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The future of the PC revealed

How advanced technologies will shape tomorrow's PCs

With improvement in technology happening every second, the future of computing holds huge developments including processor chips with four cores and projector-equipped mobile phones. PC Advisor investigates.

Pocket presentations

Watching video on a mobile phone is a pain. Even if you find the content you want, the tiny screen makes enjoying the programme difficult. Before long, however, you'll be seeing programmes at the correct size, thanks to projector-equipped mobile phones.

Microvision Pico Projectors (microvision.com) employ light-scanning technology to generate a complete, full-colour image from a beam of light. A single red, green or blue laser bounces off a tiny scanning mirror inside the device that oscillates vertically and horizontally to render the image pixel by pixel, producing a larger picture that projects on to a wall or other surface. This surface can be as large as 120in and 12ft away in a darkened room.

Controlling the scanner, light source and optics is the PicoP engine, which co-ordinates the various components to control the intensity of each beam of light to create thousands of colours. By using a single beam of light rather than three, Microvision is able to make the projectors small enough to fit into a mobile phone without appreciably increasing the size of the handset. The company also expects the integrated projectors to play a feature-length film on just one charge.

Microvision has partnered with Motorola to build Pico Projectors into mobile phones and the first model is expected to debut in 2009. Meanwhile, the company is designing a projector accessory for PCs and games consoles that should be available by the end of 2008. Built-in projectors can be expected to add as much as £75 to the price of a phone, while accessory projectors will probably cost around £100, says Avi Greengart, principal analyst for mobile devices at Current Analysis and editor of the Home Theater View blog (Home Theater View blog).

laser technology means high-end mobile phone will soon be able to project presentations and movie on to a surface thats as large as 120in and up to 12 feet away

Enter the Octagon CPU

There's not much point in increasing processor speeds or doubling the bit paths in a central processing unit (CPU) if the system bus can't carry the traffic. Since problems with transistors leaking current worsen as clock speeds increase and CPUs shrink, both AMD and Intel have decided to focus on increasing the number of cores on a chip rather than increasing processor speeds.

The centrepiece of any CPU is the processor core, which is responsible for the actual calculations that make all your software run. Placing multiple cores on a single chip dramatically increases the number of calculations that can be performed - without having to raise the clock speed of the chip itself. By keeping clock speeds relatively low while increasing the number of calculations performed simultaneously, chip makers overcome the overheating problems associated with faster clock speeds. And the more cores crammed on to a single chip, the faster the CPU can go.

The performance boost isn't one-to-one, however: Intel's four-core 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700 performs just 26 percent faster than its same-speed, two-core Core 2 Duo E6700 on certain applications (click here for PC reviews). So while you'll see improvement with eight-core CPUs, it won't be as dramatic as it might sound.

Before AMD can start selling eight-core chips for the desktop, it needs to get its quad-core Phenom chips to market in 2008. Intel has been selling quad-core desktop processors for about a year now and has announced eight-core chips for servers in 2008. Expect OctoCore to come to desktop computers in 2010.

NEXT PAGE: 5TB drives, and putting your TV anywhere > >

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