hardware.

The Android version of Epic Citadel includes support for both ARM devices and x86, which lets us test it out on Intel's Medfield platform with a RAZR i in a native way alongside a suite of other Android devices. I grabbed a handful of current devices and N-1 generation devices to see how effective of a benchmark Epic Citadel's new mode proves to be. There's a menu option exposed by the drop down, which allows users to select between High Quality and High Performance modes, and below it, rendering resolution percentages if you want to set a render target smaller than the display (for example how the iPad with Retina Display initially rendered). To make the test as taxing as possible I set High Quality even on devices which defaulted to High Performance, and made sure resolution was set to 100% of native.

Epic Citadel for Android - High Quality, 100 Percent Resolution

Unfortunately Epic Citadel for Android is already running at vsync on most modern devices most of the time. Watching a run through on devices like the HTC Droid DNA or Butterfly, which are 1080p, it's amazing how much of the benchmark is right against vsync. There really is only one outdoor scene that is taxing enough to bring the device's FPS down into the low 50s and high 40s, which brings that average down below 60. If we're already at vsync on Fusion 3 hardware which is shipping today, that means future devices are going to be even more constrained running the same benchmark. Even Nexus 10 spends much of its time against vsync despite rendering to a positively huge WQXGA display natively. 

My conclusion is really that either Epic waited too long to release Epic Citadel with a benchmark, and now the assets are nowhere near taxing enough, or this is primarily designed as a benchmarking mode to showcase how well UE3 runs on current hardware. Given the purpose of Epic Citadel, I'd say the latter is more of a credible story. While I'm glad we finally have a proper UE3 benchmark to use on Android, I doubt we'll be able to glean much from running it on next-generation devices and SoCs. 

Source: Play Store, Epic Blog

Samsung Laptops Bricked by Booting Linux Using UEFI

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 10:20 AM PST

Ryan passed this along early this morning (really early for Ryan, seeing that we’re not even in the double digits of the morning hours!), and while this issue is only likely to affect a very small subset of users, anything that can completely brick a laptop in a matter of seconds is worrisome enough that we wanted to pass it along. File this one under the "things that should never happen" category.

You can read more of what is known at H-Online, but the short summary is this: Samsung’s UEFI implementation appears to be faulty. It was most likely tested with Windows only and found to work, but thorough testing with other operating systems doesn’t appear to have been a priority—or perhaps a consideration at all. At present, the bug appears to affect Samsung 530U3C, 300E5C, NP700Z5C, NP700Z7C, and NP900X4C series laptops; if you have one of those laptops, we recommend you exercise extreme caution if you have a need to boot into a Linux environment.

The bigger picture here is that this is what happens in a race to the bottom: corners get cut, which means less testing and validation, which can in turn lead to some catastrophic failures in specific circumstances.  What's really scary is that these Samsung laptops aren't even budget offerings, so the budget race ended up impacting higher priced offerings! Granted, in the increasingly complex world of computer hardware it can be difficult to test all of the likely scenarios. UEFI represents a fundamental change in how many low-level aspects of the computer function, however, so it needs to be thoroughly tested; not properly testing any OS besides Windows would be a gross oversight.

Long-term, we expect Samsung to release BIOS and firmware updates for the affected laptops, though how long that might take is unknown. Short-term, the workaround is for Linux to boot these Samsung models using the Compatibility Support Module (CSM), which basically bypasses the UEFI bootloader, but dual-booting via CSM appears to be a bit complex. Ubuntu’s development team has worked with Samsung and identified the kernel’s Samsung-laptop driver as the prime suspect, and there are other workarounds proposed already to address the issue. However, these fixes have not yet been merged into the main Linux development tree, so again we recommend Samsung laptop owners who use Linux exercise caution.

Update: It appears the problem stems from NVRAM corruption. Removing power, opening the laptop up, and disconnecting the CMOS battery appears like it will clear the problem, but that's a pretty serious set of steps to take for most laptops.

BlackBerry 10 Announcement: Live Blog

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 05:19 AM PST

We're seated at RIM's BlackBerry 10 launch event. Keep your browser parked here for our live blog that should start at 10AM EST.

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