Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 10, 2011 - 07:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel
Intel has this little platform that they are attempting to push against the world known as the Ultrabook, a category of ultra-thin and light laptops that range 11-inch to 17-inch screens with high performance and high price. The actual cost of an Ultrabook is somewhat hotly debated between Intel and others. On the Intel side of the fence, the claim for the cost of parts in an Ultrabook range between $475 and $710; this bill of materials comes days after manufacturers discussed component costs around the $1000 mark. To further push the Ultrabook platform, Intel just released a statement announcing a $300 million fund to invest in technologies that further the Ultrabook platform.
Is Intel getting themselves into a jackpot?
Intel described their intents with the fund in this snippet from their press release:
Ultrabooks will deliver a highly responsive and secure experience in a thin, light and elegant design and at mainstream prices. To help realize that vision, the Intel Capital Ultrabook Fund aims to invest in companies building hardware and software technologies focused on enhancing how people interact with Ultrabooks such as through sensors and touch, achieving all day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improved storage capacity. The overall goal of the fund, which will be invested over the next 3-4 years, is to create a cycle of innovation and system capabilities for this new and growing category of mobile devices.
It looks as though Intel is putting their money where their mouth is. While $300 million is not exactly huge in the scale of Intel revenue it is a substantial sum and equal (less inflation) to what they used to back Centrino over eight years ago. While their last investment went to subsidizing wireless access points, marketing, and similar programs this investment should be mostly focused on the technology itself -- both hardware and software -- with battery, input, and interface specifically mentioned. Part of me muses about Meego in terms of the Ultrabook platform potentially even as a supplement to Windows. We shall see what Intel has in store for the platform that could, and bludgeoned forward with heaps of raw cash when it could not.
Subject: Storage | August 9, 2011 - 06:10 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ssd, mlc, Intel, hitachi, enterprise
Hitachi recently released a new enterprise class SSD based on Intel's 25nm MLC flash. Dubbed the Hitachi SSD400M, the new solid state drive is aimed at Enterprise users and Cloud data centers. It comes in the standard 2.5" form factor, features a SAS 6Gb/s interface, and will be available in 200GB and 400GB capacities.
As an enterprise drive, the Hitachi SSD400M supports end to end data protection, error correction, error handling and self encryption on certain models compliant with the Trusted Computing Group’s Enterprise A Security Subsystem Class encryption specification. Further showing it's intended usage as an Enterprise drive, the 25nm MLC based drive is rated for 7.3 Petabyte lifetime write, which Hitachi says amounts to 10 full drive writes per day for five years. Coincidentally, the warranty of the drive is a five year limited warranty or until the drive exceeds the maximum rated number of petabyte writes per capacity. Hitachi states that they expect a .44 annual failure rate and have projected a 2 million hour MTBF.
Performance of the drive is much better than that of the previously reported Intel drive, as it delivers 495MB/s sequential reads and 385MB/s sequential writes. The SSD is further rated at 56,000 read IOPS and 24,000 write IOPS.
The SSD400M has already shipped to various OEMs and will be available soon. More information on the new SSD can be found here.
According to VR-Zone, Intel's newest enterprise series 710 Lyndonville solid state drives (SSD) will be launching soon in a mid-august time frame, and will be carrying a price-per-gigabyte metric that only a corporate expense account could love.
The Intel 311. The 710 series will have the same 2.5" form factor.
The new drives will come in 100GB, 200GB, and 300GB capacities and will be priced at approximately $650, $1250, and $1900 USD respectively. Featuring 25mm eMLC HET, the drives feature 64MB of cache, user-controllable over-provisioning up to 20% (which helps drive longevity by reserving more of the drive for replacement of worn out cells), and a SATA II 3.0Gbps connection. The SATA 3Gbps connection is not likely to bottleneck the drive as it will only feature 270MB/s read and 210MB/s write speeds.
The eMLC HET flash chips are higher quality MLC chips that Intel hopes will provide enterprise level SLC enduring without the higher cost of the SLC chips. Interestingly, the drives only carry a 3 year warranty that is then further impacted by the state of the E9 wear level indicator so that the warranty expires once the three years are up or the E9 indicator reaches 1, whichever comes first. The consumer grade Intel 320 drives on the other hand carry a longer 5 year warranty.
My aging X-25 drive remembers the days when Intel pushed for driving down the cost of SSDs; however, does Intel still remember that goal?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 5, 2011 - 11:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook.asus, Intel
Digitimes reported today that Intel will be meeting with its Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) partners in Taipei next week to discuss the Bill of Materials (BOM) that outlines the components to be used in Intel's Ultrabook notebook class. The goal of the meeting will be to tweak the Bill of Materials such that the initial selling price will be below $1,000 USD.
Intel has further broken up the Ultrabook category into two thickness classes of 18mm and 21mm. The 18mm reference designs, of which Intel has rendered five, have thus far omitted any optical drives. An example of the 18mm design can be seen in the upcoming Asus UX21 and UX31 ultrabooks. The proposed Bill of Materials for the 18mm ultrabooks is between $493 and $710 USD while the 21mm ultrabooks BOM is between $475 and $650 USD.
Beyond the Bill of Materials, the site notes that Intel is further planning to release next generation ultrabooks based on 22nm Ivy Bridge processors in 2012 and 22nm Haswell CPUs in 2013. These ultrabooks will come in sizes ranging from 11" to 17." The 11" to 13" models will have a thickness of 18mm while the 14" to 17" models will be of the 21mm variety.
Apple Insider notes that the push from Intel to keep the cost of materials and initial selling price for its ultrabooks below $1,000 may be due to the $999 entry level Macbook selling so well and Intel's desire to provide a competitive product that can match the thin-ness of the Mac notebooks and is priced to sell. Do you think Intel's ultrabooks will catch on with consumers, or will it be another niche and/or gimmick product?
Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2011 - 11:24 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel
Look at that UX21 there, isn't it gorgeous? Only 1.1kg of brushed aluminium, fully kitted out with a new style lithium battery, is only 1.7cm thick and it has ASUS' Instant On technology which will boot you to desktop in 5 seconds. It was shown off as the shining example of what Intel's Ultrabook could be at this years CES and everyone who saw it loved it. It seemed that Intel was going to go straight to the core of Apple's ultra light market, not that their processors aren't already in Apple's MacBooks but it is nice to keep the PC partners happy as well.
DigiTimes has heard from a few manufacturers and are ready to add a large lead weight to the Ultrabook, the same weight that dragged down the CULV; namely price. When competing with Apple, the number one thing you need to do is beat them on price. You might be able to match their quality of design, or match them on the size of the notebook or even on the weight but the problem is that Apple was there first. Consumers know Apple's ultramobile platforms and have been using them for years, so if a newcomer tries stealing market share from Apple the only thing they cannot match is Apple's prices. The manufacturers that DigiTimes talked to placed the cost of the components they need to include to meet Intel's specfications are ~$1000, which is the market price of a lower end MacBook Air. Since businesses tend to like to make a bit of profit, as does everyone else in the supply chain, the cost of even a low end Ultrabook will be higher than an equivalent MacBook. Unless Intel is willing to drop prices, the Ultrabook will likely do even worse than the CULV, since at least the CULV had a mobile power user niche to crawl into and hide.
"While Intel is positioning ultrabook as a set of specifications to enable partners to design notebooks imitating MacBook Air, ultrabooks may encounter the same frustrations as CULV notebooks did if prices are not lower than those of the Air, according to sources from Taiwan-based supply chain makers.
The sources pointed out that Intel's ultrabook concept is not a brand new innovation, but a design to allow first-tier notebook players to quickly catch up with Apple's advances in the ultra-thin segment and help the notebook industry recover from the impact of tablet PCs.
Intel has been hosting conferences with the upstream notebook supply chain about its ultrabook since the second quarter and is providing suggestions and assistance in designing related components and methods for reducing costs. Ultrabooks will feature a similar design as MacBook Air and adopt li-polymer batteries, which will completely remove the device's capability of exchanging the battery, to significantly reduce weight, while the machine will adopt metal chassis for heat dissipation and a solid state drive (SSD).
In addition, all the components will be soldered on to the machine's PCB to save space and reduce weight, but the new methods will completely change the existing notebook production process of combining several modules together.
The sources pointed out that the new MacBook Airs are priced at about US$999-1,599 with rather strong demand in the US; however, designing an ultrabook based on Intel's technical suggestions will still be unable to reduce the machine's price level to lower than the MacBook Air's unless Intel is willing to reduce its prices, which already account for one-third of the total cost. If Intel does reduce its prices there is a chance for vendors to provide pricing below US$1,000."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Apple II+ retrocomputing with an FPGA @ ExtremeTech
- IE users are stupid report was faked @ The Inquirer
- Zero day bug threatens many WordPress sites @ The Register
- Google Patches 30 Chrome Bugs, Adds Instant Pages @ Slashdot
- Elpida starts producing 25nm DRAM chips @ The Inquirer
- IBM To Unveil Secure Open Wireless At Black Hat @ Slashdot
- Intel Sandy Bridge Speeds Up On Linux 3.1 Kernel @ Phoronix
- Compro IP70 Network camera @ Bjorn3D
- Real World Labs And Antec Joint Contest
Subject: General Tech, Processors | July 28, 2011 - 03:50 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Sandy Bridge-EP, Intel
Since we got back together with Sandy B we have played a few games, made a couple home movies together, and went around travelling. Now that our extended vacation is over Sandy decided it is time to get a job. Sandy B was working part-time as a server and apparently like her job because Intel brought her to a job opening in Jaketown. Intel has apparently released details on their server product, Sandy Bridge-EP “Jaketown” that will debut in Q4, to replace the current server line of up-clocked desktop parts with disabled GPUs.
According to Real World Tech, Intel’s server component will contain up to 8 cores and sport PCI-Express 3.0 and Quick Path Interconnect 1.1. Rumors state that the highest-clocked component will run at up to 3GHz with the lowest estimated to be 2.66GHz. The main components of the CPU will be tied together with a ring bus, although unlike the original Sandy Bridge architecture the Sandy Bridge-EP ring will be bi-directional. Clock rates of the internal ring are not known but the bidirectional nature should decrease travelling distance of data by half on average. The L3 cache size is not known but is designed to be fast and low latency.
Intel looks to be really focusing this SKU down to be very efficient for the kinds of processes that servers require. There is no mention of the Sandy Bridge-EP containing a GPU, for instance, which should leave more options for highly effective x86 performance; at some point the GPU will become more relevant in the server market but Intel does not seem to think that today is that day. Check out the analysis at Real World Tech for more in-depth information.
Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2011 - 02:16 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: ssd, podcast, ocz, Intel, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #164 - 7/28/2011
This week we talk about Intel and AMD Earnings, Intel MLAA, 28 nanometer GPUs, Viewer Questions and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano
This Podcast is brought to you by
- 0:00:43 Introduction
- 1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
- 0:02:13 Intel and AMD Provide Positive Earnings
- 0:13:35 Bulldozer will be on time, missing CEO or not
- 0:14:45 Intel MLAA: Matrox had the right idea, wrong everything else
- 0:23:00 This Podcast is brought to you by
, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
- 0:24:04 Intel reproduces '8MB bug', fix coming soon.
- 0:32:20 Video Perspective: AMD Steady Video Technology on AMD A-Series APUs
- 0:35:28 Phone in your overclocking, MSI Afterburner App for Android
- 0:37:00 OCZ wraps both its ARMs around a new SSD controller and gives it a little TLC
- 0:40:55 AMD CFO States They Will Have 28 Nano-meter GPUs Out This Year
- 0:45:45 Apple is da bomb! Vulnerability found in battery circuitry
- 0:54:05 Email from Tom about Eyefinity
- 0:59:06 Email from Greg about Eyefinity again
- 1:05:05 Email from Luke about SSDs
- 1:10:08 Email from Jesse about SRT notebooks
- 1:14:05 Quakecon Reminder - http://www.quakecon.org/
- Tshirts, prizes, stuff!
- Win a truck: http://www.pcper.com/news/Shows-and-Expos/QuakeCon-2011-Arrive-clunker%E2%80%A6-leave-beast
- 1:16:32 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
- Ryan: Evernote
- Jeremy: isostick ... 1/2 way through the kickstart process even
- Josh: dirt cheap USB 3.0 16GB
- Allyn: Sony DSC-HX100V
- 1-888-38-PCPER or firstname.lastname@example.org
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
- 1:25:46 Closing
We've seen some recent mumblings about a corner case where inadvertent or improper power loss to an Intel 320 Series SSD would result in the drive getting stuch in an inaccessible mode where it appears as an 8MB drive. From what I've gathered, the issue seems rare and may be tied to some specific hardware configurations.
The SSD 320 we tested back in March (we couldn't get it to 'stick' in 8MB mode).
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | July 22, 2011 - 05:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MLAA, Matrox, Intel
Antialiasing is a difficult task for a computer to accomplish in terms of performance and many efforts have been made over the years to minimize the impact while still keeping as much of the visual appeal as possible. The problem with aliasing is that while pixels are the smallest unit of display on a computer monitor, it is large enough for our eye to see it as a distinct unit. You may however have two objects of two different colors partially occupy the same pixel, who wins? In real life, our eye would see the light from both objects hit the same retina nerve (that is not really how it biologically works but close enough) and it would see some blend between the two colors. Intel has released a whitepaper for their attempt at this problem and it resembles a method that Matrox used almost a decade ago.
Matrox's antialiasing method.
(Image from Tom's Hardware)
Looking at the problem of antialiasing, you wish to have multiple bits of information dictate the color of a pixel in the event that two objects of different colors both partially occupy the same pixel. The simplest method of doing that is dividing the pixel up into smaller pixels and then crushing them together to an average which is called Super Sampling. This means you are rendering an image 2x, 4x, or even 16x the resolution you are running at. More methods were discovered including just flagging the edges for antialiasing since that is where aliasing occurs. In the early 2000s, Matrox looked at the problem from an entirely different angle: since the edge is what really matters, we can find the shape of the various edges and see how much area of a pixel gets divided up between each object giving an effect they say is equivalent to 16x MSAA for very little cost. The problem with Matrox’s method: it failed with many cases of shadowing and pixelshaders… and came out in the DirectX 9 era. Suffices to say it did not save Matrox as an elite gaming GPU company.
(Both images from Intel Blog)
Intel’s method of antialiasing again looks at the geometry of the image but instead breaks the edges into L shapes to determine the area they enclose. To keep the performance up they do pipelining between the CPU and GPU which keeps the CPU and GPU constantly filled with the target or neighboring frames. In other words, as the GPU lets the CPU perform MLAA, the GPU is busy preparing and drawing the next frame. Of course when I see technology like this I think two things: will this work on architectures with discrete GPUs and will this introduce extra latency between the rendering code and the gameplay code? I would expect that it must as the frame is not even finished let alone drawn to monitor before you fetch the next set of states to be rendered. The question still exists if that effect will be drowned in the rest of the latencies experienced between synchronizing.
AMD and NVIDIA both have their variants of MLAA, the latter of which being called FXAA by NVIDIA's marketing team. Unlike AMD's method, NVIDIA's method must be programmed into the game engine by the development team requiring a little bit of extra work on the developer's part. That said, FXAA found its way into Duke Nukem Forever as well as the upcoming Battlefield 3 among other games so support is there and older games should be easy enough to just compute properly.
The flat line is how much time spent on MLAA itself, just a few milliseconds and constant.
(Image from Intel Blog)
Performance-wise the Intel solution performs ridiculously faster than MSAA, is pretty much scene-independent, and should produce results near the 16x mark due to the precision possible with calculating areas. Speculation about latency between render and game loops aside the implementation looks quite sound and allows users with on-processor graphics to not need to waste precious cycles (especially on GPUs that you would see on-processor) with antialiasing and instead use it more on raising other settings including resolution itself while still avoiding jaggies. Conversely, both AMD and NVIDIA's method run on the GPU which should make a little more sense for them as a discrete GPU should not require as much help as a GPU packed into a CPU.
Could Matrox’s last gasp from the gaming market be Intel’s battle cry?
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Subject: Editorial | July 22, 2011 - 10:59 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Sandy Bridge E, Q2 2011, llano, Intel, bulldozer, APU, amd
The first half of this year has been surprisingly strong for the chip industry, and Intel and AMD are helping to lead the way and satiate demand for new processors at all market levels.
Intel was first off the bat to release earnings for their 2nd quarter, and they again broke revenue and profit records for Q2. Gross revenue was a very healthy $13 billion and the company’s net profit was an impressive $3 billion. Margins are down from last year’s high of 67%, but the actual 61% far outshines that of their competition. Q2 2010 results were $10.8 billion in gross revenue and $2.9 billion net profit. While profit was “only” $100 million more than Q1 2010, the extra $2.2 billion in revenue is something to sit up and notice.
Sandy Bridge based parts have continued to propel Intel's domination of the CPU market.
Probably the two greatest strengths for Intel are extracting the most amount of performance per mm squared of die and of overall process technology leadership. Intel has been shipping 32 nm parts for some 18 months now, and their redesigned Sandy Bridge architecture has left their primary competition in the dust when it comes to overall multi-core CPU performance. Intel has improved their integrated graphics capabilities, but this is one area where they simply cannot compete with the more GPU focused AMD. Intel is also facing much increased competition in the mobile market from the Llano based chips and their accompanying chipset, which has been a virtual fortress for Intel until recently. While Intel still rules in CPU performance, the combination of rich graphics, chipset features, and competitive power consumption has made Llano a true threat to the mobile sector.
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