Put your HTPC to work

Subject: Systems | August 9, 2012 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: htpc, amd, nvidia, cyberlink, arcsoft, transcoding, Intel

If you have built yourself an HTPC then you have also built yourself a machine which is relatively good at transcoding video if you get the right software.  Not only can you watch movies, you can edit or manipulate your own movies.  The Tech Report delves into the current state of both hardware and software transcoding tools in their recent article.  They check out the performance of Cyberlink's MediaEspresso, ArcSoft MediaConverter and Handbrake on an Intel based system using the native GPU on the chip as well as tossing in AMD and NVIDIA GPUs to see how it changes the performance.

TR_hero.jpg

"The market is rife with hardware video transcoders and software that can take advantage of them. However, making sense of that jungle of disparate offerings can be tough. We've tried to make sense of it all, comparing the latest transcoding logic from AMD, Nvidia, and Intel in three major video conversion applications."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

AMD Launches Professional FirePro APU for Workstations

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2012 - 10:41 AM |
Tagged: FirePro APU, APU, amd, a320, a300

AMD announced today that it is extending the professional FirePro brand to its Accelerated Processing Units–APUs. Aimed at the professional market, AMD is hoping to get its APUs into workstations that perform computer aided design (CAD) work as well as multimedia content creation and editing. Thanks to the APU’s built-in VILW4 graphics, it can be used with GPU-accelerated software to speed up workloads.

AMD FirePro APU.png

Currently, there are two FirePro chips planned–the A300 and A320 APU. Both processors are based on the company’s consumer Trinity APUs. They feature four Piledriver CPU cores and a VLIW4 GPU architecture with 384 stream processors and dedicated UVD video decoding hardware. The A300 is clocked at a 3.4 GHz with a turbo speed of 4 GHz. On the other hand, the A320 has a base clockspeed of 3.8 GHz and a turbo clockspeed of 4.2 GHz. The A320 is even unlocked, which would allow open overclocking.

APU Model TDP CPU Cores CPU Clockspeed (base/max turbo) Stream Processors GPU Clock Unlocked
AMD FirePro A300 65W 4 3.4 GHz/4 GHz 384 760 Mhz No
AMD FirePro A320 100W 4

3.8 GHz/4.2 GHz

384 800 MHz Yes

 

The new FirePro APUs differ from the consumer lineup in that AMD has put them through more testing to ensure reliability and compatibility with industry software.

Features include:

  • AMD Eyefinity Technology support
  • AMD Turbo Core
  • Display resolutions up to 10,240 x 1600 for multi-monitor setups
  • Discrete Compute Offload support that allows the pairing of the APU graphics and a discrete GPU to accelerate GPGPU software.
  • 30-bit color support
  • Dedicated UVD hardware for media encoding

It is an interesting move for AMD to get into the workstation and professional design market. The company has been putting out dedicated graphics cards aimed at professionals for a long time, and now with the company betting its future on HSA and APUs, it was only a matter of time before they started aiming APUs at the professional market as well. The A300-series APUs will be available in various workstation integrators (OEMs for workstations) starting this month. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or whether the processors will be sold individually or not. You can see the full press release on the AMD website.

Source: AMD

Podcast #212 - Live from QuakeCon 2012!

Subject: General Tech | August 4, 2012 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: VR, ssd, Seagate, quakecon, podcast, ocz, oculus rift, nvidia, Intel, carmack, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #212 - 08/03/2012

In this special live edition of the PC Perspective Podcast, we discuss QuakeCon 2012 and other news of the week!

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 Josh Walrath, Allyn Malvantano and Steve Grever

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 49:04

Program Schedule:

In this special live edition of the PC Perspective Podcast, we discuss QuakeCon 2012 and other news of the week!

 

 

AMD Hires Veteran CPU Architect in Jim Keller

Subject: Processors | August 1, 2012 - 08:38 AM |
Tagged: x86-64, x86, MIPS, Jim Keller, arm, amd, Alpha

There has been quite a bit of news lately from AMD, and very little of it good.  What has perhaps dominated the headlines throughout this past year was the amount of veteran AMD employees who have decided (or were pushed) to seek employment elsewhere.  Not much has been said from these departing employees, but Rory Read certainly started things off with a bang by laying off some 10% of the company just months into his tenure.

Now we finally have some good news in terms of employment.  AMD has hired a pretty big name in the industry.  Not just a big name, but a person who was one of the primary leads on two of AMD’s most successful architectures to date.  Jim Keller is coming back to AMD, and at a time where it seems AMD needs some veteran leadership who is very in touch with not just the industry, but CPU architecture design.

Jim was a veteran of DEC and worked on some of the fastest Alpha processors of the time.  Much could be written about DEC and how they let what could have been one of the most important and profitable architectures in computing history sit essentially on the back burner while they focused on seemingly dinosaur age computing.  After the Alpha was sold off and DEC sold away, Jim found his way to AMD and played a very important role at that company.

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The first product was helping to launch the K7, and worked primarily with system engineering.  The vast majority of design work for the K7 was finished by the time he signed on, but he apparently worked quite a bit on integrating it into the new socket architecture that was derived from the DEC Alpha.  Where Jim really earned his keep was in co-authoring the x86-64 specification and being lead architect on the AMD K8 series of processors.  While he left in 1999, the mark he left on AMD is essentially indelible.

After AMD he joined Sibyte (Broadcom) and was lead architect on a series of MIPS processors used in networking devices.  This lasted until 2003 and he again left the company seemingly more prosperous than when he began.

PA-Semi was the next stop and he worked again primarily on networking specific SOCs utilizing the PowerPC architecture.  So far, by counting fingers, Jim has worked on five major ISAs (Alpha, x86, x86-64, MIPS, and PowerPC).  These chips were able to power networking devices with 10 Gb throughput.  PA-Semi was then purchased by Apple in 2007/2008.

At Apple Jim was now Director of Platform Architecture and worked with yet another major ISA; ARM.  Jim worked to develop several major and successful products with the A4 and A5 processors that have powered the latest iPhone and iPad products from the Cupertino giant.  To say that this individual has had his fingers in some very important pies is an understatement.

Jim now rejoins AMD as CVP and Chief Architect of CPU Cores.  He will report directly to Mark Papermaster.  His primary job is to improve execution efficiency and consistency, as well as implement next generation features into future CPU cores which will keep AMD competitive with not only Intel, but other rising competitors in the low power space.  This is finally some good news for AMD as they are actually adding talent rather than losing it.  While Jim may not be able to turn the company around overnight, he does look to be an important piece of the puzzle with a huge amount of experience and knowhow with multiple CPU ISA.  If there is anyone that can tackle the challenges in front of AMD in the face of a changing world, this might be the guy.  So far he has had a positive impact in every stop he has made, and perhaps this could prove to be the pinnacle of his career.  Or it could be where his career goes to die.  It is hard to say, but I do think that AMD made a good hire with Jim.

Source: AMD

Podcast #211 - MSI HD 7870 HAWK, Building a Gaming PC from 1999, a Llano SFF System Build and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 26, 2012 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: SFF, retro, podcast, nvidia, llano, kepler, Intel, amd, 7870 Hawk, 7870, 1999

PC Perspective Podcast #211 - 07/26/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the MSI HD 7870 HAWK,  Building a Gaming PC from 1999, a Llano SFF System Build 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 Malvantano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 0:53:21

Program Schedule:

  1. Introduction
  2. PCPer moving to pcper.com/live
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  4. http://pcper.com/podcast
  5. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  6. Quakecon - Hardware Workshop @ pcper.com/workshop (August 4th, 2012, 2pm CT)
  7. Join me this weekend at Fry's!!
    1. Fry's Electronics, 1077 East Arques Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94085

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Reviews:
    1. 0:05:10 MSI R7870 HAWK Review
    2. 0:13:00 Gaming like it's 1999
    3. 0:18:10 Enermax Platimax 1000w PSU Review
    4. 0:18:50 AMD Llano System Build Article
  1. 0:21:20 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!
  1. News items of interest:
    1. 0:22:15 ECS Pre-announced AMD AMP Memory profiles
    2. 0:25:10 New passive CPU cooler can handle 100w
    3. 0:27:15 ARM, TSMC to Produce 64-bit Processors With 3D Transistors
    4. 0:30:20 Falcon Ridge to double Thunderbolt performance
    5. 0:31:40 Drobo Thunderbolt prices
    6. 0:35:10 Radeon HD 7990 delayed again probably
    7. 0:36:35 New Dawn Demo from NVIDIA
    8. 0:40:00 Check out this cool DX11 demo video
    9. 0:44:15 Intel and AMD financials
  1. Closing:
    1. 0:45:20 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week

      1. Ryan: Zoom Handy Recorder H4n
      2. Jeremy: Hand knit beer coozy
      3. Josh: GET A DAMN SSD ALREADY
      4. Allyn: Samsung Cloud Gaming Beta (almost)
  1. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  2. http://pcper.com/podcast
  3. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  4. Quakecon coverage at pcper.com/workshop. Hope to see you there!
  5. Closing/outro

Video Version:

 

Dual GPU AMD 7990 Delayed Until At Least August

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 25, 2012 - 11:56 AM |
Tagged: radeon hd 7990, GCN, dual gpu, amd, 7990

The long-awaited dual GPU Graphics Core Next architecture Radeon HD 7990 has missed its original Computex reveal and will likely miss the July release suggested by previous rumors. Interestingly, VR-Zone China reportedly has some updated information on specifications and release date.

Radeon 7970 heatsink.jpg

The 7970. Expect the 7990 to have a much larger PCB and heatsink!

The dual GPU 7990 will allegedly not be released until at least late August 2012. Further, it will be powered by four six-pin PCI-E power connectors, and will have 6GB of GDDR5 memory (total, 3GB per GPU). Connecting the two 7970 Tahiti XT GPU cores in CrossFire will be a PLX chip – similar to that found in the dual GPU NVIDIA GTX 690 graphics card. As far as video outputs, you can expect four mini-DisplayPorts and two dual-link DVI connectors.

Additionally, previous rumors suggested that the GPU cores would be clocked at 850 MHz, but that may not be the case now that AMD is seeing much better binning with its GHz Edition chips. Also unclear is whether or not the Radeon HD 7990 will have any sort of Powertune with Turbo boost technology like the 7970 GHz Edition. Being based on two 7970 GPU cores, you can look forward to 4,096 stream processors, 64 ROP units, and a dual slot design with three fans providing cooling for the heatsink.

Right now, AMD does not have an answer to the NVIDIA GTX 690 which has been on the market for a while. At this point, you may be better off getting two 7970 GHz Edition graphics cards and putting them in CrossFire. Granted, they are going to take up more space in your case but you can get them today, they will have GPU boost, and will likely cost less to boot. With that said, I do understand the allure of a dual GPU AMD card based on GCN and hope to see it soon.

Stay tuned for more Radeon 7990 coverage as it arrives.

Source: Videocardz
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A selection of parts

AMD is without a doubt going through some very tough times with massive personnel issues as well as some problems with products and profitability.  But that doesn’t mean the current product line from AMD is without merit and that you can’t build a great system for various environments, including those users looking for a mainstream and small form factor gaming and home theater PC. 

While preparing for Quakecon 2012 we needed to build a system to take on the road for some minor editing and presentation control purposes.  We wanted the PC to be small and compact, yet still powerful enough to take on some basic computing and gaming tasks.  I happen to have some AMD Llano APUs in the office and thought they would fit perfectly.

If you are on the hunt for a small PC that can do some modest gaming and serve as an HTPC, then you might find our build here interesting.  And while it isn't nearly as exciting as building a Llano PC while blindfolded - it's pretty close.

Case: Lian-Li PC-Q08B

case.jpg

Continue reading our AMD Llano APU Build article!!

ECS Motherboard First to Support AMD Memory Profiles (AMP)

Subject: Motherboards | July 23, 2012 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: motherboard, memory profile, memory, ECS, amp, amd

Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) recently announced its support for the new AMD Memory Profile (AMP) technology. The A85F2-A Deluxe will be the first of the company’s motherboards to support AMP.

AMP.JPG

AMP is AMD’s version of Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) which amounts to known-safe automatic overclock settings. The AMP profiles are stored in the DDR3 memory modules and can be read by supporting motherboards. Now knowing the proper voltage, CAS latencies, and timings to use, the motherboard can ideally automatically configure the modules to run at optimal speeds.

The setting will be able to be enabled/disabled in the BIOS of the new ECS motherboard, as shown in the screenshot below. According to its press release, ECS is the first company to integrate AMD Memory Profile support into its motherboards, and it is honored to lead the charge. “Making a unique and glory prominent product is the only purpose for ECS.”

DSC_0189.jpg

Here’s hoping the implementation works well and is more accurate than my experience with XMP profiles has been! Will you be using AMP in your AMD builds?

Source: ECS

AMD Blames Lackluster Earnings on Weak Economy

Subject: Processors | July 20, 2012 - 11:21 AM |
Tagged: quarterly earnings, loss, APU, amd

AMD recently released its Q2 2012 earnings (as did Intel), and things are continuing to look bleak for the number two x86-64 processor company. The company stated that the lower than expected numbers were the result of a weak economy and during a time of the year when people are not buying computers. The may be some truth to that as the second quarter is in the post-Christmas holiday season lul and before the big back-to-school retail push. On the economy front, it’s harder for me to say but without going political or armchair economist on you, the market seems better than it has been but is really still recovering–At least from a consumer perspective.

AMD reported revenue of $1.41 billion in the second quarter of 2012, which does not seem terrible, but when compared to Intel’s $13.5 billion Q2 revenue, and the fact that AMD’s numbers represent an 11-percent lower value than last quarter and 10-percent decrease versus Q2 2011, it’s easy to say that things are not looking good for the company.

According to Paul Lilly over at MaximumPC, when breaking AMD’s numbers down by business segment it gets even worse. Its Computing Solutions business fell 13-percent versus the previous quarter and Q2 2011. On the other hand, the company has the ever-so-slightly better news that the graphics card division stayed the same versus last year and was down 5-percent versus last quarter. The company was quoted as stating that the respective revenue drops were due to lower desktop sales in China and Europe and a “seasonally down quarter.”

PC Perspective’s Josh Walrath recently wrote up an editorial (note: pre-earnings call) that talks about AMDs new plan to focus on APUs, take on less risk, and push out new products faster. As a future-looking article, it talks about the impact of the company’s upcoming VIshera and Kaveri processors as well as AMD’s increased focus on heterogeneous system architectures. It remains to be seen if that new path for company will help them to make money or if it will hurt them. AMD cautions that Q3 2012 may not see increased revenue, but here’s hoping that they will be able to pull together for a strong Q4 and sell chips during the big holiday shopping season.

I for one am excited about the prospects of Kaveri and believe that HSA could work and is what AMD needs to focus on as it is one advantage that they have over NVIDIA and Intel – NVIDIA does not have an x86-64 license and Intel’s processor graphics leave room for improvement, to put it mildly. AMD may not have the best CPU cores, but it’s not an inherently bad design and where they are moving with the full convergence of the CPU and GPU is much farther ahead of the other big players.

Read more about AMD's Q2 2012 earnings (transcript).

Source: Maximum PC
Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

The HAWK Returns

The $300 to $400 range of video cards has become quite crowded as of late.  If we can remember way back to March when AMD introduced their HD 7800 series of cards, and later that month we saw NVIDIA release their GTX 680 card.  Even though NVIDIA held the price/performance crown, AMD continued to offer their products at what many considered to be grossly overpriced considering the competition.  Part of this was justified because NVIDIA simply could not meet demand of their latest card, and they were often unavailable for purchase at MSRPs.  Eventually AMD started cutting back prices, but this led to another issue.  The HD 7950 was approaching the price of the HD 7870 GHz Edition.  The difference in prices between these products was around $20, but the 7950 was around 20% faster than the 7870.  This made the HD 7870 (and the slightly higher priced overclocked models) a very unattractive option for users.

r7870h_01.jpg

It seems as though AMD and their partners have finally rectified this situation, and just in time.  With NVIDIA finally being able to adequately provide stock for both the GTX 680 and GTX 670, the prices on the upper-midrange cards has taken a nice drop to where we feel they should be.  We are now starting to see some very interesting products based on the HD 7850 and HD 7870 cards, one of which we are looking at today.

The MSI R7870 HAWK

The R7870 Hawk utilizes the AMD HD 7870 GPU.  This chip has a reference speed of 1 GHz, but with the Hawk it is increased to a full 1100 MHz.  The GPU has the entire 20 compute units enabled featuring 1280 stream processors.  It has the 256 bit memory bus running 2GB of GDDR-5 memory at 1200 MHz, which gives a total bandwidth of 160 GB/sec.  I am somewhat disappointed that MSI did not give the memory speed a boost, but at least the user can enable that for themselves through the Afterburner software.

Continue reading our review of the MSI R7870 HAWK Graphics card!!