Subject: Processors | November 20, 2015 - 06:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, xeon, FPGA
Designing integrated circuits, as I've said a few times, is basically a game. You have a blank canvas that you can etch complexity into. The amount of “complexity” depends on your fabrication process, how big your chip is, the intended power, and so forth. Performance depends on how you use the complexity to compute actual tasks. If you know something special about your workload, you can optimize your circuit to do more with less. CPUs are designed to do basically anything, while GPUs assume similar tasks can be run together. If you will only ever run a single program, you can even bake some or all of its source code into hardware called an “application-specific integrated circuit” (ASIC), which is often used for video decoding, rasterizing geometry, and so forth.
This is an old Atom back when Intel was partnered with Altera for custom chips.
FPGAs are circuits that can be baked into a specific application, but can also be reprogrammed later. Changing tasks requires a significant amount of time (sometimes hours) but it is easier than reconfiguring an ASIC, which involves removing it from your system, throwing it in the trash, and printing a new one. FPGAs are not quite as efficient as a dedicated ASIC, but it's about as close as you can get without translating the actual source code directly into a circuit.
Intel, after purchasing FPGA manufacturer, Altera, will integrate their technology into Xeons in Q1 2016. This will be useful to offload specific tasks that dominate a server's total workload. According to PC World, they will be integrated as a two-chip package, where both the CPU and FPGA can access the same cache. I'm not sure what form of heterogeneous memory architecture that Intel is using, but this would be a great example of a part that could benefit from in-place acceleration. You could imagine a simple function being baked into the FPGA to, I don't know, process large videos in very specific ways without expensive copies.
Again, this is not a consumer product, and may never be. Reprogramming an FPGA can take hours, and I can't think of too many situations where consumers will trade off hours of time to switch tasks with high performance. Then again, it just takes one person to think of a great application for it to take off.
Podcast #376 - Intel Speed Shift, CPU Coolers from Noctua and DEEPCOOL, Broadwell-E Rumors, and more!
Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2015 - 02:42 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, noctua, Deepcool, Gamer Storm Gabriel, Intel, speed shift, amd, R9, fury x, trixx, Broadwell-E, kaby lake, nvidia, shield tablet k1, knights landing, asus, chromebit
PC Perspective Podcast #376 - 11/19/2015
Join us this week as we discuss Intel Speed Shift, CPU Coolers from Noctua and DEEPCOOL, Broadwell-E Rumors, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 1:19:22
Week in Review:
0:32:10 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintreepayments.com/pcper
News item of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: Processors | November 18, 2015 - 07:34 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Xeon Phi, knights landing, Intel
The add-in board version of the Xeon Phi has just launched, which Intel aims at supercomputing audiences. They also announced that this product will be available as a socketed processor that is embedded in, as PC World states, “a limited number of workstations” by the first half of next year. The interesting part about these processors is that they combine a GPU-like architecture with the x86 instruction set.
Image Credit: Intel (Developer Zone)
In the case of next year's socketed Knights Landing CPUs, you can even boot your OS with it (and no other processor installed). It will probably be a little like running a 72-core Atom-based netbook.
To make it a little more clear, Knights Landing is a 72-core, 512-bit processor. You might wonder how that can compete against a modern GPU, which has thousands of cores, but those are not really cores in the CPU sense. GPUs crunch massive amounts of calculations by essentially tying several cores together, and doing other tricks to minimize die area per effective instruction. NVIDIA ties 32 instructions together and pushes them down the silicon. As long as they don't diverge, you can get 32 independent computations for very little die area. AMD packs 64 together.
Knight's Landing does the same. The 512-bit registers can hold 16 single-precision (32-bit) values and operate on them simultaneously.
16 times 72 is 1152. All of a sudden, we're in shader-count territory. This is one of the reasons why they can achieve such high performance with “only” 72 cores, compared to the “thousands” that are present on GPUs. They're actually on a similar scale, just counted differently.
Update: (November 18th @ 1:51 pm EST) I just realized that, while I kept saying "one of the reasons", I never elaborated on the other points. Knights Landing also has four threads per core. So that "72 core" is actually "288 thread", with 512-bit registers that can perform sixteen 32-bit SIMD instructions simultaneously. While hyperthreading is not known to be 100% efficient, you could consider Knights Landing to be a GPU with 4608 shader units. Again, it's not the best way to count it, but it could sort-of work.
So in terms of raw performance, Knights Landing can crunch about 8 TeraFLOPs of single-precision performance or around 3 TeraFLOPs of double-precision, 64-bit performance. This is around 30% faster than the Titan X in single precision, and around twice the performance of Titan Black in double precision. NVIDIA basically removed the FP64 compute units from Maxwell / Titan X, so Knight's Landing is about 16x faster, but that's not really a fair comparison. NVIDIA recommends Kepler for double-precision workloads.
So interestingly, Knights Landing would be a top-tier graphics card (in terms of shading performance) if it was compatible with typical graphics APIs. Of course, it's not, and it will be priced way higher than, for instance, the AMD Radeon Fury X. Knight's Landing isn't available on Intel ARK yet, but previous models are in the $2000 - $4000 range.
Subject: Processors, Systems | November 17, 2015 - 11:21 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Skylake, NUC6i5SYK, NUC6i5SYH, NUC6i3SYK, NUC6i3SYH, nuc, mini-pc, Intel, i5-6260U, i3-6100U
(Image credit: PCMag)
NUC systems sporting the latest Intel 6th-gen Skylake processors are coming, with the NUC6i5SYH, NUC6i5SYK, NUC6i3SYH, NUC6i3SYK listed with updated Core i5 and i3 CPUs. As this is a processor refresh the appearance and product nomenclature remain unchanged (unfortunately).
The four new Skylake Intel NUC models listed on Intel's product page
Here's Intel's description of the Skylake Core i5-powered NUC6i5SYH:
"Intel NUC Kit NUC6i5SYH is equipped with Intel’s newest architecture, the 6th generation Intel Core i5-6260U processor. Intel Iris graphics 540 with 4K display capabilities provides brilliant resolution for gaming and home theaters. NUC5i5SYH has room for a 2.5” drive for additional storage and an M.2 SSD so you can transfer your data at lightning speed. Designed for Windows 10, NUC6i5SYH has the performance to stream media, manage spreadsheets, or create presentations."
The NUC6i5SYH and NUC6i5SYK feature the i5-6260U is a dual-core, Hyper-Threaded 15W part with a base speed of 1.9 GHz with up to 2.8 GHz Turbo. It has 4 MB cache and supports up to 32GB 2133 MHz DDR4. The processor also provides Intel Iris graphics 540 (Skylake GT3e), which offers 48 Execution Units and 64 MB of dedicated eDRAM. The lower-end NUC6i3SYH and NUC6i3SYK models offer the i3-6100U, which is also a dual-core, Hyper-Threaded part, but this 15W processor's speed is fixed at 2.3 GHz without Turbo Boost, and it offers the lesser Intel HD Graphics 520.
Availability and pricing are not yet known, but expect to see the new models for sale soon.
Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2015 - 03:55 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Skylake, LGA 1151, leak, kaby lake, intel 200, Intel, cannon lake
Benchlife.info got hold of two slides from an Intel presentation for Kaby Lake which cover some of the features you can expect to find on the new processor family. As with all leaks you should ensure you take a dosage of Sodium Chloride while looking through the information.
The Intel 200 chipset will provide up to 30 PCIe lanes, 24 of which can be dedicated to PCIe slots and another half dozen for SATA 6Gbps. The chipset can also manage up to 10 USB 3.0 ports though do not expect to see all of these present on a board at the same time, there is only so much bandwidth to go around, as M.2 slots were not mentioned and will also share the PCIe pool. If you are wondering what Intel Optane Technology is you can be forgiven as apparently calling it NVME support would be too easy.
As for the processor, it will remain LGA 1151 with power ranging from 35W to 95W which means it should be compatible with existing boards, assuming a UEFI update is released. The processor will support hardware acceleration for 10-bit VP9 playback and 10-bit HVEC encoding, as well as supporting 5K video at 30Hz and 60Hz, impressive for an onboard GPU. The processors will be unlocked and have enhanced BCLK overclocking as well. As you would expect the CPU is ready for NVMe, Thunderbolt 3 and even Intel RealSense. Follow the link if you want to give your translator program a workout.
Skylake Architecture Comes Through
When Intel finally revealed the details surrounding it's latest Skylake architecture design back in August at IDF, we learned for the first time about a new technology called Intel Speed Shift. A feature that moves some of the control of CPU clock speed and ramp up away from the operating system and into hardware gives more control to the processor itself, making it less dependent on Windows (and presumably in the future, other operating systems). This allows the clock speed of a Skylake processor to get higher, faster, allowing for better user responsiveness.
It's pretty clear that Intel is targeting this feature addition for tablets and 2-in-1s where the finger/pen to screen interaction is highly reliant on immediate performance to enable improved user experiences. It has long been known that one of the biggest performance deltas between iOS from Apple and Android from Google centers on the ability for the machine to FEEL faster when doing direct interaction, regardless of how fast the background rendering of an application or web browser actually is. Intel has been on a quest to fix this problem for Android for some time, where it has the ability to influence software development, and now they are bringing that emphasis to Windows 10.
With the most recent Windows 10 update, to build v10586, Intel Speed Shift has finally been enabled for Skylake users. And since you cannot disable the feature once it's installed, this is the one and only time we'll be able to measure performance in our test systems. So let's see if Intel's claims of improved user experiences stand up to our scrutiny.
Subject: Processors | November 13, 2015 - 06:40 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: X99, processor, LGA2011-v3, Intel, i7-6950X, HEDT, Haswell-E, cpu, Broadwell-E
Intel's high-end desktop (HEDT) processor line will reportedly be moving from Haswell-E to Broadwell-E soon, and with the move Intel will offer their highest consumer core count to date, according to a post at XFastest which WCCFtech reported on yesterday.
Image credit: VR-Zone
While it had been thought that Broadwell-E would feature the same core counts as Haswell-E (as seen on the leaked slide above), according to the report the upcoming flagship Core i7-6950X will be a massive 10 core, 20 thread part built using Intel's 14 nm process. Broadwell-E is expected to provide an upgrade to those running on Intel's current enthusiast X99 platform before Skylake-E arrives with an all-new chipset.
WCCFtech offered this chart in their report, outlining the differences between the HEDT generations (and providing a glimpse of the future Skylake-E variant):
Intel HEDT generations compared (Credit: WCCFtech)
It isn't all that surprising that one of Intel's LGA2011-v3 processors would arrive on desktops with 10 cores as these are closely related to the Xeon server processors, and Haswell based Xeon CPUs are already available with up to 18 cores, though priced far beyond what even the extreme builder would probably find reasonable (not to mention being far less suited to a desktop build based on motherboard compatibility). The projected $999 price tag for the Extreme Edition part with 10 cores would mark not only the first time an Intel desktop processor reached the core-count milestone, but it would also mark the lowest price to attain one of the company's 10-core parts to date (Xeon or otherwise).
Subject: Processors | November 12, 2015 - 01:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, Skylake, Intel, i5-6600K, hd 530, Ubuntu 15.10
A great way to shave money off of a minimalist system is to skip buying a GPU and using the one present on modern processors, as well as installing Linux instead of buying a Windows license. The problem with doing so is that playing demanding games is going to be beyond your computers ability, at least without turning off most of the features that make the game look good. To help you figure out what your machine would be capable of is this article from Phoronix. Their tests show that Windows 10 currently has a very large performance lead compared to the same hardware running on Ubuntu as the Windows OpenGL driver is superior to the open-source Linux driver. This may change sooner rather than later but you should be aware that for now you will not get the most out of your Skylakes GPU on Linux at this time.
"As it's been a while since my last Windows vs. Linux graphics comparison and haven't yet done such a comparison for Intel's latest-generation Skylake HD Graphics, the past few days I was running Windows 10 Pro x64 versus Ubuntu 15.10 graphics benchmarks with a Core i5 6600K sporting HD Graphics 530."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Core i5 6500: A Great Skylake CPU For $200, Works Well On Linux @ Phoronix
- CPU Battle - Old and High-End vs. New and Entry-Level @ Hardware Secrets
- Which is the faster CPU: old but high-end or entry-level and new? - Part 2 @ Hardware Secrets
- AMD FX 8320E CPU Review @ Neoseeker
Subject: Mobile | November 11, 2015 - 03:15 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: yoga 900, yoga, video, Skylake, Lenovo, Intel
The barrage of Skylake powered notebooks and tablets has begun and the PC Perspective offices are filling to the gills with boxes and samples. I have already previewed the new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book in preparation for our full review, so I thought I would do the same for the Lenovo Yoga 900. This is the first product released as part of a new branding scheme Lenovo has adopted for its flexible notebook line.
The Lenovo Yoga 900 is a 13-in convertible notebook that can be used in the classic clamshell form factor in addition to the fully collapsed mode to operate as a tablet (and in two other forms). It maintains the same watch bad style hinge that was introduced with the Yoga 3 Pro and starts at $1099 with a Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, a 3200x1800 resolution touch screen and a 256GB NVMe SSD. You can find it in orange, gold or silver colors.
Even maxed out with 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD, the Yoga 900 is quite affordable, at just $1299!
For this generation Lenovo has decided to use the full 15 watt Skylake processor which will improve performance over the Yoga 3 Pro (the previous model) quite dramatically. If you remember back to last year, the Yoga 3 Pro was thinner and lighter than the Yoga 2 Pro but actually took a step backwards in performance (using a Core M processor) and battery life. Lenovo got lots of feedback that users weren't interested in those trade offs and the Yoga 900 is a bit thicker and heavier, but offers better performance and impressive battery life at over 9 hours in our Wi-Fi browsing tests.
Connectivity is decent for a thin and light machine including two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 port, SD card reader and a combination power port / USB port. That combo port is used to plug in your charger when you are tethered to power or utilize it as an additional USB port for accessories when mobile.
The keyboard and trackpad are still question marks for me - it definitely doesn't feel like previous Lenovo keyboards, with very little throw a requirement to fit in this form factor. I'll give it until we post our full review to really pass judgment.
Check out the video preview as well for some more thoughts on the new Lenovo Yoga 900!!
Subject: Motherboards | November 6, 2015 - 02:00 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Z170A Gaming M7, msi, LGA 1151, Intel
At $220 currently the MSI Z170A Gaming M7 sits comfortably between a value board and a flagship model. The heatsinks not only look good but provide decent cooling as well, as [H]ard|OCP points out in their review. As far as connectivity goes, this board has a half dozen SATA 6Gbps ports, two SEx ports and two M.2 slots along with a total of seven USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports and a pair of USB 3.1 ports, one of which has a Type-C connection. There are three PCIe 3.0 slots, x16 in design and capable of running x8/x8/x4 when all populated, with another four 1x slots for an impressive total number of slots. Check out the overclocking performance and the new UEFI which replaces the old Click BIOS in the full review.
"MSI has changed gears as of late vowing to be the number one motherboard manufacturer in the "gaming" segment. While a "gaming" motherboard MSI is still focused on overclocking with this model. We look at the Z170A Gaming M7 to see if it brings MSI one step closer or a step away from that very goal."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- EVGA Z170 Classified Motherboard Review @ Hardware Asylum
- ASUS Maximus VIII Gene Review @ OCC
- Asus Sabertooth Z170 Mark 1 @ Kitguru
- ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Hero Review @ OCC
- Gigabyte GA-X99-SOC Champion Sub-Zero Overclocking @ eTeknix
- Choosing the Right Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets