At long last, Intel and AMD have announced a partnership to build a new mobile chip. In broad terms, Intel will ship processors with integrated AMD Radeon graphics and HMB2--all on one package.
Intel and AMD have seemingly set their gaze on the current crop of gaming/production laptops and devices, which are far behind the trend of thinner, more power efficient devices with smaller footprints. PC enthusiasts on a mobile platform who want gaming performance and the power for content creation obviously don’t want to sacrifice function for form, so therein lies the rub--this is exactly the crux that Intel and AMD aim to address with this collaboration.
The performance disparity between same-architecture desktop and mobile GPUs has historically been comparable to multi-generational gaps in desktop components. Recent advancements by GPU manufacturers have closed the mobile performance gap to about 10% of the desktop counterparts, an impressive feat that results in low-TDP, highly performant laptops with longer battery life.
Battery life has long been a joke for gaming laptops. To yield gaming prowess of any measure, notebooks are normally affectionately named “desktop replacements” and never disconnected from the wall. As modern architectures have improved process nodes and reduced power requirements, it's finally become possible for gaming laptops to operate for a moderate amount of time on battery. Battery life is dictated by a few key points: Active power consumption of the components, thermal levels of the system and battery, and power efficiency at other locations in the stack (S0iX on CPUs, DevSleep with SSDs, for instance).
When it comes to price, gaming laptops are the worst of all worlds: We lose the tremendous customization afforded by custom PC builds, but the sacrifice is made in return for portability and all-in-one versatility. Laptops use a “business triangle” as any other product would, generally forcing selection between size (portability), performance, and battery life; to get all three is possible, but maddeningly expensive.
Gaming laptops range from roughly $800 to more than $3000, in the case of the mechanical keyboard-equipped GT80 Titan. High-performance laptops are the worst of all worlds: Small size is expensive, high performing mobile components are expensive, battery life is expensive.
No -- this isn't Maxwell news, though I do have some comments on that below. GPU manufacturer nVidia announced today the unveiling of its new "Shield Tablet," an addition to the existing Shield family. NVidia calls its new tablet "the first tablet for gamers," shipping with LTE and wireless PC game streaming, 720p Twitch broadcast, and GRID integration.
The Shield Tablet fills very similar use case markets as the Shield intends to, though it adds a few features for more non-gaming implementations. One of these includes a graphics-accelerated painting and tinkering application (Dabbler) that shows pigment and paint mixing in real time, along with bleeding and light source adjustment.
Ultimately, though, the new Shield Tablet is targeted at "mobile gamers" who'd like a toy on the go. And I am still of the opinion that tablets are primarily just that -- toys. Let's look at the specs.
Unreal Engine 4 -- one of the premiere engines used for creating games -- has been making quite a splash in the gaming market, primarily due to demonstrations that show off its impressive potential. More recently, Epic unveiled an Unreal Engine demo using nVidia’s Tegra K1 mobile SOC, which hosts a 64-bit ARM CPU and Kepler-based GPU with 192 CUDA cores, 4 ROPs, and 8 texture units.
In the most recent update to the DFC Intelligence Forecast for the games industry, the metrics group notes that a $36 billion industry growth to $100 billion is expected by 2018. This is right in line with what we've been told previously, but new statistics suggest that thirty percent of the entire games industry will be owned by the mobile gaming space.
2013 saw the explosion of mobile gaming, bringing in $10 billion in total revenue from the industry's 1.17 billion gamers. The intelligence firm projects a $19 billion mobile growth -- a total of $29 billion -- by 2018, comprising 30% of total game software revenue. This expansion doesn't come without its growing pains, though:
We don't normally cover mobile games very much, but I thought this one was worth a mention. Jungle Rumble comes at a time when traditional RTS games are struggling, but game developers Disco Pixel have combined strategic elements with rhythm-based gameplay for a mobile pastime.
The game is due for iOS and Android some time in April and will be making an appearance at PAX East 2014, for any attendees looking for a booth to visit. Jungle Rumble's gameplay centers around traditional tap-input as the user hammers-out a drumbeat; the army of monkeys (very monkey-in-barrel-esque) move with these taps and advance on the enemy monkeys -- harbingers of banana doom, to be sure -- and eventually gain map control.
When I was first given the game Echo Prime by Robot Entertainment, I have to admit it looked slightly amusing but limited in overall entertainment value. I am pleased to say that I could not have been more wrong. Echo Prime has become one of my all-time favorite small studio games after playing it for the past few weeks. Every single battle feels fluid, every movement consistent, and every choice meaningful. That is not to say the game is perfect or without flaws—some of them glaring—but overall the experience was highly enjoyable and required very little concerted effort to find interesting new ways to slaughter aliens and robots alike.
In Echo Prime, you play as our space-venturing hero, traveling the galaxy to fight off the Slivers - a little-known alien race hell-bent on destroying the rest of the galaxy. Sort of like AT&T. The Hero is equipped with energy swords and heavy-duty firearms, because disemboweling them isn't enough -- but disemboweling and head-shotting seems, oh, ample.
AMD's press conference was all Kaveri-land today, as presented by Senior Vice President Lisa Su, with no mention of FX at all.
AMD started with a demo of a 360-degree "holodeck-like” experience in their tent-dome, set up beside the press conference hall. None other than Star Trek Legend LeVar Burton demonstrated the technology in action. Burton’s experience as Geordie La Forge led him to comment that AMD was ‘less than 10 years’ from offering a "Holodeck" experience.
Kingston Technologies gave us a quick preview of their prototype DT Micro Duo flash storage device at PepCom 2014 tonight; for the unfamiliar, PepCom is a sort-of press pre-show for CES, often giving us a bit of extra time with vendors before our official meetings later in the week.
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