While Amazon's Kindle seems to receive most of the attention surrounding e-book readers, don't count Sony out of the running. On the contrary, Sony has started tweaking its marketing strategy to better compete with the Kindle.
Last week, Sony introduced two new e-book readers at comparatively affordable price points of $200 and $300, with the higher priced model sporting a touchscreen interface. In addition, Sony reduced prices at its online e-book store for new releases and New York Times best sellers by $2 a pop. And finally, Sony has also started offering a handful of newer titles for free from authors such as Brenda Jackson, James Patterson, and others.
"I think the trend toward lower-priced devices will help to encourage adoptions, and it also helps that Sony's best sellers will now be priced at $9.99 -- down from $11.99," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst for Forrester Research. "Even though there are many books priced lower than $9.99 in their online store, just being able to add this price point has psychological appeal."
Epps went to say that while Sony is moving in the right direction, it still needs to do more to make it easier for consumers to find the e-book content they're looking for through its online stores.
Solid state drives show immense promise with regards to reliability and read speeds, but current-generation models are rife with drawbacks. Due to NAND flash memory’s architecture, writing data to a block (after the first time) requires copying the entire contents of that block to cache, erasing it, and rewriting it with the added data. Large numbers of small writes run the risk of overloading the SSD’s disk cache, causing high latency. Multi Layer Cell (MLC) solid state drives, especially those utilizing JMicron’s JM602 controller, are particularly susceptible.
Fortunately, Samsung’s SSDs, like Intel’s (whose X25-M is the gold standard for solid state drives), use their own controllers, and the results are impressive. This 256GB SSD reached sustained average read speeds of 175MB/s, just 12 percent slower than the Intel drive and 75 percent faster than a Western Digital VelociRaptor. Better still, the Samsung drive’s average sustained write speeds topped 150MB/s, much faster than the 64.3MB/s average offered by the Intel drive. Oddly, Intel’s X25-M still reigns supreme in our Premiere Pro encoding test, beating the Samsung drive by nearly two minutes. The Samsung’s random access times, while slightly slower than the X25-M’s, still average at under .2ms for read and write.
The Samsung drive’s PCMark Vantage score, at 14,088, is less than half that of the Intel drive’s, but still double that of any standard hard drive.
Nvidia on Monday announced that Intel and leading motherboard manufacturers have licensed the graphic chip maker's SLI technology for use in Intel's P55 Express chipset. This will include boards from Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, and MSI.
"Nvidia technology is a perfect complement to the processing prowess of our new Core i7 and Intel DP55KG desktop brand," said Clem Russo, VP and General Manager of Intel Client Board Division. "Nvidia and Intel share a combined passion for furthering the PC as the definitive platform for gaming, and this combination will surely be attractive to anyone building or purchasing a brand new PC this fall."
By adding the P55 chipset under SLI's licensing umbrella, SLI is now available for all consumer PC platforms, including the Intel Core i7, Core i5, Core 2 Quad, and Core 2 Duo processor, in addition to those based on the AMD Phenom II CPU, Nvidia points out.
We don't often get excited over integrated graphics chipsets, but as far as that segment goes, AMD's new 785G chipset looks awfully enticing, at least on paper.
Whereas the older 780G was built around the Radeon HD 3200 GPU, the 785G bumps up graphics duties to the HD 4200, and with it support for DirectX 10.1. The new chipset also updates the HDMI 1.2 port to HDMI 1.3. Other goodies include support for PCI-E 2.0 graphics and ATI's Hybrid Graphics mode, 3Gbps SATA connectors, USB 2.0, and HD audio.
Moving away from the hardware, AMD apparently is putting extra effort into building support for Windows 7.
"We recognized that inflection point and realized we needed a product for that timeline," Adam Kozak, Desktop Marketing Manager for AMD, told ExtremeTech. "One of the things with AMD, there's a lot around this, and our driver schedules and everything are part of the proof that we value this transition. That's why you'll get the WHQL drivers way ahead of launch. We've worked hard with Microsoft to ensure that all these features work. It's been a long process to get to where we are now."
While hardcore gamers probably need not apply, AMD says that an Athlon II X2 CPu and 785G-based mobo combo should run under 200 clams.
Despite tough economic times the world over, the processor market grew by 10.1 percent in the second quarter of this year, driven in large part by continued demand for Intel's Atom processor. That being the case, one would think we'd see more Atom-based mobile Internet devices (MIDs) or ultramobile PCs (UMPCs) show up in the market place, so why aren't we?
That's the question news site Arstechnica set out to answer, and what they discovered was pretty interesting. After failing to find many Atom-based MIDs or UMPCs for sale on the web, Arstechnica took a jaunt over to Intel's online list of MID/UMPC products intended to showcase what the company's technology can do, only to discover an outdated page. Everything listed is based on Intel's old McCaslin platform and out of production, which would seem to indicate that MIDs and UMPCs aren't a high enough priority for Intel to even bother updating its page.
"MIDs are very much alive and well, still are very central to our strategy in the mobile handheld space," said Shane Wall, VP of Intel's Mobility Group. "And we have a roadmap that certainly goes beyond 2012."
Walls went on to describe the MID sector as a work-in-progress, saying "it's what we had hoped it would be at this point. And in terms of volume it's above what our internal targets are." If only the retail channel agreed.
After strongly backing HD-DVD during the format wars of yesteryear, Toshiba has announced that they plan on releasing a Blu-ray player, and have applied to join the Blu-ray Disc Association.
“In light of recent growth in digital devices supporting the Blu-ray format, combined with market demand from consumers and retailers alike, Toshiba has decided to join the BDA,” stated an official press release. “Toshiba aims to introduce digital products that support the Blu-ray format, including BD players and notebook PCs integrating BD drives, in the course of this year. Details of the products, including the timing of regional launches, are now under consideration. We will make announcements in due course.”
So, as you can gather, there’s no word yet on any pricing or availability, but they’ll surely keep the world posted.
For those of you that are looking to get a Windows 7 Vaio from Sony, don’t plan on using the Windows XP mode to run applications, because it won’t be included with the systems.
According to Sony’s Xavier Lauwaert Windows 7’s XP mode will be disabled due to security reasons. According to one of Sony’s engineers, they’re “very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter.”
Apparently Sony still plans to enable XP mode on some machines, but as to which models they choose or when it’ll be available, nobody knows.
The rich get richer, so the saying goes, and it applies to Intel's x86 CPU business. Already the No.1 CPU maker in the world, Intel's x86 processor market share rose to 80.5 percent in the second quarter of 2009, up from 78.2 percent in the first quarter.
According to market research firm Mercury Research, Intel's recent market share growth is attributable to the chip maker's aggressive desktop CPU price cuts, as well as increased inventory alleviating continued shortages in certain segments.
Meanwhile, competitor AMD saw its shares drop from 20.9 percent in the first quarter to 18.7 percent in the second, a trend the No. 2 chip maker can't be happy about. It was almost a year ago that AMD announced a split into separate design and manufacturing firms.
VIA's market share remained relatively unchanged, claiming just under 1 percent for the second consecutive quarter.
We've longed bemoaned the real-world write performance of most SSDs, which often falls short of the much speedier read speeds. Even worse, surmises HotHardware, is the potential for an SSD's write performance to degrade over time.
"The flash memory used on today's SSDs is comprised of cells that usually contain 4KB pages that are arranged in blocks of 512KB," writes HotHardware. "When a cell is unused, data can be written to it relatively quickly. But if a cell already contains some data -- no matter how little, even if it fills only a single page in the block -- the entire block must be re-written. That means, whatever data is already present in the block must be read, then it must be combined or replaced, etc., with the new additional data, and the entire block is then re-written."
The good news is most manufacturers are attacking the problem head on via firmware. One such example is OCZ's implementation of the Indilinx firmware, which the company plans to include on all Vertex series drives. When the drives are idle, Indilinx and other similar SSD firmware sweep through an SSD's cells looking for and removing so-called "garbage data."
HotHardware got its hands on one of OCZ's new Vertex drives outfitted with the Indilinx firmware and the results are pretty surprising. After "dirtying" the drive with chunks of data, performance degradation became apparent while running the ATTO Disk Benchmark. But after letting the drive sit idle for 5 minutes, performance numbers were nearly restored to new condition.
Nvidia’s second quarter profits are evidence poor quality costs much more than just bad PR. The company recorded a charge of $119 million to cover warranty costs associated with faulty die and weak packaging materials used in its graphics chips. This is significantly better than the $196 million it had already written off for the same reason, but it was still much higher than analysts were expecting.
Most of these issues can be traced back to a faulty solder bump that was discovered in its 8M-series mobile graphics chip. Nvidia estimated at the time that the warranty costs could be somewhere in the range of $200 million, but clearly the $315+ million they have already spent shows they were perhaps a bit overly conservative in their estimates. This might be a result of the problem reportedly cropping up in G92 and G94 series mobile cards as well, but Nvidia has been pretty tight lipped on the issue.
When asked to comment on the charge Nvidia downplayed the impact and described them as a small distraction. Nvidia President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang claims it hasn’t impacted Nvidia’s ability to launch new products, and he expects profits to rise in the near future. Huang is being optimistic, but he is likely hoping to reassure investors who saw the company’s revenue drop this quarter to $776.5 million from $892.6 million only a year ago. “The company has invested in new products such as Tesla, a graphics processing unit for high-performance computing, and low-power Tegra chips for mobile devices. The products should start contributing to the revenue stream soon”, Huang said.