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NCIX and LinusTech Does Four Single GPUs... Twice

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 11, 2014 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: quad sli, quad crossfire, nvidia, amd

Psst. AMD fans. Don't tell "Team Green" but Linus decided to take four R9 290X graphics cards and configure them in Quad Crossfire formation. They did not seem to have too much difficulty setting it up, although they did have trouble with throttling and setting up Crossfire profiles. When they finally were able to test it, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 14979.

Psst. NVIDIA fans. Don't tell "Team Red" but Linus decided to take four GeForce Titan Black graphics cards and configure them in Quad SLI formation. He had a bit of a difficult time setting up the machine at first, requiring a reshuffle of the cards (how would reordering PCIe slots for identical cards do anything?) and a few driver crashes, but it worked. Eventually, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of around 13,300 (give or take a couple hundred).

Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 Has LTE for Sub-$100 Devices

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 03:27 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 210, snapdragon, LTE, cheap tablet

The Snapdragon 210 was recently announced by Qualcomm to be an SoC for cheap, sub-$100 tablets and mobile phones. With it, the company aims to bring LTE connectivity to that market segment, including Dual SIM support. It will be manufactured on the 28nm process, with up to four ARM CPU cores and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.

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According to Qualcomm, the SoC can decode 1080p video. It will also be able to manage cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution, including HDR, autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. Let's be honest, you will not really get much more than that for a sub-$100 device.

The Snapdragon 210 has been given Quick Charge 2.0, normally reserved for the 400-line and up, refill the battery quickly when connected to a Quick Charge 2.0-supporting charger (ex: the Motorola Turbo Charger). Quick Charge 1.0 worked by optimizing how energy was delivered to the battery through a specification. Quick Charge 2.0 does the same, just with 60 watts of power (!!). For reference, the USB standard defines 2.5W, which is 5V at 0.5A, although the specification is regularly extended to 5 or 10 watts.

Devices featuring the Snapdragon 210 are expected for the first half of 2015.

Source: Qualcomm

The highs and lows of doing motherboard reviews

Subject: Motherboards | September 11, 2014 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: magic smoke, linux, Intel X99, MSI X99S SLI Plus

It is inevitable that one will eventually come across hardware with a defect, either a flaw during its manufacture or because of shipping or user damage and when you do reviews the increased sample size pits the odds against you.  This is why Phoronix has not been able to publish results of the i7 5960X on an MSI X99S SLI Plus motherboard as magic smoke was released upon initial boot up.  The board has been RMA'd to NewEgg and MSI has contacted Phoronix directly to let them know they will be sending it off for analysis; a new motherboard and review should be up shortly.  It just goes to show you that this sort of thing can happen to anyone but if you keep your temper in check all it is is a small hurdle not a huge obstruction and you will get to where you wanted to go eventually.  Similar events involving mysterious smells and old UPSes have never occurred here at PC Perspective; especially not today.

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I feel fine!

"This weekend I was planning to publish the first Linux benchmarks for Intel's incredibly powerful Core i7 5960X Haswell-E processor with X99 motherboard and DDR4 system memory. Unfortunately, all I can tell you now is that it's smoking, quite literally!"

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: Phoronix

Firefox Developer Tools Can Debug Non-Mozilla Browsers

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: firefox, mozilla, web browser, web development

Well this is an interesting feature. Mozilla, like all browser vendors, has been constantly enhancing their web development tools. They are quite impressive, allowing anyone to debug any page, including WebGL shader replacement, audio network manipulation, and injecting Javascript, HTML, and CSS at run time. Firefox OS and Firefox for Android developers were even able to remotely connect to a desktop Firefox browser as if it were an IDE (which it really is these days). Today, Mozilla announced (via their Hacks blog) early support for remote debugging Safari on iOS and Google Chrome on Android.

The currently supported tools are: "Inspector", which allows searching, modifying, and injecting HTML and CSS; "Debugger", which debugs and injects Javascript; and "Console", which displays console output from the open tab and executes individual Javascript statements (which can be multi-line with shift + enter). You cannot, for instance, modify individual draw calls on a running 3D game, like you can with the same tools when manipulating a Firefox tab, but this is still pretty impressive for cross-vendor.

Remote Debugging for Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is available in early development on Firefox Nightly with an optional extension.

Source: Mozilla

A half dozen pairing suggestions; does your mouse match your keyboard?

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: input, corsair, logitech, Mad Catz, razer, roccat, steelseries, gaming mouse, keyboard, round up

The end of summer brings more than just pretty coloured leaves, you can also expect to see round ups of products released this year.  The Register has put together an article looking at the best mice and keyboards for gamers which are currently available.  In most cases they pair a keyboard and mouse from the same company so that your desk will look impressive with matching peripherals.  It is not just about the aesthetics though, they also provide you with an overview of what features make each pairing unique and the features that should intrigue you.  Check it out right here.

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"In the case of the keyboards and mice I’m reviewing, it might be difficult to put forward a convincing argument that they are to blame, as they are all developed to make the very best of my gaming talents, but often this comes at a preposterous price."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Mojang AB Is Subject of Microsoft Purchase Rumors

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: mojang ab, Minecraft, microsoft, consolitis

First and foremost, I would like to remind everyone of the Twitch.tv and Google acquisition rumors. Things are not done until they are done and it could be significantly more complicated than it appears on the surface. And yes, I am speaking from the position of someone who was bitten and wrote a news post on the subject.

Regardless, discussion has been circulating that Mojang AB, creators of Minecraft, were in talks to sell their company to Microsoft for $2 billion dollars. First, this tells us that randomly generated diamond and gold is worth a fortune; second, it tells us that Mojang, like Oculus, is twice the company that Instagram was. I guess all it took was those OpenGL filter effects.

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Joking aside, two billion dollars is a significant chunk of money, about a third of Computing and Gaming Hardware's annual revenue. Minecraft is definitely a valuable asset, especially with the licensed media and merchandise, and would be a good addition to a publisher's portfolio (along with their employees if convinced to stay on). It is not entirely without basis, either. Competing publisher, Activision-Blizzard, allegedly planned to spend $500 million on Destiny, although Bungie denies that, which Activision claims is the cost of launching a new franchise nowadays.

The most interesting part of the rumor, to me, is the Bloomberg report which claims that Notch initiated the discussions. He was quite outspoken against Microsoft for a while, especially with the licensing requirements for Windows Store. Apparently, current head of Microsoft's Computing and Gaming Hardware division, Phil Spencer, is friends with Notch and has been visiting him and Mojang AB.

But until something official is announced, this is all speculation. That said, Notch has been particularly quiet about the topic on Twitter. To me, that strongly suggests that something is up.

Source: Bloomberg

Podcast #317 - ASUS X99 Deluxe Review, Core M Performance, 18 Core Xeons and much more news from IDF!

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 11:30 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, asus, X99, X99 Deluxe, Intel, core m, xeon e5-2600 v3, idf, idf 2014, fortville, 40GigE, dell, 5k, nvidia, GM204, maxwell

PC Perspective Podcast #317 - 09/11/2014

Join us this week as we discuss our ASUS X99 Deluxe Review, Core M Performance, 18 Core Xeons and much more news from IDF!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman

Program length: 1:33:48

  1. Week in Review:
  2. IDF News:
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Read our IDF news!
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Features

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EVGA continues to raise the bar with the introduction of two new power supplies in their popular SuperNOVA line, the 1000 P2 and 1200 P2. Both new power supplies are 80Plus Platinum certified and feature all modular cables, high-quality Japanese brand capacitors, a single high-power +12V rail, and a 140mm dual ball bearing cooling fan (with the ability to operate in silent, fan-less mode at low power levels). The 1000 P2 and 1200 P2 are also backed by a 10-year warranty (with registration). And last but not least, many PC PSU enthusiasts will be happy to know the new 1000 P2 and 1200 P2 are being supplied by Super Flower; the same OEM that EVGA has been using for many of their higher output, premium PSUs!

EVGA was founded in 1999 with headquarters in Brea, California. They continue to specialize in producing NVIDIA based graphics adapters and Intel based motherboards and keep expanding their PC power supply product line, which now includes seventeen models ranging from the high-end SuperNOVA 1600 G2 to the budget minded EVGA 430W power supply.

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In this review we will be taking a detailed look at the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 power supply.

Here is what EVGA has to say about the new SuperNOVA P2 Gold PSUs: “Introducing the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 power supply. This power supply raises the bar with 1200W of continuous power delivery and 92% (115 VAC) / 94% (220~240 VAC) efficiency. A fully modular design reduces case clutter and 100% Japanese Capacitors ensure that only the absolute best components are used. What does that mean? The best stability, reliability, overclockability and unparalleled control. The EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 is the ultimate tool to eliminate all system bottlenecks and achieve unrivaled performance."

EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 PSU Key Features:

•    10-Year Warranty and unparalleled EVGA Customer Support
•    80PLUS Platinum certified, with up to 92~94% efficiency under typical loads
•    Tight voltage regulation (2%), stable power with low AC ripple and noise
•    Highest quality Japanese brand capacitors ensure long-term reliability
•    Fully modular cables to reduce clutter and improve airflow
•    Quiet dual-ball bearing fan for exceptional reliability and quiet operation
•    ECO Intelligent Thermal Control allows silent, fan-less operation at low power
•    NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire Ready
•    Intel 4th Generation CPU Ready (Haswell, C6/C7 idle modes)
•    Compliance with ErP Lot 6 2013 Requirement
•    Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
•    Heavy-duty Protections: OVP, UVP, OCP, OPP, and SCP
•    MSRP for the 1000 P2 PSU : $219.99 USD (181.99 after mail-in rebate, Amazon.com)
•    MSRP for the 1200 P2 PSU : $269.99 USD ($225.99 after mail-in rebate, Amazon.com)

Please continue reading our review of the EVGA SuperNOVA 1200 P2 Platinum PSU!!!

ASUS Announces the Z10PE-D8 WS

Subject: Motherboards | September 11, 2014 - 10:18 AM |
Tagged: Z10PE-D8 WS, C612, asus

Finally some new dual socketed goodness from Intel that can be used by prosperous enthusiasts.  For those who can afford the pair of Xeon E5-2600 V3 CPUs required to run a dual CPU system you can have 4 PCIe 16x slots running at full speed and compatible with both SLI and CrossFire.  The motherboard is more optimized for heavy productivity workloads such as graphics rendering but that is no reason not to use it to build the biggest and baddest gaming machine on the planet!

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Fremont, CA (10th September, 2014) - ASUS today announced the Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard based on the Intel C612 chipset and with dual processor sockets ready for the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product families.

The new Server System Infrastructure Enterprise Electronics Bay (SSI EEB) motherboards have superb storage support, including the ASUS PIKE II (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) card and support for PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0 x4 M.2 (Next-Generation Form Factor, or NGFF). They benefit also from the ASUS Q-Code Logger for one-touch easy maintenance and a Dr. Power LED lamp to clearly indicate unusual power status.

Ultimate PCI Express 3.0 multi-GPU power
The Z10PE-D8 WS is equipped to provide the ultimate workstation graphics power, with support for up to four dual-slot graphics cards. Both 4-Way NVIDIA GeForce SLI and AMD CrossFireX are supported, so it is an excellent choice for professionals who depend on powerful graphics in areas such as design, modeling and medical research, as well as processing-intensive simulation and rendering applications.

With a total of seven PCIe 3.0 slots, the Z10PE-D8 WS offers ample room for RAID cards, PCI Express-based solid-state drives (SSDs), video-capture cards and other high-speed components.

Premium components for premium power efficiency
Z10PE-D8 WS benefits from premium components hand-chosen and carefully arranged by ASUS engineers to provide optimum power efficiency. These include integrated Driver-MOSFETs (Dr. MOS) to save space and reduce operating temperatures for more efficient operation, and ASUS-exclusive Beat Thermal Chokes II. The new Beat Thermal Chokes II design delivers up to 94% power efficiency and lower temperatures under normal operation.

ASUS is the world’s first server manufacturer to introduce 12K solid capacitors — the Z10PE-D8 WS has these ultra-resilient components on board. These Japanese-made capacitors are able to withstand up to 12,000 hours of temperatures as high as 105°C, far exceeding everyday demands. And at a typical operating temperature of 65°C, our 12K capacitors have an expected lifespan of 1.2m hours — or well over a century.

The Z10PE-D8 WS also employs ProCool power connectors. The ProCool design eliminates hollow areas associated with traditional power connectors, ensuring a close and secure connection with the PSU power connector pins. The flush connection enables lower impedance and better heat dissipation – helping to prevent connector burnouts.

Flexible fan speed control, flexible storage and easy maintenance
The new Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard offers flexible fan-speed controls, which can be managed manually or automatically. In automatic mode, the fan speeds are adjusted according to the processor temperature. In manual mode, the administrator can set a fan curve according to cooling requirements.

The new Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard offers industry-leading storage flexibility, with a built-in M.2 connector supporting PCIe 3.0 x4 2260 (60mm), 2280 (80mm) and 22110 (110mm) devices, and support for the ASUS PIKE II (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) card for high-reliability, enterprise-grade 12Gbit/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) devices.

The motherboard also benefits from ASUS Q-Code Logger, an easy-maintenance button that records four-digit port 80 code logs to a flash drive with one touch, so administrators can diagnose problems quickly and easily. Similarly, the conveniently-located Dr. Power LED displays messages to clearly indicate a power fault.

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AVAILABILITY & PRICING
The Z10PE-D8 WS is priced at $599 and will be available soon at ASUS authorized resellers and distributors.

Source: ASUS

A brisk tour of IDF 2014

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 10:04 AM |
Tagged: idf 2014, western digital, hgst, Intel, dell

The Tech Report have been busy scribing up the various announcements and product releases that Intel and others are revealing at this years IDF.  The HDD is staying alive by offering larger capacities than were available previously, from Western Digital's  6.3 TB archival model to HGST's 10TB helium filled monster with a 3.2TB SSD also available for frequently accessed data.  From Intel comes information on Skylake systems and their wireless charging to the first benchmarks we've seen for Core M ultraportables.  Also present were Dell, which allowed TR some hands on time with their Venue 8 7000 and of course a small announcement from that other company.

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"Somewhat surprisingly, the initial model's capacity is listed as 6.x TB. The Ae is based on an "innovative Progressive Capacity model" that allows WD to increase the capacity of shipping drives as yields improve and the company gets better at squeezing more data onto the platters. The gains will be small—capacities of 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 TB are listed as examples—but WD says the folks who need drives like these are hungry for even incremental improvements."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Will Ferrell Games for Cancer. He Hates Cancer. Dot Org.

Subject: General Tech | September 10, 2014 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: twitch, Indiegogo, charity

So WillFerrellHatesCancer.org redirects to an Indiegogo page where he is raising money to fight cancer. Will Ferrell is doing so in partner with Twitch.TV. In fact, the former Saturday Night Live star will be at Twitch's San Francisco for a live-streamed event, where he will game for two hours with a randomly chosen donor ($10 minimum). Proceeds will go to Cancer for College and DonateGames.org.

The campaign started Wednesday and will go until October 12th at 23:59 PDT. It is Flexible Funding, but will only occur if they meet their goal of $375,000. Then again, the money goes toward college scholarships for cancer survivors and a charity which sells video games and accessories to fund cancer research or gives them to children and families who are affected by cancer.

ASUS ZenWatch Announced

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: asus, smartwatch, zenwatch

The ASUS ZenWatch is their "first wearable device produced in partnership with Google". It is a smart watch from the Android Wear platform. It has a curved glass display of unknown resolution, a leather strap, and a "quick-release clasp". It ships with numerous faces... because it's software and it is basically free after you pay the designer, especially with the price of storage these days. It requires a phone with Android 4.3 or later.

ASUS has customized the user interface with their ZenUI. Its main usability features either interact with your phone or track your fitness activity. It acts as a pedometer, calorie counter, heart rate monitor, and fitness goal tracker. Each of these are integrated around their ZenUI.

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ASUS has not publicly announced pricing or availability. According to VR-Zone, ASUS representatives state "under $200". This is significantly less than Apple's "starting at $349".

Source: ASUS

Logitech G Announces Arx Control (+SDK) for iOS and Android

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: sdk, logitech g, logitech, arx control

The Arx platform is created by Logitech G to deliver "second screen experience" to PC gamers through their iOS or Android devices. Arx Control will have the ability to adjust your mouse DPI, rebind macros, and see the status of their gaming machine. Logitech did not specify the system information that would be given by app, but it does not matter in the end because they are releasing an SDK for it.

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The Arx Control SDK, along with the LED Illumination SDK and the G-Key Macro SDK, will allow game and application developers to interact with "Logitech G" devices and the Arx Control app. This could range from providing ammo meters and timers, to offers of in-app purchases. That last point is clearly aimed more at developers than customers because that sounds really scary to me. Then again, it can be done correctly -- such as Team Fortress 2, in my opinion.

What could be cool is if a friend, watching you play, could contribute to the gameplay in some way. Then again, if a developer wanted to put that much effort, they could probably create a mobile web app. This is probably more useful for small things, like the aforementioned ammo and health status indicators, that would otherwise not be worth a developer's effort, without Logitech's platform.

The Logitech G Arx Control SDK is available now for free and the Arx Control App will be available soon on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Source: Logitech

IDF 2014: Through Silicon Via - Connecting memory dies without wires

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2014 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: TSV, Through Silicon Via, memory, idf 2014, idf

If you're a general computer user, you might have never heard the term "Through Silicon Via". If you geek out on photos of chip dies and wafers, and how chips are assembled and packaged, you might have heard about it. Regardless of your current knowledge of TSV, it's about to be a thing that impacts all of you in the near future.

Let's go into a bit of background first. We're going to talk about how chips are packaged. Micron has an excellent video on the process here:

The part we are going to focus on appears at 1:31 in the above video:

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This is how chip dies are currently connected to the outside world. The dies are stacked (four high in the above pic) and a machine has to individually wire them to a substrate, which in turn communicates with the rest of the system. As you might imagine, things get more complex with this process as you stack more and more dies on top of each other:

chip stacking.png

16 layer die stack, pic courtesy NovaChips

...so we have these microchips with extremely small features, but to connect them we are limited to a relatively bulky process (called package-on-package). Stacking these flat planes of storage is a tricky thing to do, and one would naturally want to limit how many of those wires you need to connect. The catch is that those wires also equate to available throughput from the device (i.e. one wire per bit of a data bus). So, just how can we improve this method and increase data bus widths, throughput, etc?

Before I answer that, let me lead up to it by showing how flash memory has just taken a leap in performance. Samsung has recently made the jump to VNAND:

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By stacking flash memory cells vertically within a die, Samsung was able to make many advances in flash memory, simply because they had more room within each die. Because of the complexity of the process, they also had to revert back to an older (larger) feature size. That compromise meant that the capacity of each die is similar to current 2D NAND tech, but the bonus is speed, longevity, and power reduction advantages by using this new process.

I showed you the VNAND example because it bears a striking resemblance to what is now happening in the area of die stacking and packaging. Imagine if you could stack dies by punching holes straight through them and making the connections directly through the bottom of each die. As it turns out, that's actually a thing:

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Read on for more info about TSV!

Toshiba Chromebook 2: 13-inch Full HD IPS Display

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 9, 2014 - 07:57 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, Chromebook, chromebook 2

Somehow, I heard about Toshiba's $120, Windows 8.1 tablet but not their Chromebook 2. This ChromeOS-based laptop will have a choice between one of two 13.3-inch displays. The entry level is standard HD while the premium model is upgraded with a 1080p, IPS monitor. Prices range from $249.99 to $329.99. It is expected to be available on October 5th.

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On the low end, you are looking at a browser-only device with 2GB of RAM, and Intel Celeron processor, 802.11ac, HDMI out, an HD webcam, two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), and an SD card slot. The higher-end device is the same, except with the better screen and double the RAM (4GB). At $330, that is a pretty good deal if you can live in Google Chrome day-in and day-out. Of course, this raises concerns about browser lock-in because you are buying a device with only one choice. That said, you are doing the same if you buy iOS, FirefoxOS, or Windows RT devices, so it is not a complaint about ChromeOS, specifically.

As stated, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 will be available October 5th, starting at $249.99.

Source: Toshiba
Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Core M 5Y70 Early Testing

During a press session today with Intel, I was able to get some early performance results on Broadwell-Y in the form of the upcoming Core M 5Y70 processor.

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Testing was done on a reference design platform code named Llama Mountain and at the heart of the system is the Broadwell-Y designed dual-core CPU, the Core M 5Y70, which is due out later this year. Power consumption of this system is low enough that Intel has built it with a fanless design. As we posted last week, this processor has a base frequency of just 1.10 GHz but it can boost as high as 2.6 GHz for extra performance when it's needed.

Before we dive into the actual result, you should keep in mind a couple of things. First, we didn't have to analyze the systems to check driver revisions, etc., so we are going on Intel's word that these are setup as you would expect to see them in the real world. Next, because of the disjointed nature of test were were able to run, the comparisons in our graphs aren't as great as I would like. Still, the results for the Core M 5Y70 are here should you want to compare them to any other scores you like.

First, let's take a look at old faithful: CineBench 11.5.

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UPDATE: A previous version of this graph showed the TDP for the Intel Core M 5Y70 as 15 watts, not the 4.5 watt listed here now. The reasons are complicated. Even though the Intel Ark website lists the TDP of the Core M 5Y70, Intel has publicly stated the processor will make very short "spikes" at 15 watts when in its highest Turbo Boost modes. It comes to a discussion of semantics really. The cooling capability of the tablet is only targeted to 4.5-6.0 watts and those very short 15 watt spikes can be dissipated without the need for extra heatsink surface...because they are so short. SDP anyone? END UPDATE

With a score of 2.77, the Core M 5Y70 processor puts up an impressive fight against CPUs with much higher TDP settings. For example, Intel's own Pentium G3258 gets a score of 2.71 in CB11, and did so with a considerably higher thermal envelope. The Core i3-4330 scores 38% higher than the Core M 5Y70 but it requires a TDP 3.6-times larger to do so. Both of AMD's APUs in the 45 watt envelope fail to keep up with Core M.

Continue reading our preview of Intel Core M 5Y70 Performance!!

Centaur Technology Extends Their Website Countdown...

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, centaur technologies

In early July, we reported on VIA's Centaur Technology division getting a new website. At the time, we anticipated that it would coincide with an announcement about Isaiah II, their rumored to be upcoming x86-based SoC (maybe even compatible with ARM, too).

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Fifty-one days later, on August 31st, 2014, we came back at quarter-to-four EDT and let the website run its course, refreshing occasionally. 4 PM hit and... the counter stayed at 0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds. Okay, I said. For about an hour, I refreshed occasionally because things could have happened on Labour Day weekend. I, then, came back late in the evening, and the day after. I next thought about it the week after, at which point the website was updated... with a timer that expires on September 30th, 2014.

Well... crap.

So by the end of the month, we may find out what Centaur is trying to announce. I am a little less confident in the breadth of the announcement, given that the company waited for the timer to lapse before correcting their mistake. I would expect that if their big announcement, like a new SoC, were to hold up the launch, the company would have known ahead of time. At the moment, it sounds like a typical website redesign which got delayed.

I will hopefully be pleasantly surprised come the end of the month.

One More Thing from Apple... the Apple Watch

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: apple, smartwatch, ios

After Apple announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Pay, they unveiled their smart watch project: the Apple Watch. Technically, they actually announced three families, the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition, with a combined total of 34 different models. They will launch early next year with a base price of $349. About half of the 34 models are a few millimeters smaller, 38mm vs 42mm, although both are unisex.

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Apple Watch

The main feature is its "Digital Crown". It is basically a mouse wheel which can be clicked as a Home button. This wheel can be adjusted to zoom in, adjust meters, and so forth (like a mouse wheel). Below the "Crown" is a Contacts button which, well, brings up your contacts. It has a touchscreen with force sensors, to differentiate between touch and press. The screen also provides haptic feedback for tactile sensations, which actually interests me (in terms of what developers learning what it can do if it is accessible).

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Apple Watch Sport

Each model charges with a magnetic attachment on the back, although battery life is not described. I would be surprised if it was anything less than a full, woken day, but it is possible that it will not stay awake as long as you are. We just do not know at this point. This is probably the best reason to wait for a review before purchasing, if you have any level of interest. That could easily be a deal breaker.

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Apple Watch Edition

The watches are all basically the same from a technological standpoint. Every model, besides the Apple Watch Sport, has a Sapphire-protected screen (the Sport uses "Ion-X glass" which we currently know nothing about). The bands are replaceable via a button latch on the back, allowing the strap to slide off of the face. The "Watch Edition" (that name...) is created from 18-karat gold. Specifically, "Each has a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold that our metallurgists have developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold". Yes Apple, because gold is a soft metal... but I digress.

The Apple Watch will arrive in early 2015 and will start at $349. It is currently not certified by the FCC, although I am sure that the major tech blogs will announce when that happens. It requires iPhone 5 (or later).

Source: Apple

IDF 2014: Skylake Silicon Up and Running for 2H 2015 Release

Subject: Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, idf 2014, idf, 14nm

2015 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Intel's consumer processor product lines. We are still expected to see Broadwell make some kind of debut in a socketed form in addition to the mobile releases trickling out beginning this holiday, but it looks like we will also get our first taste of Skylake late next year.

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Skylake is Intel's next microarchitecture and will be built on the same 14nm process technology currently shipping with Broadwell-Y. Intel stated that it expects to see dramatic improvements in all areas of measurement including performance, power consumption and silicon efficiency.

On stage the company demoed Skylake running the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark though without providing any kind of performance result (obviously). That graphics demo was running on an engineering development board and platform and though it looked incredibly good from where we were sitting, we can't make any guess as to the performance quite yet.

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Intel then surprised us by bringing a notebook out from behind the monitor showing Skylake up and running in a mobile form factor decoding and playing back 4K video. Once again, the demo was smooth and impressive though you expect no more from an overly rehearsed keynote.

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Intel concluded that it was "excited about the health of Skylake" and that they should be in mass production in the first quarter of 2015 with samples going out to customers. Looking even further down the rabbit hole the company believes they have a "great line of sight to 10nm and beyond." 

Even though details were sparse, it is good news for Intel that they would be willing to show Skylake so early and yet I can't help but worry about a potentially shorter-than-expected life span for Broadwell in the desktop space. Mobile users will find the increased emphasis on power efficiency a big win for thin and light notebooks but enthusiast are still on the look out for a new product to really drive performance up in the mainstream.

IDF 2014: Western Digital announces new Ae HDD series for archival / cold storage

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: WDC< Western Digital, WD, idf 2014, idf, hdd, Cold, Archival, Ae

We talked about helium filled, shingled HDD's from HGST earlier today. Helium may give you reduced power demands, but at the added expensive of hermetically sealed enclosures over conventional HDD's. Shingling may give added capacity, but at the expense of being forced into specific writing methods. Now we know Western Digital's angle into archival / cold storage:

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..so instead of going with higher cost newer technologies, WD is taking their consumer products and making them more robust. They are also getting rid of the conventional thinking of capacity increments and are moving to 100GB increments. The idea is that once a large company or distributor has qualified a specific HDD model on their hardware, that model will stick around for a while, but be continued at an increased capacity as platter density yields increase over time. WD has also told me that capacities may even be mixed an matched within a 20-box of drives, so long as the average capacity matches the box label. This works in the field of archival / cold storage for a few reasons:

  • Archival storage systems generally do not use conventional RAID (where an entire array of matching capacity disks are spinning simultaneously). Drives are spun up and written to individually, or spun up individually to service the occasional read request. This saves power overall, and it also means the individual drives can vary in capacity with no ill effects.
  • Allowing for variable capacity binning helps WD ship more usable platters/drives overall (i.e. not rejecting drives that can't meet 6TB). This should drive overall costs down.
  • Increasing capacity by only a few hundred GB per drive turns into *huge* differences in cost when you scale that difference up to the number of drives you would need to handle a very large total capacity (i.e. Exabytes).

So the idea here is that WD is choosing to stick with what they do best, which they can potentially do for even cheaper than their consumer products. That said, this is really meant for enterprise use and not as a way for a home power user to save a few bucks on a half-dozen drives for their home NAS. You really need an infrastructure in place that can handle variable capacity drives seamlessly. While these drives do not employ SMR to get greater capacity, that may work out as a bonus, as writes can be performed in a way that all systems are currently compatible with (even though I suspect they will be tuned more for sequential write workloads).

Here's an illustration of this difference:

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The 'old' method meant that drives on the left half of the above bell curve would have to be sold as 5TB units.

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With the 'new' method, drives can be sold based on a spec closer to their actual capacity yield. For a given model, shipping capacities would increase as time goes on (top to bottom of the above graphic).

To further clarify what is meant by the term 'cold storage' - the data itself is cold, as in rarely if ever accessed:

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Examples of this would be Facebook posts / images from months or years ago. That data may be rarely touched, but it needs to be accessible enough to be browsed to via the internet. The few second archival HDD spinup can handle this sort of thing, while a tape system would take far too long and would likely timeout that data request.

WD's Ae press blast after the break.