Tuesday, January 15, 2013

AnandTech Article Channel

AnandTech Article Channel

Checking Their Pulse: Hisense's Google TV Box at CES

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 05:41 PM PST

So, Google TV is still happening. Indeed, more players are getting into the game than ever. Hisense is a Chinese OEM/ODM that's seen steady growth in the television market internationally, and hopes to build a big presence in the US this year. Their Google TV box, Pulse, was announced as among the first to be built around the Marvell Armada 1500 chipset, and we've been waiting for it patiently ever since. It's available on Amazon right now, and we'll hopefully have it in for review soon. For now, we got a chance to take a peek at Hisense's interpretation of Google TV while on the show floor at CES. 


To re-cap, Google TV is the stab at altering the television viewing paradigm by Mountain View's finest. It has gone through some pretty immense transformations since it was first introduced and while all implementations share a basic UI paradigm, they've allowed OEMs to skin parts of the experience. The latest software iteration (V3, in their parlance), has three key conceits: Search, Voice and a recommendation engine. Search, understandably, is Google's strong suit, and is leveraged to great success. Voice's execution is good, though the value is limited. Primetime is their recommendation engine, and while it's no doubt quite good, it feels little different than the similar features provided by Netflix and the like. 


Hisense isn't shipping V3 software just yet, but a few things stand out about their software. We'll start with the Home screen. Lightly skinned, and functional, the screen is fairly satisfying. The dock and the three featured apps across the top are static, but that "Frequently Used" field is populated automatically based on your usage. That area below the video field would make a great place for a social feed widget, or perhaps some other useful data, but, as usual, is instead devoted to ad space. Just off the Home button, is a new button, that maps to an old function. Previously, hitting the Home button from the Home screen, brought you to a field where a user could configure widgets. Here that "double tap" is moved to a separate button, but looks largely the same. 



The remote control is a many buttoned affair, with a large touchpad (complete with scroll regions) on one side, and a QWERTY keyboard on the back. The touchpad is quite large, though responsiveness was a bit hit or miss, it's hard to blame the BT/WiFi powered hardware in such a spectrum crowded environment. The button lay out is oddly cramped for such a large remote, thanks to that touchpad and a similarly large set of directional keys. The QWERTY keyboard on the back, though, benefits from the acreage, and has a good layout. No motion controls are on offer here, this a tactile interface all the way. And truly, I'm not going to miss waving a wand around. 

There are three hardware things a Google TV needs to get right, and so far none have hit on all three. Video decode needs to be flawless and extensive; if local file playback is available, it shouldn't be limited to just a handful of codecs and containers, and it shouldn't ever falter. 3D rendering should at least be passable; as an Android device, it'd be nice to be able to play some games on these things, and so far that's something that's been ignored. More important than 3D though, 2D composition must be fast, no matter how many effects you throw at the screen. In many past devices, the UI was generally sluggish, but it slowed to an absolute crawl when you asked it to overlay a UI component over video. Imagine our surprise, then, when Hisense pulled it off without a hiccup. 


Hitting the Social button while watching a video brings up this lovely widget, which shows your Twitter and Facebook feeds and even offers sharing and filtering options. The filtering options are most intriguing, since they'd allow you to follow a content based hashtag (say #TheBigGame) and participate in the coversation related to the content you're watching, and all on the same screen. For terrestrial content the widget shifts the content into the upper left region so that none of it is obscured by the widget. 


But as nifty as the widget may be, what really set it apart was how quickly its components were drawn and updated. From the time the button was depressed to the fully composited and updated widget was shown couldn't have been but a second. Jumping from there to the Home screen was quicker, and opening Chrome and navigating to our home page all happened without noticeable stutter. 


Chatting with Marvell later, we discussed how they used their own IP to develop their composition engine and targeted just this sort of use case for it. Based on our time with their solution on the show floor, they and Hisense have done some good work. We can't wait to get our hands on the hardware ourselves and see jsut how good it gets. 

The Tegra 4 GPU, NVIDIA Claims Better Performance Than iPad 4

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 02:13 PM PST

At CES last week, NVIDIA announced its Tegra 4 SoC featuring four ARM Cortex A15s running at up to 1.9GHz and a fifth Cortex A15 running at between 700 - 800MHz for lighter workloads. Although much of CEO Jen-Hsun Huang's presentation focused on the improvements in CPU and camera performance, GPU performance should see a significant boost over Tegra 3.

The big disappointment for many was that NVIDIA maintained the non-unified architecture of Tegra 3, and won't fully support OpenGL ES 3.0 with the T4's GPU. NVIDIA claims the architecture is better suited for the type of content that will be available on devices during the Tegra 4's reign.
Despite the similarities to Tegra 3, components of the Tegra 4 GPU have been improved. While we're still a bit away from a good GPU deep-dive on the architecture, we do have more details than were originally announced at the press event.


Tegra 4 features 72 GPU "cores", which are really individual components of Vec4 ALUs that can work on both scalar and vector operations. Tegra 2 featured a single Vec4 vertex shader unit (4 cores), and a single Vec4 pixel shader unit (4 cores). Tegra 3 doubled up on the pixel shader units (4 + 8 cores). Tegra 4 features six Vec4 vertex units (FP32, 24 cores) and four 3-deep Vec4 pixel units (FP20, 48 cores). The result is 6x the number of ALUs as Tegra 3, all running at a max clock speed that's higher than the 520MHz NVIDIA ran the T3 GPU at. NVIDIA did hint that the pixel shader design was somehow more efficient than what was used in Tegra 3. 
If we assume a 520MHz max frequency (where Tegra 3 topped out), a fully featured Tegra 4 GPU can offer more theoretical compute than the PowerVR SGX 554MP4 in Apple's A6X. The advantage comes as a result of a higher clock speed rather than larger die area. This won't necessarily translate into better performance, particularly given Tegra 4's non-unified architecture. NVIDIA claims that at final clocks, it will be faster than the A6X both in 3D games and in GLBenchmark. The leaked GLBenchmark results are apparently from a much older silicon revision running no where near final GPU clocks.
Mobile SoC GPU Comparison
  GeForce ULP (2012) PowerVR SGX 543MP2 PowerVR SGX 543MP4 PowerVR SGX 544MP3 PowerVR SGX 554MP4 GeForce ULP (2013)
Used In Tegra 3 A5 A5X Exynos 5 Octa A6X Tegra 4
SIMD Name core USSE2 USSE2 USSE2 USSE2 core
# of SIMDs 3 8 16 12 32 18
MADs per SIMD 4 4 4 4 4 4
Total MADs 12 32 64 48 128 72
GFLOPS @ Shipping Frequency 12.4 GFLOPS 16.0 GFLOPS 32.0 GFLOPS 51.1 GFLOPS 71.6 GFLOPS 74.8 GFLOPS
Tegra 4 does offer some additional enhancements over Tegra 3 in the GPU department. Real multisampling AA is finally supported as well as frame buffer compression (color and z). There's now support for 24-bit z and stencil (up from 16 bits per pixel). Max texture resolution is now 4K x 4K, up from 2K x 2K in Tegra 3. Percentage-closer filtering is supported for shadows. Finally, FP16 filter and blend is supported in hardware. ASTC isn't supported.
If you're missing details on Tegra 4's CPU, be sure to check out our initial coverage. 

Intel's Quick Sync: Coming Soon to Your Favorite Open Source Transcoding Applications

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 12:01 PM PST


Intel's hardware accelerated video transcode engine, Quick Sync, was introduced two years ago with Sandy Bridge. When it was introduced, I was immediately sold. With proper software support you could transcode content at frame rates that were multiple times faster than even the best GPU based solutions. And you could do so without taxing the CPU cores. 
While Quick Sync wasn't meant for high quality video encoding for professional production, it produced output that was more than good enough for use on a smartphone or tablet. Given the incredible rise in popularity of those devices over recent history and given that an increasing number of consumers moved to notebooks as primary PCs, a fast way of transcoding content without needing tons of CPU cores was exactly what the market needed.
There was just one problem with Quick Sync: it had zero support in the open source community. The open source x264 codec didn't support Quick Sync, and by extension applications like Handbrake didn't either. You had to rely on Cyberlink's Media Espresso or ArcSoft's Media Converter. Last week, Intel put the ball in motion to change all of this. 
With the release of the Intel Media SDK 2013, Intel open sourced its dispatcher code. The dispatcher simply detects what driver is loaded on the machine and returns whether or not the platform supports hardware or software based transcoding. The dispatcher is the final step before handing off a video stream to the graphics driver for transcoding, but previously it was a proprietary, closed source piece of code. For open source applications whose license requires that all components contained within the package are open source as well, the Media SDK 2013 should finally enable Quick Sync support. I believe that this was the last step in enabling Quick Sync support in applications like Handbrake.
I'm not happy with how long it took Intel to make this move, but I hope to see the results of it very soon. 

Vizio's New Touch Notebook and AIO PCs at CES

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 11:15 AM PST

Vizio used CES as the platform to debut the third revision to its PC lineup, which currently consists mostly of ultrabooks and all-in-ones. The first revision was the initial launch last summer, while the second revision brought touchpad updates (replacing the godawful Sentelic pads with better Synaptics units) and Windows 8. This third revision brings touchscreens and quad-core CPUs across the board to all Vizio systems, regardless of notebook or all-in-one. 

Vizio’s notebook lineup is presently structured with a Thin+Light and a Notebook; the former is available in two form factors (14” 900p and 15.6” 1080p) with Intel’s ULV processors, solid state storage, and integrated graphics, while the Notebook is 15.6” 1080p with quad-core IVB processors, Nvidia’s GT 640M LE graphics, and a 1TB hard drive paired with a 32GB caching drive. Across the board, we see IPS display panels, fully aluminum chassis, and uniform industrial design. 

The new Thin+Light Touch again come in 14” and 15” models, with either AMD A10 or Ivy Bridge i7 quads exclusively, with AMD dedicated graphics available with the AMD model. The dual-core and ULV parts are gone, and with nary a mention of the CN15 Notebook, it would appear that it has been killed off because of too much overlap with the Thin+Light Touch. Both quad-core CPUs and dedicated GPUs are available in the latter, so you’re not losing much, though that means there is no longer an Intel quad + dGPU config on offer.

As can probably be surmised from the name, the Thin+Light Touch is available exclusively with a capacitive multitouch display. This adds a bit of thickness and weight to the chassis, but the 15.6” model is still 4 pounds (from 3.89lbs before) so it’s not a huge amount. Other improvements include a much more structurally sound palmrest and interior, which results in significantly less flex in both the body as well as the keyboard. This is likely the most significant of the chassis-level upgrades, and fixes the last major flaw from the second revision notebooks. Battery capacity has been “nearly doubled” which indicates capacity should be close to 100Wh (the previous Thin+Light was 57.5Wh) with the hope of substantially improving battery life.

Gallery: Vizio Laptops

It seems like a pretty targeted generational update, with all of the pain points from the first two notebooks fixed. I think I’d still like to see some improvements in terms of ports on offer (2xUSB and no SD slot just isn’t enough), but the gorgeous IPS display and nice industrial design make up for any remaining flaws. Price points are expected to be similar to the previous Thin+Light, and availability is expected to be in the early spring timeframe. 

Vizio also had its All-in-One Touch series desktops at their suite in the Wynn, though these are not new products. Vizio updated the AIO series with touchscreen displays and Synaptics touchpads at the Windows 8 launch, and simply brought those to Las Vegas to complement their new notebook, tablet, and HDTV products on the show floor.

Razer Edge: Impressions and Thoughts

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 10:40 AM PST

I spent a fair amount of time at CES playing with the Razer Edge, mostly because it was one of the more intriguing new products on the show floor. (Shield was another one, but Nvidia sadly kept it in a glass cage.) As recapped in our announcement post, it’s a 10.1” tablet that packs an ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge CPU and an Nvidia GT 640M dGPU and comes with a gamepad accessory that turns it into the world’s largest GameBoy Advance. This, for a tablet, is a ridiculous amount of power. I’ve always been someone who appreciates insanity in mobile technology design, and the insanity of a 45W power envelope in a 10” form factor is something that I respect. 

The Edge on its own is pretty intense - 0.8” is really thick for a tablet, with a general sense of chunkiness that starkly contrasts the extremely svelte Blade. The intake and exhaust vents are put to the test in any extended gaming, and one of the units on the show floor that had been continuously running Dirt 3 for the previous few hours was....warm. It’ll be hard to tell how close to thermal equilibrium the Edge gets until we get one in our labs, but I expect it to throttle significantly at some point. 

17W Core i5 and i7 parts were chosen instead of the new 7W Y-series CPUs due to the higher clock speeds and better turbo capabilities of the U-series processors. The SSD has not yet been finalized, with different drives in all the prototypes that I played with. The display panel is in fact an IPS panel, which my announcement post was mistaken about (I was misinformed initially during the CES pre-briefing, but Razer’s engineering team corrected me). It looks pretty decent, and the capacitive touch panel was pretty responsive. The 1366x768 resolution matches up with most of the other 10.1” Windows tablets we’ve seen, and was likely chosen in lieu of 1080p so that the GT 640M LE could comfortably game at native resolution. 

There’s a 40Wh battery on board, with an extended 40Wh extended battery that fits in the gamepad and notebook docks. (It’s a 14.8V 2800 mAh battery, for an exact capacity of 41.44 Wh). 80Wh is a ton of battery for a device this small, but when stressed, it’ll go quickly. A rough estimate of the internal components gives us a basic estimate of 40W power draw (17W CPU, 22W dGPU, in most gaming situations figure a 50% load on CPU and 100% load on GPU, add about 10W for display, wireless and other miscellaneous stuff) and we’re sitting at an hour of gaming on the internal battery and 2 hours with the extended pack. Obviously, turning down settings to reduce system load, brightness, and the intensiveness of the game being played will affect these figures - Razer quotes a range of 2-4 hours of mobile gameplay. Normal battery life should be in the 3-5 hour range on the internal battery and about double that with the extended pack. 

The gamepad controller essentially works like an Xbox controller, with intuitive controls and built-in force feedback. It’s pretty cool, I feel like it’s something I would have absolutely killed for when I rode the bus to school every day back in my early undergrad days. The tablet clips into the gamepad, which essentially envelops the tablet like a case, and then you’re off. I spent my fair share of time playing Dirt on it, and it was just great. Control layout is identical to the 360, and the analogs and triggers are responsive. Razer definitely knows how to put a good 360 controller together, as evidenced by the Sabertooth, so this came as no real surprise. The setup adds a bit of heft to the tablet, to the tune of roughly 3.25 pounds, but for the amount of mobile gaming potential it brings, I’d say it’s a relatively small loss. The only downer was the $249 price point on the accessory.

The keyboard dock, on the other hand, was kind of a disappointment. It’s definitely a work in progress and isn’t expected to ship until Q3 (the gamepad and docking station will ship alongside the Edge in Q1), but it’s a clunky piece of kit with a currently not-very-good keyboard and a pretty unrefined hinge/latch design. I’ll chalk the flex down to the handbuilt state of the prototypes but the key sizing is way too small - instead of going edge to edge like most netbooks, there’s a border left around the keyboard that results in tiny keys. The keys absolutely need to be bigger for any semblance of a decent typing experience. There’s a lot of improvement that can be done here; I suggest the design team pick up a Transformer laptop dock or a late-model Eee PC and borrow liberally from that keyboard design. ASUS has absolutely perfected the 10.1” keyboard, so it’s not a bad idea. I’m not going to rake Razer over the coals on a product that clearly isn’t anywhere near finished yet though, so let’s move on.

The docking station was set up with an LCD TV and a pair of Sabertooth controllers in multiple places in the Razer CES booth, as well as their meeting suite. In all cases, the display was set to be mirrored, presumably to ensure that the games were played at the internal panel’s native 768p and not 1080p (where performance would understandably struggle). I’m still really interested in tossing an Edge + dock on my desk with a 24” display and a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse, it seems like one of the more viable 2 pound desktop replacements around. 

Pricing slots in at $999 for the base i5/4GB/64GB model, $1299 for the i7/8GB/128GB Pro model, and $1499 for the Pro plus Gamepad bundle. Doubling capacity to 256GB will run you an extra $150 for the Pro models. If you don’t want anything other than the tablet, the base model is a pretty good deal, but once you start adding accessories you might as well spring for the Pro bundle and resign yourself to paying Razer’s typically expensive peripheral costs. They don’t even try to deny that the Blade, the Edge, and all of their keyboards and mice are pricey - Razer has cultivated a premium brand ethos, and it’s done pretty well for them thus far. and HomePlug Head for Showdown

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 10:00 AM PST

It has been a while since we covered PLC (powerline communication) technology here, but we took the opportunity to check up on the latest and greatest in the area at CES. has been championed by the HomeGrid forum and the companies promoting them in early 2011 included Sigma Designs, Lantiq and Marvell. In fact, at CES 2011, we visited the Sigma Designs suite to see silicon in action for the first time. Lantiq had also demonstrated a chipset at the same show. Much water has flown under the bridge since then, and Lantiq seems to have quietly dropped off advertising their XWAY HNX solutions on their website. Sigma Designs is financially not doing too well, and Michael Weissman, one of their most vocal proponents, has moved on. These factors, however, didn't prevent them from introducing their 2nd generation chipset (PDF). There has been a change of PR hands at Sigma Designs, and we were unfortunately not invited to see it in action. However, Marvell was gracious enough to invite us to check out their system in action.

Meanwhile, HomePlug invited us to check out a compatibility test using commercially available HPAV (HomePLug AV) equipment. Qualcomm Atheros is no longer the sole vendor, with Broadcom and M-Star also pitching in with their own solutions. The Broadcom solution with the integrated AFE (Analog Front End) has been well received by the vendors. HomeGrid forum regularly organizes plugfests too, but they are of little relevance if one can't purchase the involved equipment in the stores.

It is good to see silicon in what appears to be ready-to-ship casing, but the bigger question is one of compatibility with existing equipment. Marvell indicated that service providers are lining up to supply equipment to customers (particularly in the growing Asian markets). However, with HPAV equipment already well spread throughout the world (particularly through consumer channels), it remains to be seen if service providers can take the risk of their equipment performance degrade in a MDU (multiple dwelling unit) scenario where the adjoining units have HPAV equipment. Marvell does promise good network isolation in the MDU case, and it will be interesting to see how a HPAV network and network can co-exist.

The progress with seems to be very slow. It is a pity that silicon demonstrated as early as January 2011 is yet to ship to customers two years down the line. Under conditions of anonymity, some of the networking vendors told us that they have given up on and are looking forward to HPAV2 silicon coming out towards the end of the year. The HomeGrid forum and its members have been quick to publicize any service provider / supplier agreements, and till now, we have received reports of Comtrend, Suttle, Chunghwa Telecom Labs and Motorola Mobility showing interest in As long as Sigma Designs and Marvell remain in the fray, lives to fight another day. We will be keeping close tabs to find out when the first products start shipping to the customers of the service providers who have opted for it.


Buffalo Technology Updates NAS and DAS Lineup at CES 2013

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 08:00 AM PST

Brian already updated readers on the new products from Buffalo in the networking and Thunderbolt space. There were updates on the NAS front too. The primary announcement was the launch of the LinkStation 400 series of NAS devices. The available models include single and dual bay configurations with the option of going diskless (410D / 420D / 421E). These NAS devices also incorporate support for the BuffaloLink remote service and new mobile apps. The chassis has a black matte finish. Buffalo claims support for 80 MBps+ in throughput performance. Pricing ranges from $149 for the 421E to to $719 for a 8TB 420D. Availability is slated for end of Q1 2013.

The BuffaloLink service enables secure cloud access to the NAS. It consolidates various NAS devices under one account and provides easy remote access. The service works via relay mechanism and doesn't require any port forwarding. Buffalo maintains servers in US, Europe and Asia for this purpose. The service is available free for the life of the product. Plans are also underway to expand BuffaloLink to include other products such as routers.

The DriveStation DDR is a USB 3.0 DAS (Direct Attached Storage) unit with a 1 GB DDR3 cache. This is in addition to the 32 - 64 MB cache already present in the hard disk. This DRAM allows caching of writes to the hard disk. This makes it appear to the user that the writes to the DAS are quite fast (as much as 350% rise in some cases). Of course, there is no protection against power loss. Users have to be extremely careful in ensuring that the DriveStation DDR is connected to a UPS in case critical data is being transferred to it. Pricing ranges from $119 for a 1TB version to $189 for a 3TB version. Availability is scheduled for end of Q1 2013.

Head on over to the source link for more specifics on the products launched.


Acer Shows Off 2880x1620 Panel

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 06:58 AM PST

We visited with Acer at this CES, and they didn't specifically have anything that we were told we could discuss, but after seeing another publication with pictures of Acer's pre-release 2880x1620 IPS display laptop it appears that's fair game. So, let me tell you what we know.

The panel as noted is 2880x1620, with a diagonal of around 15.6" (give or take 0.1" I'd guess). This is basically the non-Apple version of the QWXGA+ display, only in 16:9 attire rather than 16:10. The display is clearly IPS or some other wide viewing angle design, and when we walked into Acer's suite to look at the laptops and tablets, from an oblique angle it stood out as far and away the best display of the bunch. I also took some time to show the same image (wallpaper) on the 2880 panel alongside adjacent 1366x768 and 1080p panels (both TN), and the difference in color was astounding.

My best guess for when we'll see this LCD show up in an Acer laptop (and potentially in laptops from other vendors) is around late Q2 2013, when the Haswell launch occurs. That should give the OEMs plenty of time to figure out how they're going to deal with an ultra-high-DPI panel in Windows, and that's where Apple's control over both the hardware and the OS is going to be difficult to beat. Hopefully when the display shows up, manufacturers will also remember to spend the extra time and money to pre-calibrate for accurate colors, and it sounds like that's at least in the cards.

Interacting with HTPCs: Adesso, IOGear & Rapoo Demonstrate Options at CES 2013

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 06:00 AM PST

Media Center remotes are a dime a dozen, but, judging by the threads which frequently pop up on AVSForum, it appears as if full-sized keyboards are preferred by a number of users. Some of the popular options for controlling HTPCs include the diminutive Logitech diNovo Mini and the Lenovo N5902 keyboard / 'trackball' combo. The Logitech K400 with an integrated touchpad is also quite good and economical (and my personal HTPC solution for now), but it isn't really ideal as an extended alternative for a mouse. At CES, we went around the show floor looking for HTPC control solutions. In particular, we paid attention to the full size offerings. A separate mouse is out of the question in a HTPC setup, and mostly, we were bundled with either a touchpad or a trackball. The wireless communication happened in either the 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz band with a specialized USB receiver on the PC side. In some cases, the communication protocol of choice was Bluetooth. Communication devices using Bluetooth can also interface with tablets supporting Bluetooth.


Adesso had the yet-to-be-launched WKB-4150DW Bluetooth 3.0 aluminum touchpad keyboard on display. It is mainly intended to interface with tablets, but the build and features make it an ideal HTPC companion. The differentiating feature of this product is the option to use either 2.4 GHz (with a dedicated USB receiver) or Bluetooth for communication using a switch at the rear of the unit.

Older keyboard / trackpad / trackball combo models were also on display.


IOGear wasn't introducing any new keyboard / mouse combos, but they had their full lineup on display. The GKM571R appeared to be quite interesting given its minimalist design. The unit even turns off completely when the upper lid is closed. The on-lap keyboard with optical trackball and scroll-wheel, GKM581R, in addition to being an ergonomic alternative for HTPCs, is also compatible with multiple game consoles (including the PS3). The GKM681R retains the same compatibility of the GKM581R, but in a compact form factor, without the on-lap ergonomic design. The GKM561R has a laser trackball for 400, 800 or 1200 dpi settings. The unit is MCE-ready with appropriate shortcuts and also retains the game console compatibility of the previous two models.


Rapoo had a variety of Windows 8 peripherals on display. Of interest to the HTPC crowd were the wireless multimedia touchpad keyboard (E9180P) and the wireless illuminated keyboard with touchpad (E9090P). Both of these communicate in the 5 GHz spectrum, avoiding interference with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other 2.4 GHz devices. There is support for customizable touch gestures for personalizing the navigation experience. The latter features inductive wireless charging and the backlight is adjustable.

We are looking forward to having some of these models over for review towards the end of this quarter.

Seagate and LaCie Demonstrate Complementary Product Lineups at CES 2013

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 04:00 AM PST

Seagate is well on its way to complete the acquisition of LaCie, and the two companies had a joint presence at CES 2013. For the most part, the companies have complementary lineups. There are two areas of overlap, namely, the external hard drive space and the entry-level business NAS systems and network attached hard disks. In the former space, LaCie differentiates by providing different aesthetics to the case itself. In the latter space, the differentiation is almost non-existent. In particular, both the LaCie 2big NAS and the Seagate BlackArmor NAS 220 serve the same market segment and have similar performance. It will be interesting to observe how LaCie and Seagate consolidate their budget business NAS offerings.

Seagate Wireless Plus:

The most important announcement from Seagate was the Wireless Plus portable hard drive. This is a follow-up product to the Seagate GoFlex Satellite that was reviewed in late 2011. Seagate claims to have increased the battery life by better optimizing the drive up time depending on the content being streamed. The included battery is good for up to 10 hours of video playback according to Seagate.

iOS and Android apps are available to interface with the wireless drive and access the content. In our hands-on testing, we found the Android app to perform way worse than the iOS app with respect to speed and ease of use. The STCK1000100 1 TB version is available for pre-order at a price point of $200. LaCie doesn't have any similar product in their line-up.

Seagate Central:

The Seagate Central is a network attached hard disk with a very pleasing industrial design. The unit is based on a Cavium chipset (ARM-based) and has a single GbE port as well as a USB port in a recessed nook. We voiced our concerns about the placement of the USB port (too close to the network jack, and also lacking clearance against the recessed wall). In terms of products in the same category, Seagate is pitting this against the Western Digital MyBook Live and the Iomega single bay network attached hard disk. The plus points of the Seagate Central include a Samsung SmartTV app to access the content, as well as Android and iOS apps which replicate the functionality seen in the Wireless Plus's apps. The issues we pointed out with the Android app in the Wireless Plus remain in the Seagate Central too.

The product will ship in March with a MSRP of $190, $220 and $260 for the 2TB, 3TB and 4TB versions respectively. LaCie has a network attached hard disk in the LaCie CloudBox as well as the LaCie d2 Network 2, though they aim at a different segment of the network attached hard disk market.

LaCie 5big NAS Pro:

This is a 5-bay NAS based on the Intel Atom D2700 platform meant as a performance offering in the SMB NAS market. We were able to present some thoughts with a beta unit just prior to CES. Do head on to the first part of our review for more information about the 5big NAS Pro.

LaCie 5big Thunderbolt:

Unless hard disks are placed in a RAID configuration, they are unable to saturate Thunderbolt links. LaCie introduced the 5big Thunderbolt, which can deliver up to 785 MBps of throughput. There are two Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining support.

The pricing of the diskless version starts at $1200.

LaCie Blade Runner:

We have had Neil Poulton-designed external HDDs from LaCie before, and now, they have introduced the Blade Runner, designed by Philippe Starck. The design of the enclosure is hard to describe, so we will let the gallery below do the talking.

The 4 TB Blade Runner has a USB 3.0 interface. It is in a limited edition run of 10K units and has a MSRP of $300.

Seagate also briefed us under NDA on some exciting announcements scheduled for the next two quarters, along with some demonstrations. Stay tuned for more Seagate / LaCie coverage in the near future.

No comments:

Post a Comment