Engineering Sample of Intel Core i7-4960X, Ivy Bridge-E

Subject: General Tech, Processors | July 18, 2013 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Ivy Bridge-E, Intel

Tom's Hardware acquired, from... somewhere, an early engineering sample of the upcoming Core i7-4960X. Intel was allegedly not involved with this preview and were thus, I would expect, not the supplier for their review unit. While the introductory disclaimer alluded to some tensions between Intel and themselves, for us: we finally have a general ballpark of Ivy Bridge-E's performance. Sure, tweaks could be made before the end of this year, but this might be all we have to go on until then.

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Single Threaded

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Multi Threaded

Both images, credit, Tom's Hardware.

When browsing through the benchmarks, I noticed three key points:

  • Single-threaded: slightly behind mainstream Haswell, similar to Sandy Bridge-E (SBE).
  • Multi-threaded: eight cores (Update 1: This was a 6-core part) are better than SBE, but marginal given the wait.
  • Power efficiency: Ivy Bridge-E handily wins, about 30% more performance per watt.

These results will likely be disappointing to enthusiasts who seek the highest performance, especially in single-threaded applications. Data centers, on the other hand, will likely be eager for Xeon variants of this architecture. The higher-tier Xeon E5 processors are still based on Socket 2011 Sandy Bridge-E including, for instance, those powering the highest performance Cluster Compute instances at Amazon Web Services.

But, for those who actually are salivating for the fastest at all costs, the wait for Ivy Bridge-E might as well be postponed until Haswell-E reaches us, allegedly, just a year later. That architecture should provide significant increases in performance, single and multi-threaded, and is rumored to arrive the following year. I may have just salted the wounds of those who purchased an X79 motherboard, awaiting Ivy Bridge-E, but it might just be the way to go for those who did not pre-invest in Ivy Bridge-E's promise.

Again, of course, under the assumption that these benchmarks are still valid upon release. While a complete product re-bin is unlikely, we still do not know what clock rate the final silicon will be capable of supporting, officially or unofficially.

Keep calm, and carry a Haswell?

Intel Announces Q2 Results: Below Expectations, but Still Good

Subject: Editorial | July 17, 2013 - 06:34 PM |
Tagged: silvermont, quarterly results, money, Lenovo, k900, Intel, atom, 22 nm tri-gate, 14 nm

Intel announced their Q2 results for this year, and it did not quite meet expectations.  When I say expectations, I usually mean “make absolutely obscene amounts of money”.  It seems that Intel was just shy of estimates and margins were only slightly lower than expected.  That being said, Intel reported revenue of $12.8 billion US and a net income of $2 billion US.  Not… too… shabby.

Analysts were of course expecting higher, but it seems as though the PC slowdown is in fact having a material effect on the market.  Intel earlier this quarter cut estimates, so this was not exactly a surprise.  Margins came in around 58.3%, but these are expected to recover going into Q3.  Intel is certainly still in a strong position as millions of PCs are being shipped every quarter and they are the dominant CPU maker in its market.

Intel-Swimming-in-Money.jpg

Intel has been trying to get into the mobile market as it still exhibits strong growth not only now, but over the next several years as things become more and more connected.  Intel had ignored this market for some time, much to their dismay.  Their Atom based chips were slow to improve and typically used a last generation process node for cost savings.  In the face of a strong ARM based portfolio of products from companies like Qualcomm, Samsung, and Rockchip, the Intel Atom was simply not an effective solution until the latest batch of chips were available from Intel.  Products like the Atom Z2580, which powers the Lenovo K900 phone, were late to market as compared to other 28 nm products such as the Snapdragon series from Qualcomm.

Intel expects the next generation of Atom being built on its 22 nm Tri-Gate process, Silvermont, to be much more competitive with the latest generation offerings from its ARM based competitors.  Unfortunately for Intel, we do not expect to see Silvermont based products until later in Q3 with availability in late Q4 or Q1 2014.  Intel needs to move chips, but this will be a very different market than what they are used to.  These SOCs have decent margins, but they are nowhere near what Intel can do with their traditional notebook, desktop, and server CPUs.

To help cut costs going forward, it seems as though Intel will be pulling back on its plans for 14 nm production.  Expenditures and floor space/equipment for 14 nm will be cut back as compared to what previous plans had held.  Intel still is hoping to start 14 nm production at the end of this year with the first commercial products to hit at the end of 2014.  There are questions as to how viable 14 nm is as a fully ramped process in 2014.  Eventually 14 nm will work as advertised, but it appears as though the kinks were much more complex than anticipated given how quickly Intel ramped 22 nm.

Intel has plenty of money, a dominant position in the x86 world, and a world class process technology on which to base future products on.  I would say that they are still in very, very good shape.  The market is ever changing and Intel is still fairly nimble given their size.  They also recognize (albeit sometimes a bit later than expected) shifts in the marketplace and they invariably craft a plan of attack which addresses their shortcomings.  While Intel revenue seems to have peaked last year, they are addressing new markets aggressively as well as holding onto their dominant position in notebooks, desktops, and server markets.  Intel is expecting Q3 to be up, but overall sales throughout 2013 to be flat as compared to 2012.  Have I mentioned they still cleared $2 billion in a down quarter?

Source: Intel

Hardware Flashback: Asus P2B

Subject: Motherboards | July 17, 2013 - 05:34 PM |
Tagged: Pentium II, Pentium !!!, pentium, P2B, Intel, hardware flashback, asus, 440 BX

Retro hardware is so much fun.  Today we have the Asus P2B, and while it was not a game changer for the time, it was a popular board.  This popularity sprang from its excellent compatibility with older Pentium II processors and a wide variety of AGP cards.  It was one of the last series of boards that Asus released that did not feature the jumperless BIOS options that we take for granted these days.

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3 ISA ports staring us in the face!  ATA-33?  Oh yeah!

There are some things that really spring out when looking at the board.  Having 3 ISA slots seems pretty much overkill as most people used perhaps two of them (modem and sound card), but I can see this being popular with people who also utilize older SCSI cards (such as those used with scanners of the time).  Having 3 ISA meant that there were only 4 PCI slots.  Remember, ISA and PCI slots situated next to each other would share the same backplate slot, so PCI and ISA could not be used adjacent to each other.  Remember as well that we often saw issues with the first PCI slot as it shared resources with the AGP slot.  This essentially gives only two usable PCI slots if a user was full up on ISA cards.

The board features 3 DIMM slots at a time when it was popular to use a buffer chip to allow up to four DIMM slots.  These buffer chips were often a big performance hit in memory operations and they quickly fell out of favor with most enthusiasts and power users.  Having 3 DIMM slots did lower the maximum potential installed memory, but not by all that much.  The performance benefits of slightly less memory but better performance often outweighed having that fourth DIMM.

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These old boards look so bare even compared to current low-end motherboards.  Excellent for someone who needs two serial ports, though!

The BX boards supported the 100 MHz bus speed for the latest Pentium IIs and upcoming Pentium !!!s.  This particular board was quite popular with people that had older Pentium IIs with the 66 MHz FSB.  Running these at 3 x 100 or 3.5 x 100 would give a nice overall boost for these aging processors.  Users who were early implementers of Pentium II CPUs were stuck with the old 440FX chipset which did not feature SDRAM or AGP support.  This would have been a nice upgrade in performance and functionality for those users as they could pop in their Pentium II 266 or 300 and tweak their way to performance nirvana.

This board was released before we saw the change to the colored peripheral connections, so every plug on the back of the board is black.  Color coding was for wimps anyway.  It also does not include integrated sound.  So there goes one of those ISA slots.  Users of the time would have probably installed a soundcard, modem, PCI Ethernet card, and their AGP card.  So where would the Voodoo 2 go?  How about two of them?  Things would get awful crowded very quickly.

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That dust may or may not have been deposited around 1999...

The AGP support on these boards was of course excellent.  That is primarily because Intel was the main driver of the specification and everyone else developed their cards to run in these slots.  VIA, SiS, and others of course had compatibility issues with a wide variety of cards.  This is why we saw other folks like 3dfx make their products run at below AGP specs.  For instance, the Voodoo 3 was essentially a PCI 66 MHz device in the AGP slot.  This disabled features like sideband addressing and reading textures from main memory.

This was still a popular board even in the face of competition with superior features.  The Asus brand and name goes far.  Plus it was a fast board for the time that was a bit no-frills.  Recipe for success?  I guess so.  This particular board and CPU were running in a homebuilt server for around 10 years until it was replaced.  I guess it was money well spent.

Source: Asus

ASRock Announces Mini ITX H87E-ITX/ac LGA 1150 Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards | July 12, 2013 - 10:50 PM |
Tagged: lga 1150, Intel, haswell, H87, asrock, 802.11ac

ASRock has announced a new Mini-ITX form facotr motherboard for Intel’s latest Haswell processors (LGA 1150). It utilizes the H87 chipset and should be a good board for enthusiasts looking to build a SFF machine.

ASRock H87E-ITXac Mini ITX Motherboard.jpg

The H87E-ITX/ac features a LGA 1150 socket powered by a 4-phase DrMOS VRM, two DDR3 DIMM slots (maximum of 32GB), and a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot. Storage is handled by six SATA III 6Gbps ports located between the CPU socket and PCI-E slot. The board uses an Intel i217V chipset for the 802.11ac WLAN and an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC. A Realtek ALC1150 chipset handles the audio duties.

ASRock H87E-ITXac Mini ITX Motherboard Rear IO.jpg

Rear IO on the H87E-ITX/ac includes:

  • 1 x PS/2
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x DVI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 jack
  • 1 x eSATA III
  • 1 x S/PDIF
  • 5 x Analog audio jacks

The rear IO also has two antenna connectors for the 802.11ac Wi-Fi card. ASRock includes an antenna but users should be able to use any third party antennas as it uses standard connectors.

ASRock has not yet released pricing or availability information, but you can find additional specifications and photos on this product page. I would wait for reviews, but it looks to be a decent board, and if the price is right it should be a popular option for SFF desktops and HTPC builds.

Source: ASRock

Intel Launching New BGA Processors: Three New Bay Trail Chips in Q4 and Three Haswell CPUs in 2014

Subject: Processors | July 12, 2013 - 07:06 PM |
Tagged: Intel, BGA, Bay Trail, haswell, roadmap

There has been a ton of BGA processor stories over the past year, with the most recent being that Intel will not be releasing the BGA-only 14nm Broadwell processors next year. It is not all bad news for BGA fans though, because Intel is reportedly introducing new BGA versions of Haswell-based chips late this year and in the first half of 2014.

According to a leaked road-map, Intel will release three new Bay Trail based BGA chips under the Pentium and Celeron brands by Q4 2013. Additionally, next year the company will launch three high performance BGA-only Haswell-based processors.

Intel Roadmap Showing New BGA Bay Trail and Haswell Processors.jpg

On the low end, Intel will launch three new Bay Trail-D based processors. The J1750 and J1850 will be Celerons while the J2850 will have Pentium branding. The specifications are available in the chart below.

10W TDP BGA Bay Trail CPUs (ETA: Q4'13)
  Base Clockspeed Cores / Threads Cache GPU GPU Clockspeed
Pentium J2850 2.4 GHz 4 / 4 2 MB Intel HD 688 / 792 MHz
Celeron J1850 2.0 GHz 4 / 4 2 MB Intel HD 688 / 792 MHz
Celeron J1750 2.4 GHz 2 / 2 2 MB Intel HD 688 / 750 MHz

For the enthusiast crowd that favors small systems (like Intel’s NUC), the company is releasing three new Haswell-based BGA processors under its Core i5 and Core i7 branding. Specifications for these high end chips are located in the chart below. Interestingly, these Haswell chips in a BGA package come with Intel's much faster Iris 5200 processor graphics. A high end desktop CPU SKU with Intel's GT3e (GT3 GPU with embedded memory) still eludes enthusiasts, however despite the BGA packaging. Note that the BGA Core processors are not coming until at least next year, according to the roadmap (which does note that dates are subject to change).

65W TDP BGA Haswell CPUs (ETA: 2014)
  Base Clockspeed Cores / Threads Cache GPU GPU Clockspeed
Core i7 4770R 3.2 GHz 4 / 8 6 MB Intel Iris 5200 1300 MHz
Core i5 4670R 3.0 GHz 4 / 4 4 MB Intel Iris 5200 1300 MHz
Core i5 4570R 2.7 GHz 4 / 4 4 MB Intel Iris 5200 1150 MHz

There has definitely been resistance against Intel’s BGA lineups by the enthusiast crowd, for fear that customization and DIY abilities would be hampered and that BGA would take over and displace LGA (socketed CPUs). In this particular case though, I think the new BGA processors are a good thing and so long as there continues to be LGA options for the DIY and enthusiast crowd, I look forward to seeing what platforms these new BGA chips are used in and what motherboard manufacturers offer with them (if they are even offered at retail at all, and not just to OEMs).

I think a BGA version of a desktop CPU with Intel's fastest GT3e processor graphics would actually be welcome since it appears that an LGA version is out of the question, and would be one way to sway desktop users over to Intel's BGA strategy and have them be open to similar options in future chips, such as Broadwell in 2015.

Source: eTeknix

EVGA Announces 500B Haswell-Ready Power Supply

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | July 12, 2013 - 01:13 AM |
Tagged: PSU, Intel, haswell, evga, c7, c6, 80 Plus Bronze

EVGA recently launched a new 500W power supply called the 500B. The new ATX PSU is haswell ready and supports the advanced low-wattage C6 and C7 sleep states. The 500B, as the name suggests, is a 500W unit rated 80 PLUS Bronze for 85% efficiency under typical workloads.

EVGA 500B 500W 80 PLUS Bronze Power Supply.png

Although it is not modular, it has several other enthusiast friendly features. It supports 40 Amps on the single +12V rail and has over-current and over-voltage protection.  Further, it has two 6+2-pin PCI-E power connectors, a single 8-pin CPU power, and a 24-pin ATX connector along with a couple molex and SATA power for good measure. Also, the PSU fan automatically adjusts speed for low noise.

EVGA 500B 80 PLUS Bronze Power Supply Connectors.jpg

The EVGA 500B (model number 100-BR-0500-KR) comes with a 3 year warranty. Pricing and availability have not been announced. It looks to be a decent option for budget builds, and should be priced competitively. More information and additional photos can be found on this EVGA product page.

Source: EVGA

Zotac Launches New Ivy Bridge-Powered ZBOX Nano SFF PCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 11, 2013 - 11:26 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, Nano, Ivy Bridge, Intel, hd 4000

Zotac has announced three new ZBOX Nano SKUs that utilize Intel’s 3rd Generation “Ivy Bridge” processors and HD 4000 processor graphics. The new SKUs include base and PLUS models of ID63, ID 64, and ID65 mini PCs.

Zotac ZBOX Nano with USB 3.jpg

The tiny PCs continue to use the ZBOX Nano form factor of approximately 5 x 5 x 1.8 inches. The front of the small form factor (SFF) PC holds two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, two audio jacks, LEDs, and a power button. The rear of the ZBOX Nano PCs features an external antenna for Wi-Fi along with the following IO.

  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x eSATA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet

The PC comes with a VESA 75/100 mount for wall mounting or attaching to the back of a monitor.

Internal specifications include an Intel Core i3 3227U (dual core at 1.9GHz), Core i5 3337U (dual core at 1.9GHz base, 2.7GHz turbo), or Core i7 3537U (dual core at 2.0GHz base, 3.1GHz turbo) processor depending on the specific SKU. The base barebones ZBOX Nano PCs support a single DDR3 SO-DIMM (up to 8GB 1600MHz) and a single 2.5” hard drive.

Zotac ZBOX Nano with nanoRAID RAID adapter.jpg

Zotac’s ZBOX Nano Plus units bundle in 4GB of DDR3 and a 500GB hard drive. Zotac also includes a “nanoRAID” adapter that will allow users to switch out a traditional 2.5” storage drive for two mSATA drives. The adapter supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 options as well.

Pricing and availability for the new ZBOX Nano SKUs has not been announced yet, but the mini PCs should be up for sale soon.

The decision to release new models with Ivy Bridge processors instead of Intel's latest Haswell CPUs is a bit strange, but the SFF PCs have likely been in the making and testing phase for a while. I expect Haswell-powered versions to be released at some point in the future but for now the Ivy Bridge models will offer up more performance than previous ZBOX Nano units.

Source: Zotac

Digital Storm Launching Haswell-Powered 13.3" VELOCE Gaming Notebook

Subject: Cases and Cooling | July 11, 2013 - 09:24 PM |
Tagged: veloce, Intel, haswell, gtx 765m, gtx 700M, Digital Storm

Later this month, Digital Storm will be launching the 13.3” VELOCE gaming notebook. The 13.3” laptop is 1.26” thick and weighs 4.81 pounds. It combines a 1080p screen with an Intel Haswell processors and NVIDIA 700M dedicated graphics.

Digital Storm VELOCE Gaming Laptop.jpg

On the outside, the VELOCE features a black laptop lid with a red Digital Storm logo that runs down the center. The interior of the laptop is silver and grey with a backlit keyboard. The VELOCE has a LED-backlit 13.3” display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. External port IO includes three USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI 1.4a output, one VGA video out, and an Ethernet RJ45 jack.

Internal specifications for the VELOCE include an Intel Core i7-4800MQ Haswell processor (quad core at 3.7GHz max), 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a 750GB hybrid hard drive with 8GB of flash cache. Users also get a NVIDIA GTX 765M dedicated GPU with 2GB of video memory and support for the company’s Optimus technology. A 8x DVD/CD drive and Killer Wireless-N 1202 Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0 NIC. The notebook supports a single 2.5” drive and a single mSATA drive, with RAID support.

Digital Storm is bundling the notebook with Windows 8 x64.

The Digital Storm VELOCE will be available on July 17th. It will have a starting price of $1,535 USD which gets you the laptop, 3 year warranty, and lifetime of US-based tech support.

New Ultrathin ThinkPad T440S Appears On Lenovo Website

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | July 9, 2013 - 03:40 AM |
Tagged: laptop, Lenovo, Thinkpad, haswell, Intel, windows 8

A new ultrathin laptop for business users has appeared on Lenovo’s website. Called the Lenovo ThinkPad T440S, it is an Intel 4th Generation Core "Haswell"-powered machine running Windows 8.

The ThinkPad T440S features a magnesium and carbon fiber chassis that is 21mm thick. It has a full size, spill resistant, keyboard with multimedia function keys, a TrackPoint, and a multi-touch trackpad. The T440S has a 14” display with optional multi-touch and a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

Lenovo ThinkPad T440S.jpg

This laptop will start at 3.5 pounds. It can be configured with two 3-cell batteries with one internal and one removable battery. In this configuration, users can swap out the removable battery for a spare without powering down the system (a technology Lenovo calls Power Bridge). Other features include a 720p webcam with dual noise canceling mics.

IO includes three USB 3.0 ports, one Mini DisplayPort and one VGA video output, and a SD card reader. The T440S also comes equipped with an NFC radio.

Unfortunately, additional specifications and pricing data is not yet listed on the Lenovo site. If you are a business user in need of a thin and light laptop, keep a lookout on this product page for more information as the laptop gets closer to release.

Source: Lenovo
Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Battle of the IGPs

Our long journey with Frame Rating, a new capture-based analysis tool to measure graphics performance of PCs and GPUs, began almost two years ago as a way to properly evaluate the real-world experiences for gamers.  What started as a project attempting to learn about multi-GPU complications has really become a new standard in graphics evaluation and I truly believe it will play a crucial role going forward in GPU and game testing. 

Today we use these Frame Rating methods and tools, which are elaborately detailed in our Frame Rating Dissected article, and apply them to a completely new market: notebooks.  Even though Frame Rating was meant for high performance discrete desktop GPUs, the theory and science behind the entire process is completely applicable to notebook graphics and even on the integrated graphics solutions on Haswell processors and Richland APUs.  It also is able to measure performance of discrete/integrated graphics combos from NVIDIA and AMD in a unique way that has already found some interesting results.

 

Battle of the IGPs

Even though neither side wants us to call it this, we are testing integrated graphics today.  With the release of Intel’s Haswell processor (the Core i7/i5/i3 4000) the company has upgraded the graphics noticeably on several of their mobile and desktop products.  In my first review of the Core i7-4770K, a desktop LGA1150 part, the integrated graphics now known as the HD 4600 were only slightly faster than the graphics of the previous generation Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge.  Even though we had all the technical details of the HD 5000 and Iris / Iris Pro graphics options, no desktop parts actually utilize them so we had to wait for some more hardware to show up. 

 

mbair.JPG

When Apple held a press conference and announced new MacBook Air machines that used Intel’s Haswell architecture, I knew I could count on Ken to go and pick one up for himself.  Of course, before I let him start using it for his own purposes, I made him sit through a few agonizing days of benchmarking and testing in both Windows and Mac OS X environments.  Ken has already posted a review of the MacBook Air 11-in model ‘from a Windows perspective’ and in that we teased that we had done quite a bit more evaluation of the graphics performance to be shown later.  Now is later.

So the first combatant in our integrated graphics showdown with Frame Rating is the 11-in MacBook Air.  A small, but powerful Ultrabook that sports more than 11 hours of battery life (in OS X at least) but also includes the new HD 5000 integrated graphics options.  Along with that battery life though is the GT3 variation of the new Intel processor graphics that doubles the number of compute units as compared to the GT2.  The GT2 is the architecture behind the HD 4600 graphics that sits with nearly all of the desktop processors, and many of the notebook versions, so I am very curious how this comparison is going to stand. 

Continue reading our story on Frame Rating with Haswell, Trinity and Richland!!