Apple Announces New Mac Minis with Haswell. What?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, mac mini, mac, Intel, haswell, apple

I was not planning to report on Apple's announcement but, well, this just struck me as odd.

So Apple has relaunched the Mac Mini with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, after two years of waiting. It is the same height as the Intel NUC, but it also almost twice the length and twice the width (Apple's 20cm x 20cm versus the NUC's ~11cm x 11cm when the case is included). So, after waiting through the entire Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?

((Note: The editorial originally said "two-year-old architecture". I thought that Haswell launched about six months earlier than it did. The mistake was corrected.))

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I wonder if, following the iTunes U2 deal, this device will come bundled with Limp Bizkit's "Nookie"...

The price has been reduced to $499, which is a welcome $100 price reduction especially for PC developers who want a Mac to test cross-platform applications on. It also has Thunderbolt 2. These are welcome additions. I just have two, related questions: why today and why Haswell?

The new Mac Mini started shipping yesterday. 15-watt Broadwell-U is expected to launch at CES in January with 28W parts anticipated a few months later, for the following quarter.

Source: Apple

Intel Announces Q3 2014: Mucho Dinero

Subject: Editorial | October 15, 2014 - 09:39 AM |
Tagged: revenue, Results, quarterly, Q3, Intel, haswell, Broadwell, arm, amd, 22nm, 2014, 14nm

Yesterday Intel released their latest quarterly numbers, and they were pretty spectacular.  Some serious milestones were reached last quarter, much to the dismay of Intel’s competitors.  Not everything is good with the results, but the overall quarter was a record one for Intel.  The company reported revenues of $14.55 billion dollars with a net income of $3.31 billion.  This is the highest revenue for a quarter in the history of Intel.  This also is the first quarter in which Intel has shipped 100 million processors.

The death of the PC has obviously been overstated as the PC group had revenue of around $9 billion.  The Data Center group also had a very strong quarter with revenues in the $3.7 billion range.  These two groups lean heavily on Intel’s 22 nm TriGate process, which is still industry leading.  The latest Haswell based processors are around 10% of shipping units so far.  The ramp up for these products has been pretty impressive.  Intel’s newest group, the Internet of Things, has revenues that shrank by around 2% quarter over quarter, but it has grown by around 14% year over year.

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Not all news is good news though.  Intel is trying desperately to get into the tablet and handheld markets, and so far has had little traction.  The group reported revenues in the $1 million range.  Unfortunately, that $1 million is offset by about $1 billion in losses.  This year has seen an overall loss for mobile in the $3 billion range.  While Intel arguably has the best and most efficient process for mobile processors, it is having a hard time breaking into this ARM dominated area.  There are many factors involved here.  First off there are more than a handful of strong competitors working directly against Intel to keep them out of the market.  Secondly x86 processors do not have the software library or support that ARM has in this very dynamic and fast growing section.  We also must consider that while Intel has the best overall process, x86 processors are really only now achieving parity in power/performance ratios.  Intel still is considered a newcomer in this market with their 3D graphics support.

Intel is quite happy to take this loss as long as they can achieve some kind of foothold in this market.  Mobile is the future, and while there will always be the need for a PC (who does heavy duty photo editing, video editing, and immersive gaming on a mobile platform?) the mobile market will be driving revenues from here on out.  Intel absolutely needs to have a presence here if they wish to be a leader at driving technologies in this very important market.  Intel is essentially giving away their chips to get into phones and tablets, and eventually this will pave the way towards a greater adoption.  There are still hurdles involved, especially on the software side, but Intel is working hard with developers and Google to make sure support is there.  Intel is likely bracing themselves for a new generation of 20 nm and 16 nm FinFET ARM based products that will start showing up in the next nine months.  The past several years has seen Intel push mobile up to high priority in terms of process technology.  Previously these low power, low cost parts were relegated to an N+1 process technology from Intel, but with the strong competition from ARM licensees and pure-play foundries Intel can no longer afford that.  We will likely see 14 nm mobile parts from Intel sooner as opposed to later.

Intel has certainly shored up a lot of their weaknesses over the past few years.  Their integrated 3D/GPU support has improved in leaps and bounds over the years, their IPC and power consumption with CPUs is certainly industry leading, and they continue to pound out impressive quarterly reports.  Intel is certainly firing on all cylinders at this time and the rest of the industry is struggling to keep up.  It will be interesting to see if Intel will keep up with this pace, and it will be imperative for the company to continue to push into mobile markets.  I have never counted Intel out as they have a strong workforce, a solid engineering culture, and some really amazingly smart people (except Francois… he is just slightly above average- he is a GT-R aficionado after all).

Next quarter appears to be more of the same.  Intel is expecting revenue in the $14.7 billion, plus or minus $500 million.  This continues along with the strong sales of PC and server parts for Intel that helps buoy them to these impressive results.  Net income and margins again look to appear similar to what this past quarter brought to the table.  We will see the introduction of the latest 14 nm Broadwell processors, which is an important step for Intel.  14 nm development and production has taken longer than people expected, and Intel has had to lean on their very mature 22 nm process longer than they wanted to.  This has allowed a few extra quarters for the pure-play foundries to try to catch up.  Samsung, TSMC, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES are all producing 20 nm products with a fast transition to 16/14 nm FinFET by early next year.  This is not to say that these 16/14nm FinFET products will be on par with Intel’s 14 nm process, but it at least gets them closer.  In the near term though, these changes will have very little effect on Intel and their product offerings over the next nine months.

Source: Intel
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Z97X-UD5H motherboard is one of the middle tier offerings in GIGABYTE's channel line of boards. GIGABYTE updated the previous revision of their UD5H board, integrating the Intel Z97 Express chipset as well as updated heat sink and power circuitry design. At an MSRP of $189.99, the Z97X-UD5H offers a premium feature set at an affordable price.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE designed the board in accordance with the latest revision of their Ultra Durable design specifications, integrating a 12-phase digital power system so that the board would remain stable under any operating conditions. Ultra Durable brings several high-end power components into the board's design: International Rectifier (IR) manufactured PowIRstage™ ICs and PWM controllers, Nippon Chemi-con manufactured Black Solid capacitors with a 10k hour operational rating at 105C, 15 micron gold plating on the CPU socket pins, and two 0.070mm copper layers embedded into the PCB for optimal heat dissipation. The Z97X-UD5H motherboard includes the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; one M.2 10 Gb/s port; dual Gigabit NICs - an Intel I217-V NIC and a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slot; two PCI-Express x1 slots; two PCI slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons; Dual-Bios and active BIOS switches; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H motherboard!

ECS Launches L337 Gaming Z97I-Drone Mini ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | October 11, 2014 - 10:27 PM |
Tagged: z97, PCI-E 3.0, mini ITX, M.2, L337 Gaming, intel i218v, haswell, ECS

ECS recently introduced the mini ITX Z97I-DRONE under its L337 Gaming series. This new motherboard is aimed at gamers and overclockers looking to put together a high end small form factor system based around Intel’s Haswell processor and Z97 Express chipset.

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The Z97I-DRONE is a mini ITX form factor board measuring 170mm x 170mm. It is based around the Intel Z97 Express chipset and supports Haswell processors. ECS has integrated several features aimed at gamers including Sound Blaster Cinema 2 audio, PCI-E 3.0, and an Intel I218V NIC. Beyond that, the Z97I-DRONE also incorporates high end power management hardware that enables overclocking. ECS uses what it calls “Hybrid Power” technology on the new mini ITX board which entails a 5-phase PWM to manage stable power delivery to the processor and memory, dual MOSFETs (which are reportedly 90% power efficient), Nichicon Japanese capacitors, and Icy Chokes which ECS states are more stable and produces 13% less heat versus ferrite chokes.

The internal layout is unique, with the internal headers, PCH, and five SATA III ports placed along the top half of the motherboard and the LGA 1150 socket sitting in the bottom right corner. The right edge of the board hosts two dual channel DDR3 memory slots that support a maximum of 16GB clocked at 3000+ MHz when overclocked. The power management “Hybrid Power” hardware sits to the left of the processor socket. A single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot sits on the bottom edge of the board. Further, Morry will be ecstatic to know that the CMOS battery is vertically mounted on the opposite side of the GPU slot and sits directly to the left of the M.2 slot above the processor socket (to the right of the southbridge). The board has internal headers for two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. ECS is using a Realtek ALC1150 8-channel audio codec to drive the audio outputs and an Intel I218V Gigabit LAN NIC for networking.

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Rear IO on the mini ITX Z97I-DRONE consists of the following ports:

  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x Video Outputs
    • 1 x DVI
    • 1 x DisplayPort
    • 1 x HDMI
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x RJ45 (Intel I218V)
  • 6 x Audio Outputs
    • 5 x Analog Audio
    • 1 x Optical S/PDIF

Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, but if you are interested in this board keep an eye on this ECS product page.

Also read: ECS 2014 Press Event: LIVE, LIVA, LEAD, L337 @ PC Perspective.

Source: ECS

Lenovo Introduces New Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 Tablet PCs

Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 9, 2014 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, yoga tablet, Windows 8.1, windows, Thinkpad, lenovo yoga, Lenovo, haswell, Broadwell

At a press event in London (watch the livestream), Lenovo showed off two new convertible PCs – the Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 – aimed at the consumer and business markets respectively that each incorporate evolutionary improvements over their predecessors. The Windows 8.1 PCs will be available at the end of October.

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The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is the company's new flagship multi-mode system, and features build quality and internal processing power enhancements over the Yoga 2 Pro while being 17% thinner (0.5") and 14% lighter (2.62 lbs). Lenovo attributes the size and weight reductions to its new watchband hinge which is uses 800 pieces of aluminum and steel to achieve a thin yet flexible hinge with six focus points that resembles a metal watchband. Additionally, Lenovo has updated the display to a 13.3" multi-touch panel with (QHD+) 3200x1800 resolution. Other external features include JBL stereo speakers, a 720p webcam, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 and DC-input port, one micro HDMI output, and one audio combo jack.

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Lenovo's new hand-constructed watchband-style hinge with six focus points.

Internally, Lenovo is using the Intel Core M-70 (Broadwell) processor, up to 8GB of DDR3L memory, and a 256GB SSD. Lenovo claims up to 9 hours of battery life, depending on usage. The PC will be available in Clementine Orange, Platinum Silver, or Champagne Gold.

Lenovo also announced the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14. While it does not have the kinds of form factor and hinge design improvements as the Yoga 3 Pro, it does maintain the useful Lift 'n Lock keyboard and feature welcome internal upgrades. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 measures 13.3" x 9.4" x 0.82" and weighs 4.1 pounds. The magnesium alloy frame holds a 14" 1920x1080 IPS display with 10-point multi-touch, a 720p webcam, dual microphones with noise cancelation, stereo speakers, a backlit Lift 'n Lock keyboard (which, when in tablet mode, raises the frame flush with the keys which lock in place), full keyboard, trackpad, and trackpoint nub.

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This PC is noticeably bulkier and heavier than the Yoga 3 Pro, but it trades bulk for processing power, storage, and external I/O. Externally, the PC has one full HDMI video out (which is preferable to having to remember a micro HDMI adapter on the road or to meetings), two USB 3.0 ports, one combo USB 2.0/DC power/OneLink docking connector, one SD card slot, and one audio combo jack. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 is powered by an Intel Core i5 (Haswell) processor, NVIDIA GeForce 840M GPU, either 4GB or 8GB of DDR3L memory, and 1TB hard drive paired with 16GB flash for caching purposes. It comes with Windows 8.1 and "all day" battery life of up to eight hours.

In all, it has some useful updates over last year's model which we reviewed here.

Pricing and Availability:

The Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 will be available at the end of October from Lenovo.com or Best Buy. The Yoga 3 Pro has an MSRP of $1,349 while the ThinkPad Yoga 14 starts at $1,149.

Both systems continue the Yoga family forward, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Broadwell-powered Yoga 3 Pro performs in particular. I do wish the Lift 'n Lock keyboard technology had trickled down to the consumer models even understanding it would add additional weight and thickness. Obviously, Lenovo felt the tradeoff was not worth it though.

Source: Lenovo
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VII Formula motherboard is one of the newest members of the ROG (Republic of Gamers) product line, integrating several new features to elevate the board to an entirely new level over is predecessor. From outward appearance the Maximus VII Formula looks very similar to its previous revision, the Maximus VI Formula. However, ASUS made some under-the-hood enhancements and minor layout adjustments to the board, utilizing the functionality of the integrated Intel Z97 chipset. The Maximus VII Formula comes with a premium MSRP of $369.00, but is well worth the cost given the premium feature set and performance potential of the board.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Maximus VII Formula motherboard with a top-rated 8-phase digital power delivery system, combining 60A-rated BlackWing chokes, NexFET MOSFETs with a 90% efficiency rating, and 10k Japanese-source Black Metallic capacitors, for unprecedented system stability under any circumstance. Additionally, ASUS integrate their updated SupremeFX Formula audio system for superior audio fidelity through the integrated audio ports. The Maximus VII Formula contains the following features integrated into its design: six SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) 10 Gb/s port integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo III card; two SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; an Intel I218V GigE NIC; an AzureWave (Broadcomm chipset) 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo III card; three PCI-Express Gen3 x16 slots; three PCI-Express Gen2 x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, Keybot, MemOK!, BIOS Flashback, ROG Connect, and Sonic SoundStage buttons; Probelt voltage measurement points; OC Panel support; SupremeFX Formula 2014 audio solution; CrossChill Hybrid air and water cooled VRM copper-based cooling solution; ROG Armor overlay; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VII Formula motherboard!

Europeans: Atlast! Has Haswell-based Fanless NUCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: fanless, nuc, haswell

The Akasa Newton X is a fanless case for the NUC form factor that was announced in May and released a couple of months ago. Now, we are beginning to see system builders (albeit in Europe) integrate it in some higher-end devices. This one, from Atlast! Solutions, is built around the Intel Core i5-4250U, up to 1.5TB of SSD storage (512GB Crucial M550 mSATA + 1TB 840 EVO SATA), and up to 16GB of RAM. It can also be configured with up to two-antenna Wireless AC.

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The Core i5-4250U is a dual-core (four threads) processor that is rated for 15W TDP. Its on-chip GPU is the Intel HD Graphics 5000 with a peak, theoretical compute throughput of 704 GFLOPS. This makes it a little under three-times the graphics performance of an Xbox 360. In terms of PC games, you are looking at Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on low at 1024x768 (or basically whatever your home server can do if used as a stream-to target).

Prices currently start at £449.00 for 4GB of RAM and 60GB of mSATA SSD, including VAT.

Thanks to FanlessTech for covering this story.

Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction

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ECS hosted a press event in the third week of August to unveil its new product lineup and corporate direction. The press event, named "Live, Liva, Lead, L337", lays out the important aspects of the "new ECS" and its intended market direction. They introduced the LIVA mini computer with integrated 32GB and 64GB integrated SSDs, their Z97-based product line-up, and the North America LIVA design contest.

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Their naming of the event was apropos to their renewed corporate vision with the first two terms, Live and LIVA, referencing their LIVA mini-PC platform. ECS developed the name LIVA by combining the words Live and Viva (Life in Spanish), signifying the LIVA line's aim at integrating itself into your daily routine and providing the ability to live a better life. Lead signifies ECS' desire to become a market leader in the Mini-PC space with their LIVA platform as well as become a more dominant player in the PC space. The last term, L337, is a reference to their L337 Gaming line of motherboards, a clear reminder of their Z97 offerings to be unveiled.

ECS seeks to consolidate its product lines, re-focusing its energy on what it excels at - offering quality products at reasonable prices. ECS seeks to leverage its corporate partnerships and design experience to build products equivalent to competitor lines at a much reduced cost to the end user. This renewed focus on quality and the end user led to a much revised Z97 board lineup in comparison to its Z87-based offerings. Additionally, their newly introduced mini-PC line, branded LIVA, seeks to offer a cheaper all-in-one alternative to the Intel NUC and GIGABYTE BRIX systems.

Contine reading our overview of the ECS press event!!

You've probably noticed Intel launched a new family of chips

Subject: Processors | September 4, 2014 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, haswell, ddr4, core i7, 5960X

[H]ard|OCP reviewed Intel's brand new Extreme processor, the Haswell-E i7-5960X as weill as posting a large amount of Intel's launch slides detailing the new features present in this series of CPU.  As you can see from the picture they used the same funky white ASUS motherboard which Ryan used in his review but chose a Koolance EX2-755 watercooler as opposed to the Corsair H100i which allowed them to hit 4.5GHz with 1.301v CPU core voltage, slightly lower than Ryan managed.  In the end, while extremely impressed by the CPU they saw little benefits to gaming and recommend this CPU to those who spend most of their time encoding video, manipulating huge images and of course those who just want the best CPU on the planet.

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"There are many members of the "1366 X58 Enthusiast Overclockers Club" that have been waiting with bated breath for Intel's launch of the new X99 Express Chipset and new family of Core i7 Haswell-E processors. All this new hardware comes bundled with brand new DDR4 RAM technology packing huge bandwidth as well."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Lenovo Shows Off New Y70 Touch Notebook and ERAZER Desktop Gaming PCs

Subject: Systems | September 4, 2014 - 12:42 AM |
Tagged: y70 touch, Lenovo, haswell, gaming notebook, gaming, Erazer

Yesterday, Lenovo unveiled two new gaming systems at IFA in Berlin. The new Y70 Touch is a 17-inch gaming notebook while the Erazer X310 and Erazer X315 are mid-tower desktops. All three systems will be available later this month.

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The Y70 Touch is Lenovo's first desktop replacement notebook with a touchscreen. The 25.9mm thick notebook features a 17.3" 1080p display, backlit keyboard, and JBL-powered stereo speakers (with subwoofer). It can be configured with up to an Intel Haswell i7 processor, NVIDIA GTX 860M GPU with 4GB RAM, 16GB of DDR3 system memory, and 1TB solid state drive (SSD). (Storage options include 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB SSD options.) Lenovo is including an external disc drive with the gaming PC which was left out of the chassis itself to maintain its slim form factor and to reduce weight.

The Y70 Touch gaming notebook starts at $1,299 and will be available in the US later this month.

If desktops are more your style, Lenovo is now offering up the Erazer X310 and X315 mid-tower PCs. The X310 and X315 will share the same black mid-tower chassis but will use different internal hardware. the X310 with Intel Haswell CPUs will be available worldwide while the AMD APU-powered X315 will be exclusive to North America.

Lenovo ERAZER X315 and X310 Haswell Gaming Desktop.jpg

The ERAZER X310/X315 case is all black with a stealthy angular front panel design that hosts two 5.25" bays and a blue LED-backlit power button. The X310 can be configured with up to an Intel Haswell i7 CPU while the X315 supports AMD "Kaveri" APUs up to the A10 series (e.g. A10 7850K). Users can choose up to a NVIDIA GTX 760 (2GB) or AMD Radeon R9 255 (2GB) graphics card. The mid-tower has four PCI slots and in theory could support further DIY upgrades but GPU length would be limited and the power supply may need to be upgraded as well. Further, both systems feature up to 32GB system memory and a maximum of 4TB mechanical hard drive, 2TB hybrid hard drive or 256GB solid state storage.

The new ERAZER X310 and X315 desktops will be available shortly starting at $599.

For those interested in the APU-powered desktop, the following articles might be of interest.

Source: Lenovo