Podcast #330 - MSI GT72 Dominator Pro, 10 Days of Christmas, Mechanical Keyboards and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2014 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, msi, gt72, 10 days of christmas, ncase, Sasmung, vnand, nvidia, amd, Intel, Broadwell, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #330 - 12/18/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro, 10 Days of Christmas, Mechanical Keyboards 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!

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

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Specifications

Several weeks ago, during an episode of the PC Perspective Podcast, we talked about a new all-in-one machine from MSI with a focus on gaming. Featuring a quad-core Intel Haswell processor and a GeForce GTX 980M GPU, the MSI AG270 2QE takes the best available hardware for mobile gaming and stuffs them into a machine with an integrated 1080p touch screen. The result is likely to be the most potent gaming AIO that you will find available; it should be more than capable of tackling modern games at the integrated panel's 1920x1080 resolution.

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A gaming all-in-one is an interesting idea - a cross between the typical gaming desktop and a gaming laptop, an AIO splits the difference in a couple of interesting ways. It's more portable than a desktop and monitor combination for sure, but definitely heavier and bulkier than MSI's own GT72 for example. The AG270 offers a much larger screen (at 1080p) than any gaming notebook on its own, which improves the overall gaming experience without the need for additional hardware. While not ideal, it is totally feasible to take the AG270 with you to a neighbor's house for some LAN party action.

So what do you get with the MSI AG270 2QE, and more specifically, with the 037US kit we are reviewing today? Let's find out.

Continue reading our review of the MSI AG270 2QE-037US gaming all-in-one!!

PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 3 - Intel Core i7-4790K

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 16, 2014 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: Intel, holiday, devil's canyon, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

Today, we go from rusty gates (or rather cutting the bolts off of them with a Dremel) to tri-gates. Either way, you are probably looking for hardware that prides itself on variable speed. If you are looking to build or upgrade an upper-mainstream desktop PC, then the Intel Core i7-4790K is the last stop before Haswell-E.

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The CPU, codenamed Devil's Canyon, was Intel's offering for mainstream gamers and non-Enthusiast (capital E) enthusiasts during their Haswell refresh. It is cooler than its 4770K predecessor due to an improved thermal interface under the processor lid. It is a deal this week because its price dropped down to $299.99, which is about $50 below Intel's list price.

intel-devilscanyon-overview.JPG

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?

Intel shows pictures of new Broadwell NUC

Subject: Systems | December 12, 2014 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: Intel, nuc, Broadwell, leak

Intel has leaked, either purposefully or accidentally, the upcoming Broadwell-based NUC device. In a story posted on Computerbase.de, the German website points out that Intel has updated the NUC landing page with images of hardware we haven't seen publicly yet.

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This is definitely a new piece of NUC hardware and all indications are that Intel has completed development of a Broadwell-U based SFF platform. No other specifications are listed on the website but you can tell from the images (though small) that we have an M.2 slot available and a yellow USB charging port that are new. The smaller unit on the left also appears to be a bit shorter than the previous NUC designs, though it's hard to tell for sure without direct side-by-side comparisons.

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Also interesting is that Intel has a support page already mentioning new NUC kit and board part numbers, though without any additional information.

It has been 14 months since Intel released the Haswell-based NUC unit and my review of the system was incredibly positive with the lone exception of the high price Intel had set. The price of the D54250WYK1 is still hovering over $340 on Amazon.com but I am hopeful that Intel will be able to drop cost even further with this Broadwell iteration.

I'm sure we'll have all the answers we need come CES next month.

ECS Has A New Mini-PC on the Way, the LIVA X

Subject: Systems | December 10, 2014 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: SoC, mini-pc, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Bay Trail

A new, more powerful ECS mini-PC has been reported by The Tech Report, and this latest iteration of the LIVA will be known as the "X".

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The LIVA X features a faster 2.25GHz dual-core CPU from its Bay Trail SoC, and maximum configurable memory has been doubled to 4GB. OS support has been revised as well, with Windows 7 supported - but only when using an mSATA SSD. The LIVA X still offers full Windows 8.1 support, along with beta Linux driver support as before.

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The LIVA X also offers one more USB 2.0 port than its predecessor, along with the same 32GB or 64GB eMMC storage onboard, Gigabit Ethernet, and included 802.11 wireless N card.

The LIVA proved to be a good value when we reviewed it, though it was underpowered for some desktop tasks. Adding another 2GB of memory as well as a slightly faster CPU will make this new version a very interesting product, depending on price. The new LIVA X hasn't shown up for sale just yet in the usual places, but the product page is up on the ECS site.

The Intel-net of Things

Subject: General Tech | December 10, 2014 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: Intel, iot, cloudera, wind river

In October we saw the outlines of ARM's mBed OS which will be their Internet of Things offering and today Intel has revealed their own IoT Platform.  The Register had a chance to sit in on the presentation this morning as they described the infrastructure and the partners that are onboard with Intel's solution.  Intel did repeat their belief that their x86 Quark CPUs and other CPUs are every bit as power efficient as ARM while, carefully avoiding stating that they use the same amount of power.  Of far more interest are the security features inherent in Intel's new infrastructure, they will be leveraging both the McAfee technology they now own to embed security features directly into the silicon and the technology that came with their purchase of Wind River to secure the communication channels between the actual devices, aka Edge Devices, and their server infrastructure.  Expect to see more indepth information to be released in the near future but for now you can follow the links in The Register's story to catch up on what has been posted so far.

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"Announced in the past few minutes at a morning presentation in San Francisco, the platform will describe how to hook up gizmos on the edge – the sensors, the wearables, the street lights, the air-con units, and so on – to the backend systems (cough, cough, Cloudera) processing collected information."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: The Register

Intel is investing in mobile chips

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2014 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Intel, smartphones, iot, billions

Intel has pulled out some spare change to upgrade its plant in Chengdu, in what analysts are predicting will be focused on Intel's ultra-mobile chips.  It certainly comes at an interesting time for the market, Google and Microsoft have both had recent unpleasantness with the Chinese government while Qualcomm, a direct mobile market competitor, is about to fork over what could be a record breaking settlement to Chinese anti-trust investigators.  This could make talent from Qualcomm available for Intel to hire as well as giving them even more of a financial advantage.  It marks a change in the recent trend of Intel to invest heavily in their US assets and reinforces their desire to make headway in the current ultramobile market and the burgeoning Internet of Things.  Check out the links at The Register for a bit more background on the state of this market.

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"Chipzilla has decided to take another run at the mobile chip market, announcing plans to spin as much as US$1.6 billion in the direction of its Chengdu plant in China to achieve its aims."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #328 - G-Sync Flickering, In Win D-Frame Mini, Fractal R5 Silent and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, g-sync, flickering, ROG Swift, pg278q, in win, d-frame mini, fractal, define r5 silent, nvidia, amd, Intel, asus, gtx 970 DirectCU Mini, msi, 970 Gaming

PC Perspective Podcast #328 - 12/04/2014

Join us this week as we discuss G-Sync Flickering, In Win D-Frame Mini, Fractal R5 Silent 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: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Remember Google Glass?

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: Intel, google glass

Google Glass seems to have gone the way of Wave and Plus, most people have heard of it but no one seems to actively use it.  Apart from some news stories about socially inept use of the device in public areas the buzz around Google Glass has died down and for most it is Oculus who have more compelling eye wear.  Some time in the coming year there will be a second release of the Google Glass which dumps the Texas Instruments chip for an unspecified ultra low power Intel chip, or at least that is the rumour from The Register and other sites.  This launch sounds to be aimed more at enterprise customers, hard to imaging how having your PowerPoint presentation beamed into your customers eyeballs will help your sales but that is the gist of the marketing.  This product still seems to be more appropriate for those who work with their hands and could benefit from hands free overlays of schematics or details but who knows, maybe your next job interview will be with someone reading your Facebook page in real time as they conduct your interview.

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"GOOGLE REPORTEDLY plans to release a new Intel-powered version of Google Glass in 2015, as interest in its first-generation wearable dies down."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective
Tagged: ssd, nand, Intel, flash, 3d

It has become increasingly apparent that flash memory die shrinks have hit a bit of a brick wall in recent years. The issues faced by the standard 2D Planar NAND process were apparent very early on. This was no real secret - here's a slide seen at the 2009 Flash Memory Summit:

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Despite this, most flash manufacturers pushed the envelope as far as they could within the limits of 2D process technology, balancing shrinks with reliability and performance. One of the largest flash manufacturers was Intel, having joined forces with Micron in a joint venture dubbed IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technologies). Intel remained in lock-step with Micron all the way up to 20nm, but chose to hold back at the 16nm step, presumably in order to shift full focus towards alternative flash technologies. This was essentially confirmed late last week, with Intel's announcement of a shift to 3D NAND production.

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Intel's press briefing seemed to focus more on cost efficiency than performance, and after reviewing the very few specs they released about this new flash, I believe we can do some theorizing as to the potential performance of this new flash memory. From the above illustration, you can see that Intel has chosen to go with the same sort of 3D technology used by Samsung - a 32 layer vertical stack of flash cells. This requires the use of an older / larger process technology, as it is too difficult to etch these holes at a 2x nm size. What keeps the die size reasonable is the fact that you get a 32x increase in bit density. Going off of a rough approximation from the above photo, imagine that 50nm die (8 Gbit), but with 32 vertical NAND layers. That would yield a 256 Gbit (32 GB) die within roughly the same footprint.

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Representation of Samsung's 3D VNAND in 128Gbit and 86 Gbit variants.
20nm planar (2D) = yellow square, 16nm planar (2D) = blue square.

Image republished with permission from Schiltron Corporation.

It's likely a safe bet that IMFT flash will be going for a cost/GB far cheaper than the competing Samsung VNAND, and going with a relatively large 256 Gbit (vs. VNAND's 86 Gbit) per-die capacity is a smart move there, but let's not forget that there is a catch - write speed. Most NAND is very fast on reads, but limited on writes. Shifting from 2D to 3D NAND netted Samsung a 2x speed boost per die, and another effective 1.5x speed boost due to their choice to reduce per-die capacity from 128 Gbit to 86 Gbit. This effective speed boost came from the fact that a given VNAND SSD has 50% more dies to reach the same capacity as an SSD using 128 Gbit dies.

Now let's examine how Intel's choice of a 256 Gbit die impacts performance:

  • Intel SSD 730 240GB = 16x128 Gbit 20nm dies
    • 270 MB/sec writes and ~17 MB/sec/die
  • Crucial MX100 128GB = 8x128Gbit 16nm dies
    • 150 MB/sec writes and ~19 MB/sec/die
  • Samsung 850 Pro 128GB = 12x86Gbit VNAND dies
    • 470MB/sec writes and ~40 MB/sec/die

If we do some extrapolation based on the assumption that IMFT's move to 3D will net the same ~2x write speed improvement seen by Samsung, combined with their die capacity choice of 256Gbit, we get this:

  • Future IMFT 128GB SSD = 4x256Gbit 3D dies
    • 40 MB/sec/die x 4 dies = 160MB/sec

Even rounding up to 40 MB/sec/die, we can see that also doubling the die capacity effectively negates the performance improvement. While the IMFT flash equipped SSD will very likely be a lower cost product, it will (theoretically) see the same write speed limits seen in today's SSDs equipped with IMFT planar NAND. Now let's go one layer deeper on theoretical products and assume that Intel took the 18-channel NVMe controller from their P3700 Series and adopted it to a consumer PCIe SSD using this new 3D NAND. The larger die size limits the minimum capacity you can attain and still fully utilize their 18 channel controller, so with one die per channel, you end up with this product:

  • Theoretical 18 channel IMFT PCIE 3D NAND SSD = 18x256Gbit 3D dies
    • 40 MB/sec/die x 18 dies = 720 MB/sec
    • 18x32GB (die capacity) = 576GB total capacity

​​Overprovisioning decisions aside, the above would be the lowest capacity product that could fully utilize the Intel PCIe controller. While the write performance is on the low side by PCIe SSD standards, the cost of such a product could easily be in the $0.50/GB range, or even less.

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In summary, while we don't have any solid performance data, it appears that Intel's new 3D NAND is not likely to lead to a performance breakthrough in SSD speeds, but their choice on a more cost-effective per-die capacity for their new 3D NAND is likely to give them significant margins and the wiggle room to offer SSDs at a far lower cost/GB than we've seen in recent years. This may be the step that was needed to push SSD costs into a range that can truly compete with HDD technology.