My head has been deep in testing and writing for these past couple of weeks but I managed to get my head above water enough to provide an update on what I'm working on.

The Pre Update

I have to give it to Palm, releasing two OS updates since the Pre was launched does show commitment to the platform. I've been working on the iPhone 3GS review and I already miss using the Pre regularly. While I was running battery life tests on the 3GS I got to switch back to the Pre as my primary phone and immediately recognized three things:

1) I miss background applications/multitasking.
2) The Pre is noticeably slower than the 3GS
3) I miss the iPhone App store and its apps when I'm on the Pre.

I think the Pre is quite compelling. I'm guessing it's one major update away from a significant performance update. I've even found that web browser performance is far closer between the 3GS and the Pre on webOS 1.0.3 than it was on 1.0.2 (you'll see results in the 3GS review). I'm very, very eager to see where the Pre is in 6 months. For Sprint's sake, I would hope that Palm can get everything worked out and polished before the carrier exclusivity agreement is up.

I have heard about the HTC Hero and if I could get a good contact over there I'd like to look at the Hero and its installation of Android. Between Palm, Google, Microsoft, Nokia and Apple, I'm really curious to see how many players the smartphone market can really support in the long run.

Nokia and Intel

Yesterday I spent some time on a conference call with Intel and Nokia. They didn't really say much other than they've formed a close partnership. They've agreed to work on mobile platforms together (Netbooks, MIDs and smartphones), Moblin (Intel's mobile Linux distribution) and Nokia has agreed to license their 3G/HSDPA modem technology to Intel.

The first part means we'll probably see some sweet smartphone designs based on Atom and its platforms.The Moblin announcement means that we'll see Moblin on some of these new Intel based Nokia devices. And the last part means that Intel will be able to offer an Atom platform or SoC with integrated 3G modem functionality. Remember that Samsung, Toshiba and other ARM partners can already offer this sort of support in their SoCs so Intel is simply trying to build a similarly stacked deck.

Realistically, Intel is still at least 2 years away from being in something like the Pre or the iPhone, but it's getting there.

It's a Mac Sort of Week

I'm out of the office for the rest of this week but I'm working on wrapping up two major projects: the 3GS review and my Nehalem Mac Pro article. The latter is pretty unique since we managed to upgrade the CPUs in the Mac Pro, which proved to be much more complicated than you'd think at first.

EVGA also sent me their new GeForce GTX 285 Mac Edition that I'm going to start work on next week. I would've gotten to it earlier but my head has been in the smartphone clouds for longer than I expected.

The WePC Update

For the past two weeks my posts over at WePC mirrored much of my life on AnandTech. Last week I talked about Apple's new MacBook Pro and the end of removable batteries in notebooks. This week the topic of conversation was gaming on smartphones. When I was little I used to carry a Gameboy with me on trips but I never carry my PSP or Nintendo DS when I'm out and about these days. If my smartphone becomes the next portable gaming platform of choice then I'd be quite content.

SSDs and Ion

I haven't forgotten about the SSD stuff, you may have even seen a sneak preview of some numbers in my recent MacBook Pro update from the top three contenders in the market. The smartphone and Mac stuff has pushed it back a bit but I also haven't come to any significant enough conclusions on changes to the market. The way I see it is this:

1) The X25-M continues to be my top pick.
2) The Samsung based drives (e.g. Corsair 256GB) offer great compatibility (that's a newer version of what Apple uses in its MacBook lineup) but their worst case performance isn't as good as the Indilinx or Intel drives. This won't be an issue for everyone but it does leave a sour taste in my mouth.
3) The Indilinx based drives (e.g. OCZ Vertex) seem to provide the best of both worlds between the X25-M and the Samsung based drives. You get higher peak transfer rates (like the Samsung) but you get better random write performance (like the X25-M).

Things haven't changed too much but TRIM is just around the corner...

I've also been playing with ASRock's Ion system as well. It's good to see more Ion based systems around, and ASRock is delivering something different enough from the Zotac Ion that it deserves some attention.

That's it for now - have a great week guys :)

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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    I actually learned to program ASM back in college on a 68000 system; you're right: x86 is a nightmare by comparison. However, nearly all of the issues you bring up have been "solved" - and in fact most instructions sets are moving back towards CISC in a sense, what with the proliferation of vector instruction sets.

    As an example, the limited number of registers is a non-issue, since we have register renaming and other tricks going on. Yes, it adds to the bulk of the chip, but seriously: how much larger is an Atom compared to an equivalent performance ARM CPU? Let's say it's still 10%; does Intel have the resources to make up that deficit? Ask AMD the answer to that one. Core i7 and Phenom II are very similar in many ways, but Intel is a lot faster in the vast majority of applications - and it's not just clock speeds or Hyper-Threading.

    I could throw out Apple switching to x86 as an example of how unimportant instruction set really is in the modern era, but there are political reasons for the move as much as anything I think. Still, with the money invested in x86, anything that uses it benefits - even smart phones. Backwards compatibility for, i.e. DOS/Windows/Linux apps, clearly isn't a real concern for a phone, but having a similar code base is a big deal from the programming side. You'll still have to do some extra work, but potentially not as much as if you use/target a completely different instructions set.

    So while I definitely agree that x86 is a Frankenstein instruction set that has been added to and mangled over the years, it's still so honed that the vast majority of systems run that ISA today. About the only real competitors are POWER and ARM, and those are for a different market. Can Intel penetrate both those markets with x86 modifications and specialized CPUs? Like it or not, they're going to try.
    Reply
  • emboss - Saturday, June 27, 2009 - link

    "You'll still have to do some extra work, but potentially not as much as if you use/target a completely different instructions set."

    Porting some piece of software from desktop x86 to mobile phone x86 will involve almost exactly the same amount of work as porting from desktop x86 to mobile phone any-other-architecture. Why? Because 99.999% of non-OS code falls into one of two cases:
    1) Non-performance critical code, written in some HLL. Underlying CPU instruction set doesn't matter here.
    2) Performance critical code, written in assembler. This is going to have to be completely rewritten even for mobile phone x86 because the instruction timings etc mean that the code will run poorly on a mobile phone x86.
    The remainder of the code is non-performance-critical assembler, which IMO should be binned ASAP.

    *If* Intel was merely managing to run a Core 2 (say) at a really low power level, keeping everything else as-is, then the "x86 has a huge codebase" argument would make sense. But they're not.

    The main reason Intel is going for x86 everywhere is partially that it makes it harder for everyone else to compete, and partially an over-reaction due to the failure of IA64 (x86 IS still important on the desktop). Besides the whole legal issue in getting Intel to give out an x86 license (they haven't for over a decade), designing a fast x86 decoder is a nightmare. Intel already has the decoders figured out, so they're an easy roadblock to throw in front of any would-be competitors.

    It's the same for Larrabee - there the x86 part is really only going to be used for branching and address computations (any real work will be done with LRBni), so would have been much better replaced with something more tuned for that task (again, compatibility with existing code is a non-starter). But if they can get Larrabee established as a graphics/HPC platform instead of a vendor-independant thing like OpenCL they can have a much more secure hold on their marketshare.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    I also started on the 68k series processors and had been designing controllers for quite some time. I like it much better than the x86 of course. I think both of your arguments are correct and it'll be interesting to see how the Intel does.

    One thing that I believe whole heartily that will overshadow both your argument is the poor programming that will come about in any event. The increase in memory will always produce poor programming from "managers" that don't care not matter what instruction set you are using.
    Reply
  • winterspan - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    I'm pretty sure you are wrong about Apple using SSDs that have the same new SSD ( Samsung S3C29RBB01) controller as the Corsair P256.
    The P256 is able to hit read and write rates over 200MB/sec, while Apple has said directly during the recent SATA issue that they don't sell SSDs that can make use of anything above SATA/150.

    Additionally, I have seen pretty recent benchmarks of a Macbook Pro ordered with SSD and then replaced with the OCZ Vertex, and the Vertex was far faster in sequential read and write.

    I believe at least most of the Apple SSDs they are using are Samsung OEM units using the old S3C49RBX01 controller --- just like the Corsair S64/S128 uses. Again, these drives are far different than the Corsair P256 which uses the newer and far faster Samsung S3C29RBB01 controller.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    You're very correct, Samsung is phasing out the older drives and replacing them with the newer ones but I believe most if not all of the older Macs used the previous gen controller.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • RamarC - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Wow. That's surprising since it took Samsung/Sprint 8 MONTHS to get the Instinct to a usable state (text input in any app, a browser that worked, video that was actually viewable, GPS that would load 90% of the time). It wasn't that they weren't fixing things, but they just wouldn't release the fixes except once every other month! Reply
  • bbomb - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Samsung doesn't believe in software updates once a phone is released. It was truly an act of God that you ended up with one for the Instinct.

    I have the Eternity and Samsung jut released the Impression which is basically the Eternity with a keypad in a different body. They get the ToughWizUI version 2 and yet the Eternity gets jack when it should be a simple update for us.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    That seems to be the case with most of these cell phone makers. As far as I can tell the LG Versa and Dare are pretty much the same thing, except that the firmware is more ironed out in the Versa. Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    I hope you'll add Boot Camp results of the Mac Pro to Anandtech Bench to provide a reference point to the capabilities of dual processor setups. Certainly the Nehalem Mac Pro and the Harpertown and Clovertown Mac Pros if you have them.

    For your iPhone review, I hope you'll also do some benchmark comparisons between iPhone OS 2.2.1 and iPhone OS 3.0 on the iPhone 3G to see how much the OS update contributes to improved performance. Certainly with load times and web rendering and battery life as you've done, but also fps in games if possible. With the iPhone 3G S being marketed as 2x faster than the iPhone 3G, John Cormack has speculated that a 2x speedup in games is possible on the ARM11+MBX platform if Apple spent the time milking the software. I'd also be curious to know what the memory speed of the various iPhones are since CPU and GPU speeds have been confirmed or speculated on.
    Reply
  • reckert - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    I'd be interested to see a comparison of the file systems as well.

    I actually found situations where on flash drives, NTFS beats out FAT32 and exFat.

    My test scenario came when I installed World of Warcraft on a OCZ Slate drive using USB.
    Initially it was formatted with the default settings as a FAT32 drive. Every time I logged out, it took 15 minutes to save everything.
    I wound up using some of the tools from sysinternals and found there was a lot of 2-30 byte writes occurring. Since the clusters were large, each write was writing at the performance of the drive, but io in the app was slow -
    Long story short, I tried various combinations of exFat, Fat32 and NTfS and found in the end for scenarios where there are a large number of small write io/s the NTFS out performed the Fat32 and exFat dramatically. - This is on Windows 7 x64 RC, with a 32 Gb OCZ Slate flash drive, with 'Optimize for Performance' (Bought the drive for a laptop I was getting for work, but then they ordered a model with out the express card slot)


    Reply

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