The impact of your CPU on gaming, Intel's 6700K verus 6950X

Subject: Processors | June 27, 2016 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: dx12, 6700k, Intel, i7-6950X

[H]ard|OCP has been conducting tests using a variety of CPUs to see how well DX12 distributes load between cores as compared to DX11.  Their final article which covers the 6700K and 6950X was done a little differently and so cannot be directly compared to the previously tested CPUs.  That does not lower the value of the testing, scaling is still very obvious and the new tests were designed to highlight more common usage scenarios for gamers.  Read on to see how well, or how poorly, Ashes of the Singularity scales when using DX12.

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"This is our fourth and last installment of looking at the new DX12 API and how it works with a game such as Ashes of the Singularity. We have looked at how DX12 is better at distributing workloads across multiple CPU cores than DX11 in AotS when not GPU bound. This time we compare the latest Intel processors in GPU bound workloads."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Rumor: Intel Adds New Codecs with Kaby Lake-S iGPU

Subject: Processors | June 25, 2016 - 03:15 AM |
Tagged: Intel, kaby lake, iGPU, h.265, hevc, vp8, vp9, codec, codecs

Fudzilla isn't really talking about their sources, so it's difficult to gauge how confident we should be, but they claim to have information about the video codecs supported by Kaby Lake's iGPU. This update is supposed to include hardware support for HDR video, the Rec.2020 color gamut, and HDCP 2.2, because, if videos are pirated prior to their release date, the solution is clearly to punish your paying customers with restrictive, compatibility-breaking technology. Time-traveling pirates are the worst.

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According to their report, Kaby Lake-S will support VP8, VP9, HEVC 8b, and HEVC 10b, both encode and decode. However, they then go on to say that 10-bit VP9 and 10-bit HEVC 10b does not include hardware encoding. I'm not too knowledgeable about video codecs, but I don't know of any benefits to encoding 8-bit HEVC Main 10. Perhaps someone in our comments can clarify.

Source: Fudzilla

Intel still hasn't paid AMD the 1.2 billion USD anti-trust fine

Subject: General Tech | June 22, 2016 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: Intel, amd, antitrust

This is a saga for the ages and a snit worthy of any 2 year old child.  11 years ago AMD filed suit against Intel citing questionable business tactics Intel had been using worldwide.  Intel was offering discounted parts to retailers if they would use Intel chips exclusively.  For instance, if a company like Dell offered an AMD alternative then Intel would raise the price of every Intel component sold to Dell across the board.  This is, of course, illegal. 

The court cases were settled in 2009, in the US Intel agreed to pay AMD $1.25 billion USD to settle all outstanding court cases in the US and several overseas.  In the UK there was a seperate court case which also went against Intel, the courts there requiring Intel to pay AMD  €1.06bn, the largest ever fine in the UK.  Since then Intel has been fighting tooth and nail to find a way not to pay the fine and while they have not succeeded in their legal battle they have succeeded in not paying AMD one single cent.  Their initial appeal was dismissed in 2014 but that has not stopped Intel from delaying the payment and as of today that fine still remains unpaid.  The Inquirer posted today about their latest challenge to the ruling, Intel's legal team claims that it somehow unfair to be punished for unfair business practices.

Six years on and over 1 billion dollars that should be AMDs is still under a couch cushion in Intel's offices somewhere.

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"CHIPMAKER Intel ain't giving up and continues to fight the €1.06bn (around £815m) antitrust fine levied on the firm six years ago."

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Source: The Inquirer

Now that's a NUC of a different colour, the NUC6i5SYK

Subject: Systems | June 13, 2016 - 08:03 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, NUC6i5SYK, Skylake

The new NUC6i5SYK may look like the previous generations but the innards represent a huge step forward.  At the base is a Skylake Core i5-6260U which brings with it support for DDR4 and more importantly NVMe SSDs. Connectivity includes Ethernet, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi, miniDP 1.2 and proper HDMI CEC 1.4b output.  The barebones kit will run $380USD, not bad for this type of design.  Missing Remote put the new NUC through its paces; check out the results here.

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"Updated with an Intel Core i5-6260U with Intel Iris Graphics 540, support for NVMe SSD, and DDR4, the system has the opportunity to fix the shortcomings in the previous generation (cough, CSH). The sleek looks and features will not be as much of a bargain as the plug-in-and-go Intel Pentium based NUC5PGYH. Intel is asking $380/£335 for the barebones kit, but with quite a bit more performance, better networking, and features on tap, it could well be worth the extra dosh."

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Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand

A recent post over at benchlife.info included a slide of some significant interest to those who have been drooling over XPoint technology:

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For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.

Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.

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Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).

We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.

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Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).

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IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...

James Reinders Leaving Intel and What It Means

Subject: Processors | June 8, 2016 - 12:17 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, Intel, gpgpu

Intel's recent restructure had a much broader impact than I originally believed. Beyond the large number of employees who will lose their jobs, we're even seeing it affect other areas of the industry. Typically, ASUS releases their ZenPhone line with x86 processors, which I assumed was based on big subsidies from Intel to push their instruction set into new product categories. This year, ASUS chose the ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon, which seemed to me like Intel decided to stop the bleeding.

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That brings us to today's news. After over 27 years at Intel, James Reinders accepted the company's early retirement offer, scheduled for his 10001st day with the company, and step down from his position as Intel's High Performance Computing Director. He worked on the Larabee and Xeon Phi initiatives, and published several books on parallelism.

According to his letter, it sounds like his retirement offer was part of a company-wide package, and not targeting his division specifically. That would sort-of make sense, because Intel is focusing on cloud and IoT. Xeon Phi is an area that Intel is battling NVIDIA for high-performance servers, and I would expect that it has potential for cloud-based applications. Then again, as I say that, AWS only has a handful of GPU instances, and they are running fairly old hardware at that, so maybe the demand isn't there yet.

Video Perspective: Intel Giving Away 6950X + SSD 750 Systems at PAX Prime

Subject: Processors | June 7, 2016 - 07:29 PM |
Tagged: Intel, video, PAX, pax prime, i7-6950X, taser

Intel is partnering with 12 of their top system builders to build amazing PCs around the Core i7-6950X 10-core Extreme Edition processor and the SSD 750 Series drives. Intel will be raffling off 7 of these systems at PAX Prime in September. You can find out more details on the competition and how you can enter at http://inte.ly/rigchallenge. 

As for us, we got a taser.

Looking for a new CPU? You will be waiting until January at the earliest

Subject: Processors | June 7, 2016 - 06:45 PM |
Tagged: Zen, kaby lake, Intel, delayed, amd

Bad news upgraders, neither AMD nor Intel will be launching their new CPUs until the beginning of next year.  Both AMD's Zen and Intel's Kaby Lake have now been delayed instead of launching in Q4 and Q3 of this year respectively.  DigiTimes did not delve into the reasons behind the delay in AMD's 14nm GLOBALFOUNDRIES (and Samsung) sourced Zen but unfortunately the reasons beind Intel's delay are all too clear.  With large stockpiles of  Skylake and Haswell processors and systems based around them sitting in the channel, AMD's delay creates an opportunity for Intel and retailers to move that stock.  Once Kaby Lake arrives the systems will no longer be attractive to consumers and the prices will plummet.

Here is to hoping AMD's delay does not imply anything serious, though the lack of a new product release at a time which traditionally sees sales increase is certainly going to hurt their bottom line for 2016.

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"With the delays, the PC supply chain will not be able to begin mass production for the next-generation products until November or December and PC demand is also unlikely to pick up until the first quarter of 2017."

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Source: DigiTimes

Intel Adds M.2 Adapter Option to SSD 750 Series

Subject: Storage | June 7, 2016 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: SSD 750, M.2 2280, M.2, Intel, Adatper

Back when Intel launched their SSD 750 Series product line, their hope was that the motherboard industry would adopt the U.2 PCIe connector and add those ports to all motherboards. Well, it's over a year later, and we've only seen U.2 appear on a very small fraction of currently shipping motherboards. It's far more likely to see motherboard manufacturers simply tossing in a U.2 to M.2 adapter than to incorporate both onto the board itself. Since things have panned out the way that they have, Intel has recently let us know they will be introducing a new SKU of the SSD 750 products:

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Instead of the bundled U.2 cable (seen above next to an ASUS Hyper Kit), the alternate will include a U.2 to M.2 cable, eliminating the need for an adapter for consumers who have no native U.2 port on their systems.

For now, the only available products on the market have the U.2 cable, so don't worry about getting the wrong one. Once the new SKU hits the to market, we should see product descriptions indicating which cable is included. Those purchasing starting this summer should be aware that in the future there will be an additional product with the alternate cable, and be careful to purchase the desired product/cable.

Intel Launches Xeon E7 v4 Processors

Subject: Processors | June 7, 2016 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: xeon e7 v4, xeon e7, xeon, Intel, broadwell-ex, Broadwell

Yesterday, Intel launched eleven SKUs of Xeon processors that are based on Broadwell-EX. While I don't follow this product segment too closely, it's a bit surprising that Intel launched them so close to consumer-level Broadwell-E. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, though.

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These processors scale from four cores up to twenty-four of them, with HyperThreading. They are also available in cache sizes from 20MB up to 60MB. With Intel's Xeon naming scheme, the leading number immediately after the E7 in the product name denotes the number of CPUs that can be installed in a multi-socket system. The E7-8XXX line can be run in an eight-socket motherboard, while the E7-4XXX models are limited to four sockets per system. TDPs range between 115W and 165W, which is pretty high, but to be expected for a giant chip that runs at a fairly high frequency.

Intel Xeon E7 v4 launched on June 6th with listed prices between $1223 to $7174 per CPU.

Source: Intel