Apple Announces New Mac Minis with Haswell. What?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 03:22 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Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?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.))

apple-macmini-hero.png

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

Podcast #322 - GTX 980 4-Way SLI, Samsung's EVO Performance Fix, Intel Earnings and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 16, 2014 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, nvidia, GTX 980, sli, 3-way sli, 4-way sli, amd, R9 290X, Samsung, 840 evo, Intel, corsair, HX1000i, gigabyte, Z97X-UD5H, Lenovo, yoga 3 pro, yoga tablet 2. nexus 9, tegra k1, Denver

PC Perspective Podcast #322 - 10/16/2014

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 980 4-Way SLI, Samsung's EVO Performance Fix, Intel Earnings 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, Josh Walrath, Morry Tietelman

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

 

Intel Announces Q3 2014: Mucho Dinero

Subject: Editorial | October 15, 2014 - 12:39 PM |
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.

Intel-Swimming-in-Money.jpg

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

Flustered over Win10's surveillance habits? Have you met Predix?

Subject: General Tech | October 14, 2014 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: predix, Cisco, Intel, GM, verizon, Privacy, security

GM's Predix asset management platform has been used for a while now, after they came to the realization that they were in the top 20 of the largest software developers on the planet.  They found that by networking the machines in their factories as well as products that have been shipped to customers and are seeing active use that they could increase the efficiency of their factories and their products.  They were aiming for 1% increase, which when you consider the scale of these industries can equate to billions of dollars and in many cases they did see what they had hoped for.

Now Cisco and Intel have signed up to use the Predix platform for the same results, however they will be applying it to the Cloud and edge devices as well as the routers and switches Cisco specializes in.  This should at the very least enhance the ability to monitor network traffic, predict resource shortages and handle outages with a very good possibility of a small increase in performance and efficiency across the board.  This is good news to those who currently deal with the cloud but it is perhaps worth noting that you will be offering up your companies metrics to Predix and you should be aware of any possible security concerns that may raise because of that integration to another system.  You could however argue that once you have moved to the cloud that this is already happening.

img_predix_feature_big_data.jpg

"GE, Intel, Cisco, and Verizon have announced a big data deal to connect Predix — GE’s software platform — to machines, systems, and edge devices regardless of manufacturer."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Cherry Trail, Nolan and Amur coming soon

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2014 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: amd, Intel, Cherry Trail, Nolan, Amur

As usual neither AMD nor Intel had any comments to pass onto DigiTimes about processors they have yet to release but the chances are that this story is fairly accurate.  In March we should start hearing more about Cherry Trail, Intel's 64-bit ultramobile CPU designed for the next generation of tablets.  AMD will be working on two chips, Nolan which we know very little about apart from the fact that it will be used in tablets and a new chip called Amur.  Amur is an HSA chip designed specifically for use in devices running Android and Linux and incorporates ARM architecture, specifically the Cortex A57.  That puts it in the Seattle family which Josh went into detail about in his article here which will make it a rather interesting product.

cherry-trail_large_large.png

"Intel's Cherry Trail CPUs will enter mass production in March 2015. Intel is also preparing the Atom Z3000 processor for the 64-bit tablet market. As for 4G chips, Intel is set to use SoFIA-series processors for the tablet market, the sources said."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

The Internet of Thing is a confusing place for manufacturers right now

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2014 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: arm, internet of things, Si106x, 108x, Silicon Labs, Intel, quark

While the Internet of Things is growing at an incredible pace the chip manufacturers which are competing for this new market segment are running into problems when trying to design chips to add to appliances.  There is a balance which needs to be found between processing power and energy savings, the goal is to design very inexpensive chips which can run on  microWatts of power but still be incorporate networked communication and sensors.  The new Cortex-M7 is a 32-bit processor which is directly competing with 8 and 16 bit microcontrollers which provide far less features but also consume far less power.  Does a smart light bulb really need to have a 32bit chip in it or will a lower cost MCU provide everything that is needed for the light to function?  Intel's Quark is in a similar position, the processing power it is capable of could be a huge overkill compared to what the IoT product actually needs.  The Register has made a good observation in this article, perhaps the Cortex M0 paired with an M4 or M7 when the application requires the extra horsepower is a good way for ARM to go in.  Meanwhile, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 has been adopted to run an OS to control robots so don't think this market is going to get any less confusing in the near future.

cortex-mo.png

"The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing an estimated five times more quickly than the overall embedded processing market, so it's no wonder chip suppliers are flocking to fit out connected cars, home gateways, wearables and streetlights as quickly as they can."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Broadwell-U (BGA) Lineup Leaked

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | September 30, 2014 - 03:33 AM |
Tagged: iris, Intel, core m, broadwell-y, broadwell-u, Broadwell

Intel's upcoming 14nm product line, Broadwell, is expected to have six categories of increasing performance. Broadwell-Y, later branded Core M, is part of the soldered BGA family at expected TDPs of 3.5 to 4.5W. Above this is Broadwell-U, which are also BGA packages, and thus require soldering by the system builder. VR-Zone China has a list of seemingly every 15W SKU in that category. 28W TDP "U" products are expected to be available in the following quarter, but are not listed.

intel-broadwell-u_1.png

Image Credit: VR-Zone

As for those 15W parts though, there are seventeen (17!) of them, ranging from Celeron to Core i7. While each product is dual-core, the ones that are Core i3 and up have Hyper-Threading, increasing the parallelism to four tasks simultaneously. In terms of cache, Celerons and Pentiums will have 2MB, Core i7s will have 4MB, and everything in between will have 3MB. Otherwise, the products vary on the clock frequency they were binned (bin-sorted) at, and the integrated graphics that they contain.

intel-broadwell-u_2.png

Image Credit: VR-Zone

These integrated iGPUs range from "Intel HD Graphics" on the Celerons and Pentiums, to "Intel Iris Graphics 6100" on one Core i7, two Core i5s, and one Core i3. The rest pretty much alternate between Intel HD Graphics 5500 and Intel HD Graphics 6000. Maximum frequency of any given iGPU can vary within the same product, but only by about 100 MHz at the most. The exact spread is below.

  • Intel HD Graphics: 300 MHz base clock, 800 MHz at load.
  • Intel HD Graphics 5500: 300 MHz base clock, 850-950 MHz at load (depending on SKU).
  • Intel HD Graphics 6000: 300 MHz base clock, 1000 MHz at load.
  • Intel Iris Graphics 6100: 300 MHz base clock, 1000-1100 MHz at load (depending on SKU).

Unfortunately, without the number of shader units to go along with the core clock, we cannot derive a FLOP value yet. This is a very important metric for increasing resolution and shader complexity, and it would provide a relatively fair metric to compare the new parts against previous offerings for higher resolutions and quality settings, especialy in DirectX 12 I would assume.

intel-broadwell-iris-graphics-6100.png

Image Credit: VR-Zone

Probably the most interesting part to me is that "Intel HD Graphics" without a number meant GT1 with Haswell. Starting with Broadwell, it has been upgraded to GT2 (apparently). As we can see from even the 4.5W Core M processors, Intel is taking graphics seriously. It is unclear whether their intention is to respect gaming's influence on device purchases, or if they are believing that generalized GPU compute will be "a thing" very soon.

Source: VR-Zone

Intel RealSense SDK Beta Available, Camera Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2014 - 03:41 AM |
Tagged: Realsense 3D, realsense, kinect, Intel

RealSense is Intel's 3D camera initiative for bringing face recognition, gesture control, speech input, and augmented reality to the PC. Its closest analogy would be Microsoft's Kinect for Windows. The technology has been presented at Intel keynotes for a while now, embodied in the "Intel Perceptual Computing SDK 2013" under its "Perceptual Computing" initiative.

intel-creative-realsense.png

Since August 31st, that has been removed from their site and replaced with the Intel RealSense SDK. While the software is free, you will probably need compatible hardware to do anything useful. None is available yet, but the "Intel RealSense Developer Kit" hardware (not to be confused with the "Intel RealSense SDK", which is software) is available for reservation at Intel's website. The camera is manufactured by Creative Labs and will cost $99. They are also very clear that this is a developer tool, and forbid it from being used in "mission critical applications". Basically, don't trust your life on it, or the lives and health of any other(s) or anything.

The developer kit will be available for many regions: the US, Canada, much of Europe, Brazil, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Israel, and Singapore.

Source: Intel

Intel Expands x86 SoC Program to Tsinghua Unigroup

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: Intel, spreadtrum, rda, Rockchip, SoC

A few months ago, Intel partnered with Rockchip to develop low-cost SoCs for Android. The companies would work together on a design that could be fabricated at TSMC. This time Intel is partnering with Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. and, unlike Rockchip, also investing in them. The deal will be up to $1.5 billion USD in exchange for a 20% share (approximately) of a division of Tsinghua.

Spreadtrum_logo.png

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Intel is hoping to use this partnership to develop mobile SoCs, for smart (and "feature") phones, tablets, and other devices, and get significant presence in the Chinese mobile market. Tsinghua acquired Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics within the last two years. The "holding group" that owns these division is apparently the part of Tsinghua which Intel is investing in, specifically.

Spreadtrum will produce SoCs based on Intel's "Intel Architecture". This sounds like they are referring to the 32-bit IA-32, which means that Spreadtrum would be developing 32-bit SoCs, but it is possible that they could be talking about Intel 64. These products are expected for 2H'15.

Source: Intel

Want Haswell-EP Xeons Without Expensive DDR4 Memory?

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Processors | September 20, 2014 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Haswell-EP, ddr4, ddr3, Intel

Well this is interesting and, while not new, is news to me.

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The upper-tier Haswell processors ushered DDR4 into the desktops for enthusiasts and servers, but DIMMs are quite expensive and incompatible with the DDR3 sticks that your organization might have been stocking up on. Despite the memory controller being placed on the processor, ASRock has a few motherboards which claim DDR3 support. ASRock, responding to Anandtech's inquiry, confirmed that this is not an error and Intel will launch three SKUs, one eight-core, one ten-core, and one twelve-core, with a DDR3-supporting memory controller.

The three models are:

  E5-2629 v3 E5-2649 v3 E5-2669 v3
Cores (Threads) 8 (16) 10 (20) 12 (24)
Clock Rate 2.4 GHz 2.3 GHz 2.3 Ghz
L3 Cache 20MB 25MB 30MB
TDP 85W 105W 120W

The processors, themselves, might not be cheap or easily attainable, though. There are rumors that Intel will require customers purchase at least a minimum amount. It might not be worth buying these processors unless you have a significant server farm (or similar situation).

Source: Anandtech