Sunday, March 10, 2013

AnandTech Article Channel

AnandTech Article Channel

Welcome to AnandTech's 2013 Redesign

Posted: 09 Mar 2013 09:16 AM PST

In 2010 we went through the single largest redesign in AnandTech history. We modernized the site, finally moved to a tag based architecture and made a number of other tweaks. The web moves a lot quicker than it did even just 3 years ago, so last year we started working on another significant redesign. Today marks the debut of that design.

Going into the redesign we wanted to accomplish three major goals. First, we wanted to have a design that put our smartphone and tablet coverage on equal footing with our traditional PC roots. The redesign consolidates our coverage areas into four major categories: PC Components, Smartphones & Tablets, Desktops & Notebooks and finally Enterprise. The super categories are largely self explanatory and you can drill down into each one of them for more specific navigation.

It's important that our site design reflects our internal focuses. We are as committed as ever to our PC component coverage, but we also devote an equal amount of time to what we're doing in the new mobile space. From my perspective, whether it's a smartphone or a server, we're still talking about some form of computer - just in a different case.

Our second major goal with the redesign was to more prominently feature Pipeline, our short form content section. We launched Pipeline in late 2011 as a way of dealing with content that either didn't demand our full review treatment or that we didn't have time to dedicate deep analysis to. Since then Pipeline has become a very important part of the site, and we wanted to elevate its position on the front page as a result. Pipeline stories on the right are ordered from newest to oldest, with even older pipeline stories appearing under the 2x2 grid of featured articles.

Finally, we wanted a design that would be more accessible and speak to the broader nature of our audience. While you all know why you come to AnandTech, it's very important to our continued success and ability to remain independent that the site accurately reflects the diverse audience. Whether you're coming to us for motherboard reviews, analysis of the latest microprocessor architectures or to figure out which smartphone or tablet to buy, you're likely a person relied on by dozens of others for recommendations.  We remain an independent website, which comes with its own challenges when it comes to proving our worth to the agencies and marketing organizations that help keep us operational. Looking the part is just as important as having the content to back it up.

We made sure not to take away any features with the redesign. We still include our well used Print View on all articles, but now allow you to use it both for single page reading as well as for actual printing. The previous Print View didn't have all of the styling of our article pages since it was purely optimized for printing, now we have both modes.

Other features have been enhanced as well. The View All Comments button now actually lets you view all comments on a single page, rather than just showing you 50 comments per page. You can also now permalink to individual comments. I'm always humbled by just how awesome your comments are, now we can finally link directly to individual ones. 

We now support larger images inline (we will be adding site-wide retina/hi-DPI support soon!) and our graph style has been updated as well, which you'll start seeing us take advantage of with all new content going forward. The review body text is also larger and hopefully easier to read, which should help when we post some of our ultra long form content. 

The Podcast now has a permanent link at the top of the page as well - thanks to all you who have been asking for that.

The Twitter feed on the front page now includes tweets from a number of staff members including Brian, Ganesh, Jarred and myself. We've also made it easier to follow us on Twitter and Facebook with direct links in our header (hint: it helps us tremendously if you do). Our most recommended content on Facebook is also nicely streamed in to the right of the site as well.

There are more functional changes that we'll be introducing throughout the new year. We just had to get the redesign out of the way first so we could start building on it.

I hope you all enjoy the site redesign. I know big changes aren't always easy to get used to, and as always you have my commitment to fix/improve anything that truly needs it. I'd love to hear your feedback on the design in the comments below.

I'd like to close with a thanks to all of you for continuing to read and support the site. I've always said that AnandTech is your site and I do firmly believe that. We are here to serve you and you are what make this site possible. Thank you for reading, and thanks for making the past 16 years possible. If you are a relative newcomer, please be sure to check out our About page that helps explain the philosophies that drive us.

AMD Announces FirePro R5000; PCoIP For Remote Desktops

Posted: 25 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

Though most readers aren’t acutely aware of it, AMD’s FirePro lineup of graphics cards encompasses a number of more specialized fields. On top of their “mainline” cards like the FirePro W series for workstation graphics and compute, AMD also has several other series, including the server graphics/compute/VDI focused S series and the display wall focused W series. Today another FirePro series will be getting a product refresh, the remote desktop (PCoIP) R series, with the launch of the FirePro R5000.

Long-time readers will recall that AMD already has a foot in the remote desktop market with the S series, but the S series is primarily geared towards virtualized desktops (VDI). The R series in that respect is a rather specialized piece of hardware from AMD that’s not like anything else in their current (Southern Islands based) product lineup. Unlike the S series, the R series is specifically designed for 1:1 (unvirtualized and unshared) remote desktops through PCoIP technology, and it has additional 3rd party hardware to accomplish this.

The hardware in question is a processor from Teradici, principle owners of the PCoIP technology. The PCoIP environment is a so-called “zero client” environment, that rather than being based on lightweight workstations running OSes like Windows embedded, uses a modern approximation to the “dumb terminal” of the olden days. PCoIP zero clients in this regard do almost nothing on their own, instead providing a remote desktop experience provided over a UDP/IP network and hosted entirely on a remote server.

Accomplishing this is Teradici’s processors. These provide the necessary hardware to handle encoding the remote desktop video stream along with abstracting PCoIP from the video card, while similar processors on the client side handle the decoding in the case of fully realized zero-desktop devices.

AMD fits this by being a provider of the necessary server hardware, as one of the principle methods of driving PCoIP on the server-side is to use graphics cards equipped with host processors and Ethernet ports. The R5000 in turn is one such implementation, pairing up an AMD Pitcairn GPU with a TERA2240 host processor.

The FirePro R5000 will be replacing AMD’s previous PCoIP product, the FirePro RG220 family, a pair of video cards introduces a few years back based on AMD’s RV711 processors. In this respect the R5000 is not only significantly more powerful than the multiple-generation old RG220 series, but it’s also aimed far higher up the performance ladder; in this case RV711 was a low-end GPU in AMD’s RV700 series family, while Pitcairn is the middle child in the Southern Islands family.

Unfortunately AMD doesn’t provide any hard specifications on the R5000’s graphics performance, but given the similar configuration found on the W5000, it’s not unreasonable to guess that performance should be around W5000’s (1.28TFLOPS). Interestingly, if this assumption is correct, then it’s would mean that R5000’s 150W TDP is almost evenly split between the Pitcairn GPU and the TERA host processor. Update: Teradici has told us the TERA2240 is spec'd for 13W, so it's not clear what accounts for the rest of the power difference between the R5000 and W5000.

LG Optimus G Pro Hands On & Performance Preview, Snapdragon 600 Tested at MWC 2013

Posted: 24 Feb 2013 11:42 PM PST

We began our day at Mobile World Congress with a visit to LG's booth, where it offered hands on with its 1H 2013 lineup of smartphones. Among them is the new 5.5" Optimus G Pro, the larger brother of last year's Optimus G - the basis for the Nexus 4.

The Pro adds a 5.5" 1080p display, driven by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 SoC (quad-core Krait 300 running at 1.7GHz paired with an Adreno 320 GPU. Internally there's 2GB of LPDDR2 memory, and storage expansion is provided via a microSD card slot beneath the battery cover. The 3400mAh battery is removable.

The Optimus G Pro is mostly made out of plastic but the device felt good in hand. It's pretty impressive what can be done with plastic these days although it seems like metal and/or glass are necessary for the ultra high end device feel. When it comes to ensuring that a device feels rugged, there's no real replacement for plastic however.

The Pro features an IR emitter as well as an extendable DMB antenna, the latter should obviously disappear if and when this thing hits the US market.

The display itself looked wonderful at the show. The 1080p panel is very sharp, bright and contrasty. Subjectively, colors looked good at the show but we'll have to run it through our suite to get a feel for just how accurate the colors are.

The demo units at the show were running Android 4.1.2. They also featured LG's own software customizations, including the ability to view multiple apps on the screen at the same time (QSlide) and set their transparency so you can do things like have a video or calendar visible while reading a web page. The QSlide feature is clearly geared towards multitasking, similar to what Samsung has done on its Galaxy Note line. You launch QSlide enabled apps via the LG customized notifications shade, and then control their transparency using a slider at the top of each QSlide app. While semi-transparent, the app will ignore touch input allowing you to continue to interact with the app behind it. In opaque mode however you can interact with the foreground QSlide app. Although it is possible to open multiple QSlide apps at the same time, you quickly run out of screen real estate. 

Another neat feature of LG's latest Android build is Dual Recording, which is a camera customization that allows you to simultaneously record from both the front and rear facing cameras. The 13MP primary camera is limited to 720p recording in this mode.

The Optimus G Pro felt extremely quick and responsive during our hands on time at the show. Scrolling and UI performance was all very smooth. Given that we haven't had much experience with Snapdragon 600 and its Krait 300 CPU cores I ran a few tests here at the show to get a feel for what is in store from Qualcomm's performance mainstream quad-core SoC for 2013:

Mozilla Kraken Benchmark

Using Chrome, Kraken showed some great performance on the Optimus G Pro. While not quite as fast as Intel's Atom Z2460, it's a big step forward compared to the APQ8064 (Krait 200) based Nexus 4. If this data is representative of the sort of improvement we can expect from Snapdragon 600, I'll be happy.

On the graphics side, Adreno 320 is still powering things on the G Pro, although we don't know what clocks the platform at the show was using:

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt HD

GLBenchmark 2.5 - Egypt HD (Offscreen 1080p)

Since the Optimus G Pro uses a full HD/1080p display, the on and off-screen results are very similar. Frame rates are low enough in Egypt HD that the lack of vsync in the offscreen tests doesn't have a real impact on performance. Although respectable, I suspect that the 26 fps here is a bit lower than we'd see on production hardware since the 320 should be clocked higher in Snapdragon 600 than in the S4 Pro from last year. 

Samsung Announces SAFE with KNOX - Security Container for Enterprise BYOD

Posted: 24 Feb 2013 11:00 PM PST

I talked with Anand about his impressions of the Note 8 after reading his hands on piece, and one thing that struck me was a mention of how Samsung was going to aggressively go after the enterprise market in the USA for a few reasons. First, a lot of its marketing has focused on SAFE (SAmsung For Enterprise) which is a combination of improved EAS (Exchange ActiveSync) policies, and improved MDM (Mobile Device Management) integration with more toggles and sliders for IT Admins in enterprise roles. Second, because once you win the enterprise market you're guaranteed some market loyalty and a long tail of sales thanks to the slower pace of enterprise acquisition and certification. I didn't really appreciate the full meaning of just how much Samsung was going after the enterprise business until I learned about their plans for another product geared at enterprise policy enforcement, called KNOX, and Samsung truly wants to be the one who KNOX.

KNOX builds on SAFE by basically adding two parts - a fully secure boot chain, and a new container based sandbox for Android. The idea is for Samsung to both become desirable for enterprise businesses, and enable even greater BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) functionality by shipping a single SKU that can easily be attached to an enterprise login and managed. At the same time, the container model means that consumers bringing their devices to a particular business and then leaving won't lose anything other than the container data if they leave and have their devices wiped remotely. The result is a win-win in theory for IT Admins who want more control over the devices being brought into the fray, and employees who don't want to lose personal data in the case of a device wipe, or have privacy concerns from the control IT Admins have over the platform.  

First is that secure platform story, which begins with secure boot chain which only boots signed code, then SE Android (Security Enhanced Linux for Android), and TrustZone Integrity Monitoring (TIMA). Samsung will have more information about the hardware and software level for KNOX available in a whitepaper later this week. There are some obvious interesting implications to say the least for what this will mean for enthusiast users who want to run their own arbitrary third party ROMs on devices, especially since the secure boot chain will ship enabled in markets targeted for KNOX and on "iconic devices" at the high end to make them BYOD-capable. 

The second part is the secure, enterprise-controlled container, which exposes itself as an application icon or shortcut in Android, and takes you into another instance of Android which is completely sandboxed or containered from the user's side. Admins then get complete control over the container, including what apps exist inside, all while maintaining the same Android UI and platform. Email, browser, contacts, calendars, and so on exist inside the container sanitized from the personal outside Android. 

KNOX will include certification for FIPS 140-2 (DAR, DIT), Government Root of Trust, US DOD CAC/PIV, and US DOD Mobile OS SRG on applicable devices. In addition KNOX includes more IT policies for MDM APIs, and ActiveDirectory based management for enterprises who don't have an MDM solution or don't want to use Exchange.

The rest of the story is really one of timing and focus. Samsung says it is targeting KNOX heavily at the US market, and obviously compliance with so many federal and government security standards makes that much obvious. Timing wise, KNOX will ship on "iconic devices" in Q2 2013. 

Audience Announces eS325 Advanced Voice Processor - es515 Sans Codec

Posted: 24 Feb 2013 10:00 PM PST

Earlier this year Audience announced the eS515, a combination new-generation voice processor and audio codec. The eS515 brought three-microphone noise suppression along with improved noise suppression for reverb, more wideband audio modes, improved ASR (assisted speech recognition) and multimedia features for recording video or interviews. Today Audience is announcing another member of that family, the eS325, which is essentially an eS515 without the audio codec features, essentially the same voice processor IP block but standalone and discrete for OEMs who choose to implement it.

The eS325 is built on a 40nm process, just like the eS515. Previous generations were built on a 65nm process, and there's a resulting reduction in power consumption from the process change of anywhere between 40 to 50 percent. This is a big gain since some of the OEM feedback I've heard is that the tradeoff between Audience and other solutions is that although noise suppresion might be better, there's a power penalty that shows up in call times. The eS325 has a 3x3mm package, and also includes SLIMbus, which is important on Fusion 3 platform devices and forward from Qualcomm (APQ8064+MDM9x15) since there's no longer any I2S on that platform, something which has resulted in a lot of industry change toward SLIMbus.  

I'm told we will see a number of phones with eS325 this year from the usual suspects (likely Samsung, who has been a regular customer) which will bring the full three-microphone noise suppression feature to bear. In addition there are some new details about just how much performance improves over the previous generation using the three-microphone method, which is anywhere between 4-7 dB. 



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