Nvidia Tegra

Battery life of 25 days of music and 10 hours of 1080p video playback. This is what Nvidia Tegra is built for. Tegra called ‘System on a chip’ i.e ‘computer on a chip’ processor is from the graphics giant Nvidia.

Ilustration of Nvidia Tegra

Ilustration of Nvidia Tegra

It has a CPU i.e ARM 11 processor, GPU, northbridge, southbridge and memory controller all integrated onto a single package with size smaller than a coin. The graphics processor supports Open GL 2.0 and 3D acceleration. It also support 3G, WiFi and WiMax for the ‘always-on’ computing experience. Nvidia is also targetting a subwatt(<1W) power usage for the chip.

Internal architecture of a Nvidia Tegra chip

Internal architecture of a Nvidia Tegra chip

Nvidia is will release two class of Tegra devices, Tegra 600 Series and Tegra APX series.

  • The key features of Tegra 600 series are:Up to 1080p HD video playback
  • Ultra-low-power GeForce GPU for intuitive and smooth 3D user interfaces
  • Integrated media processor for over 100 hours audio and 10 hours HD video playback
  • Image processor with advanced DSC and HD camcorder processing
  • Connectivity to support Web 2.0 and social media applications
  • Display support for up to 1080p HDMI, WSXGA+ LCD, SXGA CRT, and NTSC/PAL TV-Out

The key features of Tegra APX series are:

  • 720p HD video capture and playback
  • Lowest power for demanding applications like 720p HD video
  • 3D user interface
  • HD video playback
  • Ability to access visually intensive applications like mapping and gaming

Nvidia is working with Google and Open Handset Alliance to use Android OS on Nvidia Tegra. Microsoft has announced Zune HD that will run on Nvidia Tegra for better video quality and battery life. Samsung annonced that is working on a Tegra based phone. Nvidia is expecting use of Tegra processor in Mobile Internet Devices(MID) and Netbooks.

For more specifications on Nvidia Tegra visit Wikipedia.

The main thing I’m thinking about is will be perfect for an Home Theatre PC (HTPC) setup? Will it be able to replace the Nvidia Ion Platform?

NVIDIA Ion Platform

Nvidia has introduced the ION platform, coupling NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics solution with Intel Atom processor.

Graphics powerful small NVIDIA Ion Platform

Graphics powerful small NVIDIA Ion Platform

Advantages? It can run video at full HD resolution of 1080p. Its now possible to play many games at better frame rates on an Atom processor, which were not possible with the older Intel 945 chipset platform. It’s also possible to use Windows Vista on an atom. With Linux based OS you now run Compiz Fuzion with all the 3D effects enabled.How about keeping you friends wondering, how your little machine can do so much with Compiz Fusion on Linux.

The ION platform has hardware accelerated decoding of H.264 and MPEG-2 formats. But all this will come at the cost of battery life. The use of this graphics solution is seen as a bottleneck on the battery life of current netbooks. Definitely, it’s not for those who just do a bit of word-processing, online surfing on their netbooks. Also gaming on an tiny 10-inch screen is not worth it. Though I guess manufacturers will bring in bigger screen based on Atom processors soon.

Ok, after all its dis-advantages that overpower advantages, why am I talking about this platform. May be because you can connect a bigger monitor you an netbook, and go gaming at your relatives house with all the gaming progress saved on the netbook.

The bigger arena I hope to see this platform succeed is the Home Theatre PC (HTPC) market, where low power requirement is big boon, but the requirement are not very high. There’s no need of a power hungry graphics card and processor. You think you will use this combo for you next Home Theater PC? Another competitor for Nvidia Ion Platform is Nvidia Tegra.

Power Saving for Computer

It is possible to save power even though your PC is ON, by using power saving options available. This green initiative will help do little green for the environment around and reduce your electricity bills a bit.

Please note that: All the power options mentioned used the last moment, when it detected inactivity (no mouse or keyboard usage) as reference.

This is the thing you need to do

Right click on the desktop and click on ‘Properties
Next click on the ‘Screen Saver‘ tab above
Click on the ‘Power‘ button at the bottom of the window
This will open a window with title ‘Power Options
Here you can create various power schemes for various requirements. (I have displayed my power schemes at the end of the post)

Power-management in Windows XP

Power-management in Windows XP

Description of terms used:
Turn off monitor: After the selected time limit, the CPU will put the monitor in standby mode. This helps in saving lot of power especially in case of CRT monitor. I will recommend all of us to use this option set to ‘After 3 minutes’.

Turn off hard disks: After the selected time, the power supply to hard-disk is turned off. This helps save a few tens of watts of electricity.

System Standby: This option put the system in a low power mode, turning off most of devices connected to the motherboard. This helps save a lot of power. To resume back to work after standby, just press any key on the keyboard.

Hibernate option in Windows XP

Hibernate option in Windows XP

System Hibernates: This option turns-off the computer completely. You can even switch off the computer after putting it in hibernate mode. To resume from standby mode press the ‘Power’ switch of your CPU. This mode saves maximum power and is equivalent to turning off computer, but it enables to get back to work faster, than turning off the computer and then start it again.

To manually put your computer in hibernation mode, Click the ‘start’ button. Then click on ‘Turn off Computer’. After that, hold down the ‘Shift’ key on the keyboard, the standby button will turn to hibernate. Don’t release the shift key before clicking on Hiberate.

This is how Hibernate mode works: Before turning off, the data in RAM is copied to the hard-disk. So the next time you start your computer, the data in hard-disk is copied directly to the RAM instead of verification process, and you get back where you originally were much faster.

Some of my Power  Management schemes are:

Scanning Power Management: For antivirus scans
Turn off Monitor:     After 1 min
Turn off hard disks:  Never
System Standby:       After 3 hours
System hibernates:    After 4 hours

Usual: For Regular Use
Turn off Monitor:     After 1 min
Turn off hard disks:  Never
System Standby:       After 3 minutes
System hibernates:    After 10 minutes

Movie Time: For use while watching movies
Turn off Monitor:     Never
Turn off hard disks:  Never
System Standby:       Never
System hibernates:    Never

You can create multiple power management schemes, by selecting the required settings discussed above and clicking the ‘Save As’ button and use them to as and when required. Using these measures will contribute to save our warming planet.

Solid State Drive

Solid State Drive (SSD) is a Flash Drive with large amount amount of storage capacity. It has many advantages over a traditional hard drive such as
High Speed.
High Reliability.
Lower Power Consumption

Due to use of Flash memory there are no moving parts in SSD. This reduces the physical damaging of an SSD. There is no head to seek a particular location of the disk, thereby reducing seek time and increasing speed. As there are no spinning parts, the amount of electricity required, to spin the platter of hard drive is zero, saving electricity.

It also occupies less space as compared to hard-disk, making it more ideal for usage in portable devices like laptops. Apple is considering using a SSD for their MacBook Air.

Using SSD technology, a large amount of storage can be crammed into a small space. Recently Samsung launched its 2.5 inch 256 GB SSD which is 9.5 mm thick, and measures 100.3 mm x 69.85 mm. It offers a sequential read speed of 200 MB/s and sequential write speed of 160 MB/s, Samsung’s 256 GB SSD is claimed to be about 2.4 times faster than a standard Hard drive. Samsung is expected to launch a 1.8 inch 256 GB SSD by the end of fourth quarter. Samsung claims that the its SSD uses only 0.9 watts in active mode. Samsung has also launched a 64 GB SSD, with speeds quite than the 256 GB version.

But above all these advantages, the price of SSD is the factor, that keeps it away from our reach. They are expected cost nearly $1000 as the technology is in early stages of development, once they get mainstream, they will cost as much as regular Hard Disk Drive.

But as of now, considering all facts, the Hybrid Hard Drive if the best option of enthusiasts, unless you have a lot of money to splurge on a SSD.

Hybrid Hard Drive

Hybrid Hard Drive (HHD) is a combination of the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with a large amount of non-volatile flash memory (called as buffer memory). Its just like a Hybrid Car that can run on both batteries as well as fossil fuel as and when required for greater efficiency.

The flash memory in a HHD starts at a minimum of 128 MB. HHD with 256 MB buffer capacity have been developed. A prototype of HHD with 1GB buffer has also been developed. The buffer memory of HDD ranges between 2 – 16 GB. HDD with 32 MB buffer have been developed though.

Hybrid Hard Drive definitely offers better performance and lower power consumption as compared to any other HDD. Because they make use of Flash memory the data that is frequently used is stored in the Flash memory of the HHD. This reduces the time required to fetch data from the particular area of the disk. Also as Flash memory has no moving parts, the possibility of reducing the life of your hard drive due to long uses is greatly reduced.

Hard Drive usage apart from reducing power consumption, increasing life of your hard disk, reduce also the boot-up time your computer, by caching the data required by computer for next boot-up. The most significant increase in speed will be while resuming from hibernation mode. The data to resume from from hibernation mode will be stored into the buffer memory of HHD, and due to high speed of Flash Memory, it will be loaded very fast in the RAM. The difference of resuming from ‘Standby’ and ‘Hibernation’ mode may vanish, thereby making Operating System manufacturers completely do away with standby mode, and use only hibernation mode.

From the point of view of prices, Hybrid Hard Disk is definitely going to cost more than the Hard Disk Drive of same capacity. But thinking of all the advantages they offer over HDD, they are definitely worth it. Also Solid State Drive, which are much superior than either of these are very expensive. Using a Hybrid Hard Drive, will definitely be a much greener alternative to the Hard Disk Drive.

Intel Atom Processor

Intel has developed a new processor ‘Atom’, with very low power requirements in the sub 3 watt range, and also while supporting a highest frequency of up to 1.86GHz. Manufactured using the new hafnium-infused 45nm high-k silicon technology, Intel Atom processors pack an astounding 47 million transistors on a single chip measuring less than 25mm², making them Intel’s smallest and lowest power processors. This processor has been mainly focussed towards latest Mobile Internet Devices.

Some features of the Atom Processor are:

  • Single-core processor for mobile devices offering enhanced performance
  • On die, primary 32-kB instructions cache and 24-kB write-back data cache
  • Hyper-Threading Technology 2-threads
  • On die 512-kB, 8-way L2 cache
  • Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT)
  • Thermal management support
  • Intel® Deep Power-Down Technology
  • L2 Dynamic Cache Sizing
  • Advanced power management features including Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology

The technologies used by Intel for Atom Processor are:

High Performance Technology

  • Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology: Provides performance & support for multi threaded applications enabling increased performance and system responsiveness in multitasking environments by enabling the processor to execute two instruction threads in parallel.
  • Intel® Virtualization Technology: It is a set of hardware enhancements on the Intel® Atom processor series providing the flexibility to run dual operating systems and applications in independent partitions.
  • Intel® Digital Media Boost: Enhanced Performance on Floating Point intensive applications such as CAD tools, 3D & 2D modeling, Video Editing, Digital Music, Digital Photography & Gaming
  • Intel® Smart Cache: Smarter, more efficient cache & bus design thus offering even more efficient data sharing, providing enhanced performance, responsiveness and power savings.
  • Power Optimized Front Side Bus: 533MHz FSB provides increased data bandwidth as compared to prior generations (400MHz) for faster data transfer.
  • Enhanced Data Prefetcher: Efficient speculation and loading into L2 cache of data likely to be requested by processor.

Low Power Capabilities

  • Enhanced Intel® SpeedStep® Technology: Allows for better match of performance to application demand.
  • Deep Power Down Technology with Dynamic Cache Sizing: Dynamic Cache Sizing saves power by turning off Cache ways that have had data saved in memory. This power saving feature enables 80-100mW idle power and 160-220mW average power for the processor.
  • Low Thermal Design Power: Lower thermal design power enables thinner, lighter MID devices as it reduces the cooling requirements.
  • Mobile Voltage Positioning: Dynamically lowers voltage based on processor activity to lower thermal design power.
  • Enhanced Deeper Sleep: Saves power by flushing cache data to system memory during periods of inactivity to lower CPU

Ultra Small Form Factor CPU Package

The new lead free, halogen free Micro-Flip Chip package (13x14mm) is 85% smaller than a notebook processor (35x35mm)

The Power requirement for the Atom Processor are
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Power Requirement
Lower Frequency Higher Frequency
0.65 W 600MHz 0.8GHz
2 W 600MHz 1.1GHz
2 W 800MHz 1.33GHz
2 W 800MHz 1.6GHz
2.4 W 800MHz 1.86GHz