Saturday, January 15, 2011


Each year starts off these times with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas the city of sad faces. Last year even CES was sad faces feeling the aftermath of recession and no one buying much of anything. But in 2011 after Apple dropped some bombs of super sales of iPhones and their new iPad, the rest of the flock was flapping their wings to catch up. But new 3D and what have you TV’s were still languishing, maybe everyone who can afford a big flat-screen TV already has one, and with TV getting worse every year with dumber and dumber ridicule and more ads....

So other than gadgets and gimmicks what else electronic is there? Computers, you know those boxes that compute things much faster than a human mind and hands. Yes, where would we photographers be without the computers that calculate the thousands of complex optical formulas that have made zoom lenses function  efficiently and accurately, with systems that calculate the motion of a camera and correct for it. The makers of the chips that do the calculation, the main processor in a computer, Intel and AMD had some very interesting news, Now after so many years, besides processors that compute they are now going to put graphics support functions in their main processors. I guess they cannot make them faster and better at computing to a degree anyone buying would notice or care, so why not something new, graphics processing? Well at least it serves me an advantage, regarding all of the computer geeks that give me a bad time because Apple Macs don’t have the biggest, fastest computer processors may now realize they have not made all that much difference to digital photography because there is little computation needed to process images, just graphic support and a wide data transfer bandwidth, and of course oodles of RAM.

Anyway Intel is calling this new graphics support processor family Sandy Bridge, and AMD is using the name Fusion. To describe how they are alike I’ll quote Mathew Murray of PC Magazine, “Both Fusion and Sandy Bridge chips represent a major new way of looking at the role of the processor within a computer. Previously, the individual elements—the CPU itself, the graphics controller, the memory controller, and so on—were all separate. This required lengthy communication between the various systems, which slowed down how fast the processor could do its work. Now, AMD and Intel are bringing the various subsystems together, on the same processing die (hence AMD's name, "Fusion"). This means that on-board graphics will now become more ubiquitous and powerful than they've ever been (though power users will still want to have discrete cards), but the everyday benefits are perhaps even more impressive. This makes passing information between them easier and quicker, which boosts performance in almost every application; it also requires less power, which translates to cheaper electricity bills and longer laptop battery life.”

Already the Apple rumor-ologists are telling us Macs will soon be appearing with Sandy Bridge processors. That’s a logical because so much of Apple Mac computer business is used by high-end graphics creators, just about every magazine you read is produced by Apple Macs. With PC’s, users will have to really look at what each of a jillion makers are actually implementing on their motherboards relative to Sandy Bridge or Fusion processors. Are they really advantaging the new processor graphics support considering most PC’s are designed for business use and not graphics production? Who knows, and I am not about to investigate the speciousness of specs on different PC’s; but I am sure some will.

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