Manufacturer: PC Perspective

It's Basically a Function Call for GPUs

Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12 all claim to reduce overhead and provide a staggering increase in “draw calls”. As mentioned in the previous editorial, loading graphics card with tasks will take a drastic change in these new APIs. With DirectX 10 and earlier, applications would assign attributes to (what it is told is) the global state of the graphics card. After everything is configured and bound, one of a few “draw” functions is called, which queues the task in the graphics driver as a “draw call”.

While this suggests that just a single graphics device is to be defined, which we also mentioned in the previous article, it also implies that one thread needs to be the authority. This limitation was known about for a while, and it contributed to the meme that consoles can squeeze all the performance they have, but PCs are “too high level” for that. Microsoft tried to combat this with “Deferred Contexts” in DirectX 11. This feature allows virtual, shadow states to be loaded from secondary threads, which can be appended to the global state, whole. It was a compromise between each thread being able to create its own commands, and the legacy decision to have a single, global state for the GPU.

Some developers experienced gains, while others lost a bit. It didn't live up to expectations.

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The paradigm used to load graphics cards is the problem. It doesn't make sense anymore. A developer might not want to draw a primitive with every poke of the GPU. At times, they might want to shove a workload of simple linear algebra through it, while other requests could simply be pushing memory around to set up a later task (or to read the result of a previous one). More importantly, any thread could want to do this to any graphics device.

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The new graphics APIs allow developers to submit their tasks quicker and smarter, and it allows the drivers to schedule compatible tasks better, even simultaneously. In fact, the driver's job has been massively simplified altogether. When we tested 3DMark back in March, two interesting things were revealed:

  • Both AMD and NVIDIA are only a two-digit percentage of draw call performance apart
  • Both AMD and NVIDIA saw an order of magnitude increase in draw calls

Read on to see what this means for games and game development.

Photos and Tests of Skylake (Intel Core i7-6700K) Delidded

Subject: Processors | August 8, 2015 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, delid, CPU die, cpu, Core i7-6700K

PC Watch, a Japanese computer hardware website, acquired at least one Skylake i7-6700K and removed the heatspreader. With access to the bare die, they took some photos and tested a few thermal compound replacements, which quantifies how good (or bad) Intel's default thermal grease is. As evidenced by the launch of Ivy Bridge and, later, Devil's Canyon, the choice of thermal interface between the die and the lid can make a fairly large difference in temperatures and overclocking.

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Image Credit: PC Watch

They chose the vice method for the same reason that Morry chose this method in his i7-4770k delid article last year. This basically uses a slight amount of torque and external pressure or shock to pop the lid off the processor. Despite how it looks, this is considered to be less traumatic than using a razer blade to cut the seal, because human hands are not the most precise instruments and a slight miss could damage the PCB. PC Watch, apparently, needed to use a wrench to get enough torque on the vice, which is transferred to the processor as pressure.

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Image Credit: PC Watch

Of course, Intel could always offer enthusiasts with choices in thermal compounds before they put the lid on, which would be safest. How about that, Intel?

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Image Credit: PC Watch

With the lid off, PC Watch mentioned that the thermal compound seems to be roughly the same as Devil's Canyon, which is quite good. They also noticed that the PCB is significantly more thin than Haswell, dropping in thickness from about 1.1mm to about 0.8mm. For some benchmarks, they tested it with the stock interface, an aftermarket solution called Prolimatech PK-3, and a liquid metal alloy called Coollaboratory Liquid Pro.

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Image Credit: PC Watch

At 4.0 GHz, PK-3 dropped the temperature by about 4 degrees Celsius, while Liquid Metal knocked it down 16 degrees. At 4.6 GHz, PK-3 continued to give a delta of about 4 degrees, while Liquid Metal widened its gap to 20 degrees. It reduced an 88 C temperature to 68 C!

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Image Credit: PC Watch

There are obviously limitations to how practical this is. If you were concerned about thermal wear on your die, you probably wouldn't forcibly remove its heatspreader from its PCB to acquire it. That would be like performing surgery on yourself to remove your own appendix, which wasn't inflamed, just in case. Also, from an overclocking standpoint, heat doesn't scale with frequency. Twenty degrees is a huge gap, but even a hundred MHz could eat it up, depending on your die.

It's still interesting for those who try, though.

Source: PC Watch

The Intel SMM bug is bad, but not that bad

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, Intel, amd, x86, SMM

The SSM security hole that Christopher Domas has demonstrated (pdf)  is worrying but don't panic, it requires your system to be compromised before you are vulnerable.  That said, once you have access to the SMM you can do anything you feel like to the computer up to and including ensuring you can reinfect the machine even after a complete format or UEFI update.  The flaw was proven on Intel x86 machines but is likely to apply to AMD processors as well as they were using the same architecture around the turn of the millennium and thankfully the issue has been mitigated in recent processors.  Intel will be releasing patches for effected CPUs, although not all the processors can be patched and we have yet to hear from AMD.  You can get an over view of the issue by following the link at Slashdot and speculate on if this flaw was a mistake or inserted there on purpose in our comment section.

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"Security researcher Christopher Domas has demonstrated a method of installing a rootkit in a PC's firmware that exploits a feature built into every x86 chip manufactured since 1997. The rootkit infects the processor's System Management Mode, and could be used to wipe the UEFI or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Intel SSD 750 Series 800GB SKU Appears!

Subject: Storage | August 6, 2015 - 06:37 PM |
Tagged: SSD 750, ssd, pcie, NVMe, Intel

Back when we reviewed the Intel SSD 750, it was only available in a 400GB and 1.2TB capacity, leaving a wide expanse of capacity between those two figures.

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A new 800GB SKU of the Intel SSD 750 Series of PCIe SSDs was hinted at with the Skylake launch press materials, and it appears to have been a reality:

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They may not be on the shelves yet, but appearing on ARK is a pretty good indicator that these are coming soon. We don't have pricing yet, but I would suspect a cost/GB closer to the 1.2TB model than to the 400GB model, which should come in at around $700. Performance sees a slight hit for the 800GB model, likely since this is an 'uneven' number of dies for the design of the SSD DC P3500 line it was based on.

Which would you prefer - a single 800GB or a pair of 400GB SSD 750's in a RAID (now that it is possible)?

Source: Intel ARK
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, rst, raid, Intel

A quick look at storage

** This piece has been updated to reflect changes since first posting. See page two for PCIe RAID results! **

Our Intel Skylake launch coverage is intense! Make sure you hit up all the stories and videos that are interesting for you!

When I saw the small amount of press information provided with the launch of Intel Skylake, I was both surprised and impressed. The new Z170 chipset was going to have an upgraded DMI link, nearly doubling throughput. DMI has, for a long time, been suspected as the reason Intel SATA controllers have pegged at ~1.8 GB/sec, which limits the effectiveness of a RAID with more than 3 SSDs. Improved DMI throughput could enable the possibility of a 6-SSD RAID-0 that exceeds 3GB/sec, which would compete with PCIe SSDs.

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Speaking of PCIe SSDs, that’s the other big addition to Z170. Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology was going to be expanded to include PCIe (even NVMe) SSDs, with the caveat that they must be physically connected to PCIe lanes falling under the DMI-connected chipset. This is not as big of as issue as you might think, as Skylake does not have 28 or 40 PCIe lanes as seen with X99 solutions. Z170 motherboards only have to route 16 PCIe lanes from the CPU to either two (8x8) or three (8x4x4) PCIe slots, and the remaining slots must all hang off of the chipset. This includes the PCIe portion of M.2 and SATA Express devices.

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Continue reading our preview of the new storage options on the Z170 chipset!!

Podcast #361 - Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: Z170-A, z170 deluxe, Z170, video, Skylake, podcast, nvidia, maxwell, logitech g29, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, gigabyte, asus, 950ti, 6700k

PC Perspective Podcast #361 - 08/06/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z 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: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

Check out the architecture at Skylake and Sunrise Point

Subject: Processors | August 5, 2015 - 03:20 PM |
Tagged: sunrise point, Skylake, Intel, ddr4, Core i7-6700K, core i7, 6700k, 14nm

By now you have read through Ryan's review of the new i7-6700 and the ASUS Z170-A as well as the related videos and testing, if not we will wait for you to flog yourself in punishment and finish reading the source material.  Now that you are ready, take a look at what some of the other sites thought about the new Skylake chip and Sunrise Point chipset.  For instance [H]ard|OCP managed to beat Ryan's best overclock, hitting 4.7GHz/3600MHz at 1.32v vCore with some toasty but acceptable CPU temperatures.  The full review is worth looking for and if some of the rumours going around are true you should take H's advice, if you think you want one buy it now.

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"Today we finally get to share with you our Intel Skylake experiences. As we like to, we are going to focus on Instructions Per Clock / IPC and overclocking this new CPU architecture. We hope to give our readers a definitive answer to whether or not it is time to make the jump to a new desktop PC platform."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Light on architecture details

Our Intel Skylake launch coverage is intense! Make sure you hit up all the stories and videos that are interesting for you!

The Intel Skylake architecture has been on our radar for quite a long time as Intel's next big step in CPU design. Through leaks and some official information discussed by Intel over the past few months, we know at least a handful of details: DDR4 memory support, 14nm process technology, modest IPC gains and impressive GPU improvements. But the details have remained a mystery on how the "tock" of Skylake on the 14nm process technology will differ from Broadwell and Haswell.

Interestingly, due to some shifts in how Intel is releasing Skylake, we are going to be doing a review today with very little information on the Skylake architecture and design (at least officially). While we are very used to the company releasing new information at the Intel Developer Forum along with the launch of a new product, Intel has instead decided to time the release of the first Skylake products with Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. Parts will go on sale today (August 5th) and we are reviewing a new Intel processor without the background knowledge and details that will be needed to really explain any of the changes or differences in performance that we see. It's an odd move honestly, but it has some great repercussions for the enthusiasts that read PC Perspective: Skylake will launch first as an enthusiast-class product for gamers and DIY builders.

For many of you this won't change anything. If you are curious about the performance of the new Core i7-6700K, power consumption, clock for clock IPC improvements and anything else that is measurable, then you'll get exactly what you want from today's article. If you are a gear-head that is looking for more granular details on how the inner-workings of Skylake function, you'll have to wait a couple of weeks longer - Intel plans to release that information on August 18th during IDF.

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So what does the addition of DDR4 memory, full range base clock manipulation and a 4.0 GHz base clock on a brand new 14nm architecture mean for users of current Intel or AMD platforms? Also, is it FINALLY time for users of the Core i7-2600K or older systems to push that upgrade button? (Let's hope so!)

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake processor!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Bioshock Infinite Results

Our Intel Skylake launch coverage is intense! Make sure you hit up all the stories and videos that are interesting for you!

Today marks the release of Intel's newest CPU architecture, code named Skylake. I already posted my full review of the Core i7-6700K processor so, if you are looking for CPU performance and specification details on that part, you should start there. What we are looking at in this story is the answer to a very simple, but also very important question:

Is it time for gamers using Sandy Bridge system to finally bite the bullet and upgrade?

I think you'll find that answer will depend on a few things, including your gaming resolution and aptitude for multi-GPU configuration, but even I was surprised by the differences I saw in testing.

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Our testing scenario was quite simple. Compare the gaming performance of an Intel Core i7-6700K processor and Z170 motherboard running both a single GTX 980 and a pair of GTX 980s in SLI against an Intel Core i7-2600K and Z77 motherboard using the same GPUs. I installed both the latest NVIDIA GeForce drivers and the latest Intel system drivers for each platform.

  Skylake System Sandy Bridge System
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K Intel Core i7-2600K
Motherboard ASUS Z170-Deluxe Gigabyte Z68-UD3H B3
Memory 16GB DDR4-2133 8GB DDR3-1600
Graphics Card 1x GeForce GTX 980
2x GeForce GTX 980 (SLI)
1x GeForce GTX 980
2x GeForce GTX 980 (SLI)
OS Windows 8.1 Windows 8.1

Our testing methodology follows our Frame Rating system, which uses a capture-based system to measure frame times at the screen (rather than trusting the software's interpretation).

If you aren't familiar with it, you should probably do a little research into our testing methodology as it is quite different than others you may see online.  Rather than using FRAPS to measure frame rates or frame times, we are using an secondary PC to capture the output from the tested graphics card directly and then use post processing on the resulting video to determine frame rates, frame times, frame variance and much more.

This amount of data can be pretty confusing if you attempting to read it without proper background, but I strongly believe that the results we present paint a much more thorough picture of performance than other options.  So please, read up on the full discussion about our Frame Rating methods before moving forward!!

While there are literally dozens of file created for each “run” of benchmarks, there are several resulting graphs that FCAT produces, as well as several more that we are generating with additional code of our own.

If you need some more background on how we evaluate gaming performance on PCs, just check out my most recent GPU review for a full breakdown.

I only had time to test four different PC titles:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • GRID 2
  • Metro: Last Light

Continue reading our look at discrete GPU scaling on Skylake compared to Sandy Bridge!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction

After spending some time in the computer hardware industry, it's easy to become jaded about trade shows and unannounced products. The vast majority of hardware we see at events like CES every year is completely expected beforehand. While this doesn't mean that these products are bad by any stretch, they can be difficult to get excited about.

Everyone once and a while however, we find ourselves with our hands on something completely unexpected. Hidden away in a back room of Lenovo's product showcase at CES this year, we were told there was a product would amaze us — called the LaVie.

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And they were right.

Unfortunately, the Lenovo LaVie-Z is one of those products that you can't truly understand until you get it in your hands. Billed as the world's lightest 13.3" notebook, the standard LaVie-Z comes in at a weight of just 1.87 lbs. The touchscreen-enabled LaVie-Z 360 gains a bit of weight, coming in at 2.04 lbs.

While these numbers are a bit difficult to wrap your head around, I'll try to provide a bit of context. For example, the Google Nexus 9 weighs .94 lbs. For just over twice the weight as Google's flagship tablet, Lenovo has provided a full Windows notebook with an i7 ultra mobile processor.

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Furthermore the new 12" Apple MacBook which people are touting as being extremely light comes in at 2.03 lbs, almost the same weight as the touchscreen version of the LaVie-Z. For the same weight, you also gain a much more powerful Intel i7 processor in the LaVie, when compared to the Intel Core-M option in the MacBook.

All of this comes together to provide an experience that is quite unbelievable. Anyone that I have handed one of these notebooks to has been absolutely amazed that it's a real, functioning computer. The closest analog that I have been able to come up with for picking up the LaVie-Z is one of the cardboard placeholder laptops they have at furniture stores.

The personal laptop that I carry day-to-day is a 11" MacBook Air, which only weighs 2.38 lbs, but the LaVie-Z feels infinitely lighter.

However, as impressive as the weight (or lack thereof) of the LaVie-Z is, let's dig deeper into what the experience of using the world's lightest notebook.

Click here to continue reading our review of the Lenovo LaVie-Z and LaVie-Z 360