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All posts tagged "hardware"

Monday, January 19, 2009

AMD To Launch Dual-Core Neo CPU in 2009

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 07:00 PM

"AMD showed off a new platform at CES called Yukon that featured a new single-core Athlon Neo processor. The HP machine featuring the platform was very thin (think MacBook Air) and looked fantastic. HP is set to begin shipping the notebook in 2009. EWeek reports that AMD will also be fielding a dual-core version of its Neo processor that will be part of the Congo platform. Congo and the dual-core Neo are reportedly set to launch later in 2009. Congo will be a platform for new types of ultraportable laptops. AMD was very clear in meetings at CES that the Neo was not for the netbook market."

I haven't had a chance to benchmark the Neo CPU, but coming in at 15 watts, it's a power-hungry beast compared to the Intel Atom chip (which sips a dainty 2.4 watts under load) - yet even though it runs at the same 1.6 Ghz as the current Atom, it's said to offer more performance. The biggest difference between the Neo CPU and the Intel Atom is that the Neo CPU is paired with a nice ATI graphics solution on the HP dv2, whereas all Intel Atom-based systems I've seen are paired with the entirely useless Intel graphics solution. I like seeing Intel having competition, so I wish AMD well with this line of CPUs.

More CPU Cores Not Always Better Says Sandia

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 04:00 PM

"The Sandia team has found that simply increasing the number of cores in a processor doesn't always improve performance, and at a point the performance actually decreases. Sandia simulations have shown that moving from dual core to four core processors offers a significant increase in performance. However, the team has found that moving from four cores to eight cores offers an insignificant performance gain. When you move from eight cores to 16 cores, the performance actually drops. Sandia team members used simulations with algorithms for deriving knowledge form large data sets for their tests. The team found that when you moved to 16 cores the performance of the system was barely as good as the performance seen with dual-cores."

First we hit the thermal/power barrier on CPUs, which had Intel and AMD moving toward a multi-core approach rather than simply racheting up the speed, and now we see that moving beyond four cores is problematic - I wonder how they'll get around that problem? Granted, the real problem with multi-core computing is still more software than hardware.

TechCrunch Updates Its Tablet Project

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 03:00 PM

"The idea is to get a new type of device into people’s hands for as cheap as possible (we were aiming for $200, it looks like $299 is more realistic). It fits perfectly on your lap while you are sitting in front of the TV, so you can look up stuff on Wikipedia or IMDB as you channel surf. It plays Flash video flawlessly so you can watch movies and TV shows on Hulu or Joost or wherever. Or listen to music on MySpace Music. Or use TokBox to have a video chat with your parents. Then check email and call it a day. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Hulu, Wikipedia, Google Docs and Gmail are the killer apps for this device."

It has been a long time since TechCrunch's last update to their tablet project that some thought it might never see the light of day. Apparently, the CrunchPad is alive and well, and looking better than its predecessor. It still appears to fulfill most of its original intent, which is to provide a day long tablet for browsing. I was not surprised, but disappointed to them change the estimated price from $200 to $299. The update also doesn't mention anything about an estimated battery life. They're currently using Ubuntu as their OS, but short of licensing fees, I'm surprised they are not trying to use something like SplashTop, which would suit the CrunchPad perfectly. I have to say that I am disappointed with what they have come up with so far, but then again, I was quite sure that their goals as a whole were just is not practical with current day technology. Is there someone out there who is enamoured with the CrunchPad? Please tell me why this is more compelling than a netbook, Audrey or even a used tablet pc?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

CES 2009: Kodak's Zx1 Pocket Camera

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 11:00 AM

This is an on-camera demo of the Kodak Zx1, a portable HD camera, similar to the Flip HD and Creative VADO. The Zx1 records in 720p (1280 x 720) either in 30fps or 60fps, and can also be set to record in VGA mode. It uses AA batteries, an SD card for storage, and has a very sturdy feel to it. MSRP price is $149 USD, and it's supposed to ship in April of 2009.

Friday, January 16, 2009

CES 2009: HP's dv2 and dv3 Notebooks

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 05:24 PM

Kevin Wenzel, technical marketing manager for HP, walks through some of the features of the new dv2 and dv3 notebooks from HP. I've written some thoughts about the dv2 and dv3 - they're definitely two noteworthy laptops that I'm looking forward to checking out in greater detail.

CES 2009: HP's New MediaSmart Windows Home Server

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 02:00 PM

An HP representative walks me through the features and functions of the new MediaSmart EX485/487 Windows Home Servers. These new servers feature a 2 Ghz Intel CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and either 750 GB or 1.5 TB worth of storage. Pricing is $549 USD and $749 respectively [Affiliate]. I have my home-built Windows Home Server, but I'm considering picking one of these up when they're released in late January. What's with the $200 price difference for a 750 GB hard drive though? I can pick up a 1 TB hard drive for $119 locally. Looks like buying the EX485 is the better choice!

Show Us Your Home Theater!

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Thoughts Media Off Topic" @ 01:00 PM

It has been over 4 years since we had a thread to show off your home theater setup, so I thought it was high time to do it again. Here is my current set-up.

From the left to the right: Rock Band paraphernalia, Sharp Aquos 52" LCD, component video switcher, Xbox 360, Wiimote charger, PS2, Xbox 360 HD-DVD, Roku Netflix box, Comcast HD box, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player, Wii, Sony Amp, and TSAT-2000 speakers and sub-woofer. Not pictured (either in drawer or rear mounted) network switch, old Averatec laptop hooked to TV, surge protectors, Bye Bye Standby, Microsoft wireless keyboard, and Gyrotransport Air Mouse.

If you need a place to upload your images so you can share them with others in our forum, try Image Shack or Free Image Hosting. Please keep your embedded images 600 pixels or under in width - if they're bigger than that, just post a link. Thanks!

Phenom II's Overclocking Value

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 07:30 AM,2119-10.html

"In light of a new competitive challenge—Intel’s Core i7—AMD is revamping its Spider platform with a new processor and the addition of software able to tie all of the hardware together. As you no doubt already know from reading Bert’s story, this latest effort is called Dragon. But we’re not here to rehash the details of Phenom II. Rather, in light of significant enhancements to the CPU architecture’s overclocking capabilities (and indeed, confirmation from AMD that all of the "magic" that went into its ACC [Advanced Clock Calibration] technology is now baked into Phenom II), we’re eager to compare the value of AMD’s fastest 45 nm chip to Intel’s entry-level Core i7 920—the one most enthusiasts would be likely to eye as an overclocking contender."

Tom's Hardware puts the newly released Phenom II through its paces with attention paid to the overclocking market. The results are hardly surprising with the Phenom II showing remarkable overclocking value. However, when compared against the Core i7, the decision between CPUs gets a bit muddier. The Core i7 represents leading edge technology with powerful performance, topping the Phenom II in overclockability. However, the Core i7 also means a large investment in purchasing new hardware. On the flip side, the Phenom II can be a drop in replacement, working with many existing AM2+ motherboards. Unless you're willing to drop some serious change for a new rig, the Phenom II is a sound upgrade path.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

CES 2009: iRiver's Wave-Home VOIP Phone

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 11:47 PM

This is pure geeking-out: me exploring a VOIP phone/Web console from iRiver. It's a neat device, but there's no information yet on the pricing or availability.

CES 2009: Touch the Future (HP)

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 09:17 PM

Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer for the Personal Systems Group at HP, gives a talk on the history of HP and touch computing. It's a fascinating look at where HP has been with touch, and where they're going. Phil is a world-class geek and a very smart guy. Well worth the view!

CES 2009: The HP/Voodoo Firefly Monster "Laptop"

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 12:59 PM

Rahul Sood from Voodoo Computers walks us through the never-to-be-released prototype Firefly "laptop"'s really just a computer you can move from room to room. Rahul calls the battery a "UPS", which is likely pretty accurate. This is one monster machine, featuring a quad-core CPU, dual GPUs in SLI mode, and even two screens. Filmed at CNTRSTG.

CES 2009: Creative's VADO Video Camera

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:00 AM

Creative's VADO HD is a small, portable video camera - essentially Creative's answer to the Flip HD. $229 USD MSRP, captures video in 720p, and has 8 GB of internal storage, which is about 2 hours of HD video or four hours of VGA-resolution video. I only got a bit of hands-on time with it, but it it's very light - but also kind of flimsy feeling. I'm not sure how well this product will stack up against the Flip HD and the Kodak Zi6.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dell Fills Out Their Netbook Line with the Mini 10

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 05:00 PM

"Dell has just served up its Mini 10 netbook, complete with an "edge-to-edge" 720p 10-inch display, a built-in TV tuner (!), integrated 3G WWAN / GPS, multi touch support and an Atom Z530 CPU. Moreover, you'll find an "edge-to-edge" keyboard (no wasted space, we guess), a gesture-sensing touchpad and expanded design studio choices."

Sweet, looks like Dell has thrown in everything except the kitchen sink on this one. Plus I'm thinking the 10 inch netbook ends up being the sweet spot for netbooks, so it makes sense for Dell to get this size in addition to their 8.9 and 12 inch offerings. I'm really surprised we have not seen more devices with built in TV tuners. Perhaps once the US gets through the digital transition, things will change.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

HP Unleashes Two New Notebooks: The dv2 and dv3

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 12:57 AM

HP has released two new notebooks this week, and I've had a bit of a chance to get some hands on time with them at the CNTRSTG event. First impressions are that they're both solid contenders in certain markets. The dv2 (pictured above) is a thin device (0.98 inches), fairly lightweight (3.8 pounds), has a 12.1 inch screen, and uses a new 25-watt 1.6 Ghz CPU from AMD called the Neo. It uses quite a bit more power than the Intel Atom (OK, that's a gross understatement...25 watts on the Neo vs. 2.5 watts on the Atom), but it's more capable - especially when paired with the ATI Radeon HD3410 which should allow it to play back HD video with ease...including 1080p Blu-Ray content (an optional external Blu-Ray drive will be sold). No Atom-based netbook I've tested has been able to play back 720p h.264 content. HDMI out and a starting price of $699 will make this an extremely compelling notebook for a lot of people. I predict this will be a hot seller for HP - assuming they can get it into the retail channel where people can see it.

The dv2 has great fit and finish, and feels really good in terms of build quality. The chrome side-panels are slightly suspect from a style point of view, but hey, you can't have it all. I never thought I'd prefer a white notebook over a black one, but the black one is such a horrible fingerprint magnet I think I'd prefer the white one if only to hide the smudges better. Do consumers really prefer the shiny-glossy-everywhere look? They must, because the whole industry is going in that direction, model after model. I guess I'm the grumpy old man that remembers the days when I didn't have to polish my notebook every day to have it look remotely clean.

The dv3 is a step up in size and power over the dv2 in every way: it features a 13.3 inch screen, can rock up to an AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core CPU at 2.4 GHz, up to 8 GB of RAM, a ATI Radeon 3200 GPU, up to a 400 GB hard drive (no 7200 RPM option though, boo!), a back-lit keyboard, a slot-loading DVD drive, and the choice of a 6 or 9-cell battery. Pricing starts at $799.

Below is a snippet from the full press release where HP lists several of their new products.

"The sleek HP Pavilion dv2 and Pavilion dv3 Series Entertainment Notebook PCs provide stylish mobility and performance at a great value. The dv2 provides productivity and rich entertainment capability while measuring just under 1-inch thick and starting at 3.8 pounds.(1) Plus, powerful discrete graphics and a full range of connectivity options make it easy for customers to work and play on the go. A variety of high-capacity hard drive options up to 500 gigabytes (GB)(2) provide ample room for photos, music and other content.

The notebook is powered by a specially designed new AMD Athlon Neo Processor-based platform and features a sturdy magnesium casing, 12.1-inch diagonal LED BrightView display and a nearly full-size keyboard. It will be available in two striking finishes with matching HP Imprint designs on the palm rest: Espresso and Moonlight." Read more...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

SanDisk Unveils New SSD Drives

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 02:30 PM

"SanDisk Corporation today unveiled its third-generation family of solid-state drives (SSDs). Using multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory technology, SanDisk's G3 Series establishes new benchmarks in performance and price-performance leadership in the SSD industry. Designed as drop-in replacements for hard-disk drives (HDDs) in notebook PCs, the initial members in the SanDisk G3 family are SSD C25-G3 and SSD C18-G3 in the standard 2.5" and 1.8" form factors respectively, each available with a SATA-II interface. Available in capacities of 60, 120 and 240GB*, the unit MSRPs are $149, $249 and $499, respectively."

The press release goes on to say that the G3 series SSDs are more than five times faster than 7200rpm hard drives, and more than twice as fast as any of the SSDs that were shipping in 2008. What impresses me is the price: 60 GB for $149 USD is quite reasonable. No, you're not going to see these SSDs in any $599 notebooks this year, but SanDisk is offering a lot of performance for not too many dollars. I can't wait for this time next year when we'll likely see 500+ GB SSDs and, more importantly, average-priced computers start to ship with SSDs. I have yet to own a computer with an SSD in it, but I think that's going to happen in 2009...what about you?

HP Mini 1000 XP Edition Unboxing and First Impressions

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 01:00 PM

A few days before leaving for CES 2009, I received an HP Mini 1000 for review - I'd been trying to get my hands on one of these since they were first announced, and was sadly unsuccessful. They say good things some to those who wait, and I was sent not only the HP Mini 1000 XP Edition, but also the HP Mini 1000 Vivian Tam edition. The Vivian Tam edition, which we posted some glorious photos of last year, was specifically for my wife to test out. I'll be doing another Real World Review to cover the Vivian Tam Mini 1000, but when it comes to the regular Mini 1000 I'll be doing the usual: videos!

I managed to shoot and edit this unboxing and first impressions video the night before I left for CES. The unit they sent me is the high-end configuration: Windows XP SP3, and in the configuration I was sent, costs $489 USD directly from HP. It has an Intel 1.6 Ghz Atom CPU, 1 GB of RAM, a 60 GB 4500 RPM hard drive, an SDHC card reader, two USB ports, 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, and a 3-cell battery. The screen resolution is 1024 x 600, though HP strangely lists it was 1024 x 576 on the box. Read more...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New SD Spec Allows for 2 TB Cards

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 06:00 PM

"The next-generation SDXC (eXtended Capacity) memory card specification, announced today at the 2009 International CES, dramatically improves consumers’ digital lifestyles by providing the portable storage and speed needed to store weeks of high-definition video, years of photo collections and months of music to mobile phones, cameras and camcorders, and other consumer electronic devices. The new SDXC specification provides up to 2 terabytes storage capacity and accelerates SD interface read/write speeds to 104 megabytes per second this year, with a road map to 300 megabytes per second."

Don't get too excited, remember this is just the specification we are dealing with here. I'm imagining it will be many years before we actually see 2 TB of storage in something the size of an SD card.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

HP Releases Two New MediaSmart Windows Home Servers

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 01:30 PM

"To meet the backup needs for consumers who feast on a glut of digital content, HP has introduced a pair of new home media servers called the HP MediaSmart ex485 and ex487. The two devices share many of the same features and both use an Intel Celeron 2GHz CPU and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. Other features include HP specific applications that make managing and sharing digital content easier. Bundles software includes HP Media collector to copy and centralize digital files from across the network, media streaming to stream photos and music to network computers, iTunes server to share music libraries, and HP photo view and Photo Publisher services among others."

I've always liked the HP MediaSmart product, but I'm still rocking the (comparatively) power-guzzling home-built frankenbox that I put together for this purpose in 2007. If/when that computer dies, or I outgrow it somehow, I'll definitely switch to the HP MediaSmart - or possibly sooner, who knows. The new models are noticeably different in that they have four times the RAM, and a slightly faster CPU. Celeron is still a dirty word in tech circles, but the newer Celeron CPUs have a surprising amount of kick. So why the hardware upgrade? New software services that are coming to the Windows Home Server in the form of another software update (remember Power Pack 1?). HP's product spec page lists Mac backup support (without an asterix), "media collector", and "remote streaming". I know some of what's coming but due to NDA can't say much more than I'll be happy when these mentioned features arrive, because they'll fix my #1 source of irritation with the current WHS software.

How Long Can HDMI Cables Be Run?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 01:00 PM

"One of the glorious things about the traditional analog video formats is their robustness over distance. Our customers have run analog component video for hundreds of feet without so much as a booster box to keep the signal together. When DVI and HDMI first hit the market, many people had trouble running signals over even modest distances; 15 feet would be reliable, and anything longer was a gamble. That situation has improved, though HDMI will never rival analog video for reliability over distance. Here, we address why that is, and what you can expect if you need to run HDMI cable over distance."

I've never really understand the reasons why digital cables couldn't have longer run distances than analog - you'd think analog signals would be subject to more degredation - but this article does a good job of explaining what they've discovered through their testing. They don't go into the physics of how and why the digital signal degrades, but what matters is what they've discovered in their tests - and how just because you see a 50 foot cable on a store shelf doesn't mean that it will work the way you think it should work. If you're going shopping for HDMI cables, this article is a must-read.

Friday, December 19, 2008

NVIDIA Now Providing Notebook Graphics Drivers On NVIDIA.COM

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 02:40 PM

"Users with notebooks equipped with NVIDIA® graphics processing units (GPUs) now have the added flexibility of downloading upgradeable graphics drivers directly from so they can immediately take advantage of new features, improved application compatibility, and performance optimizations. The first graphics driver release from NVIDIA will extend the NVIDIA CUDATM architecture to notebook GPUs, enabling the growing number of consumers moving to a notebook-only lifestyle to immediately experience the wide range of CUDA-based applications-from heart-stopping GPU-accelerated game physics to GPU-accelerated video conversion."

Three words: about freaking time! It's always driven me nuts when I buy a notebook and the lazy OEM never bothers to give me updated video drivers - that's exactly what happened when I bought a 17" Fujitsu notebook a few years back. It was the closest thing to a gaming laptop they made, and they never updated the graphics drivers. But that's all over not!

Oh, wait, it's not quite freakin' time yet - I just tried to download updated drivers for my XPS M1330, and got the same 176.44 drivers that I currently have, along with a message saying that I have to get drivers from Dell. I poked around a bit more, and found some beta drivrers - it turns out that they won't have WHQL-certified drivers available until early next year. Gee, thanks Nvidia. This is why PR gets a bad name sometimes - they omit part of the truth, making the headline deceptive. I'm not keen on trying beta drivers on my laptop - I value stability too much for that - but if you're up for some beta driver action, you can download the 179.28 beta drivers now for your 8000M and 9000M series notebook GPUs.

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