Podcast #414 - AMD Zen Architecture Details, Lightning Headphones, AMD GPU Market Share and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2016 - 10:51 AM |
Tagged: Zen, video, seasonic, Polaris, podcast, Omen, nvidia, market share, Lightning, hp, gtx 1060 3gb, gpu, brix, Audeze, asus, architecture, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #414 - 08/25/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the newly released architecture details of AMD Zen, Audeze headphones, AMD market share gains 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!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:37:15
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Audeze

Introduction, Specifications, and Design

More than an ordinary pair of headphones, the SINE headphones from Audeze feature planar magnetic drivers, and the option of direct connection to an Apple Lightning port for pure digital sound from the SINE's inline 24-bit DAC and headphone amp. So how does the "world’s first on-ear planar magnetic headphone" sound? We first had a chance to hear the SINE headphones at CES, and Audeze was kind enough to loan us a pair to test them out.

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"SINE headphones, with our planar magnetic technology, are the next step up in sound quality for many listeners. Instead of using ordinary dynamic drivers, our planar technology gives you a sound that’s punchy, dynamic, and detailed. In fact, it sounds like a much larger headphone! It’s lightweight, and folds flat for easy travelling. Once again, we’ve called upon our strategic partner Designworks, a BMW group subsidiary for the industrial design, and we manufacture SINE headphones in the USA at our Southern California factory."

Planar headphones certainly seem be be gaining traction in recent years. It was a pair from Audeze that I was first was able to demo a couple of years ago (the LCD-3 if I recall correctly), and I remember thinking about how precise they sounded. Granted, I was listening via a high-end headphone amp and lossless digital source at a hi-fi audio shop, so I had no frame of reference for what my own, lower-end equipment at home could do. And while the SINE headphones are certainly very advanced and convenient as an all-in-one solution to high-end audio for iOS device owners, there’s more to the story.

One the distinct advantages provided by the SINE headphones is the consistency of the experience they can provide across compatible devices. If you hear the SINE in a store (or on the floor of a tradeshow, as I did) you’re going to hear the same sound at home or on the go, provided you are using an Apple i-device. The Lightning connector provides the digital source for your audio, and the SINE’s built-in DAC and headphone amp create the analog signal that travels to the planar magnetic drivers in the headphones. In fact, if your own source material is of higher quality you can get even better sound than you might hear in a demo - and that’s the catch with headphones like this: source material matters.

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One of the problems with high-end components in general is their ability to reveal the limitations of other equipment in the chain. Looking past the need for quality amplification for a moment, think about the differences you’ll immediately hear from different music sources. Listen to a highly-compressed audio stream, and it can sound rather flat and lifeless. Listen to uncompressed music from your iTunes library, and you will appreciate the more detailed sound. But move up to 24-bit studio master recordings (with their greater dynamic range and significantly higher level of detail), and you’ll be transported into the world of high-res audio with the speakers, DAC, and headphone amp you need to truly appreciate the difference.

Continue reading our review of the Audeze SINE Planar Magnetic headphones!

FMS 2016: Seagate Demos Facebook Lightning, 60TB 3.5" SSD!

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: FMS 2016, ssd, Seagate, Lightning, facebook, 60TB

Seagate showed off some impressive Solid State Storage at Flash Memory Summit 2016.

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First up is the Nytro XM1440. This is a 2TB M.2 22110 SSD complete with enterprise firmware and power loss protection. Nice little package, but what's it for?

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..well if you have 60 of them, you can put them into this impressive 1U chassis. This is Facebook's Lightning chassis (discussed yesterday). With Seagate's 2TB parts, this makes for 120TB of flash in a 1U footprint. Great for hyperscale datacenters.

Now onto what you came to see:

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This is the 'Seagate 60TB SAS SSD'. It really doesn't need a unique name because that capacity takes care of that for us! This is a 3.5" form factor SAS 12Gbit beast of a drive.

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They pulled this density off with a few tricks which I'll walk through. First was the stacking of three PCBs with flash packages on both sides. 80 packages in total.

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Next up is Seagate's ONFi fan-out ASIC. This is required because you can only have so many devices connected to a single channel / bus of a given SSD controller. The ASIC acts as a switch for data between the controller and flash dies.

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With so much flash present, we could use a bit of fault tolerance. You may recall RAISE from SandForce (who Seagate now owns). This is effectively RAID for flash dies, enabling greater resistance to individual errors across the array.

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Finally we have the specs. With a dual 12 Gbit SAS inteface, the 60TB SAS SSD can handle 1.5 GB/s reads, 1.0 GB/s writes, and offers 150,000 IOPS at 4KB QD32 random (SAS tops out at QD32). The idea behind drives like these is to cram as much storage into the smallest space possible, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

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We also saw the XP7200 add-in card. I found this one interesting as it is a PCIe 3.0 x16 card with four M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs installed, but *without* a PLX switch to link them to the host system. This is possible only in server systems supporting PCIe Bifurcation, where the host can recognize that certain sets of lanes are linked to individual components.

More to follow from FMS 2016! Press blast after the break.

Fully Enabling the A10-7850K while Utilizing a Standalone GPU

Subject: Processors | July 9, 2014 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, msi, Luxmark, Lightning, hsa, GTX 580, GCN, APU, amd, A88X, A10-7850K

When I first read many of the initial AMD A10 7850K reviews, my primary question was how would the APU act if there was a different GPU installed on the system and did not utilize the CrossFire X functionality that AMD talked about.  Typically when a user installs a standalone graphics card on the AMD FM2/FM2+ platform, they disable the graphics portion of the APU.  They also have to uninstall the AMD Catalyst driver suite.  So this then leaves the APU as a CPU only, and all of that graphics silicon is left silent and dark.

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Who in their right mind would pair a high end graphics card with the A10-7850K? This guy!

Does this need to be the case?  Absolutely not!  The GCN based graphics unit on the latest Kaveri APUs is pretty powerful when used in GPGPU/OpenCL applications.  The 4 cores/2 modules and 8 GCN cores can push out around 856 GFlops when fully utilized.  We also must consider that the APU is the first fully compliant HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) chip, and it handles memory accesses much more efficiently than standalone GPUs.  The shared memory space with the CPU gets rid of a lot of the workarounds typically needed for GPGPU type applications.  It makes sense that users would want to leverage the performance potential of a fully functioning APU while upgrading their overall graphics performance with a higher end standalone GPU.

To get this to work is very simple.  Assuming that the user has been using the APU as their primary graphics controller, they should update to the latest Catalyst drivers.  If the user is going to use an AMD card, then it would behoove them to totally uninstall the Catalyst driver and re-install only after the new card is installed.  After this is completed restart the machine, go into the UEFI, and change the primary video boot device to PEG (PCI-Express Graphics) from the integrated unit.  Save the setting and shut down the machine.  Insert the new video card and attach the monitor cable(s) to it.  Boot the machine and either re-install the Catalyst suite if an AMD card is used, or install the latest NVIDIA drivers if that is the graphics choice.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 allow users to install multiple graphics drivers from different vendors.  In my case I utilized a last generation GTX 580 (the MSI N580GTX Lightning) along with the AMD A10 7850K.  These products coexist happily together on the MSI A88X-G45 Gaming motherboard.  The monitor is attached to the NVIDIA card and all games are routed through that since it is the primary graphics adapter.  Performance seems unaffected with both drivers active.

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I find it interesting that the GPU portion of the APU is named "Spectre".  Who owns those 3dfx trademarks anymore?

When I load up Luxmark I see three entries: the APU (CPU and GPU portions), the GPU portion of the APU, and then the GTX 580.  Luxmark defaults to the GPUs.  We see these GPUs listed as “Spectre”, which is the GCN portion of the APU, and the NVIDIA GTX 580.  Spectre supports OpenCL 1.2 while the GTX 580 is an OpenCL 1.1 compliant part.

With both GPUs active I can successfully run the Luxmark “Sala” test.  The two units perform better together than when they are run separately.  Adding in the CPU does increase the score, but not by very much (my guess here is that the APU is going to be very memory bandwidth bound in such a situation).  Below we can see the results of the different units separate and together.

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These results make me hopeful about the potential of AMD’s latest APU.  It can run side by side with a standalone card, and applications can leverage the performance of this unit.  Now all we need is more HSA aware software.  More time and more testing is needed for setups such as this, and we need to see if HSA enabled software really does see a boost from using the GPU portion of the APU as compared to a pure CPU piece of software or code that will run on the standalone GPU.

Personally I find the idea of a heterogeneous solution such as this appealing.  The standalone graphics card handles the actual graphics portions, the CPU handles that code, and the HSA software can then fully utilize the graphics portion of the APU in a very efficient manner.  Unfortunately, we do not have hard numbers on the handful of HSA aware applications out there, especially when used in conjunction with standalone graphics.  We know in theory that this can work (and should work), but until developers get out there and really optimize their code for such a solution, we simply do not know if having an APU will really net the user big gains as compared to something like the i7 4770 or 4790 running pure x86 code.

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In the meantime, at least we know that these products work together without issue.  The mixed mode OpenCL results make a nice case for improving overall performance in such a system.  I would imagine with more time and more effort from developers, we could see some really interesting implementations that will fully utilize a system such as this one.  Until then, happy experimenting!

Source: AMD

Podcast #304 - GeForce GTX TITAN Z, Core i7-4790K, Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Force and more!

Subject: Editorial | June 12, 2014 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: Z97X-SOC Force, video, titan z, radeon, project tango, podcast, plextor, nvidia, Lightning, gtx titan z, gigabyte, geforce, E3 14, amd, 4790k, 290x

PC Perspective Podcast #304 - 06/12/2014

We have lots of reviews to talk about this week including the GeForce GTX TITAN Z, Core i7-4790K, Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Force, E3 News 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
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  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom and Allyn Maleventano

Program length: 1:11:36

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

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

Lightning Returns

With the GPU landscape mostly settled for 2014, we have the ability to really dig in and evaluate the retail models that continue to pop up from NVIDIA and AMD board partners. One of our favorite series of graphics cards over the years comes from MSI in the form of the Lightning brand. These cards tend to take the engineering levels to a point other designers simply won't do - and we love it! Obviously the target of this capability is additional overclocking headroom and stability, but what if the GPU target has issues scaling already?

That is more or less the premise of the Radeon R9 290X Lightning from MSI. AMD's Radeon R9 290X Hawaii GPU is definitely a hot and power hungry part and that caused quite a few issues at the initial release. Since then though, both AMD and its add-in card partners have worked to improve the coolers installed on these cards to improve performance reliability and decrease the LOUD NOISES produced by the stock, reference cooler.

Let's dive into the latest to hit our test bench, the MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning.

The MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning

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MSI continues to utilize the yellow and black color scheme that many of the company's high end parts integrate and I love the combination. I know that both NVIDIA and AMD disapprove of the distinct lack of "green" and "red" in the cooler and box designs, but good on MSI for sticking to its own thing. 

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The box for the Lightning card is equal to the prominence of the card itself and you even get a nifty drawer for all of the included accessories.

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We originally spotted the MSI R9 290X Lightning at CES in January and the design remains the same. The cooler is quite large (and damn heavy) and is cooled by a set of three fans. The yellow fan in the center is smaller and spins a bit faster, creating more noise than I would prefer. All fan speeds can be adjusted with MSI's included fan control software.

Continue reading our review of the MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning Graphics Card!!

CES 2014: MSI Previews the Radeon R9 290X Lightning

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2014, msi, 290x, radeon, amd, Lightning, R9 290X

The MSI Lightning series of graphics cards continues to be one of the best high end enthusiast lines available as we have seen with our reviews of the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning and the R7970 Lightning.  At CES this week in Las Vegas the company was showcasing the upcoming card in the series based on the latest AMD Hawaii GPU.

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The MSI R9 290X Lightning features an updated triple cooler design and heat pipe cooler that appears to be truly impressive.  If the weight of the card is any indication, this GPU should be running considerably cooler than most of the competition.  

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MSI has included a dual BIOS option, updated Military Class 4 components and hardware but be prepared to sacrifice three slots of your motherboard to this monster.  Power requirements are interesting with a pair of 8-pin power connectors and a single 6-pin connector, though the 6-pin is going to optional.

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The power of the card still comes from AMD's latest R9 290X Hawaii GPU, so you can be sure you'll have enough gaming power for just about any situation.  We implored MSI to make sure that the overclocks of this card, probably in the 1050-1100 MHz range, are maintained consistently through extended game play to avoid any awkward variance discussions. 

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Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

A New TriFrozr Cooler

Graphics cards are by far the most interesting topic we cover at PC Perspective.  Between the battles of NVIDIA and AMD as well as the competition between board partners like EVGA, ASUS, MSI and Galaxy, there is very rarely a moment in time when we don't have a different GPU product of some kind on an active test bed.  Both NVIDIA and AMD release reference cards (for the most part) with each and every new product launch and it then takes some time for board partners to really put their own stamp on the designs.  Other than the figurative stamp that is the sticker on the fan.

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One of the companies that has recently become well known for very custom, non-reference graphics card designs is MSI and the pinnacle of the company's engineering falls into the Lightning brand.  As far back as the MSI GTX 260 Lightning and as recently as the MSI HD 7970 Lightning, these cards have combined unique cooling, custom power design and good amount of over engineering to really produce a card that has few rivals.

Today we are looking at the brand new MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning, a complete revamp of the GTX 780 that was released in May.  Based on the same GK110 GPU as the GTX Titan card, with two fewer SMX units, the GTX 780 easily the second fastest single GPU card on the market.  MSI is hoping to make the enthusiasts even more excited about the card with the Lightning design that brings a brand new TriFrozr cooler, impressive power design and overclocking capabilities that basic users and LN2 junkies can take advantage of.  Just what DO you get for $750 these days?

Continue reading our review of the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning graphics card!!

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

Spicing up the GTX 670

The Power Edition graphics card series from MSI is a relatively new addition to its lineup. The Power Edition often mimics that of the higher-end Lightning series, but at a far lower price (and perhaps a smaller feature set). This allows MSI to split the difference between the reference class boards and the high end Lightning GPUs.

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Doing this allows users a greater variety of products to choose from, and to better tailor users' purchases by their needs and financial means. Not everyone wants to pay $600 for a GTX 680 Lightning, but what if someone was able to get similar cooling, quality, and overclocking potential for a much lower price?  This is what MSI has done with one of its latest Power Edition cards.

The GTX 670 Power Edition

The NVIDIA GTX 670 cards have received accolades throughout the review press. It is a great combination of performance, power consumption, heat production, and price. It certainly caused AMD a great amount of alarm, and it hurriedly cut prices on the HD 7900 series of cards in response. The GTX 670 is a slightly cut-down version of the full GTX 680, and it runs very close to the clock speed of its bigger brother. In fact, other than texture and stream unit count, the cards are nearly identical.

Continue reading the entire review!

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

Will it Strike Again?

 It can now be claimed that we are arguably in our 4th generation of Lightning products from MSI. It can also be claimed that the 3rd generation of products really put that brand on the mainstream map. The R6970 and N580GTX (and XE version) set new standards for enthusiast grade graphics cards. Outstanding construction, unique pcb design, high quality (and quantity) of components, and a good eye for overall price have all been hallmarks of these cards. These were honestly some of my favorite video cards of all time. Call me biased, but I think when looking through other reviews those writers felt much the same. MSI certainly hit a couple of homeruns with their three Lightning offerings of 2011.

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Time does not stand still.  Resting on laurels is always the surest way to lose out to more aggressive competitors.  It is now 2012 and AMD has already launched the latest generation of HD 7000 chips, with the top end being the HD 7970.  This particular product was launched in late December, but cards were not available until January 9th of 2012.  We are now at the end of March where we see a decent volume of products on the shelves, as well as some of the first of the non-reference designs hitting the streets.  Currently Asus has its DirectCU II based 7970, but now we finally get to see the Lightning treatment.

 MSI has not sat upon their laurels it seems.  They are taking an aggressive approach to the new Lightning series of cards, and they implement quite a few unique features that have not been seen on any other product before.  Now the question is did they pull it off?  Throwing more features at something does not necessarily equal success.  The increase in complexity of a design combined with other unknowns with the new features could make it a failure.  Just look at the R5870 Lightning for proof.  That particular card tread new ground, but did so in a way that did not adequately differentiate itself from reference HD 5870 designs.  So what is new and how does it run?  Let us dig in!

Continue reading our review of the MSI Radeon HD 7970 3GB Lightning Graphics Card!!