Friday, September 3, 2010
Without any fanfare or press release that we can find, Nvidia launched a new graphics card for OEMs this week, the GeForce GT 420.
The GeForce GT 420 ranks as the first truly low-end Fermi part with support for DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4, and unless something changes, you won't find this card in retail. The OEM-only graphics card has found its way into a handful of Dell, HP, and other pre-built systems, and that's where it will probably stay.
From a hardware standpoint, the GeForce GT 420 sports a 40nm GPU clocked at 700MHz, 48 CUDA cores, 2GB of GDDR3 clocked at 1800MHz on a 128-bit memory bus, and shaders clocked at 1400MHz. It also sports a low-profile design with DVI, HDMI, and D-sub outputs.
New laptops anyone? If you're Samsung, you're definitely saying yes. The company has announced two new lines of sleek mobile computers today, the SF series of ultraportables and the NF series of standard-sized notebooks. The SF series consists of the Samsung SF310, SF410, SF510, with screen sizes being 13.3", 14" and 15" in order.
These units will ship in October, offering a glossy ivory exterior, matte-black interior and an "island keyboard." The case itself is designed to be scratch resistant, and internally you'll find Core i3 / i5 CPU options, a battery that can last up to 7.5 hours, and a one-touch wireless control button. The NF Series is built from the NF310, NF210, NF110, with the 310 netbook having an Atom N550 (dual-core), DDR3 RAM, Windows 7, a 1366x768 resolution panel, and an October ship date. The NF210 is designed to last a long, long time, with a battery good for up to 14 hours on a single charge. The NF110 is the lower-end model, and Samsung's not telling too much about that one just yet. But hey, October's close!
Posted by Jake at 3:29 PM
Canonical has announced the availability of the Ubuntu 10.10 beta release. The new version of the popular Linux distribution, codenamed Maverick Meerkat, is scheduled for final release in October. It brings some noteworthy user interface improvements and updated software.
The beta ships with GNOME 2.31, which introduces support for the new dconf configuration storage system. Ubuntu's standard F-Spot photo tool has been replaced by Shotwell, a relatively new application that is developed by nonprofit software group Yorba. Although it's not as feature-complete as F-Spot, it's progressing quickly and has a lot to offer.
Canonical has continued its work on panel indicators, especially the audio indicator which now has playback controls in addition to a volume management slider. This will eliminate the need for individual audio applications to have their own notification area icons.
Work has also continued on the Ubuntu Software Center, which now promotes "Featured" applications and has a section for purchasing commercial third-party applications. The look and feel of the Software Center is more refined and aesthetically sophisticated.
The Ubuntu Netbook Edition has seen particularly dramatic improvements during this development cycle due to Canonical's work on the new Unity user interface. Unity, which was initially introduced in May, has matured very rapidly. It has a global menubar that works surprisingly well.
The Eee 1215N, one of Asus’ innumerable Eee PC Seashell netbooks, is the first netbook we’ve seen with Intel’s new mobile dual-core Atom chips—it ships with the 1.8GHz Atom D525, 2GB of DDR3/800 RAM, and most importantly, Nvidia’s next-generation Ion graphics chipset and Optimus technology, which enables Ion when required and switches to Intel’s integrated UMA graphics when Ion isn’t necessary.
If you’ve seen any Asus netbook in the past few years, the 1215N offers few surprises, most of them welcome. At 11.6 inches across, 8 inches deep, and 1.4 inches thick, weighing 3lbs 4oz, it’s has the same height and depths as previous Ion netbooks, but it’s thinner. Like the last Ion Eee PC, the 1215N uses a full-sized chiclet-style keyboard, as well as a multitouch trackpad that sits flush with the wrist rest and has a single (right- and left-clickable) trackpad button. Unlike the 1201N, however, this year’s model swaps a glossy black fingerprint-magnet wrist rest for a slightly less grease-showing matte, and the grid-of-dimples trackpad for one delineated by metal insets. Unfortunately, the screen bezel and keyboard area (other than the keys themselves) remain glossy and smudge-friendly.
The webcam now has a sliding “privacy cover” for those paranoid about people hacking their cams to take nude shots of them playing Torchlight, which is of negligible value but doesn’t hurt.
Speaking of Torchlight, the hit action RPG from Runic: the 1215N plays it. In the game’s netbook mode, at 1366x768, we averaged 36fps—definitely playable, though framerates can drop to the high teens for a few frames if there are lots of enemies on the screen.
It also plays Portal. And Starcraft 2. Not exactly graphically intense buts, but still actual modern games. While next-generation Ion isn’t that much faster than the first-gen chip, it no longer swipes RAM from the rest of your machine—this platform’s 512MB of DDR3 graphics memory is separate from the main memory. Optimus does a great job of switching on when needed for gameplay or video acceleration. Video acceleration, you say? Yep. The 1215N’s screen is capable of 720p HD playback, and the machine itself can power an external monitor at 1920x1080 via HDMI. We were able to play 1080p Flash videos from YouTube at 1920x1080, thanks to Flash 10.1’s hardware-acceleration support. Local 1080p video will also play, depending the encoding and your player’s codec support—Blu-Ray movies played flawlessly to the external monitor from an Asus USB 2.0 Blu-Ray external drive, while 1080p QuickTime .mov files had some stuttering but 720p Quicktime files played fine.
The 1215N set records in nearly every benchmark we have: 17 percent faster than the next-fastest Photoshop score, 25 percent faster than the next-fastest MainConcept encode; 8 percent faster than the last-gen Ion netbooks in Quake 4. The only outliers are battery life—though at five-plus hours, it’s not bad—and Quake III. Averaging 104 frames per second is still triple what we get from non-Ion netbooks, but previous Ion netbooks have scored between 130 and 150fps on that test.
Once you take away all the things that hamper traditional netbooks—a slow CPU, limited RAM, Intel graphics—and add a 1366x768 screen, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, and an HDMI port, is the end result even still a netbook? We say yes: the 1215N is sleek and doesn’t feel cheap, but at $500, it’s not breaking the bank—or, at just over 3 pounds, your back. We defy you to get similar performance from a $500 ultraportable.