Adobe Working on a MacBook Air-Specific Version of Flash

This is an interesting development.

It appears that Adobe is working on a version of Flash that is optimized for Apple’s 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch MacBook Air series.

Adobe’s Flash platform had been left out of Apple’s new MacBook Air line that was launched a few weeks ago at the end of October. By ditching Flash during web browsing, it was discovered that a few hours of battery life could be added. One reason Apple gave for leaving out Flash was that by forcing customers to download it if they needed it, they would be updated to the latest version of Flash. Usually when a laptop ships, the software is fairly out of date by the time it gets into the hands of customers. This became an issue given the number of security issues that have cropped up with Adobe’s Flash platform. The reality is that this is a tug-of-war that has been going on for quite a while now, going back to Apple’s iPad and iPhone 4, when Apple barred Flash from iOS devices, due to power/CPU and battery performance issues.

Adobe’s CEO responded to Engadget’s question about the issue of Flash on ultraportable devices, saying that Flash performance and battery life comes down to hardware acceleration and that they currently have a beta of Flash that is optimized for the 2010 MacBook Air that they are working on.

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AMD Brazos / Fusion – Benchmarks

Last week, I mentioned that AMD Fusion APUs are shipping and that some sites already had previews of what to expect.

Over the past few days, we now have a very good idea of what to expect out of AMD’s new platform that merges the CPU and GPU into what AMD calls an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). The Tech Report and Anandtech, along with other sites, have published benchmark sand more information.

The system tested by Anandtech was based around the AMD E-350 APU, which is the highest-end APU available on the Brazos platform. That doesn’t equate to expensive though – Anandtech mentions it’ll be in nettops and notebooks in the $400 – $500 range. It’s got an 18W TDP, but the article mentions the TDP should drop on production systems. Part of the goal is to match up well (or exceed) Intel’s Atom line. The E-350 (Bobcat) has 2 cores and runs at 1.6GHz, with the GPU being a Radeon HD 6310 and running at 500MHz. The Brazos test system had 4GB of DDR3 memory. In a Photoshop CS4 test, it did well, beating out a dual-core Intel Atom D510 and a couple of AMD Athlon CPUs. On some video-intensive applications, such as some game testing, thanks to the GPU/APU system, it did very well, handily beating an Intel Core i3-350M. While it beat out the Atom and some of the i3s, it’s not going to end up in a netbook unfortunately – there are lower-power APUs destined for the netbooks.

The Tech Report benchmarked the same test system and found similar results, although they made the comparison against a lot of netbooks and high-end netbooks or other ultraportables, and felt it was very comparable:

If Zacate manages to match or exceed current solutions in terms of run time, which seems entirely possible considering the Brazos platform’s very spartan power draw, then AMD might just end up with the most attractive ultraportable platform on the market early next year.

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Intel to Introduce Sandy-Bridge Processors at CES 2011

Intel has sent out invitations stating that it would be officially launching the Sandy Bridge CPUs during its keynote at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is the largest consumer technology tradeshow (official site). Intel’s keynote will be on January 5, 2011.

Sandy Bridge is the next, or second, generation of Intel’s Core CPUs, and will be manufactured using a 32nm process, and was formally discussed at the Intel Developer Forum back in September. Part of that process with the Sandy Bridge CPUs involves the graphics processing being fully on the processor and sharing cache with the cores in a much closer manner. It will bring the graphics processing much closer to dedicated video chipsets or cards, which might eventually shake up the gaming/accessory market.

Speculation is that it will be higher-end Core cpus, including both dual-core and quad-core versions, that will be introduced at the CES keynote. The mobile/laptop versions start at 2.2GHz (dual-core), and there are two lines. Unfortunately we probably won’t see any netbook CPUs just yet.

The thing that interests a lot of us (and a lot of manufacturers) is that there will be a solid performance increase without increasing the size of the CPU and related chipset. 1080p video playback maybe available on lower-power systems as well.

Sandy Bridge processors should be available almost immediately from some manufacturers. It’s a follow-up to the Nehalem architecture, and uses the same process as Westmere (Nehalem-C). One new feature is “Advanced Vector Extensions” (AVX) which are a sequel/addition to SSE. I don’t know if it will be discussed, but there is a feature in Sandy Bridge that allows for remote disabling and/or wiping of information for a hard drive if a PC or notebook should be stolen or lost. It can be done through a 3G signal or internet connection.

Intel’s “Oak Trail” platform for tablets, including the Intel Atom Z600 series, could also be discussed/launched.

Sandy Bridge will be going head-to-head with AMD’s Fusion Platform later in 2011. PC Magazine published an article discussing the competition.

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AMD Shipping Fusion APUs

Just a few minutes after seeing the Anandtech article about their preview of the AMD Brazos platform earlier today, several tech-related sites startted popping up with articles mentioning that AMD is actually shipping the first Fusion processors. Last month, AMD said they would get them out to customers by 4Q and it appears they have.

AMD started shipping them at 4am CST (US) from Singapore out to customers.

What we know, and what you can guess from the Anandtech preview, is that the first APUs (Accelerated Processing Units – part CPU, part GPU) are described by AMD CEO Dirk Meye as Ontario and Zacate. Zacate is the dual-core 18W (TDP) with faster clockspeeds on both the CPU and GPU side of thing, while the Ontario is the single-core lower-power 9W TDP. Both of them could end up in netbooks or other ultraportables, although the single-core 9W is more likely to end up in the truly small ultraportables.

Several of the articles below have pictures and discuss that AMD is really pushing the idea of HD video out from a netbook or other ultraportable. Right now, it’s pretty limited to systems such as those powered by NVIDIA’s Ion/Ion 2, like the Asus Eee PC 1215N, which is a 12.1-inch netbook. There are AMD systems out there in ultraportable form factors, most running AMD’s NEO platform, but the Brazos/Bobcat platform provides a lot more power with much better battery performance, at a cheaper cost.

Unfortunately we’ll have to wait – while the APUs are shipping to customers, those customers are the netbook and ultraportable manufacturers, and we probably won’t see anything until the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January.

PC Magazine
The Register
Daily Tech

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Anandtech Previews AMD’s Brazos/Zacate Platform (Fusion)

Update: AMD is shipping Fusion APUs

It’s been nearly two months since AMD’s Ontario and Zacate APUs were previewed and today Anandtech posted a comprehensive preview of the system. Anandtech wasn’t allowed to reveal performance benchmarks (sometime next week hopefully), but they are able to talk about the first actual configurations that will be shipping on AMD Fusion.

Fusion is very aptly named – it’s the fusing of the CPU and and an ATI GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) into what AMD is calling an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). In the ultraportable and netbook market, it has a lot of advantages. It’s a very low-power platform in the form of what AMD is calling the Bobcat platform. There will be higher performance platforms for larger laptops and notebooks later on.

Their impressions seem positive – one of the systems tested appeared to be similar to an 11-inch form factor and “felt quick” and they felt it was comparable to an 11-inch MacBook Air.

Keep in mind that the performance is above the existing Intel Atoms and somewhere around or below the Intel Core i3, and the price should be very favorable. It’s competing with NVIDIA’s Ion platform as well. There will be both single-core and dual-core versions available.

Dual-Core AMD Brazos
– AMD E-350, 1.6GHz, Radeon HD 6310
– AMD C-50, 1.0GHz, Radeon HD 6250

Single-core AMD Brazos
– AMD E-240, 1.5GHz, Radeon HD 6310
– AMD C-30, 1.2GHz, Radeon HD 6250

Both of the E-series APUs have a GPU clock speed of 500MHz and a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 18W, while the C-series APUs have a GPU clock speed of 280MHz and are running at cool 9W TDP.

It’s a good overview of the upcoming systems from AMD and worth a read if you have a few minutes.

Read: Anandtech

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