terça-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2012

NVIDIA Tegra 4 'Wayne' specs leaked: 28nm, Quad-core Cortex-A15, 72 core GPU, and more

With NVIDIA's Tegra 3 'Kal-El' getting very out-dated, it was about time NVIDIA released their upcoming SoC, the Tegra 4, codenamed Wayne, and once again NVIDIA has amazed us with the specs of their next-gen SoC. Wayne (finally) is NVIDIA's solution to some serious performance and efficiency flaws present on Tegra 3.

First up is the CPU. NVIDIA has made some nice success with it's 4-PLUS-1 CPU architecture, introduced in Tegra 3. As a quad-core processor is expected to consume a lot of power, NVIDIA has used vSMP (variable symmetric multiprocessing) to couple those four high performance cores with one power saver core, which is optimized for very low performance, and therefore very low power consumption, and is made for handling light tasks. When the CPU's workload is low, for example, when the device's screen is off, or when a video is being played, the four main cores can be power gated, and all processing is transferred to the fifth power saver core, until such time when the workload increases. This dramatically increased the battery life that Tegra 3 devices could offer. 4-PLUS-1 is very similar to ARM's big.LITTLE concept. Since this technology has benefited NVIDIA greatly, 4-PLUS-1 carries on to the Tegra 4. Power saver core aside, the Tegra 4 will have four state of the art ARM Cortex-A15 cores. This means a serious amount of processing power. The Google Nexus 10's CPU has two Cortex-A15 cores, and yet it has by far the best performance in any mobile device. Based on that, we can assume that Wayne will really be revolutionary to mobile CPU performance. Not to mention that previous leaks suggest that Wayne will run at clock rates even larger than that of the Nexus 10's CPU, pushing the performance envelope even further.

Another impressive feature of Tegra 4 is the GPU, which isn't a surprise, considering NVIDIA is the leading PC GPU company. NVIDIA is promising 6 times the performance of the Tegra 3's GPU, and twenty times the power of Tegra 2. While the Tegra 3 has 12 GPU cores, Wayne's GeForce GPU will have an impressive 72 GPU cores, which, at the Tegra 3's clock rates, results in a total of 72 GFLOPS performance, which is close enough to the 77 GFLOPS the PowerVR SGX554MP4 in the iPad 4 can do, and should also beat by far the current Android GPU king, the Mali-T604 inside the Nexus 10. Hopefully, NVIDIA was smart enough to use an unified shader architecture for this GPU, and discarded the very dated discrete shader architecture in the Tegra 3. Previous leaks had indicated that Wayne's GPU would be built on NVIDIA Kepler technology. Despite being a very exciting prospect, these leaked specs don't mention Kepler at all. It also doesn't mention whether Wayne will support CUDA.

One feature that has always been crappy in the Tegra series, and has always seriously bottlenecked performance, is memory bandwidth. While pretty much every other SoC manufacturer was using dual-channel configurations for their memory controllers, Tegras 2 & 3 sticked to a very weak single-channel memory interface. Thankfully, NVIDIA has fixed that with Wayne, for the SoC will support dual-channel memory controllers from LPDDR2 to DDR3L. On the best case scenario, that is, dual-channel DDR3L, the Tegra 4 should have memory bandwidth close enough or equal to the Nexus 10's Exynos 5250 chip and the iPad 4's Apple A6X chip. It's good to see that NVIDIA has finally done away with one of Tegra's main bottlenecks for performance.

It looks like NVIDIA is also pushing the ISP (Image Signal Processor) envelope with Tegra 4 too. The leak shows that Wayne will have Super Speed Imaging, which will allow for more than 350 Mpixels/sec ISP speed. It also seems like Tegra 4's display output capability also improved. Not only does the SoC allow for high resolution 2560 x 1600 displays, it also can output to 1080p displays at a sweet 120Hz refresh rate. Impressive enough, but that's not all. Tegra 4 can even output 4K display resolutions.

To wrap it up, NVIDIA is also offering some advantages also in terms of thermals and power consumption, by making the move to a 28nm process. This is a big advancement for Tegra, considering that the last-gen Tegra 3 was built on 40nm process, the move to 28nm is quite a leap.

NVIDIA's Tegra 4 'Wayne' is going to be officially announced in Janurary 2013, at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and then, hopefully it won't be long before we see this amazing new SoC inside an actual device.

domingo, 18 de novembro de 2012

Tablet Wars: Apple iPad, Microsoft Surface, Or Google Nexus 10?

The tablet market used to be very narrow only two years ago (a bit less). There was the iPad, the Motorola XOOM, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and a few others. Now, of course, the tablet market has broadened a lot, and is starting to become just like the PC market. Most recently, Microsoft decided to jump into the tablet realm with its Surface tablet and its new ARM-compliant Windows RT, and Google decided to start making tablets too, as a part of the Nexus series, which used to include smartphones only. So now we have one representative for each of the tablet OSes, Apple's iPad 4 for iOS, Google's Nexus 10 for Android, and Microsoft's Surface for Windows RT. One question that is also necessary to determine which slate is the 'best' one is which OS is the best? Therefore, this comparison won't only compare the tablets, but will also compare the OS they run on. Let's begin with a basic specs comparison:

Apple iPad 4 Google Nexus 10 Microsoft Surface
Network Connectivity Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi Wi-Fi
Body 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm, 652g 263.8 x 177.8 x 8.9 mm, 603g 274.6 x 172 x 9.4 mm, 680g
Display 9.7" IPS LED-backlit 2048 x 1536 Retina display (264ppi) 10.1" Super PLS TFT 2560 x 1600 (299ppi) w/Corning Gorilla Glass 10.6" TFT 1366 x 768 (148ppi)
Storage 16/32/64 GB, 1GB RAM 16/32 GB, 2GB RAM 32/64 GB, 2GB RAM
Camera (rear) 5MP (1080p video) w/LED flash, autofocus, face detection 5MP (1080p video) w/autofocus, face detection, video stabilization 1.2MP (720p video)
Camera (front) 1.2MP (720p video) w/face detection 1.9MP 1.2MP (720p video)
OS iOS 6 Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Windows RT
Chipset/CPU Apple A6X (Dual-core Swift @ 1.4GHz + quad-channel LPDDR2-1066 memory) Samsung Exynos 5250 (Dual Cortex-A15 @ 1.7GHz + dual-channel DDR3-1600 memory) NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.3GHz + single-channel LPDDR2-1066 memory)
GPU PowerVR SGX554MP4 Mali-T604 NVIDIA 12-core GeForce


These three tablets have unique designs, and are all a pleasure to look at, each with its pros and cons. Statistically speaking, however, I believe that the best design title goes to the Nexus 10, since it is the thinnest one, as well as the lightest (see specs). The iPad may not be as light, or as thin, but it still feels and looks good. The same can't be said about the Microsoft Surface, however. The Surface is as thick as the iPad 4, however, it is, simply put, a brick. At 680g, it is as heavy (or even heavier) than some of the first-gen tablets (the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, for instance, weighed 680g too, and so did the first-gen iPad). The Surface's weight is simply unnacceptable for this time. That aside, the design of these slates can't be classified as better or worse; it is something each user defines. Each of these designs have their unique features, some people will like them, others won't.


The interesting thing here is that we have three slates, all with different aspect ratios. Depending on the use, each of these aspect ratios may be the better one (or not). Let's begin with what I consider to be the worst display of these three tablets.
The Microsoft Surface uses a 1366 x 768 display, which corresponds to a 16:9 aspect ratio. At an unusual screen size of 10.6", this translates into a 148ppi pixel density. The pixel density is on par with last-gen Android and Apple slates, but is about half of what these other two tablets offer, as a result, the screen isn't very crisp, images are not clear, and text is not sharp. The screen's color is not exactly the best, but it's not really bad. Also, the 10.6" screen might be a little too large for some people (me included). The 16:9 aspect ratio is excellent for viewing widescreen movies, however, it makes the display a tad too wide. It makes the tablet look strange.
Next is the Apple iPad 4's display, the legendary and slightly overrated Retina Display. Apple was the first to choose an incredibly large display of 2048 x 1536 resolution, which resulted in a stunning 264ppi pixel density. As a result, text is razor sharp, and images are bright and clear. Apple continues delivering, also, some excellent color reproduction on the iPad 4; colors are bright and vivid, unlike most other tablets. The 4:3 aspect ratio makes the iPad almost square, and the aspect ratio might cause movies to be displayed with those annoying black bars, however, 4:3 is very good for web browsing.
Finally, we have the Nexus 10's impressive display. This tablet breaks the record of tablet screen resolution the iPad set and delivers a stunning 2560 x 1600 display, which, at the 10.1" size, gives an aggressive 299ppi pixel density, making the term 'Retina Display' lose some of its luster. The Nexus 10 has Samsung's PLS display, which has been used in many of the company's Galaxy Tab slates. At any rate, PLS has proved to deliver very vivid colors, boasting some excellent color reproduction. The Nexus 10 was reported to have rather poor contrast ratio, as well as brightness, but it still delivers excellent visuals, but it shouldn't perform very well outdoors in bright, sunny days. The 16:10 aspect ratio is similar to the one in the Microsoft Surface, but it doesn't have the issue of being so wide it looks weird. Simply put, the 16:10 aspect ratio is the balance between being too square and too wide.


I can't include benchmarks of the Microsoft Surface here, because Windows RT still doesn't have any synthetic benchmarks available, however, I will be including benchmarks of the same SoC (Tegra 3 T30), but on an Android device (The ASUS Transformer Prime). The Surface uses an NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC (T30 variant), which has a Quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU @ 1.3GHz, and NVIDIA's own 12-core GeForce GPU, with a quite shabby single-channel LPDDR2-1066 memory interface (although other Tegra 3 iterations use better DDR3L memory). Microsoft's choice of using the Tegra 3 was very weird to me, considering that NVIDIA's SoC is an aging, one-year-old chip. The story is different with Apple's and Google's slates, which are both debuting a brand new SoC. The iPad 4 debuts the Apple A6X chip, which has a dual-core Swift CPU @ 1.4GHz. Swift is a custom CPU architecture created by Apple. The A6X also includes a PowerVR SGX554MP4 GPU, together with the same crazily wide memory controller found in the A5X (four LPDDR2-1066 channels), resulting in 12.8GB/s theoretical memory bandwidth.
The Nexus 10 debuts the Samsung Exynos 5250 SoC, which is the first SoC to use ARM's Cortex-A15 CPU architecture. The SoC has a two Cortex-A15 cores ticking at 1.7GHz. The GPU in the Exynos 5250 is the brand new Mali-T604 GPU, which is also the first GPU to use the new midgard architecture, including an unified shader architecture. The memory interface, much like the A5X/6X, can achieve 12.8GB/s theoretical bandwidth, but in a different approach (two DDR3-1600 channels).
Now let's see what synthetic benchmarks tell us about these SoCs.

Geekbench tests mainly the compute power of the CPU. The NVIDIA Tegra 3's age shows here. After all, in its time, it was the absolute champion of CPU benchmarks, although now it isn't very good. For a brand new CPU, the Apple A6X's dual-core Swift doesn't impress, either. It is only a bit more powerful than the one-year-old Tegra 3. On the Nexus 10, we enter another realm, however. We see that the dual Cortex-A15 inside the Exynos 5250 really blasts all other competition out of the water, setting a new benchmark for mobile CPU compute power.

We can see just how poorly the Tegra 3 performs in terms of fill rate. We can say that the SoC's age is partially to blame here, but to be honest fill rate was never the Tegra 3's strong point. We also se a 50%+ gap between the Nexus 10 and the iPad 4. This is very strange, because both SoCs have equal theoretical memory bandwidth figures (12.8GB/s), but in any case, we see Apple is really ahead in terms of fill rate. Fill rate has always been a real forte for iDevices, after all. The Exynos 5250 isn't shabby at all, however, seeing as it is miles ahead of the other Android-based competition.

The Egypt HD test is the test that will relate closest to real gaming experience. Both the offscreen and onscreen test tell pretty much the same thing: that the Tegra 3 is an aged, last-gen GPU that cannot compete with today's competition, and therefore means that the Surface is not exactly good for gaming enthusiasts. We can also see, once again, the significant margin between the PowerVR SGX554MP4 in the A6X and the Mali-T604 in the Exynos 5250, but, then again, it is apparent that the Nexus 10 is far ahead from the Android competition (except in the Onscreen test, where the Nexus 10's immense resolution restrains it).


Once again, the A6X shows unprecedented performance in triangle throughput. In terms of our other two competitors, we get a unusual little surprise here. The Nexus 10 shows some very poor triangle throughput. Well, anyone who has seen ARM's last GPU benchmarked, the Mali-400MP, will know that ARM isn't very good on their geometry processing. The Mali-400 is known for having some of the lowest geometry processing power recently seen on a GPU. While ARM's new midgard architecture did help the new Mali-T6xx GPUs' geometry processing, and there is a very large improvement over its predecessor, it still isn't up to scratch. It scores even lower than the old Tegra 3. Although, it can be said that triangle throughput is something of a forte for NVIDIA, and that reflects on the fact that despite the Tegra 3's age, it can still compete fairly well with newer GPU competition. Still, the good triangle throughput doesn't save the Tegra 3 from being considered a weak GPU.

It is obvious from these tests that the Nexus 10 can take the crown for CPU power, and also packs a punch in terms of gaming performance and fill rate. The iPad 4, as usual, doesn't really excel on CPU capability, but it retrieves Apple's usual lead on the GPU performance. The same can't be said for the Microsoft Surface, however. Microsoft chose an aged SoC which, despite having been very powerful in its time, can no longer compete with the competition. It was inevitable that performance would be low. The CPU is still up to scratch, and isn't that far behind, however, the memory bandwidth (which hasn't ever really been very good) sets the Surface back, and the GPU performance is just awful, which means that the Surface isn't really a powerhouse for gaming.

OS: No such thing as a winner here!

I have spent countless hours comparing iPad iterations to different Android tablets, and I can't help but reflecting upon the numerous times when I've seen this question arise: Which OS is better, iOS or Android? This question still persists, only now it also includes Windows RT. The plainest answer to this question is: there is no true better OS; it really depends upon each person's needs. Since I can't directly put these three OSes into competition, I shall talk about them individually.


iOS reflects the user-friendliness and simplicity that Apple was always known for delivering. You can understand how it works almost immediately. The apps are organized on a grid, with a lot of space between each icon (on the iPad the grid is 5x4). There is not much customization on the iOS UI, you can only change the wallpaper. The simplicity of the UI makes it extremely easy to learn, and therefore very user-friendly. Also, iOS, due to its simplicity, has always been very fast and fluid, so you shouldn't perceive any type of lag anywhere. iOS is also very fun to use, incorporating a variety of multi-touch gestures for operations like multi-tasking. To wrap it up, iOS has the widest variety of apps on the mobile OS space, and also has, by far, the largest amount of tablet-optimized apps. Basically, iOS is the most mature mobile OS we have.

Android, which is Google's concept of a mobile OS, can still be considered a not-so-mature OS. It is still undergoing vast developments, but each new Android iteration is a vast step forward. The Nexus 10 comes with the latest Android 4.2 out of the box. Android is known for, unlike iOS, being more complicated to understand and use, however, it has plenty of customization. Apart from the normal app icons, you can add widgets to the home screen, which give you quick and easy access to things like weather, e-mail, etc., but Android surely doesn't look as clean and simple as iOS. Android used to be a slow and laggy OS, but Google's recent Project Butter has siphoned out most of the laggy bits. Of course, Android still isn't perfect, you can still perceive some slight lags and slowdowns here and there, but it's nothing of a big deal. Android also has many apps available, however, few of them are really optimized for tablets (the situation is getting better, though).

Windows RT

Oh, the brand new Windows RT. It is only a few weeks old, so it is still in its early stages. This means that there aren't many apps for the OS, but that should start to change soon enough. For a brand new OS, Windows RT is very solid, and looks very mature. It is also the mobile OS that looks the most different. iOS and Android use things like app icons and (Android only) widgets. Windows RT combines both on a concept called 'Tiles'. The Tiles are arranged very close together, and they update in real time, so they are very useful for displaying weather, e-mail, news, and stuff like that in a single page. Like iOS, Windows RT uses a variety of gestures for basic commands like switching and closing apps, and Windows RT is excellent for multi-tasking, being the first mobile OS to support displaying two apps at the same time. Windows RT also has a desktop mode, which uses a UI that is much similar to the traditional Windows UI. Windows RT is very fast, fluid, and it looks great. It is a new OS in its early stages, however, it is an extremely promising one.


Well, now I face the most difficult decision I have to take in this article, which is, answering which of these tablets is the best one. No doubt, they all have their strong points and weak points, which will make them more adequate for some people and less adequate for others, therefore, it isn't easy to tell which is definitely better. The Microsoft Surface RT, as we have seen, doesn't offer excellent specs at all. Its display is really no big deal, the camera is ridiculously weak, and the tablet will suffer with performance because it uses an aged, weak SoC. It is also unusually heavy, and not as thin as its other specs should suggest. But what makes the Surface RT a good tablet? well, it's built-in kickstand might be alluring to some, and it has the luxury of having the revolutionary touch cover, which, like the iPad's smart cover, protects the screen, and then opens to reveal an extremely thin, light keyboard. Also, the Surface RT has what I believe to be the most promising mobile OS, incorporating a great UI with great performance and excellent functionality. Basically, the Surface is the perfect work companion, having the luxury of being the first mobile device to have Microsoft Office installed. The Google Nexus 10, the biggest step in Android tablets ever seen, is the perfect tablet for those who care about visuals and ergonomics. The device is remarkably thin, light, and has by far the crispest screen ever seen on a tablet, delivering bright images and sharp text, while handling it all with some very reasonable performance. So the Nexus 10 goes to people who are allured by an outstanding display. Apple's iPad 4 is perfect for performance enthusiasts. It packs a real punch in its SoC which not only handles easily its also large Retina Display, but can also show outstanding performance with it. The iPad also offers a marvel of content, with literally an app for everything. Apart from that, there's the solidness that Apple has always offered in its iDevices; the almost crash-free UI, the user-friendliness.
That is the advantage of having a variety of competitors in a market: at this point, for every type of person and preference, there is an ideal tablet PC.

sexta-feira, 16 de novembro de 2012

Nexus 10's SoC, Samsung Exynos 5250 review

Google's new Nexus 10 tablet, which was developed alongside Samsung, features some killer specs, most notably, the unsurpassed screen resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. This immense resolution results in a fine 299ppi pixel density, surpassing even the iPad's 264ppi display. However, performance demand is proportional to resolution, therefore, to be able to power such a powerful display, Google needed an extremely powerful SoC, something of the likes of Apple's A5X SoC. Well, Google has done right in choosing Samsung's brand new Exynos 5250 SoC. The Exynos 5250 is built on Samsung's successful 32nm HKMG (High-K Metal Gate) process. 


Less than a year ago, all SoC manufacturers were bound to Cortex-A9 CPUs, so there was no real competition in terms of single-threaded performance, since it was all the same. Today, of course, the story is different. ARM's Cortex-A15 architecture leveraged certain ARM-based CPU designing companies into making similar architectures. Currently, we have three new architectures competing with each other, Qualcomm's Krait, Apple's Swift, and ARM's Cortex-A15. The real difference between these is single-threaded performance. While the Swift didn't really surprise anyone, and Krait, well, did a pretty good job, the Cortex-A15 is just astounding on a per-core basis. Indeed, one A15 core is about twice as fast as one Krait core. Now, The Exynos 5250 has two A15 cores clocked at 1.7GHz, which theoretically should translate into the best mobile CPU performance ever seen.

Now let's see how two A15s @ 1.7GHz fare against the Quad-core Krait @ 1.5GHz and the dual-core Swift @ 1.4GHz.

The Exynos 5250 in the Nexus 10 distinguishes itself clearly from the rest of the competition, and it does that, while also being one of the few who have only two cores (granted, it has the highest clock). Comparing it to the only other dual-core processor there, the Swift, found in the Apple A6X flagship SoC, we can see that per-core efficiency is unprecedented in the Cortex-A15.

Memory interface

The main constraint that a high-resolution screen poses is memory bandwidth. Considering how bad Android devices' SoCs usually do in terms of memory bandwidth, the Exynos 5250 was a true surprise. This SoC contains a dual-channel DDR3-1600 (800MHz) memory controller, bringing the theoretical memory bandwidth to a PC-class 12.8GB/s. Apple's A5X and A6X chips (both powering an iPad's Retina display) both achieve the same bandwidth as the Exynos 5250, theoretically speaking, only with a much wider memory interface (quad-channel LPDDR2-1066). That said, the Exynos 5250 is the first non-Apple SoC ever to be able to power such a fine display as the Nexus 10's.


Another big surprise that comes with the Exynos 5250 is the brand new Mali-T604 GPU, built by ARM. It is the first GPU to use ARM's new midgard architecture, which is a new unified shader architecture. As we will see in the benchmarks below, the Mali-T604 kills the GPU inside the A5X, but lags behind the A6X. At any rate, it is by far the best GPU on the Android space.

Despite the theoretical memory bandwidth of the Exynos 5250 being equal to Apple's A6X, we clearly see that there is a huge gap between the A6X's maximum fill rate and the Exynos' maximum fill rate. Aside from the A6X, the Exynos 5250 shows excellent fill rate, leaving the other competition in the dust, and it should surely be able to handle properly the Nexus 10's immense display resolution.

Unfortunately, we see in the Offscreen Egypt HD test that the iPad 4's PowerVR SGX554MP4 GPU is actually significantly stronger than the Mali-T604, which only edges ahead of the Adreno 320. Still, it performs very well, and is the most powerful GPU on the Android space. The Onscreen test shows us the sad reality that the 2560 x 1600 display is a bit too demanding for the Mali-T604. The overall weaker GPU, combined with the significantly higher reolution, resulted in the Nexus 10 performing much worse than the iPad 4. Despite that, and taking into consideration the unprecedented resolution, the Mali-T604 does offer some reasonably good performance, and should suffice for most gaming uses.

Here is the part where Mali GPUs always get disappointing. ARM's GPUs have never been very good at their triangle throughput. We can see that the T604's midgard architecture has really improved Mali's triangle throughput, looking at the improvement since the last-gen Mali-400MP, but it is still humiliating for ARM. The triangle throughput isn't even comparable to what the iPad 4 offers, and even the 1-year-old NVIDIA Tegra 3 edges ahead (granted, triangle throughput is NVIDIA's forte). It should be good enough to power most games, but in situations where the polygon count is very high, the weak triangle throughput could act as a performance bottleneck.


We've seen that the Samsung Exynos 5250 has its strong points, but we've also seen a weak side to Samsung's new flagship SoC, although the vast majority of the SoC's features are excellent. The Exynos 5250 is a very interesting SoC because it uses new architectures for almost everything; it is the first to use ARM's Cortex-A15 CPU design, and also the first to have ARM's new Mali-T604 GPU. As a result, the midgard architecture also debuts with the Exynos 5250. Unlike most of the current SoCs, the Exynos 5250's features are all fine, from the die process to the CPU, the GPU and the memory controller. We also get the best from power efficiency, thanks to Samsung's 32nm HKMG process and the Cortex-A15, which proved to be quite an efficient CPU. The Nexus 10 is a very demanding device, and the Exynos 5250 is the only SoC capable of satisfying the new slate's needy demands.

segunda-feira, 5 de novembro de 2012

ASUS VivoTab RT review

ASUS has proved to be an excellent tablet maker with its Transformer series of Android tablets and its Google Nexus 7 tablet. The enhanced productivity that the Transformer Pad keyboard dock offered was very alluring, and has been a good selling point for ASUS. Now with the new promises that Microsoft's new Windows RT platform offer, ASUS took the lead in being Microsoft's first launch partner for the Windows RT platform, releasing the VivoTab RT alongside Microsoft's own Surface tablet. The VivoTab RT takes everything people love about ASUS tablets (thin, and light design, fast performance, etc) and puts it into the Windows RT platform.

ASUS VivoTab RT Apple iPad 4 Google Nexus 10
Body 8.3mm thick, 525g 9.4mm thick, 652g 8.9mm thick, 603g
Display Super-IPS+ 10.1" LED-backlit (1366 x 768) w/ Corning Fit Glass and ASUS TruVivid IPS LED-backlit 9.7" Retina Display (2048 x 1536) Super PLS TFT 10.1" (2560 x 1600) w/ Corning Gorilla Glass
Storage 32/64 GB + 2GB RAM 16/32/64 GB + 2GB RAM 16/32 GB + 2GB RAM
Camera (rear) 8MP w/LED flash, autofocus, geo-tagging, 1080p video 5MP w/ autofocus, face detection, 1080p video w/ video stabilization 5MP w/autofocus, LED flash, face detection, 1080p video
Camera (front) 2MP 1.2MP 1.9MP
OS Windows RT iOS 6 Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Chipset NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.3GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 520MHz + single-channel DDR3L-1500 memory) Apple A6X (Dual-core Apple Swift @ 1.4GHz + PowerVR SGX554MP4 quad-core GPU + quad-channel LPDDR2-1066 memory) Samsung Exynos 5250 (Dual Cortex-A15 @ 1.7GHz + Mali-T604 GPU + Dual-channel DDR3-1600 memory


Who can deny it? ASUS has a knack for well-finished metallic designs. We've seen this with the Transformer Pad Prime and Infinity. The VivoTab RT has a simplistic, yet amazing metallic back cover. Another thing ASUS is known for is having the thinnest and lightest tablets in the market. The VivoTab RT, together with the Transformer Pad Prime, are the thinnest 10-inchers ever seen, measuring a svelte 8.3mm thickness. Also, the VivoTab RT sets a new benchmark for tablet weight. Weighing an astounding 525g, the VivoTab RT is by far the lightest 10-incher ever. You may like it or not, but ASUS definitely has a unique skill for design.


Sure, the VivoTab RT has a substandard resolution for a tablet. Its pixel density doesn't compare to the iPad's Retina Display and the Google Nexus 10's 2560 x 1600 display, so text isn't as sharp, and pictures are not as clear. Don't be so quick to judge the VivoTab RT's display as horrible, though, because colors are vivid, thanks to ASUS' TruVivid technology, and the Super IPS+ technology (a speciality of ASUS' tablets) boosts brightness to a whopping 700nits, making the display, to some extent, outdoor readable. If you care a lot about the display, keep in mind that the VivoTab RT's screen isn't very good.


The VivoTab RT, just like the Microsoft Surface and most other tablets, uses the NVIDIA Tegra 3 chipset. Specifically the two Windows RT slates use the T30, which is the mid-range Tegra 3. CPU performance is excellent, and graphics and memory performance is average, but in any case the Tegra 3 is well-prepared to take on the Windows RT's UI smoothly. I personally think that the choice of using the Tegra 3 was foolish for both Microsoft and ASUS, since that SoC is practically aged and its momentum has already faded. It would've been a much smarter choice to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core SoC, which is one of the fastest. The Tegra 3 just can't compete with what Google and Apple are offering on their latest slates.


The VivoTab RT is currently the best Windows RT tablet (yes, in overall it is better than the Surface), however, both this slate and the Windows RT platform itself are quite premature. This, of course, is expected, since Windows RT is a brand new and fresh platform. Currently there are very few apps on the Windows Store, but given the success that this platform is promising, developers should start giving Windows RT attention. For now, Windows RT is a bad platform, but that's something that I'm confident will change eventually. The VivoTab RT doesn't have the best display, nor the best performance, but I believe that it certainly has the ability to compete with Apple and Google's offerings. 

sexta-feira, 2 de novembro de 2012

Apple A6X SoC Analyzed: Dual-core Swift and quad-core PowerVR SGX 554MP4

So we have the iPad 4 coming out today, and Apple previously made a claim that the SoC (System-on-Chip) powering it would be twice as fast as the previous generation iPad's A5X SoC. Well, we just got some benchmark results on the iPad 4, and they only seem to prove that indeed, the A6X is at least twice as good as the A5X, and in some benchmarks even more than twice.

CPU first, of course. The A6X features a dual-core CPU based on a custom architecture made by Apple, named Swift, much like in the iPhone 5, except the A6X's CPU is clocked at 1.4GHz, as opposed to 1.3GHz in the A6. The performance of the A6X CPU is ok, and is able to keep up with what the Android competition currently offers, not more, not less.

CPU performance has never been Apple's focus, but in the iPad 4 it's ok, at most. At the very least, it matches (and slightly outperforms) the Galaxy S III, at the same clock speed but with two cores less, but it is still destroyed by Samsung's Exynos 5 Dual, Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 quad-core, and to some extent NVIDIA's Tegra 3. On a per-core performance perspective, Apple's Swift is very good, although the per-core king of the hill now is the new Exynos 5250.

Before going into the GPU, I'll quickly talk about the memory interface in the A6X. Like in the A5X, the memory interface in the A6X is the widest one ever seen on a mobile device. The A6X features a quad-channel LPDDR2-1066 memory controller, bringing the theoretical memory bandwidth up to an impressive 12.8 GB/s. This is, of course, necessary to power the 2048 x 1536 display in the iPad 4.

And then there's the GPU, the biggest change in the A6X. Apple has always been known for pushing the mobile graphics performance forward, and it has done just that again. The A6X features a stunning PowerVR SGX554MP4 quad-core GPU. The main difference between the 543 used in previous-gen iPads and the 554 is a doubling in ALU count per core. having four cores, this, therefore, means that the 554MP4 has a total of 32 ALUs, as opposed to 16 ALUs in the 543MP4, therefore, at the same clock speed, we get doubled performance since the A5X. If we assume that the clock speed remains unchanged, this results in a revolutionary 64 GFLOPS of peak theoretical performance. Apart from that, we get the same PowerVR goodness Apple has always benefited from; a TBDR (Tile Based Deffered Renderer) with unified shader architecture.

The Offscreen Egypt HD test shows us that the SGX 554MP4 is much more powerful than the Adreno 320, but in the Onscreen test, what puts the iPad 4 behind the Adreno 320-boasting PadFone 2 is the iPad 4's immense resolution.

As we can see, the iPad 4 is at the top in every benchmark, except for the Egypt HD Onscreen test, where the iPad's large resolution limits its performance, but at any rate, the margin between the PadFone 2 and the iPad 4 in the onscreen test is almost insignificant. We can see that, once again, Apple has managed to put itself at the very top of mobile graphics performance, by a very large margin.

All of that power results in a giant die area of 123mm2. It is really very large, considering that it is build with Samsung's 32nm HKMG (High-K Metal Gate) process. The A6X sets a new benchmark for other competitors to reach. Samsung's Exynos 5250, despite being from the same generation as the A6X, has already lost to it. The warning goes to NVIDIA, mainly. The graphics company's upcoming Tegra 4 'Wayne' SoC is rumored to have a quad-core Cortex-A15 CPU (which is double the performance of the already champion Exynos 5250), and a Kepler based GPU that allegedly has 24 cores, and will be built on 28nm process. We can rest assured that a quad-core Cortex-A15 will be more than enough, and 28nm will also bring the Tegra series up to date. A Kepler GPU seems promising, too, but NVIDIA will have to work hard if it wants to beat the new graphics performance (and also memory bandwidth) king of the hill, the Apple A6X.

sexta-feira, 26 de outubro de 2012

Google Nexus 10 preview: Greater than Retina

Recent leaks regarding the rumored Nexus 10 slate, which Google is working with Samsung to develop, show just how impressive the tablet will be. Scheduled to be officially unveiled this Monday, the Nexus 10 will bring Google's latest Android 4.2 OS.

This tablet will be impressive in many ways, but what really will call people's attention to it is the stunning iPad Retina Display-surpassing display, which will have a 2560 x 1600 resolution (vs 2048 x 1536 in the Apple iPad). At 10.1", this translates into a groundbreaking 299 ppi pixel density. Of course, an exceedingly powerful SoC is needed to handle such a giant resolution, therefore, the Nexus 10 will be the first tablet to receive Samsung's Exynos 5250 SoC, which consists of a dual-core Cortex-A15 @ 1.7GHz CPU, and ARM's brand new Mali-T604 GPU. The GPU should be moderately prepared to handle the greater-than-Retina display. The Nexus 10 will have a 5MP rear camera, and will be available in a 16 GB model (albeit without any storage expansion options).

The Nexus 10, which, just by its specifications, seems like a very impressive device, will be officially uncovered during Google's New York event on Monday (Oct. 29)

segunda-feira, 22 de outubro de 2012

LG Nexus 4 confirmed

LG's Head of Mobile Product planning, Amit Gujral, accidentally revealed the next Nexus smartphone, the LG Nexus 4. Apparently, it's going to be unveiled at a Google Android event at October 29. He specified that the smartphone would be launched in India by the end of November, while not saying anything about a global launch of the phone.

It was also confirmed that the device will have a large 4.7" display with 1280 x 768 resolution, 2 GB of RAM, will be available in 8 GB and 16 GB models (however external storage isn't possible, because the device lacks a microSD card slot), an 8MP rear camera, and the beastly Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, Quad-core Krait CPU, plus an Adreno 320 GPU. And last but not least, the new smartphone will come with Android 4.2 out of the box.

This will be a very high-end device (probably means sky-high prices), and is a true beast, offering the best of performance and display quality.

domingo, 7 de outubro de 2012

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Review: Blazingly fast

Qualcomm has been one of the top SoC vendors since the release of its Snapdragon S4 Plus dual-core SoC, which, despite not being the best performing SoC of the time, had the luxury of LTE, and great power efficiency. Now, Qualcomm has impressed us again with a Quad-core variant of the Snapdragon S4, plus, it is the first SoC to use the revolutionary new Adreno 320 GPU, which is the first GPU to support OpenGL ES 3.0, and is the best performing mobile GPU ever seen (even better than the PowerVR SGX543MP3 in the iPhone 5). This impressive performance, coupled with LTE modems and the best power efficiency available today, results in what might be just about the perfect SoC.

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
CPU 1.5-1.7GHz Quad-core Krait
L2 Cache 2MB
GPU Adreno 320
Memory Interface Dual-channel, 533MHz (presumably LPDDR2)
Process Technology 28nm
Connectivity 3G + 4G LTE


The CPU in the Snapdragon S4 Pro is truly impressive. It is based on Qualcomm's own Krait CPU architecture, which is based on the ARM Cortex-A15 processor. The Krait offers much better power efficiency and about 50% better per-core efficiency than the current Cortex-A9. When Qualcomm released the dual-core Krait, it proved to offer comparable performance to quad-core Cortex-A9 SoCs, like the NVIDIA Tegra 3, losing only by small margins in a number of multi-threaded benchmarks, and, of course, being the best processor in any single-threaded benchmark. Now, Qualcomm doubled the already good performance that the dual-core Krait could deliver with the quad-core Krait variant. Unlike NVIDIA, Qualcomm changed L2 CPU cache accordingly to the increase in core count, bringing the L2 cache up to 2MB, so we won't be seeing any performance bottlenecks because of the L2 cache, again, unlike the Tegra 3. The S4 Pro can also deliver this beastly performance with the best power efficiency, as well as good thermal efficiency, thanks to the 28nm process used by Qualcomm. All this makes the Quad-core Krait just about the best mobile CPU ever created. 


The Snapdragon S4 Pro is the first SoC to use the latest Adreno 320 GPU. The Adreno 320 is an excellent GPU, and is quite revolutionary, too. It is the first GPU to support OpenGL ES 3.0, and is also the best performing GPU ever created so far. Not much is known about the architecture of the Adreno 320, except that it has a unified shader architecture (no complaints here). At any rate, when comparing the Adreno 320's performance to the current king, the iPhone 5, powered by a PowerVR SGX543MP3, we get many mixed results, furthermore, it is very difficult to determine whether the Adreno 320 is ultimately better than the SGX543MP3 or not. However, the benchmark that most realistically tests gaming performance is the GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD test.

As I said, these tests show some pretty mixed results. The Adreno 320 still lags behind the SGX543MP3, and, by extension, the lower-clocked SGX543MP4 in the iPad 3, in terms of triangle throughput and fill rate.  All of the devices tested have a HD 1280 x 800 screen (plus or minus), so we can't blame resolution for any differences here. Of course, the Adreno 320-powered Xiaomi MI 2 does outperform the iPhone 5 in the offscreen Egypt HD offscreen test, and also, the Adreno 320 performs remarkably similarly to the iPhone 5 in the Egypt HD onscreen test (4508 frames for the Xiaomi MI 2 vs 4509 frames in the iPhone 5), and again, we must remember that the Egypt tests are the ones that most accurately test how gaming performance is in real-life situations, so despite the fact that the iPhone 5 pulls ahead in low lever 3D tests, the Adreno 320 should offer about equal performance in games. We can be sure, too, that the Adreno 320 is by far the best GPU in the Android space. Specifically in the Egypt HD tests, it makes both the Mali-400MP and the NVIDIA Tegra 3 look ridiculously slow. Of course, the Adreno 320 is that powerful because it will have to offer good performance for the next-gen OpenGL ES 3.0. For now, the Adreno 320 is the best GPU on the Android space, and the only OpenGL ES 3.0-capable one, but I'm not sure if it will survive the onslaught of other OpenGL ES 3.0 GPUs coming soon, specifically, ImgTec's PowerVR 6 Rogue, ARM's Mali-T6xx, and NVIDIA's Tegra 4 'Wayne'. We'll see soon enough.


As we have seen, the Snapdragon S4 Pro has proved to be, as I see it, the perfect SoC. It offers the best performing CPU ever seen in a mobile device, and also one of the most efficient ones, it offers the best GPU in the Android space (and also gives the iPhone 5's GPU quite a run), all with the best thermal and power efficiency, thanks to Qualcomm's 28nm process, and, of course, Qualcomm's major selling point, LTE-capable modems. The only way I can see someone criticizing the S4 Pro is saying that it is just unnecessarily powerful! The only problem is how long will it be the best SoC. I see one possible danger for Qualcomm, which is NVIDIA's upcoming Tegra Wayne SoC, which is rumored to pack a quad-core Cortex-A15 CPU, with an additional battery saver core (the battery saver core would make the CPU even less power consuming than the S4 Pro), which would outperform the S4 Pro because it will probably run at higher clock speeds, as well as a Kepler-based, CUDA-compliant (GPGPU!) GeForce GPU, which will probably outperform the Adreno 320, but with the additional excellent power efficiency from the Kepler architecture, a move to 28nm process, and will have NVIDIA's own Icera LTE modem. The worst news is, the Tegra 4 can't be far from its announcement, considering that Tegra 3's now almost one year old. Watch out, Qualcomm! At any rate, at the moment the S4 Pro is the best SoC ever made, and is a truly impressive chip. Kudos to Qualcomm!

sábado, 6 de outubro de 2012

Next Nexus Smartphone: Samsung, LG, maybe both?

There have been some rumors recently regarding Google's next Nexus smartphone, but these rumors tell different stories (or not). Some rumors point to the next Nexus smartphone being a Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2, other rumors point to an LG-made Nexus phone. There is also the possibility of Google now making multiple Nexus phones.

On the Samsung side of rumors, there is a leaked spec sheet from SamMobile.com, which shows a GT-I9260 (the current Galaxy Nexus is GT-I9250) model labeled 'Nexus'. This device seems rather strange, and unlikely to be a Nexus device, because, unlike the leaked model's 1.5GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, a new Nexus phone would be expected to follow Google's ASUS Nexus 7 tablet, which has a Tegra 3 CPU. Besides that, there are also reports of pictures, uploaded to Picasa, that were detailed to have been taken by a device named GT-I9260, which actually agrees with the rumor of the leaked spec sheet. There is a possiblitity, however, that this is just another Samsung smartphone, but not a Nexus device.

GSMArena.com reports, however, that rumors indicate that the new Nexus smartphone will be based on the mighty LG Optimus G. The tipster, who contacted AndroidAndMe, reports that the LG-based Nexus phone looks very similar to the Galaxy Nexus, sporting approximately the same size, while bearing a Nexus logo on the back similar to the logo on the Nexus 7. The tipster also claimed that the new Nexus phone was running Android 4.2 Key Lime Pie, which reportedly is very similar to Jelly Bean, except with more transition effects. I find that very difficult to believe, because, then again, Jelly Bean is barely on the beggining of its life, being out for just a bit more than 3 months, so it's hard to believe that Key Lime Pie is already at such a mature stage. Other claims from the tipster include an 8MP camera.

We still have to consider the possibility that Google is now making more than one Nexus phone at once, which could even make sense, in a way. Maybe Google now wants to have Nexus phones at different price points, and is doing so with different manufacturers, which would explain the exceedingly dated CPU in the rumored Galaxy GT-I9260. In this view, the Galaxy Nexus 2 would be filling the space as a low-end Nexus phone, while LG could be going for the high-end (Snapdragon S4 Pro, like the Optimus G?) Nexus phone. But, of course, this is purely my opinion, which is, by all means, fully unsupported.

So, what do you people think it is most likely to be, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2, an LG Optimus Nexus, or both?

Sony suspends Xperia Tablet S slaes due to splash-resistance issues

The Sony Xperia Tablet S, which was just released, in September, had its sales suspended by Sony. This was due to an issue with splash-resistance, one reported feature of the Xperia Tablet S. The problem is due to manufacturing issues that caused gaps between the screen and panel. Shipped units of the Xperia Tablet are being pulled back for repair. Additionally, owners of the Xperia Tablet can return it, and get it fixed for free

HTC One X+: Tegra 3 + LTE

HTC recently announced a successor to the HTC One X, the One X+. The One X+, at least on paper, is a very good device. The special feature of this device is that it brings NVIDIA's Tegra 3 SoC and LTE connectivity in the same device, something that hasn't happened before, because, of course, the Tegra 3 was considered to be incompatible with LTE modems. This has been a large selling point for Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 SoC, and is why there are so few Tegra 3-powered smartphones right now. Of course, HTC may have caused a change in this pattern with the One X+. Besides LTE, the One X+ also has Corning Gorilla Glass 2, a 720p HD screen, and will ship with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, with HTC's Sense UI 4+, keeping the 8.9mm thickness of the One X weighing only 5 grams more (135g in the One X+ vs 130g in the One X).

HTC One X+
Body 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9mm, 135g
Display Super LCD 2 4.7" 1280 x 720 (312 ppi) w/Corning Gorilla Glass 2
Storage 32/64 GB
Memory 1GB, single-channel LPDDR2
Camera (rear) 8MP w/auto focus, LED flash, face detection, 1080p@30fps video
Camera (front) 1.6MP, 720p video
OS Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean
Chipset NVIDIA Tegra 3 AP37 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.7GHz + 12-core GeForce GPU (enhanced?))

The One X+ is one of the few devices so far that use Corning's latest Gorilla Glass 2, for the best scratch resistance. The screen is also very crisp, at 312ppi. The One X+'s design is pretty similar to the One X's design, too. This is the first device shipping with NVIDIA's AP37 Tegra 3 SoC, sometimes referred to as Tegra 3+, which is supposed to be a refresh to the Tegra lineup, so yes, there's still the usual Tegra problem, the relatively weak memory controller. If what these specs say are true, and the One X+ uses LPDDR2 memory, then we've got a problem, because single-channel LPDDR2 has proved not to be enough to keep up with the comptition. While the CPU will be very fast, actually, just a bit faster than the Tegra T33-powered ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, the very high clock speed, together with the aged 40nm process, makes power consumption a possible issue. HTC needs to put a very large battery into the One X+ (although without any increase in thickness, I don't think that's very possible). The GPU in Tegra AP37 is rumored to be faster, too, specifically, 25% faster, but there's still no evidence to back that up. So, in terms of performance, the One X+ is good, for now, although it will probably not be nearly as powerful as the A6-powered iPhone 5, or Snapdragon S4 Pro smartphones, like the LG Optimus G. But in any case, it is the best that NVIDIA can offer at the moment. 

The One X+ will come out in October, and will be available in an international model, and is also headed for AT&T.

terça-feira, 18 de setembro de 2012

Motorola RAZR i Announced: Packs 2GHz Intel Medfield

Motorola has recently announced its first Intel Atom-based smartphone, the RAZR i (XT890). Usually,  Intel Atom smartphones look almost identical to Intel's development platform, for instance, the Lava XOLO 900. Intel has done a very unusual thing there: they made their own reference smartphone, as a development platform, and most OEMs made little or no changes to the design of the development platform. Motorola has done differently, by making the device with a similar design to other RAZR devices. Thus far, Atom SoCs found in smartphones operated at frequencies of 1.6GHz, but Intel has now enabled Atom to go all the way up to 2.0GHz, and the RAZR i is the first device operating at this clock speed.

Motorola RAZR i
Connectivity Wi-Fi + 3G
Body 8.3mm thick, 126g, splash resistant
Display Super AMOLED Advanced 4.3" 540 x 960 (256 pixels per inch) w/Corning Gorilla Glass
Storage 8 GB (5 GB user available) w/microSD slot, up to 32 GB
RAM 1GB, dual-channel LPDDR2
Camera (Rear) 8MP w/LED flash, autofocus, face detection, image stabilization, HDR, and 1080p@30fps video
Camera (Front) VGA
OS Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich (4.1 Jelly Bean upgrade coming soon)
Chipset Intel Atom Z2460 (Single-core Medfield @ 2.0GHz (Intel Hyper-threading enabled) + PowerVR SGX540 @ 400MHz, 6.4 GFLOPS)


The RAZR i seems like it has a mildly impressive display, with its Super AMOLED Advanced display, it should provide great, vibrant color reproduction, however, the pixel density of 256 pixels per inch falls a bit behind today's high-end standards, but should be very crisp nevertheless.


This must be the most interesting feature of this smartphone. The RAZR i is one of a select few devices shipping with Intel's Atom SoC. At a first glance, the Atom SoC might look very unimpressive, having a single-core Medfield processor and a dated PowerVR SGX540 GPU, however, it doesn't go quite that way. The Medfield processor architecture is a very unusual one for a SoC, primarily because it is based upon x86 architecture, like every processor found inside PCs and laptops. But wait, isn't Android only compatible with processors based on ARM architecture? Well, yes, but the Medfield processor has a binary translator, that converts instructions pertaining to the ARM instruction set into x86 instructions, and vice-versa. That alone makes Medfield a very unorthodox processor. Secondly, a single-core processor in a dual-core, quad-core era? Wouldn't that give unsatisfactory performance, despite the clock speed advantage Medfield has over the dual-core and quad-core competition? Usually, that would be true, but it's not. Firstly, the Medfield architecture supports Intel's ingenious hyper-threading technology, a feature which allows for two separate threads to be executed on a single core, thus making Medfield somewhat like a dual-core processor. Hyper-threading is the technology present in the Intel Core processors, and is what makes them the best. Remember also that higher core count doesn't always mean better performance, but rather, a mixture of core count, clock speed, and instructions executed per core and per clock. So Medfield has a single-core (but equivalent to a dual-core, because of hyper-threading), which is a rather low core count, at a good clock speed, but what makes the Medfield shine is the number of instructions executed per clock, which is very good in Medfield compared to current ARM processors. At 1.6GHz, the Atom SoC was seen giving CPU performance to rival dual-core and even some quad-core competitors, but now at 2.0GHz it should edge ahead of most of the competition, with exception perhaps of Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro, which uses a Quad-core Krait @ 1.5GHz. Obviously, single-threaded performance is just sweet in Medfield, thanks to the single, yet efficient core. Battery life should also be good on the RAZR i, despite of the good  CPU performance, because only one core is having to be powered there, albeit at a high clock speed. Battery life and thermals should also be very good because the Atom SoC is built upon 32nm process, better than Tegra 3's dated 40nm process, however slightly worse than the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4's 28nm process.

The GPU was also an interesting choice of Intel's, and not a very smart one. The Atom SoC features a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. Yes, this is the SGX540 that was abandoned in favor of newer GPUs after last-gen Android devices, however, it is overclocked @ 400MHz, which should bring the SGX540 back from the dead for a while. The 400MHz clock speed results in a 6.4 GFLOPS performance, which is faster than the last-gen Tegra 2, yet much slower than today's Tegra, Adreno and Mali GPUs. At the same clock speed, a current Tegra GPU could give 9.6 GFLOPS, and a Mali-400MP4 GPU should give 14.4 GFLOPS. So, as you can see, the Atom's GPU is really below average, even with the RAZR i's lower resolution hence, the RAZR i isn't the right phone for a mobile gamer. However, the Atom SoC does have one advantage in the gaming area, and that is, in fill rate, thanks to the good memory bandwidth. Atom's dual-channel LPDDR2 memory controller @ 400MHz manages to beat Tegra 3 in fill rate, as well as every device with an Adreno 225 GPU, and most Mali-400 containing SoCs, therefore we won't see any bottlenecks because of poor memory bandwidth. The framerate bottleneck in Atom will definitely be due to the weak GPU. 


Basically, the only thing that distinguishes (albeit not necessarily in a positive sense) the Motorola RAZR i is the Intel Atom SoC, especially being clocked at 2.0GHz. Other than that, all that I can say about it is that is has a pretty good display and an excellent camera. Other than that, the RAZR i is just another phone in the Android pack. I'd say that 5 GB of user available storage is far too little for today's standards, but of course the microSD expansion saves the RAZR i in that sense. The RAZR i is a pretty fast phone, although it is not very good for gamers that like complex 3D games. It must be the best Atom phone created so far. The RAZR i is scheduled for a October release in certain European and Latin American countries, such as the UK, France, Germany, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.

quarta-feira, 12 de setembro de 2012

Sony Xperia Tablet S Review

Sony is not a very big player in the Android tablet market, although the only other tablet it has ever released, the Tablet S, has been quite successful. Sony's new Xperia Tablet S, however, might bring Sony's reputation in the tablet space neck to neck with maybe even today's tablet king, ASUS. With a state-of-art NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, slim and light form factor, splash-resistant body, and with an integrated IR emitter for use of the Xperia Tablet as a TV remote control, this tablet packs a punch. It will be shipping with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but common sense tells me that a 4.1 Jelly Bean update must be in the works.

Sony Xperia Tablet S ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity Apple iPad 3
Connectivity Wi-Fi Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE
Body 570g, 8.9mm - 11.9mm thickness 598g, 8.5mm thickness 652g, 9.4mm thickness
Display 9.4" TFT LCD 1280 x 800 10.1" Super IPS+ Full HD (1920x1200) w/Corning Gorilla Glass 2 9.7" IPS TFT Retina Display (2048x1536)
Storage 16/32/64 GB + SD card slot (up to 32GB) 32/64 GB + MicroSD card slot (up to 32GB) 16/32/64 GB
RAM 1GB, single-channel DDR3-1600 1GB, single-channel DDR3L-1333 for Wi-Fi only. 1GB, dual-channel LPDDR2-500 for 3G/4G version 1GB, quad-channel LPDDR2-1066
Camera (rear) 8MP w/touch focus, image stabilization and face/smile detection, 1080p @ 30fps video 8MP w/LED flash, autofocus, 1080p video 5MP w/autofocus, face detection, 1080p @ 30fps video and video stabilization
Camera (front) 1MP, 720p video 2MP VGA, 480p @ 30fps video
OS Android 4.0 ICS Android 4.0 ICS (4.1 JB update coming soon) iOS 5.1
Chipset NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.3GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 419MHz) Wi-Fi version: NVIDIA Tegra 3 T33 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.6GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 520MHz) 3G/4G version: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 (Dual-core Krait @ 1.5GHz + Adreno 225) Apple A5X (Dual-core Cortex-A9 @ 1.0GHz + PowerVR SGX543MP4 (quad-core GPU) @ 250MHz)
Price $399 - $599 $499 - $599 $499 - $829


One of the ways in which the Xperia Tablet distinguishes itself is in its unusual shape. The body is thinner at the bottom of the device and is thicker at the top, making the back casing slightly tilted in relation to the screen. This provides a good position of the tablet when it is placed in a flat surface, enabling ergonomic typing. The Xperia Tablet is also very light, just slightly lighter than the ASUS Transformer Prime. Another nifty feature of the Xperia Tablet is that is has an integrated IR emitter, and can therefore be used as a Universal Remote Control. Personally, I think that the Xperia Tablet's design is very good. I quite like the squared corners and wide bezel. The cameras in the Xperia Tablet are very good indeed, and quite unusually, both the rear and front cameras are good, but unfortunately there's no LED flash coupled with the rear camera.

Display's pixel density is not bad, at 160 pixels per inch, but it's definitely not enough to compete with Full HD tablets, which at 10.1" screen size offer 224 pixels per inch. Sadly, this tablet only comes in a Wi-Fi only version. Also, I think that the display quality will be rather bad, following Sony's unusual choice of using a TFT display instead of an IPS screen. In relation to IPS, TFT screens tend to have rather poor color reproduction and bad viewing angles. Apparently the Xperia Tablet also has no scratch-resistant glass, making it less durable. Also, despite its processor being the king of the hill, the Tegra 3, it is unfortunately the weakest version of Tegra 3 available. The Tegra 3 T30L in the Xperia Tablet has a slightly weaker GPU, however, the memory controller is actually not bad.


I'd say that I was rather disappointed with the Xperia Tablet S, considering how good Sony usually is with its devices. It is basically a mid-end tablet with the price of a mid-to-high end tablet. It is in many ways worse than the ASUS Transformer Pad 300, yet more expensive. It doesn't have many good features, has only fair performance, which leaves design as the only win this tablet has. Sony should've used a better screen, because that's the worst feature of this tablet, and Sony should've also included a 3G or even a 4G variant of the tablet. I believe that the Xperia Tablet won't sell much mainly because other tablets offer more for a lower price. .

segunda-feira, 10 de setembro de 2012

ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity Review

The ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700) is ASUS' sixth tablet, counting the Eee Slider and the Nexus 7. After making so many tablets', ASUS has gained much experience in how to make a quality tablet, and this experience reflects especially on the TF700. It is just about the best tablet you'd possibly find (at least, of all Android tablets). It has a mind blowing design and ergonomics, it packs a punch in terms of hardware, but the best feature of all is that the TF700 is the world's first Android tablet with a Full HD screen, offering razor-sharp text, vivid colors, and crisp images and videos. With a very good entry level price ($499 for the Wi-Fi only version with 32GB of storage), this tablet should prove to be quite a best-seller, but it still remains to be seen whether it's sales will be comparable against today's best-selling tablet, the Apple iPad.

First, let's compare the specs of the Infinity with other tablets:
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity New iPad Acer Iconia Tab A700 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 ASUS Transformer Pad 300
Connectivity Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi + 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi + 3G Wi-Fi + 3G Wi-Fi
Body 598g, 8.5mm thickness 652g, 9.4mm thickness 667g, 10.9mm thickness 600g, 8.9mm thickness 635g, 9.9mm thickness
Display 10.1" Super IPS+ Full HD (1920x1200) w/Corning Gorilla Glass 2 9.7" IPS TFT Retina Display (2048x1536) 10.1" Full HD (1920x1200) LCD 10.1" PLS TFT 1280x800 10.1" IPS 1280x800
RAM 1GB, single-channel (32-bit wide) DDR3-1600 for Wi-Fi only version. 1GB, dual channel (64-bit wide) LPDDR2 @ 500MHz for 3G/4G version 1GB, quad-channel (128-bit wide) LPDDR2-1066 1GB, single-channel (32-bit wide) LPDDR2-1066 2GB, dual-channel (64-bit wide) LPDDR2 1GB, single-channel (32-bit wide) DDR3L-1333
Storage 32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32 GB
Camera (Rear) 8MP w/autofocus, LED flash, 1080p video 5MP w/autofocus, face detection, 1080p video @ 30fps, w/video stabilization 5MP w/autofocus, LED flash, 720p video 5MP w/autofocus, LED flash, 720p video @ 30fps 8MP w/autofocus, 1080p video
Camera (front) 2MP VGA, 480p video @ 30fps Yes, Unknown specs 1.9MP 1.2MP
OS Android 4.0 ICS (4.1 update coming soon) iOS 5.1 Android 4.0 ICS Android 4.0 ICS Android 4.1 JB
Chipset NVIDIA Tegra 3 T33 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.6GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 520MHz) for Wi-Fi only version. Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 (Dual-core Krait @ 1.5GHz + Adreno 225) for 3G/4G version Apple A5X (Dual Cortex-A9 @ 1GHz + PowerVR SGX543MP4 (quad-core) @ 250MHz) NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30 (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.3GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 520MHz) Samsung Exynos 4412 Quad (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.4GHz + overclocked Mali-400MP4) NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L (Quad Cortex-A9 @ 1.2GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 419MHz)


The Infinity retains many of the design features found in its little brother, the Transformer Prime. The 10.1" display is surrounded by a relatively wide bezel, with a bright, small ASUS logo sitting on the top left of the bezel, just above the screen. On the back, you will find an extraordinarily good-looking metallic spun design, with a metallic ASUS logo at the center. The tablet is available in both Champagne Gold and in Amethyst Gray colors. The difference the Infinity has from the Prime's all-aluminum casing is that it adds a plastic RF strip running along the top side of the back casing, together with the camera and LED flash, at the center. The RF strip is for improvement of Wi-Fi/GPS signal reception, which proved to be quite poor on the all-aluminum Prime. The RF strip will also be fundamental for good 3G/4G reception. The Infinity, not unlike the Transformer Pad 300, has a less tapered design than the Prime, meaning that the edges are less sharp. All this in an unprecedentedly thin 8.5mm thickness makes the Infinity the best-looking tablet you could hope to get your hands on. 


This is, after all, the main innovation coming with the Infinity. ASUS has proved that it can create the best display in most categories. It excels in brightness and is suited for outdoor reading, thanks to its Super IPS+ technology, which boosts the screen brightness to unprecedented levels. It offers 178° wide viewing angles thanks to the IPS display. It has some very good color reproduction, although not as vivid as the display in the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It has great scratch-resistance, because it is the first tablet to use Corning Gorilla Glass 2. But the big deal of the TF700's screen is it's Full HD display. A 1920x1200 resolution in a 10.1" display results in an amazing 224 pixel density, making text look razor-sharp, images look vivid, and games more realistic. It's resolution is just a bit indistinguishably lower than the New iPad's 264 pixel density. The TF700 clearly has the best display in any Android tablet, for now.


I'll have to evaluate the Infinity twice here, once for the Wi-Fi only version, which is powered by a Tegra 3 processor, and another time for the Snapdragon S4-powered 3G/4G version. Let's begin with the Tegra 3. The TF700 is the first device to include Tegra 3 T33. The T33 is powered by a Quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU running at up to 1.6GHz, with 1MB of L2 cache. So far, it is the CPU that offers by far the best performance, but that doesn't mean that power efficiency suffers much. NVIDIA has designed the Tegra 3 so it could use only enough cores to satisfy the current processing needs of the deivce. Also, NVIDIA's patented 4-PLUS-1 technology includes a fifth companion core, which is designed to operate at a very low frequency, at up to 500MHz. When the device doesn't need performance from the Cortex-A9 cores, for example, when it is idling, or when it is locked, it will power gate the four cores and all processing will be done by the companion core, thus extending battery life dramatically. The Tegra 3 is equipped with a 12-core GeForce GPU, which, ironically enough, isn't the SoC's strong feature, given that NVIDIA is a GPU company. The GPU is based on an eight-year-old core architecture, and has horrible per-core efficiency, but offers very good performance nevertheless, but unfortunately it's performance in games is even further reduced by the poor memory bandwidth, which, for a Full HD display, is almost below average. On top of that, Tegra 3 is known for having problems with heat management. After periods of time doing intensive processing, for example, when rendering games, the SoC can get pretty hot.

The 3G/4G variant of the TF700 is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Plus SoC. Qualcomm balanced performance with heat management/battery life with the S4, while NVIDIA chose to sacrifice a bit of the latter in favor of the former. The Snapdragon S4's main advantage over Tegra 3 is that it is built upon 28nm process, which offers much better heat management and battery life than T3's outdated 40nm process.  The Snapdragon S4 is also powered by the Krait processor, which is a Cortex-A15 class architecture, that is faster and more efficient than the older Cortex-A9 in the Tegra 3, but don't forget that the MSM8960 has only two of these Krait cores, and running at 100MHz slower than T33. The result is that the S4 offers a bit less performance than Tegra 3, although they are comparable, but with better power consumption and heat management. The Snapdragon S4 Plus has an Adreno 225 GPU, which offers very similar performance to Tegra 3. The Adreno 225 is built on a much more advanced architecture than Tegra 3's eight-year-old architecture, but it is still beat by Tegra 3's GPU in most benchmarks, but by a small margin. Another concerning issue of the Adreno 225 is its memory bandwidth, because even Tegra 3's already poor memory bandwidth doubles the S4's bandwidth. This should prove to be quite concerning for gaming on the TF700, especially for games that are optimized to run at the tablet's native resolution.

Both of these chipsets do quite beautifully on the CPU side, and do ok on the GPU side, but they have some serious problems with memory bandwidth. Even at HD resolutions, the fill rate figures for these SoCs were already quite concerning, now at Full HD this should be even more of a problem. Perhaps it is good that virtually no games are designed to take advantage of the TF700's FHD screen, because if there were such games, undoubtedly the poor memory bandwidth would severely bottleneck performance on these SoCs. They're both no match to the GPU inside the Apple A5X, the PowerVR SGX543MP4, which isn't good at all, considering that now Android tablets are catching up with the New iPad thanks to FHD tablet displays, not to mention that, despite only having a few pixels more than the TF700, the New iPad still has roughly 4 times the fill rate of Tegra T33, and about 8 times the fill rate of the S4 MSM8960. 


This is the question that keeps coming up all the time: Android or iOS? This should be the base for one's choice of whether they should buy an iPad or an Android tablet. Even though the TF700 still has Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, I'll evaluate Android 4.1 Jelly Bean instead because the TF700 will be upgraded to 4.1 very soon. iOS is a simple OS, which doesn't allow for much customization, but is easy to use, is flawlessly fast, pretty stable, and offers the widest variety of apps, and enables fast multitasking with multi-touch gestures. Android is the exact opposite of that. Developed by Google, it is more complex, and has many customization options, like 3D animated wallpapers, widgets, such as having weather, email, and time live right on the home screen, however, it offers no multi-touch gestures, has a considerably smaller number of apps, and it is also pretty unstable. Android used to be a very slow and laggy OS, but Android 4.1's Project Butter has ensured that the mast majority of performance faults were fixed, bringing the fluid experience that until now only iOS offered. So it's really about whether you prefer easy and simple, without customization, or complex, and with lots of customization. 


ASUS has a knack for making good quality products. The Transformer Pad Infinity is proof of that. It is constructed very well in every sense, from body design to UI refinements. The Infinity is a device for all types of uses: taking pictures, watching videos, playing games, reading e-books, but the Infinity, together with the whole Transformer series, has proved itself to be especially adapt to working, thanks to ASUS' innovative keyboard dock, which enabled fast, easy typing. The keyboard dock's purpose is to enable the tablet to be quickly 'transformed' into a small netbook, hence the name 'Transformer'. With this keyboard dock, ASUS invented a new category of mobile devices, in which all of the Transformer tablets are included. But that's not all that the keyboard dock offers, it also provides one USB 2.0 port and an SD Card slot, for easy connection of peripherals and storage devices, and the keyboard dock also extends the tablet's battery life to an unprecedented 16 hours. The only possible complaint I could think of for this tablet is that it's GPU and memory controller aren't strong enough for the TF700's FHD screen. It is a great product, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for an Android tablet. I'd especially recommend it to people who intend to use a tablet for work, once again, because of the keyboard dock. Kudos to ASUS for making such a premium tablet!