A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt

Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.

First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.

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This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.

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Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.

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From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.

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With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.

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For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.

Continue reading our preview of the new Thunderbolt 3 technology!!

Computex 2015: Intel Announces Quad-Core Broadwell for Desktop, Mobile

Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: Intel, computex 2015, computex, Broadwell

Earlier this morning you saw us post a story about MSI updating its line of 20 notebooks with new Broadwell processors. Though dual-core Broadwell has been available for Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s for some time already, today marks the release of the quad-core variations we have been waiting on for some time. Available for mobile designs, as well as marking the very first Iris Pro graphics implementation for desktop users, Broadwell quad-core parts look to be pretty impressive.

Today Intel gives to the world a total 10 new processors for content creators and enthusiasts. Two of these parts are 65 watt SKUs in LGA packaging for use by enthusiasts and DIY builders. The rest are BGA designs for all-in-one PCs and high performance notebooks and include both 65 watt and 47 watt variants. And most are using the new Iris Pro Graphics 6200 implementation.

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For desktop users, we get the Core i7-5775C and the Core i5-5675C. The Core i7 model is a quad-core, HyperThreaded CPU with a base clock of 3.3 GHz and a max Turbo clock of 3.7 GHz. It's unlocked so that overclockers and can mess around with them in the same way do with Haswell. The Iris Pro Graphics 6200 can scale up to 1150 MHz and rated DDR3L memory speeds are up to 1600 MHz. 6MB of L3 cache, a 65 watt TDP and a tray price of $366 round out the information we have.

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Click to Enlarge

The Core i5-5675C does not include HyperThreading, has clock speed ranges of 3.1 GHz to 3.6 GHz and only sees the Iris Pro scale to 1100 MHz. Also, it drops from 6MB of L3 cache to 4MB. Pricing on this model will start a $276.

These two processors mark the first time we have seen Iris Pro graphics in a socketed form factor, something we have been asking Intel to offer for at least a couple of generations. They focused on 65 watt TDPs rather than anything higher mostly because of the target audience for these chips: if you are interested in the performance of integrated graphics then you likely are pushing a small form factor design or HTPC of some kind. If you have a Haswell-capable motherboard then you SHOULD be able to utilize one of these new processors though you'll want a Z97 board if you are going to try to overclock it.

From a performance standpoint, the Core i7-5775C will offer 2x the gaming performance, 35% faster video transcoding and 20% higher compute performance when compared to the previous top-end 65 watt Haswell part, the Core i7-4790S. That 4th generation part uses Intel HD Graphics 4600 that does not include the massive eDRAM that makes Iris Pro implementations so unique.

For mobile and AIO buyers, Intel has a whole host of new processors to offer. You'll likely find most of the 65 watt parts in all-in-one designs but you may see some mobile designs that go crazy and opt for them too. For the rest of the gaming notebook designs there are CPUs like the Core i7-5950HQ, a quad-core HyperThreaded part with a base clock of 2.9 GHz and max Turbo clock of 3.8 GHz inside a TDP of 47 watts. The Iris Pro Graphics 6200 will scale from 300 to 1150 MHz so GPU performance should basically be on par with the desktop 65-watt equivalent. Pricing is pretty steep though: starting at $623.

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These new processors, especially the new 5950HQ, offer impressive compute and gaming performance.

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Compared to the Core i7-5600U, already available and used in some SFF and mobile platforms, the Core i7-5950HQ is 2.5x faster in SPECint and nearly 2x faster in a video conversion benchmark. Clearly these machines are going to be potent desktop replacement options.

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For mainstream gamers, the Iris Pro Graphics 6200 on 1920x1080 displays will see some impressive numbers. Players of League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and WoW will see over 60 FPS at the settings listed in the slide above.

We are still waiting for our hardware to show up but we have both the LGA CPUs and notebooks using the BGA option en route. Expect testing from PC Perspective very soon!

Braswell-Powered Intel NUCs Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 29, 2015 - 07:53 PM |
Tagged: Cherry Trail, SFF, pentium, nuc, Intel, celeron, Braswell, Airmont

Reports around the web along with this Intel PDF point to the official launch of a new low power NUC coming next month. The NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH are powered by Braswell-based Intel Celeron and Pentium processors topping out at 6W TDPs.

Intel NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH Braswell NUC Angled.jpg

These new NUC models have room for a motherboard, Braswell processor, a single laptop memory slot, a Mini PCI-E slot for the wireless module, and one 2.5" hard drive or SSD. There is no support for mSATA here which likely helped Intel cut costs (and as Olivier from FanlessTech points out mSATA support was dropped around the time of NUC 2.0). Further, unlike the lower power (4W versus 6W TDP) Braswell-based ASRock PC (which is also SFF but not a NUC), the two Intel NUCs are surely actively cooled by a fan.

On the outside of the compact PC, users have access to two USB 3.0 ports (one charging capable 5V/3A), a headphone/mic jack, infrared receiver, and SDXC memory card reader on the front. The rear panel hosts an additional two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, Gigabit LAN port, and optical audio output. The PC also has a Kensington lock port and is VESA moutable.

Intel NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH Braswell NUC Rear IO.jpg

Internally, Intel has opted for two of the highest power Braswell processors, the Intel Celeron N3050 and Intel Pentium N3700. Both are 14nm chips with a 6W TDP with Airmont CPU cores and Intel HD Graphics. The N3050 is a dual core part clocked at up to 2.16 GHz (1.6 GHz base) with 2MB cache and HD Graphics clocked between 320 and 600 MHz. The Pentium N3700 model on the other hand features four CPU cores clocked at up to 2.4 GHz (1.6 GHz base) paired with HD Graphics clocked at 700 MHz (400 MHz base).

Both the NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH will reportedly be available on June 8th starting at $140 and $180 respectively. This is an interesting price point for NUCs though it's popularity is going to heavily depend on the Braswell CPU's performance especially with Bay Trail-powered versions still on the market for even less (though with less performance).

Source: Maximum PC

Contest: Win a 400GB Intel 750 Series SSD from Intel and PC Perspective!

Subject: Editorial | May 29, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: SSD 750, PCI Express, NVMe, Intel, giveaway, contest, 750 series

PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together to offer up a giveaway with some pretty impressive swag. Surely by now you have read all about the new Intel SSD 750 Series of products, a new class of solid state drive that combines four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 and a new protocol called NVM Express (NVMe) for impressive bandwidth throughput. In Allyn's review of the SSD in April he called it "the obvious choice for consumers who demand the most from their storage" and gave it a PC Perspective Editor's Choice Award!

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Thanks to our friends at Intel we are going to be handing out a pair of the 400GB add-in card models to loyal PC Perspective readers and viewers. How can you enter? The rules are dead simple:

  1. Fill out the contest entry form below to find multiple entry methods including reading our review, answering a question about Intel SSD 750 Series specs or following us on Twitter. You can fill out one or all of the methods - the more you do the better your chances!
     
  2. Leave a comment on the news post below thanking Intel for sponsoring PC Perspective and for supplying this hardware for us to give to you!
     
  3. This is a global contest - so feel free to enter from anywhere in the world!
     
  4. Contest will close on June 2nd, 2015.

Win an Intel SSD 750 Series From PC Perspective and Intel!

Our most sincere thanks to Intel for bringing this contest to PC Perspective's readers and fans. Good luck to everyone (except Josh)!

Sponsored by Intel

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Product Specifications

Capacity Seqential 128KB Read (up to MB/s) Sequential 128KB Write (up to MB/s) Random 4KB Read (up to IOPS) Random 4KB Write (up to IOPS) Form Factor Interface
400 GB 2,200 900 430,000 230,000 2.5-inch x 15mm PCI Express Gen3 x4
1.2 TB 2,400 1,200 440,000 290,000 2.5-inch x 15mm PCI Express Gen3 x4
400 GB 2,200 900 430,000 230,000 Half-height half-length (HHHL) Add-in Card PCI Express Gen3 x4
1.2 TB 2,400 1,200 440,000 290,000 Half-heigh half-length (HHHL) Add-in Card PCI Express Gen3 x4

Experience the future of storage performance for desktop client and workstation users with the Intel® SSD 750 Series. The Intel SSD 750 Series delivers uncompromised performance by utilizing NVM Express* over four lanes of PCIe* 3.0.

With both Add-in Card and 2.5-inch form factors, the Intel SSD 750 Series eases migration from SATA to PCIe 3.0 without power or thermal limitations on performance. The SSD can now deliver the ultimate in performance in a variety of system form factors and configurations.

Source: Intel.com

Rumor: Intel Core i7-6700K (Skylake-S) Benchmarks Leaked

Subject: Processors | May 28, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Skylake, skylake-s, haswell, devil's canyon

For a while, it was unclear whether we would see Broadwell on the desktop. With the recently leaked benchmarks of the Intel Core i7-6700K, it seems all-but-certain that Intel will skip it and go straight to Skylake. Compared to Devil's Canyon, the Haswell-based Core i7-4790K, the Skylake-S Core i7-6700K has the same base clock (4.0 GHz) and same full-processor Turbo clock (4.2 GHz). Pretty much every improvement that you see is pure performance per clock (IPC).

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Image Credit: CPU Monkey

In multi-threaded applications, the Core i7-6700K tends to get about a 9% increase while, when a single core is being loaded, it tends to get about a 4% increase. Part of this might be the slightly lower single-core Turbo clock, which is said to be 4.2 GHz instead of 4.4 GHz. There might also be some increased efficiency with HyperThreading or cache access -- I don't know -- but it would be interesting to see.

I should note that we know nothing about the GPU. In fact, CPU Monkey fails to list a GPU at all. Intel has expressed interest in bringing Iris Pro-class graphics to the high-end mainstream desktop processors. For someone who is interested in GPU compute, especially with Explicit Unlinked MultiAdapter in DirectX 12 upcoming, it would be nice to see GPUs be ubiquitous and always enabled. It is expected to have the new GT4e graphics with 72 compute units and either 64 or 128MB of eDRAM. If clocks are equivalent, this could translate well over a teraflop (~1.2 TFLOPs) of compute performance in addition to discrete graphics. In discrete graphics, that would be nearly equivalent to an NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti.

We are expecting to see the Core i7-6700K launch in Q3 of this year. We'll see.

Source: CPU Monkey

Rumor: Only Xeon-based Skylake CPUs Getting AVX-512

Subject: Processors | May 27, 2015 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Skylake, Intel, Cannonlake, avx-512

AVX-512 is an instruction set that expands the CPU registers from 256-bit to 512-bit. It comes with a core specification, AVX-512 Foundation, and several extensions that can be added where it makes sense. For instance, AVX-512 Exponential and Reciprocal Instructions (ERI) help solve transcendental problems, which occur in geometry and are useful for GPU-style architectures. As such, it appears in Knights Landing but not anywhere else.

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Image Credit: Bits and Chips

Today's rumor is that Skylake, the successor to Broadwell, will not include any AVX-512 support in its consumer parts. According to the lineup, Xeons based on Skylake will support AVX-512 Foundation, Conflict Detection Instructions, Vector Length Extensions, Byte and Word Instructions, and Double and Quadword Instructions. Fused Multiply and Add for 52-bit Integers and Vector Byte Manipulation Instructions will not arrive until Cannonlake shrinks everything down to 10nm.

The main advantage of larger registers is speed. When you can fit 512 bits of data in a memory bank and operate upon it at once, you are able to do several, linked calculations together. AVX-512 has the capability to operate on sixteen 32-bit values at the same time, which is obviously sixteen times the compute performance compared with doing just one at a time... if all sixteen undergo the same operation. This is especially useful for games, media, and other, vector-based workloads (like science).

This also makes me question whether the entire Cannonlake product stack will support AVX-512. While vectorization is a cheap way to get performance for suitable workloads, it does take up a large amount of transistors (wider memory, extra instructions, etc.). Hopefully Intel will be able to afford the cost with the next die shrink.

New server chips from Intel on the way

Subject: General Tech | May 27, 2015 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: Purley, Intel, Skylake, Cannonlake, Grantley, Romley, knights landing

The Register has obtained a slide describing the next families of Xeon processor to be released by Intel, the Purley platform which includes Skylake.  There are some interesting new developments, including on die interface for either 10Gb/sec Ethernet or 100Gb/sec Omni-Path fabrics which interested the participants at the HPC conference the slides were shown at.  They also mentioned a brand new memory architecture which is described as offering four times the capacity and 500 times the speed than current NAND, all at a lower price per chip which is likely to be somewhat of an exaggeration on their part.  There were also new Phi chips, including the long awaited Knights Landing and workstation chips for use outside the server room.

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"A presentation given at a conference on high-performance computing (HPC) in Poland earlier this month appears to have yielded new insight into Intel's Xeon server chip roadmap.

A set of slides spotted by our sister site The Platform indicates that Chipzilla is moving toward a new server platform called "Purley" that will debut in 2017 or later."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

ASRock Launches New Braswell-Based "Beebox" Fanless PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 26, 2015 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, fanless, Cherry Trail, Braswell, asrock

Earlier this month, ASRock showed off a tiny fanless computer it is calling the Beebox. Powered by an Intel Braswell SoC, the new small form factor Beebox offers up a decent selection of I/O ports and general desktop performance while sipping power. The Beebox is approximately the size of Intel's NUC measuring 118.5mm x 110mm x 46mm x  (4.67" x 4.33" x 1.81" -- WxDxH) and will come in three color options: black, gold, and white.

ASRock Beebox Fanless Braswell NUC PC_Cherry Trail.png

This compact PC has a fairly extensive set of ports on tap. The front panel includes a headphone jack, infrared port, one standard USB 3.0 port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port which supports 5V/3A charging. The rear panel hosts the power jack, two HDMI outputs, one DisplayPort output, two USB 3.0 ports, a Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. Not bad for a small form factor PC.

ASRock will be offering the Beebox in three configuration options including a barebones kit, a version with 32 GB internal storage, 2 GB of RAM, and Windows 10, and a Beebox SKU with 128 GB of internal storage and 4 GB of RAM (and no OS pre-installed). Each of the SKUs are powered by the same Intel Celeron N3000 Braswell SoC. From there, users can add a single 2.5" SATA drive and a Mini PCI-E card (although this slot is occupied by the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless module). The system uses two DDR3L SO-DIMMs and supports a maximum of 8 GB DDR3L at 1600 MHz.

The aspect that made the Beebox stand out to me was the inclusion of the Braswell-based Celeron N3000 processor. This 4W 14nm part features two Airmont CPU cores clocked at 1.04 GHz base and 2.08 GHz turbo paired with 2MB L2 cache and a Gen 8 Intel GPU clocked at up to 600 MHz. This is a desktop variant of the Cherry Trail chips being used in tablets, but it is the lowest TDP Braswell chip currently at a mere 4 watts. ASRock likely went with this chip to ensure they could passively cool it and still keep temperatures in check. As FanlessTech notes, the chassis ASRock is using leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to heat dissipation compared to other fanless cases on the market.

We will have to wait for reviews to see how well the Beebox and its Braswell processor perform, but so long as ASRock is able to keep thermals in check, the little PC should offer acceptable performance for general desktop tasks (browsing the internet, checking email, watching streaming videos, etc). Cherry Trail (and keep in mind Braswell is a higher power chip based on the same architectures) is promising noticeable improvements to graphics and at least slight improvements to CPU performance. According to ASRock, the Beebox is going to be priced aggressively at "very low" price points which should make it a good compromise between older Bay Trail-D systems and newer (and more expensive) Broadwell and Haswell systems.

The Beebox is slated for late June availability, with exact pricing to be announced at that time.

Source: Ars Technica

Just Delivered: Lenovo Lavie-Z Lightweight Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 22, 2015 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, i7-5500U, Broadwell

After seeing it at CES this January, one our most anticipated products became the Lenovo Lavie-Z laptop. Born out of a partnership between NEC and Lenovo, the Lavie-Z promises to be the world's lightest laptop.

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Our old-school postage scale doesn't have the accuracy to reach the 1.87lb that Lenovo clocks the Lavie-Z in at

Even after using the machine breiefly at CES, it is difficult to put into words what picking up a sub-2lb laptop is really like. Even after using the machine off and on today, it still feels like it's not a real machine. Lenovo and NEC have been able to accomplish this weight shedding through the use of a Lithium-Magnisum composite for the external housing of the machine, which seems durable, yet is incredibly light.

 

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This may be a lightweight machine, but the specifications aren't compromised over other ultrabooks. The Lavie-Z is only listed in one configuration on Lenovo's site currently, but it's a high end one. A Broadwell Intel i7-5500U dual core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2560x1440 IGZO display, 256GB SATA M.2 Samsung SSD, and Intel 802.11AC wireless make up this machine. At $1500 for this configuration, there doesn't seem to be much of a markup over other i7-equipped ultrabooks.

We'll of course put the Lavie-Z through our normal paces including performance and battery life, and we certainly hope they live up to the striking first impressions of this laptop.

Stay tuned for our full review in the coming weeks!

Oculus Rift "Full Rift Experience" Specifications Released

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Displays, Systems | May 15, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus vr, nvidia, amd, geforce, radeon, Intel, core i5

Today, Oculus has published a list of what they believe should drive their VR headset. The Oculus Rift will obviously run on lower hardware. Their minimum specifications, published last month and focused on the Development Kit 2, did not even list a specific CPU or GPU -- just a DVI-D or HDMI output. They then went on to say that you really should use a graphics card that can handle your game at 1080p with at least 75 fps.

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The current list is a little different:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 (or higher)
  • Intel Core i5-4590 (or higher)
  • 8GB RAM (or higher)
  • A compatible HDMI 1.3 output
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows 7 SP1 (or newer).

I am guessing that, unlike the previous list, Oculus has a more clear vision for a development target. They were a little unclear about whether this refers to the consumer version or the current needs of developers. In either case, it would likely serve as a guide for what they believe developers should target when the consumer version launches.

This post also coincides with the release of the Oculus PC SDK 0.6.0. This version pushes distortion rendering to the Oculus Server process, rather than the application. It also allows multiple canvases to be sent to the SDK, which means developers can render text and other noticeable content at full resolution, but scale back in places that the user is less likely to notice. They can also be updated at different frequencies, such as sleeping the HUD redraw unless a value changes.

The Oculus PC SDK (0.6.0) is now available at the Oculus Developer Center.

Source: Oculus