Show the world we want a phone worth keeping! #phonebloks
“And now you’re just some countries that I used to own …”
Starting now, you can follow along with the London 2012 Opening Ceremony as it unfolds at the Ceremonies Explorer. Check out more official Olympics coverage by following all the blogs in the London 2012 Olympics Tumblr Spotlight.
SAN FRANCISCO—Four cores are not always better than two. But this time, they are. I’m here in San Francisco with Qualcomm’s S4 Pro development tablet, the $1,299 showcase for its new quad-core APQ8064 chip. The APQ8064 is basically a top-of-the-line smartphone, doubled: it has four 1.5Ghz, 28-nanometer Krait cores instead of the two in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X. And guess what? On many benchmarks, it’s twice as fast. In a full day here with Qualcomm, I’ve been listening with approval as the chipmaker says that current benchmarks for mobile devices are generally pretty awful. They don’t test the real-life applications that most people use on their phones and tablets, they over-emphasize simple math results and high-end gaming, and under-emphasize UI smoothness, touch responsiveness, and communications tasks. That said, we’ve got what we’ve got right now, and the APQ8064 demo unit has got a lot. View SlideshowSee all (9) slides More First of all, never mind the hardware. The APQ8064 test unit is a chunky 10-inch tablet with a 13-megapixel camera on the back, a dock with USB and Ethernet ports, and a fingerprint reader. It really only exists so application developers can start working with the chip. Actual retail tablets will look different, will come from the usual tablet makers, and will arrive before the end of the year. The biggest surprise is in graphics performance. Qualcomm isn’t known for being a GPU company, but the new Adreno 320 GPU in here is a great leap forward. Most gaming tests on the new tablet hit 60 frames per second, the “vsync limit” beyond which consumer Android apps cannot venture. The GLBenchmark Egypt Offscreen test, which pumps the graphics system without displaying the image, hit 132 fps. That makes the APQ8064 a prime chip for the new “retina” and even higher-resolution tablets of the future, because it’ll be able to hit 60 fps even at higher resolutions than this device’s 1366-by-768. On raw measurements of CPU and I/O prowess, the APQ6084 blew out the competition. It scored 7,667 on Quadrant and 13,888 on Antutu, both higher scores than any other product I’ve seen so far. (Qualcomm, just to note, doesn’t like Antutu very much and the chip maker’s reps say that the benchmark prefers quad-core devices.) Does the S4 Pro have any weaknesses? There is the fact that some common apps don’t take advantage of four asynchronous cores. Web browsing, for instance. The 8064 tablet scores 120,414 on Browsermark in Chrome, which was just a touch higher than the 113,776 we saw on Qualcomm’s dual-core 8960 development phone. That’s because the browser benchmark doesn’t use all the cores. But it also means the additional power may not make a big difference in your day-to-day browsing.
Look Out, Nvidia
Qualcomm appears to have leapfrogged rival Nvidia, at least for the moment. I also have a Google Nexus 7 running Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” and powered by Nvidia’s 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 chip here, and the APQ8064 smokes it. That’s to be expected; we found earlier that the Tegra 3 performs about on par with the dual-core Qualcomm S4, with Nvidia’s four 40nm Cortex-A9 cores balancing out against Qualcomm’s two 28nm Cortex-A15-like Krait cores. Here are the hard numbers: the Nexus 7 scored 3,579 on Quadrant, less than half the 8064’s result. It also managed only half the 8064’s score on GLBenchmark Egypt Offscreen, scoring only 61 fps. On another graphics benchmark, Nenamark 2, I’ve been seeing Tegra 3 devices range from 38 fps (for the high-res TF700) to 56 fps (for the small-screen Nexus 7). The Qualcomm 8064 hit the 60-fps limit. Antutu doesn’t run on the Nexus 7 (the benchmark isn’t Jelly Bean-compatible yet) but the 8064’s Antutu result of 13,888 is a bit faster than the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, which runs the Tegra 3 at 1.6Ghz. That tablet scored 12,187. Other Tegra 3 tablets with 1.3Ghz processors typically score between 10,000 and 11,000 on the benchmark. But the Nexus 7 with its Android 4.1 OS got a better Browsermark score (132,202) than the 8064 running Android 4.0.4. The OS improvements between 4.0 and 4.1 matter more than processor speed, when Web browsing isn’t stressing your processor. Qualcomm and Nvidia make conflicting claims about battery life for their two platforms, claims I can’t test right now. Nvidia says its “4-plus-1” architecture saves power because it turns on a low-power core most of the time, when you don’t need multiple megaflops. Qualcomm instead opts for asynchronous quad-core workload management, where it turns the main cores up and down in speed as needed. We’ll only know which is better once we’ve tested multiple real products. Where will this appear? The 8064 test tablet runs Android, obviously, but Qualcomm is also one of the launch partners for Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 running on ARM processors. Microsoft’s current PR voice for Windows 8 is as silent as the grave, but it’s not too far-fetched to see one of these quad-core beasts running Windows RT in the future. Let’s also keep things in perspective: while this chip is screamingly fast for an ARM-based processor, the x86 processors most PCs run on are faster (and more expensive, larger, and hotter). For example, the 1.8Ghz Intel Core i5 powering a MacBook Air running Chrome scores a 682,221 on Browsermark—more than five times as fast as the 8064. Nvidia will soon come back with a new Tegra chip. It’s almost time. But for now, Qualcomm takes the crown with the fastest ARM-based processor on the market.
APPLE ANNOUNCED OSX LION FOR RELEASE WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24TH 2012
As part of its quarterly earnings press release, Apple has confirmed that OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, the latest version of its desktop operating system, will be released via the Mac App Store tomorrow. Priced at $19.99, Mountain Lion brings a number of elements from iOS to the Mac with new features including Notification Center, expanded iCloud support, Reminders, a revamped Messages app, and more. We took an in-depth look at an early preview of OS X 10.8back in February, and Apple has also detailed each of the 200+ new features you’ll find inside the OS starting tomorrow. When the moment does finally arrive, you’ll need to be running either Mac OS X Lion or the most recent version of Snow Leopard (10.6.8) to upgrade.
Here’s our review of Mac OS X Mountain Lion.
Online video consumption on multiple screens throughout the home is quickly becoming the norm — and all that video has a way of sucking up a home’s bandwidth. Semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom believes that the gigabit Wi-Fi speeds that 802.11ac will provide is a way to combat that, and the company has just announced its first 802.11ac chipset to help move consumers on to this new protocol. The BCM 4335 chipset that Broadcom is announcing today includes the aforementioned 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and FM radio all on one chip. The company claims that it’ll be about three times faster in terms of raw speeds over existing Wi-Fi networks, and also expects it to be six times more power efficient than 802.11n solutions.
Michael Hurlston, Broadcom’s Senior VP and GM of the company’s wireless connectivity combo group, told us that the new chip is “in a full sample phase” and that he expects devices to hit the market with it early in 2013. Broadcom’s focusing the chipset on the expected devices — smartphones, tablets, and ultrabooks — and Hurlston told us that the company “really pushed hard in the smartphone area, and that’s been our strength as a chipset provider.” This announcement is really just the continuation of a process that started way back at CES, when Broadcom announced its first family of 802.11ac chips that were primarily meant for routers. Now that routers are out there, we’re looking forward to seeing some compatible devices hit the market soon.
Post-it notes are a great tool for recreating the pixelated video game characters of yore, but this video from Zach King goes a step further by actually bringing those characters to life. The stop-motion clip features 7,000 Post-its and while it’s mainly focused on Super Mario, there are a few guest appearances as well, both from Pac-Man and the blocks from Tetris. It’s a great way to get in the mood for New Super Mario Bros. 2 next month — that is, if you’re not too busy already playing discounted Mario games on your 3DS.
Supreme Commander: Pony Edition