It’s no secret that chip sales have been hurting in this economy. In fact, semiconductor sales fell last year for this first time since the tech bubble burst in 2001. However, the newest numbers out seem to show a reasonable rebound. Global chip sales in Q3 rose 19.7% over Q2 to 61.9 billion, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). The bad news is that sales were still over 10% lower than Q3 last year.
To a degree, this sort of increase is expected as demand ramps up approaching the holidays, but SIA president, George Scalise, has called the results “above expectations”. He pointed out that sales of PCs and cell phones have been running ahead of predictions. These devices are the largest consumers of semiconductors.
Positive signs continue to accumulate for the chip market. In addition to the just released numbers, previous values indicate that September actually saw a year-over-year gain of 7.8% in American sales. SIA is raising their projections for total 2009 sales. Is this a premature decision, or not? We’ll find out in a few months.
There’s no good reason for the existence of Asus’s Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim soundcard, and yet it’s a godsend for those of us who want to hear the high-definition soundtracks on so many of the Hollywood movies released on Blu-ray disc. Blame Microsoft for the contradiction: No one would need a product like this if Vista provided a protected audio path.
After all, this card doesn’t decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, nor does it enhance the audio or the video; it just passes the signals through to your A/V receiver. Using the included HDMI cable, the card takes the output from your videocard, re-encrypts the soundtrack so that no one can intercept the bit stream to make a bit-perfect copy, and outputs the encrypted audio and video to a second HDMI port. For those without HDMI, Asus also includes a DVI-to-HDMI cable.
The protected audio path requires a software component, too, so Asus bundles a copy of ArcSoft’s TotalMedia Theatre with the Xonar. Not your favorite media player? Too bad, it’s the only one that’s compatible. For what it’s worth, we don’t have any complaints about the program. There’s nothing objectionable about its user interface; it can handle all the major codecs; and it supports BD-Live, so you can access whatever online content is linked to the movie you’re watching.
Organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, are often touted as the next big thing in display technology, offering brighter colors, true black, lower power consumption, and better off-axis viewing than traditional LCD screens. They’ve popped up in gadgets from high-concept to mundane: The infamous Optimus Maximus keyboard, for example, utilizes many tiny OLED screens in its programmable and customizable keycaps, and both Sony’s new X-series Walkman and Microsoft’s new Zune HD have OLED screens. OLED technology has made great strides in the past 10 years, and cheaper and better manufacturing processes mean they’ve started appearing in everything from media players to phones to high-definition televisions—even keyboards. But what are OLEDs?
The rumors missed the mark by a day, but still turned out to be true in that Sprint has teamed with Dell to offer a subsidized netbook with a data plan subscription. That netbook is the Dell Mini 10 and is available at select Sprint stores throughout the Bay Area for $200 (after mail-in-rebate) with a two-year Sprint Mobile Broadband agreement.
The 10.1-inch Dell weighs 2.6 pounds and sports an Intel Atom Z520 processor. Other specs include a 160GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, 1.3MP webcam, integrated Intel 500 graphics, a 5-in-1 media card reader, Bluetooh, WiFi, and Windows XP Home. In other words, nothing sexy like a dual-booting Android platform or anything else to separate the Mini 10 from the standard netbook fare.
While not particularly exciting, it's hard to argue with the price. Just be sure to factor in the cost of the service agreement, which includes 5GB of data for $60 per month. That comes out to an extra $1,440 over the next two years.
Pretty soon, it might be easier to list out companies not releasing an e-book reader than ones ones that are. Just as quickly as netbooks took off, digital e-book readers are fast becoming the next must-have portable device, as evidenced by the number of product announcements from a variety of players. The latest comes from Creative, who will look to make a splash with its Zii MediaBook.
According to Creative, the Zii MediaBook will be unlike any other e-reader on the market. The Zii will come with a touchscreen, text-to-speech, an SD memory card slot, and the ability to play video files and roam willy nilly across the Internet. That means you can probably expect WiFi, though whether integrated 3G connectivity comes as part of the deal remains to be seen.
Creative will also implement a strong social networking element to its device by offering users access to Facebook and Twitter while on the go.
The Zii MediaBook will face stiff competition from Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's nook (with a lowercase 'n') right from the outset, and it won't get any easier over time. Asus, MSI, ViewSonic, and several other companies are either working on e-readers of their own or have shown interest in the fast growing digital reader segment.
There's just something about naming a product line "Blood Iron" that gets our attention, even if the latest entry to DFI's lineup is a value oriented board. Such is the case with the just-launched BI P43-T34 motherboard.
As you probably surmised, the new board is built around Intel's P43 chipset. So in other words, this one's strictly for the LGA775 crowd looking to score a deal on a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad chip.
The new board comes with a handful of noteworthy features, including DDR3 support, digital PWM, a generous helping of 12 USB 2.0 ports, 6 SATA II ports, and DFI's ABS II auto-overclocking technology.
While the latest Blood Iron doesn't seem like a bad option for a somewhat performance oriented budget build, we're still waiting on DFI return to old form with cutting edge mobos that push the overclocking boundaries. DFI was once considered the go-to motherboard maker for system tweakers looking for fine grain control over their entire system, but seems to have switched focus on more mainstream solutions.
From the looks of it, you probably wouldn’t figure iBuypower’s M865TU for a gaming notebook. Its aesthetic is much more subdued than typical representatives of that class. The chassis is covered in a subtly textured black plastic, with tasteful silver trim around the edges and the touch pad. Unlike other gaming notebooks, backlighting is limited to the power button and an unobtrusive iBuypower logo on the notebook’s lid. Furthermore, the 15-inch M865TU is smaller than many gaming rigs and has a more streamlined formfactor.
But despite its smaller stature and no-nonsense appearance, the M865TU’s got game. That’s courtesy of the Nvidia GTX 260M GPU under its hood. Based on a reworked G92 chip, which uses a smaller, faster process (55nm vs. 65nm) and features slightly higher clocks, the GTX 260M proves more capable than previous-generation G92 mobile parts. For example, the M865TU performed almost 30 percent better in Far Cry 2 and Call of Duty 4 than the 9800M GTX-equipped Qosmio X305 we reviewed in June, with scores of 31.3fps and 58.3fps, respectively, at the notebook’s 1680x1050 native res and the highest quality settings. (This month, we jettisoned the games we have previously used for notebooks reviews in favor of FC2 and CoD4, which are far more indicative of a GPU’s prowess—expect to see these titles integrated into our benchmark chart going forward.)
Let's be realistic for a moment. Few would classify Maingear's new Shift series as supercomputers for the homestead, but we'll give Maingear this much: these new PCs pack a punch.
"The Shift bucks the trend of plastic, bloated, commodity PCs. It's a statement of our commitment to performance, reliability, and support," said Wallace Santos, CEO and Founder of Maingear. "Featuring vertical airflow, all the cooling necessary for today's high performance, and backed by the best technical support team in the business, Maingear is committed to maintaining our lead in the market."
The configurable PCs come built around your choice of Intel's P55 or X58 platform and come with a Core i7 800 series or 900 series CPU. DDR3 memory options include up to 8GB on the P55 platform, or up to 24GB in the X58 setup. You can choose from a plethora of videocards culminating in a pair of dual-GPU GTX 295s, and for storage duties, Maingear will slap up to 6 mechanical or 12 SSD drives into your rig. Other options include Blu-ray, liquid cooling, Razer peripherals, Killer NIC Xeno Pro card, and of course Windows 7.
Maingear promises each Shift system will ship with no bloatware, and they've all been tuned to take advantage of GPGPU computing.
The new PCs are available now starting at $2,200 (P55) and $2,600 (X58). In Q4, Maingear says it will add a Xeon-based setup with Nvidia's Quadro graphics to the lineup.
According to AMD's updated CPU release schedule, the chip maker plans to put several Phenom II X4 900 series chips on the chopping block. The company has already stopped taking orders for the Phenom II X4 910 (2.6Ghz) and 945 (3.0GHz) and will stop shipments in the second quarter of 2010.
Starting in the first quarter of 2010, AMD will no longer take orders for its Phenom II X4 965 (3.4GHz) and 925 (2.8Ghz) processors, while orders for the Phenom II X4 955 (3.2GHz) are scheduled to end in the second quarter.
In addition to the above named parts, AMD will start phasing out its Phenom II X4 800, X3 700, and X2 500 series, and Athlon II X4 600 and X3 400 series sometime next year.
To replenish its CPU lineup, AMD plans to launch a 95W Phenom II X4 955 processor in Q2 2010, as well as its six-core desktop chip codenamed Thuban. The 2.8Ghz Thuban part will be built around a 45nm manufacturing process and come with 512KB of L2 cache and 6MB of L3 cache.
Citing anonymous sources "familiar with their plans," Reuters reports that Cisco and storage area networking company EMC will work together to bring a new line of products to market dubbed vBlock. The new line will consist of cloud computing gear, including networking equipment, computers, and storage devices.
Cisco and EMC both declined to comment, but according to the talkative sources, the two companies will assemble computer systems for customers, which will also include all the necessary software.
"It's a 'virtual block' of the data center. You can buy it from them as a service, then eventually transition it to your own data center," said one of the people familiar with the plan.
Should the rumor turn out to be true -- and there's reason to believe it is, given that this isn't the first time the two have been linked in plans to jointly develop could-based solutions -- it will turn the heat up on rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard, both of which offer a wider selection of data center equipment.