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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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Bristol Ridge Takes on Mobile: E2 Through FX

It is no secret that AMD has faced an uphill battle since the release of the original Core 2 processors from Intel.  While stayed mostly competitive through the Phenom II years, they hit some major performance issues when moving to the Bulldozer architecture.  While on paper the idea of Chip Multi-Threading sounded fantastic, AMD was never able to get the per thread performance up to expectations.  While their CPUs performed well in heavily multi-threaded applications, they just were never seen in as positive of a light as the competing Intel products.

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The other part of the performance equation that has hammered AMD is the lack of a new process node that would allow it to more adequately compete with Intel.  When AMD was at 32 nm PD-SOI, Intel had introduced its 22nm TriGate/FinFET.  AMD then transitioned to a 28nm HKMG planar process that was more size optimized than 32nm, but did not drastically improve upon power and transistor switching performance.

So AMD had a double whammy on their hands with an underperforming architecture and limitted to no access to advanced process nodes that would actually improve their power and speed situation.  They could not force their foundry partners to spend billions on a crash course in FinFET technology to bring that to market faster, so they had to iterate and innovate on their designs.

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Bristol Ridge is the fruit of that particular labor.  It is also the end point to the architecture that was introduced with Bulldozer way back in 2011.

Click here to read the entire introduction of AMD's Bristol Ridge lineup!

Gigabyte's Aorus X3 Plus v5, gaming on the go for those who do such things

Subject: Mobile | April 4, 2016 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, GTX 970M, gigabyte, gaming laptop, Aorus X3 Plus v5

Gaming notebooks do not tend to generate positive feedback in our reviews, as many reader feel the sacrifices to fit a powerful machine into a slim chassis are just too much of a compromise.  BGA processors have negative connotations surrounding them, in some cases fair criticism but there is obviously a market for these machines as companies are producing and selling them.  The Tech Report takes a peek at Gigabyte's Aorus X3 Plus v5, a 14" 3200x1800 IPS laptop powered by a Core i7-6700HQ and GeForce GTX 970M, a 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD and 16GB o fDDR4-2133.  They loved the machine apart from the fact that the 970M just can't drive the panel at native resolutions when playing a demanding game and perhaps a lower resolution would have been preferable; which would bring a different set of negative comments.

The Lagavulin allegory which starts out the review is apropos, if you like something enough, you will find a way to afford it.  That said, if you consider $90 as the high end of Scotch your tastebuds have some nice surprises in store; your bank account not so much.

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"Aorus' X3 Plus v5 laptop packs eight threads of Skylake pro cessing power and a GeForce GTX 970M graphics card into a 14" chassis. We put the X3 Plus v5 to the test to see whether it ushers in a new era of portable computing power."

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: EVGA

A new fighter has entered the ring

When EVGA showed me that it was entering the world of gaming notebooks at CES in January, I must admit, I questioned the move. A company that, at one point, only built and distributed graphics cards based on NVIDIA GeForce GPUs had moved to mice, power supplies, tablets (remember that?) and even cases, was going to get into the cutthroat world of notebooks. But I was promised that EVGA had an angle; it would not be cutting any corners in order to bring a truly competitive and aggressive product to the market.

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Just a couple of short months later (seriously, is it the end of March already?) EVGA presented us with a shiny new SC17 Gaming Notebook to review. It’s thinner than you might expect, heavier than I would prefer and packs some impressive compute power, along with unique features and overclocking capability, that will put it on your short list of portable gaming rigs for 2016.

Let’s start with a dive into the spec table and then go from there.

  EVGA SC17 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-6820HK
Memory 32GB G.Skill DDR4-2666
Graphics Card GeForce GTX 980M 8GB
Storage 256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6G HDD
Display Sharp 17.3 inch UDH 4K with matte finish
Connectivity Intel 219-V Gigabit Ethernet
Intel AC-8260 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.2
2x USB 3.0 Type-A
1x USB 3.1 Type-C
Audio Realtek ALC 255
Integrated Subwoofer
Video 1x HDMI 1.4
2x mini DisplayPort (1x G-Sync support)
Dimensions 16-in x 11.6-in x 1.05-in
OS Windows 10 Home
MSRP $2,699

With a price tag of $2,699, EVGA owes you a lot – and it delivers! The processor of choice is the Intel Core i7-6820HK, an unlocked, quad-core, HyperThreaded processor that brings desktop class computing capability to a notebook. The base clock speed is 2.7 GHz but the Turbo clock reaches as high as 3.6 GHz out of the box, supplying games, rendering programs and video editors plenty of horsepower for production on the go. And don’t forget that this is one of the first unlocked processors from Intel for mobile computing – multipliers and voltages can all be tweaked in the UEFI or through Precision X Mobile software to push it even further.

Based on EVGA’s relationship with NVIDIA, it should surprise exactly zero people that a mobile GeForce GPU is found inside the SC17. The GTX 980M is based on the Maxwell 2.0 design and falls slightly under the desktop consumer class GeForce GTX 970 card in CUDA core count and clock speed. With 1536 CUDA cores and a 1038 MHz base clock, with boost capability, the discrete graphics will have enough juice for most games at very high image quality settings. EVGA has configured the GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, more than any desktop GTX 970… so there’s that. Obviously, it would have been great to see the full powered GTX 980 in the SC17, but that would have required changes to the thermal design, chassis and power delivery.

Continue reading our review of the EVGA SC17 gaming notebook!!

Microsoft Surface Book, taking the prize for most expensive laptop and running with it

Subject: Mobile | March 23, 2016 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: surface, surface book, tablet, Skylake, notebook, microsoft, Intel

The Register is not exaggerating in the quote below, the new Microsoft Surface Book ranges from $1500-$3200 depending on the model you chose, passing even the overpriced Chromebook Pixel by quite a sum of money.  For that price you get a 3200x2000 (267ppi) 13.5" display on a tablet which weighs 3.34lbs (1.5kg), the detachable keyboard with an optional Nvidia GPU and an extra battery as well as a Surface pen.  If you want the dock which adds more connectivity options, well that is another $200 and seeing as how there is only two USB3.0 ports, a single MiniDP and an SD card reader on the keyboard you are likely to want it. 

Certainly The Register liked the looks, design and power of this ultrabook but with the competition, up to and including Apple, offering similar products at half the price it is a hard sell in the end.  Ryan expressed a similar opinion when he reveiwed the Surface Book.

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"Sumptuous and slightly absurd, Microsoft's Surface Book is the most expensive laptop you can get, short of ordering a 24-carat custom gold plated jobbie."

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Source: The Register

Testing the performance of 15 different Linux distros on Skylake

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2016 - 06:14 PM |
Tagged: linux, Fedora, ubuntu, debian, CentOS, opensuse, Antergos, Sabayon, Void Linux, Zenwalk, KaOS, Clear, Alpine, Skylake

Phoronix have just wrapped up a marathon benchmarking session comparing 15 different flavours of Linux on a system with a Skylake based Xeon E3-1280 v5 and a MSI Radeon R7 370.  They tested a long list of programs, from SQLite through OpenGL based games and multi-threaded ray-tracer benchmarks.  They wrap up the reveiw with a table showing all the results in an easy to see format for you to reference when choosing your preferred Linux distro.  If you know what tasks your machine will be assigned to, you can see which of these 15 distros will offer you the best performance, as not every Linux machine is used for the same purpose.

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"Succeeding January's 10-way Linux distribution battle is now a 15-way Linux distribution comparison on an Intel Xeon "Skylake" system with Radeon R7 graphics. Distributions part of this Linux OS performance showdown include Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, OpenSUSE, Antergos, Sabayon, Void Linux, Zenwalk, KaOS, Clear Linux, and Alpine Linux."

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Source: Phoronix

Video Perspective: Huawei MateBook 2-in-1 Hands-on from MWC 2016

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 25, 2016 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, Huawei, matebook, Intel, core m, Skylake, 2-in-1

Huawei is getting into the PC business with the MateBook 2-in-1, built in the same vein as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Can they make a splash with impressive hardware and Intel Core m processors?

The new QHQ ASUS Zenbook UX305CA

Subject: Mobile | February 11, 2016 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, asus zenbook, ux305ca, qhd

At 13.3" in size it still seems odd to use a 3200x1800 display, but that is why scaling is important; especially for aged eyes.  The model of UX305CA that The Inquirer reviewed is running on a Skylake based Core M3-6Y30 clocked at 900MHz, 8B RAM and a 128GB SSD with other models available for those that wish upgraded components.  The Inquirer ran into a few small issues with the OS and you cannot expect the laptop to handle demanding tasks but for browsing and productivity it had no issues.  As well, the battery lasted over 9 hours during usage, not bad for a device weighing 1.2kg (2.65lbs).

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"From the ports to processor to the operating system, this refresh has been subject to a rather diverse mix of changes, the biggest being the addition of a QHD+ resolution screen, despite the price staying level with the original FHD model."

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Source: The Inquirer

Extreme Overclocking of Skylake (7.02566 GHz)

Subject: Processors | February 7, 2016 - 02:00 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, overclocking, asrock, Intel, gskill

I recently came across a post at PC Gamer that looked at the extreme overclocking leaderboard of the Skylake-based Intel Core i7-6700K. Obviously, these competitions will probably never end as long as higher numbers are possible on parts that are interesting for one reason or another. Skylake is the new chip on the liquid nitrogen block. It cannot reach frequencies as high as its predecessors, but teams still compete to get as high as possible on that specific SKU.

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The current world record for a single-threaded Intel Core i7-6700K is 7.02566 GHz, which is achieved with a voltage of 4.032V. For comparison, the i7-6700K is typically around 1.3V at load. This record was apparently set about a month ago, on January 11th.

This is obviously a huge increase, about three-fold more voltage for the extra 3 GHz. For comparison, the current world record over all known CPUs is the AMD FX-8370 with a clock of 8.72278 GHz. Many Pentium 4-era processors make up the top 15 places too, as those parts were designed for high clock rates with relatively low IPC.

The rest of the system used G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 DDR4 RAM, an ASRock Z170M OC Formula motherboard, and an Antec 1300W power supply. It used an NVIDIA GeForce GT 630 GPU, which offloaded graphics from the integrated chip, but otherwise interfered as little as possible. They also used Windows XP, because why not I guess? I assume that it does the least amount of work to boot, allowing a quicker verification, but that is only a guess.

Source: HWBot

ASRock Releases BIOS to Disable Non-K Skylake Overclocking

Subject: Processors | February 5, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Skylake, overclocking, cpu, Non-K, BCLK, bios, SKY OC, asrock, Z170

ASRock's latest batch of motherboard BIOS updates remove the SKY OS function, which permitted overclocking of non-K Intel processors via BCLK (baseclock).

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The news comes amid speculation that Intel had pressured motherboard vendors to remove such functionality. Intel's unlocked K parts (i5-6600K, i7-6700K) will once again be the only options for Skylake overclocking on Z170 on ASRock boards (assuming prior BIOS versions are no longer available), and with no Pentium G3258 this generation Intel is no longer a budget friendly option for enthusiasts looking to push their CPU past factory specs.

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(Image credit: Hexus.net)

It sounds like now would be a good time to archive that SKY OS enabled BIOS update file if you've downloaded it - or simply refrain from this BIOS update. What remains to be seen of course is whether other vendors will follow suit and disable BCLK overclocking of non-K processors. This had become a popular feature on a number of Z170 motherboards on the market, but ASRock may have been in too weak a position to battle Intel on this issue.

Source: Hexus