Many companies showed of Solid State Disks (SSD) at CES, but none so cost effectively as Sandisk. As usual Sandisk is bringing a product to market that beats the price of it’s competitors while still not skimping on features. SSD drives are an effective way to increase performance and battery life on notebooks without requiring re-engineering. Available now in a variety of capacities and price points - look for them in stores or devices soon.
Sandisk is experimenting with doing away with boring old thumb drives in favor of something a little more personal. Their new prototype jewelry is designed as an accessory first, and technology second. Amazingly well hidden within the stylish exterior is a miniscule USB plug for access to it’s treasure trove of digital memories. These are not yet on the market but should be soon - keep your eyes (and pocket book) peeled.
While at CES, we got the opportunity to check out the AMD Smart House. The Smart House is a demonstration by AMD of all the different ways that their processors can help enhance day-to-day life of every day consumers. The Mother/Father/Daughter/Sun schtick is a bit thick at times, but the potential of the smart home of the future shines through nonetheless.
We visited Samsung and learned about their new Ultra Mobile Personal Computers (UMPC). They’re basically palm-sized computers with the power of a laptop. Their line starts with the Q1 Ultra, which runs Windows XP or Vista has a standard 80GB hard drive, a battery life of 4 ½ hours with WiFi enabled, includes a webcam, 2 USB ports and an SD Card slot, weighing only 1.5 pounds at a price of $1300 USD. There’s also the Q1 Ultra SSD, with a 32 GB solid-state drive for increased boot time and access to data. Finally, there’s the just-launched, award-winning Q1 Ultra Premium, with a powerful Intel Pentium Mobile Processor, 80GB hard drive, and a battery life up to 7.5 hours with WiFi enabled. Available at the end of the month for $1500.
New this week from Alienware is their desktop replacement laptop, the Area 51 M15x. Weighing in at only 7 pounds, with a battery life of 4 hours (and the added bonus of a second battery), and a rear cooling system, the M15x is the only 15” laptop to feature Intel’s Core 2 Extreme 2.8 gHz processor.
With a screen resolution of 1920x1080, the M15x sports true 1080p to fully exploit the binary graphics - it can switch between its NVIDIA 8800 512 mhz graphics card and its integrated Intel card, which is perfect for getting the most out of DVDs viewed on the integrated Blu-Ray player. It also has an HDMI output to enjoy those Blu-Ray movies on a big screen. Alienware’s Area 51 M15x is available at a price point of around $2200 to $2300.
We take a close look at AMD‘s recently announced “Puma” notebook platform. Puma is a tightly-knit system for notebook suppliers comprising of the chipset, CPU, GPU and wireless chipset. Similar in some ways to their Spider desktop platform, Puma takes it to the next level by allowing for a hybrid integrated and discreet graphics solution. While Intel has something similar, AMD is apparently the first to offer a dynamically switchable system, allowing your notebook to automatically switch to integrated graphics when it detects you’ve gone on battery, or to allow you to switch manually. I asked if they plan on making it automatic, based on load, which they seemed to think was a pretty great idea and relatively easy to achieve as well. What’s more, despite the fact that the integrated and discreet GPUs are chips of differing abilities and specs, they’re still able to operate in Crossfire/hybrid mode, providing an extra boost in power and achieving some very impressive framerates.
AMD shows us their reference bench system and two other identically-configured systems, the only difference between them an Intel versus AMD integrated graphics chipset. (And CPU, naturally.) With a price difference of around $25 to AMD’s favor, the AMD integrated chip actually performs considerably better in their demo, grain of salt included. The reference system shows off their hybrid processing and lets us see what framerates we might be able to hit on an entry- to mid-level hybrid Puma system.
Puma also brings about something that’s been announced with Intel as well—the ability to deactivate CPU cores and speeds, instead of just stepping down speed. This, coupled with an intelligent HD decoder will bring about several hours of additional battery life.
We take a few moments with AMD‘s Rick Bergman, General Manager of the Graphics Processing Group, about their new Spider platform—a three-tiered computing system that helps tie together and ensure compatibility between the chipset, CPU and GPU. We talk about what sort of benefits this means to the enthusiast-class consumer. We also dive into the nitty-gritty with the new Radeon, currently codenamed the R870—a dual chip design that has two separate GPU units with an internal Crossfire link and Alternate-Frame Rendering to tie them together. I also ask about some of the design challenges realized in smashing two cards together and getting an efficient, workable result. The design is impressive and the ability to link two of these cards together will come to mean a great deal of graphics processing power in the near future.
The card will be available late January and can be powered in a typical system by a 500 watt power supply; ATI has cut their power requirements for similarly powered cards in half, without sacrificing any performance.
We talk to AMD‘s Marketing VP, Pat Moorhead about the Smart House “portal” they had set up at CES. In contrast to our last post, they were much more open this time and let me ask just about any questions I asked, including questions about their roadmap and some very cool details about their new “Black” edition, incredibly overclocker-friendly CPU. We also learn more about their mobile device chipset and hear that we’ll be able to output HD content from cell phones and other mobile devices running on ATI chips within the next year or so, straight to an HDTV. Cool stuff.
We talk about the demographic reach of AMD and how AMD has its technology in hundreds of non-PC products.