Under ever-increasing pressure from Intel, AMD has formally announced its yearly refresh of its mobile processors.
Known as APUs (Accelerated Processing Units), the hybrid GPU and CPU chips will be branded A4 and E2 at the value end of the market, and A6, A8 and A10 for performance laptops and what AMD calls ‘ultra-thins’. These latter chips are – generally speaking – designed to go squarely against Intel’s Core i3 and i5, while A4 and E2 will take on Celeron and Pentium in budget, mainstream laptops.
All are based on the same Jaguar cores as the AMD-powered next-gen consoles as well as the new Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPU architecture.
Behind the branding are three different hardware platforms; there is an ultra-low power quad-core platform for tablets and small touchscreen Windows 8 laptops codenamed Temash.
According to figures from AMD, Temash offers 5x the performance of the comparable chip from Intel’s Atom (Clover Trail) platform. Speaking at a recent briefing attended by TechRadar, AMD’s head of mobility Kevin Lensing talked up Temash.
“There’s an opportunity to redefine the tablet a little bit, so you can redefine what people do on their slates. There’s no other part that can do what you saw on this class of device. Compared to the [comparable Atom processor] you 200 per cent improvement in terms of performance per Watt in 3D Mark 11.”
Mainstream and performance APUs
AMD’s mainstream platform carries the Kabini codename and is said to be 25 per cent more efficient over the preceding generation of silicon, offering a cited 1.5 extra hours of battery life during 720p playback. “[This chip] brings quad-core to this market and completely outclasses Pentium. In fact, it’s a clean kill over Pentium and it’s going to dominate the open level of the notebook space.”
In terms of specs, the Temash and Kabini clockspeeds range between 1.0-2.0 GHz with power consumption between 3.9 and 25W. The highest power Temash chip is 9W.
Further up the chain, the performance segment is known as Richland and, according to AMD, boasts productivity gains around 12 per cent and 40 per cent better graphics performance over the previous generations. “You want a high powered notebook to feel snappy,” said Lansing. “And of course we’re going to give you the best graphics, the best compute.”
AMD believes it can still has a lot to offer in value and performance systems alike, but it also sees a lot of opportunity in tablets and convertibles as Windows 8 gradually takes bigger slice of the market.
Lensing laid down a challenge for Intel’s upcoming Bay Trail Atom chips – “we’ve got plenty of headroom in Temash” also hinting he expects favourable comparisons with Haswell (Intel’s next-gen Core processors) with the higher-end chips.
Focused on tablets and small notebooks
Lensing also claimed AMD was “uniquely positioned” to provide users with better tablet experiences because of its expertise in graphics. “We’ve got to make great devices. This is where our silicon is focused, on tablets and performance tablets and it’s small form factor touch notebooks. There are lots of guys making silicon for smartphones and trying to pull it up in terms of performance, there are lots of guys making silicon for old client [PC] devices and trying to push it down into this space.
“We’re focusing our dart right in that area, in the convergence space. We have optimised for the best performance per watt in the four to 14 watt category. You have to optimise for that space to win – you can’t optimise for a desktop or notebook and win in this space. We’re uniquely positioned here.”
“The world has taught us that gaming is the number one revenue stream on iOS and that the world is sensitised to graphics on these devices. And of course graphics is where we shine. So you take the graphics expectation on these devices and the graphics [we do] on Windows and bring those two worlds together. Devices that enable you to get things done but also devices that have a great display and form factor. So you’re not switching between three or four devices every day, it’s [about] one device.”
AMD also announced a technology known as DockPort. Similar to Intel’s Thunderbolt in concept (in fact, Lansing said it was almost DisplayPort+), it enables USB, power and display over a single connection.
Another technology for tablets, called TurboDock, manages power when undocked but ratchets up performance when you dock the tablet. “We’re very focused on giving you a full notebook experience in these devices. TurboDock keeps it nice and cool when it’s in your hand, but when in a dock it ratchets up to the full notebook experience.”
We’ll have a review of AMD’s new Kabini mainstream laptop platform very soon on TechRadar.
Posted on 22 January 2013.
When Surface General Manager Panos Panay tweeted recently that he was jetting off to the factory to see Surface Pro units shipping “in the coming weeks” it didn’t add much to the original promise that Surface Pro would ship around 90 days after the Windows RT version.
But now Microsoft has confirmed the early February date in addition to pricing – $899 for the 64GB version and $999 for the 128GB model.
Actual international pricing is yet to be announced, but those directly convert to £567 / AU$852 for the 64GB model and £629 / AU$945 for the 128GB edition.
The specs are the same as the Surface Pro we tried out at CES, with what Microsoft is calling a “third generation Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD Graphics 400″; until we see an actual unit, we can’t say whether Surface Pro will have the new low-power Core CPU Intel announced at CES or not.
The external graphics is more clearly identified as an HD Mini DisplayPort now; you’ll need an adapter but it lets you drive VGA screens and still get an HD image on an external HD screen. And Surface for Windows 8 Pro also comes with a version of the neat Surface RT power adapter that includes a 5W USB port for charging your phone (or even another tablet).
Both versions of Surface Pro include the active Surface pen we tried out at CES and they work with the same Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboards as Surface RT.
As with Surface RT, the keyboard isn’t included in the price though; in fact Microsoft is also introducing a $599 version of the 64GB Surface RT without the keyboard, so you can pick the keyboard colour or design you want.
That could be one of three $129.99 limited edition Touch Cover designs in red, magenta or cyan with a laser-etched design on the back.
There’s also a special $69.95 “Surface Edition” of the Wedge Touch Mouse which works like a large external touchpad for Windows 8 gestures, as well as a nicely portable mouse. The special edition part is the casing, which matches the VaporMag coating on Surface RT and Surface Pro.
If it’s Surface RT you’re after, you’ll soon be able to buy it in twice as many countries; the Windows RT tablet will be on sale in 13 more European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland).
We asked Microsoft when Surface Pro will be available to buy in the UK.
“We are taking a phased approach to the rollout of Surface Windows 8 Pro to satisfy retailer and customer demand,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “You can expect expansion of Surface Windows 8 Pro in the coming months. We’re not confirming where it will expand to right now or the exact dates, however.”
Hopefully that will avoid the initial problems Microsoft had in the UK shipping Surface RT.
Posted on 09 January 2013.
Dell is hitting the reset button on its low-end laptops as it redesigns its Inspiron R line.
Engadgets reports that three budget laptops will be getting the makeover: the 14-inch (14R), 15-inch (15R) and 17-inch (17R) models. Each will get a little thinner and lighter as well as receive some upgraded components.
One of the biggest selling points is the optional touchscreen each model could get. However, a touchscreen will add a little heft to the laptops and their price tags.
Dell made the announcement during the CES hoopla. However, not all the details came to light during the show, like exactly when the line will be upgraded.
The weigh in
Both the 14R and 15R versions will weigh less than 5 pounds after the redesign and will be only an inch thick. The 17R will come in at 6 pounds and stand about an inch and a half thick.
The specs on these machines can vary pretty wildly with a lot of optional upgrades. There’s a big gap between the base models and the fully tricked out laptops.
Each machine starts out with a Celeron processor, but can upgraded to a Core i3, i5 or i7 CPU.
Consumers can get up to 8GB of RAM and 1TB of internal storage. But that huge amount of storage will have to be upgraded from the 320GB that come standard.
As for the graphics card, the 14R gets a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT640M and its bigger brothers each get a 2GB AMD Radeon HD 8790M.
Those graphics cards will show up on a 1,366 x 768 resolution screen on the 14- and 15-inch versions. The 17R comes standard with a 1,600 x 900 screen. Both the 15R and the 17R have 1080p display options as well.
The price could be right
There wasn’t a ton of pricing info, but the 15R will start around US$430 and the 17R will begin at US$500. But most people will likely want to upgrade the base units’ modest features, kicking up that price a little more.
And if you want the fancy touchscreen, it will raise the starting price of the 14R and 15R to about US$650. But even at that price, it will be one of the cheapest touchscreen laptops available.
Posted on 07 January 2013.
Roll up, roll up – the next generation of mobile processors is here with the Nvidia Tegra 4 blowing its predecessors out of the graphics processing, power-effiency water.
Rocking a frankly mind-boggling 72 custom GPU cores (that’s six times the horse power of the Tegra 3), Nvidia is boasting of record setting performance and battery life from the Tegra 4.
It reckons you can up web browsing speeds by 2.6 times, enjoy better app performance and watch up to 15 hours of HD video playback on phones with the new processor.
The Tegra 4 manages this by running a low-power setting during standard use, and PRISM 2 Display tech which reduces backlighting while busting out that high-def imagery (it can even support 4K Ultra High Def graphics).
It puts the quad-core Cortex-A15 to good use, allowing for LTE connectivity (optional chipset for global 4G), HDR photography as standard and superior visuals across the mobile board.
No word when we’ll see the first Tegra 4 phones and tablets coming our way yet, but Nivdia itself has already revealed an Android-powered Tegra 4-toting game player dubbed Project Shield – when we can get our mitts on it is another story – we’ll keep you posted.
We certainly hope to lay eyes if not hands on Project Shield at CES 2013, so stay tuned.
Posted on 31 December 2012.
I’ve been the reviews editor on TechRadar for a few years now but I don’t think I can remember a year quite as exciting as 2012. I think it’s been one of the greatest years in consumer tech we’ve ever seen. It may even be the greatest.
That might sound like hyperbole but think about it for a second there, internet, and you’ll see that it’s true – for the consumer tech enthusiast, 2012 has been a solid stream of uninterrupted success.
The smartphone market is more exciting and innovative today than it has ever been in its history. There are excellent products at all price ranges instead of just right at the very top. We’ve got Ultra HD, Smart and 3D TVs breaking through televisual barriers we didn’t even know existed a few years ago.
Ultrabooks and Macbooks are pushing mobile computing into a new age of super-slim and super-awesome.
We’ve finally got access to decent Android tablets for well under £200/$200. Cameras are now internet connected and run Android apps for quick-sharing of your snaps. Windows 8 is ushering in a new age of touchscreen computers of all shapes and sizes.
And while many of the biggest tech companies on the planet are struggling financially, as far as the products go we’re in the richest age of technological life-enhancement since 1950s America.
So to celebrate that, here’s a list of all the best gear we’ve tested this year. All best in class products in all our major channels – ladies and gents, we give you: the class of 2012.
Samsung Galaxy S3
Best in class: Smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the best smartphone on the planet. There are those that will take issue with that statement and point feverishly at an iPhone 5 or hoist an HTC One X up the flagpole of futility, but the S3 has topped our list of best phones for a while now and it’s going to take something very special to topple it. It’s got every kind of feature we could ask for and more, and raises the bar in terms of what consumers should be expecting from battery life, processor speed and media management. It’s simply the best.
Read: Samsung Galaxy S3 review
Orange San Diego
Best in class: Budget phone
The Orange San Diego has got Intel inside. Dong! Dong ding dong ding! It’s not the biggest, fastest or cheapest phone out there, but it is a well-featured performer at an excellent price point. Intel is a name you’re going to see more and more in the world of mobile, with 2013 and 2014 very important years on its roadmap. But despite this being the first Intel phone to go on sale in Europe, it’s still excellent. So if you’re looking at the more pricey Nokia Lumia 800, Sony Xperia P or even HTC One S then it is worth checking out the San Diego and possibly sparing yourself some cash.
Read: Orange San Diego review
Apple iPad mini
Best in class: Tablet
You didn’t see this one coming, did you? OK, if you’ve read Gareth’s iPad mini review you probably did see it coming. And if you’re half asleep and not with us: we’ve named an iPad as the best tablet, but it’s not the iPad 4, it’s the smaller, less powerful, non-Retina iPad mini. Yeah. Wahh? Well it’s because we reckon the iPad mini really does add an extra dimension to the iOS world and the slim size and lightness are much bigger benefits than many would give them credit for. It offers better value for money, sits more pleasantly in the hand and can handle all the tasks you want many times better than you’d expect. It’s a more versatile product and offers a better compromise between performance, price and portability than any iPad to date.
Read: iPad mini review
Google Nexus 7
Best in class: Budget tablet
The affordable seven-incher really came of age in 2012, and alongside the iPad mini above, Google’s Nexus 7 leads the line. It’s major competitors are Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Nook HD as similarly priced budget Android options. But the Nexus 7 rules the roost. It offers lovely stock Android Jelly Bean, a decent display and responsive control. And what’s more, you’re not trapped inside a shop window like you are with the Amazon/B&N options. If you’re after a 7-inch Android tablet, there really is only one option and it’s the Google Nexus 7.
Read: Google Nexus 7 review
Dell XPS 13
Best in class: Ultrabook
We fancy the Dell XPS 13. It’s very good looking indeed and there is no better Ultrabook out there right now, and it’s not cheap. But if you’re looking for a bitch-ass Windows 8 laptop to kick lumps out of a MacBook Pro, this badboy’s your huckleberry. It packs Core i5/i7 CPU, 4GB memory, 256GB SSD. And despite the 13-inch display, the footprint of this thing is actually similar to an 11-inch laptop so we reckon you’ll be surprised at how compact the chassis actually is. Of course, it’s not touchscreen, which might be cause for concern. 2013 is going to be a year absolutely jam packed full of touchscreen Windows 8 devices, so there’s some food for thought if you’re wondering whether now is the time to upgrade.
Read: Dell XPS 13 review
HP Pavilion G6
Best in class: Mainstream laptop
As budget laptops go, there are plenty of products we could pick as a favourite. But we’ve gone for the HP G6 for its all-round performance and generous price. You get a decent CPU and dedicated AMD graphics power which means it’ll see you through most computing tasks with competence. Unlike Intel based laptops, the on-board graphics combine with the dedicated card to create a dual graphics setup, and this really helps in Windows, when photo editing, and on the web. The only drawback here is in build quality. It may be a meaty machine on the inside, but on the outside it’s a bit of an ugly duckling.
Read: HP Pavilion G6 review
Fuji FinePix X10
Best in class: Compact camera
The Fuji X10 is our favourite compact camera of the year and absolutely deserves the honour of being named Best in Class. Just as it did with the FinePix X100, Fuji managed to make a camera in the X10 that not only looks the part, but delivers on image quality and handling too. The well-constructed metal body is robust, easy to use and looks very smart. Image quality is as good as any high-end compact camera can deliver at the moment, especially if the EXR modes are used to their strengths, though the zoom is limited and battery life is a little short if we’re being picky. It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth every penny.
Read: Fuji X10 review
Best in class: DSLR
For those interested in stepping up to a full-frame camera, the D800 represents a cracking investment. You get pretty much all of the best features of the Nikon D4 in a more compact and lighter body, with a much higher pixel count for just shy of half of the price. You’ll find that the D800 isn’t just a triumph of numbers and that the 35.3MP sensor actually delivers on its promise – capturing bags of detail. The surprise bonus is that noise is very well controlled and the dynamic range is very impressive indeed.
Read: Nikon D800 review
Panasonic Lumix G5
Best in class: Compact System Camera
We had to include a CSC in our list, and featuring a newly designed 16 million pixel digital sensor and the latest Venus Engine VII processor, Panasonic’s G5 delivers images which are cleaner and freer of noise than we’ve seen before on a G series camera. Purchasing the camera as a twin lens kit, with the new ultra-portable 45-150mm lens would arguably make this the ultimate holiday combination.
Read: Panasonic G5 review
Sony Bravia HX853
Best in class: 3D TV
There really isn’t any overstating the potential importance of the KDL-46HX853 to Sony right now. For in one single leap its stunning picture performance takes the struggling Japanese giant from near-zero to all-conquering hero – an achievement made all the more remarkable when you consider that this outstanding TV is being delivered at a more aggressive price than the usually ultra-competitive Korean brands are offering on their range equivalents. To sum all this up, with the KDL-46HX853 Sony isn’t just back, it’s back with a vengeance. It’s the best TV of the year.
Read: Sony KDL-46HX853 review
iPod touch 5th Generation
Best in class: Portable media player
It’s been a couple of years since we saw a new iPod touch and it was worth the wait. The new iPod touch 5th Generation has the same 4-inch 16:9 Retina Display as the iPhone 5 so as you’d imagine it’s stunning and delicious. With its bigger display and new iSight camera it’s certainly the best iPod touch ever. There’s simply nothing else out there that comes close to the iPod touch. Nothing.
TomTom Start 60
Best in class: Sat nav
The TomTom Start 60 Europe is easily one of the best sat navs we’ve reviewed. The large screen, clear navigation and accuracy of the maps makes it a joy to use. The voice navigation, complete with spoken street names, is calm and clear, and it’s easy to switch to a different voice if you’re not happy. It’s also available for a decent price. You just need to work out if you need any LIVE features like traffic and speed cameras – those things aren’t available here.
Read: TomTom Start 60 review
AMD Radeon HD 7870
Best in class: Graphics card
It’s not the most powerful graphics card out there by any means. But what the HD 7870 does do is offer the perfect balance of power between sheer grunt and price. When we first reviewed it, we gave it 4/5 because it was a little expensive. Six months later though, the price has come down £100 and at around £150 it offers dazzling value for money. It’ll play any top PC game on high settings at any resolution, and costs a fraction of the amount you’d pay for some of the other cards out there. For gamers on a midrange budget, this is the card to pick up this Christmas.
Best in class: Blu-ray player
Stuffed with techy toys integrated into the Wi-Fi-powered Viera Connect service, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 handles a plethora of digital files and indulges – albeit in a somewhat muddy manner – in DLNA home networking. A super-slim Blu-ray player that needs only Wi-Fi to perform a host of tricks, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 boasts excellent 2D and 3D Blu-ray coupled with reference-level DVD upscaling. This makes for a deck that has few flaws. Whether or not the inclusion of a trackpad-style remote control makes this slightly slimmer deck a worthy upgrade from its little brother, the DMP-BDT220, is doubtful. But as a standalone Blu-ray proposition, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is a top-notch all-rounder that oozes class.
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