Apple in talks to Acquire Imagination Technologies for PowerVR GPUs

In what is likely good news for Qualcomm, Apple has confirmed they are in talks with mobile graphics designers Imagination Technologies. While Apple has denied making or considering an offer at this point in time, they may yet reconsider. Imagination Technologies is known for their PowerVR series of GPUs, integrated into Apple SoCs since the A4 and used in some Intel Atom SoCs as well; Apple currently owns a decent chunk of Imagination stock already.

Apple has a tendency to bring more and more development in-house. Back in 2008, Apple acquired PA Semi which eventually led to in-house CPU designs started with Swift for the A6 SoC. Bringing the GPU development in-house also makes sense for Apple as it will bring them better control over the direction and vision for the future. By doing their CPU designs, Apple was able to increase their IPC lead their competitors significantly as those firms had to rely on ARM and Qualcomm, both who were slow to the IPC and 64bit game.

If Apple does snatch up Imagination, that leaves Qualcomm and ARM as the only 2 major mobile GPU designers left. This may allow Nvidia to make some gains with their Tegra lineup and might even entice AMD to re-enter the market if the conditions are right.

 

AMD Launches Elite Software for APU Based Systems

AMD has launched the new and free Elite Experiences software to enhance the functionality of their APU series. Sadly these function are limited to the mobile version, so desktop users will lose out this time. The logic behind it is however clear as most stationary systems don’t have the extra hardware needed for it to work. I still hope that it’ll be made available on a ‘use at your own risk’ basis for the desktop users who do own a webcam.

The new system brings a row of new functionality to the mobile hybrids with Face Login, Gesture Control, Quick Stream Technology, Perfect Picture and Wireless Display. These are functions that for the most part already exists, but in the past they usually were custom-created software by the hardware-manufacturers. Now there is a unified experience for all mobile AMD APU users with A10, A8 and A6 APUs from 2013 or newer.

AMD Face Login is a software that uses your webcam and enhanced image processing to recognize if the face in front of the camera matches one stored in the database. This way the software allows access to Windows and certain websites without requiring keying of passwords. AMD Face Login is designed as a convenient tool to help you log into Windows and many popular websites quickly and should not be used to protect your computer and personal information from unwanted access. However, it isn’t just some simple image matching algorithm and it won’t work to just hold a photo of someone up to the webcam. For extra security, you can let the system automatically lock your windows session or put the computer it into sleep when you leave the work area. The software can store up to 40 different images for the facial recognition.

AMD Gesture Control is a software that utilizes advanced real-time image processing and machine vision algorithms to track a user’s hand gestures and convert them into commands. These commands are then used to control functions and software within the device, creating a more natural user interaction.

Supported gestures are waving left and right and swiping your hand upwards. It also recognizes the mute gesture when you put a finger in front of your mouth to go “Shh”. Virtual mouse controls are performed by holding up an index finger and you can grab objects by making a fist. Clicking sounds tricky as you’ll have to keep the hand steady while quickly dipping the standing finger from vertical to a horizontal position and back up. The mapping of the gesture movements can be customized to any standard windows short-key.

AMD Wireless Display allows a computer to send up to 1080p HD video and 5.1 surround sound to a Miracast-compatible TV, projector or streaming media player. The protocol uses a direct Wi-Fi connection between two devices without involvement of a wireless router and cannot be used to stream to a router access point. AMD Wireless Display is already built into Windows 8.1 and is available from the Devices screen. Just click “Add a wireless display” and follow the instructions on the screen. The option will only be available if your hardware supports it. If you’re worried about DRM protected content, AMD Wireless Display can handle that as well.

The last two parts aren’t really that new, but still useful to have around. AMD Quick Stream was created to make video viewing experiences better. The application helps prioritize and manage software in a bandwidth-constrained environment to prevent stream-stuttering. AMD Quick Stream is essentially a Quality of service (QoS) that prioritises media streams over the rest.

The final part mentioned is the AMD Perfect Picture that is a set of optimizations and settings designed to improve and provide controls for video quality. It has options available for basic and advanced colour, video quality, AMD Steady Wide, Global video quality and accelerated video conversion. This is however a familiar function to all of us that have used AMD cards.

Thank you AMD for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of AMD

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite Notebook Review

Introduction


Before I even start this review, I’m going to lay down the law so to speak. The term Ultrabook adheres to a device that follows Intel’s strict guidelines and while the device that we’re looking at today may look Ultrabook-esque, it features AMD CPU architecture and therefore cannot be claimed as an Ultrabook, though for the most part (barring the exclusion of an Intel processor) it pretty much is an Ultrabook.

What Samsung have done to create this notebook is to take the fundamental aspects of their Ultrabook range (Ativ Book) and given it the same treatment as its big brother; the Ativ Book 9 Plus, but to keep costs down an AMD quad-core processor has been used as opposed to the more expensive and slightly more powerful Intel equivalent. While Intel fan-boys across the world will be shouting at their screens right now, you have to remember that a device such as this has limited purposes and no matter what CPU the manufacturer favours, it will not see Crysis 3 being  run with all the settings turned right up to the max.

The term Ultrabook and the very similar AMD equivalent offer an unrivalled range of features in a convenient, small form factor that allows for superb battery life, fantastic connectivity options and of course the added portability factor due to the size and most importantly, the weight of a lightweight product like this.

As a journalist (as that is effectively what our line of work falls under) you’ll generally have a stereotypical view in your mind of me sitting in Starbucks with a Macbook Air/Pro in front of me and a large Americano steaming away as I ponder the latest happenings in the tech world; but whilst I am a typical journalist and I have coffee running through my veins, I don’t spend all my hours sitting in a coffee shop such as Starbucks or Costa waiting to chase the news. What I do instead is to attend pre-arranged press conferences and launches – typically in London and to get the news out as soon as possible or to make taking note down easier, I prefer to take either a tablet or more ideally a small laptop with me to type my notes on to – I still keep my trusty notebook and pen in the bag though!

This scenario is exactly where the Ativ Book 9 Lite comes into play. With a lightweight design, lightning fast performance and small form factor, on paper it ticks all the right boxes and to top that all off that it features a touchscreen panel. What’s more the Ativ Book 9 Lite retails at just a fraction of the price of an equally spec’d Ultrabook the features an Intel CPU at its heart.

This notebook that I’m having a look at today comes in one of two almost identical specifications, but with one component that is different between the two, but one that also affects the price quite considerably. This sole item that I’m referring to is the screen. Many laptops, notebooks and Ultrabooks that are coming to the market are now featuring touch-screen capabilities and the Ativ Book 9 Lite is yet another system that has this option available, although if you’re not a fond user of this new feature, or you simply don’t need it, then the Book 9 Lite does offer a non touch panel for a slightly lower price point.

In terms of the specifications, Samsung are a bit vague as to the CPU but after some digging we can see that it’s Socket FT3 (BGA769) A4/A6 APU 1.4GHz Quad Core offering which of course supplies the GPU side of the machine too.

The box in typical Samsung stylish is clean, crisp and to the point with a large image of the device and subtle branding. The image on the front showcases the Mineral Ash Black colour, though the model we have today is Marble White.