Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

A Watershed Moment in Mobile

This previous May I was invited to Austin to be briefed on the latest core innovations from ARM and their partners.  We were introduced to new CPU and GPU cores, as well as the surrounding technologies that provide the basis of a modern SOC in the ARM family.  We also were treated to more information about the process technologies that ARM would embrace with their Artisan and POP programs.  ARM is certainly far more aggressive now in their designs and partnerships than they have been in the past, or at least they are more willing to openly talk about them to the press.

arm_white.png

The big process news that ARM was able to share at this time was the design of 10nm parts using an upcoming TSMC process node.  This was fairly big news as TSMC was still introducing parts on their latest 16nm FF+ line.  NVIDIA had not even released their first 16FF+ parts to the world in early May.  Apple had dual sourced their 14/16 nm parts from Samsung and TSMC respectively, but these were based on LPE and FF lines (early nodes not yet optimized to LPP/FF+).  So the news that TSMC would have a working 10nm process in 2017 was important to many people.  2016 might be a year with some good performance and efficiency jumps, but it seems that 2017 would provide another big leap forward after years of seeming stagnation of pure play foundry technology at 28nm.

Yesterday we received a new announcement from ARM that shows an amazing shift in thought and industry inertia.  ARM is partnering with Intel to introduce select products on Intel’s upcoming 10nm foundry process.  This news is both surprising and expected.  It is surprising in that it happened as quickly as it did.  It is expected as Intel is facing a very different world than it had planned for 10 years ago.  We could argue that it is much different than they planned for 5 years ago.

Intel is the undisputed leader in process technologies and foundry practices.  They are the gold standard of developing new, cutting edge process nodes and implementing them on a vast scale.  This has served them well through the years as they could provide product to their customers seemingly on demand.  It also allowed them a leg up in technology when their designs may not have fit what the industry wanted or needed (Pentium 4, etc.).  It also allowed them to potentially compete in the mobile market with designs that were not entirely suited for ultra-low power.  x86 is a modern processor technology with decades of development behind it, but that development focused mainly on performance at higher TDP ranges.

intel.png

This past year Intel signaled their intent to move out of the sub 5 watt market and cede it to ARM and their partners.  Intel’s ultra mobile offerings just did not make an impact in an area that they were expected to.  For all of Intel’s advances in process technology, the base ARM architecture is just better suited to these power envelopes.  Instead of throwing good money after bad (in the form of development time, wafer starts, rebates) Intel has stepped away from this market.

This leaves Intel with a problem.  What to do with extra production capacity?  Running a fab is a very expensive endeavor.  If these megafabs are not producing chips 24/7, then the company is losing money.  This past year Intel has seen their fair share of layoffs and slowing down production/conversion of fabs.  The money spent on developing new, cutting edge process technologies cannot stop for the company if they want to keep their dominant position in the CPU industry.  Some years back they opened up their process products to select 3rd party companies to help fill in the gaps of production.  Right now Intel has far more production line space than they need for the current market demands.  Yes, there were delays in their latest Skylake based processors, but those were solved and Intel is full steam ahead.  Unfortunately, they do not seem to be keeping their fabs utilized at the level needed or desired.  The only real option seems to be opening up some fab space to more potential customers in a market that they are no longer competing directly in.

The Intel Custom Foundry Group is working with ARM to provide access to their 10nm HPM process node.  Initial production of these latest generation designs will commence in Q1 2017 with full scale production in Q4 2017.  We do not have exact information as to what cores will be used, but we can imagine that they will be Cortex-A73 and A53 parts in big.LITTLE designs.  Mali graphics will probably be the first to be offered on this advanced node as well due to the Artisan/POP program.  Initial customers have not been disclosed and we likely will not hear about them until early 2017.

This is a big step for Intel.  It is also a logical progression for them when we look over the changing market conditions of the past few years.  They were unable to adequately compete in the handheld/mobile market with their x86 designs, but they still wanted to profit off of this ever expanding area.  The logical way to monetize this market is to make the chips for those that are successfully competing here.  This will cut into Intel’s margins, but it should increase their overall revenue base if they are successful here.  There is no reason to believe that they won’t be.

Nehalem-Wafer_HR-crop-16x9-photo.jpg.rendition.intel_.web_.864.486.jpg

The last question we have is if the 10nm HPM node will be identical to what Intel will use for their next generation “Cannonlake” products.  My best guess is that the foundry process will be slightly different and will not provide some of the “secret sauce” that Intel will keep for themselves.  It will probably be a mobile focused process node that stresses efficiency rather than transistor switching speed.  I could be very wrong here, but I don’t believe that Intel will open up their process to everyone that comes to them hat in hand (AMD).

The partnership between ARM and Intel is a very interesting one that will benefit customers around the globe if it is handled correctly from both sides.  Intel has a “not invented here” culture that has both benefited it and caused it much grief.  Perhaps some flexibility on the foundry side will reap benefits of its own when dealing with very different designs than Intel is used to.  This is a titanic move from where Intel probably thought it would be when it first started to pursue the ultra-mobile market, but it is a move that shows the giant can still positively react to industry trends.

GIGABYTE Announces GeForce GTX 10 Series Gaming Laptops

Subject: Systems, Mobile | August 16, 2016 - 11:39 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, nvidia, notebook, laptop, Intel Core i7, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gigabyte, gaming

GIGABYTE has refreshed their gaming laptop lineup with NVIDIA's GTX 10 series graphics, announcing updated versions of the P55 & P57 Series, and thin-and-light P35 & P37.

GIGABYTE_logo.jpg

"GIGABYTE offers a variety of options based on preference while providing the latest GeForce® GTX 10 series graphics and the latest 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor for the power and performance to meet the growing demands of top tier applications, games, and Virtual Reality. With the superior performance GIAGBYTE also includes industry leading features such as M.2 PCIe SSD, DDR4 memory, USB 3.1 with Type-C connection, and HDMI 2.0."

The notebooks retain 6th-gen Intel (Skylake) Core processors, but now feature NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 GPUs.

specs.PNG

Here's a rundown of the new systems from GIGABYTE, beginning with the Performance Series:

GIGABYTE P57.jpg

The GIGABYE P57 Gaming Laptop

"The new 17” P57 is pulling no punches when it comes to performance, including the all-new, ultra-powerful NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1070 & 1060 Graphics. With a fresh GPU, come fresh ID changes. Along with its subtle style, curved lines and orange accents, comes all-new additional air intake ventilation above the keyboard to improve thermal cooling. The backlit keyboard itself supports Anti-Ghost with 30-Key Rollover. The Full HD 1920x1080 IPS display provides vivid and immersive visuals, while a Swappable Bay is included for user preference of an optical drive, an additional HDD, or weight reduction."

Next we have the thin-and-light ULTRAFORCE Gaming models:

ULTRAFORCE P35.jpg

The ULTRAFORCE P35

"The new 17.3” P37 reiterates what ULTRAFORCE is all about. Despite being a 17” model, the P37 weights under 2.7kg and retains an ultra-thin and light profile being less than 22.5mm thin. Paired with extreme mobility is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. The display comes in both options of 4K UHD 3840x2160 and FHD 1920x1080, achieving high-res gaming thanks to the performance boost with the new graphics.

The P37 includes a hot-swappable bay for an additional HDD, ODD, or to reduce weight for improved mobility, forming a quad-storage system with multiple M.2 PCIe SSDs and HDDs. The Macro Keys on the left, together with the included Macro Hub software, allows up to 25 programmable macros for one-click execution in any games and applications

Powerful yet portable, the thinnest gaming laptop of the series, the 15.6” P35, also has either a UHD 3840x2160 or FHD 1920x1080 display, delivering perfect and vivid colors for an enhanced gameplay experience. Included in the Ultrabook-like chassis is the powerful all-new NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. The P35 also features the iconic hot-swappable bay for flexible storage and the quad-storage system."

P37 keyboard.jpg

The P37 keyboard features macro keys

We will update with pricing and availability for these new laptops when known.

Source: GIGABYTE
Subject: Systems, Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Introduction and Specifications

Dell's premium XPS notebook family includes both 15 inch and 13 inch variants, and ship with the latest 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors and all of the latest hardware. But the screens are what will grab your immediate attention; bright, rich, and with the narrowest bezels on any notebook courtesy of Dell's InfinityEdge displays.

DSC_0530-2.jpg

Since Ryan’s review of the XPS 13, which is now his daily driver, Dell has added the XPS 15, which is the smallest 15-inch notebook design you will find anywhere. The XPS 13 is already "the smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet", according to Dell, giving their XPS series a significant advantage in the ultrabook market. The secret is in the bezel, or lack thereof, which allows Dell to squeeze these notebooks into much smaller physical dimensions than you might expect given their display sizes.

But you get more than just a compact size with these XPS notebooks, as the overall quality of the machines rivals that of anything else you will find; and may just be the best Windows notebooks you can buy right now. Is this simply bluster? Notebooks, like smartphones, are a personal thing. They need to conform to the user to provide a great experience, and there are obviously many different kinds of users to satisfy. Ultimately, however, Dell has produced what could easily be described as class leaders with these machines.

DSC_0430.jpg

Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 13 and 15 notebooks!!

CoolChip Technologies Teases New Kinetic Cooler For Skylake Processors

Subject: Cases and Cooling | July 4, 2016 - 02:11 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, passive cooling, kinetic cooling, kinetic cooler, hsf, coolchip

Early last year startup CoolChip Technologies partnered with Cooler Master to show off a prototype kinetic cooler at CES 2015. The two companies were allegedly working on a new processor heatsink that would be priced in line with current heatsink + fan designs but would be smaller, quieter, and less prone to collecting dust! Unfortunately that revolutionary HSF product never materialized (just like the Sandia Labs prototype), and while we may still see that cooler some day it appears like it is not going to be anytime soon. With that said, it is not all bad news for fans of these promising processor coolers, because if a recent social media tease by the startup is any indication CoolChip technologies has decided to move forward with its own branded kinetic cooler!

Specifically, CoolChip teased a new and upcoming product launch aimed at cooling Intel Skylake CPUs with up to 70W TDPs. Along with the statement that the kinetic cooler is “coming soon!” the company posted three images of the new cooler, and it looks awesome.

CoolChip 1U Low Profile Kinetic Cooler.jpg

Resembling something a Predator might be using to cool their PC, the CoolChip cooler has a stationary base plate with a motor that spins a small array of fins in a manner that facilitates heat transfer from the base plate to the spinning heatsink (which is in lieu of a fan -- the heatsink is the fan) via a very thin layer of air that keeps the heatsink balanced as well. That spinning heatsink portion is then further surrounded by stationary rings of fins likely connected to the base plate using heatpipes for that extra bit of cooling potential. The inner impeller (vertical) fins are angled one direction while the outer stationary ring of horizontal fins are angled the opposite direction. The impeller pulls cool air in and pushes it outwards through the stationary fins and out into the case where case fans will then exhaust that hot air out of the case. CoolChips has an animated illustration of how this impeller design cools versus a traditional heatsink and fan design which is available on their website.

Other features of the small kinetic cooler include a braided cable with fan header to get power from the CPU_Fan header on the motherboard. It is not clear if this connector is 4 pin and supports PWM or not though. One of the more promising bits of this teaser is the photo of the cooler in retail packaging which adds at least a little bit of credence that we might actually see this product launch at some point. The package appears to include the 1U Low Profile Kinetic Cooler itself, a motherboard backplate, and a small tube of thermal paste (TIM).

Possibly the coolest (heh) part of this teased product is the third photo which suggests that there will be multiple color options for the impeller which would allow users to customize the heatsink color to match their PC’s design scheme.

CoolChip 1U Low Profile Kinetic Cooler Color Options.jpg

You can check out the post for yourself here. I am really excited to finally see new information on kinetic cooling, and this CoolChip cooler in particular looks really interesting and I hope that it actually materializes and I can finally read some reviews on it! What are your thoughts on kinetic cooling for PCs?

Also read:

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

Subject: Systems | June 13, 2016 - 04:03 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.

NUC6i5SYKtp_0.png

"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."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Author:
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.

br_01.png

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.

br_02.png

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 - 02:26 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.

conclusion.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

 

Author:
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.

06.jpg

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 - 12:32 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.

surface_book_product_detached.png

"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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

 

Source: The Register

Testing the performance of 15 different Linux distros on Skylake

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2016 - 01:14 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.

image.php_.jpg

"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."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Phoronix