Tag: Intel Sandy Bridge

How is an Ultrabook different from the typical ultraportable notebook computer?

There is a new class of ultraportable notebook computer that is being defined through this year and next year by Intel in response to the success of the Apple MacBook Air. You may think that it is no different from ultraportables like the Toshiba Portege R830 that I reviewed on this site.

But these computers, known as “Ultrabooks”, will be intended to put the idea of a “portable-typewriter” size of laptop in the laps of most public-transport and air travellers rather than business executives.

What is the Ultrabook

Like the typical ultraportable of the same ilk as the Toshiba R830, these computers have the 13” screen and the same footprint that makes them useable on that bus or economy-class airline tray table. Yet they will be usable for creating content like typing up those documents and blog posts on the move.

But what makes them an Ultrabook is that they will have an ultra-slim chassis which has to be less than 1.8cm thick when closed and weigh in at 1.4kg or less. The battery runtime has to be longer than five hours which would cater for useable time on a long-distance air trip or a day of hotspot surfing.

The required maximum price for these units is around US$1000 which would put them in to the hands of most users. This price would be applicable to the base model in an “Ultrabook” lineup, with increases in price for extras like increased RAM, faster processors or increased secondary storage.

Functionality requirements

The goal of the functionality requirements it for an Ultrabook not to be an underpowered ultraportable computer just for document creation and basic Internet activity, but to be on a par with a typical 15” laptop that can excel at multimedia or basic gaming.

The main drivers in the design are the use of Intel Core i3,i5 or i7 processors providing the horsepower with the images on the screen painted by Intel HD integrated graphics. These units will have to use solid-state storage technology rather than the orthodox mechanical hard disk for their main secondary-storage system. They will also forego the optical drive as an integrated removable-storage option, so you will have to use a USB DVD drive if you want to view rented DVDs or turn out DVD copies of your photos. Of course there will be an SD card slot so you can download your digital-camera pictures to your Ultrabook for reviewing and editing.

Most such computers wont have the Ethernet or VGA connectivity. Here this will mean that you will need to use Wi-Fi to connect to your home or small-business network 

As well, you will have to connect the Ultrabook to the economy-priced data projector using a DisplayLink USB-VGA adaptor. Of course these units would use either a DisplayPort or HDMI external display connector, usually of the mini form factor.

These connectivity issues will typically be mitigated through the availability of multifunction docking stations that connect to the Ultrabook via a DisplayPort or USB connection. 

The typical Ultrabook will be housed in a sealed case that precludes easy upgrades. But this will typically support the “push-down and replace” practice when users want better functionality or performance. Here, the computer would be disposed of to a user with lesser needs while the user purchases a machine with the specifications that suit their current needs.

Purchasing notes

If you maintain a desktop or larger laptop computer as your main computer, it may be OK to skimp on the secondary-storage capacity if you only intend to use it as a “travel computer”. Then you use the home or small-business network, cloud-services like SkyDrive or USB-attached external storage to keep the data you are working with in step with your main machine.

Other comments

I would like to see AMD and others define a similar name and standard for ultraportables that make this goal so that the computers don’t have to be all Intel-driven. This could then lower the price bar for computers of this class.

Similarly what Windows 8 will offer with touchscreen operation may open up paths towards convertible “Ultrabooks” that are a feasible alternative to a tablet computer.

As well, I would like to see manufacturers avoid making this class of computer become a class of “MacBook Air copycats”. This could be achieved through the use of different colours and finishes or even different materials and textures.


What I like more about the Ultrabook concept is that it puts the idea of a lightweight travel-friendly notebook computer that works well for content creation as a credible alternative to netbooks or tablets.

HomeNetworking01.info Annual Summary

Another year has passed for HomeNetworking01.info and a lot has happened over the past year, both with technology and with the content that has been written on this site.


Major “under-the-hood” changes to the laptop computer

One major computing technology that has been influential over the past year are the combination CPU/GPU processors from Intel, with the Sandy Bridge and AMD with the Zacate APU. These processors have yielded a major energy-saving benefit without much significant tradeoff in graphics performance. This has allowed for most graphic-intensive tasks like modest gaming or multimedia playback to be performed on laptop computers without the fear of the battery running out very quickly. Here, the battery runtimes are approaching real-world requirements especially where one intends to consider video playback on the plane or train journey for example.Fujitsu Lifebook TH550M convertible notebook at a Wi-Fi hotspot

This has also led to the increased arrival of “dual-mode” graphics where a laptop computer can work either with a high-performance discrete graphics chipset or the integrated graphics system. It is more like operating a vehicle which has an overdrive or a transmission system that supports a “performance” operating mode alongside a “standard” or “economy” operating mode and being able to change between these modes by operating a switch of some form.

I have reviewed some laptops which have these new functions at their heart. These are in the form of two “desktop-replacement” units — Dell XPS L702x which has NVIDIA graphics and the HP Pavillion DV7-6013TX which has ATI graphics.

Toshiba Tecra R850 business laptopBut I have reviewed some laptops that use single-mode graphics such as a mainstream 15” business laptop in the form of the Toshiba Tecra R850 which has single-mode ATI discrete graphics as well as an ultraportable in the form of the Toshiba Portege R830. This notebook is an example of what an ultraportable notebook can achieve on this technology, especially when it comes to extended battery life.

Notebook design approaching the “King of Cool”

This year, some computer manufacturers are designing notebook and laptop computer that have a lot of design similarities to Apple’s MacBook range of notebooks. This is an attempt to show up which computers can trump the Apple computers as far as having the coolest laptop computer at the Wi-Fi-equipped cafe is concerned.

This year, Dell has come up with a 15” laptop which answers the Apple MacBook Pro range of laptops in aesthetics and functionality. There is a lot about this computer in the way it makes you think of the MacBook Pro, such as the speaker grilles flanking the keyboard and the similarly-styled trackpad. As well, Acer have lined up a 13” ultraportable that looks just like the Apple MacBook Air series of ultraportables.

Activity on the Apple Macintosh front

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver

Even so, the Apple Macintosh platform is not asleep as far as innovations go. They have launched the MacOS App Store which is based on the successful iTunes App Store for the iOS devices. Here, one can buy and download Macintosh applications through this storefront rather than buying physical media for the programs or downloading from the developer’s Web site.

A fear that I find with this trend is that it won’t be feasible for developers to supply Macintosh software through their own storefront. This would include hardware manufacturers who need to provide software sets for their own devices. Nor would it be feasible for system integrators to pre-load software on to a Macintosh computer as part of setting up a standard operating environment for this platform.

It is also worth knowing that Apple has released the MacOS X “Lion” operating system which offers a lot more visible improvement than what “Snow Leopard” offered. “Snow Leopard” was primarily all about “under-the-hood” improvements for the Macintosh operating system, especially tuning it for the multicore Intel microarchitecture. Here, Lion has offered a user experience that, in a lot of ways, approaches the Apple iOS platform as experienced on the Apple iPad. This includes applications delivered via the aforementioned App Store, “full screen” user interfaces without the customary top-of-screen menu bar, as well as iOS-style icon grids.

The tablet and smartphone cause a major seachange in mobile computing

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computerOne major change that has come about for mobile computing is the arrival of many smartphones and tablet computers. Infact the smartphone or tablet computer doesn’t have to be an Apple device anymore. This is due to an increased range of smartphones powered by Android or Windows Phone 7 smartphones and tablets powered by Android, especially the 3.0 “Gingerbread” version. I have reviewed an example of one of these tablets in the form of the Acer Iconia Tab A500.

Apple has answered this trend by releasing the iPad 2, a 10” tablet that is slimmer and lighter than the original iPad. It still runs their iOS operating system which has been upgraded to 5.0. Here, existing iPads and other iOS devices will have the benefit of having system updates done without the need to tether the device to a computer.

As well, the tablets are placing the netbook “on notice” because they could do the same job as these computers yet run on batteries for a long time.

Smart TV gains momentum

Another major connected-lifestyle change has been the arrival of Internet-enabled television experiences. Most of the TV industry have been focusing on the 3D viewing experience but there has been increased action on the connected TV front.

At the moment, it has been driven by manufacturers building up their own application platforms for their product lines. This is primarily in the form of user interfaces for the popular Internet video services that are optimised for “lean-back” enjoyment on larger screens. It is also including the integration of the social-networking sites in a manner that can be enjoyed that way, such as through “Twitter / Facebook tickers” or the ability to “page through” Facebook Photo Albums that you have access to.

It is also worth noting that most of these platforms are offering a Skype client which works with a camera that plugs in to these TVs. This is to allow the smart TV to provide corporate-style videoconferencing to small businesses and households.

Sony BDP-S380 Network-enabled Blu-Ray playerAn example device that I have just reviewed is the Sony BDP-S380 Blu-Ray player which offers the Internet video functionality in a form that I prefer. This is a video peripheral that can endow existing televisions with the new trend of the “smart TV” and is more relevant as TV sets are known to last a very long time.

IPv6 and Next-Generation Broadband

I have written a basic primer about IPv6 and how it will affect the home and small-business computer user. This is because of the recent World IPv6 Day where web sites were encouraged to engage in “dual-stack” IPv6 hosting and there was all the talk about the Internet running out of IPv4 addresses. It is also a reality as the next-generation broadband networks that are based on fibre-optic technology come about ad they may want to work towards IPv6 as a symbol of being a “cutting edge” service.

Speaking of which, I have been covering the issue of next-generation broadband, especially as Australia and other countries are rolling out or planning these kind of Internet services. Typically these services are based on fibre-optic technology, with most of the desired setups centred around “fibre-to-the-home” / “fibre-to-the-premises” technology where the fibre-optic cable is run to the customer’s premises. There are other “part-fibre part-copper” services that are in deployment with copper-cable runs to the customer, usually from the street or the building. This technology is based typically on VDSL which is a short-run DSL system that uses telephone lines or Ethernet twisted-pair cabling.

Website Content

Industry Interviews

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer

Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer

During the last week of October and the first week of November last year, I had visited Sydney. One of the main points of the trip was to engage further with the industry. Here, I had done interviews with two staff from Brother, a staff member from Bush Australia and a staff member from Sony’s public-relations agent, Hausmann Communications. This allowed me to gain better insight in to what is going on with the industry and I will be making a point to work further with the companies and their PR firms when it comes to doing industry interviews.

Product Reviews

As I have mentioned earlier, I have reviewed some of the Sandy-Bridge-powered laptops and these have lived up to the promise for Intel’s new chipset architecture.

I have also improved my review strategy by seeking out equipment from different manufacturers that serves a similar purposes. Examples of this are the 17” desktop-replacement multimedia laptop computers as well as “small-business-grade” monochrome laser multifunction printers. This allows me to compare equipment offered by different manufacturers in a better manner.

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch

Western Digital LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch

Another review milestones that I have achieved over the past year include the first HomePlug product review for this site. My chance to review the WD LiveWire HomePlug AV Ethernet switch has allowed me to affirm support for the HomePlug AV technology as a flexible reliable no-new-wires network technology.

I am increasing the number of network-enabled media devices and am looking for devices beyond the tabletop Internet radio class. One of these is the Rotel RCX-1500 stereo CD receiver which represents an attempt to get more of the network-capable “big stereo” equipment for review. These are the stereo systems and components thar are intended to stay in the same position, serving as a household’s main music systems rather than as an auxiliary music system.

Other activity

As far as printing goes, I have been exposing printing technologies that allow most small organisations to be able to promote themselves more effectively. The technologies are the high-speed colour laser printer and the A3-capable colour inkjet printer.

I have established a “Small Business Technology” page which is a landing page for technology articles that will appeal to the small-business. This has included the abovementioned printing technologies, setting up public-access wireless networks as part of giving your cafe, bar or similar business “the edge”, business-optimised laptop computers amongst other things.Small businesses - Belgrave shopping strip

I still cover issues that will pertain to home and small-business computing technology such as the recent crop of phone calls that people have received from companies purporting to be genuine IT firms. As well I have prepared a quick-reference page for Twitter in the same vein to what I have done for Facebook. This is so that people can know who will see what they post when they Tweet or direct-message a person, especially as Twitter is becoming Facebook’s sidekick.


Expect to see a lot more coming through HomeNetworking01.info as different technologies start to appear. There will be equal focus on home-based “lifestyle” computing as well as computing for the small business owner who has to call the shots about their organisation’s information technology.

Product Review–HP Pavillion DV7-6000 Series 17” multimedia laptop computer (DV7-6013TX)


I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard Pavillion DV7-6000 Series of 17” desktop-replacement multimedia laptop computers. The actual model that I am reviewing is the DV7-6013TX which is the top-end model of the series. The only differences between this and the other models in the series are the processor type, the hard-disk capacity and the optical-drive type.

One factor I am considering in this review is how these computers stand against the Dell XPS L702X, a similarly-equipped desktop replacement laptop which I recently reviewed. Both of these computers are driven by Intel second-generation “Sandy Bridge” chipsets which have integrated CPU/GPU processors.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop

– this configuration
Processor Intel Core i7-2820QM Sandy Bridge Less-expensive models:
Sandy Bridge processors –
Intel Core i7-2630qm (base model) or Intel Core i7-2720QM (step-up)
RAM 8Gb RAM shared with graphics in integrated mode
Secondary Storage 2 Tb hard disk
1 Tb hard disk – cheaper models
Blu-Ray Disc RW drive, Blu-Ray Disc ROM / DVD burner – least expensive model
SD card reader
Display Subsystem AMD Mobile Radeon HD 6770M discrete + Intel HD integrated 1Gb dedicated graphics RAM in discrete mode
Screen 17” widescreen (1600 x 900) LED-backlit LCD
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n with inherent support for Intel WiDi and Wi-Fi personal area network
Bluetooth Yes
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Connectors USB 2 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
Audio 2 x 3.5mm headphone jacks
1 x 3.5mm microphone jack
Digital out via HDMI
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Power-saving Intel Graphics mode High-Performance AMD Radeon graphics mode
Overall mode 5.9 5.9
Graphics 5.9 6.9
Gaming / CAD graphics 6.3 6.9

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

The HP Pavillion DV7-6000 Series computers are finished in a black brushed-aluminium case and also have a black brushed-aluminium keyboard escutcheon. There is some of the anodised-aluminium or satin-chrome trim around the edge of the computers base and hinges, which provides for a contrasting two-tone finish.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop computer - reflective HP logo on lid

HP logo reflects when the computer is turned off

But there is a finishing touch that hits at the Apple MacBook range very squarely. Here, the HP logo located on the bottom left of the lid reflects like a mirror when the unit is off but glows like the Apple logo on those MacBook computers when it is on. It wouldn’t be noticed as readily as the Apple logo that is positioned on the centre of the lid on those computers.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop - glowing HP logo when on

HP logo glows when computer is on

Whatever, it leads to a well-built computer that doesn’t feel flimsy in any way.

User interface

The HP Pavillion DV7-6000’s keyboard is a similarly-styled chiclet keyboard to the Dell L702x but isn’t illuminated. This is infact a common keyboard style used on most laptops nowadays. The keys are a short-throw variety which may allow for quicker touch-typing but may affect user accuracy.

There isn’t an option to determine whether pressing a key on the function-key row activates the laptop functions or a Windows-defined function like F5. Here, you would have to hold down the Fn key to select a Windows operating-system function.

The trackpad has its own area with separate primary and secondary buttons. This is even made easier with a white “neon-effect” ring surrounding the trackpad area. There are no speaker or other grilles on the palm-rest area that can be masked by your palms thus affecting the sound quality of cooling performance of this computer.

Another feature that the HP Pavillion DV7 has is a fingerprint scanner that is supported by Windows as a login measure. But this requires the computer to run HP software for the functionality to operate.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop - keyboard highlighted

Photo with keyboard more visible

Audio and Video

The Pavillion DV7-6000 Series laptops are equipped with dual-mode graphics with Intel HD “Sandy Bridge” graphics in power-saving “economy” mode and AMD Mobile Radeon HD graphics in “performance” mode. Unlike switching a car’s transmission between “normal / economy” mode and “sport / performance” mode, these computers require all of the applications to be shut down before you change graphics modes. This will take a few seconds to occur during switchover and the unit will suggest the operating mode to use as you change between external power and inbuilt-battery power.

The screen is a 17” LED-backlit unit which works at 1600 x 900 resolution. It could benefit from having a full-HD 1080p resolution screen even if it is offered as a differentiation option. This is compared to the Dell XPS L702x which had the full HD screen as the high-end model option.

This laptop is another example of a laptop that has its audio-playback subsystem “worked” by a company who has had strong involvement in sound recording and/or reproduction. Here, the goal of this involvement is to move away from that lifeless tinny sound that typically emanated from most laptop computers and yield some decent room-filling sound that was easy to understand.

In this case, the job was done by Dr Dre’s “Beats Audio” team, who have worked the sound subsystem in the HP Envy 15 that I previously reviewed. This uses a 2.1 speaker configuration with a separate bass driver. Like the JBL improvement in the Dell XPS, this has allowed the computer to deliver room-filling sound without a that horrible “tinny” sound output common to most laptop computers. It is also worth knowing that the stereo speakers are actually placed above the keyboard so your hands don’t obstruct the sound while the computer is in use. The visual evidence of this is an aluminum grille at the top of the keyboard, between the hinges.

Some benefits I have noticed when I watched some conference videos on this computer was the clarity of the sound recorded in the video including incidental traffic sound. As well, the voices of the speakers had more of the “personal depth” in them, whereas a lot of laptops would have the voices sound like an AM radio announcer as heard on a low-end pocket radio. As well, when I played “Munich” on this computer, the soundtrack had some depth with it especially with the sound effects.

Battery life

The dual-mode graphics also allows the HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX to work for a longer time on its own batteries, especially if you are doing basic computing tasks like emailing or word-processing. Here, unlike most other laptops with discrete graphics, I had noticed that the battery wasn’t running down as fast

I had done a mixture of activities on this computer; including copy-editing and viewing of videos from a “connected-TV” conference. Yet I was able t get at least two hours of battery life out of this activity. This is although I was running the computer on the Intel graphics mode.

It was able to play through a feature-length “cinema” movie with 11% battery charge remaining at the end of the credits while on the Intel power-efficiency mode while the Wi-Fi connection was alive. This shows what the Intel Sandy Bridge chipset was all about when they promised the power efficiency for graphics-intensive tasks.

Other experience notes

The HP Pavillion DV7 doesn’t run hot as easily as a lot of the laptops that I have used. Even if the fan is run at full pelt, it makes use of the grillework on the left side and the top of the base to permit proper cooling. It may be unusual for a laptop that doesn’t have a battery “lump” or kickstand that positions it at an angle, something I have seen with a few other laptops like the Dell XPS or the HP Probook 4520 stablemate.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The DV7-6000 Series could benefit from a 1080 Full-HD screen especially if it is to be used for preparing or viewing Full-HD content. HP could also implement a higher-performance ATI Mobility Radeon discrete graphics chipset in the higher-end model as a key product differentiator. As well, it could support dual-band Wi-Fi networking in markets where this is permitted.


The HP Pavillion DV7-6000 Series laptop computers are another laptop worth considering if you are moving towards a laptop-focused “New Computing Environment” for your home or small business. Similarly, it could serve its purpose as a “work-home” laptop for business owners who primarily use it in the home or workplace and primarily travel by car. Some people may find these computers being suitable for their needs if they “live out of the car boot” and frequently drive to and stay at another person’s place for nights at a time.

This may not be as strong a performer as the Dell XPS L702X but would win on memory capacity across the series (8Gb for all models) and the mid-tier and top models having 2Tb hard disk space and Blu-Ray writing. On the other hand, this level of performance may suit most average games players or most multimedia tasks.

Dell XPS 15z–a Sandy Bridge laptop that snaps at the heels of the MacBook Pro


Dell XPS 15z available in Australia and Asia, fits Sandy Bridge in under an inch of thickness – Engadget

Dell XPS 15z review – Engadget

Le XPS 15z de Dell officialisé (MAJ) – Le Journal du Geek (France – French language)

My Comments

Previously, I had written an article about Windows-platform laptops approaching Apple’s “Super Cool” position on the laptop-computer equivalent of Top Gear’s “Cool Wall”.

Now Dell have come up with a 15” “thin-and-light” laptop which has a very similar look and styling to Apple’s ultra-cool MacBook Pro series of laptops. The XPS 15z, which is driven by an Intel Core i5 processor and Sandy-Bridge chipset is finished in an aluminium housing with a satin-chrome-finished magnesium alloy keyboard keyboard bezel. The keyboard has the same “chiclet” style and finish as the MacBook Pro but is illuminated and flanked by the system’s speakers in that same way.

The side of the machine is very similar to the MacBook Pro, with a slot-load optical drive and audio input/output jacks on the right-hand side and the data and display sockets on the left-hand side. You might think that this computer may end up with an illuminated Dell logo on the lid but it doesn’t.

Of course, from the Engadget review, it competes in price and power to the Apple unit but it still needs to work better on the battery runtime.

Here, it is starting to show that the aluminium or “satin-silver” metal finishes and silver-finish plastics could become a part of laptop styling, especially with “thin-and-light” designs. This is more so as manufacturers try to imitate the looks of the Apple MacBook family and see their laptops appear in the “Super Cool” section of computing’s “Cool Wall”.

Of course, it will be interesting to see whether other industrial-design cues will be implemented in designing that “ultra-cool” laptop computer that is to be noticed in the Wi-Fi-equipped coffee lounge. On the other hand, I hope that this class of computer still is useable, performs powerfully and can work for longer periods on the battery while maintaining the looks and making use of industry-standard connections.

Product Review–Dell XPS L702X multimedia laptop computer


I am reviewing the Dell XPS L702X 17” multimedia laptop computer which is the first laptop that I have reviewed on this site that is powered by the Intel second-generation “Sandy Bridge” chipset. I have previously talked about the configuration as being something that will change the game for most desktop and laptop computers.

Dell XPS L702x multimedia laptop computer

– this configuration
Processor Intel Sandy Bridge processors: Core i7 – 2820Qm (2.30GHz) Cheaper options
All Sandy Bridge processors
Intel Core i5-2410QM
Intel Core i7-2620QM
Intel Core i7-2720QM
RAM 8 Gb Cheaper option:
4Gb or 6Gb
Secondary Storage 1 Terabyte hard disk Blu-Ray ROM / DVD burner, SDXC / Memory Stick XC card reader
Extra Cost
Blu-Ray writer
Display Subsystem NVIDIA GeForce GT555M with 3D (3Gb display memory) Cheaper option:
NVIDIA GeForce GT550M with Optimus (1Gb)
Extra Cost
NVIDIA GeForce GT555M with Optimus (3Gb)
Screen 17” widescreen LED-backlit LCD
Network Wi-Fi 802.11n dual-band
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Connectors USB 2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
Video HDMI, DisplayPort
Audio 2 x 3.5mm headphone jacks,
1 x 3.5mm optical SPDIF jack,
1 x 3.5mm microphome jack
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Edition
Windows Experience Index 5.9 overall 7.9 Graphics
7.9 Gaming Graphics

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

A feature that may position the Dell XPS as an alternative to the one with the glowing Apple logo is the use of aluminium finishing. This is more so with the top of the lid and the bezel around the keyboard area. As well. it is a well-built computer with a sense of quality in the manufacture of the unit.

Dell XPS L702x multimedia laptop side vent grille

Side vent grille helps keep the laptop computer running cool

This machine doesn’t get too hot too easily through normal use. It has been brought about through a battery that has a flange that places the computer on a slight angle, a large vent on the left side as well as some venting at the bottom of the unit.

User interface

The Dell XPS uses a large illuminated chiclet keyboard with a regular numeric keypad;. This is very different to other Dell laptops which I have used where there is a keyboard style not dissimilar to the typical desktop keyboard. It is still accurate for most touch-typing tasks. The only limitation that I have against it is the small top row which has the function keys as well as the ESC and “Insert”, “PrtSc” and “Delete” keys.

Dell have still marked out the trackpad as a distinct area; with the buttons kept as separate buttons rather than as zones on the trackpad. This still keeps this laptop a very useable computer without having to adopt a new learning curve.

They have also kept the function keys as their regular intended functions but you can use the Mobility Control Panel to change that option. Above the keyboard, in the indicator area, there are three touch buttons which give you one-touch access to the sound-card settings, the Mobility Control Panel as well as a user-defined option.

Dell XPS L702x multimedia laptop ed keyboard

Illuminated keyboard

Audio and Video

The audio experience for the Dell XPS L702x is markedly different from the typical laptop computer that I have used. Here, I have noticed that this unit can reproduce music with a deeper bass and richer tone at a level comparable to a good portable radio;  and the dialogue and sound effects in a movie have the “full body” in them even through these speakers. This is a prime example of computer builders having compainies with audio-reproduction and speaker-design knowhow “working” their premium and multimedia laptop-computer designs to break away from the mould of “tinny” sound on this class of computer.

This example has been “worked” by JBL, one of a few companies known for extensive speaker design; as well as the use of MaxxAudio DSP logic for processing the sound. There is the option to have Creative Labs technology in the computer alongside the MaxxAudio technology and is available in this review model.

An improvement could be to move the speakers above the keyboard or on the screen so that the sound doesn’t get muffled by you resting your hands over the palm-rest speaker grilles. Of course I would find that headphones or good-quality external speakers would make this sound better.

The display subsystem is based on an NVIDIA chipset but has 3D playout functionality when connected to a suitable external display like most of the “lounge-room” TVs currently offered by most of the major manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Sony. It doesn’t seem to provide support for dual-mode “overdrive switch” in the review sample; but there are cheaper or better options that have this function but under automatic control using the Optimus feature in the new NVIDIA chipsets.

The video display handled the “Top Gear” online videos as best as the site could allow as well as some YouTube videos that I had played through the system. It as also able to hanbdle the special effects in “Munich” off the DVD very well, especially with a lot os smoothness.

Battery life

I had run this machine through a few mixed-task sessions where I had done some text editing, music playback and video playback with the machine always online through the Wi-Fi network. This was done using the default “Dell” power plan and the battery was able to cope for around two hours.

It was able to run through a DVD movie for 2 hours 33 minutes on regular power mode with the Wi-Fi network still running. This is on the standard battery that came with the system and is a benchmark that I have observed for Sandy-Bridge based laptops.


I would recommend the Dell XPS L702X as a desktop-replacement laptop for someone who wants to head towards the “new computing environment” but want to use a laptop that has the abilities of most current-issue standard desktop computers.

It would work well also as a work-home laptop computer for small-business owner. This is more so if you place value on the multimedia applications such as photo, audio and video editing where you need to use the latest multimedia techniques like Blu-Ray or 3D. In some ways, It could be another of those laptops that could be considered as an alternative to the Apple MacBook Pro laptop.

Toshiba’s latest “portable-typewriter” laptop to beat according to CNET


Toshiba Portege R835-P56X Review – Laptops – CNET Reviews

My Comments

There is now a “race for the best” going on with the 13” “traveller / hotspot-user friendly” class of laptop at the moment thanks to the new Sandy Bridge technology. This is even though the netbook is appealing as a The gauntlet had been laid down by Apple with their latest MacBook Pro laptop for the MacOS X platform and everyone is trying to match this goal in an affordable way.

Examples of the improvements we will see with these computers will be improved video performance as well as an increase in the runtime available for the computer on its own battery. Some of these machines could allow for a hot-footed workday without the need to look for power outlets so you can charge up that laptop.

An example of this is Toshiba’s Portege R835-P56X laptop which uses this technology. The CNET review posted improvements in battery life by 3 hours over the previous model as well as video performance. This battery runtime period that was quoted for the Toshiba when running a video clip was nearly 8 hours, which would cover a typical workday of hotspot-surfing or public-transport working. It also is ready for USB 3.0 and can work with Wi-Fi N wireless networks.

Yet this machine still comes with an integrated DVD burner as well as 4Gb RAM and 640Gb on the hard disk. This capacity may be important when you take those digital pictures and you want to “dump” them to the computer for editing and uploading while on the go. But users may have to check their configuration comes with integrated Bluetooth when they “spec” the unit they want if they do want this function. This would be more important if you do want to pass audio to an amplifier using a Bluetooth A2DP audio module, use your favourite Bluetooth headset to Skype with or use this technology to “tether” your mobile phone to the computer.

At least the new Sandy Bridge technology could allow for this class of laptop computer to improve and become more appealing to those of us who create content while “on the go”.

The new CPU/GPU processor platforms–what change would there be for computing?


Sony Unveils its new premium VAIO S Series laptops

My comments about the new trend

Cost-effective system design

Due to the integration of the CPU and the graphics processor in the one chip, we will find that most computer systems will become cheaper to purchase. This will also mean that graphics performance for most multimedia and games activity will start to come at a cheaper price and be available in product classes that wouldn’t otherwise have it like mainstream-priced computers and the subnotebook / ultraportable class of portable computer.

Dual-mode graphics

There will also be an increased use of dual-mode graphics technology as a product differentiator for midrange and high-end machines. This is where a computer is equipped with integrated graphics as well as a discrete graphics chipset and the computer uses integrated graphics for most tasks but uses the discrete graphics for video editing and intense gameplay.

This could be seen like the computer-graphics equivalent of the “overdrive” or “sports mode” switch used on some cars as a way of allowing the car to work in a performance-enhanced way. Here, the user benefits from reduced energy needs and reduced battery consumption when they use the integrated graphics but can use the discrete graphics chipset when they need the extra graphics performance.

Could this change the positioning and pricing of computers?

This may have some some effect on the prices for most of the mainstream computer ranges especially if the equipment in question is to be sold with “single-mode” graphics. Of course, the “dual-mode” graphics will still be pitched at the market who place heavy importance on graphics performance like line-of-profession imaging (CAD/ CAM, graphic arts, medical imaging, etc) and “LAN-party” hardcore gamers and will still command the price premium. Here, the manufacturers can still work on performance-optimised discrete GPUs for this market and offer them in the “dual-mode” computers.

Some people may also reckon that the ability for computers based on these chipsets to perform to mainstream expectations for multimedia and gaming may allow people who value these functions to spend less on the equipment that they want. They can also place importance on “size and style” without sacrificing graphics performance.

It can therefore lead to ultra-compact computer types like 12”-14” subnotebook / ultraportable computers and small-form-factor desktop computers being offered with decent rather than second-rate graphics performance. This could, for example, make the subnotebook more appealing as a “travel workstation” for a photo journalist or other professional photographer to use when editing or previewing photographs and video footage in the field.

How to factor this in when buying a computer through this year

What I would reckon that you should do is determine what class of computer that suits your needs, including your minimum specifications for functionality. This includes hard disk capacity, RAM memory capacity, screen size, user interface, operating-system and other factors. Then look for the good deals where you can save money on the prospective computer purchase.

It may also affect the pricing and positioning of computers based on existing “separate-GPU” graphics technology especially as manufacturers move towards the new combined CPU/GPU technologies. Here, they will be wanting to clear the warehouses of these machines and you may find that the deals are favourable to you with these computers. As I said before, work out your system needs and shop around for the cheapest and best one that will suit these needs. Also take advantage of “deal-makers” that will be offered like applications software, higher-tier operating systems (Windows 7 Professional at Windows 7 Home Premium price), and extra RAM and hard-disk capacity.


Once the new CPU/GPU chipsets become the mainstream for desktop and portable computers, this could bring about a subtle but real change affecting the design, product-positioning and pricing of these devices.

CEBit 2011

The CEBit trade fairs are becoming a bit of a quandery when it comes to being a European launch platform for IT products targeted at the home and small-business user.This is because most of these products appeal as a crossover product between something destined for the householder and something destined for a business owner or manager.

It also cements the fact that products destined for household use like most wireless routers, smartphones and consumer laptop computers will typically end up being used in the shop or small office even though these places will use equipment targeted at business use.

Here, some of these IT product ranges could be launched in Europe at this show whereas others could be launched at the Internationaler Funkaustellung in August.

Main trends

Tablet computers

The core trends that I have observed concerning CEBit 2011 have been the tablet computers. This fair has become another launch platform for manufacturers to promote their new tablet computers which are primarily based on the Android operating platform.

Key improvements for this class have been the use of dual-core processor technology which yields faster performance.

For this class of device, this show has come at the same time Steve Jobs was premiering the Apple iPad 2 and it shows how competitive the market for tablet computers will be.

CPU/GPU combo processors

The general-purpose computing market has been thrown in to a state of flux with Intel and AMD launching processor platforms based around CPU/GPU combo processors in the form of Sandy Bridge for Intel and APU for AMD. This has changed the ballpark when it comes to integrated graphics solutions with this class of graphics solution yielding graphics performance that is above what is expected.

Similarly, NVIDIA have put forward an ARM-based CPU/GPU combination which would require a different software architecture. This has caused Microsoft to consider releasing the Windows Platform for the ARM architecture as well as for the Intel Architecture.

These processor designs have opened up a new class of computer with “superslim” notebook / laptop computers as well as more of the low-profile ultracompact desktop computers and all-in-ones. The recent work on “dual-mode” graphics where there is a discrete graphics chipset as well as integrated graphics in a computer design has become of benefit when it comes to balancing power economy and performance by allowing the discrete graphics to be seen as an “overdrive”.

Network Devices

The main trends here concern LTE wireless broadband as a WAN option for routers as well as speed increases for the popular no-new-wires network technologies. The 802.11n Wi-Fi network had been brought to 450Mbps in the form of a three-stream variant known as N450. The HomePlug powerline network had been brought up to 500Mbps but this is not yet a defined standard until HomePlug AV2 is “set in stone”. Still, this show has become a European premiere for these networking technologies.

It is more so as more European countries have deployed or are deploying next-generation broadband service to homes and businesses across the continent. What with VDSL2 projects occurring in the Germanic countries (Germany and Austria) and parts of the UK as well as various FTTH fibre-optic projects in the UK and France.

Computing Devices


Google have released the 3.0 “Honeycomb” version of the Android operating system but have pitched it at the tablet computers rather than at smartphones and tablets. This has come at a time when more manufacturers were releasing tablet computers to the general market.

There are two main screen sizes being released – a 7” size that can be put in a coat pocket as well as a 10” size that is similar to the iPad and most netbook computers.

ASUS had launched their eeePad range of tablets with three notable devices. One is the eeePad Memo which is a 7” screen unit that is driven by a SnapDragon processor and can be operated with a stylus rather than the finger. Another unit of note has been the eeePad Slider which looks like a smartphone and has the expected functionality but can run on its batteries for 8 hours at a time. As well, ASUS premiered the eeePad Transformer which has a detachable keyboard for those who prefer to type.

There have been a few “budget” tablets that are driven by Android 2.1 rather than 3.0 and are pitched as entry-level e-reader tablets. One 8” model was pitched by AOC and had no integrated wireless-broadband modem and had 4Gb of onboard memory; while there was another 7” unit pitched by Archos in the form of the 70b E-Reader.

Of course, a few “iPad slayers” had been launched at this show. These units which are close to 10” for screen size have features, options and performance statistics that could offer more value than an equivalent iPad.

Fujitsu had released a “Slate” tablet with two cameras and could work with an optional desk docking station so that one could use standard computer peripherals like a keyboard or printer. They also fielded a Windows 7-powered “business-class” tablet PC for the corporate end of the equation.

Now, no tablet computer launch would be without the “Second Japan” (South Korea) putting their weight in with their high-value equipment. LG had launched the G-Slate which is an 8.9” Android 3.0 tablet powered by a dual-core processor, NVIDIA Tegra 2 graphics. This unit has 32Gb on-board, as well 2 cameras that are capable of 5 Megapixels each. Samsung has used this show to launch the Galaxy Tab 10.1. This is a 10” Android 3.0 tablet that uses a dual core CPU and NVIDIA Tegra 2 graphics.


This has also become the time when Google had set the Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” version in stone. As well, there had been talk of Nokia wanting to shift from Symbian to Windows Phone 7 for their smartphone platform.

Dell had put their foot in the market with the Venue Pro which is a Nokia-style smartphone with a slide-down keyboard.

Nokia have premiered two keyboard-enabled touchscreen smartphones in the form of the Nokia N7 and N9, with the latter one being at least Meego driven. They are also wanting to move towards Windows Phone 7 and away from Symbian as the smartphone operating system of choice for their smartphones.

Samsung have taken the chance to premiere the Galaxy S2, which is the successor to their highly-popular Galaxy S. This smartphone is equipped with a Super AMOLED display and runs Android 2.3.

Desktop and Laptop Computers

The Windows-7 computers become more powerful in their beauty and function. As well, the new combined processors in the form of the Intel Sandy Bridge and the AMD APU systems have opened up new paths when it come to designing desktop and laptop computers. Here, portable computers have been able to perform better than expected for most graphics tasks and are able to do this without a penalty on battery runtime. As well, manufacturers have been able to consider designing desktop computers that are small neat and elegant units yet able to perform remarkably well.

ASUS have released three notebooks that are of note here. One is the eeeSlate EP121 convertible notebook which has a touchscreen and a supplied Bluetooth keyboard. The screen size is 12” and it is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor. Its secondary storage comes in the form of a 64Gb solid-state drive.

They have also released the VX7 15” laptop which may impress regular “Top Gear” viewers. It has sports-car styling and uses dual-mode graphics in the form of NVIDIA GEForce GTX460M for discrete-mode and Intel Sandy Bridge Core i7 processor for integrated mode. As well, they have released a notebook computer which is 19mm thick. Here, I don’t have information about its full specifications.

Dell have run with a convertible laptop in the form of the Inspiron Duo. Here, this machine’s screen swings in a frame to “filp” from a regular laptop to a tablet computer.

Acer have premiered the iconia which is a dual-display laptop which uses two touchscreens with one as a keyboard. They have also shown the Revo multimedia desktop PC which I would describe as very similar to the slim version of the popular Sony PlayStation 2 games console. As well, Shuttle, a manufacturer of small-form-factor PCs have released a computer that is based H67 “Sandy Bridge” chipset.


The computer display scene has been centred around large-screen HD monitors. One of these is in the form of the ASUS P246Q 24” LCD screen for graphics artists. This one could work in landscape or portrait mode, has an A4 aspect ratio, and a resolution of 1920×1080. For connectivity, this 499-Euro display has the DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and “VGA” connectors as well as an integrated USB hub.

BenQ have offered a 24” Full-HD LED-backlit LCD display This 300-Euro display has for connectivity 2 HDMI sockets, and a 4 USB hub as well as the usual DVI and VGA connectors but could offer a DisplayPort connector. They also released an “interactive projector” that needs no stylus and allows the user to touch the projected image to interact with it.

Creative have released a few HD-resolution webcams in the form of the Socialize HD which is equipped with auto-focus and available as a “full-HD” (1080) model and an “HD” (720p) model/ They have also released the “Cam Chat HD” which doesn’t have auto-focus but works at HD (720p).

Every technology trade show will come up with the usual line of peripherals and gadgets that may not appeal to the serious computer buyer but appeal to the computing press as sidelines. One is that Fujitsu had released a regular computer mouse that was to “appeal” to the green thought by having it made out of renewable materials. In my opinion, this wasn’t anything special as far as pointing devices go.

SAGEM had released a cordless phone which reminded me of one that was released in the late 1970s by a mail-order firm in America. Here, the battery-powered cordless phone was designed like a standard corded desk telephone yet it transmitted via radio to a “black-box” base station that was connected to the telephone service. It was initially modelled on the standard-issue dial telephone of the day but was revised to look like the standard-issue pushbutton phone of that same era. The cordless phone offered by SAGEM and known as the “Grundig Sixty” was styled like a dial-equipped desk telephone that was standard-issue in Germany in the late 1960s except that this DECT-connected phone uses pushbutton dialling and is finished in that orange colour reminiscent of the era.

The network

For the network, this has become a European launch pad for N450 (three-stream 802.11n that runs at 450Mbps maximum) Wi-Fi equipment as well as 500Mbps HomePlug AV equipment.

AVM, the German network-hardware name have become an example of this with their FritzBox routers have been conservative with their N-based WiFi speeds by offering N300 for their Wi-Fi networks rather than running for the N450 three-stream technology. One of these is the FritzBox 6840 which has LTE wireless-broadband on the WAN side and one Ethernet as well as Wi-Fi N-300 on the LAN side. Like most of the other FritzBox routers, it has VoIP telephony interfaces through 1 telephone socket and a base station for 6 DECT handsets. As well, it has a USB socket for sharing peripherals as well as being a DLNA media server.

They also premiered the Fritzbox Fon WLAN 7330 which has ADSL2 on the WAN side and Gigabit Ethernet as well as Wi-Fi N300 on the LAN side. This would have the USB port and DLNA media server function as well as a VoIP endpoint for 1 regular handset and 6 DECT handsets.

They also released a companion DECT cordless handset for these routers which looks as though it is a low-tier camera-equipped mobile phone. Here, this would use a colour LCD display and a graphic user interface for its management and use; and is pitched as an Internet audio endpoint.

Of course, they have released a HomePlug AV 500Mbps set with two HomePlug-AV – Gigabit-Ethernet bridges for the European market.

TP-Link have started to push in to the European market as far as their HomePlug products are concerned, This is with them premiering an energy-saving HomePlug AV network bridge with power connector so you don’t lose your power outlet when you plug in the HomePlug.


The CEBit 2011 trade fair is the first such fair for an interesting year in information technology, what with combo CPU/GPU chips, higher network speeds and increased interest in the touch-driven user interface.

Consumer Electronics Show 2011–Part 3

Now we come to the issue of network-infrastructure equipment that will need to support the increasing demands placed on the home network by the previously-mentioned smartphones, tablet computers and Internet-enabled TVs.

Network Infrastructure

Network Connectivity

Some newer chipsets have appeared which will increase network bandwidth for the 802.11n Wi-Fi segment and the HomePlug AV segment. The current implementations may use manufacturer-specific implementations which won’t bode well with the standards.

The first new “call” is the 450Mbps 802.11n WPA2 WPS Wi-Fi segment which is being provided by most network makes for their midrange routers and access points. Access points and routers that work with this specification use three 802.11n radio streams to maintain the high throughput. The full bandwidth may be achieved if the client device is equipped with an 802.11n wireless network adaptor that supports the three streams but your existing devices may benefit due to reduced contention for the wireless bandwidth due to the access point / router offering three streams.

Most of the routers shown at the Consumer Electronics Show this year that support the 3-stream 450Mbps level for the 802.11n wireless network functionality also offered dual-band dual-radio operation to the same specification. Here, these devices could work on both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band at this level of performance.

Some manufacturers were trying out the idea of a 60GHz high-bandwidth media network which may be based on a Wi-Fi (802.11 technology) or other proprietary scheme. This could lead to three-band multimedia routers and access points that use 2.4GHz and 5GHz for regular whole-home wireless networking and 60GHz for same-room wireless networking.

The second new “call” is the 500Mbps throughput being made available on high-end HomePlug AV devices. These powerline network devices may only achieve the high bandwidth on a segment consisting of the high-bandwidth devices that are based on the same chipset. Here, I would wait for the HomePlug AV2 standard to be fully ratified before you chase the 500Mbps bandwidth on your HomePlug segment. Of course, these devices can work with HomePlug AV segments.

The third new call is for midrange high-throughput routers to have Gigabit on the WAN (Internet) port as well as the LAN ports. This is more relevant nowadays as fibre-based next-generation broadband services are rolled out in most countries.

Everyone who exhibited network-infrastructure equipment offered at least one 450Mbps dual-band dual-radio router with Gigabit Ethernet on the WAN (Internet) connection as well as the wired-LAN connection. As well, most of these routers are equipped with circuitry that supports QoS when streaming media and some of them have a USB file-server function which can also provide media files to the DLNA Home Media Network.

Trendnet also offered an access point and a wireless client bridge that worked to this new level of 802.11n performance. They also demonstrated power-saving circuitry for Wi-Fi client devices which throttles back transmission power if the device is in the presence of a strong access point signal for their network. This was ostensibly to be “green” when it comes to AC-powered devices but would yield more real benefit for devices that have to run on battery power.

They also ran with the TPL-410AP which is a HomePlug AV Wireless-N multi-function access point. Another of those HomePlug access points that can “fill in the gap” on a wireless network or extend the Wi-Fi network out to the garage, barn or old caravan.

They also issued the TEW-656BRG 3G Mobile Wireless N Router, which is an 802.11n “MiFi router” that is powered by USB and works with most 3G / 4G modem sticks available in the USA. It is of a small design that allows it to be clipped on to a laptop’s lid or a small LCD monitor.

TP-Link had their 450Mbps three-stream dual-band dual-radio router with Gigabit on bot WAN and LAN Ethernet connections. As well they fielded a single-stream 150Mbps USB stick as the TL-WNT23N.

They also tried their hand with IP surveillance with the TL-SC4171G camera . This camera can do remote pan-tilt, and 10x digital zoom. It connects to the network via Ethernet or 802.11g Wi-Fi (not that much chop nowadays) and is equipped with an IR ring for night capture, as well as a microphone and speaker.

Netgear were more active with the 450Mbps three-stream routers with Gigabit LAN. Two of the models are broadband routers with Gigabit WAN, while one is an ADSL2 modem router which I think would serve the European and Australian markets more easily. The top-end model of the series has a USB file server function which works with the DLNA Home Media Network and also with Tivo “personal-TV devices”.

They also released the XAV5004 HomePlug AV switch which is the 500Mbps version of the their earlier “home-theatre” four-port HomePlug switch. Of course, they released the XAV2001 which is a compact “homeplug” adaptor which connects to the regular standards-based HomePlug AV segment.

They also have released the MBR1000 Mobile Broadband Router which works with 3G/4G wireless broadband or  Ethernet broadband. This unit is being provided “tuNrnkey” for Verizon’s new 4G LTE service.

Netgear have also fielded the VEVG3700 VDSL2/Gigabit Ethernet dual-WAN router with Gigabit Ethernet LAN, Cat-IQ DECT VoIP phone base station. This device, which is pitched at triple-play service providers also supports DLNA server functionality. As well, they also had a DECT VoIP kit available for these providers

As well, Netgear have tried their footsteps in to IP-surveillance for home and small business with a camera and an Android-driven screen for this purpose.

D-Link’s network hardware range include the three-stream 450Mbps routers with Gigabit WAN/LAN, a multifunction access point / repeater for the 802.11n network as well as a new DLNA-enabled network-attached storage range

As far as the MoCA TV-coaxial-cable network is concerned, Channel Master is the only company to release any network hardware for this “no-new-wires” network. It is in the form of a MoCA-Ethernet 4-port switch for the home theatre.

“Mi-Fi” wireless-broadband routers

Every one of the US cellular-telecommunications carriers are catching on to the 4G bandwagon not just with the smartphones and tablets but with the wireless-broadband routers.

Sprint have a unit for their WiMAX service while Verizon are fielding a Samsung LTE “Mi-Fi” as well as the aforementioned Netgear MBR1000 router.

Computer hardware and software


Some of the companies who manufacture monitors are looking at the idea of “Internet-connected” monitors which have a basic Web browser in them so you don’t have to fire up a computer to view the Web.

CPU/GPU combo chips

These new processor chips combine a CPU which is a computer’s “brain” as well as the graphics processor which “draws” the user interface on to the screen. AMD and Intel were premiering the “Accelerated Processor Units” and the Core “Sandy Bridge” prcessors respectively at the CES this year.

Intel were trumpeting the fact that this technology could make it harder to pirate movie content but this is more about mainstream computing and small-form-factor hardware being behind this space and power saving processor hardware.

Sony had lodged a commitment to AMD to use the Zacate “Accelerated Processor Unit” in some of their VAIO laptops.

Other hardware

AMD haven’t forgotten the “performance computing” segment when it comes to processor chips and released the quad-core and 6-core “Phenom” desktop and gaming-rig CPUs.

Seagate have also made the “GoFlex” removable / dockable hard disks a standard by building alliances with third-parties to make hardware that works to this standard. Could this be another “VHS-style” alliance for dockable hard disks?

Microsoft also used this show to premiere their Touch Mouse which uses that same touch operation method as Apple’s Magic Mouse. Do I see an attempt for them to “snap at” Apple when it comes to “cool hardware” as well as software?

The Microsoft Platform

There has been some activity with the Microsoft Windows platforms now that set-top boxes and tablet computers are becoming the “order of the day”

One direction Microsoft is taking is to port the Windows Platform, which was primarily written for Intel-Architecture processors, to the Acorn ARM-architecture processors. The reason that this port is taking place is due to these energy-efficient RISC processors being commonly used in battery-driven applications like tablet computers. They are also popular with other dedicated multimedia devices like set-top boxes and TV applications.

As well, Microsoft will be working on a lightweight Windows build for TV applications like set-top boxes. This is although they have previously written Windows-CE builds for this class of device.

Microsoft also want to make a variant of the Windows Phone 7 for tablet computers and are starting work on the Windows 8 project.

Similarly, Somsung has demonstrated the second incarnation of the Microsoft Surface platform This one comes in a slimmer table-based form rather than a unit that is as thick as the 1980s-style “cocktail-table” arcade game machine.


The Consumer Electronics Show 2011 has certainly put the connected home on the map. This is due to affordable smartphones and tablet computers becoming more ubiquitous and Internet-provided video services becoming an increasing part of American home life.

It will be interesting to see what will happen for the other “pillar” of the consumer-electronics trade fair cycle – the Internationaler Funkaustellung; and how more prevalent the Internet TV, smartphone and tablet computer lifestyle will be in Europe and Asia.

Processor Chipsets with built-in Graphics


BBC News – Intel to launch chipsets with built-in graphics

My comments

With Intel now showing interest in supplying a processor chip with an integrated graphics processor, this will raise the stakes when it comes to supplying single-chip CPU / GPU solutions.

Why supply a single-chip CPU/GPU solution

There is the obvious benefit in design size that it would yield. This would of course allow for more compact applications and, of course, the bill-of-materials costs would be reduced thus allowing for cheaper devices. Another key benefit would be that the single-chip solution would have reduced power needs, which is important for battery-operated devices like laptops, tablet computers and, especially, smartphones.

There is also the reality that most consumer electronics devices like electronic picture frames, digital cameras, TVs / video peripherals and hi-fi equipment are being designed like the general-purpose computers and most of them will also benefit from these CPU/GPU chips. This has become evident with most of these devices offering network and Internet connectivity in a way to augment their primary function or beyond that primary function.  They will also yield the reduced “bill-of-materials” costs and the reduced power demands for this class of device which will become a market requirement.

Similarly, an increasing number of office equipment / computer peripherals, home appliances and “backbone” devices (HVAC / domestic-hot-water, building safety / security, etc) are becoming increasingly sophisticated and offering a huge plethora of functions. I had noticed this more so with the multifunction printers that I have reviewed on this site where most of them use a colour bitmap LCD display and a D-toggle control as part of their user interfaces.

Therefore manufacturers who design these devices can benefit from these single-chip CPU/graphics solutions in order to support these requirements through reduced supporting-power requirements or design costs. In the case of “backbone” devices which typically require the uses to operate them from remotely-located user-interface panels i.e. programmable thermostats or codepads, there isn’t the need to require too much power from the host device to support one or more of these panels even if the panel is to provide access to extended functions.

The market situation

The Intel Sandy Bridge which is just about to be launched at the time of publication, would provide improved graphics. This is in a market which AMD has just entered with their Zacate CPU / graphics chip and been dominated by ARM who have been involved in the smartphone scene. This firm’s design was infact used as part of the Apple A4 chip used in the iPhone 4 and iPad.

With three companies in the market, this could yield a highly-competitive environment with a run for high-quality quickly-drawn graphics, quick CPU response, power conservation / long battery runtime and small circuit size / reduced bill-of-materials. This may also yield a “run for the best” which also yields desirable functionality being available at prices that most people can afford.

The only limitation with this concept is that the single-chip design may make the market for discrete graphics chipsets and cards only for people who value extreme-performance graphics.


The reduced size of these new single-chip CPU/GPU setups could replicate the success of what has happened with the arrival of the 80486 processor with its integrated floating-point coprocessor. It could then make for a longer battery runtime for portable applications and lead to smaller cooler-running computers for most applications.