Intel details Clover Trail tablets: three weeks on standby, 10 hours of use, ‘full’ Windows 8 experience
You only have to look at the tidal wave of Ultrabooks to know that Intel design specifications can carry a lot of influence with manufacturers. That’s why the chip-maker’s claims about its latest reference tablet, built around a dual-core Atom Z2760 processor (aka “Clover Trail”), likely give us a broad hint of what to expect from devices like the forthcoming Lenovo Think Pad 2, ASUS Vivo Tab and Samsung ATIV Smart PC.
In particular, Intel has shown us slides claiming that the dual-core 1.8GHz chip with Imagination SGX545 graphics will offer the “best Windows 8 experience” on a tablet with “compatibility and support for traditional apps and peripherals.” And if you think that sounds like a subtle jibe at ARM-based tablets running Windows RT — a version of the OS that doesn’t even try to play nice with existing software — then you could be right. To be fair though, the point of RT is to offer superior portability, and that’s why Intel is also keen to emphasize that Clover Trail won’t impact too heavily on your freedom of movement. Tablets should come in below 1.5 pounds (680 grams — similar to the RT spec and much lighter than a Windows 8 Pro tablet) and 8.5mm in thickness, with built-in 3G, 4G and NFC. You shouldn’t need to carry a charger either, since a new power management system promises a distinctly un-laptop-like three weeks on standby and a full day of “active use” — defined as being at least 10 hours.
Windows 8 tablets won’t be like Windows 8 Pro machines, however, so don’t go expecting USB 3.0, or a guarantee of 1080p visuals (most Clover Trail devices we’ve seen are 1,366 x 768) or souped-up security — the Atom Z2760 is very much an evolved Medfield processor, with similar silicon and firmware, rather than a shrunken laptop chip.
Needless to say, what really matters is how well manufacturers adopt this design and what price points they manage to hit. Intel says that at least 20 different Clover Trail tablets are already in the works, and early price tags seem to be around the $799 mark — a hefty demand for sure, but perhaps one worth paying for those who need full-fledged Windows 8 and true portability at the same time. RT tablets, meanwhile, will have to come in much cheaper than that in order to be worthwhile.
It seems like every ARM chip manufacturer wants a piece of Windows 8 here at Computex 2012 — and for good reason. Hot on the heels of Asus’ Tegra 3-equipped Tablet 600 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4-based development tablet, Texas Instruments is showing Windows RT on its very own OMAP 4470-based system. The 1.5GHz dual-core SoC features a PowerVR SGX544 GPU and leads the competition with a dual-channel memory interface. We chatted with Bill Crean, Product Manager of the OMAP Processor Business Unit who showed us Microsoft’s latest OS running on TI’s development tablet. The demo looked snappy enough, providing some insight about what to expect from some of Toshiba’s upcoming devices. No word yet on a quad-core version. Enjoy our hands-on gallery below and take a peek after the break for our demo video.
The issue of whether or not the ARM edition of Windows 8 will support both desktop and Metro-style apps has been pretty hazy. Some have claimed it would, others that it wont and, even when they’ve issued denials of the nay-sayers, Microsoft has stopped short of saying that ARM hardware would offer a desktop mode for non-Metro apps. Well, buried in a post about improving power efficiency over at MSDN blogs was a passing reference to “both desktop and Metro style apps” running on “System on Chip (SoC) architectures.” Some, including the well regarded Mary Jo Foley, have read this to mean that desktop apps will indeed work on ARM-powered Windows tablets. Now, this seems to make sense since all of the SoC coverage has been focused on the powerful new RISC chips getting crammed in new slates and smartphones, and we’ve heard that Win8 and Windows Phone 8 will share the same kernel. But, there is one tiny wrinkle in this narrative — Intel will have its own SoC solutions soon enough thanks to Medfield, so the passage could simply be a reference to those x86 chips. You’ll find the relevant excerpt at the via link.
Busy days at Broadcom, which has already forgotten about its earlier 5G WiFi announcement and launched a barrage of new chips for set-top boxes and home networking. The line-up supports the latest MoCA 2.0 standard for greater network bandwidth over coax wiring, but even more interesting is what some of the SoCs can do for smart TV and streaming. The BCM7425 dual-tuner HD gateway SoC will support Sling Media’s “place-shifting” platform, potentially making it easier for set-top manufacturers to enable TV streaming to mobile devices. A similar deal has been inked with Myriad over its clever Alien Vue software (shown above), allowing Broadcom-equipped boxes to run apps designed for Google TV and HTML 5 without the need for extra dedicated hardware. In short, if your service provider fails to make TV content smarter or easier to access in 2012, they won’t be able to blame it on Broadcom.
Sammy’s current Cortex A9-based chips are hardly slackers — the Galaxy Note already proved that to any lingering doubters. Nevertheless, the next-gen Exynos 5250 SoC promises to double that sort of performance, by harnessing two Cortex-A15 chips clocked at 2GHz each, along with a GPU that can output resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA). It’s like big.LITTLE computing, except without the LITTLE. Samsung reckons it’ll start mass producing the 5250 for use in high-end tablets by the second quarter of next year, which should be just in time to stop NVIDIAfrom getting too cocky.
Fancy a glimpse of the future? That little psychedelic beauty on the right is ARM’s brand new Cortex-A7 processor. Its spec sheet might not seem so colorful at first glance, because it doesn’t really do things any faster than existing high-end smartphone processors. However, this UK-based manufacturer isn’t known for bumping its gums, so it pays to look a little deeper. For a start, the Cortex-A7 is built using a 28nm process that makes it five times smaller and more efficient than the current-gen Cortex-A8. It’s also cheap enough to power sub-$100 handsets, so we could be pulling GSII-like tricks on budget phones within a couple of years.
Is that it? Nope, there’s more: perhaps the most important feature of the A7 is that it can be combined with much higher-power cores like the Cortex-A15 side-by-side on the same chip. This allows a super-phone or tablet to switch between two totally different processing units depending on how much power is needed at the time. ARM calls this “Big.LITTLE” computing,” and a similar concept is already in use on NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 (aka Kal-El) SoC, which we’ll see imminently in the next Asus Transformer. However, the Tegra 3 uses five identical Cortex-A9 cores, whereas a device that mix-and-matches the A15 and A7 could potentially deliver higher highs and lower lows, giving you speed when you need it and amazing battery life when you don’t. How cute is that? Full PR after the break.
Apple’s fondness for anorexic handhelds knows no bounds, and if this alleged deal with the Asian foundry holds water, expect to see its waistband tighten further. Rumoured back before the iPad 2 launch, the house-that-Steve-built’s reportedly been eyeing Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp to produce an ‘A6′ for its upcoming iPhone refresh. While it’s easy to dismiss this purported move as a direct diss to Samsung, what’s more likely is that Cupertino’s engaging in a competitive bit of size does matter — specifically, the A5′s 45nm process. A transition to newer, lower power 28nm ARM chips would give Jonathan Ives’ employer a distinct market advantage, dwarfing even TSMC’s current 40nm in the process. While it’s all still just speculation for now, only time and an iPhone 5tear-down will tell for sure.
Thanks to one of our readers getting an early install, we’ve already dug deep into Comcast’s next generation Xfinity TV DVR, but on Thursday Brian Roberts will show it off in full (along with “new broadband speeds”) at the 2011 NCTA Cable Show . According to the press release the new guide that blends internet content with TV broadcasts will include customizations and sharing tied to Facebook along with hardware built by Pace around an Intel CPU — if anyone needs a suggestion for a service to add after Skype, we’re thinking OnLive could be a good fit. The detail we’re waiting to hear is when it will be upgrading the pitiful boxes currently available in our neck of the woods, but until then we have another tipster to thank for pointing out a cache of demo videos posted on the portal for initial testers in Georgia. The 17-minute compilation of walkthrough videos is embedded above, just try not to drool too hard over the HD formatted UI.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, Qualcomm currently enjoys a stranglehold on processing hardware inside Windows Phone handsets. Its Snapdragon chip stars in both Microsoft’s original and updated chassis spec for the platform, but its hegemony may soon be coming to an end. STMicroelectronics (the ST in ST-Ericsson) boss Carlo Bozotti is cited by Forbes as saying that Nokia will use ST-Ericsson hardware to power at least some of its Windows Phones. The dual-core U8500, a long-time Nokia favorite, is touted as the first such system-on-chip to appear, with its successors helping to populate Nokia’s expansive WP lineup in 2012. The only intel we’ve had so far on Nokia’s initial handsets for the new OS revolved around Qualcomm-based devices, so even if ST-Ericsson is indeed going to infiltrate the Windows Phone ecosystem, it doesn’t look likely to be among the very first Nokias out of the gate.
Qualcomm’s back again with yet another set of impressive numbers. For the second quarter of this fiscal year, the chip giant saw record earnings of $3.88 billion, up 46 percent from the same quarter in the previous year, and collected $999 million of sweet profit which is a 29 percent jump from last year. This is no doubt to do with the 70 percent increase in the MSM7000- and MSM8000-series Snapdragon shipments in this half of the fiscal year (compared to 2H 2010), and it should be noted that this quarter also saw the 100th Snapdragon-powered device announced by a Qualcomm client. Additionally, EVP Steve Mollenkopf reassured us that the recent events in Japan won’t have any significant impact on upcoming shipments, so the 30 Snapdragon tablets in the pipeline should arrive as scheduled. Excerpts from the financial report can be found after the break.
What might Android gaming look like on a Samsung Galaxy S II? You’re staring it in the face right now. We spotted Samsung’s Orion / Exynos 4210 at GDC 2011, showing off the power of its dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPU and Mali-400 graphics on a nice big 1080p television screen — with a completely playable asteroid obstacle course that ran at a butter-smooth 60 frames per second in stereoscopic 3D. ARM representatives told us the chip actually has even more headroom, but was actually constrained by its HDMI 1.3 port, and could push stereoscopic content at up to 70fps if their reference board had HDMI 1.4. When we asked if there were any plans to publish the TrueForce space shooter demo, ARM said it might indeed be done; the company’s thinking of releasing it on the Android Market as a benchmark of sorts.