Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cool Small Computers

I'm looking forward to the near-term release of some powerful nettops. For those not familiar with the term, nettop is basically a low-powered computer.

We've all heard of Moore's law which says the number of transistors in a processor should double every two years. And so as a result, clock speeds have increased- in 1993 Pentium 66MHz and in 2005 Pentium D 3.2GHz. This pace of clock speed increases won't continue for long.

Notice, that today's processors aren't much faster than 3.2GHz. A barrier in maintaining this pace is heat. Since the transistors are getting smaller, they are also getting closer together. Being closer means more heat in a smaller area. So how does Intel dissipate all that heat of increasing clock speeds to keep up with Moore's Law? They don't. They cheat by putting two or four slower processors in one package and calling that package a processor- think Core 2 Duo, etc. I can imagine the Intel design teams..."Alright everyone, we're lagging behind Moore's curve. bout we just slap another processor in there. Great idea! Let's go home."

The most important question, though, is do we need processors to get faster and faster? I say no. For the average computer user, tasks include web browsing, video watching, and word processing. How many GHz are needed to do these things? Intel says it's 1.6GHz, hence their Atom processor. Instead of increasing processing speed, the market is slowly turning toward low-powered computers, many of which include the Intel Atom processor.

Nvidia sees the money to be made and is jumping on the bandwagon by taking the Intel Atom and adding its laptop-based graphics processor allowing the computer able to handle HD video. Check out the size of Nvidia's latest development nettop which runs Windows XP and the latest Windows 7 beta.

Nvidia won't build or sell these computers, but they'll sell their graphics chips to other companies that will. Basically, they build this development model to show it off their technology and make people's mouths water. People's mouths have been watering alright. There's talk that Apple may come out with Nvidia's setup this year. Other PC manufacturers will also have them out by the end of this year. They'll be about $300 and will be able to do what most other computers can do. So why am I so interested in it? It all started after graduating college and beginning life in the real world. Explanation to come later...