Subject: Motherboards | May 15, 2013 - 09:37 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: asus, P5A, ALi, Aladdin V, 100 MHz, Super 7, amd, K6, K6-2, SDRAM
I first got into computers in the 8088 days, but I started to do it professionally when Socket 5 was transitioning to Socket 7. The Pentium 133 based Quantex system I bought after the Atlanta Olympics catapulted me into the modern computer age (I was previously using an Intel 386SX-16 MHz system from DAK… don’t get me started on that company). It was also when AOL was the only internet service in Laramie, WY. I started browsing hardware retailers and then moved onto independent review sites that were only then just popping up. Tom’s and Anandtech were very new and did not feature many pictures because digital cameras were still quite rare.
Remember when the 1/5/2 setup was considered optimal? It allowed for the good modem and good soundcard to be installed!
One of the big shifts of the time is when Intel abandoned Socket 7 and forged ahead with Slot 1. AMD had fit the K6 into the Socket 7 infrastructure, though it was initially designed for a proprietary socket. Intel had the Pentium II line and things were moving fast in those days. AMD was providing competition for Intel with excellent integer performance and adequate floating performance, as well as providing a socketed product that was cheaper to produce for both AMD and its motherboard partners. Socket 7 was then morphed into Super 7 with support for 100 MHz FSB speeds. This was a big jump for AMD as they spearheaded this move. Cyrix, IBM, and Winchip all went along for the ride, but they often supported oddball bus speeds that did not always translate well into bus dividers for AGP and PCI.
The first wave of AGP enabled chipsets that also supported bus speeds above 66 MHz finally hit the market, and one of the first was the SiS 5591. One of the first boards to support this chipset was the MTech R581A. The board showed jumper settings that supported 100 MHz, but it was far from stable at that speed. It did fully support 83.3 MHz, which gave many socket 7 users a nice boost when overclocking. The first true 100 MHz chips were the VIA MVP-3 and the ALi M1571 (Aladdin V). These natively supported the 100 MHz bus and ran it perfectly fine. These chipsets allowed the later K6-2 and K6-3 chips to exist and compete successfully with the 100 MHz based Pentium IIs.
This particular model included the onboard ESS sound chip. Pretty posh for the time. Oh yes, there was a time before USB 2.0...
I had a heck of a time getting a hold of a VIA MVP-3 based motherboard at first, and I never actually laid hands upon any Aladdin V based unit during that time. There was no Newegg or Tiger Direct back then, and most major distributors like Tech Data did not always stock a wide selection of products. I was also not making a whole lot of money. I was particularly jealous of all these other sites getting access to review hardware, but then again at this time I had only a handful of articles out and I had not even started Penstarsys.com yet. So when guys like Tom and Anand got their hands on the Asus P5A, it was most definitely must-read material.
This was one of the first 100 MHz Super 7 based boards out there, as VIA was having some real issues with their MVP-3 chipset. Eventually VIA fixed those issues, but not before ALi had a good couple of months’ lead on their primary competitor. Of great interest for this board was the ability to run at 120 MHz FSB. Very few boards could handle that speed well, but the 115 MHz setting seemed very stable. I/O performance was also a step above the VIA chipsets, but VIA was fairly well known for having strange I/O issues at that time (not to mention AGP compatibility issues). The Asus P5A was a great board for the time, and it did not suffer much from the AGP issues that plagued VIA. Oddly enough, though ALi had the better overall chipset, they did not sell as well as the VIA products. Asus still shipped a lot of them, so I guess that made up for the more limited selection.
That is a single phase power... array? Look at all that open space throughout the board!
Super 7 was a dying breed by 1999 with the introduction of the K7 Athlon, but the P5A sold very well throughout its entire lifespan. The board I acquired had the K6-2 500 in the socket, and a BIOS update would provide support for the later K6-3+ and K6-2+ processors. What perhaps strikes me most is the overall simplicity of the boards as compared to modern products. The P5A looks like it has a single power phase going to the CPU, does not feature integrated Ethernet or other amenities, and only has two ATA-33 ports. Interestingly enough, it does feature a ESS based audio codec. Rare for those days! Compare that to the monster products like the Crosshair V Formula Z or the G1.Sniper.3, I guess simplicity is overlooked these days?
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 15, 2013 - 12:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tomb raider, never settle reloaded, never settle, level up, Crysis 3, bundle, amd
AMD dropped us a quick note to let us in on another limited time offer for buyers of AMD Radeon graphics cards. Starting today, the Never Settle Reloaded bundle that we first told you about in February is getting an upgrade for select tiers. For new buyers of the Radeon HD 7970, 7950 and 7790 AMD will be adding Tomb Raider into the mix. Also, the Radeon HD 7870 will be getting Crysis 3.
Here is the updated, currently running AMD Radeon Level Up bundle matrix.
Now if you buy a new AMD Radeon HD 7970, HD 7950 or HD 7870 today you will get four top-level PC games including Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Tomb Raider.
This is a limited time offer though that will end when supplies run out and we don't really have any idea when that will be. Check out AMD's Level Up site for more details and to find retailers offering the updated bundles.
I am curious to find out how successful these bundles have been for AMD and if NVIDIA has had a feedback on the Free-to-play bundle they offered or the new Metro: Last Light option. Do gamers put much emphasis on the game bundles that come with each graphics card or does the performance and technology make the difference?
UPDATE: I have seen a couple of questions on whether this Level Up promotion would be retroactive. According to the details I have from AMD, this promotion is NOT retroactive. If you have already purchased any of the affected cards you will not be getting the additional games.
Subject: Motherboards | May 15, 2013 - 03:56 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: server, open source hardware, open source, open compute project, open 3.0, amd
Throughout last year, AMD worked with the Open Compute Foundation to develop open source hardware for servers. The goal of the project was to bring lower-cost, efficient motherboards (compatible with AMD processors) to the server market. Even better, the AMD-compatible hardware is open source which gives companies and OEM/system integrators free reign to modify and build the hardware themselves. The latest iteration of the project is called Open 3.0 and motherboards based on the design(s) are available now from a number of AMD partners.
An AMD Open 3.0 motherboard.
According to a recent AMD press release, Open 3.0 motherboards will be available from AVnet.inc, Hyve, Penguin Computing, and Zt Systems beginning this week. The new motherboards strip out unnecessary and "over-provisioned" hardware to cut down on upfront hardware costs and electrical usage. Open 3.0 uses a base open source motherboard design that can then be further customized to work with a variety of workloads and in various rack/server configurations. Servers based on OPen 3.0 will range from 1U to 3U in size and can slot into standard 19" racks or Open Rack environments. The boards with their dual Opteron 6300-series processors will reportedly be suitable for High Performance Computing (HPC), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Cloud applications, and storage servers. AMD claims that its Open 3.0 motherboards can reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of servers by up to 57% in data centers. AMD claims that a server based on Open 3.0 has a TCO of $4,589 while one based on a traditional OEM motherboard costs up to 57% more at $10,669. The AMD-provided example sound nice. Despite the example likely being the best-case-scenario, the idea behind the Open Compute Project and the AMD-specific Open 3.0 hardware does make sense. Customers should see more competition with motherboards that are cheaper to produce and run thanks to the open source nature. Further details on the status of Open 3.0 and the available hardware is being discussed at an invitation-only industry round-table this week between partners, interested enterprise customers, and a number of companies (including AMD, Broadcom, and Quanta).
For the uninitiated, the Open 3.0 hardware features a motherboard that measures 16" x 16.7" and is intended for 1U, 1.5U, 2U, and 3U servers. Each Open 3.0 board includes two AMD Opteron 6300 series processors, 24 DDR3 DIMM slots (12 per CPU, 4 channels with 3 DIMMs each), six SATA ports, 1 managed dual-channel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, up to four PCI-E slots, and a single Mezzanine connector for custom modules (eg. the Mellanox IO or Broadcom Management card). Board IO will include a single serial port and two USB ports.
I'm glad to see AMD's side of the Open Compute Project come to fruition with the company's Open 3.0 hardware. Anything to reduce power usage and hardware cost is welcome in the data center world, and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the open source hardware will have, especially when it comes to custom designs from system integrators. Intel is also working towards open source server hardware along with Facebook and the Open Compute Project. It is refreshing to see open source gaining traction in this market segment, to say the least.
Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2013 - 11:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, semi-custom business unit, ps4, gaming, financial report, amd
Sony, a company with an annual profit of 436 billion Yen ($458 million USD) in its fiscal year ending March 31, 2013 saw PS3 and PS2 sales decline and a slight bump up in PSP and PS Vita sales. In a recent earnings call covered by Euro Gamer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Masaru Kato stated that the company expects this year to be even better with the launch of its upcoming PlayStation 4 console. Sony does not believe it will incur any significant losses with the PS4 and that sales will "increase significantly." Unlike the PS3 which used a Cell chip that was expensive to develop, the PlayStation 4 uses mostly-traditional PC hardware. With the upcoming console, AMD did the majority of the development legwork which saved Sony money. As a result, Sony believes that the PS4 will turn a profit much faster than it took the PS3.
Looking into Sony's next fiscal year ending March 2014, the company is putting a renewed focus on smartphones and smart TVs. In the previous year, Sony saw combined PS3 and PS2 sales decline to $16.5 million from $18 million the prior year. Sony expects to sell approximately $10 million worth of PS3s in the upcoming fiscal year. While the company's PS2 console had a wild ride, it is no longer included in the company's sales forecast. Sales of Sony's mobile PSP and PS Vita gaming consoles are expected to decrease to a mere $5 million as well. Basically, Sony has a lot riding on its PlayStation 4 console. It expects to see its next-generation console make up for the decreased sales of its existing hardware.
Either way, a profitable Sony is a good thing, and I hope that the upcoming console is priced to sell while also resulting in a tidy profit for the company. I expect the Xbox-PS3-PC gamer flame-war to be especially entertaining this year, as the consoles are essentially using lower-end PC hardware (heh) and the two consoles specs are more-similar than ever.
Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2013 - 10:28 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x86, SoC, semi-custom chip, Patent, ip, APU, amd
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has an extensive intellectual property (IP) portfolio. The company has a range of products from CPUs and graphics cards to video acceleration hardware. It is also the only other major player to have a license to build chips with the x86 ISA. With the launch of its Semi-Custom Business Unit, AMD plans to take advantage of the engineering experience and patent portfolio to create a new revenue stream. AMD will work with other companies to create customized processors that integrate custom IP cores and technology but use AMD's existing products as a base to cut down on engineering time and R&D costs.
The first such customized chip is the System on a Chip used in Sony's PlayStation 4 gaming console. AMD intends to market its modular SoC technology and custom IP integration services to makers of set top boxes, smart TVs, tablets, PCs, networking hardware, and High Performance Computing applications. AMD argues that using its Semi-Custom Business Unit to create a customized SoC is cheaper and faster to design and produce than a fully-custom design, which makes sense since most of the engineering work is already done. AMD could stand to make quite a bit of extra money here, especially if it can land design wins for governmental and industrial design contracts. Intel's x86 license scarcity may actually benefit AMD here, in fact.
AMD's Semi-Custom Business Unit consists of an engineering team led by AMD Corporate Vice President and General Manager Saeid Moshkelani. I think doing this is a smart move for the x86 underdog, and it will be interesting to see how well the division does for the company's bottom line.
Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2013 - 08:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: radeon hd 7850, ICEQ Turbo, his, hd 7850, GCN, amd
HIS has launched a new factory overclocked graphics card based on AMD's Radeon HD 7850 "Pitcairn" GPU called the IceQ X^2 Turbo. The new card uses a custom PCB and IceQ X^2 cooler.
The IceQ X^2 cooler uses two 75mm fans to cool an aluminum fin stack that is connected to the copper GPU contact plate with copper heatpipes. The HSF is surrounded by a black shroud. HIS claims that its custom cooler runs at a quiet 28dB when the card is idle.
The HIS HD 7850 IceQ X^2 Turbo is a factory overclocked card. HIS has taken a standard HD 7850 GPU with 1024 stream processors and clocked it at 1GHz, which is a 140MHz overclock over the reference 7850 clockspeed. The card is further paired with 2GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at the reference 1200MHz (4800MHz effective) on a 256-bit bus. An 8-phase VRM keeps the overclocked components fed with stable power. It offers up a single DVI, one HDMI, and two mini-DisplayPort video outputs.
Because of the custom cooler, it should be possible to push the HD 7850 GPU even higher, although exactly how much higher will depend on the individual card.
The HIS IceQ X^2 Turbo does not have any official pricing information yet, but it should be priced somewhere around $220 since the already-available single fan IceQ X Turbo card is currently priced at approximately $210 at online retailers.
Also read: The AMD Radeon HD 7850 gets frame rated!
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 10, 2013 - 07:25 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: titan, radeon hd 7990, nvidia, amd
If you have been wondering how the two flagship GPUs fare in a battle royal of pure frame rate you can satisfy your curiousity at [H]ard|OCP. They have tested both NVIDIA's TITAN and the finally released HD7990 in one of their latest reviews. Both cards were force to push out pixels at 5760x1200 and for the most part tied, which makes sense as they both cost $1000. The real winner was Crossfired HD 7970's which kept up with the big guns but cost $200 less to purcahse.
If that isn't extreme enough for you, they also overclocked the TITAN in a seperate review.
"We follow-up with a look at how the $999 GeForce GTX TITAN compares to the new $999 AMD Radeon HD 7990 video card. What makes this is unique is that the GeForce GTX TITAN is a single-GPU running three displays in NV Surround compared to the same priced dual-GPU CrossFire on a card Radeon HD 7990 in Eyefinity."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon HD 7990 @ The Tech Report
- Diamond BV750 Low Profile 7750 @ Bjorn3D
- XFX Radeon HD 7790 Black Edition 1GB Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- AMD Radeon HD 7790 2GB review: does another 1GB make a difference @ Hardware.info
- PowerColor HD 7790 Turbo Duo 1GB Video Card Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- AMD Radeon HD 7790 vs. Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST @ X-bit Labs
- Sapphire HD7790 2GB OC @ Kitguru
- XFX R7790 Black Edition 1GB Review @ Neoseeker
- PowerColor Radeon HD 7790 TurboDuo OC 1GB @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon HD 7990 6GB and HD 7970 GHz Edition Video Cards in CrossFireX @ Tweaktown
- AMD Radeon HD 7990 6GB Dual GPU Video Card Overclocked @ Tweaktown
- 15-Way Open vs. Closed Source NVIDIA/AMD Linux GPU Comparison @ Phoronix
- ASUS GTX650-E-2GD5 @ Hardware.info
- EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked Video Cards in SLI Overclocked @ Tweaktown
- Inno3D iChill GTX 650 Ti Boost 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost SuperClocked 2GB @ Tweaktown
- ZOTAC GTX Titan AMP! Edition @ Bjorn3D
- ASUS GTX 650 Ti Boost DCII @ Bjorn3D
- Asus GTX 670 DirectCU Mini 2GB @ eTeknix
Subject: Storage | May 10, 2013 - 03:48 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ramdisk, ram drive, ram, radeon ramdisk, amd
In light of AMD’s latest memory release and Radeon RAMDisk push, I decided to take a look at the latest version 4.1.0 of the RAMDisk software to see what had changed since the last time I tested it out. Improved installation and logging along with a couple of new features are all part of the new RAMDisk software.
AMD has simplified the installer since the previous version to the point that only a few clicks are necessary to get setup. Although you can jump into the advanced settings and change the installation path, the default options are basically just to accept the ToS and click next. Other GUI tweaks include a new Logging tab that scans the last 1,000 entries in the Windows Event Log and shows only those related to the RAM Drive.
The biggest change is the addition of new options in the load/save tab. Because of the nature of RAM, the RAMDisk created by the software is not persistent across reboots. However, you can save the disk image to a file on persistent storage (a hard drive, SSD, et al). Then, you can save the RAM Drive and its contents to a file and reload that disk after a restart.
The paid version of Radeon RAMDisk takes this a step further by allowing background updating of the RAMDisk data. With the Load in Background option, the RAMDisk will be immediately available to the operating system after a restart. The software will automatically start transferring data from the image stored on the hard drive to the portion of RAM set aside for the RAM disk instead of making the user wait fro the entire disk to be recreated before it can be accessed. Any data requested that has not yet been transferred to the RAM disk will be transparently pulled from the hard drive image.
Further, AMD offers up a background update option that will run in the background and continuously write RAMDisk changes to the *.img file stored on the hard drive. This eliminates the need to wait for the entire RAMDisk to be written to disk before shutting down the computer or stopping the RAM Drive. Considering the wait times to read and write data from/to the hard drive is one of the major limitations of RAM drives, this is a really useful feature that certainly adds some incentive to springing for the paid version.
The free version doesn’t get background updating, but it does still have the AutoSave feature that will write data out to the image file periodically which will help prevent data loss due to power failure or kernel panic.
Heh, the SSD is pegged but the RAMDisk utilization peaked at 4% when copying a 1.51GB Kerbal Space Program (with a few mods installed) folder from an Intel X25-M to a 4GB RAMDisk ;).
In my brief testing yesterday, I had some trouble getting the software to create a FAT32 formatted disk, where it kept changing to unformatted before creating the disk. Eventually I opted to format the drive myself using Windows’ Disk Management utility. Aside from that hiccup, I think the new version is worth updating to if you have not already--especially if you have the paid version (so that you can get the background data transfer features).
For specific details on exactly what has changed, an AMD-provided change log is below:
Feature Highlights of AMD Radeon™ RAMDisk release 4.1
- Updated GUI improvements .NET
- Updated installer package – Fewer clicks required to install
- Improved GUI event logging
- Improved management of options when setting Load/Save
Performance Highlights of AMD Radeon™ RAMDisk release 4.1
- Performance gains on AMD Radeon™ RAMDisk 32GB and 64GB
- Vastly improved load and save mechanics allowing for background update and background loading of the RAMDisk. Reduces wait times for load and save. “Background Update” and “Load in Background” enabled (registered users only)
- Faster PC startup and shutdown while RAMDisk is enabled.
Improved IO performance on multi-processors and multi-core systems
- Evenly distributed load among the CPUs. Allows for more system efficiency.
Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2013 - 11:30 AM | Ken Addison
Tagged: Volcanic Islands, ssd, silvermont, Seagate, podcast, pcper, iris pro, iris, Intel, haswell, gamer memory, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #250 - 05/09/2013
Join us this week as we discuss Haswell Iris Graphics, Intel Silvermont, AMD HD 9000 Series Rumors and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Morry Teitelman
Program length: 1:19:46
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Jeremy: BitTorrent Bundle
1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | May 8, 2013 - 09:32 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Volcanic Islands, radeon, ps4, amd
So the Southern Islands might not be entirely stable throughout 2013 as we originally reported; seismic activity being analyzed suggests the eruption of a new GPU micro-architecture as early as Q4. These Volcanic Islands, as they have been codenamed, should explode onto the scene opposing NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 700-series products.
It is times like these where GPGPU-based seismic computation becomes useful.
The rumor is based upon a source which leaked a fragment of a slide outlining the processor in block diagram form and specifications of its alleged flagship chip, "Hawaii". Of primary note, Volcanic Islands is rumored to be organized with both Serial Processing Modules (SPMs) and a Parallel Compute Module (PCM).
So apparently a discrete GPU can have serial processing units embedded on it now.
Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) is a set of initiatives to bridge the gap between massively parallel workloads and branching logic tasks. We usually make reference to this in terms of APUs and bringing parallel-optimized hardware to the CPU. In this case, we are discussing it in terms of bringing serial processing to the discrete GPU. According to the diagram, the chip within would contain 8 processor modules each with two processing cores and an FPU for a total of 16 cores. There does not seem to be any definite identification whether these cores would be based upon their license to produce x86 processors or their other license to produce ARM processors. Unlike an APU, this is heavily skewed towards parallel computation rather than a relatively even balance between CPU, GPU, and chipset features.
Now of course, why would they do that? Graphics processors can do branching logic but it tends to sharply cut performance. With an architecture such as this, a programmer might be able to more efficiently switch between parallel and branching logic tasks without doing an expensive switch across the motherboard and PCIe bus between devices. Josh Walrath suggested a server containing these as essentially add-in card computers. For gamers, this might help out with workloads such as AI which is awkwardly split between branching logic and massively parallel visibility and path-finding tasks. Josh seems skeptical about this until HSA becomes further adopted, however.
Still, there is a reason why they are implementing this now. I wonder, if the SPMs are based upon simple x86 cores, how the PS4 will influence PC gaming. Technically, a Volcanic Island GPU would be an oversized PS4 within an add-in card. This could give AMD an edge, particularly in games ported to the PC from the Playstation.
This chip, Hawaii, is rumored to have the following specifications:
- 4096 stream processors
- 16 serial processor cores on 8 modules
- 4 geometry engines
- 256 TMUs
- 64 ROPs
- 512-bit GDDR5 memory interface, much like the PS4.
20 nm Gate-Last silicon fab process
- Unclear if TSMC or "Common Platform" (IBM/Samsung/GLOBALFOUNDRIES)
Softpedia is also reporting on this leak. Their addition claims that the GPU will be designed on a 20nm Gate-Last fabrication process. While gate-last is considered to be not worth the extra effort in production, Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI) is apparently "amazing" on gate-last at 28nm and smaller fabrication. This could mean that AMD is eying that technology and making this design with intent of switching to an FD-SOI process, without a large redesign which an initially easier gate-first production would require.
Well that is a lot to process... so I will leave you with an open question for our viewers: what do you think AMD has planned with this architecture, and what do you like and/or dislike about what your speculation would mean?