PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 3 - Intel Core i7-4790K

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 16, 2014 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: Intel, holiday, devil's canyon, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

Today, we go from rusty gates (or rather cutting the bolts off of them with a Dremel) to tri-gates. Either way, you are probably looking for hardware that prides itself on variable speed. If you are looking to build or upgrade an upper-mainstream desktop PC, then the Intel Core i7-4790K is the last stop before Haswell-E.

intel-devilscanyon-lid.JPG

The CPU, codenamed Devil's Canyon, was Intel's offering for mainstream gamers and non-Enthusiast (capital E) enthusiasts during their Haswell refresh. It is cooler than its 4770K predecessor due to an improved thermal interface under the processor lid. It is a deal this week because its price dropped down to $299.99, which is about $50 below Intel's list price.

intel-devilscanyon-overview.JPG

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?

Intel shows pictures of new Broadwell NUC

Subject: Systems | December 12, 2014 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: Intel, nuc, Broadwell, leak

Intel has leaked, either purposefully or accidentally, the upcoming Broadwell-based NUC device. In a story posted on Computerbase.de, the German website points out that Intel has updated the NUC landing page with images of hardware we haven't seen publicly yet.

bwnuc1.jpg

bwnuc2.jpg

bwnuc3.jpg

This is definitely a new piece of NUC hardware and all indications are that Intel has completed development of a Broadwell-U based SFF platform. No other specifications are listed on the website but you can tell from the images (though small) that we have an M.2 slot available and a yellow USB charging port that are new. The smaller unit on the left also appears to be a bit shorter than the previous NUC designs, though it's hard to tell for sure without direct side-by-side comparisons.

bwnuc4.jpg

Also interesting is that Intel has a support page already mentioning new NUC kit and board part numbers, though without any additional information.

It has been 14 months since Intel released the Haswell-based NUC unit and my review of the system was incredibly positive with the lone exception of the high price Intel had set. The price of the D54250WYK1 is still hovering over $340 on Amazon.com but I am hopeful that Intel will be able to drop cost even further with this Broadwell iteration.

I'm sure we'll have all the answers we need come CES next month.

ECS Has A New Mini-PC on the Way, the LIVA X

Subject: Systems | December 10, 2014 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: SoC, mini-pc, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Bay Trail

A new, more powerful ECS mini-PC has been reported by The Tech Report, and this latest iteration of the LIVA will be known as the "X".

LIVA_01_1000_n.jpg

The LIVA X features a faster 2.25GHz dual-core CPU from its Bay Trail SoC, and maximum configurable memory has been doubled to 4GB. OS support has been revised as well, with Windows 7 supported - but only when using an mSATA SSD. The LIVA X still offers full Windows 8.1 support, along with beta Linux driver support as before.

livax_2.jpg

The LIVA X also offers one more USB 2.0 port than its predecessor, along with the same 32GB or 64GB eMMC storage onboard, Gigabit Ethernet, and included 802.11 wireless N card.

The LIVA proved to be a good value when we reviewed it, though it was underpowered for some desktop tasks. Adding another 2GB of memory as well as a slightly faster CPU will make this new version a very interesting product, depending on price. The new LIVA X hasn't shown up for sale just yet in the usual places, but the product page is up on the ECS site.

The Intel-net of Things

Subject: General Tech | December 10, 2014 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: Intel, iot, cloudera, wind river

In October we saw the outlines of ARM's mBed OS which will be their Internet of Things offering and today Intel has revealed their own IoT Platform.  The Register had a chance to sit in on the presentation this morning as they described the infrastructure and the partners that are onboard with Intel's solution.  Intel did repeat their belief that their x86 Quark CPUs and other CPUs are every bit as power efficient as ARM while, carefully avoiding stating that they use the same amount of power.  Of far more interest are the security features inherent in Intel's new infrastructure, they will be leveraging both the McAfee technology they now own to embed security features directly into the silicon and the technology that came with their purchase of Wind River to secure the communication channels between the actual devices, aka Edge Devices, and their server infrastructure.  Expect to see more indepth information to be released in the near future but for now you can follow the links in The Register's story to catch up on what has been posted so far.

B4blHkVCcAAOHpg.png

"Announced in the past few minutes at a morning presentation in San Francisco, the platform will describe how to hook up gizmos on the edge – the sensors, the wearables, the street lights, the air-con units, and so on – to the backend systems (cough, cough, Cloudera) processing collected information."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: The Register

Intel is investing in mobile chips

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2014 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Intel, smartphones, iot, billions

Intel has pulled out some spare change to upgrade its plant in Chengdu, in what analysts are predicting will be focused on Intel's ultra-mobile chips.  It certainly comes at an interesting time for the market, Google and Microsoft have both had recent unpleasantness with the Chinese government while Qualcomm, a direct mobile market competitor, is about to fork over what could be a record breaking settlement to Chinese anti-trust investigators.  This could make talent from Qualcomm available for Intel to hire as well as giving them even more of a financial advantage.  It marks a change in the recent trend of Intel to invest heavily in their US assets and reinforces their desire to make headway in the current ultramobile market and the burgeoning Internet of Things.  Check out the links at The Register for a bit more background on the state of this market.

f04da2db112212ab5d840f.jpg

"Chipzilla has decided to take another run at the mobile chip market, announcing plans to spin as much as US$1.6 billion in the direction of its Chengdu plant in China to achieve its aims."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #328 - G-Sync Flickering, In Win D-Frame Mini, Fractal R5 Silent and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, g-sync, flickering, ROG Swift, pg278q, in win, d-frame mini, fractal, define r5 silent, nvidia, amd, Intel, asus, gtx 970 DirectCU Mini, msi, 970 Gaming

PC Perspective Podcast #328 - 12/04/2014

Join us this week as we discuss G-Sync Flickering, In Win D-Frame Mini, Fractal R5 Silent 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: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Remember Google Glass?

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: Intel, google glass

Google Glass seems to have gone the way of Wave and Plus, most people have heard of it but no one seems to actively use it.  Apart from some news stories about socially inept use of the device in public areas the buzz around Google Glass has died down and for most it is Oculus who have more compelling eye wear.  Some time in the coming year there will be a second release of the Google Glass which dumps the Texas Instruments chip for an unspecified ultra low power Intel chip, or at least that is the rumour from The Register and other sites.  This launch sounds to be aimed more at enterprise customers, hard to imaging how having your PowerPoint presentation beamed into your customers eyeballs will help your sales but that is the gist of the marketing.  This product still seems to be more appropriate for those who work with their hands and could benefit from hands free overlays of schematics or details but who knows, maybe your next job interview will be with someone reading your Facebook page in real time as they conduct your interview.

images.jpg

"GOOGLE REPORTEDLY plans to release a new Intel-powered version of Google Glass in 2015, as interest in its first-generation wearable dies down."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective
Tagged: ssd, nand, Intel, flash, 3d

It has become increasingly apparent that flash memory die shrinks have hit a bit of a brick wall in recent years. The issues faced by the standard 2D Planar NAND process were apparent very early on. This was no real secret - here's a slide seen at the 2009 Flash Memory Summit:

microsoft-powerpoint-fms09-tut-2a-flash-memory-summit-2-728-.jpg

Despite this, most flash manufacturers pushed the envelope as far as they could within the limits of 2D process technology, balancing shrinks with reliability and performance. One of the largest flash manufacturers was Intel, having joined forces with Micron in a joint venture dubbed IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technologies). Intel remained in lock-step with Micron all the way up to 20nm, but chose to hold back at the 16nm step, presumably in order to shift full focus towards alternative flash technologies. This was essentially confirmed late last week, with Intel's announcement of a shift to 3D NAND production.

progression-3-.png

Intel's press briefing seemed to focus more on cost efficiency than performance, and after reviewing the very few specs they released about this new flash, I believe we can do some theorizing as to the potential performance of this new flash memory. From the above illustration, you can see that Intel has chosen to go with the same sort of 3D technology used by Samsung - a 32 layer vertical stack of flash cells. This requires the use of an older / larger process technology, as it is too difficult to etch these holes at a 2x nm size. What keeps the die size reasonable is the fact that you get a 32x increase in bit density. Going off of a rough approximation from the above photo, imagine that 50nm die (8 Gbit), but with 32 vertical NAND layers. That would yield a 256 Gbit (32 GB) die within roughly the same footprint.

blog9_fig2.jpg

Representation of Samsung's 3D VNAND in 128Gbit and 86 Gbit variants.
20nm planar (2D) = yellow square, 16nm planar (2D) = blue square.

Image republished with permission from Schiltron Corporation.

It's likely a safe bet that IMFT flash will be going for a cost/GB far cheaper than the competing Samsung VNAND, and going with a relatively large 256 Gbit (vs. VNAND's 86 Gbit) per-die capacity is a smart move there, but let's not forget that there is a catch - write speed. Most NAND is very fast on reads, but limited on writes. Shifting from 2D to 3D NAND netted Samsung a 2x speed boost per die, and another effective 1.5x speed boost due to their choice to reduce per-die capacity from 128 Gbit to 86 Gbit. This effective speed boost came from the fact that a given VNAND SSD has 50% more dies to reach the same capacity as an SSD using 128 Gbit dies.

Now let's examine how Intel's choice of a 256 Gbit die impacts performance:

  • Intel SSD 730 240GB = 16x128 Gbit 20nm dies
    • 270 MB/sec writes and ~17 MB/sec/die
  • Crucial MX100 128GB = 8x128Gbit 16nm dies
    • 150 MB/sec writes and ~19 MB/sec/die
  • Samsung 850 Pro 128GB = 12x86Gbit VNAND dies
    • 470MB/sec writes and ~40 MB/sec/die

If we do some extrapolation based on the assumption that IMFT's move to 3D will net the same ~2x write speed improvement seen by Samsung, combined with their die capacity choice of 256Gbit, we get this:

  • Future IMFT 128GB SSD = 4x256Gbit 3D dies
    • 40 MB/sec/die x 4 dies = 160MB/sec

Even rounding up to 40 MB/sec/die, we can see that also doubling the die capacity effectively negates the performance improvement. While the IMFT flash equipped SSD will very likely be a lower cost product, it will (theoretically) see the same write speed limits seen in today's SSDs equipped with IMFT planar NAND. Now let's go one layer deeper on theoretical products and assume that Intel took the 18-channel NVMe controller from their P3700 Series and adopted it to a consumer PCIe SSD using this new 3D NAND. The larger die size limits the minimum capacity you can attain and still fully utilize their 18 channel controller, so with one die per channel, you end up with this product:

  • Theoretical 18 channel IMFT PCIE 3D NAND SSD = 18x256Gbit 3D dies
    • 40 MB/sec/die x 18 dies = 720 MB/sec
    • 18x32GB (die capacity) = 576GB total capacity

​​Overprovisioning decisions aside, the above would be the lowest capacity product that could fully utilize the Intel PCIe controller. While the write performance is on the low side by PCIe SSD standards, the cost of such a product could easily be in the $0.50/GB range, or even less.

DSC06167_DxO-.jpg

In summary, while we don't have any solid performance data, it appears that Intel's new 3D NAND is not likely to lead to a performance breakthrough in SSD speeds, but their choice on a more cost-effective per-die capacity for their new 3D NAND is likely to give them significant margins and the wiggle room to offer SSDs at a far lower cost/GB than we've seen in recent years. This may be the step that was needed to push SSD costs into a range that can truly compete with HDD technology.

1 terabyte of storage in 2mm

Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2014 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Intel, 3d nand

Great news flash fans, Intel will be increasing the storage density of SSDs quite significantly over the next few years.  They will be using the 3D NAND technology we have just been introduced to to stack flash memory with 32 planar layers for 32GB per cell with MLC and 48GB per cell if TLC flash is used.  This increased density could lead to 10TB SSDs by 2017 as well as mobile devices with 1TB of local memory that runs at higher speeds than the current generations as well.  As The Register noted this will have to be accompanied by price reductions as at $1.00/GB no one would even dream of a 10TB drive and even at $0.50 it would be far too expensive.  Perhaps Ryan's dreams of low cost flash storage are not as far out there as some seem to feel, indeed he may not be aiming low enough for price per GB.  You can also get a peek at what Samsung, Hynix and Sandisk will be up to in the same article.

intel_3d_nand.jpg

"IMFT, Intel Micron Flash Technologies, a partnership between Intel and Micron, has a 3D MLC NAND technology, which will be used to build 10TB SSDs in two years."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

AMD Announces Carrizo and Carrizo-L SOCs

Subject: Processors | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: amd, APU, carrizo, Carrizo-L, Kaveri, Excavator, Steamroller, SoC, Intel, mobile

AMD has certainly gone about doing things in a slightly different manner than we are used to.  Today they announced their two latest APUs which will begin shipping in the first half of 2015.  These APUs are running at AMD and are being validated as we speak.  AMD did not release many details on these products, but what we do know is pretty interesting.

Carrizo is based on the latest iteration of AMD’s CPU technology.  Excavator is the codename for these latest CPU cores, and they promise to be smaller and more efficient than the previous Steamroller core which powers the latest Kaveri based APUs.  Carrizo-L is the lower power variant which will be based on the Puma+ core.  The current Beema APU is based on the Puma architecture.

AMD_Mobility_Roadmap_2015.jpg

Roadmaps show that the Carrizo APUs will be 28 nm products, presumably fabricated by GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  Many were hoping that AMD would make the jump to 20 nm with this generation of products, but that does not seem to be the case.  This is not surprising due to the limitations of that particular process when dealing with large designs that require a lot of current.  AMD will likely be pushing for 16 nm FinFET for the generation of products after Carrizo.

The big Carrizo supposedly has a next generation GCN unit.  My guess here is that it will use the same design as we saw with the R9 285.  That particular product is a next generation unit that has improved efficiency.  AMD did not release how many GCN cores will be present in Carizzo, but it will be very similar to what we see now with Kaveri.  Carrizo-L will use the same GCN units as the previous generation Beema based products.

carrizo_01.png

I believe AMD has spent a lot more time hand tuning Excavator instead of relying on a lot of automated place and route.  This should allow them to retain much of the performance of the part, all the while cutting down on transistor count dramatically.  Some rumors that I have seen point to each Excavator module being 40% smaller than Steamroller.  I am not entirely sure they have achieved that type of improvement, but more hand layout does typically mean greater efficiency and less waste.  The downside to hand layout is that it is extremely time and manpower intensive.  Intel can afford this type of design while AMD has to rely more on automated place and route.

Carrizo will be the first HSA 1.0 compliant SOC.  It is in fact an SOC as it integrates the southbridge functions that previously had been handled by external chips like the A88X that supports the current Kaveri desktop APUs.  Carrizo and Carrizo-L will also share the same infrastructure.  This means that motherboards that these APUs will be soldered onto are interchangeable.  One motherboard from the partner OEMs will be able to address multiple markets that will see products range from 4 watts TDP up to 35 watts.

Finally, both APUs feature the security processor that allows them access to the ARM TrustZone technology.  This is a very small ARM processor that handles the secure boot partition and handles the security requests.  This puts AMD on par with Intel and their secure computing solution (vPro).

carrizo_02.png

These products will be aimed only at the mobile market.  So far AMD has not announced Carrizo for the desktop market, but when they do I would imagine that they will hit a max TDP of around 65 watts.  AMD claims that Carrizo is one of the biggest jumps for them in terms of power efficiency.  A lot of different pieces of technology have all come together with this product to make them more competitive with Intel and their process advantage.  Time will tell if this is the case, but for now AMD is staying relevant and pushing their product releases so that they are more consistently ontime.

Source: AMD