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Thread: Anandtech News

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    Anandtech: Thermaltake Launches Tt eSports Iris Optical RGB Gaming Mouse

    LAS VEGAS, NV -- Thermaltake launched a new gaming mouse at CES 2018, the Tt eSports Iris Optical RGB gaming mouse. It’s an entry level product that aims to provide great bang for buck performance.
    The Iris Optical RGB features a right-handed ergonomic design with a sharp gamingaesthetic. It boasts textured grips on both sides as well as a matte, soft-touch coating for better control. Below the scroll wheel is the DPI switch and at the right-hand side of the mouse are two programmable macro keys. Thermaltake says their switches are “gaming-grade” and are rated for 20 million clicks.

    The mouse features two lighting zones – on the Tt eSports logo near the rear of the mouse as well as the Logitech G Pro-esque LED strip running around the sides. Both feature the full 16.8 million color RGB color spectrum and nine lighting effects that can be customized via Thermaltake’s Tt eSports Command Centre software.
    The mouse uses the Pixart PMW-3325 optical sensor that goes from a minimum of 100 DPI up to 5,000 DPI. The sensitivity can be customized from Tt eSports Command Centre in 200 DPI increments. You can also adjust the polling rate from a minimum of 125Hz up to 2,000Hz.
    The Tt eSports Iris Optical RGB gaming mouse is priced very competitively with a recommended retail price of USD $29.99.
    Thermaltake eSports Iris Optical RGB Specifications
    Sensor PMW3325
    Resolution Up to 5000 DPI
    Speed 100 IPS
    Acceleration 20G
    Ambidextrous No, right-handed
    Switches Unknown, rated for 20M clicks
    Polling Rate 125 Hz - 2000 Hz
    Lighting Logo and side stirp
    Buttons 6
    Software Tt eSports Command Center
    Cable USB, 1..8m
    Dimensions (H x W x D) 68.71 x 123 x 41.13mm
    Price $29.99
    Gallery: Tt eSports Iris RGB Gaming Mouse Gallery

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    Wendi Ma Contributed to this report


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    Anandtech: Tesoro Returns with Low-Profile Switch Keyboards, Fresh Software

    LAS VEGAS, NV -- Tesoro will readily admit that 2017 was a quiet year for the small peripherals company. The personnel reshifted and refocused during that time, carefully and fully revamping its products and approach to the market. We got a semi-exclusive look at what the company will be rolling out early in 2018: low-profile switch mechanical keyboards.
    However, neither of the two new keyboard models we got hands-on time with sport the low-profile Kaihua switches we’ve been dissecting. Instead, one offers the new (TTC-made) Tesoro Slim Switch, and the other has Tesoro’s own (Kaihua-made) Agile low-profile switch. Both are supported by the company’s new Tesoro 360 configuration software.

    Tesoro Gram XS

    The first new piece of Tesoro kit is the Gram XS, which was designed to offer all the gaming features one desires--mechanical switches, RGB lighting, and configuration software--but with a look that has a broader appeal than most gaming planks.
    This was a conscious decision; during its yearlong refresh, the company researched who, exactly, is a “gamer” these days and discovered that there’s no one type: “Gamers” run the gamut of ages and genders, and increasingly, those people desire quality keyboards but have tastes as varied as their demographics. The Gram XS is white and slim but can also be colorful and fun with its backlighting; it wouldn’t be out of place in a visible location in a home, such as a living room or office.
    We recently spent some time with a pair of low-profile keyboards that have Kailh PG1335 switches on board, and we found that although they deliver a satisfying typing experience, they were missing just a little something when it came to gaming. We didn’t get a chance to game on the Gram XS, but we found the Tesoro Slim Red switches felt more robust at first touch. There’s a reason for that; Tesoro told us that its Red switch is actually heavier than its Blue one.
    One distinct difference between the Gram XS and other low-profile keyboard options out there is the keycaps. Low-profile keyboards usually offer keycaps that have a similar profile to desktop caps, but just cut down, but the Gram XS actually has chiclet keycaps. This is a bit of a risk, because the caps have a bit of wobble, but in our brief hands-on time, we felt that they were no more (or hardly anymore) wobbly than a normal keycap. In any case, the chiclet caps enable an even slimmer overall profile than other thin keyboards.
    Some may remember that Tesoro has been experimenting with this form factor for a while now. We most recently saw a prototype at Computex 2017; you can see that Tesoro kept much of the same design.
    When we popped off the spacebar to have a look at the stabilizers, we were surprised to instead find three switches. Simply, the spacebar has prongs in three locations that slot into the three switches. Obviously, the two flanking switches have no input, but it perhaps makes sense to offer a more true stabilization of the spacebar rather than traditional Costar-style or Cherry stabs. This also helps give some sturdiness to the otherwise rather flimsy spacebar. Indeed, if there’s a design flaw in the Gram XS, it’s the thin spacebar and the fact that when you press it, they cap ends up flush with the bezel, which feels a little odd under your thumb.
    Tesoro Gram Spectrum TKL

    The second new entry into the Tesoro keyboard family is the Gram Spectrum TKL. Simply put, it’s a sawed-off version of the Gram Spectrum that was announced some time ago. It also has Tesoro’s Agile switch. Made by Kaihua (PG1280), the two Gram Spectrum keyboards are the only devices that have them. As we’ve discussed before, the Agile switch is something of a ‘tweener switch because it’s shallower than a regular desktop switch but deeper than, for example, the Tesoro Slim Switch.
    For now, it has Blue (clicky) switches, but Tesoro may branch out and employ a Red (linear) option at some point. Of further note are the keycaps, which are doubleshot. Tesoro is also planning to change the font to something a little more broadly palatable--as it’s done with the Gram XS.
    Gallery: Gram Spectrum TKL Gallery

    Tesoro Gram XS and Gram Spectrum TKL
    Gram XS Gram Spectrum TKL
    Model Type Fullsize TKL
    Switch Brand Tesoro
    Switch Type Ultra-slim Blue, Red Agile
    Actuation Force Blue: 40 +/- 10gf
    Red: 45 +/- 15gf
    Blue: 45 +/- 15gf
    Red: 45 +/- 15gf
    Actuation Point Blue/Red: 1.1 +/- 0.4mm Blue/Red: 1.5mm +/- 0.5mm
    Total Key Travel Blue/Red: 3.0 +/- 0.3mm Blue/Red: 3.5mm +/- 0.5mm
    Sensing Method Mechanical
    Microcontroller 32bit ARM Cortex Processor
    Polling Rate 1000 Hz
    Lighting 16.8m RGB LED
    Key Rollover 6-key / N-Key Options
    Key Caps Chiclet Doubleshot
    Dimensions (W x H x D) 450 x 126.5 23.2mm 365 x 136 x 25.6mm
    Switch Specs

    As you can see in the chart below, the Tesoro Slim switches have the most shallow actuation point (1.1mm). Most of the others are 1.5mm. Both the Tesoro Slim and Kailh PG1350 switches have 3mm of total travel. Note that the Agile switches have 3.5mm travel, which is quite close to the 4mm travel of most desktop switches. One rather stark difference between the Tesoro and Kaihua switches is that the latter is heavier.
    Tesaro, Kailh, and Kaihua Switch Specifications
    Tesoro Slim Red Tesoro Slim Blue Kailh PG1350 (Choc) Kailh PG1232 (Mini Choc) Tesoro Agile Red Tesoro Agile Blue
    Type Linear Clicky Lenear, Tactile, Clicky Clicky Linear Clicky
    Actuation Point 1.1mm +/- 0.4mm 1.1mm +/- 0.4mm 1.5mm (+/-0.5mm) 1.2mm (+/-0.5mm) 1.5mm +/- 0.5mm 1.5mm +/- 0.5mm
    Actuation Force 45 +/-
    40 +/-
    50gf 50gf 45g +/-
    45g +/-
    Pressure Point Force - 50 +/-
    60gf 60gf - Unknown
    Total Travel 3.0mm +/- 0.3mm 3.0mm +/- 0.3mm 3mm (+/-0.5mm) 2.4mm (+/-0.5mm) 3.5mm +/- 0.5mm 3.5mm +/- 0.5mm
    Tesoro 360 Software

    Along with the new hardware comes refined software, which is called Tesoro 360. Tesoro wanted to create pleasing, clean user interface--one that matches the family-friendly look of the Gram XS--that still affords users plenty of configuration options. You’ll be able to perform all the usual actions--key assignments, macros, lighting, and so on.
    The (Near) Future

    This is the beginning of Tesoro’s year; more products are coming. Tesoro is going to maintain two product families: the Gram series, which we’ve detailed above, and the Durandal line. The former is going to be the line where you’ll see the technologies and new ideas that Tesoro is working on, whereas the Durandal line is going to bear more traditional designs and will cost less. Expect to see some Cherry MX-equipped models, as well.
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    Seth Colaner contributed to this report


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    Anandtech: ECS at CES 2018: LIVA Z2, LIVA Q2 & LIVA One SoC Gemini Lake-Based UCFF PC

    LAS VEGAS, NV — ECS demonstrated a few of its upcoming ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) PCs based on the Gemini Lake platform at CES 2018. The new LIVA Z2 and LIVA Q2 systems enhance the performance and feature-set of the currently available LIVA Z and LIVA Q. The Liva One SoC is a new addition to the lineup. It comes with improved storage and I/O capabilities.

    The key innovations in the new LIVA PCs are enabled by Intel’s Gemini Lake SoCs with Intel’s UHD 600-series iGPU. In particular, the new processors offer higher general-purpose performance compared to their predecessors because of the Goldmont Plus CPU microarchitecture. The SoCs also feature an improved media processing engine with support for 10-bit HEVC and 10-bit VP9 video. The Gen10 display engine now supports a native HDMI 2.0 / HDCP 2.2 display output. The LIVA Z2 and the LIVA One SoC systems now rely on DDR4-2400 memory rather than on DDR3L-1866. We can expect complete systems featuring the barebones to be slightly faster and a bit more affordable compared to the currently available Apollo Lake-based systems in the LIVA lineup.
    The original LIVA Q 0.15-liter nettop measuring 70mm × 70mm × 31 mm was added to the lineup relatively late last year. By contrast, its successor, the LIVA Q2, will be ready this March. The new system will gain a couple of millimeters z-height and will inherit all connectivity capabilities of its predecessors (e.g., will lack a 3.5-mm audio connector), while offering higher performance and improved multimedia capabilities.
    The ECS LIVA Z2 has lost its predecessor’s M.2 slot for SSDs and now relies solely on embedded eMMC storage. Meanwhile, the PC has gained a 2.5-inch bay, which means that it is now considerably thicker than its predecessor and resembles the LIVA ZE from last year. The move is a bit strange because many modern SSD modules are cheaper than drive form-factor drives, but perhaps ECS expects its customers to install higher-capacity 2.5” HDDs to augment local storage. Along with the M.2 slot, the second GbE port (probably requested by B2B customers of ECS who do not need a new system every year) also makes a departure. It is unknown whether ECS plans to introduce an ultra-thin LIVA Z Gemini Lake-powered nettop with an M.2 slot, but knowing how ECS likes to expand its mini PC family, everything is possible. The new LIVA Z2 will be available only in May, allowing those who want to obtain a slim LIVA Z plenty of time to do it.
    The LIVA One SoC is an entry-level brother of the LIVA One based on Intel’s high-performance CPUs. It essentially fills a gap in the ECS lineup. The LIVA One SoC has only one SO-DIMM slot and cannot take advantage of Gemini Lake’s dual-channel memory sub-system. On the other hand, the LIVA One SoC has an M.2 slot for SSDs and can accommodate two 2.5” drives, potentially offering plenty of storage space for an SFF system. In addition, it has two display outputs as well as two 3.5-mm audio connectors, which will give it a lot of flexibility when it comes to compatibility with modern and legacy PCs (it supports a D-Sub). It also comes with six USB type-A ports for peripherals. ECS says that the LIVA One SoC will be ready in April, but, at this point it seems to be work in progress. The company is yet to make a final decision on the front panel ports and a few other aspects.
    2018 ECS LIVA UCFF PCs
    CPU Intel Celeron- or Pentium-Branded Gemini Lake SoC with 10 W TDP
    Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 600 (12 EUs) or Intel UHD Graphics 605 (18 EUs) (Gen9)
    Memory 2 GB or 4 GB LPDDR4 2×DDR4 SO-DIMM slots 1×DDR4 SO-DIMM slot
    Storage eMMC 32 GB or 64 GB -
    M.2 - - M.2-2242/2280
    DFF - 1 × 2.5" SSD/HDD 2 × 2.5" SSD/HDD
    SD up to 128 GB microSD -
    Wi-Fi Intel 802.11ac + BT 4.1 Intel 802.11ac + BT 4.2
    Ethernet 1 × Gigabit Ethernet with RJ45 connector
    Display Outputs HDMI 2.0 HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 HDMI 2.0, D-Sub
    Audio HDMI audio 3.5-mm TRRS 2 × 3.5 mm TRRS
    USB 1×USB 2.0 Type-A
    1×USB 3.0 Type-C
    3 × USB 3.0 Type-A
    1 × USB 3.0 Type-C
    2 × USB 3.0
    4 × USB 2.0
    Other I/O - - S/PDIF, COM
    Dimensions 70 × 70 × 33.4 mm 117 × 128 × 51 mm (?) 199.4 × 188.3 × 45 mm
    PSU External
    OS Microsoft Windows 10 or Linux-based OS
    ECS did not provide the MSRPs of the LIVA Z2 and LIVA Q2 parts at CES 2018, but, it is logical to expect them to be in the same ballpark as that of their predecessors. The LIVA One SoC is yet to reach a stage where we could discuss its pricing with ECS.
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    Anandtech: Mushkin at CES 2018: CarbonEXT 1 TB USB 3.0 SSD, Swap USB Type-A & Type-C

    LAS VEGAS, NV — In addition to a host of new M.2 SSDs, Mushkin introduced two new USB-based products at CES 2018: the CarbonEXT new external SSD as well as the Swap family of USB drives that feature both USB Type-A and USB Type-C connectors.
    The Mushkin CarbonEXT external SSD comes in a metallic rubber-padded enclosure and is based on the Silicon Motion SM2258XT controller, 3D TLC NAND memory as well as ASMedia’s ASM1153E bridge. The CarbonEXT uses a USB 3.0 interface, so its performance is capped at 450 MB/s sequential read/write speed as well as 45K random read/write IOPS because of interfaces limitations (due to overhead incurred by 8b/10b encoding). Meanwhile, power consumption of the SSD barely exceed 3 - 5 W, so it will be completely bus-powered, just like regular USB drives. Mushkin will offer its CarbonEXT SSDs in 120 GB – 1 TB configurations to address different needs and budgets.

    The CarbonEXT will complement (and maybe even replace at some point) the company’s Ventura Ultra external SSDs introduced four years ago. The Ventura Ultra is based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller as well as planar NAND and since the industry is moving to 3D NAND, the days of the product line in its current iteration with 2D flash are counted. Meanwhile, recently Mushkin added a 480 GB configuration to the Ventura Ultra family, so it is not going away just yet. In fact, when it comes to dimensions, the Ventura Ultra looks a bit more attractive than the CarbonEXT since it is smaller (see the table below for details). As for performance, both are limited to 450 MB/s peak read/write speed.
    Mushkin plans to start selling the CarbonEXT in early Q2. The manufacturer will bundle USB Type-A and Type-C cables to maximize their compatibility and address a growing number of laptops featuring only USB-C ports.

    Moving on to regular USB drives. At CES, Mushkin demonstrated its new OTG-compatible Swap-series products that feature both USB Type-A and USB Type-C interfaces that can be used to connect to modern and legacy PCs as well as the latest smartphones and tablets. This is particularly useful when you need to transfer files from various devices without using cables (after all, a flash drive is more compact than a cable).
    From a performance point of view, we are dealing with storage devices offering up to 225 MB/s sequential read speed as well as up to 65 MB/s sequential write speed, which is faster when compared to mainstream USB drives. As for dimensions, the Mushkin Swap measure 58×20×9.6 mm, which is in line with regular USB Type-A sticks.
    The Swap drives will be offered in 16 GB – 128 GB capacities when Mushkin releases them in the coming months. MSRPs are something that remains to be seen — NAND flash pricing is fluctuating, so is the pricing of USB drives.
    Brief Specifications of Mushkin 2018 USB Solutions
    Family CarbonEXT Ventura Ultra Swap
    Interface USB Type-A
    USB Type-C
    USB Type-A USB Type-A
    USB Type-C
    Capacity 120 GB - 1 TB 60 GB - 480 GB 16 GB - 128 GB
    Controller SM2258XT SF-2281 unknown
    NAND Flash 3D TLC NAND Planar NAND unknown
    Sequential Read 450 MB/s 225 MB/s
    Sequential Write 450 MB/s 445 MB/s 65 MB/s
    Random Read IOPS 45K IOPS unknown unknown
    Random Write IOPS 45K IOPS unknown unknown
    Dimensions 93×50×13 mm 73.3×19.8×9 mm 58×20×9.6 mm
    Warranty 3 years 2 years
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    Anandtech: Cherry Introduces New Low Profile RGB Switches at CES 2018

    This year, Cherry, one of the leaders in mechanical keyboard switches, and more often than not the ‘go-to’ for enthusiasts, is releasing a new low-profile switch. It is called the Cherry MX Low Profile RGB and it will arrive on the scene in the company’s ‘red’ type switch first.
    The switch is targeted at new, thinner keyboards and, potentially, upcoming gaming notebooks. We have already seen other of these types of switches on the market from Kailh and Tesoro, however, they are not optical and not how swappable. Andrew Freedman at Tom’s Guide had a chance for some hands-on time with the prototype and said it felt almost the exact same as a keyboard used at his desk with full-size Cherry Red switches, but with lower travel.
    The switch is 11.9mm thick or 35% thinner than the existing 18.5mm MX standard. Cherry mentioned that multiple gaming laptop companies are looking into these new switches. Users wanted lower travel yet the same classic feel which was difficult to produce with, Cherry said. So they went through multiple prototypes for the keys until they got it right.
    Though the switches may feel the same, internally, they are not exactly the same. There are a few changes. For example, the signature cross-shaped stem is now surrounded by a cylinder. This makes the switches tougher against water and dust but is not 100% water and dust-proof. To do so, would require a rubber cap, which we are told would affect the feel of the key. The force curve is slightly different as well as the actuation point is a bit lower (by necessity). The keyboard includes RGB backlighting across the keys which include a groove in the switch to allow more light. This is good for gaming laptops which tend to offer a wide variety of colors.
    Cherry did not mention when the first keyboards with the switches will hit the market, however, it was showing off its own prototypes as well as early prototype keyboards from Ducky and Vortex.
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    Andrew E. Freedman contributed to this report.


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    Anandtech: Asustor Launches Marvell-based AS4000 Series NAS Units with 10GBASE-T

    Asustor took the opportunity at CES 2018 to launch their AS4000 NAS series. It will have two SKUs - the 2-bay AS4002T, and the 4-bay AS4004T. While there are plenty of 2- and 4-bay NAS units in the market to choose from, this series stands out for a unique hardware feature - we believe these are the first 2- and 4-bay ARM-based units to come with a 10GBASE-T network interface. 10G has finally started to appear in home consumer equipment. Switches such as the Asus XG-U2008 and the Netgear GS810EMX Nighthawk Pro, 10G add-in cards such as the Asus XG-C100C, and even non-workstation enthusiast desktop motherboards with 10G capabilities built-in (eg.: ASRock Z370 Professional Gaming i7) are slowly, but surely, bringing 10G mainstream.
    There are ARM-based SMB NAS units with 10G ports (usually SFP+ connectors) already in the market. Almost all of them are based on SoCs from Annapurna Labs . The current crop of SoCs from Annapurna Labs all use the Cortex A15 ARMv7 CPU. 10GBASE-T has typically been restricted to high-end x86 units. The Asustor AS4000 series changes that. It uses the Marvell ARMADA 7020 dual-core Cortex A72 processor (88F7020). This makes the Asustor AS4000 series one of the first ARMv8-based home consumer / SOHO NAS unts in the market.
    The Marvell 7K Embedded Processor for Gateways and Network-Attached Storage Units
    Asustor has a new industrial design for the AS4000 series, with screwless installation capability for the hard drives. Hot-swap is also supported. The front panel has also been redesigned to make it dustproof. The units come with 2GB of DDR4-2400 memory. There are 2x 1Gbps ports in addition to the 10GBASE-T port.
    On the software side, Asustor is continuing to improve the features of its OS - the Asustor Data Manager (ADM). ADM 3.1 is in beta right now and features support for SSD caching and RAID scrubbing amongst a host of other new features.
    The AS4000 series is set to come to market later this quarter. Pricing was not announced, but it is likely that it will come in-between that of the AS31/32 series and AS61 series. That would put the AS4002T between $259 and $290, and the AS4004T between $395 and $460. 10GBASE-T NAS units with those price points are sure to increase the adoption of 10G Ethernet in the home / SOHO market.


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    Anandtech: Ambarella at CES 2018: Announcing CV1 and CV22 SoCs with CVflow CNN engine

    At CES 2018 in Las Vegas we’ve had the pleasure to attend Ambarella’s booth tour demonstrating the newest products in camera SoC solutions. Ambarella to date was most widely known as being the silicon provider powering the camera capabilities of products from GoPro and DJI. As the traditional customers are looking for more vertical integration and other silicon alternatives, Ambarella is also looking in diversifying its product lines and customer base. The CV1 is a major effort towards gaining track in the EVA (Embedded vehicle autonomy) space.
    The CV1 is the first of a new family of computer vision processors which implement Ambarella’s “CVflow” architecture. CVflow is a new convolutional neural network (CNN) inference acceleration IP developed in-house by Santa Clara company. Over the last couple of months we’ve seen a lot of news in terms of machine learning announcements and IP development as neural network engines become the new “must-have” feature to differentiate in terms of silicon offerings.
    In CEVA’s recent NeuPro announcement I briefly addressed the fact that we’re seeing a wider spectrum in terms of CNN engine architecture implementations – at one side of the spectrum we have more programmable and (claimed) flexible DSP-like architectures while on the other extreme we have more fixed-function accelerators that claim higher performance and efficiency. Each company had their own view on the benefits and disadvantages of either approach, but the general consensus I’ve noted among all of them is that it’s quite a mess in regards to marketing claims and specifications. For this reason Ambarella was quite tight-lipped when queried about the CVflow engine architecture and didn’t want to disclose any more in-depth specifications beyond the fact that they’re gravitating to less fixed-function processing with their IPs.
    We saw two CV1 evaluation platforms demonstrated; a long-range platform with two CV1 chips meant for long-range imaging which requires a wider camera baseline for stereo cameras as well as a smaller, shorter-range platform with a single CV1 chip. The platforms were demonstrated on a prototype car where the long-range platforms were mounted on the roof and the short-range units on the sides of the car, with all units working in unison to enable EVA capabilities.

    Ambarella CV1 - stereovision obstacle detection and monocular object classification demo
    The most interesting demonstration video was the output out of a working system highlighting the live obstacle detection and object recognition. In first half of the above video we see the obstacle detection highlighted – the processing for this is done via the stereovision cameras and a disparity mapping engine of the CV1 SoC. This allows for generic obstacle detection such as cars, the curb or other random objects that the car needs to avoid when driving. The hardware block for the disparity mapping is a fixed-function IP from Ambarella and promises high performance for the task.
    In the second half of the video we see the object detection highlighted. The processing for this is done via a monocular camera system and implemented via a CNN on the CVflow engine. The vision capabilities here allows the system to distinguish between different types of obstacles and objects in the scene and gives “intelligence” to the EVA system.
    Ambarella also demonstrated a “SuperDrone” at the show using a CV1 platform able to fly through an obstacle course. The impressive fact here is that the drone did this autonomously without any pre-defined path beyond only target way-points programmed, and did the path calculations as well as obstacle avoidance on the fly.
    The CV1 is a 14nm SoC and has been in production since last summer and includes Ambarella’s capable ISP and camera pipelines. The design is meant more for “live” imaging use-cases and doesn’t have the higher end video recording capabilities that we’re accustomed to, and that’s where the CV22 comes into play.
    The CV22 is the second chip in the CVflow family. The SoC is a newer generation product and is implemented in a 10nm process. Like the CV1, these are manufactured by Samsung Foundry.
    The CV22 offers the top of the line 4K60 AVC and HEVC video encoding capabilities for which Ambarella claims to have the lowest bitrates (at the same quality) in the industry through help of SmartAVC and SmartHEVC variable bitrate controls. The ISP has a total throughput rate of 800MP/s and this can be configured and budgeted into up to 4 camera interfaces and sensors. The CVflow engine is also of a newer generation and promises 4x the processing power of the CV1 implementation. The SoC is powered by a quad-core A53 cluster for general processing capabilities.The CV22 is sampling to customers in the upcoming quarter.
    At the CES booth we also saw demonstration existing solution such as the S5L IP camera SoC against a commercially available Arlo Pro 2 with a competitor SoC. The key advantage of the Ambarella solution was active power consumption as it was able to show 68% lower operating power, a massive difference considering that these IP camera platforms are targeted for battery operation.
    Overall it was great to see Ambarella’s new silicon announcements at the show and I’m looking forward to see what kind of products companies will be able to develop with SoCs such as the CV22. The key take-away for me was the demonstration and application of CNNs in real-world “killer” use-cases of which we haven’t seen too many of in the mobile space… if you don’t count animoji’s of course.


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    Anandtech: Synaptics at CES 2018: In-screen Fingerprint & OLED DDIC

    At CES 2018 we’ve had opportunity to visit Synaptics’ booth and check out what new technologies they had to offer. One of the big stories of CES 2018 in terms of mobile coverage of course was Synaptics’ and Vivo’s demonstration of the first under-screen fingerprint reader. The industry was waiting for some time now to see this technology brought to market so for Synaptics to be the first to actually achieve this is a major feat that deserves congratulations. We’ve covered the technical details of the new sensor in our announcement article a few weeks ago so please read that for more information on the sensor itself. The short story is that Synaptics’ implementation is based on a CMOS sensor that sits underneath the OLED screen and captures the fingerprint through the OLED stack with help of illumination of the screen itself.
    In practice the sensor in the unnamed Vivo flagship smartphone behaved exactly as advertised and the experience was generally pretty flawless. In the implementation of the Vivo device the FS9500 is found underneath the Samsung Display AMOLED panel at 45° angle to achieve better surface area reach. The area of the sensor is I think the weak point of the implementation as it’s much smaller than traditional fingerprint sensors as it’s limited by the CMOS sensor size which is only 4x5mm, so both finger positioning as well as a more thorough registration phase become more important. I had come accustomed to the haptic feedback of the Galaxy S8’s pressure sensitive under-screen home button and had such a feature been implemented in the Vivo I imagine that it would make the experience even more distinguished.
    While the under-screen fingerprint got most of the attention for Synaptics, what I think the far bigger and far-reaching story for the mobile industry was a small demonstration in the corner of the booth. Synaptics was showcasing their new R66455 and R66451 OLED display driver ICs. Back in late 2014 Synaptics acquired Renesas’ DDIC business unit which turned out to be a match made in heaven.
    For a bit of a back-story, if you’ve followed AnandTech review where we talk about displays you will have noted that on many devices the screens are run by a Renesas based DDIC solution. In fact, if you have an LCD based smartphone of this decade there’s a pretty good chance that it will have a Renesas/Synaptics display driver IC. However, until now, if you had a device with an AMOLED screen, it’s been most certainly powered by a Samsung LSI DDIC solution. In the early days of the Galaxy S3 Samsung Display was still dual-sourcing DDICs between its LSI division and Korean company MagnaChip. The latter however was dropped as screen resolutions increased and its DDIC offerings could no longer keep up with the SLSI developments. To this day the SLSI solutions enjoy such a technological lead that rival panel manufacturers like LG are still missing a key component in the quest to compete with Samsung’s AMOLED panels. Devices such as the LG V30 or the Google Pixel 2 XL which come with LG panels are still handicapped in terms of display quality as they lack a sufficiently capable DDIC. For example if one has noticed that the LG panels become washed out, suffer from black crushing or “tarnishing” becoming more visible at low brightness levels, then the reason for that is inherently the way the DDIC is driving the panel and showcasing that it’s lacking more advanced brightness control techniques.

    Synaptics have been working hard to catch up in the OLED DDIC market, and on paper at least, it looks like they’ve managed to catch up with Samsung. The R66455 and R66451 are respectively FHD+ and WQHD+ (20:9 aspect ratio) capable OLED display drivers and integrated advanced features such as Smooth Dimming. Smooth Dimming, or Smart Dimming like Samsung calls it, is PWM emission control. This essentially means that instead of solely controlling the subpixel voltage to control brightness, it uses PWM to keep the same voltages but modulates the pulse width to achieve lower brightness levels. This is important as it does not limit the effective bit-depth of the DACs controlling the pixel voltages and still allows for full colour bit depth even at lower brightness levels. As a side effect I suspect this also attenuates colour ununifomities of the OLED panel itself might be more visible at lower voltages.

    The DDICs promise advanced image processing for sub-pixel rendering techniques which are required for panel pixel layouts such as the by now standard diamond-pentile. Synaptics is also looking ahead and also implementing advanced needs such as controlling complex shapes such as round corners and support for the unfortunate screen notches that seem to be catching on.
    What is important though and this can’t be reiterated enough is that with Synaptics offering a competitive high-end DDIC it provides a key component which will enable third-party panel manufacturers such as JOLED (JDI, Sony, Panasonic) and various Chinese firms to start trying to compete against Samsung’s dominance in the market.
    Synaptics says the R66455 and R66451 are currently sampling to panel manufacturers and OEMs are exploring solutions for future products.


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    Anandtech: Zotac at CES 2018: ZBOX MAGNUS Upgraded with Coffee

    LAS VEGAS, NV — This year at CES, ZOTAC has demonstrated its new flagship compact gaming PC with an upgrade and a rededign. The new ZBOX MAGNUS is powered by Intel’s six-core Core i7 Coffee Lake CPU and offers higher performance in applications that can take advantage of the increased core/thread count. The system retains NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1080 GPU from its two predecessors (the ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 and the EN1080K). However, the new GPU is a discrete card, and not a MXM module.
    We recently reviewed the Core i7-7700 version of this mini-PC, but the new ZOTAC ZBOX MAGNUS is powered by Intel’s Core i7-8700 processor (6C/12T, 3.2/4.6 GHz, 12 MB, 65 W) as well as a custom Intel Z370-based motherboard with two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, one M.2-2280 slot for an SSD and one SATA connector for a 2.5” storage device. The new system features a custom GeForce GTX 1080 card instead of an MXM module used by its predecessors - a difference that has a major impact on the system’s internal design.
    The MXM module inside the previous-generation ZBOX MAGNUS PCs enabled ZOTAC to adopt a compact liquid cooling system (LCS). The space in the chassis was enough to mount a big radiator above the CPU and the GPU. In the Coffee Lake version, the custom GeForce GTX 1080 card is mounted using a riser card, and occupies the space previously taken up by the LCS radiator. As a result, the new ZBOX MAGNUS now relies solely on air cooling. Choosing a custom card over an MXM module has its pros and cons. A card can potentially be upgraded and this is a major advantage. Furthermore, cards give ZOTAC a bit more flexibility in terms of design. However, liquid cooling is more efficient and less noisy compared to two air coolers, but it is also heavier and this has an impact on shipments costs.
    Another noteworthy thing about the new ZBOX MAGNUS is that it needs only one external power adapter. By contrast, all of its predecessors have used two 180 W power supplies. It is unknown whether one power connector is a feature of ZOTAC’s prototype used for press photos, or the company now uses one high-performance PSU instead of two moderate ones.
    As for connectivity capabilities, everything is nearly similar to the previous-generation high-end ZBOX MAGNUS PCs. The new system has two Gigabit Ethernet controllers, an 802.11ac Wi-Fi/BT 4.2 module, a SDXC card reader, four USB 3.0 Type-A ports in the rear, and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (1x Type-A and 1x Type-C) in the front. The graphics card is equipped with three DisplayPort 1.4, one HDMI 2.0b and one dual-link DVI-D connector. The front HDMI port is no longer a feature. This particular removal makes it a tad inconvenient to hook up VR headsets. However, it is not an insurmountable issue, as a HDMI cable extender can be used for the same purpose if the system is installed in a particularly tight location.
    ZOTAC's ZBOX MAGNUS with Coffee Lake
    ZBOX MAGNUS with 8th Generation Core i7 CPU
    CPU Intel Core i7-8700
    3.2 - 4.6 GHz
    12 MB
    65 W
    GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
    2560 CUDA Cores
    8 GB GDDR5X
    Memory 2 × DDR4 SO-DIMM slots,
    up to 32 GB of memory
    Storage M.2 M.2 2280 slot for PCIe/SATA SSD
    DFF 1 × 2.5" SSD/HDD
    Card Reader SD/microSD
    Wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.2
    Ethernet 2 × Gigabit Ethernet with RJ45
    Display Outputs 3 × DisplayPort 1.2
    1 × HDMI
    1 × DVI-D
    Audio 3.5 mm audio-in
    3.5 mm audio-out
    USB 4 x USB 3.0 Type-A
    1 x USB 3.1 Type-A
    1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
    PSU External
    OS Microsoft Windows 10 or none
    Overall, the new redesign is a mixed bag. Removing the need for a second power adapter is very welcome. We would have been happier if ZOTAC had addressed some of the other feedback from our EN1080 / EN1080K reviews - in particular, a flagship PC in 2018 should include some Thunderbolt 3 ports. It is all the more puzzling when ZOTAC has multiple other mini-PCs with Thunderbolt 3 capability. The cooling solution also seems like a downgrade, though we have to hold on to the final verdict until we can compare it against the EN1080 / EN1080K ourselves.
    ZOTAC did not announce pricing or availability timeframe for the Coffee Lake-based ZBOX MAGNUS, but it is logical to expect its arrival later this year.
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    Anandtech: GIGABYTE at CES 2018: A First Look at X470

    LAS VEGAS, NV – One of the announcements from AMD’s Tech Day prior to CES was that of a new chipset coming to the Ryzen market. The purpose of the new chipset, called X470, was for iterative updates: better memory support, lower power consumption, and a couple of other things to be announced closer to launch around April.
    At GIGABYTE’s suite, they had to hand an ‘X470’ Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi, with the chipset name bit taped over. The initial view of the motherboard was that of a standard high-end AM4 motherboard, using M.2 heatsinks, PCIe reinforcement, DRAM slot reinforcement, LEDs between the DRAM slots, the plastic LED section near the 24-pin connector, a few buttons for overclocking, and heatsinks indicative of GIGABYTE’s Aorus brand. With an iterative update, we were not expecting much change.
    The change most obvious out of the few was the heatsink – GIGABYTE is set to go back to a bare-metal many-finned design for the power delivery heatinks. This might not be the most aesthetically pleasing design, however it is one that offers better power delivery cooling than the plastic shrouds we sometimes see on high-end motherboards hiding a small metal mass. GIGABYTE stated that they will be using the latest International Rectifier solution for the power delivery, and are ready for users to crank up the frequency when they want to. To add to the story on power and heatsinks, the rear of the motherboard also has a retention/rigidity plate around the power delivery, which may provide additional support.
    GIGABYTE also has an integrated rear-panel backplate on this X470 design, to save users the embarrassment of having to disassemble the PC having forgotten about it after the fact. On this rear panel there is a power switch, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and the usual sets of USB and Ethernet connections. It is worth noting that there are two USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) ports here, plus one header on the board as well. We were told that these were all native, which would suggest that there is an increase in USB 3.1 support on the X470 chipset.
    In April we will see the launch of AMD’s second generation Ryzen processors based on Zen+ cores and built on GloFo’s 12nm process, and while X470 will be optimized for these parts, the motherboards will still except first generation Ryzen (and 300-series motherboards will accept second generation with a BIOS update). It would appear that there is no specific NDA/embargo around X470 for the motherboard manufacturers, however, GIGABYTE was the only one to be comfortable showing hardware at CES. When asked, the other manufacturers stated that with the launch several months away, they were not ready to show anything.
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