Podcast #290 - Intel SSD 730, ASUS Maximus VI Formula, DirectX 12 and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, asus, amd, AM1, Maximus VI Formula, Intel, ssd, SSD 730, DirectX 12, GDC, coolermaster, CMStorm, R9 290X, Bay Trail

PC Perspective Podcast #290 - 03/06/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel SSD 730, ASUS Maximus VI Formula, DirectX 12 and more!

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: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:27:52
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:41:43 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

Microsoft, Along with AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, Will Announce DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2014 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, amd

The announcement of DirectX 12 has been given a date and time via a blog post on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs. On March 20th at 10:00am (I assume PDT), a few days into the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, the upcoming specification should be detailed for attendees. Apparently, four GPU manufacturers will also be involved with the announcement: AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm.

microsoft-dx12-gdc-announce.jpg

As we reported last week, DirectX 12 is expected to target increased hardware control and decreased CPU overhead for added performance in "cutting-edge 3D graphics" applications. Really, this is the best time for it. Graphics processors are mostly settled into highly-efficient co-processors of parallel data, with some specialized logic for geometry and video tasks. A new specification can relax the needs of video drivers and thus keep the GPU (or GPUs, in Mantle's case) loaded and utilized.

But, to me, the most interesting part of this announcement is the nod to Qualcomm. Microsoft values DirectX as leverage over other x86 and ARM-based operating systems. With Qualcomm, clearly Microsoft believes that either Windows RT or Windows Phone will benefit from the API's next version. While it will probably make PC gamers nervous, mobile platforms will benefit most from reducing CPU overhead, especially if it can be spread out over multiple cores.

Honestly, that is fine by me. As long as Microsoft returns to treating the PC as a first-class citizen, I do not mind them helping mobile, too. We will definitely keep you up to date as we know more.

Source: MSDN Blogs
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Low Power and Low Price

Back at CES earlier this year, we came across a couple of interesting motherboards that were neither AM3+ nor FM2+.  These small, sparse, and inexpensive boards were actually based on the unannounced AM1 platform.  This socket is actually the FS1b socket that is typically reserved for mobile applications which require the use of swappable APUs.  The goal here is to provide a low cost, upgradeable platform for emerging markets where price is absolutely key.

am1_01.jpg

AMD has not exactly been living on easy street for the past several years.  Their CPU technologies have not been entirely competitive with Intel.  This is their bread and butter.  Helping to prop the company up though is a very robust and competitive graphics unit.  The standalone and integrated graphics technology they offer are not only competitive, but also class leading in some cases.  The integration of AMD’s GCN architecture into APUs has been their crowning achievement as of late.

This is not to say that AMD is totally deficient in their CPU designs.  Their low power/low cost designs that started with the Bobcat architecture all those years back have always been very competitive in terms of performance, price, and power consumption.  The latest iteration is the Kabini APU based on the Jaguar core architecture paired with GCN graphics.  Kabini will be the part going into the FS1b socket that powers the AM1 platform.

am1_02.jpg

Kabini is a four core processor (Jaguar) with a 128 unit GCN graphics part (8 GCN cores).  These APUs will be rated at 25 watts up and down the stack.  Even if they come with half the cores, it will still be a 25 watt part.  AMD says that 25 watts is the sweet spot in terms of performance, cooling, and power consumption.  Go lower than that and too much performance is sacrificed, and any higher it would make more sense to go with a Trinity/Richland/Kaveri solution.  That 25 watt figure also encompasses the primary I/O functionality that typically resides on a standalone motherboard chipset.  Kabini features 2 SATA 6G ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and 8 USB 2.0 ports.  It also features multiple PCI-E lanes as well as a 4x PCI-E connection for external graphics.  The chip also supports DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA outputs.  This is a true SOC from AMD that does a whole lot of work for not a whole lot of power.

Click here to read the rest of the article!

AMD just stole the mid-range performance Mantle in BF4

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2014 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: gaming, BF4, Mantle, amd

The new Mantle API has arrived for BF4, with quite a few other games waiting in the wings which will also take advantage of this DirectX competitor.  The results that [H]ard|OCP saw were not as impressive as what the marketing would have had you believe but it still offers an improvement over DirectX in some cases.  With high end hardware running at EyeFinity resolutions [H] did not see much improvement, the GTX 780 Ti took the performance crown.  However on a single monitor with a R9 290 or 280X they saw very significant performance increases which left both the GTX 780 and 770 lagging behind in performance.  Mantle will not yet allow mid range GPUs to act like high end cards but there is promise in this new API.

FBMantle.jpg

"AMD's Mantle API has been with us for just over a month now, and we have strapped a variety of video cards to the test bench to see what real world differences are being delivered to gamers within Battlefield 4. We will compare D3D11, Mantle, on various GPUs, looking at highest playable settings, frame times, and discuss our experiences."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Radeon R9 290X shows up for $549 on Newegg. Is the worst behind us?

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2014 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Yes, I know it is only one card.  And yes I know that this could sell out in the next 10 minutes and be nothing, but I was so interested, excited and curious about this that I wanted to put together a news post.  I just found a Radeon R9 290X card selling for $549 on Newegg.com.  That is the normal, regular, non-inflated, expected retail price.

WAT.

290xwat.jpg

You can get a Powercolor AXR9 290X with 4GB of memory for $549 right now, likely only if you hurry.  That same GPU on Amazon.com will cost you $676.  This same card at Newegg.com has been as high as $699:

290xwat2.jpg

Again - this is only one card on one site, but the implications are positive.  This is also a reference design card, rather than one of the superior offerings with a custom cooler.  After that single card, the next lowest price is $629, followed by a couple at $649 and then more at $699.  We are still waiting to hear from AMD on the issue, what its response is and if it can actually even do anything to fix it.  It seems plausible, but maybe not likely, that the draw of coin mining is reached a peak (and who can blame them) and the pricing of AMD GPUs could stabilize.  Maybe.  It's classified.

But for now, if you want an R9 290X, Newegg.com has at least one option that makes sense.

AMD Launches Another Graphics Card: Radeon R9 280

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2014 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 280, R9, hd 7950, amd

AMD continues to churn out its Radeon graphics card line. Out today, or so we are told, is the brand new Radeon R9 280! That's right kids, it's kind of like the R9 280X, but without the letter at the end.  In fact, do you know what it happens to be very similar to? The Radeon HD 7950. Check out the testing card we got in.

280-5.jpg

It's okay AMD, it's just a bit of humor...

Okay, let's put the jokes aside and talk about what we are really seeing here.  

The new Radeon R9 280 is the latest in the line of rebranding and reorganizing steps made by AMD with the move from the "HD" moniker to "R9/R7". As the image above would indicate, the specifications of the R9 280 are nearly 1:1 with that of the Radeon HD 7950 released in August of 2012 with Boost. We built a specification table below.

  Radeon R9 280X Radeon R9 280 Radeon R9 270X Radeon R9 270 Radeon R7 265
GPU Code name Tahiti Tahiti Pitcairn Pitcairn Pitcairn
GPU Cores 2048 1792 1280 1280 1024
Rated Clock 1000 MHz 933 MHz 1050 MHz 925 MHz 925 MHz
Texture Units 128 112 80 80 64
ROP Units 32 32 32 32 32
Memory 3GB 3GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Memory Clock 6000 MHz 6000 MHz 5600 MHz 5600 MHz 5600 MHz
Memory Interface 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 288 GB/s 288 GB/s 179 GB/s 179 GB/s 179 GB/s
TDP 250 watts 250 watts 180 watts 150 watts 150 watts
Peak Compute 4.10 TFLOPS 3.34 TFLOPS 2.69 TFLOPS 2.37 TFLOPS 1.89 TFLOPS
MSRP $299 $279 $199 $179 $149
Current Pricing $420 - Amazon ??? $259 - Amazon $229 - Amazon ???

If you are keeping track, AMD should just about be out of cards to drag over to the new naming scheme. The R9 280 has a slightly higher top boost clock than the Radeon HD 7950 did (933 MHz vs. 925 MHz) but otherwise looks very similar. Oh, and apparently the R9 280 will require a 6+8 pin PCIe power combination while the HD 7950 was only 6+6 pin. Despite that change, it is still built on the same Tahiti GPU that has been chugging long for years now.  

The Radeon R9 280 continues to support an assortment of AMD's graphics technologies including Mantle, PowerTune, CrossFire, Eyefinity, and included support for DX11.2. Note that because we are looking at an ASIC that has been around for a while, you will not find XDMA or TrueAudio support.

280-3.jpg

The estimated MSRP of $279 is only $20 lower than the MSRP of the R9 280X, but you should take all pricing estimates from AMD with a grain of salt. The prices listed in the table above from Amazon.com were current as of March 3rd, and of course, we did see Newegg attempt get people to buy R9 290X cards for $900 recently. AMD did use some interesting language on the availability of the R9 280 in its emails to me.

The AMD Radeon R9 280 will become available at a starting SEP of $279USD the first week of March, with wider availability the second week of March. Following the exceptional demand for the entire R9 Series, we believe the introduction of the R9 280 will help ensure that every gamer who plans to purchase an R9 Series graphics card has an opportunity to do so.

I like what the intent is from AMD with this release - get more physical product in the channel to hopefully lower prices and enable more gamers to purchase the Radeon card they really want. However, until I see a swarm of parts on Newegg.com or Amazon.com at, or very close to, the MSRPs listed on the table above for an extended period, I think the effects of coin mining (and the rumors of GPU shortages) will continue to plague us. No one wants to see competition in the market and great options at reasonable prices for gamers more than us!

280-1.jpg

AMD hasn't sent out any samples of the R9 280 as far as I know (at least we didn't get any) but the performance should be predictable based on its specifications relative to the R9 280X and the HD 7950 before it.  

Do you think the R9 280 will fix the pricing predicament that AMD finds itself in today, and if it does, are you going to buy one?

CompuLab fit-PC4 Includes AMD SoC/APU... But Not Fans

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 2, 2014 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: Tamesh, Kabini, fit-PC4, compulab, amd

Passively cooled PCs are an interesting niche, often associated with the need for silence. Be it audio recording or home theater appliances, some situations are just not well suited to having a whirring fan.

fit-pc4-poster-900px.jpg

Recently announced is the fit-PC4 is a fanless system, fourth in its lineage. This time the system is using AMD for its CPU and GPU. Two models are available, separated into "Pro" and "Value". Its specifications are broken down into the table below.

  fit-PC4 Pro fit-PC4 Value
Processor AMD GX-420CA (25W TDP, Kabini) AMD A4-1250 APU (8W TDP, Temash)
-    CPU Quad-core (Jaguar-based) @ 2.0 GHz Dual-core (Jaguar-based) @ 1.0 GHz
-    GPU Radeon HD 8400E Radeon HD 8210
RAM Up to 16GB (2 DIMM)
Storage 2.5" HDD/SSD + mSATA + microSD
I/O
2x HDMI 1.4a (1920x1200 max) with CEC support
S/PDIF, line-out, mic-in (I assume 3.5mm)
2x Gigabit Ethernet
mini-PCIe slot for cellular modem
2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0
WiFi 802.11ac 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 3.0 + HS
Dimensions 16cm x 19cm x 3.7cm 16cm x 16cm x 2.5cm
Price $380 $299

Interestingly, the company considers these devices "ruggedized" as well as fanless. As such, they have a 5-year warranty. It seems to be quite the feature-packed device with two HDMI 1.4 outlets, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and an available slot for a cellular modem. The Pro even has 802.11ac WiFi. I am not entirely sure the intended purpose of this device, but the company claims that the previous generation product was often purchased by video surveillance and digital signage customers. Interestingly, Windows 7 and Linux are the two choices for operating systems.

The fit-PC4 is available now in either a $299 (Value-Barebone) or $380 (Pro-Barebone) model.

Source: CompuLab

Podcast #289 - Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: x240, video, tegra, podcast, origin, nvidia, MWC, litecoin, Lenovo, Intel, icera, eos 17 slx, dogecoin, bitcoin, atom, amd, 750ti

PC Perspective Podcast #289 - 02/27/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC and more!

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: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:17:30
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:21:48 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

DirectX 12 and a new OpenGL to challenge AMD Mantle coming at GDC?

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2014 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, DirectX, amd

UPDATE (2/27/14): AMD sent over a statement today after seeing our story.  

AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle, and AMD is very excited to share the future of our own API with developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference.

Credit over to Scott and his reader at The Tech Report for spotting this interesting news today!!

It appears that DirectX and OpenGL are going to be announcing some changes at next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  According to some information found in the session details, both APIs are trying to steal some of the thunder from AMD's Mantle, recently released with the Battlefield 4 patch.  Mantle is na API was built by AMD to enable more direct access (lower level) to its GCN graphics hardware allowing developers to code games that are more efficient, providing better performance for the PC gamer.

mantle.jpg

From the session titled DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform we find this description (emphasis mine):

For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.

However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.

Come learn our plans to deliver.

Another DirectX session hosted by Microsoft is titled DirectX: Direct3D Futures (emphasis mine): 

Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!

In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware. 

If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.

Now look at a line from our initial article on AMD Mantle when announced at its Hawaii tech day event:

It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.

This is all sounding very familiar.  It would appear that Microsoft has finally been listening to the development community and is working on the performance aspects of DirectX.  Likely due in no small part to the push of AMD and Mantle's development, an updated DirectX 12 that includes a similar feature set and similar performance changes would shift the market in a few key ways.

olddirectx.jpg

Is it time again for innovation with DirectX?

First and foremost, what does this do for AMD's Mantle in the near or distant future?  For now, BF4 will still include Mantle support as will games like Thief (update pending) but going forward, if these DX12 changes are as specific as I am being led to believe, then it would be hard to see anyone really sticking with the AMD-only route.  Of course, if DX12 doesn't really address the performance and overhead issues in the same way that Mantle does then all bets are off and we are back to square one.

Interestingly, OpenGL might also be getting into the ring with the session Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL

Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.

This description seems to indicate more about new or lesser known programming methods that can be used with OpenGL to lower overhead without the need for custom APIs or even DX12.  This could be new modules from vendors or possibly a new revision to OpenGL - we'll find out next month.

All of this leaves us with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered when we get to GDC in mid-March.  Will this new version of DirectX be enough to reduce API overhead to appease even the stingiest of game developers?  How will AMD react to this new competitor to Mantle (or was Mantle really only created to push this process along)?  What time frame does Microsoft have on DX12?  Does this save NVIDIA from any more pressure to build its own custom API?

Gaming continues to be the driving factor of excitement and innovation for the PC!  Stay tuned for an exciting spring!

Source: Tech Report

Kaveri loves fast memory

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: ddr3, Kaveri, A10 7850K, amd, linux

You don't often see performance scaling as clean as what Phoronix saw when testing the effect of memory speed on AMD's A10-7850K.  Pick any result and you can clearly see a smooth increase in performance from DDR3-800 to DDR3-2400.  The only time that increase seems to decline slightly is between DDR3-2133 and 2400MHz, with some tests showing little to no increase between those two speeds.  Some tests do still show an improvement, for certain workloads on Linux the extra money is worth it but in other cases you can save a few dollars and limit yourself to the slightly cheaper DDR3-2133.  Check out the full review here.

image.php_.jpg

"Earlier in the week I published benchmarks showing AMD Kaveri's DDR3-800MHz through DDR3-2133MHz system memory performance. Those results showed this latest-generation AMD APU craving -- and being able to take advantage of -- high memory frequencies. Many were curious how DDR3-2400MHz would fair with Kaveri so here's some benchmarks as we test out Kingston's HyperX Beast 8GB DDR3-2400MHz memory kit."

Here are some more Memory articles from around the web:

Memory

Source: Phoronix