Quanta sues AMD over defective chips

Quanta has sued Advanced Micro Devices over a defective chip used in an NEC laptop.

Quanta Computer, the world's largest contract manufacturer of laptop computers, sued AMD for breach of contract, alleging the chipmaker sold defective products, as first reported by Bloomberg.

The suit is centered on the ATI RS600ME, an integrated graphics solution, an AMD spokesperson told CNET. Integrated graphics chips include other circuitry and also act as a chipset, which supports the main central processing unit or CPU.

"AMD and its ATI Technologies Inc. unit sold chips that didn't meet heat tolerances and were unfit … Read more

Why Nvidia's chips can power supercomputers

Nvidia chips are now in three of the five fastest supercomputers in the world. How did Nvidia get there so fast?

I spoke with Steve Scott, chief technology officer at Nvidia's Tesla products group, to find out.

First, a quick primer on Tesla and graphics chip-based supercomputing. Tesla processors are basically graphics processing units (GPUs) that have been redesigned for supercomputers. The results are impressive enough that some of the most important supercomputing sites have signed on. The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, probably the premier U.S. supercomputing site, will use Tesla processors in its next supercomputer,… Read more

'Sandy Bridge' driver update boosts Windows game performance

Intel has released a graphics driver update for its Sandy Bridge processors that boosts performance up to 37 percent for games on Windows 7 and Vista.

"This major graphics driver update for 2nd generation Intel Core processors with Intel HD graphics improves game performance by up to 37% on ULV platforms," Intel said in a statement.

ULV--or Ultra Low Voltage--processors are Intel's most power efficient and are typically used in thin and/or compact laptops such as Hewlett-Packard's updated Pavilion dm1 and Samsung Series 9.

ULV-based systems will see the biggest performance improvement, Intel said. "It is where some of the biggest gains are seen on the driver," Intel spokesman Dave Salvator said. But the driver update applies to all systems with Sandy Bridge processors sporting HD graphics. … Read more

AMD quits benchmark group, implying Intel bias

Advanced Micro Devices has quit a PC industry consortium, implying the integrity of a widely used benchmark is biased toward Intel chips.

In a blog Wednesday, an AMD executive provided a long explanation about why AMD has quit the BAPCo industry consortium, which develops and distributes the SYSmark benchmark.

"Customers need clear and reliable measurements to understand the expected performance and value of their systems," Nigel Dessau, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at AMD, said in a statement. "AMD does not believe SM2012 (SYSMark 2012) achieves this objective. Hence AMD cannot endorse or support SM2012 … Read more

Apple trumps Nvidia in tablet gaming

Apple is not known as a kingpin of the graphics chip industry. That would be Nvidia or Advanced Micro Devices. But one review site shows Apple's iPad 2 and its A5 chip handily beating Nvidia's chip, which is housed inside the Motorola Xoom.

As CNET reported previously, the iPad 2 is significantly faster than the original iPad. That's not in dispute. But the bombshell that Anand Shimpi, CEO of the highly regarded review site Anandtech, has dropped is indeed surprising.

I queried Anand via e-mail. The answer to the second question, based on his "performance preview&… Read more

As claims against Nvidia begin, what settlement means

The clock is now ticking for consumers to file claims against Nvidia for defective graphics processors. As a result of a class action settlement, consumers were allowed to begin filing their claims related to the cost of repairing laptops that contained the defective chips on Thursday and have until March 14 to file a claim. But this settlement shouldn't be confused with a series of large payouts by Nvidia to PC makers dating back to July 2008.

Nvidia's problems began back in 2007, as CNET has reported, when defective Nvidia graphics processing units (GPUs) began showing up in laptops from Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell--among others.

Nvidia responded for the first time officially in July 2008. At that time, Nvidia took a charge of $196 million. The company took additional charges over the next two years, which, in total, were close to half a billion dollars.

No small part of this money has been allocated for PC makers (also referred to as original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs) that, over the last few years, have been making repairs to laptops from Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell. Most laptops affected are older models shipped in 2008.

So, then, what is the class action about? This is settling consumer claims, which Nvidia describes as a "group of customers who wanted remedy [because they] didn't get a repair from their OEM, or they didn't know to get a repair from their OEM, or they felt that their repair wasn't satisfactory," according to a statement from an Nvidia spokesman. (A list of the affected models is here.)

Symptoms are described as (PDF) "distorted or scrambled video on the notebook computer screen...No video on the notebook computer screen even when the notebook computer is on...Random characters, lines or garbled images on the notebook computer screen," among other issues.

In response to the settlement dated August 12, 2010, Nvidia issued this statement.… Read more

Report: iPad 2 to use fast graphics chip

The iPad 2 will sport powerful, new graphics hardware, along with a higher-resolution display, according to a report.

That graphics chip would be Imagination's SGX543, according to Apple Insider.

If this rumor is on the money, it is, indeed, a potent graphics technology. Imagination describes the POWERVR SGX543MP as allowing "up to 16 a high-performance, multiprocessor graphics solution without performance or silicon area compromises." This graphics tech would be used in conjunction with a dual-core ARM processor, as CNET previously reported.

And Apple's next-gen iPhone 5 would also feature this chip design--the so-called Apple … Read more

Intel confirms special accelerators in Sandy Bridge

At a Wells Fargo Securities conference earlier this month, an Intel vice president confirmed that Sandy Bridge will have special media acceleration capabilities, in addition to the oft-touted boost in graphics performance.

The Sandy Bridge processor--to be announced January 5--will pack media acceleration circuitry, Stephen L. Smith, vice president and director of PC Client operations and enabling at Intel, confirmed at a Wells Fargo Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference held on November 9-10. CNET reported this capability earlier. Part of the conference--when Smith was speaking--was captured on an audio stream.

"The other cool thing is dedicated circuitry for media … Read more

Cray taps Nvidia chips for large supercomputer

Cray will put Nvidia graphics processors in future large-scale supercomputers, the companies said today.

The announcement follows this summer's jump to the No. 2 spot in global rankings of China's Nvidia-equipped Nebulae supercomputer.

At Nvidia's 2010 GPU Technology Conference today in San Jose, Calif., supercomputer leader Cray announced that it is developing supercomputers that can use Nvidia Tesla 20-Series graphics processing units.

"We're putting this technology--the next generation of Nvidia Tesla--in our large XE6 systems," Barry Bolding, vice president of Cray's products division, said in a phone interview. Cray's largest system, Jaguar, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, based on processors from Advanced Micro Devices, is currently ranked No. 1 in the world, according to the Top 500 list.

Cray, which already uses Nvidia GPUs in its low-end desktop supercomputers, is targeting Nvidia's supercomputer-specific Tesla processors for accelerating "modeling code" for scientific applications in its Cray XE6 product line, according to Bolding.

"We're doing this because Nvidia is starting to produce accelerators (GPUs) that are useful to our customers. They've done some enhancements that go beyond a normal graphics accelerator. A couple of years ago, those (Nvidia) GPUs did not have functionality that was appealing to our customers."

Bolding continued. "What we'll see first is the data centers that run a few key applications on the accelerators. The data center that has to run 500 applications? That's the data center that won't move over to accelerators," he said. … Read more

Intel's Sandy Bridge graphics tech: How good is it?

Sandy Bridge is the culmination of a major Intel design effort to achieve a respectable level of graphics performance and make it a standard feature in all Intel mainstream processors going forward. This week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Intel engineers were fairly candid in explaining what Sandy Bridge can and can't do.

First, some background. A number of technical sessions at IDF were devoted to discussing Sandy Bridge's graphics technology and the design teams that came together to take this critical feature out of the chipset--a separate companion chip--and put it, for the first time, in the main processor, or CPU.

Intel integrated graphics silicon started appearing in many mainstream laptops about six years ago. And since then has shipped in the lion's share of PCs sold worldwide. While this has made Intel the leading graphics chip supplier, it has also made it the perennial target of criticism from gaming devotees, who claim--rightfully so in many cases--that Intel graphics fall woefully short in handling a number of mainstream games. In turn, this has led to Intel rebuttals and corresponding primers on Intel integrated graphics.

And Nvidia, a leading graphics chip supplier, has always offered its two cents on Intel's graphics technology. "Today's visual computing applications--like photo and video editing, playing games, and browsing the Web--use a GPU for the best experience," Nvidia said in a statement just prior to IDF. Standalone graphics processing units from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices almost invariably offer better performance, particularly on games, but can add cost and, in the case of laptops, can up power consumption requirements.

At IDF, Intel engineers described the markets they can, and cannot, address with Sandy Bridge's graphics. Sandy Bridge technology will be part of Intel Core i series mobile processors to be introduced into laptops early next year, with the first Sandy Bridge laptop announcements expected at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

"We're not trying to target the most high-end discrete (standalone) card. We don't have the bandwidth, we don't have the power budget. We're trying to do the best experience for the mobile platform," said Opher Kahn, senior principal engineer on the Sandy Bridge design team. … Read more