New Intel Graphics Drivers Further Spread Quick Sync Video

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 25, 2014 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, Intel, iGPU, haswell

Recently, Intel released the 15.33.14.3412 (15.33.14.64.3412 for 64-bit) drivers for their Ivy Bridge and Haswell integrated graphics. The download was apparently published on January 29th while its patch notes are dated February 22nd. It features expanded support for Intel Quick Sync Video Technology, allowing certain Pentium and Celeron-class processors to access the feature, as well as an alleged increase in OpenGL-based games. Probably the most famous OpenGL title of our time is Minecraft, although I do not know if that specific game will see improvements (and if so, how much).

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The new driver enables Quick Sync Video for the following processors:

  • Pentium 3558U
  • Pentium 3561Y
  • Pentium G3220(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Pentium G3420(Unsuffixed/T)
  • Pentium G3430
  • Celeron 2957U
  • Celeron 2961Y
  • Celeron 2981U
  • Celeron G1820(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Celeron G1830

Besides the addition for these processors and the OpenGL performance improvements, the driver obviously fixes several bugs in each of its supported OSes. You can download the appropriate drivers from the Intel Download Center.

Source: Intel
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer:

Introduction and Design

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It seems like only yesterday (okay, last month) that we were testing the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which was certainly an interesting device. That’s primarily because of what it represents: namely, the slow merging of the tablet and notebook markets. You’ve probably heard people proclaiming the death of the PC as we know it. Not so fast—while it’s true that tablets have eaten into the sales of what were previously low-powered notebooks and now-extinct netbooks, there is still no way to replace the utility of a physical keyboard and the sensibility of a mouse cursor. Touch-centric devices are hard to beat when entertainment and education are the focus of a purchase, but as long as productivity matters, we aren’t likely to see traditional means of input and a range of connectivity options disappear anytime soon.

The IdeaPad Yoga 11 leaned so heavily in the direction of tablet design that it arguably was more tablet than notebook. That is, it featured a tablet-grade SOC (the nVidia Tegra 3) as opposed to a standard Intel or AMD CPU, an 11” display, and a phenomenal battery life that can only be compared to the likes of other ARM-based tablets. But, of course, with those allegiances come necessary concessions, not least of which is the inability to run x86 applications and the consequential half-baked experiment that is Windows RT.

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Fortunately, there’s always room for compromise, and for those of us searching for something closer to a notebook than the original Yoga 11, we’re now afforded the option of the 11S. Apart from being nearly identical in terms of form factor, the $999 (as configured) Yoga 11S adopts a standard x86 chipset with Intel ULV CPUs, which allows it to run full-blown Windows 8. That positions it squarely in-between the larger x86 Yoga 13 and the ARM-based Yoga 11, which makes it an ideal candidate for someone hoping for the best of both worlds. But can it survive the transition, or do its compromises outstrip its gains?

Our Yoga 11S came equipped with a fairly standard configuration:

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Unless you’re comparing to the Yoga 11’s specs, not much about this stands out. The Core i5-3339Y is the first thing that jumps out at you; in exchange for the nVidia Tegra 3 ARM-based SOC of the original Yoga 11, it’s a much more powerful chip with a 13W TDP and (thanks to its x86 architecture) the ability to run Windows 8 and standard Windows applications. Next on the list is the included 8 GB of DDR3 RAM—versus just 2 GB on the Yoga 11. Finally, there’s USB 3.0 and a much larger SSD (256 GB vs. 64 GB)—all valuable additions. One thing that hasn’t changed, meanwhile, is the battery size. Surely you’re wondering how this will affect the longevity of the notebook under typical usage. Patience; we’ll get to that in a bit! First, let’s talk about the general design of the notebook.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S Convertible Notebook!

Zotac Launches New Ivy Bridge-Powered ZBOX Nano SFF PCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 12, 2013 - 02:26 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, Nano, Ivy Bridge, Intel, hd 4000

Zotac has announced three new ZBOX Nano SKUs that utilize Intel’s 3rd Generation “Ivy Bridge” processors and HD 4000 processor graphics. The new SKUs include base and PLUS models of ID63, ID 64, and ID65 mini PCs.

Zotac ZBOX Nano with USB 3.jpg

The tiny PCs continue to use the ZBOX Nano form factor of approximately 5 x 5 x 1.8 inches. The front of the small form factor (SFF) PC holds two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, two audio jacks, LEDs, and a power button. The rear of the ZBOX Nano PCs features an external antenna for Wi-Fi along with the following IO.

  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x eSATA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet

The PC comes with a VESA 75/100 mount for wall mounting or attaching to the back of a monitor.

Internal specifications include an Intel Core i3 3227U (dual core at 1.9GHz), Core i5 3337U (dual core at 1.9GHz base, 2.7GHz turbo), or Core i7 3537U (dual core at 2.0GHz base, 3.1GHz turbo) processor depending on the specific SKU. The base barebones ZBOX Nano PCs support a single DDR3 SO-DIMM (up to 8GB 1600MHz) and a single 2.5” hard drive.

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Zotac’s ZBOX Nano Plus units bundle in 4GB of DDR3 and a 500GB hard drive. Zotac also includes a “nanoRAID” adapter that will allow users to switch out a traditional 2.5” storage drive for two mSATA drives. The adapter supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 options as well.

Pricing and availability for the new ZBOX Nano SKUs has not been announced yet, but the mini PCs should be up for sale soon.

The decision to release new models with Ivy Bridge processors instead of Intel's latest Haswell CPUs is a bit strange, but the SFF PCs have likely been in the making and testing phase for a while. I expect Haswell-powered versions to be released at some point in the future but for now the Ivy Bridge models will offer up more performance than previous ZBOX Nano units.

Source: Zotac

Logic Supply Launches New LGX ML250 Fanless PC

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | June 19, 2013 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: Passive, Logic Supply, Ivy Bridge, fanless

Logic Supply recently responded to customer requests for a high-end passively cooled system with its new LGX ML250 fanless PC. The new system is intended for industrial and mobile computing work where you need a rugged system that can be used in a wide range of environments.

LGX ML250.jpg

The LGX ML250 uses a metal chassis that doubles as a heatsink for the CPU. On the front of the case is a single power button and two USB 2.0 ports. On the rear IO panel, users are presented with:

  • 2 x COM ports
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DVI
  • 1 x PS/2
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x RJ45 LAN jacks
  • 3 x analog audio outputs

Internally, the fanless PC uses an ASRock IMB-170 motherboard, Intel Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge CPUs, up to 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 memory, and (up to) either a 1TB mechanical hard drive or 120GB SLC SSD for two SATA drive slots.

CPU options include the Sandy Bridge Celeron B810, the Ivy Bridge Core i3-3120ME, or the Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3610ME at 2.7GHz. The PC also includes Wi-Fi via a mini-PCI-E card. It can be pre-installed with your choice of Windows 7/8 or Ubuntu Linux operating systems. The LGX ML250 is rated for 40-degrees Celsius environmental temperatures.

Mr Walsh of Logic Supply stated that the company received numerous requests for a sub-$1000 machine with decent specs, IO, and with a fanless design. "The default config uses one of the new industrial-series ASRock boards -- the IMB170. From what I can tell, few IPC companies are using these boards in fanless systems, which is amazing given their price/performance specs."

The ML250 starts at $773 and is available for pre-order now. The price tag is steep, but it is a full system that is mostly aimed at industrial applications.

Source: Logic Supply

Computex 2013: Intel Demos Baytrail Tablet, Haswell Ultrabook, Ivy Bridge Passive Tablet

Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 6, 2013 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: computex, computex 2013, Intel, haswell, Ivy Bridge, k900, Lenovo, baytrail, silvermont, ultrabook, acer, aspire s7

Intel had a host of new technologies to show off at Computex this year, starting of course with the Haswell processor launch.  Hopefully you have read our review of the Core i7-4770K LGA1150 CPU already but thanks to some video sent our way, we have other interesting bits to share.

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Below you will see Intel demonstrating four new products.  First is the Acer Aspire S7 using a Haswell dual-core platform playing back 4K content.  Next up is an Ivy Bridge tablet that is running completely fanless (passive) thus generating no noise at all while still offering impressive CPU and graphics performance.  Intel then pulls a Lenovo K900 Android smartphone out of its pocket powered by the Clovertrail+ enabled Atom Z2580 SoC.  Finally, we get a sneak peak at the next-generation of SoC designs with a look at a Silvermont-based Baytrail tablet running at 2560x1440. 

Inspur Readies Tianhe-2 Supercomputer With 54 Petaflop Theoretical Peak Performance

Subject: Systems | June 3, 2013 - 09:27 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, tianhe-2, supercomputer, Ivy Bridge, HPC, China

A powerful new supercomputer constructed by Chinese company Inspur is currently in testing at the National University of Defense Technology. Called the Tianhe-2, the new supercomputer has 16,000 compute nodes and approximately 54 Petaflops of peak theoretical compute performance.
Destined for the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China, the open HPC platform will be used for education and research projects. The Tianhe-2 is composed of 125 racks with 128 compute nodes in each rack.

The compute nodes are broken down into two types: CPM and APU modules. One of each node type makes up a single compute board. The CPM module hosts four Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 128GB system memory, and a single Intel Xeon Phi accelerator card with 8GB of its own memory. Each APU module adds five Xeon Phi cards to every compute board. The compute boards (a CPM module + a APU module) contain two NICs that connect the various compute boards with Inspur's custom THExpress2 high bandwidth interconnects. Finally, the Tianhe-2 supercomputer will have access to 12.4 Petabytes of storage that is shared across all of the compute boards.

In all, the Tianhe-2 is powered by 32,000 Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 1.024 Petabytes of system memory (not counting Phi dedicated memory--which would make the total 1.404 PB), and 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi MIC (Many Integrated Cores) cards. That is a total of 3,120,000 processor cores (though keep in mind that number is primarily made up of the relatively simple individual Phi cores as there are 57 cores to each Phi card).

Artist Rendition of Inspur-built Tianhe-2 Chinese Supercomputer.png

Inspur claims up to 3.432 TFlops of peak compute performance per compute node (which, for simplicity they break down as one node is 2 Ivy Bridge chips, 64GB memory, and 3 Xeon Phi cards although the two compute modules that make up a node are not physically laid out that way) for a total theoretical potential compute power of 54,912 TFlops (or 54.912 Petaflops) across the entire supercomputer. In the latest Linpack benchmark run, researchers saw up to 63% efficiency in attaining peak performance -- 30.65 PFlops out of 49.19 PFlops peak/theoretical performance -- when only using 14,336 nodes with 50GB RAM each. Further testing and optimization should improve that number, and when all nodes are brought online the real world performance will naturally be higher than the current benchmarks. With that said, the Tianhe-2 is already besting Cray's TITAN, which is promising (though I hope Cray comes back next year and takes the crown again, heh).

In order to keep all of this hardware cool, Inspur is planning a custom liquid cooling system using chilled water. The Tianhe-2 will draw up to 17.6 MW of power under load. Once the liquid cooling system is implemented the supercomputer will draw 24MW while under load.
This is an impressive system, and an interesting take on a supercomputer architecture considering the rise in popularity of heterogeneous architectures that pair massive numbers of CPUs with graphics processing units (GPUs).

The Tianhe-2 supercomputer will be reconstructed at its permanent home at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China once the testing phase is finished. It will be one of the top supercomputers in the world once it is fully online! HPC Wire has a nice article with slides an further details on the upcoming processing powerhouse that is worth a read if you are into this sort of HPC stuff.

Also read: Cray unveils the TITAN supercomputer.

Source: HPC Wire

Revisting support the HD4000 graphics core on Ubuntu

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2013 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: sandy bridge, Ivy Bridge, linux, ubuntu 13.04

The news might be heavily slanted towards Haswell right now but for Linux users improvements to Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge GPU drivers are still a major focus.  As there have been updates to the drivers as well as to Ubuntu, Phoronix felt it was time to revisit the performance metrics of the graphics on a Core i3 3217U.  While they did see improvements when you compare it to previous driver versions it seems that there is still some work to do as the performance still lags behind the Win7 driver.

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"After yesterday's Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Linux graphics comparison using the very latest Intel Linux graphics driver, here are new benchmarks using the latest Windows and Linux Intel OpenGL graphics driver. Facing competition this morning is Microsoft Windows 7 Pro x64 and Ubuntu 13.04 with its updated open-source stack."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Phoronix

New Intel HD Graphics Driver Improves Game Performance

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2013 - 03:13 PM |
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, intel hd, Intel, hd 4000, hd 2500

Intel recently released an updated graphics driver for Ivy Bridge processors sporting either HD 4000 or HD 2500 GPUs. The new 15.31.3.3071 (or 15.31.3.64.3071 for those running a 64-bit OS) driver features several under-the-hood optimizations to reduce CPU overhead and improve the driver architecture itself.

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The driver architecture improvements have also led to improved game performance. Intel claims up to 10% better performance in StarCraft II, Batman: Arkham City, and World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (among others).

The chip giant also notes that the new driver supports OpenCL 1.2 for GPGPU calculations. The graphics driver update is only for Ivy Bridge hardware, and is compatible with Ivy Bridge hardware and both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8. If you are running Intel's Driver Update Utility, you should get the new driver automatically.

Otherwise, you can grab the new driver from the following link, depending on your OS.

Unfortunately, these drivers are generic Intel HD graphics drivers. If your OEM computer is running Windows with an OEM-customized version of Intel's drivers, you are out of luck. You will need to wait for your OEM to update its driver package in order to take advantage of the performance improvements.

Source: Intel

Windows versus Linux in an OpenGL free for al

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2013 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: linux, ubuntu 13.04, fedora 18, win7, opengl, Ivy Bridge

One major barrier to switching to Linux for many users is the graphical performance of the OS; Steam may be releasing a variety of games which will run on Linux but if the performance is awful there are not going to be many who think about making the switch.  Phoronix has been a close eye on the development of OpenGL drivers for Linux, this time specifically the onboard Intel graphics present on Ivy Bridge chips.  With one driver available for each OS the tests were easily set up, except for the aforementioned Steam games as there is a bug which prevents Phoronix from collecting the performance data they need.  Check out the performance differences between Ubuntu 13.04, Fedora 18 and Win7 in the full article.

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"Last month Phoronix published Intel OpenGL benchmarks showing Windows 8 outperforming Ubuntu 13.04 with the latest Windows and Linux drivers from Intel. I also showed that even with the KDE and Xfce desktops rather than the default Unity/Compiz desktop to Ubuntu, Windows 8 still was faster on this Intel "Ivy Bridge" platform. The new benchmarks to share today from this Intel Ultrabook are the Windows 8 and Ubuntu 13.04 results but also with performance figures added in from Microsoft Windows 7 Professional Service Pack 1 x64 and Fedora 18."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Phoronix
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The P8Z77X-I Deluxe is ASUS' high-powered answer to the small form factor crowd. Through some unique design decisions and an upright daughter-board, ASUS was able to cram a full 10-phase digital power delivery system into this board without sacrificing any other integrated components. It's nice to see a manufacturer step up and design a mini-ITX board in the same vein as its full-sized counterpart. We put the board through our normal gamut of tests to see how well this mighty Mini-ITX board sized up with its full-sized brethren. At a retail list price of $219, the P8Z77-I Deluxe needs to prove its worth against the full sized boards.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed a full 10 phases of digital power, housed in the board's upright daughter card sitting parallel to the CPU cooler. The P8Z77-I Deluxe with its high-end power plant is packed full of features, including SATA 2, SATA 3, e-SATA, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 ports for storage devices. Networking capabilities include an Intel GigE NIC, a Broadcom dual-port 802.11n adapter, and a Broadcom Bluetooth adapter. The board also features a single PCI-Express x16 slot for graphics cards and other expansion cards.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Continue reading our review of the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard!