We interrupt your Titan previews for a look at comparitive Catalyst version performance

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 19, 2013 - 03:09 PM |
Tagged: amd, catalyst, 2012

Today might be Titan Preview Day as you can see from the links below as well as Ryan's article here, but [H]ard|OCP would like to offer you solid performance numbers instead.  They took a look back at the Catalyst 12.x series of drivers that AMD GPU owners have been using over the past year. With the HD 7970 and HD 7950 they tested 7 of AMD's past drivers for performance on four popular games.  The findings are fairly clear, after a poor start to the year AMD's drivers showed improved performance as the year went on, with leaps after games were released and the driver could be optimized for speed.  The HD7970 did improve over the year but it was the 7950 that proved to receive the biggest gains.

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"We continuing our look at driver performance improvements over time by evaluating AMD’s 2012 driver performances on both the AMD Radeon HD 7970 and HD 7950 video cards. We will see how drivers from the beginning of the year to the end of year have impacted real world gameplay performance . "

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Various

CPU, Motherboard, GPU

If you want to take yourself seriously in the business, you HAVE to have an award show.  PC Perspective is no different and this week we held the first annual "Best Hardware of the Year" edition of the PC Perspective Podcast in which we discussed, debated and selected the best hardware components and trends of the past 12 months.  Sometimes we even went into 2011 and sometimes we were talking about the future...don't worry it will all make sense.

If you want to get the full experience of HOW we selected these products you should definitely check out episode #232 of the PC Perspective Podcast or just watch the video embedded right below. Watch as our editors throw each other under the bus as we collectively declare winners and runners up. We did not have nearly enough Christmas cheer to come to solid conclusions in every category, but we did our best. Next year, next year...

The categories we will award "Best Of" accolades on include CPU, Motherboard, GPU, Storage, Case, Price Drop and Upcoming Technology.  We left some things out like power supplies, coolers, etc simply due to time but perhaps if there is demand we can address it for 2013.  Each of the winners will be given our "Editor's Choice" award regardless of what award it may or may not have received from us before hand, or even if it was reviewed officially at all. 

It is also important to note that these are awards are not simply for the best performing or the best price/performance products in the category.  As ambiguous as it sounds, we wanted to try to find the "best" in whatever way that means.  Cost, performance, marketability, effect on the ecosystem, etc.  For a full break down of what our thought process was the best place to start is that video link above.

Continue reading our selection for the Best Hardware of 2012!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

HotChips 2012

 

Ah, the end of August.  School is about to start.  American college football is about to get underway.  Hot Chips is now in full swing.  I guess the end of August caters to all sorts of people.  For the people who are most interested in Hot Chips, the amount of information on next generation CPU architectures is something to really look forward to.  AMD is taking this opportunity to give us a few tantalizing bits of information about their next generation Steamroller core which will be introduced with the codenamed “Kaveri” APU due out in 2013.

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AMD is seemingly on the brink of releasing the latest architectural update with Vishera.  This is a Piledriver+ based CPU that will find its way into AM3+ sockets.  On the server side it is expected that the Abu Dhabi processors will also be released in a late September timeframe.  Trinity was the first example of a Piledriver based product, and it showed markedly improved thermals as compared to previous Bulldozer based products, and featured a nice little bump in IPC in both single and multi-threaded applications.  Vishera and Abu Dhabi look to be Piledriver+, which essentially means that there are a few more tweaks in the design that *should* allow it to go faster per clock than Trinity.  There have been a few performance leaks so far, but nothing that has been concrete (or has shown final production-ready silicon).

Until that time when Vishera and its ilk are released, AMD is teasing us with some Steamroller information.  This presentation is featured at Hotchips today (August 28).  It is a very general overview of improvements, but very few details about how AMD is achieving increased performance with this next gen architecture are given.  So with that, I will dive into what information we have.

Click to read the entire article here.

Intel Announces Q1 2012 Earnings: Not a Record, but Close

Subject: Editorial | April 23, 2012 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: trinity, Q1, Ivy Bridge, Intel, earnings, atom, arm, amd, 2012

Guess what? Intel made money. A lot of money. This is not surprising. The results were not record breaking, but they did beat expectations. Intel had a gross revenue of $12.9 billion for the quarter, with a net income of $2.7 billion. Gross margins decreased (slightly) to 64%, but the reasons for this are pretty logical as we discover down below. Compared to Q4 2011, results are still significantly down, but this is again expected due to seasonal downturns. In Q4 they had $13.9 billion in gross revenue and $3.4 billion in net income with a gross margin of 64.5%.

 
Currently Intel is showing inventory at near historic lows, and this is due to a variety of factors. The PC market has been growing slower than expected due to the hard drive shortage that started last fall. Intel has adjusted manufacturing downward to account for this, and has worked to ramp 22 nm products faster by cutting back 32n production and converting those 32 nm lines. Intel is very aggressive with Ivy Bridge, and it expects 25% of all shipments in Q2 to be 22nm products. This is probably the fastest and most aggressive ramp that Intel has ever done, and it will continue to put AMD in a hole with their 32 nm production.
 
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The second half of the year should see some significant growth on the PC side. The primary push will be the release of Windows 8 from Microsoft. This, combined with the near complete recovery of hard drive production, should push PC growth the record levels. Ultrabooks are an area that Intel is spending a lot of money to promote and develop with their partners. There are some 26 Ultrabook designs on record so far, and Intel expects this number to rise rapidly. The big push is to decline the overall price of Ultrabooks, as well as enabling touch functionality for a more affordable price. While not mentioned during the conference call, AMD is also pushing for ultra-thin notebooks, and once Trinity enabled products hit the street, we can expect a much more aggressive price war to be waged on these products.
 
Smart phones are another area that Intel is actively trying to expand into. This past quarter we saw the introduction of the Orange, Lava, and Lenovo phones based on the Medfield platform. So far these have been fairly well received by users and media alike, though the products have certainly had some teething issues. Intel still has a lot of work to do, but they finally realize the importance of this market. Intel expects that there will be 450 million smart phones shipped in 2012 (from all manufacturers), and that it is expected to grow up to 1 billion shipped a year by 2015/2016 (if not sooner). Intel wants to get into those phones, and is adjusting their Atom strategy to fit it. While in previous years Atom lagged behind other processor development from Intel, they are pushing it to the forefront. We can expect to see Atom based products being manufactured on 22 nm, and then aggressively pushed to 14 nm when that process node is available. Intel feels that they have a significant advantage in process technology that will directly impact their success in achieving higher rates of utilization across product lines in the mobile sector. If Intel can offer an Atom with similar performance and capabilities, tied with a significantly lower TDP, then they feel that a lot of phone manufacturers will look their way rather than use older/larger/more power hungry products from competitors.
 
Finally, Intel essentially has little interest in becoming a foundry for other partners. They are currently working with a handful of other countries to produce products for them, but I think that this might be a short term affair. Intel will either stay with a few partners to produce a low quantity of parts, or Intel will learn what they have to about producing products like FPGAs and eventually start producing chips of their own. When Intel fabs their own parts, they essentially get paid twice as compared to foundries or 3rd party semiconductor companies.
 
Intel continues to be profitable and successful. Ivy Bridge is going to be a very big product for Intel, and they are going to push it very hard through the rest of this year. Mobile strategies are coming to fruition and we see Intel getting their foot in the door with some major partners around the world. Servers, desktops, and notebook chips still comprise the vast majority of products that Intel ships, but mobile will become a much stronger player in the years to come. That is if Intel is able to execute effectively with accelerated Atom development on smaller process nodes. ARM is still a very worthy competitor, and a seemingly re-invigorated AMD could provide some better competition with Trinity and Brazos 2.0 in the notebook/tablet market.
 
Margins will be down next quarter due to the aggressive 22 nm ramp. With any new process there will be problems and certain inefficiencies at the beginning. As time passes, these issues will be resolved and throughput and yields will rise. Intel does expect a larger PC growth through the next quarter and a higher gross revenue. It will be interesting to see if Ultrabooks do in fact take off for Intel, or will competitors offer better price/performance for that particular market. Needless to say, things will not slow down through the rest of this year.
Source: Intel
Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Various
Tagged: ssd, Future, flash, Bleak, 2012

Overcoming Hurdles

A paper, titled “The Bleak Future of NAND Flash Memory” was recently jointly published by the University of California and Microsoft Research. It has been picked up by many media outlets who all seem to be beating the same morbid drum, spinning tales of a seemingly apocalyptic end to the reign of flash-based storage devices. While I agree with some of what these authors have to say, I have reservations about the methods upon which the paper is based.

TLC and beyond?

The paper kicks off by declaring steep increases in latency and drops in lifetime associated with increases in bits-per-cell. While this is true, flash memory manufacturers are not making large pushes to increase bits-per-cell beyond the standard MLC (2 bits per cell) tech. Sure some have dabbled in 3-bit MLC, also called Triple Level Cell (TLC) which is a bit of a misnomer since storing three bits in a cell actually requires eight voltage level bands, not three as the name implies. Moving from SLC to MLC doubles density, but the diminishing returns increase sharply after that – MLC to TLC only increases capacity by a another 1.5x, but sees a 2-4x reduction in performance and endurance. In light of this, there is little demand for TLC flash, and where there is, it’s clear by the usage cases that it is not meant for anything beyond light usage. There's nothing wrong with the paper going down this road, but the reality is that increasing bits per cell is not the envelope being pushed by the flash memory industry.

paper-lifetime.png

Wait a second – where is 25nm MLC?

Looking at the above we see a glaring omission – 25nm MLC flash, which has been around for close to two years now, and constitutes the majority of shipping flash memory parts currently in production. SLC was also omitted, but I can see the reason for this – it’s hard to get your hands on 25nm SLC these days. Why? Because MLC technology has been improved upon to the point where ‘enterprise MLC’ (eMLC) is rapidly replacing SLC even despite the supposed reduction in reliability and endurance over SLC. The reasons for this are simple, and are completely sidestepped or otherwise overlooked by the paper:

  • SSD controllers employ write combination and wear leveling techniques.
  • Some controllers even compress data on-the-fly as to further reduce writes and provisioning.
  • Controller-level Error Correction (ECC) has improved dramatically with each process shrink.
  • SSD controllers can be programmed to compensate for the drift of data stored in a cell (eMLC).

Continue reading our editorial on the not-so-bleak future of NAND Flash Memory!!!

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Gives a Glimpse of the Near Future

AMD has released an updated roadmap for these next two years, and the information contained within is quite revealing of where AMD is going and how they are shifting their lineup to be less dependent on a single manufacturer.  The Financial Analyst Day has brought a few surprises of where AMD is headed, and how they will get there.  Rory Read and Mark Papermaster have brought a new level of energy to the company that seemingly has been either absent or muted.  Sometimes a new set of eyes on a problem, or in this case the attitudes and culture of a company, can bring about significant changes for the positive.  From what we have seen so far from Rory and company is a new energy and direction for AMD.  While AMD is still sticking to their roots, they are looking to further expand upon their expertise in some areas, all the while being flexible enough to license products from other companies that are far enough away from AMD's core competence that it pays to license rather than force engineers to re-invent the wheel.

The roadmaps cover graphics, desktop, mobile, and server products through 2013.

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This first slide is a snapshot of the current and upcoming APU lineup.  Southern Islands is the codename for the recently released HD 7000 series of desktop parts.  This will cover products from the 7700 level on up to the top end 7990.  Of great interest are the Brazos 2.0 and Hondo chips.  AMD had cancelled the "Krishna" series of chips which would have been based on Bobcat cores up to 4 on 28 nm.  Details are still pending, but it seems Brazos 2.0 will still be 40 nm parts but much more refined so they can be clocked higher and still pull less power.  Hondo looks to be the basic Brazos core, but for Ultra Low Power (lower clocks, possibly disabled units, etc.) which would presumably scale to 5 watts and possibly lower.

Read the entire article here.

Microsoft Says No To Next Generation Xbox In 2012

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2012 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: xbox next, xbox 720, xbox, gaming, 2012

The Internet has seen quite a few Xbox Next / Xbox 720 (or whatever it will end up being called) rumors over the past few months, and many gamers were likely hoping for the next generation console refresh to come in time for a holiday launch. According to Microsoft Marketing Director Cedrick Delmax; however, this is just not going to happen. Tom's Hardware quoted, from an interview with LePoint.Fr, Delmax in further stating that the "Xbox 360's cycle is not at all finished." He further tried to prove his point by saying that the Xbox 360 is not dead yet because the company did not see a need to cut the price of the current console this year. When pushed with questions about the console's competition in the Wii U (launching this Christmas season) and the eventual successor to Sony's PS3, the Microsoft spokesperson said that they would not be making any "hasty moves" and the next Xbox would come in its own time. More information including a statement from sony can be found in this separate Lepoint.fr interview.

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Sticking around until at least 2013!

Well, it looks like Microsoft is really riding this horse (the Xbox 360) until it dies. Hopefully they know what they are doing and the next Xbox rises from the ashes like a Pheonix instead of crumbling because they waited too long to enter the next generation. Game developers are already starting to hit a wall in how far they can push the current consoles and will start to turn to the PC (finally) to show off their graphics prowess. What are your thoughts on this, are you satisfied with your Xbox 360, especially when compared to the graphics on current PCs (for example, Battlefield 3)?

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Q4-2012 In a Nutshell

Tis the reporting season.  Yes, that time of year when some of the major players in the computing world get together and tell us all how well they did this past quarter.  Ok, so they do not necessarily get together to announce results, but they sure time them that way.  Today was AMD’s turn (and Apple’s), and the results were not nearly as positive as what Intel had to offer a few days ago.

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Q4 2011 was flat in terms of revenue as compared to Q3.  The company had gross revenue of $1.69 billion and had a net income loss of $177 million.  That net income is not necessarily a bad result, but more on that later.  Margins rose to 46%, which is still a far cry from Intel’s 65% for the past quarter.  Gross revenue was up 2% from last year, which considering the marketplace and Intel’s dominance, is a solid win for AMD.

When we start talking about non-GAAP results, AMD had a net income of $138 million.  The difference between those two numbers (a loss vs. a nice profit) is that the loss came from one time writeoffs.  AMD has lowered its stake in GLOBALFOUNDRIES to 8.8%, and in so doing incurred a hefty charge.  This is not so much money lost as it is lost value in the company.

Click to read the rest of this article here.