Intel still manages a profit in a tough year

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2016 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: Intel, earnings

Even with the difficulties the PC market encountered over 2015 Intel still managed to make a good sized profit.  Compared to Q4 of 2014 their profits shrank a mere 1% down to $8.76bn,  a feat unequalled by other silicon slingers as the entire market shrunk by about 10%.  Their data centre group provided the most impressive results, a 5% increase in revenue likely spurred by the growth of hosting providers for the various Clouds which formed or grew over the past year.  The Inquirer also points out the release of the sixth generation of the Core family of processors certainly didn't hurt them either.

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"INTEL HAS POSTED strong quarterly profits in its fourth quarter earnings, revealing results that were higher than Wall Street was expecting despite a tough year for the PC market."

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Source: The Inquirer

EVGA Z170 Motherboards to Support BCLK Overclocking Non-K CPUs

Subject: Motherboards | January 14, 2016 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: unlocked, overclocking, oc, LGA 1151, Intel K series, Intel, evga, bios, BCLK

An upcoming BIOS update for EVGA Z170 motherboards to allow BCLK overclocking on non-K Intel processors.

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The news came from EVGA Product Manager Jacob Freeman via Twitter this afternoon:

Update: The new BIOS 1.07 enabling non-K BLCK OC is now available from EVGA.

We have been following the story of BCLK overclocking of locked Skylake CPUs since early last month, when Techspot published benchmarks from an Intel Core i3-6100 clocked at 4.70 GHz - thanks to a pre-release ASRock BIOS. The BIOS has since been released, and other vendors are updating their Z170 motherboards to support these locked processors as well, the latest being EVGA.

It remains to be seen if Intel will have anything to say about their cheaper "locked" processors becoming more attractive to potential overclockers, as the unlocked K parts have provided a nice profit margin for the company. So far, board partners are moving forward seemingly unimpeded with the updates to remove the overclocking limitations, and that's great news for enthusiasts.

Source: Twitter

Intel expands its grasp into wearables and robots

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2016 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: Intel, drone, wearables, realsense, DOMINATION

Intel is planning on getting inside a wider variety of pants, as well as drones and robots in the very near future, diversifying out of a PC market which has not been growing at an attractive place for over a year.  They certainly have the budget to do so as well as several technologies which will give them powerful leverage in those markets.  One example that immediately leaps to mind is selling drones with Intel RealSense sensors installed, the extra functionality that would be added to the drone would be impressive.  Intel's Curie SoC will be found in eyeglasses and clothing in the not too distant future and they have partnered with robot manufacturers to ensure their chips will compatible with the wide variety of operating systems used in controlling robots.  You can glean more about their plans over at The Register.

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"The need to control not just the processor itself, but the whole surrounding software and connectivity platform, was very clear in Intel’s launches and keynotes a last week's Consumer Electronics Show."

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Source: The Register

Is it better to freeze or give bad results? Skylake and complex math need to learn to get along

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2016 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Skylake, bug

You may remember the infamous Pentium FDIV bug, which could cause the wrong decimal results to be given in an answer to complex mathematical calculations which caused much consternation among scientists in the early 90's.  Now there is a new bug to remember, found on Skylake processors, which can cause the processor to freeze during complex calculations such as you would do in Prime95 or if you contribute to the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search project.  The issue has been replicated on both Windows and Linux systems and on different motherboards, signifying that the issue does indeed come from the CPU.  While having a freeze is certainly better than getting an incorrect result, it is still inconvenient and we hope that Intel's BIOS update will arrive soon.  You can follow the detection and investigation of the bug and what is being done over at The Register.

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"The good news is that the bug's triggered by complex workloads. It was turned up by prime number experts the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), who use Intel machines to identify and test new large prime numbers."

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Source: The Register

CES 2016: New Intel Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Intel, compute stick

Intel has announced two new Compute Sticks with a handful of available SKUs.

On the high end, in terms of Compute Sticks at least, two products are available. At the low end of the two, a Core m3 processor will be present, and Windows 10 will be pre-installed for $399. The high-end variant will have a faster Core m5 processor, but no pre-installed OS for $499. It seems odd that a choice in SoC will be tied to the OS, but I'm guessing the Intel doesn't want to have too many SKUs for a potentially low-volume product.

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Regardless of the above choice, both Core M-level Compute Sticks, above, have 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 3x USB ports. They also have Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity.

Beyond the above two products, a low end, Intel Atom-based Compute Stick is available. Just one SKU will be available, though. It has the same Intel Atom x5-Z8300 that was present on the Zotac PC Stick. It also has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 2x USB ports. It has Wireless AC, but Bluetooth 4.0 (instead of the Core M version's 4.1). It will be available for $159.

Release dates are not announced, but the Atom-based Compute Sticks are in production, and the Core M-based one will enter production next month.

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PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: Intel (pdf)

Intel Pushes Device IDs of Kaby Lake GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 8, 2016 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: Intel, kaby lake, linux, mesa

Quick post about something that came to light over at Phoronix. Someone noticed that Intel published a handful of PCI device IDs for graphics processors to Mesa and libdrm. It will take a few months for graphics drivers to catch up, although this suggests that Kaby Lake will be releasing relatively soon.

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It also gives us hints about what Kaby Lake will be. Of the published batch, there will be six tiers of performance: GT1 has five IDs, GT1.5 has three IDs, GT2 has six IDs, GT2F has one ID, GT3 has three IDs, and GT4 has four IDs. Adding them up, we see that Intel plans 22 GPU devices. The Phoronix post lists what those device IDs are, but that is probably not interesting for our readers. Whether some of those devices overlap in performance or numbering is unclear, but it would make sense given how few SKUs Intel usually provides. I have zero experience in GPU driver development.

Source: Phoronix

CES 2016 Podcast Day 3 - New ROG Monitors, M.2 PCIe Drives, a giant case from EVGA and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 02:47 AM |
Tagged: video, ROG, podcast, patriot, nuc, maximus VII, M.2, kingston, Intel, evga, compute stick, CES 2016, CES, asus

CES 2016 Podcast Day 3 - 01/07/16

We wrap up CES 2016 by talking about new ROG monitors from ASUS, Plenty of M.2 PCIe Drives, a giant case from EVGA and more!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:47:01

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CES 2016: Acer Shows Off Upscale Chromebook 11 With Budget $179 Price

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2016 - 12:52 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Chromebook, chrome os, CES 2016, budget, acer

CES 2016 has seen its share of high end product unveilings, but in addition to its premium hardware, Acer is launching a very budget-friendly PC in the form of the Chromebook 11. The new Chromebook 11 is a surprising product that does not compromise aesthetics in order to hit it’s $179 price tag.

 

Running Chrome OS, the budget 11.6” notebook features an aluminum alloy top cover with crosshatch pattern that helps to give it a more high end look. The rest of the laptop is plastic though The Verge claims that the build quality feels nice with a comfortable keyboard and a body that does not flex while typing. The top cover and hinges are a metallic silver while the bottom and area surrounding the keyboard is white. The keys are black with white lettering, and the package (at least from the photos) looks like it belongs to a more expensive laptop! A webcam sits above the display and a large trackpad is nestled below the keyboard. It measures 0.73 inches thick and weighs 2.42 pounds. Acer claims it can withstand corner drops from a height of 60cm (just under 2 ft).

 

Acer Chromebook 11.png

The Verge got hands-on time with the new Chromebook at CES 2016.

 

The left side of the Chromebook 11 holds the DC power input, HDMI output, USB 3.0 port, and a SD card slot while the right side has a SIM card slot, headphone jack, USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock slot.

 

The Chromebook 11 had me excited, but it is not perfect. Acer did not compromise looks, but compromises had to be made somewhere and in the case of the Chromebook 11 it is, unfortunately, in the display which has a mere 720p resolution. That is the big drawback in this notebook, made slightly livable due to it having a matte finish with enough backlight that it can be used outdoors.

 

Internally, Acer is using a quad core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal flash storage.

 

The Chromebook 11 will be available at the end of January starting at $179 in the US and 229 Euros across the pond.

 

I think this would be a good PC for younger students or as a second PC. I was excited about this for $179 while reading about it, but it was tempered by the revelation that the display resolution is stuck at 720p which isn’t horrible but I was expecting a bit more there (at least give me 1366x768...). What do you think about Acer’s newest Chromebook?

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PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: The Verge

Rumor: Intel and Xiaomi "Special Deal"

Subject: Processors, Mobile | January 6, 2016 - 10:56 PM |
Tagged: xiaomi, Intel, atom

So this rumor cites anonymous source(s) that leaked info to Digitimes. That said, it aligns with things that I've suspected in a few other situations. We'll discuss this throughout the article.

Xiaomi, a popular manufacturer of mobile devices, are breaking into the laptop space. One model was spotted on pre-order in China with an Intel Core i7 processor. According to the aforementioned leak, Intel has agreed to bundle an additional Intel Atom processor with every Core i7 that they order. Use Intel in a laptop, and they can use Intel in an x86-based tablet for no additional cost.

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A single grain of salt... ...
Image Source: Wikipedia

While it's not an explicit practice, we've been seeing hints of similar initiatives for years now. A little over a year ago, Intel's mobile group reported revenues that are ~$1 million, which are offset by ~$1 billion in losses. We would also see phones like the ASUS ZenFone 2, which has amazing performance at a seemingly impossible $199 / $299 price point. I'm not going to speculate on what the actual relationships are, but it sounds more complicated than a listed price per tray.

And that's fine, of course. I know comments will claim the opposite, either that x86 is unsuitable for mobile devices or alleging that Intel is doing shady things. In my view, it seems like Intel has products that they believe can change established mindsets if given a chance. Personally, I would be hesitant to get an x86-based developer phone, but that's because I would only want to purchase one and I'd prefer to target the platform that the majority has. It's that type of inertia that probably frustrates Intel, but they can afford to compete against it.

It does make you wonder how long Intel plans to make deals like this -- again, if they exist.

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Source: Digitimes

Intel Announces Core m Skylake and Cherry Trail Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, core m5, core m3, compute stick, Cherry Trail, CES 2016, CES

First up on the meeting block with the official opening of CES 2016 was Intel and its NUC and Compute Stick division. You should remember the Intel Compute Stick as a HDMI-enabled mini-computer in the shape of a slightly over sized USB drive. The first iteration of it was based on Bay Trail Atom processor and though we could see the benefits of such a device immediately, the follow through on the product lacked in some key areas. Performance was decent but even doing high bit rate video streaming seemed like a stretch and the Wi-Fi integration left something to be desired.

Today though Intel is announcing three new Compute Stick models. One is based on Cherry Trail, the most recent Atom processor derivative, and two using the Intel Core m processors based on the Skylake architecture.

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Old Compute Stick on top, new on the bottom

The Intel STK1AW32SC uses the Cherry Trail Atom x5 processor, the x5-Z8300 quad-core CPU with a 1.44 GHz base clock and a 1.84 GHz Turbo clock. This CPU only has a 2 watt SDP so power consumption remains in line with the design we saw last year. Other specifications include an updated 802.11ac 2x2 wireless data connection (nice!), 32GB of internal eMMC storage, 2GB of DDR3-1600 memory and Bluetooth 4.0 support. Intel claims this configuration will offer about 2x the graphics performance of the previous model though CPU changes will be less noticeable. Still, we should see much improved 1080p streaming video performance without the dropped frames that were a problem last generation.

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For connectivity, Intel has moved from a single USB port to a pair, one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. There is still a requirement for external power via the micro USB port on the side.

The design is definitely more refined and feels higher quality than the original Compute Stick concept. This model is shipping today and should have an MSRP of $159 on the market.

More interesting are the pair of new Core-based Compute Sticks. There are two different models, one with a Core m3-6Y30 and another with a Core m5-6Y57 and vPro support. These devices get a nice bump to 64GB of internal eMMC storage, which Intel promises has better performance to take advantage of the USB 3.0 ports, along with 4GB of DDR3-1833 memory to keep things running smoothly.

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The processor differences are noteworthy here – the Core m5-6Y57 has a sizeable advantage in peak boost clock, hitting 2.8 GHz versus only 2.2 GHz on the Core m3-6Y30. Base clocks are 1.1 GHz and 900 MHz, respectively, so I am curious how much time these devices will spend in the higher clocked modes in this form factor. As with the original Compute Stick, all three of the new models include an active fan cooling system.

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The build quality on the Core variants of the Compute Stick are very similar to the Atom Cherry Trail model, though with a couple of unique changes to the I/O. On the device itself you have just a single USB 3.0 port and a single USB 3.0 Type-C connection used for both power and data.

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On the wall power connector though, Intel has smartly integrated a USB 3.0 hub, giving us two more USB ports available at the wall, moving data to the Compute Stick itself through the Type-C cable. It’s really neat design idea and I can easily see this moving toward more connectivity on the power device in the future – maybe additional displays, audio outputs, etc.

The STK2M3W64CC, the Core m3-6Y30 variant that has Windows 10 pre-installed, will MSRP for $399. A version without Windows (STK2M364CC) will sell for around $299. Finally, the Core m5-6Y57 model, the STK2M3W64CC, is going to be $499, without an OS, targeted at the business markets. All three will be shipping in February.

We have a Cherry Trail Compute Stick in our hands already for testing but I am very curious to see how both the Core m3 and Core m5 version of the device improve on it with performance and usability. It’s very possible that these 4.5 watt parts are going to be more than enough for a large portion of the market, making truly headless computing a viable solution for most workloads.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!