Marvell’s New Armada Might Bring Both HD And Gaming On Netbooks, Bye Bye Atom?

had-armada-1 [image courtesy Gadget Lab]

Marvell had their booth as usual MWC this year at beautiful Barcelona, Spain. What they had with them seemed pretty ordinary till you realized what was really going on. They had a two-screen set up, one small and another a large HDTV. The small screen had a 3D game on it and the HDTV was displaying and HD Movie. And both of them were being fed by just one little box that was powered by the Armada chipset.

Armada from Marvell has the potential to completely change the way we look at Smartphones and netbooks it the future. This puppy has the power to drive up to four 2K by 2K displays all at the same time. If you think that is more than 1080p, you’re almost there — that is way more than 1080p. But there already are chips like this, right? Wrong. Because this one barely sips at the battery while doing all this. Armada can power a home theatre rig and a gaming rig all at the same time and still stay cool and satisfied with very little power.

At the heart of the Armada 618 SoC is an ARM A7 design chip, explaining its power efficiency. It is capable of working with Linux, Android and Windows Mobile but that is only because they are focussing on phones. Just imagine what this can do to a netbook!

Intel Atom is nowhere near this kind of power efficiency and it still can’t provide the kind of performance that the Armada 618 can do at less than that amount of power. It can finally bring HD video and gaming to your netbook and not in a 720p, 2D way. Its 3D rendering engine can render 45 million triangles per second, which is means killer game performance. If this replaces Atom, we will be living in a world of bliss (and addictive gaming on the go).

Google Netbook Specs Leaked

chromebookGoogle is making a special netbook (or two) for its Chrome OS’ hardware debut later this year (hopefully) and that is not a very good secret. But the actual hardware specs for this netbook have so far been out of reach for most of us. Yes, we do know that Google really wants only the fastest possible hardware and hence has done away with slow old HDD’s in favor of the fast and new SSD’s. But beyond that, questions like what powers the entire device were far from being answered.

Now however, it seems like they we have a leak that predicts what Google has been up to with the hardware. News resource IBTimes reports that there has indeed been a leak of the Google netbook and they are saying that the rumored device will be powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra chip.

Those unfamiliar with Tegra just need to know that Tegra is NVIDIA’s System on a Chip that is meant to rival Intel’s Atom. It is capable of running full HD content and such things on a miniscule amounts of power that is only marginally higher than Atom, thus bettering Atom on quite a few counts. However, it has failed to gain much traction in the market.

Until now it seems. If Google is really interested in Tegra, NVIDIA is surely celebrating with champagne right now. However, the report also says that Google is going to use ARM CPU, so everything won’t be supplied by NVIDIA. So overall, Google knows what it wants and it is speed without sucking on power.

Other features will apparently include 64GB SSD, 2GB RAM, HD ready 10.1” TFT multitouch display. In fact, this could easily be turned into the Google tablet that is being rumored. After all, these are all components used on mobile devices like the Zune HD. The schedule for Chrome OS device is around Q4 2010.

XO-2 Cancelled In Favor Of ARM-Based XO 1.75

olpc 2.0The dual touchscreen OLPC XO-2 project has been cancelled due to non-viability of the device. Since the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) foundation is looking to make a sub $200 device, they cannot fit the XO-2 into their scheme of things. They have also been facing some budget shortages and the economy has definitely not been helping matters.

The first OLPC device to come out, the original XO, had an AMD processor. The second device was the XO 1.5 that had a faster VIA processor. And now that the XO-2 has been cancelled, its replacement – the XO 1.75 will be running on an ARM processor and will look similar to the last version.

The ARM architecture also means that it will not be able to support x86 architecture requirements and hence will not be running Windows. But since they are trying to keep the costs down, they are definitely not going to benefit from a machine that can run a costly operating system like Windows. They are much better off running Linux distributions like Ubuntu and may be even an adaptation of Moblin.

Even though the XO-2 is not happening, the organization has already started planning the XO-3. According to their plans, the XO-3 will be one single sheet, made out of plastic. It will be a quarter of an inch thick and will have a full color, reflective and transmissive surface. They also want to make the device unbreakable and waterproof. If all that is not ambitious then their price for it all surely is. They want to sell this device for only $75. Which means they are again looking at sub-$100 territory like they did in the beginning. Their own estimated arrival date is 2012, which seems highly unlikely right now.

ARM to Take On Intel

The Design for the new chips

The Design for the new chips

Chip maker ARM is all set to take Intel on the latter’s home turf – larger, non-handheld devices.

ARM is an UK based company that is mainly known for designing chips for handheld devices. These designs are then licensed to other companies like Samsung and Apple who then make their own chips. So far, ARM can be said to be dominating the handheld devices market where very few other chips can match its energy efficient designs.

Last week ARM announced its plans to start making Cortex A9 chips with a the processing power of 2GHz and core configuration of Dual Core, Quad Core and Eight Core.

This essentially puts it into the same bracket as Intel who is currently dominating the netbook market with its low powered Atom chips. Not that this is the first competitor to challenge Intel on its home grounds. Chip makers AMD already have two chips ready and shipping that are direct competitors to the Atom.

ARM’s selling point as usual is power efficiency that Atom cannot match. According to the benchmarks released by the company, the new Atom-equivalent chips will be twice as powerful using only a quarter of the power. Intel of course has not been idle in the mean time. It has already brought out the next generation chips called the Moorestone, which are being targeted at handheld devices – ARM’s primary market.

ARM’s official statement regarding these new plans clearly states that they intend to take Intel on in the larger, mainstream chip market that is the main profitable market for Intel. The intent to take on Intel has been clearly spelt out and ARM has named the company as a primary competitor. The small chip making company will now be moving towards larger chips and more cores as the market starts demanding eight cores in the near future. If ARM does come through with its promises, we might see smarter and longer running netbooks in the near future.

[Note to Andrei: Due to permission restrictions, I do not see the option to attach images or schedule posts. Please change this if possible.]

ARM Chips with Intel’s Cortex A-9

The market right now is currently lead by Intel, a company which sets an example on how to assemble a netbook compose with its parts. This means that netbook manufacturers have to comply with stringent rules regarding the processor they choose to use – Atom, the Random access memory (RAM) integrated – which is a standard 1 Gigabyte (GB) along with a display screen size which is generally twelve inches or lesser.

These are the basic features of a standard netbook but with its price and technical specifications on offer some users find it difficult to choose between a notebook and a netbook.

However, Arm has introduced a new product in the scene which promises to shock the general market to an extent by announcing a processor of 40nm – The Cortex –A9 MP Core processor.

ARMs new-fangled chip is the first sign of a development by the processor designer further than the short power processing roadmaps it used to focus over.

The Cortex-A9 is a performance chip which runs at 2GHz with dual cores. The focus here is on speed while retaining low levels of power use and low cost.

According to a source ARM’s Eric Schom, ARM’s vice president of marketing spoke with PC Pro stated “In the past we’ve very much focused on wireless – it’s been all about power efficiency. In this case we’ve taken off the handcuffs and made performance our primary goal. It’s head and shoulders above anything Intel can deliver today. If you just look at an Atom by itself, our processor is a third of the size, so the amount of silicon it consumes is significantly less and that reduces cost.”

This is a rather worrying factor for Intel in spite the Intel core is targeted toward a broad range of computing products – ARM is only targeting the processor for its notebooks.

ARM is expected to release it in the market in the earlier part of 2010.