Thursday, March 13, 2008

Intel to Launch 160GB Solid-State Drives for Notebooks

Although Intel has already formally entered the sold-state hard disk drives market, they do not have high-capacity flash-HDDs for notebooks and desktops just yet. Intel is currently offering only single-chip SSDs for pocket devices with 2GB and 4GB storage capacity. However, this situation should change very soon. Intel confirmed their intention to unveil a new line of solid-state drives for laptop and notebook PCs that will feature a storage capacity up to 160GB.

During Q2 2008 the company will launch 1.8-in. and 2.5-in. solid-state drives offering between 80GB and 160GB diskless storage. Moreover, Troy Winslow, marketing manager for the NAND Products Group at Intel, mentioned in his interview to Cnet web-site that SSD drives will boast very attractive features compared to their competitors in the field.

Nothing has been revealed yet on the performance of the new Intel SSD drives, however during a recent Investor Meeting Mooly Eden, Vice President and General Manager Mobile Platforms Group pointed out that the promising solid-state solutions will be 10-50 times faster than the mechanical Seagate Momentus 7200.2 HDD with SATA-300 interface.

More details about these intriguing solutions should be available in April at the next Intel Developer Forum, when Intel SSD solutions may also be officially launched.

An aggressive move into the laptop and PC notebook flash disk drive business would catapult Intel into direct competition with hard drive manufacturers such as Toshiba and Samsung that are trying to spark demand before their SATA-based offerings are released in the coming months. Samsung said it will ship a 2.5-in. 128 solid-state drive in Q2 while Toshiba has announced plans to produce solid-state drives ranging in capacity from 32GB to 128GB for notebook PCs by May.

Nevertheless, SSD will hardly become a widely spread storage solution in the next year or two. The thing is that the high price tag for the technology may keep sales in check for a few years despite their indisputable advantages such as high performance and low power consumption.

AMD’s Central Processing Units to Get More Affordable, New Models Imminent

Advanced Micro Devices plans to reduce pricing of its microprocessors in early April, according to unofficial information. The move will be accompanied with the introduction of higher performance central processing units (CPUs), something predicted a long time ago.

Back in early February a source familiar with the plans of AMD revealed that AMD Phenom processor models 9550 (2.20GHz), 9650 (2.30GHz) and 9750 (2.40GHz) based on the new stepping will be released commercially in April. The new microprocessors are based on the new B3 core stepping and should generally have a little higher performance due to the lack of the well-known TLB erratum compared to AMD Phenom models 9500 and 9600 available now.

On the 7th of April the world’s second largest maker of x86 microprocessors plans to cut the pricing on existing products: AMD Phenom 9500, 9600 and 9600 Black Edition, as well as on AMD Athlon 64 X2 models 4400+, 4600+, 4800+, 5000+, 5000+ Black Edition, 5200+, 5400+, 5600+, 6000+ and 6400+, reports web-site citing sources among resellers of AMD products. Additionally, AMD will reduce the cost of its low-power Athlon 64 and low-cost AMD Sempron central processing units.

The introduction of new CPU models as well as another price-cut will help AMD to better compete against its main rival Intel Corp., who has been holding microprocessor performance crown for about 1.5 years now.

Officials from Advanced Micro Devices did not comment on the news-story.

Intel Plans to Speed Up Introduction of Nehalem Microprocessors – Slides

Intel Corp., the world’s largest maker of microprocessors, may bring the introduction of its microprocessors based on the next-generation micro-architecture code-named Nehalem forward. The decision will add pressure on Advanced Micro Devices in the market of dual-processor servers.

According to diagrams that represent slides from Intel Corp.’s transition guidance documents published by VR-Zone web-site, the fist Intel’s code-named Bloomfield central processing units (CPUs) for 2-way servers are set to be shipped in Q3 2008. The initial quantities will be very low, however, already in Q4 the share of Nehalem micro-architecture-based 2P server chips will increase to about 8%.

Intel’s Nehalem processors are based on the brand new micro-architecture that is not only more efficient and advanced compared to Intel Core 2, it is also feature a new multi-threading technology, which will allow to virtually double the amount of cores available. But besides integrated memory controller and a new type of processor bus called Intel Quick Path Interconnect (QPI), the Nehalem promises very high customizability. For example, Intel can add a built-in graphics core into Nehalem central processing units and alter the number of memory controller channels besides changing the number of operating processing engines.

The first version of the Nehalem processor family will be the code-named Bloomfield chip aimed at extreme desktops/workstations, high-end desktops and servers as well as on some other quite expensive systems. The CPU will have built-in triple-channel memory controller, will use Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) bus to connect to other chips within the system and will utilize LGA1366 form-factor. In general, Bloomfield-based PC platforms will resemble traditional AMD64 system architecture with CPU, North Bridge and I/O controller.

The launch of the new chips by Intel will not only strengthen the company’s positions on the market, but will also steal attention from the launch of 45nm microprocessors by Advanced Micro Devices that are also expected to arrive sometime in Q3 2008. But it is definitely not clear whether the ramp of Nehalem processors is planned to be quick among all product lines, or it will take a lot of time before substantial part of Intel’s CPUs will utilize the new micro-architecture.
Intel did not comment on the news-story.

Asustek Unveils High-Definition Display with Web-Conferencing Capabilities

Large liquid crystal displays are often used by professionals who hardly require any communication capabilities out of their displays, but as huge panels lose price, even 24” monitors may pose interest to those requiring features like integrated webcam and audio outputs.

Specifically for these customers Asustek Computer – which is mostly known for its mainboards, but not displays – unveiled its MK241H monitor.

Asus MK241H monitor features TN panel with 1920x1200 native resolution that offers 3000:1 contrast ratio (with Asus smart contrast ratio enabled), 450 cd/m2 brightness, 2ms (grey-to-grey) refresh rate as well as 170° wide horizontal viewing angle and 160° vertical viewing angle.

The new monitor can be connected to a PC or other electronics using single-link/dual-link DVI-D cable or HDMI link. The monitor comes with built-in 1.3MP webcam (which should probably be connected to a PC using USB port), 2W speakers as well as earphone output and microphone input.

The manufacturer positions its new devices primarily for gamers, who want to watch each other during gameplay with the help of the company’s Splendid technology, however, the new MK241H product may also be used by normal end-users who demand to have a large screen, but require a built-in webcam for video conference calls. Advanced users, on the other hand, will hardly find this monitor a good option: usually demanding customers prefer S-PVA or S-IPS panels as well as webcams with resolutions exceeding 1.3MP.

The monitor, which is the only 24” display with integrated webcam, is projected to cost approximately $549.

Microsoft Downplays Blu-Ray Player for Xbox 360 Possibility

Microsoft Corp. cannot afford the luxury of staying away from the market of high-definition video, but this does not mean that it will embrace Blu-ray disc (BD) format right away.

Following the recent claims made by Sony Electronics executives regarding co-work with Microsoft on creation of Blu-ray disc add-on for Microsoft Xbox 360 game console, or even a version of the game system with BD drive inside, Microsoft said that no decision has been made so far.

“There are no plans to introduce Blu-ray. […] In response to Stan Glasgow’s statement that Blu-ray is a possibility for Xbox 360, we have made no such announcement. Games are what are driving consumers to purchase game consoles and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available,” a spokesperson for Microsoft Corp. is reported to have said according to Next Generation web-site.

Microsoft has never denied that it may introduce Blu-ray disc add-on for Xbox 360 and support BD with Windows operating system. Moreover, recently the head of the software giant admitted that supporting Blu-ray is important for Microsoft to a certain degree.

“We’ve already been working on, for example, in Windows, device driver support for Blu-ray drives and the like, and I think the world moves on. Toshiba has moved on. We’ve moved on, and we’ll support Blu-ray in ways that make sense,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft, at Mix08 conference, reports Seattle Post-Intelligencer web-site.

It should be noted that Blu-ray device driver is not enough to fully support Blu-ray movie playback. Besides integrating a video player that supports H.264 and VC1 codecs into Windows operating system (OS), Microsoft also needs to support BD-Java, the technology that enables interactive features on BDs. Given that Microsoft does not currently support Java in any way and end-users have to download a special plug-in from Sun Microsystems’ web-site to enable it in Windows environment, it is not easy to believe that Microsoft starts to support BD-J just because of Blu-ray.

But the world’s largest maker of software may have a strong reason to support both Blu-ray and BD-J, if it does not convince Blu-ray disc Association (BDA) in using HDi technology instead of BD-J, going forward. For years Microsoft has been trying to push its Windows Media Center Edition into living rooms, but without much success. In case it turns out that Entertainment-oriented OS does not support high-definition video format, fewer end-users will use it, whereas more hardware manufacturers will focus on development own Linux-based operating systems for home-theater personal computers.

New Dual-Chip Flagship Solution from NVIDIA to Launch Next Week

Next week Nvidia is going to announce their new graphics card that should become a flagship enthusiasts product for a while - GeForce 9800 GX2. It will be a dual-chip solution that should become a direct competitor to ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2. GeForce 9800 GX2 is scheduled to be launched on March 18, according to the Register web-site.

It will be based on two revised G92 chips manufactured with 65nm process and featuring 128 shader processors. The GPU frequency of GeForce 9800 GX2 chips will be 600MHz and its memory will work at 2GHz. The dual-GPU card will look even more like a monster than their previous dual-chip experiment – Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2.

For example, we got hold of a few pictures of a mass production GeForce 9800GX2 from Albatron based on Nvidia’s reference design.

The card will have a dual-slot cooling system, two DVI ports and an HDMI connector. There will be an eight- and six-pin power ports for the power supply. Also, two GeForce 9800GX2 will be able to work in a 4-Way SLI system that is why the cards have an SLI link.

GeForce 9800GX2 will be priced at $599. The remarkable thing is that this pricing is a little lower than the average retail price of Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra. Some stores are already taking pre-orders and their retail prices are pretty close to the recommended one.

In addition to the GeForce 9800GX2, Nvidia will lift the embargo on the nForce 790i chipset on match 18, too. nForce 790i is essentially the same as nForce 780i, but with DDR3 memory support.

In a week, on March 25 Nvidia will announce one more card on 65nm G92 chip. It will be a single-chip GeForce 9800GTX. It'll run at up to 675MHz, with the memory set to 2.2GHz. The reference design of this card shows two DVI ports but no HDMI, and two SLI connectors for Triple-SLI operation.

Also on the March 25, NVIDIA will announce its nForce 780a and 750a chipsets.

Moreover, Nvidia might launch one more 9800 solution based on the very same chip: GeForce 9800 GTS with the supposed working frequencies of 600/1800MHz and 3-Way SLI support.

The details about this solution haven’t been confirmed yet, but it may debut in April already.

AMD to Regain Their Share in Graphics Market

According to the latest report from Jon Peddie Research consulting company, AMD continues to lose their share in the graphics accelerators market. According to the recently published data, Nvidia increased its lead in market share in Q4 2007 to 71% of all units shipped, up from 64% the previous quarter. It means that the graphics accelerators based on AMD chips make less than 30% of the market.

Nevertheless, AMD intends to regain the lost market by the end of the year and at least reach the parity with Nvidia. According to Digitimes web-site, AMD has recently notified its partners that the company expects its share in the discrete graphics card market to rise after its next generation RV770 GPU that should be announced in the end of Q2 2008. RV770-powered Radeon HD 4800 cards are expected to be about 40% faster than contemporary RV670 GPU based solutions.

Moreover, AMD responded to Intel’s decision to integrate graphics cores into their inexpensive and mobile processors in early 2009. They confirmed that they will stick by promising Swift micro-architecture (part of the Fusion concept), which also implies integrating a graphics core into a CPU. Hybrid Swift processors are claimed to exist in two modifications: dual-core called Black Swift and single-core called White Swift. It implies that Black Swift will have two classical processor cores with K10 micro-architecture and one graphics core, while White Swift will have one processors and one graphics core. These processors should come out in second half of 2009.

Swift modifications will be manufactured with 45nm process and will support DDR3 SDRAM.

They should first of all be positioned for mobile solutions that is why they will also boast additional energy efficient technologies.

OCZ Technology Launches Vendetta 2 CPU Cooler

OCZ Technology today unveiled the OCZ Vendetta 2, a new CPU cooler with a powerful 120mm fan design for maximum performance. Utilizing a distinctive stacked fin design and heat-pipe direct touch (HDT) design combined with a large low-noise fan, the Vendetta 2 is built to solve the cooling challenges of today’s most powerful processors.

Utilizing the HDT design, the Vendetta 2 has direct contact with the processor using three copper heat pipes 8mm in diameter to ensure the most rapid heat transfer. The dimple micro-configuration of the stacked aluminum fins adds turbulence, reducing the skin effect of air flow for more efficient circulation within your case. The versatile and user-friendly Vendetta 2 is compatible with AMD AM2/939/754/755 and Intel 775 sockets and can be installed quickly and easily by end-users at all skill levels.

Vendetta 2 also delivers ultra-quiet performance courtesy of a 120mm fan mounted with anti-vibration rubber connectors to reduce excess noise.

The cooler heatsink without the fan measures 120 x 50 x 159mm. The cooler comes bundled with a 120mm fan with 800-1500 RPM rotation speed.

XFX Slashes Nvidia Based Graphics Card Prices

One of Nvidia’s major graphics card partners, XFX Company, has introduced a new pricing structure for select products in its high performance line of GeForce 8800 GT and GeForce 8800 GS graphic cards, and its newly released next-generation GeForce 9600 GT.

Effective immediately, the new pricing is targeted to compete aggressively against similarly priced ATI 3870 and 3850 products in the $149 to $279 range. Select e-tailers will offer several XFX GeForce 8800 GT models from $189 to $209 (after mail-in rebate). The XFX GeForce 9600 GT models are now available from $149 to $179 (after mail-in rebate). The XFX GeForce 8800 GS will be offered from $119 to $139 (after mail-in rebate).

These rebates are currently being offered by New Egg and Tiger Direct. More online retailers will probably be offering these mail-in rebates soon.

Other manufacturers are very likely to join XFX in the near future. Especially since the discounts are determined by the upcoming launch of the new GeForce 9800 graphics card family that are very likely to attract the users’ attention immediately.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

HP Retains Its Leading Position in PC Sales

iSuppli analysts summed up the results of the computer sales in Q4 2007 and announced the sales growth of 14.2% compared with Q4 2006. According to their data, top-tier U.S. PC brands experienced a strong fourth quarter in 2007, with Hewlett-Packard (HP) holding its lead in the worldwide marketplace with a 19.1% share. The company shipped 14.6 mln of desktops and notebooks having thus increased their sales by 29.7% compared with the last year.

Dell which was bumped from the pole position in mid-2006 by HP, is showing signs of recovery. Dell saw fourth quarter shipments rise 17.4 percent, to 11.3 million units, over Q4 last year. Now they are in the second position in terms of PC shipments volumes and own 14.9% of the market.

Acer also demonstrated pretty good growth. They acquired the American Gateway Company, and immediately ousted the Chinese Lenovo from the third into the fourth position. As a result, the Taiwanese brand owns 9.5% of the PC market, while the Chinese one – only 7.6%.
The fifth position in the PC market with 4% share belongs to the Japanese Toshiba who managed to increase their computer sales by more than 25%.

Apple took the sixth spot with a 2.9% market share. However, their sales have been growing very nicely: by 39.9% compared with the last quarter of 2006 when the average market increase equaled only 14.2% over the same period of time. Looks like Apple’s decision to move to Intel based platform does have a lot of positive effect on their sales.

The situation in the notebook market is also very exciting. According to DisplaySearch, Acer stood out in the notebook segment, just like in the overall PC market. This Taiwanese brand sold 5.25 mln systems and hence took the second leading position in the ranks, having pushed Dell one step down. In Q4 Dell shipped 4.64 mln notebooks. The leader, HP, shipped 6.66 mln mobile systems.

The Chinese Lenovo is in the fifth position with 2.73 mln systems shipped; Toshiba is in the fourth with 2.86 mln; Fujitsu is in the sixth having shipped 1.62 mln laptops. Then come Sony, ASUS and Apple.

Notebook sales grew at a more steadily 14 percent quarterly rate in the last three months of 2007 to 33 million units. DisplaySearch projects notebook PC shipments to rise to 135 million units in 2008. It is interesting that the most popular notebook flat-panel size and resolution was 15.4 inches and 1280x800 pixels. The screen type accounted for half of all notebooks shipped in that quarter. Screens measuring 14.1 inches with a 1280x800 resolution followed a distant second at 23 percent of all units shipped in the quarter.

Alienware Announces Quad-Graphics Desktop

Well-known manufacturer of high-performance desktop, notebook and entertainment systems, Alienware Company, announced that their desktop systems equipped with four GPUs thanks to ATI CrossFireX technology are now available for ordering. The new Alienware ALX CrossFireX desktop computer utilizes two ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 graphics cards, each housing two GPUs and a full 1GB of dedicated graphics memory – that’s 2GB of dedicated GDDR3 graphics memory.

AMD recently enabled CrossFireX (Triple- and Quad-CrossFire) technology in its latest Catalyst 8.3 drivers, and Alienware couldn’t help taking advantage of this opportunity. The company’s senior vice president, Brian Joyce, described the ALX CrossFireX as “our most sophisticated desktop system,” and said that “adding the awesome power of a quad graphics solution like CrossFireX to the ALX desktop is just one more way Alienware strives to deliver the world’s best PC gaming experience.”

Other features of the system include 45nm quad-core Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 processor overclocked to 4.0GHz frequency and 4GB of DDR3-1333 SDRAM. The system is built on an Intel X38 based mainboard. Area-51 ALX CFX desktop in the above described configuration is a little over $6000. Besides the above listed components, Alienware is ready to supply their system with two 64GB Solid State drives, however in this case you will have to pay extra $1250.

ASUS Launches Eee PC with Microsoft Windows

Yesterday ASUS announced that very soon they would start shipping ASUS Eee PC with pre-installed Microsoft Windows XP instead of Linux. Pre-installed with Windows XP, the Eee PC provides an easy, convenient and fuss-free platform to seamlessly integrate multiple devices, applications and services.

In addition to the Windows operating system, consumers with the Eee PC will be able to access Windows Live, which is a set of personal Internet services and software to manage their online world more efficiently and safely. Some key features include Windows Live Mail, which consolidates all the various email accounts into one place on the user's desktop and eliminates multiple log-ins; Windows Live Messenger to help keep users connected with each other easily and instantly; Windows Live Photo Gallery that easily organizes, sends, posts and shares photos with friends and family; and Windows Live Family Safety, which offers built-in family safety features including safer browsing for children via Web site management.

Moreover, Windows-modifications of ASUS Eee PC will come bundled with Microsoft Works suite, which equips the user with numerous applications that include word processing, spreadsheet, database management and address books. However, unfortunately, not all language versions of the Eee PC will support Microsoft Works.

At this time ASUS doesn’t disclose any details on the Windows XP version that will be built into this ultra-portable notebook. However, it will evidently be a cut-down version of the OS. We also don’t know yet how installing Microsoft OS will affect the price of the solution. The schedule to release the XP Eee PC will be around early April if no delay occurs.

Pre-installed Windows is not the only innovation to be made in the Eee PC family. ASUS has already announced that they will make several improvements with the next generation of the Eee PC – dubbed the Eee PC 900. These new technologies will bring about a new concept for Internet access with 1GB of memory, larger storage of up to 12GB, and wider 8.9-inch screens.

These new Eee PCs will cost 399 Euro each, and will be available in summer this year – to select countries on the first wave of launch. All of these new models will be Windows ready.

Microsoft to Equip Xbox 360 with Blu-Ray Drive - Rumor

According to Financial Times, Sony is talking to its competitor in the gaming consoles market, Microsoft Corporation, about the possibility to equip their Xbox solutions with Blu-Ray drives. As you know, Xbox 360 initially equipped with the regular DVD drive may have an optional HD DVD drive. However, when the format war ended with Toshiba’s decision to no longer support this format, this option is no longer acute.

After Sony’s victory last month in the high-definition optical format war, Stan Glasgow, Sony Electronics US president, said the two sides were now talking about Microsoft adopting Blu-ray.

On the one hand, Blu-ray drive in a Xbox 360 would make Microsoft more competitive with the Sony PlayStation 3, that comes initially equipped with a Blu-Ray drive. But on the other it would also mean extra revenues for Sony’s electronics division.

It would also add further cost to the 360, meaning a premium edition of the console could be necessary. A Blu-ray drive could be incorporated in its top-of-the-range Elite Xbox, or Microsoft could again offer a drive as a plug-in peripheral.

However, Microsoft representatives do not admit having started negotiations like that. They claim: ”We have made no such announcement. Games are what are driving consumers to purchase game consoles and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available.”

Mr. Glasgow added that they also talk to Apple. In this case they are talking about their intention to include Blu-ray drives into their entire lineup of Mac desktops and laptop computers.

On Blu-ray pricing, Mr. Glasgow expects prices of players to drop to as low as $299 by the end of the year. At this time there is not a single model in the market priced below $399, but by the end of the year 2009 the drives should drop down in price to $200. The prices are still so high because Blu-ray Association, the group controlling the standard, hasn’t yet licensed this technology to Chinese manufacturers, who could inevitably bring the prices down.
Apple today previewed its iPhone 2.0 software, scheduled for release this June, and announced the immediate availability of a beta release of the software to selected developers and enterprise customers. The iPhone 2.0 beta release includes both the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) as well as new enterprise features such as support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to provide secure, over-the-air push email, contacts and calendars as well as remote wipe, and the addition of Cisco IPsec VPN for encrypted access to private corporate networks.

The iPhone SDK provides developers with a rich set of APIs and tools (including programming interfaces for Core OS, Core Services, Media and Cocoa Touch technologies) to create native applications for iPhone and iPod touch. The iPhone SDK will allow developers to create applications that leverage the iPhone’s Multi-Touch user interface, animation technology, large storage, built-in three-axis accelerometer and geographical location technology to deliver truly innovative mobile applications.

Starting today, anyone can download the beta iPhone SDK for free and run the iPhone Simulator on their Mac. Apple today also introduced its new iPhone Developer Program, giving developers everything they need to create native applications, and the new App Store, a way for developers to wirelessly deliver their applications to iPhone and iPod touch users. The App Store enables developers to reach every iPhone and iPod touch user. Developers set the price for their applications — including free — and retain 70 percent of all sales revenues. Users can download free applications at no charge to either the user or developer, or purchase priced applications with just one click.

Some companies including Electronics Arts, Sega and AOL have already demonstrated applications for iPhone. The first two companies showed Spore and Super Monkey Ball games where you could manipulate the character by rotating the device. AOL demonstrated iPhone-version of their internet-pager.

Also Apple has licensed Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft for the enterprise market and is building it right into the iPhone, so that iPhone will connect to Microsoft Exchange Servers 2003 and 2007 for secure over-the-air push email, contacts, calendars and global address lists. Built-in Exchange ActiveSync support also enables security features such as remote wipe, password policies and auto-discovery. The iPhone 2.0 software supports Cisco IPsec VPN to ensure the highest level of IP-based encryption available for transmission of sensitive corporate data. The addition of WPA2 Enterprise with 802.1x authentication enables enterprise customers to deploy iPhone and iPod touch with the latest standards for protection of Wi-Fi networks. The iPhone 2.0 software provides a configuration utility that allows IT administrators to easily and quickly set up many iPhones, including password policies, VPN setting, installing certificates, email server settings and more.

In addition to these new iPhone network and security features, the beta iPhone 2.0 software provides several new Mail features such as the ability to view PowerPoint attachments, in addition to Word and Excel, as well as the ability to mass delete and move email messages.

Graphics Card Manufacturers Use More Video Memory

No one will be surprised these days about a 1GB GeForce 9600 GT model, since Nvidia partners are always ready to offer solutions with more graphics memory than the reference card, which is this time equipped with 512MB of GDDR3. That is why no wonder that there appeared manufacturers willing to stand out by providing their graphics accelerators with even more memory – 2GB.

During CeBIT Jetway announced their GeForce 9600 GT with 2GB of onboard GDDR3 memory with 256bit interface. And it was not just a demo sample, but a fully-fledged production unit.
The new solutions called Jetway GeForce N96GT-EN-2GM-A works at standard frequencies of 650, 1625 and 1800MHz for the graphics core, shader units and memory chips respectively.

Jetway GeForce N96GT-EN-2GM-A features two Dual-Link DVI-I connectors with HDCP support and one HDTV-Out. Additional memory chips have been placed on the reverse side of the graphics card PCB. The cooling is of quite typical dual-slot design.

Jetway also introduced a similar 2GB graphics card based on GeForce 8800 GT called N88GT-EN-2GM-A.

Note that Jetway is not the only company demonstrating graphics cards with 2GB of memory onboard at CeBIT. MSI also showcased their GeForce 9600 GT based solutions, however we don’t know yet if these are also mass production units or just showcase samples.

Intel Prepares Its Own Mini-ITX Platform

A few days ago Intel announced their new Atom and Centrino Atom brands. As we know, they will be offering Silverthorne and Diamondville codenamed processors under their Atom brand name that will be targeted for use in ultra-portable and pocket electronic devices and will also be used in ultra-budget computer market.

No wonder that both Intel processor lineups will pose a serious threat to the Taiwanese VIA Company in the first place, because they are currently focusing on platforms and processors for these particular type of devices. Now that a powerful player like Intel is entering thins market segment, the situation is going to get even worse for VIA, which has been going through some hard financial times already lately. Moreover, Atom is also a cause for concern for another Taiwanese chip maker – Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS).

The thing is that Intel hasn’t been offering enough budget chips for the past three years already.

When they started transferring the production of their system logic to 90nm process in 2005, they first used ATI chipsets and after the latter merged with AMD signed the same contract with SiS. That is why budget Intel mainboards use third party chipsets in them. A great example here would be Intel Desktop Board D201GLY on SiS662 chipset with embedded Celeron 215 processor.

However once Atom processors arrive into the market, SiS may lose some of the Intel orders. It will happen because Intel is preparing their own miniature economical platform aka Little Falls for their Diamondville processors. It will be based on i945G? chipset with integrated Intel GMA950 graphics core. The same solutions will also appear in the product range of the leading mainboard manufacturers like ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI.

Typical mainboards with embedded Diamondville processors will be built in Mini-ITX form-factor (170mm x 170mm). They will provide guaranteed support for DDR2-800 SDRAM (one DIMM up to 2GB). Besides the integrated graphics, these mainboards will also support 4 USB 2.0, LAN, IDE and 2 SATA ports. This complete platform is expected to be priced at no more than $50-60 in retail.

Little Falls platform should appear in the market in Q2 2008. Its first modifications will be equipped with a single-core Diamondville processor working at 1.87GHz, featuring 512KB L2 cache and supporting 533MHz bus. In Q3 we should see a refreshed Little Falls 2 platform with a dual-core Diamondville processor. It will have the same characteristics as the single-core model, but the maximum TDP will increase from 7.5W to 12W.

Intel and mainboard makers expect Little Falls to enjoy very good market demand from the manufacturers of miniature PCs, TV-consoles and home media systems.

AMD Reveals Upcoming Plans

During yesterday’s 45nm processor event, AMD representatives made a few statements not related to the showcase. Namely, they revealed their plans for the next few months when AMD is going to be announcing a few new platforms and processors.

In the end of March – beginning of April AMD is going to introduce its Perseus platform offering great stability, manageability, security and low power consumption for commercial environments. Perseus platform is regarded as a primary competitor to Intel's vPro platform. It will include quad-, triple-, and dual-core processors based on AMD's K10 and K8 architectures, integrated chipsets from the 780 series announced yesterday and optional graphics cards from R6XX family working in Hybrid Graphics mode. It is important to specifically stress Hardcastle technology dealing with security and management that should strengthen Perseus positions in the commercial market even more.

After that in the first half of April AMD is going to introduce a few quad-core Phenom processor models based on B3 core stepping and free from the notorious TLB bug. We should see Phenom 9650 and Phenom 9550 working at 2.3 and 2.2GHz frequencies respectively. At the same time the first triple-core Phenom 8600 and Phenom 8400 processor should also come out. They will at first be based on B2 core stepping and work at 2.3 and 2.1GHz frequencies respectively. All these four new processors will feature 95W TDP.

The second half of April will be remarkable due to upcoming Cartwheel platform launch that should represent mainstream performance, immersive HD and upgradeability. This platform is in fact available since the launch of 780 chipset series, because it uses mainboards based on these chipsets, processors and optional R6XX graphics cards. However, the key feature of the upcoming Cartwheel platform is in fact AMD LIVE! Technology support offering media-centric computing experience that connects and extends the digital world by means of special software.

In May AMD is going to continue expanding the frequency potential of their quad- and triple-core processors. They are expected to launch quad-core Phenom 9850 with 2.5GHz frequency and 125W TDP and Phenom 9750 with 2.4GHz nominal frequency and 95W TDP. New triple-core CPUs, just like their quad-core counterparts will start using B3 core stepping. As for the particular CPU models, we should see Phenom 8750, Phenom 8650 and Phenom 8450 with 95W TDP and 2.4, 2.3 and 2.1GHz respective frequencies.

The new mobile Puma platform is scheduled to be launched in June. It is expected to ensure best-in-class experience and performance-per-watt for consumer/commercial notebook users. Puma will include a new "Griffin" dual-core processor, an RS780M chipset with DirectX 10-class integrated graphics, a 55nm M8x mobile graphics processor, and support for the PC management software. The platform will also feature PowerXpress technology which allows the system to switch between external and integrated graphics when changing between AC and DC power without the need for a reboot. Also, Hybrid CrossfireX allows the integrated graphics hardware to work in tandem with the separate graphics controller to offer more power for gamers.

Intel to Be More Active in the Graphics Market

At Intel Investor Meeting held today the company official touched upon the whole lot of interesting questions. However, the most intriguing report was made by Eric Mentzer, Vice President and General Manager Graphics Development Group, who shared the company’s plans concerning further expansion into the graphics market. The thing is that Intel managed to occupy a pretty significant market share thanks to its integrated chipsets and they are not going to stop at that, for sure.

In the near future Intel is going to improve the performance of their integrated graphics cores and to introduce their new high-performance solutions that will involve the resources of an additional processor also known these days as Larrabee.

The biggest change in the integrated graphics segment will be the move of the graphics cores from the chipset North Bridge into the CPU. It will happen when the inexpensive Nehalem processors also known as Havendale come out in the end of this year – beginning of next. As a result, integrated graphics cores will work faster with the memory subsystem, which will inevitably result into performance improvement for the low- to mid-range PC users. According to the forecasts made at the today’s meeting, by 2009 integrated graphics will work 6 times faster, while by 2010 it will be 10 times faster than in 2006, when the performance standard was set by i965G chipset. This still won't make integrated graphics a good choice for serious gamers, but it should make the operating systems work smoother, HD playback work better, and casual games look good.

Nevertheless, Intel is also considering to offer high-performance graphics solutions. They are going to introduce systems using an additional Larrabee processor that will enhance the potential of the integrated graphics cores. The developers describe this solution as highly parallelized micro-architecture with tremendous programming flexibility. In fact, Larrabee will consist of a several IA mini-cores with shared cache-memory and input-output system.

According to some preliminary data, the first Larrabee version will have from 16 to 24 cores, each with a 32KB L1 cache. The shared L2 cache will be about 4-6MB big. Individual IA cores will be connected via ring bus like the one used in Cell processors. The first Larrabee modifications will be manufactured with 45nm technological process, and the working frequencies of these processors are expected to be in the 1.7-2.5GHz interval. The expected TDP should be around 150W, however, please keep in mind that these are all very preliminary specifications.

This processor should allow the game developers to use image rendering techniques involving ray-tracing method. This method guarantees more realism than the traditional rasterization although requires much more computational resources than the contemporary systems can offer. The first Larrabee processors are expected to appear in the end of this year, however the first mass solutions of this class should come out no sooner than in the end of 2009 – beginning of 2010.

However, Intel is going to make the first moves towards increasing their influence in the graphics market in Q2 2008 already, when they announce integrated G45 and G43 chipsets with the new GMA X4500HD graphics core and its modifications. This core will be targeting 3.0x the 3D performance of the Intel G33 chipset and 1.7x the 3D performance of the G35 chipset, and will also provide HD-DVD/Blu-Ray playback experience with full bit-rate support and strong content protection. Intel GMA X4500HD core will support DirectX 10, and the chipsets featuring it should be able to support all contemporary interfaces including HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI.