Tag Archive | "arm"

Tegra2 vs Atom in Browsing Test

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I don’t have Honeycomb here and I don’t have the latest Atom platform here but in the video below I do have two devices that show the browsing speed differences between Tegra 2 and Atom. The Toshiba AC100 running the ‘old’ Android 2.1 build and the Gigabyte Touchnote running an ‘old’ Atom N270 are both mainstream builds and it’s worth taking a look at how the browsing speed compares.

My estimate, following these tests, is that Android/Tegra is just one iteration (either software or hardware) away from matching what a netbook can provide. And remember, we’re into the sub 10 second category here where 10% or 20% difference is not worth talking about. 1 second isn’t much, really.

Did I miss something? Perhaps we should be running 10 tabs and Flash, that’s true. The ‘built-for-multitasking’ X86 and Windows platform should pull ahead but consider this performance on a 7” screen where multitasking gets hidden by the one-pane user interface.

My final thought here is that ARM platforms are not only progressing as fast as the X86 platforms but also get a huge advantage from the massive, massive investment going into mobile software. Right now, the leading browser engines are on X86 but expect that to flip over in 2011 or 2012.

In 2007 I highlighted a 9-second penalty on ARM. In 2011, we’re down to 1-2 seconds. We’re down to irrelevant differences.

I’m interested in your thoughts. Please comment below.

Nvidia CEO Talks Up ARM and the Future of Mobile Devices

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5366326949_76cdde59ff_b Jen-Hsun Huang, the CEO of Nvidia has recently announced a major Tegra 2 win (Honeycomb) and a new project “extending the performance range of the ARM instruction-set architecture, enabling the ARM architecture to cover a larger portion of the computing space” so it’s no surprise that the CEO is positive when he talks about ARM.

I had the chance to watch him being interviewed by All Things D mobile correspondent Ina Fried last week at CES and with Galaxy Tab in hand I was put to the test in noting quote after quote of amazing pro-ARM comments from Jen-Hsun.  How about some of these gems:

“2011 is likely to go down like 1995. We will realise that the personal computing industry was redefined”. Jen-Hsun is referring to Windows 95, the operating system that changed the way consumers interacted with personal computers.

“The most important architecture going forward is likely to be ARM.”

“Whatever expectation you have…are going to be fully met by mobile computing devices within the next 3 to 4 years.”

“3D on phone is a foregone conclusion. This piece of glass is is likely the most accommodating piece of glass for 3D”

Here’s a quick video I did of Jen-Hsun demonstrating the LG Optimus 2X. There’s a fuller video over at All Things D

In addition to Tegra 2, 3D and Honeycomb announcements, Nvidia have also taken a Cortex A15 license and have announced project Denver which appears to be looking to combine future ARM architecture (possibly Cortex A15, possibly a new license for ARMv7 or even ARMv8!) and running parallel with the Windows on ARM project. If Nvidia are chosen as the reference design for that, they are sitting pretty! An Nvidia blog post gives more info about Denver.

However, Nvidia talks about ARM like it’s the only low-power choice but we know that Intel are moving into this space too. In fact, as processing power requirements reach into the same 1W envelope, it’s the screens, radios, batteries and software need to be sorted out. An wild, uncontrolled third party app can negate a lot of potential hardware efficiencies.  Also, if Windows 8 is supporting ARM, I expected it to also be supporting the new power features of the Intel platforms that bring it right alongside ARM. Don’t forget that Android is running on Intel too!

Nvidia appear to have an excellent leader, strategist and spokesperson in Jen-Hsun and it’s unlike any other company playing in this mobile game. The brand is looking good, products are looking good, strategy and partnerships are going well and given one or two more major wins, Nvidia will rise to the top very quickly.

Thanks to Ina Fried for (literally) last-minute access to All Things D at CES. Ina runs the Mobilized blog for All Things D and is on Twitter here.

Report: Mobile Computing at CES 2011 – The X-Over Year

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We’ve just recorded Meet:Mobility Podcast 62. If you haven’t tuned in, please do because JKK, Sascha and myself spend a long time talking in detail about what happened in mobile computing at CES and give you a good overview of the significant products we got to understand while were in Las Vegas. For me, the show brought me the biggest signal yet that the X-over is happening. That’s X86 and ARM platforms crossing over in the mobile and personal computing space.

We’ve seen many indicators before now that ARM-derived processing platforms and operating systems were capable of personal computing tasks. I tested the Compaq Airlife almost  a year ago (Fully Reviewed in May) and the Tegra2-based Toshiba AC100 that I still have for testing is everything needed for a good smart-book / PC experience except the software build but there hasn’t been a time when so many top-tier manufacturers have shown the same confidence by bringing out multiple X-over products. In that respect, CES 2011 is a very important year and I do believe that we’ll look back and say, yes, that was the start of the crossover.

Palazzo to CES Convention Center

It will be a turbulent year or whirlwind activities. We’re rising out of a depression and there’s new confidence that risks can be taken. Many of the products we’re seeing won’t’ succeed either due to being too early or by being side-swiped by other disruptive products.

Tablets came-of-age at CES 2011. The rising quality of devices and the number of top tier brands shows that there’s a big enough level on investment now that the segment is unlikely to fail to produce multi-million sales. Estimates range up to 40m units for 2011 which will match netbook sales. I agree. 40m is achievable, especially as prices drop like a ton of bricks.


We’re not just talking about tablets though. There are a whole list of products we need to mention.

Motorola Atrix. Taking the prize for most-talked about device at CES is this dual-core Android phone with a big battery and lots of connectivity. The laptop ‘dock’ turned it into a desktop that made people stop and think. This idea of modular computing is exciting but there are lots of issues to consider. I have a Tegra 2 smart-book running Android and while it’s fun, it’s not productive. Processing power is short of what is needed and the apps are limited. Despite a full Firefox build being available on the Atrix, the limits I’ve experienced on the Toshiba AC100, will also apply to the Atrix until Honeycomb and a lot of ISV investment, solve the problem. I also imagine the cost of that set-up to be getting close to $800 or more. Who’s going to invest that much into a system that still won’t do 100% of personal computing activities? There’s also the issue of putting all your eggs in one basket. Smartphones have a tendency to get lost! The Atrix is a cool product and shows very clearly how desk-top computing will be possible with smartphone cores.

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. Like the Atrix, this is a device aiming to be more than one computing solution. Unlike the Atrix, this one offers the tablet as the screen and computing core with a docking keyboard finishing off the ‘smart book’ look. The smartphone ‘core’ isn’t so obvious and this isn’t a device aiming to be totally convergent. In fact, it feels to me like it fits in with it’s target audience in a more comfortable way than the Atrix. A consumer, coffee-table tablet with an optional keyboard for ‘getting things done’ sounds perfect for the iPad generation. With Android offering great in-cloud synchronisation, a two-device Android strategy could work well, especially as this product will get the important Honeycomb operating system update. [More info on the ASUS products at CES available here]

Gemtech Zeus (1) Gemtek. Highlighting the progress that Intel are making with their non-Windows platforms is the Gemtek Zeus. While the product is targeted as a media phone, it’s worth stopping for a moment to look at exactly what’s happening here. This is Android version 2.2 on an Intel Moorestown platform. That’s an official Intel Android build (that is likely to become an official branch of Android) optimised for Intels always-on platform. The product is light, is said to have good battery life. It highlights just how close ARM and Intel products are in the mobile space – and this is just Intels first attempt!

OLPC XO-1.75 – One Laptop Per Child product was another win for ARM this week. Starting with an AMD CPU and then moving to VIA, another X86 CPU, they have now switched over to a Marvel ARMADA 610 ARMv7 core for the XO-1.75 which should go into production in mid 2011. The difference in battery life is likely to be very significant because in the past, they were using relatively old X86 CPUs. Always-on, screen-off standby is also now possible. It will be important to see the performance too. Compared to the very old AMD Geode CPU that was used in the original, there shouldn’t be any noticeable difference at all and yet the power envelope has been cut from 5W to 2W! There’s an interesting video available on this here. OLPC CTO Edward J. McNierney says in the video that the performance is now better!

xoom2 Honeycomb – Finally, the gun has been fired for a true large-screen version of Android. This is likely to be a branch of Android that will run parallel to version 2.x but the important thing is that it signals Googles commitment which, in turn, with give ISVs the confidence to invest in larger Android application projects. Serious productivity apps, video editing and ‘HD’ versions of existing applications. Motorola and Nvidia were the big winners as they have been chosen to provide the reference hardware and product. Soon after the Xoom launches you can expect to see more Honeycomb product announcements that will roll in the second half of 2011.Finally, we could see a productive ‘smart’ book although don’t forget that Intel will also be involved here. Honeycomb on i86 is announcement I expect to hear about soon.

Windows and Office on RISC SOCs. This was a huge announcement that gives ARM partners a reason to take a Cortex A15 license if they haven’t done so already. I’m not expecting to see a mobile product drop out of Microsoft onto ARM but again, it gives ISVs reason to create ARM versions of applications. That effort could spill over into Honeycomb-related work too. Interestingly, it puts Adobe in a great position as a runtime that will work across all of these platforms and operating systems. They could find themselves being used as an important bridge. Timescales for Windows, timescales for drivers, timescales for ported software are all in the 2-5 year timeframe although X86 emulation could speed that up? Developers could be given virtual ARM SDKs to aid development work which would explain why Microsoft took a full ARM license this year.

One of the interesting things about Windows on ARM is that, finally, it will give everyone the ability to benchmark ARM against X86 in like-for-like products. My money is on Intel having the processing power advantage and ARM offering battery life and price advantages. Differences, however, are likely to be minimal and it could all be decided on value-add features like security, wireless integration and application stores. OEDs are the ones that will make the decision here.

IMG_6338 Angry Birds on AppUp. Angry Birds migrated from ARM to X86 this week as Intel announced that the popular phone game was available on their AppUp store. That makes it available to some 100 million netbook and notebook customers and will have driven a large number of installations of the AppUp store that doesn’t yet come pre-installed on netbooks. Clearly Intel have bought-in the app to drive adoption but even so, it’s great to see and it won’t take many more of these wins before AppUp starts to drive its own adoption. Video demo here.

I was surprised not to hear any news concerning Windows 7 Compact. Microsoft still don’t have a consumer internet device operating system for the 4-10” segment. What’s going on there?


Intel’s Oaktrail surprised me at CES. I saw a number of WIndows-based products that were significantly smaller than I expected and had logner battery life than I expected. At least the claims of battery life seem to be good anyway. Viliv, a company that has both an ARM/Android and Intel Oaktrail/Windows product in the same 7” screen casing proved that parity has almost been reached. The X70 Slate is some 35% lighter than the previous model and even increases the battery life from 6 to 6.5hrs. I can’t wait to see the performance on both Intel and ARM versions. The Samsung Gloria/PC7/TX100 was also an interesting product in terms of technology, size and battery life on Intel. Ocosmos are also working on an Oaktrail device. It’s tiny!

Nvidia announced project ‘Denver’ which aims to bring ARM to the desk-top. [More info] I suspect this is a Cortex A15 project and won’t see the light of day until 2013 but once again, there’s the confidence and investment in a crossover product. These are hugely expensive projects so the message is clear now – the risks are low enough and potential gains are high enough to get these projects underway.

Finally, there was another signal that crossover is starting to happen. I used a Galaxy Tab A LOT at CES. Wifi and 3G internet was hard to come-by but as my PIM, note-taking device, map and Twitter device it worked perfectly and preserved my phone battery , a Nokia N8, for photos and those voice-type things some people do! SMS were also handled on the N8. The netbook was with me most of the time and, like now, there’s no easier way to get a lot of text in a blog and video edited and posted. For bum-on-seat activities, I still need Windows but I surprised myself just how much I used the tablet. You’ll see me use it a lot more at MWC next month.

What Google’s Chrome OS Means For You.

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Google finally launched Chrome OS at a press event in San Francisco yesterday after first introducing the concept back in July of 2009. Its a straight forward idea, your browser is the operating system and you use web applications for your daily needs.

On the surface Chrome OS is virtually identical to Google’s Chrome browser but actually runs on a stripped down Linux core which promises to be lightweight and efficient.


As part of the announcement Google opened a pilot program to test Chrome OS on an x86 unbranded notebook called the CR-48. The Intel Atom based 12.1 inch notebook won’t be on sale to the consumers but does come with a speculated 8 hours in use battery life and an impressive 8 days standby. Whilst the CR-48 certainly doesn’t come under the Carrypad coverage I’m certain as the platform matures smaller ARM based devices will be available which will bring better portability, power efficiency and of course the all important full desktop browsing experience which we talk about so much. Couple this with the new Chrome Web Store providing web applications for both Chrome OS and browser and we could be provided some competition to the developing MeeGo ecosystem.

So, What Google’s Chrome OS means for you?… Nothing yet but watch this space.

Coming To You from Ubuntu on the ARM-based AC100. (Update: Video)

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I’ve installed Ubuntu on my Toshiba AC100 ‘smartbook’ and I’m accessing my WordPress back-end via Firefox 3.6. This is a test to see if I can create and post an entry.

You should see a photo on the right (uploaded from the filesystem on the AC100)

Wifi is obviously working and considering i’m running this from an SD card the experience isn’t too bad. It’s locking-up from time to time as the OS works with the filesystem but i’m seeing some quite impressive CPU-related performance.

An interesting example of the performance is the SunSpider result i’ve just got from Firefox 3.6. Its the fastest result i’ve ever seen on an ARM-based device.

Firefox SunSpider Test on AC100.jpg

Click to enlarge that image and click here to view the gallery i’m creating as I go. (You’ll see OpenOffice is working!)

This feels like a seminal moment for productive smart-books. There’s lots to fix and improve but for a base install, i’m impressed.

Expect a video soon… Update: Video now available below.

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