Here at IDF, Intel has been promoting the Atom platform pretty heavily, with the new dual core Atom N550 and all of the new Moorestown-based chips like the CE4200 and E6xx series. They’ve been demoing quite a few of the latest netbooks and tablets from their partners, including the OpenPeak Moorestown device we looked at on Monday, but for the most part the devices have been running Pine Trail, like the WeTab from yesterday's keynote.

On the netbook side of the mobile device booth, they had an array of some of the newer netbooks, all stuff that’s been already released. A couple were running MeeGo v1.0, and most of them had the Atom N450 underhood. The only really interesting ones were the Asus EeePC 1015PEM and the not-sold-in-America LG X140, both of which were fitted with the dual core N550. Intel was showing off the newfound 1080p playback ability for the dual core-equipped netbooks, a feat that previously required the Broadcom Crystal HD chip. Unfortunately, HD Flash video is still a no-go, and even videos playing from the hard drive max out the CPU and still manage to drop a few frames here and there. So dual core Atom netbooks can handle 1080p playback....kind of.

The tablets were more interesting, with a number of different Windows-based slates to go along with the MeeGo-based WeTab. All of them were running the N450, 1GB of memory, and 10.1” and 11.6” screens. The ExoPC slate was on hand, with its custom UI layer built on top of the standard Windows 7 desktop manager. The ExoPC was the tablet used in the WiDi demo from Paul Otellini’s opening keynote, which raises some interesting theories as to what kind of hardware requirements exist for WiDi capability. There was also a 4G-enabled ExoPC unit at Intel’s WiMAX booth. Beyond that was the rare sighting of a JooJoo tablet, along with some other Windows tablets designed by Chinese vendors.

I don’t think that Pine Trail is the right platform for tablets - Windows is too heavy and cumbersome as is to offer a good user experience, and a custom skin like Exo PC’s only adds to the performance hit that Windows brings with it. Even when running MeeGo, the battery life offered by Pine Trail tablets is pretty poor, usually only around 6 hours. This simply isn’t enough to deal with the level of mobility the tablet market demands, and as such we find ourselves looking at devices that are basically updated UMPCs. Moorestown and Oak Trail based tablets running lighter operating systems like MeeGo or Android 3.0 are where the future of Intel internet tablets lie.

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  • nbjknk - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link


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  • cjb110 - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    "I don’t think that Pine Trail is the right platform for tablets - Windows is too heavy and cumbersome as is to offer a good user experience".
    So its not Pine Trail that's the problem its the OS...do you think the current Windows will succed on tablets?

    Personally I think its 'not a hope in hell', its just not built for mouse & keyboardless operation. Even if they tried a full reskin (ala media centre), it would need to be so complete and so much bloat on an already bloaty base, it would kill any platform.

    Although most people wished the iPad was going to run OSX, Apple were right to scale iOS up instead. They can add more 'desktop'y features easier than removing unneeded stuff.

    I doubt even Win 8 will work, despite the obvious attention tablets will get...mainly because MS won't (can't?) take the step to split the OS up, so that they can have a light windows core + finger GUI, and a full core + traditional win GUI for the desktops.
    Reply
  • TETRONG - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    Could you please do an article explaining video to us?

    There must be something we're missing. How is it that a dual-core processor with over a 1Ghz each core frequency cannot play back a video file in the year 2010?
    This is ludicrous!

    When I play a sound file on my computer it requires almost no CPU. The file is already rendered. It doesn't matter how much processing power was used to create the sound file, once it's "rendered" the file is playable by even the lowliest devices.
    Why should it be any different for video?

    If I pull out a Sega CD system and watch the FMV intro consisting of rendered CGI graphics the system does not have to sit there and "compute" the footage, it simply plays it back.

    How much computing power does a DVD player have?

    Again, what is going on here?
    Why are so many computing resources being marshalled for simple video playback?

    This is artificial handicapping and Intel needs to be called out on it.
    Reply
  • justaviking - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    I don't consider myself an expert on the details, but I can share a couple items with you.

    FIRST - Most video today is in a compressed format. Or more correctly, today's HiDef video is in a more highly compressed format than before. That means it takes a lot of compute power to decompress it and display it on the screen.

    Most new video camcorders now record in AVCHD. A lot of people buy a modestly priced camera, and then later find out it is almost impossible to edit their video. You need a high-end computer to directly edit AVCHD footage. Or you have to convert it to a more CPU-friendly (but larger file) format.

    SECOND - Flash video is not a pre-rendered video like a movie is. It often is more like a program that moves elements across the display area, so that takes a lot of CPU power, especially when you have multiple browsers open and each page is playing 3 or 4 flash videos. (I'm less confident in my description of Flash video. I'd be happy to be corrected if my layman's description is off the mark.)
    Reply
  • lwatcdr - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    Most Flash video is h.264 in a flash container. Flash programs can do what you are describing.
    All video these days is compressed and yep you are correct they take some power to decompress. However a good GPU can often do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to video.
    Just look an an Atom/ION system vs a plain Atom
    Reply
  • nexox - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    """There must be something we're missing. How is it that a dual-core processor with over a 1Ghz each core frequency cannot play back a video file in the year 2010?
    This is ludicrous!"""

    Video decoding is mostly single threaded, so dual-core won't help much. H.264 uses cpu-intensive compression techniques to get high-quality video into minimal storage space. When H.264 1080p movies first started becoming available, my dual 2.2GHz system couldn't even begin to play them back without GPU decoding acceleration (which wasn't available at the time for H.264.) So a dual 1.6GHz should be expected to be unable to play the same files. Unless you have some acceleration in the form of that Broadcom card, or a GPU.

    """When I play a sound file on my computer it requires almost no CPU. The file is already rendered. It doesn't matter how much processing power was used to create the sound file, once it's "rendered" the file is playable by even the lowliest devices.
    Why should it be any different for video?"""

    Audio isn't rendered. You're comparing MP3 (probably) compression to H.264 compression, which are entirely unrelated to each other. You might as well state that since your computer can read a PDF file it should also be able to simulate a nuclear explosion, like super computers do.

    """"If I pull out a Sega CD system and watch the FMV intro consisting of rendered CGI graphics the system does not have to sit there and "compute" the footage, it simply plays it back."""

    Rendering is irrelevant. Once a video is a series of pictures, whether from a camera or CGI, it must be converted to a file. Storing individual pictures for each frame of video requires unreasonable amounts of space, so other compression methods are used. Compression is like complex math, and it takes CPUs a long time to work through all the math for each frame. Your Sega CD system was decoding extremely low quality, poorly compressed video, so it didn't require very much CPU to decode and display. Again, 1080p (with something like 10x as many pixels as SD TV) in a much more complex encoding (H.264 in most cases) requires a vast amount of CPU to decode in comparison.

    """How much computing power does a DVD player have?"""

    They have processors specifically designed for decoding MPEG2, which is a very light-weight codec compared to H.264 / MPEG4, which is what is used in BluRay and other HD videos. BluRay players can decode the video fine as well, since they have single-purpose decoding chips, not multi-purpose CPUs.

    """Again, what is going on here?
    Why are so many computing resources being marshalled for simple video playback?

    This is artificial handicapping and Intel needs to be called out on it."""

    Ah, so it's a conspiracy that nobody but you notices. Good thing you let us all onto it then. Maybe learn what you're talking about before making accusations?
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    great post. could not said any better.

    most of the end users are just spoiled and think technology is as easy as 1+1. in fact, decoding even the MP3 is not simple task. once you look into the algorithm you will know it is very difficult, look this way, Pentium mmx that runs at 223000000 Hz having difficulty decoding the MP3 files, yet it is powerful enough to bring space craft back to earth.

    i sometime fear the advance of the technology in recent years completely put normal folks in the dust. so much so that no one knows what the heck is going on in that box outside of very few elites who did the developments. many things in a chip, like the EM filed in the silicon, are black magic to pretty much everyone.
    Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    CPUs aren't fast enough to decompress and decode H.264 bitstream if they aren't really high-end, thats nothing new. It's a 150MiB/s stream compressed to 5-40Mbits with a heavy algorithm, nothing strange, lots of stuff needs hardware acceleration. DVD-player have dedicated hardware just as modern graphic cards does. They don't do it in software. Sega-CD had fast enough hardware for FMV. With the help of the graphics processor. Also theres quite a difference between 256x224 with 64 colors and a bitrate of 150kB/s max and 1080p at 5-40Mbits highly compressed, 8 bit (24bit) color 16.7 million colors, and consoles like Playstation had M-JPEG acceleration. Just the buses are even busy with the video in modern day computers, as flash player does it the cpu need to read the decoded stream that's 150MB/s over the bus back to the GPU both directions basically, which is why Atom and ION doesn't work with Flash player video acceleration properly. Audio isn't 150MB/s to begin with. PCM audio (Audio-CD) is 1411.2kbit/s, uncompressed LPCM on BD has a limit of 27.648Mbit for 6 channels or 3.3MiB/s. And you don't sample audio any higher then 192kHz any way so it won't be any more beefier then 4.6Mbit per channel any way. A digital video recording can on the other hand be 4k resolution and 12-bit color to begin with, thats almost 1GB/s RAW. 1080p is in RGB 148MiB/s RAW. If you need to decode it in CPU and copy it to the GPU it taxes the cpu quite good. BD player can handle all the bandwidth and hardware requirements thanks to hardware. Software is always software, it's kinda like questioning why we have graphics cards and don't use software rendering. If you don't have the hardware to do the necessary calculations efficiently in doesn't matter if you have GFLOPs.

    Without hardware overlay you couldn't draw the video on screen any way. Hardware is always the key.
    Reply
  • crimson117 - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    Why watch 1080p on a netbook's screen? Are any of them even capable of displaying 1920x1080 pixels? Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    So you don't have to re-encode the video? Stupid question. You can't watch the video at all if you can't decode it. Reply

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