Work or Play – Everyone expects their monitor to instantly refresh. They demand that the graphics to be lightning fast as well as ultra-realistic. Of course that also needs to be wrapped in a low-cost, environmentally kindly system. When all of this doesn’t come together we’re a little concerned.

Content Insider #107 – GPU vs CPU There’s a World Between eMail, Games

The Insider

October 2008

Content Insider #107 – GPU vs CPU
There’s a World Between eMail, Games

Author: The Insider

Work or Play – Everyone expects their monitor to instantly refresh. They demand that the graphics to be lightning fast as well as ultra-realistic. Of course that also needs to be wrapped in a low-cost, environmentally kindly system. When all of this doesn’t come together we’re a little concerned. Photo Source -- Paramount

“Mayday! Mayday!” – Ted Striker (Robert Hays) – Airplane (1980)

No one flies today just for the fun of it.

Arrive two hours ahead of time.  Fumbling full body search.  Extra fee if you want to take a bag along (you know clothes).  Extra fee for a drink of water.  Extra fee for a snack.  Quarter to use the restroom.

Shoehorned between a guy who drank his lunch and dude who forgot about physical hygiene.  Behind a lady who wants to lie down the entire flight.

You get the feeling Ted Striker was talking about air travel when he said, It was a rough place - the seediest dive on the wharf. Populated with every reject and cutthroat from Bombay to Calcutta. It's worse than Detroit.”

In the waiting area we watched a guy whip out his cute little Asus Eee and go thru his email.  Cute but not really designed for a lot of “real” work.


Game Power

Sitting across the aisle we watched a young guy whip out some serious hardware, Alienware.  Obviously he wanted to get some real work done.

Wrong…he came to play!

The graphics were awesome!  The action was more so!!

We figured we could spend the time editing some family video on our new dual-core, 2GB RAM, reasonable weight notebook.

The work went reasonably fast but rendering took “a little horsepower” and time.

Three hours into the project the tray table had melted and the “save or else” battery warning light had the flight attendant stopping by to see what we wanted.

Gamer was still playing and the Eee user sitting two rows up was happily juggling his expense report.

As McCroskey said, Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”

Our business system wasn’t cheap but right then it seemed like a poor compromise.

There are a lot of gamers but there are a lot more people who just want to work on their notebooks.


Figure 1 - Game Power – When you’re looking for graphics power on your computer you check out the systems that were designed for game fanatics.  Desktop or notebook, the systems have it all – power, speed, weight and…cost.  But they are so sleek!!!  Source -- AP


Why should the kid across the aisle have all the power?



Depending on whether you believe Intel or Nvidia (ok so you can throw AMD in the mix also) the secret isn’t the CPU alone but the best video power is generated by the GPU (Graphics Processor Unit) and its storage buffer.


Figure 2 - Differences of Opinion – Intel’s position is that they can design in all the necessary features and capabilities for GPU work into their new dual- and quad-core chips.  Naturally Nvidia thinks that raw CPU power is a huge waste of time, effort and…money.  All we want is fast, reliable graphics efforts.  Source -- Intel


To hear Intel tell the story they’ve embedded new capabilities in their CPUs that deliver the clock speeds and core-to-core communications that deliver the power and strength people like ourselves occasionally need when we’re using the system to render multi-layer video segments.

Oh yeah…the software has to be completely rewritten to be optimized for multi-core, multi-threading. 

To which Nvidia responds looking directly at the attendant, “Elaine, you’re a member of this crew.  Can you face some unpleasant facts?”

We can’t.  Especially when we had just dropped nearly two grand on the notebook!

Nvidia says that you really need a dedicated GPU and firmware. Then the video post production software needs to be designed use all of the GPU’s processors for video transcoding. 


Figure 3 - We Never Knew – We never thought twice about all of the firmware and software that goes into a chip.  Even more is designed into elegant GPUs and software has been specially designed to take optimum advantage of the GPU chips special features/ capabilities.


That’s all fine and dandy for the system at home.  The kid had just souped up the system with a new $400 Nvidia card.

Made his games stream look like the best highdef TV you’ve seen. 

Allowed the wife and daughter to fly through their photo and video editing.

Let us quickly cut the 10 commercials from the Dr. Who shows we wanted to watch on our trip.

Didn’t do much for our notebook because there was no slot available!

When we got home and looked at the notebook specs we found the GPU listed in the mouse type. 

Buffer storage?  512K…we’ve got $10 USB drives with more memory than that!


Notebooks for Work
If you look at the numbers notebook system sales nearly equal desktop sales. Very few of the units sold are low end Eee or Apple Air systems.  They’re computers people want for all of their work – at the office, at home, on the road!

Figure 4 - Portable Computing – Today’s reasonably priced notebook computers deliver performance and capabilities equal to that of their stay-at-home desktop systems.  It’s no wonder that individuals and companies have replaced desktop systems with a more versatile mobile laptop.  Someday – just someday – smartphones will become intelligent additions to the mix.  Source -- IDC


Today’s notebook user really wants it all. We want a system that will handle the information explosion.

Figure 5 - Sight, Sound – Eons ago portable computers were mere number crunchers and word processors.  Today we sometimes have the feeling that they hold our entire lives in storage…family/friends moments/memory photos and videos, time/place shifted TV shows, music of every genre,  business presentations, personal records and more.  Illustration -- NYTimes


You know:

  1. 10 trillion person-to-person emails each year
  2. 220 billion digital camera photos
  3. Billions of hours of HD video, music
  4. Billions of document, ppt and other files


It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that people are now using their go-everywhere systems to do…everything.

That’s especially true of video whether it’s shot with a camera or a camphone.

Increasingly people are taking, post producing, sharing, storing more content.


Figure 6 - Creative Endeavors – High performance computers, economical/easy-to-use video production software and economic highdef cameras/camcorders have put the creative resources into the hands of almost everyone who has a desire to express him-/herself.  The new creative materials that are posted to the web have also reduced the importance of the TV set as the primary source of entertainment.  Source -- eMarketer


That’s why 120GB drive in the notebook is overloaded and we carry a 120GB USB external HD to handle “the other stuff!”

We’ve got video and we’re not afraid to use it even though most people look at the content and agree with the Controller, I know but this guy has no flying experience at all. He's a menace to himself and everything else in the air... yes, birds too.”

Of course working with all that content on the notebook during a flight helps raise the temperature 10 degrees thus forcing the airline to use more fuel to run the air conditioning.

Darn…bet they’ll start charging you a $10 fee for opening your notebook because you’re using more fuel than the obese person in the seat next to you!

We agree with McCroskey, Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.”

Of course all of the power and storage capacity doesn’t really matter with today’s notebooks because since lithium ion batteries were pulled from the market.   Sales were a little sluggish after a paltry few of them blew up.

The industry quickly modified the designs to solve the overheating and “poof” issue.


New Power

Right now firms are aggressively trying to develop high-performance, long-life, economic portable computer power solutions that don’t weigh too much.


Figure 7 - Heavy Support – Today’s laptop and sub-laptop computers are light and powerful.  Unfortunately if you need to use the system for a long time away from an electrical outlet you may need a porter to carry the energy source.


Problem is cobalt is in short supply. 

And if you haven’t quite noticed it, almost everything your kids use today runs on batteries.

It’s not that the industry isn’t trying to solve these “minor” issues. 

All they have to do is give us the:

  1. performance of an Alienware or Acer Ferrari notebook
  2. weight of a netbook
  3. graphics power of a GeForce card
  4. processing power of a quad-core CPU
  5. low power intelligence
  6. liquid cooling system
  7. dynamic load balancing and balanced architecture
  8. “reasonable” system price

We need to take our system on the road with us.  That’s right…”someone who won’t crack under pressure.”

When will it happen?  Striker simply said, “I can’t tell you that.  It’s classified.”

Until then we’re taking one more accessory with us on our business flights…a long extension cord.


Beyond Simulation – Certainly a high performance GPU chip or board makes flight simulation software fun and exciting to use.  But at some point the pilot needs to take off and land the plane.  That requires hands-on, real world expertise and  experience…good luck!!!  Photo Source -- Paramount

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