Cedar Trail preview, can it keep Intel's netbook lineup alive?

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2011 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: cedar trail, Intel, Atom N2800

If you haven't run across them yet, VR-Zone just released a sneak peek at Intel's new ultramobile chip lineup, which we know as Cedar Trail.  The benchmarks that they found are a little odd, consisting of 3DMark 2006 and PCMark 2005 so the results need to be taken with that context in mind.  Still the Atom N2800 manages to triple the performance of the previous Atom generation so there have been some noticeable improvements.  The problem is the netbook form factor its self, as tablets and even smart phones can replicate the tasks that the netbook was intended for.  That could mean that no matter how good Cedar Trail is, the form factor it is set to dominate may be going extinct.  They do offer HDMI out now though.

VR_Z_CedarTrail_benchmarks.jpg

"We're not sure how much life there's left in the netbook market, but considering that Intel is looking to offer some very affordable next gen Atom processors, its upcoming Cedar Trail processors might just be what the netbook market space needs to catch a second wind. VR-Zone can exclusively unveil the first benchmark figures for Intel's upcoming mobile Atom processors and although they're unlikely to blow anyone's mind, they're a huge improvement over the previous generation."

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Source: VR-Zone

Will Windows 8 be for the tablet or the ultrabook?

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2011 - 11:56 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, tablet, windows 8, microsoft, Intel

Two contrasting opinions appeared this morning on the internet, concerned with not only the future of mobile computing in a possibly post-PC market but also touching on the impact Microsoft's Windows 8 could have on that choice.  DigiTimes has a report from Wistron, an original design manufacturer based in Taiwan, which is concerned with the ultrabook.  They see the coming year as dominated by the contentious ultrabook platform which Intel has been talking up recently.  The company managed US$21.1B in revenue last year, so they are neither a small player nor uninformed about the industry.  That does leave one wondering how they plan on making a profit if the bill of materials is as high as some manufacturers have claimed.  Still, that is where the manufacturer sees Windows 8 making the most difference to the market.

Ars Technica sees a different path for Microsoft to take, one that would be very different from the theory discussed by DigiTimes and very different from anything Microsoft has previously done.  In this article, Ars suggests that the PC market is at a standstill because we have hit a post-PC market thanks to the tablet.  While Microsoft has always considered the tablet to be a PC in a different form factor, Apple and other successful tablet marketers have visualized a completely different model.  While Apple may have taken it to the most extreme, with no visible OS nor even a USB connector so you can transfer files directly from a camera or thumbdrive, nor hook up a wired peripheral.  Other manufacturers have taken a less extreme approach but still hide the OS and have removed associated tasks like driver installation.  That is very different from Microsoft's version of a tablet or phone which runs a trimmed down but still very recognizable OS and tends not to sell very well.

The question becomes one of design incompatibility; if Microsoft wants to release a Windows 8 which emulates the successful tablet OSes of the competition it will have to design something so different from their past OSes that it would be unrecognizable as a PC.  In order to hide the OS and offload applications onto the cloud to make a perfect tablet the design choices would limit the effectiveness of Win8 as a PC OS.  On the flip side, if they choose to design for the Ultrabook, risky in that we still have yet to hear the end of the pricing issues, the OS will be much lighter than previous versions but will still have a recognizable file system, the ability to update or customize drivers and all the other features common to netbooks through laptops.  It will however not be a successful tablet OS, as history has shown with the failures of Microsoft's tablets and phones, some of which died before every being released.

The one thing that they can't do is try to make Windows 8 do both service as a laptop and a tablet OS.  If they go that way, users on both sides of the divide will likely lose as you end up with an OS not customizable enough to do duty on a more powerful notebook or desktop.  As well, it will have an interface which is similar to previous attempts by Microsoft to sell tablets which to this date have all failed against the competition.

windows-8-start-screen.jpg

"The launch of ultrabooks and Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will serve as growth drivers for the notebook industry in 2012, according to Simon Lin, chairman of Taiwan-based notebook ODM Wistron.

Shipments of ultrabooks will account for 10-20% of Wistron's total notebook shipments in 2012, Lin estimated.

 

Despite current economic turbulence touched off by debt issues in Europe and the US, Wistron's target to ship 30 million notebooks in 2011 remains unchanged, said Lin, who added that notebook Wistron's shipments will grow by a single-digit rate sequentially in the third and fourth quarters.

However, the company has slashed its LCD TV shipment target for the year to 8.5 million units, from 10 million units projected previously, while also scaling down the target for mobile devices from 10-12 million units to nine million.

Wistron has reported net profits of NT$4.5 billion (US$154.77 million) for the first half of 2011, down 20.44% from a year earlier. The earnings translated into an EPS of NT$2.28 for the six-month period."

 

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Source: DigiTimes

Intel returns to upgrade cards for more of their crippled parts

Subject: General Tech, Processors | August 20, 2011 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: upgrade, Intel

It has almost been a complete year since Intel decided to sell $50 upgrade cards for their processors. Ryan noted that the cost of upgrade between the two processors was just $15 (at the time) which made the $35 premium over just outright purchasing the higher-end CPU seem quite ludicrous. Whether or not you agree with Intel’s methodology is somewhat irrelevant to Intel however as they have relaunched and expanded their initiative to include three SKUs.

intelupgrade.jpg

DLCpu: Cash for cache!

Ryan was deliberately trying to pose the issue in question-form because it really is business as usual when it comes to hardware companies to artificially lock down higher SKUs for a lower price-point. The one thing he did not mention was that this upgrade seems to be designed primarily for processors included in the purchase of a retail PC where the user might not have had the choice of which processor to include.

As for this upgrade cycle there are three processors that qualify for the upgrade: the Pentium G622 can be upgraded to the Pentium G693, receiving a clock-rate boost; the Core i3-2102 can be upgraded to the Core i3-2153, receiving a clock-rate boost; the Core i3-2312M can be upgraded to the Core i3-2393M, receiving both a clock-rate boost as well as extra unlocked cache. There is no word on if each SKU would have its own upgrade card or even the cost of upgrading apart from the nebulous “affordable”. Performance is expected to increase approximately 10-25% depending on which part you upgrade and what task is being pushed upon it, the Pentium seeing the largest boost due to this unlock.

Do you agree with this initiative?

Source: Intel

Intel steps out of line to show off 3D transistors

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2011 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: Intel, transistor, tri-gate, Ivy Bridge

Back in May Intel released an interesting video showing off Tri-Gate technology, which brings a third dimension to transistors.  That will allow transitions to happen with much less voltage, reducing power requirements and heat generation and allowing for increases in transistor density.  Ivy Bridge was suggested as the likely suspect for Intel to first utilize Tri-Gates and over at SemiAccurate you can see the proof as well as the process.  Intel is claiming a 37% performance increase at low voltages or about half the power usage if you keep the same performance.  Read on to see the difference between FINFets that will be in the competitions chips and the Intel-only three dimensional transistors.

Planar_vs_Tri-Gate.jpg

"Intel is set to become the first company to mass produce non-planar transistors with their upcoming 22nm process. Others are talking about FD-SOI, FINFets, and several related structures, but only Intel is set to produce anything in the near future.

There has been a lot of talk about what Intel is doing, and a lot of incomplete or incorrect information put forward from many different sources. What Intel is making is called Tri-Gate transistors, something that is a radical departure from planar ’2D’ transistors, and distinct from FINFets in a very important way."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Podcast #166 - John Carmack interview, Crysis 2 DX11, Samsung SSD announcements, and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2011 - 08:32 PM |
Tagged: ssd, podcast, nvidia, Intel, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #166 - 8/18/2011

This week we talk about our John Carmack interview, Crysis 2 DX11, Samsung SSD announcements, 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

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:04:28

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:37 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:35 John Carmack Interview: GPU Race, Intel Graphics, Ray Tracing, Voxels and more!
  6. 0:14:43 NVIDIA Releases Q2 FY 2012 Results
  7. 0:23:17 Acer AC700-1099 Chromebook Review: Cut to the Bone
  8. 0:24:05 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  9. 0:25:20 Never mind the barrier, we even tessellated the water table !
  10. 0:31:00 SSD News
    1. Samsung Announces New High Performance SSDs for Mobile
    2. Samsung Announces New 830 SATA 3 SSDs for Consumers
    3. Intel Releasing Firmware Fix For 8MB SSD Bug In Two Weeks (correction: NOW)
    4. The Good, the bad and the ugly of SSDs
  11. 0:41:32 AMD Announces New Sub-$100 Triple Core A6-3500 APU
  12. 0:43:11 Intel ultra-balks at Ultrabook manufacturers requests
  13. 0:47:50 Sandy Bridge-E Processors: Cooler Sold Separately                                       AMD Considers Bundling FX Processors With Sealed Loop Water Coolers (LCS)
  14. 0:52:20 Bitcoin Trojan Stuff
  15. 0:55:08 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Tripit.com and apps
    2. Jeremy: Antikeylogger01-USB @ $49 or Brain experimentation 
    3. Josh: AMD A-3850... same price, but DiRT 3 for FREE!
    4. Allyn: Anti-pick: McAfee iOS app fail
  16. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  17. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  18. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  19. 1:03:28 Closing
Source:

Intel Will Drop Prices On Sandy Bridge CPUs in Q3 2011

Subject: Processors | August 17, 2011 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: Intel, sandy bridge, cpu

Intel plans to refresh its entry level and mid-range Sandy Bridge desktop processor lineup with seven new models and accompanying price drops. The new models include the Pentium G630, G630T, and G860 on the low end, and the Core i5 2320 on the high end. Making up the middle ground are the Core i3 2120T, i3 2125, and i3 2130 processors.

cpu1.jpg

CPU-World reports that September and October will both see price reductions in certain Sandy Bridge processor SKUs. September will see price reductions in all mid and low power Core i5 and i7 processors. Specifically, the Core i5 processors will be reduced by as much as $11, while the Core i7-2600S will see a price cut of $12. October will bring price cuts for the low end Pentium and Core i3 processors. The Pentium CPUs will see a price cut of $11 and the Core i3 2120 will be cut by $21.

CPU World has a detailed chart of the individual chip prices which you can check out here.  Will these price reductions be enough to entice you to buy into Sandy Bridge, or are you holding off upgrading until Ivy Bridge?

Source: CPU World

Intel ultra-balks at Ultrabook manufacturers requests

Subject: General Tech | August 16, 2011 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel

There has been a bit of talk on the PC Perspective front page about Intel's new Ultrabook form factor and if it can profit Intel to release in a market that already has Apple firmly embedded in the minds of consumers as the "thin" guys.  First were the complaints from manufacturers that the bill of costs for an ultrabook was in the neighbourhood of $1000, which would put the price of sale above the competitions.  Intel then responded with a claim that the 11" and 13" ultrabooks with a thickness of 18mm will be between $493 to $710 to manufacture and the larger 14" to 17: inches, 21mm thick models will run between $475 and $650.

That price disparity seemed a little odd, as there was no explanation from Intel about where the manufacturers got their maths wrong nor an announcement of price drops from Intel to make up the difference.  What we did see was a promise by Intel to provide $300 million in funding to those who develop technologies to further the ultrabook form factor, which might help offset some of the costs of manufacturing but certainly not enough to reduce the bill of sales by a third or more.

Now the waters are even further muddied as we hear today from Digitimes that Intel is refusing a request by manufacturers to cut the price of the CPU models which will be found in ultrabooks by half.  Instead Intel is willing to drop the price by 20%, along with some marketing subsidies which will help once the product makes it to market but which will not lower the cost of the bill of materials at all.  That is not going to help make the ultrabook a good investment for the first-tier manufacturers to develop.  Add to that concern the fact that Intel's coming ultraportable Oak Trail platform, with paired Atom Z670 CPUs costs almost four times as much to produce as a Tegra 2 machine, even the discount that Intel refused is not going to make them attractive to sell.

ultrabook.jpg

"Intel's Oak Trail platform, paired Atom Z670 CPU (US$75) with SM35 chipsets (US$20) for tablet PC machine, is priced at US$95, already accounting for about 40% of the total cost of a tablet PC, even with a 70-80% discount, the platform is still far less attractive than Nvidia's Tegra 2 at around US$20. Although players such as Asustek Computer and Acer have launched models with the platform for the enterprise market, their machines' high price still significantly limit their sales, the sources noted.

As for Ultrabook CPUs, Intel is only willing to provide marketing subsides and 20% discount to the first-tier players, reducing the Core i7-2677 to US$317, Core i7-2637 to US$289 and Core i5-2557 to US$250.

As for Intel's insistence, the sources believe that Intel is concerned that once it agrees to reduce the price, the company may have difficulties to maintain gross margins in the 60% range and even after passing the crisis, the company may have difficulty in maintaining its pricing. Even with Intel able to maintain a high gross margin through its server platform, expecting Intel to drop CPU prices may be difficult to achieve, the sources added."

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Source: DigiTimes

Intel Releasing Firmware Fix For 8MB SSD Bug In Two Weeks

Subject: Storage | August 16, 2011 - 04:07 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Intel, firmware bug, 320

We reported a few weeks ago that Intel was able to reproduce the 8MB firmware bug in it's lab and was working on a fix.  Officially called the Bad Context 13x Error, the 8MB bug is a rather serious firmware issue that a small percentage of users ran into when their drives unexpectedly lost power due to improper shutdown procedures or power outage at an especially wrong time.  Once the drives were powered on again, they reported a capacity of 8MB to its users, who were able to restore the drive using secure erase but not the data.

Fortunately, a fix is on its way very soon, as Computer World quoted Intel in stating "the new firmware update is in final validation testing and is targeted for release on Intel Communities within the next two weeks."

Further, users will be able to apply the firmware fix without needing to secure erase the drive; however, none of the lost data can be recovered.  As with any drive, SSD or otherwise, be sure to perform regular backups to mitigate the amount of data one can lose in drive failure.  Intel is also recommending that users ensure they shut down their computers properly and to avoid unplugging the SSD from a powered on machine.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the Bad Context 13x Error as it develops.  Until then, rest assured that a fix is on the way soon.

Sandy Bridge-E Processors: Cooler Sold Separately

Subject: Processors | August 15, 2011 - 10:45 AM |
Tagged: sandy bridge-e, Intel, hsf, cooling

We reported a few days ago that AMD is considering bunding a sealed loop water cooling solution with it's high end FX processors.  In an interesting development, VR-Zone today stated that Intel will not be including any cooler at all with it's Sandy Bridge-E parts.

IntelHSF.jpg

Specifically, Intel will not be bundling any processor cooler with its Core i7 Sandy Bridge-E 3820, 3930, or 3960X CPUs.  These processors are rated at a 130 watt TDP; however, VR-Zone reports that the processors may in fact be drawing as much as 180 watts at stock speeds.  This massive jump in power compared to previous models, if true, would make Intel's move to not include a cooler a good thing, as enthusiasts will almost certainly want a quality third part air cooler at least, and a proper water loop if any overclocking is involved.  Enthusiasts especially have always opted to use an aftermarket cooler instead of the included Intel one as they have been notoriously noisy and mediocre in the performance department.  While they are decent for stock speeds, overclockers have always demanded more than the Intel coolers could provide.

The situation is made all the more interested when paired against AMD's announcement; Intel has opted to not include any heatsink at all while AMD has opted to ratchet up the cooling performance with a sealed water loop.  Personally, I find the two companies' reactions- because they are almost direct opposite solutions- very intersting and telling about the company mindset.  Which solution do you like more, would you like the chip makers to ratchet up their stock cooling performance, or do you prefer the hands-off approach where they allow you to grab the cooler of your choice by not bundling anything in the processor box?  Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Tim Verry.  Used With Permission.

Source: VR-Zone

No Intel architecture refresh can be complete without a Pentium model

Subject: Processors | August 12, 2011 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: sandybridge, pentium, G850, Intel

Intel has updated the Pentium processor for the SandyBridge era with the 32nm G620, G840 and G850, all of which cost under $100.   All are rated at 65W TDP with 3MB of level 3 cache, an integrated DDR3 memory controller, PCI Express 2.0 interface, Direct Media Interface 2.0, and Intel HD Graphics 2000.  Legit Reviews tested the 2.9GHz G850 model and found no surprises, neither good nor bad.  The Pentium line remains the workhorse model, perfect for office usage, web browsing and even watching movies.  Those who make movies or want to do more than basic gaming are better off looking at an older LGA1156 processor or even a slightly more expensive Intel or AMD chip.  If you've a relative that only needs a PC for light duty tasks, consider a system built around one of these new SandyBridge Pentiums.

intel-pentium-offerings.jpg

"After trying out both the Intel Pentium G620 and Pentium G850 we must admit that we are still impressed by what these cost effective mainstream processors can do. Thanks to the powerful Intel 'Sandy Bridge' microarchitecture these dual-core processors don't run too far behind the more expensive offerings from Intel and AMD. You can find some pretty good deals on LGA775 and LGA1156 platforms right now, but the Intel Pentium series for LGA1155 has more features and as you could see in the performance tests they weren't that far behind in the benchmarks..."

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Processors