Podcast #391 - AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 03:07 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, XConnect, gdc 2016, Vega, Polaris, navi, razer blade, Sulon Q, Oculus, vive, raja koduri, GTX 1080, msi, vortex, Intel, skulltrail, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #391 - 03/17/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

Helium-filled Drobo B810i Packs 64TB into a Compact 8-bay Package

Subject: Storage | March 18, 2016 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: 64TB, western digital, wdc, red, 8TB, He8

We've got a lot of storage testing cooking at the PC Perspective offices, and while I usually hold off on publishing things until all testing is complete, I found myself merging two new products in a way that just begged for a photo and quick status update post:

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This is a Drobo B810i on our test bench being loaded with 64TB of Helium-filled Western Digital Red 8TB goodness. I made it a point to evaluate this capability since Drobos have historically been limited to 16TB (or 32TB) maximum volume sizes. Drobo has been rolling out firmware updates enabling the new 64TB volume size in units with sufficient performance and bay count to support it (starting with the B1200i last year, and most recently with the 5N). This test was mainly to confirm the B810i's 64TB maximum volume size. The end result looks something like this:

64TB Drobo-9.png

64TB Drobo-10.png

64TB Drobo-11.png

With single drive redundancy (a minimum requirement for any Drobo array), the available capacity comes in at just under 50TB.

64TB Drobo-12.png

Dual redundancy mode drops available capacity down to just over 43TB. Not too shabby considering the Drobo can sustain two drive failures in this mode.

Drobo testing is still in progress and will take a bit more time, but I've completed the initial round on an individual 8TB WD Red and will be posting that review up shortly. Speaking of which, I'm off to get back to it!

Zotac is also slinging SSDs, check out the ZOTAC Premium Edition 480GB

Subject: Storage | March 17, 2016 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: zotac, Premium Edition 480GB, ssd, Phison PS3110

That's right, ZOTAC offers a number of SSDs, including a PCIe based one, but today Hardware Canucks examines the Premium Edition 480GB.  It uses the Phison PS3110 controller, 256MB NANYA DDR3 for cache and the slightly older 19nm Toshiba Toggle MLC NAND.  This is similar to other lower cost SSDs and so you would expect the performance to be similar as well.  This is indeed the case, performance is similar to the PNY XLR8 and the Crucial MX200 drives and the price is attractive, Hardware Canucks saw it on sale for $65US for the 240GB model and less than $140 for the 480GB.  If you are looking for a lower cost SSD you should check out the full review.

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"The mid-tier SSD market is a crowded place these days but Zotac may have a standout contender with their affordable yet fast Premium Edition."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

I love it when a bad guys plan doesn't come together

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malware, security, idiots

With the lousy news below the fold, up to and including yet another StageFright exploit, here is a bit of amusing news to balance out the bad.  A recently unleashed ransomware program seems to have been developed on stolen code and the original developer has taken offence to this.  His original program, EDA2, was designed to illustrate how ransomware works and he intentionally included a backdoor to ensure that the data could be unencrypted. 

He has used that backdoor to break into the program and has obtained the complete list of decryption keys and posted them to the net, The Register has a link to that list right here.  It is good for the soul to see incompetent bad guys every once and a while.

Vault door.jpg

"A software developer whose example encryption code was used by a strain of ransomware has released the decryption keys for the malware."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Logitech G Announces Orion 610 Brown and Red Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 11:48 AM |
Tagged: orion 610, mechanical keyboard, logitech g, logitech, gaming keyboard, cherry mx red, cherry mx brown

Logitech has announced a pair of new mechanical keyboards today, with the Orion 610 Brown and Red. Those familiar with mechanical keyboards will probably guess from their names that these are using Cherry MXswitches, with the MX Brown and MX Red switches in the respective models.

Logitech G610.jpg

The keyboards also offer customizable LED backlighting, and while they are not RGB (these keyboards are white LED backlit), each individually-backlit key can be customized with different brightness levels. There are also options to change the lighting patterns and synchronize with other Logitech G products using the Logitech Gaming Software.

Here are the specs from Logitech G:

Product Specifications

  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 153 mm x 443.5 mm x 34.3 mm                    
  • Weight: 1.2 Kg (without cable)
  • Cable length: 6 feet    
  • Cherry MX Key Switches:
    • Actuation distance: 2mm
    • Actuation force: 45g
    • Total travel distance: 4mm

System Requirements

  • Optional LGS download works with Windows 7 and higher
  • Powered USB port
  • Internet connection for optional LGS download

Warranty

  • 2-year limited hardware warranty

Logitech G610_TopDown_FOB__WhiteGlow.jpg

Macro functionality is available via customization of the F1 - F12 keys, and the keyboards feature dedicated media controls as you would expect. So how much will these cost? Retail for the Orion 610 Brown and Red will be $119.99.

Source: Logitech G

Razer Core External GPU Enclosure Pricing and Availability Announced

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 17, 2016 - 01:29 AM |
Tagged:

Razer has announced pricing and availability for their Core external GPU enclosure, which allows GPUs of up to 375W to run over Thunderbolt 3 with compatible devices.

core_01.jpg

"The Razer Core is the world’s first true plug and play Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) external graphics enclosure, allowing you to transform your notebook into a desktop gaming experience. Featuring plug and play support with compatible graphics cards, you won’t need to reboot your system every time you connect your Razer Blade Stealth to Razer Core. Connect to the future with the most advanced and versatile external desktop graphics solution available."

The Razer Core will cost $499 alone, or $399 when purchased with a Razer laptop. It will be available in April.

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What's this? The new Core i7 Skull Canyon NUC connected to the Core eGPU??

An interesting addition to this announcement, the Razer Core is certified with the upcoming Core i7 Skull Canyon NUC, which features Thunderbolt 3. I don't know about you, but the idea of portable, external, upgradable graphics is awesome.

So what do you think? $499 as a standalone product for a user-upgradable external GPU solution with power supply? The $399 price is obviously more attractive, but you'd need to be in the market for a new laptop as well (and again, it would need to a Razer laptop to get that $100 discount). In any case, AMD's XConnect technology certainly makes the Core a compelling possibility.

Source: Razer

Meet the new Intel Skulltrail NUC; Changing the Game

Subject: Shows and Expos | March 17, 2016 - 01:00 AM |
Tagged: skulltrail, Skull Canyon, nuc, Intel, GDC

board.jpg

No we are not talking about the motherboard from 2008 which was going to compete with AMD's QuadFX platform and worked out just as well.  We are talking about a brand new Skull Canyon NUC powered by an i7-6770HQ with Iris Pro 580 graphics and up to 32GB of DDR4-2133.  The NUC NUC6i7KYK will also be the first system we have seen with a fully capable USB Type-C port, it will offer Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity; not simultaneously but the flexibility is nothing less than impressive.  It will also sport a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs so you can still send video while using the Type C port for data transfer.  The port will also support external graphics card enclosures if you plan on using this as a gaming machine as well.

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The internal storage subsystem is equally impressive, dual M.2 slots will give you great performance, the SD card slot not so much but still a handy feature.  Connectivity is supplied by Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (802.11 ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 and an infrared sensor will let you use your favourite remote control if you set up the Skulltrail NUC as a media server.  All of these features are in a device less than 0.7 litres in size, with your choice of two covers and support for your own if you desire to personalize your system.  The price is not unreasonable, the MSRP for a barebones system is $650, one with 16GB memory, 256GB SSD and Windows 10 should retail for about $1000.  You can expect to see these for sale on NewEgg in April to ship in May.

All this and more can be found on Intel's news room, and you can click here for the full system specs.

Source: Intel

MSI Ships Vortex: Cylindrical Gaming PC with High-End Specs

Subject: Systems | March 16, 2016 - 07:28 PM |
Tagged: Vortex Gaming Tower, vortex, sli, msi, Killer E2400, GTX 980, gtx 960, Core i7-6700K

MSI is now shipping Vortex; the tiny, cylindrical gaming tower showcased at CES 2016.

msi_vortex.jpg

"Standing at a mere 10.5” high, weighing as little as 8.8lbs, and measuring in at 6.5L, the Vortex pushes more power per inch than most mid to full size tower gaming PC’s without the having to deal with the same bulkiness or weight."

Followers of PC Perspective might recall our coverage of the powerful mini-system during January's CES, and our video is available below:

Specs and pricing hadn't been finalized when we first reported on the Vortex, and as of today we have the full story. Pricing will start at $2199, and you get a Core i7-6700K with SLI GTX 960 graphics cards at that price. Upgrade options include SLI GTX 980 GPUs, 32GB of RAM, and "Super RAID", which is 4x 256GB PCIe (Gen 3 x4) SSDs.

Here's a look at the specs for the two shipping versions of this new system:

  Vortex G65 SLI-002 Vortex G65 SLI-011
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory 32 GB (8 GB x4)
2133 MHz DDR4
16 GB (8 GB x2)
2133 MHz DDR4
Graphics Dual GeForce GTX 980 SLI Dual GeForce GTX 960 SLI
Storage Super RAID: 4x 256 GB PCIe Gen 3 SSD
2x 128 GB SSD + 1TB SATA 7200 RPM HDD
Networking Dual Killer E2400 NIC
Connectivity Thunderbolt x2
USB 3.0 x4
Dimensions 7.61 x 7.01 x 10.55 inches
Weight 8.8 lbs
OS Windows 10
Price $3999 $2199

Obviously these are very powerful system configurations, anchored by a Z170 motherboard and Intel Core i7-6700K processor with plenty of RAM, and SLI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 or 980 GPUs. It will be interesting to see what (if any) overclocking headroom is available for CPU/GPU, though a 6.5L chassis is probably going to be at least somewhat thermally constrained.

vortex_exploded_view.jpg

Exploded view of the Vortex

Listings are up on Amazon, with the G65 SLI-011 at $2199, and G65 SLI-002 at $3999, though shipping times are listed at "2 - 5 weeks".

Source: MSI

Gigabyte's X99P-SLI; does $230 count as mid-range?

Subject: Motherboards | March 16, 2016 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: Intel, gigabyte, X99P-SLI, LGA2011-v3

X99 based systems do not come cheap, with some boards costing well over $300 and very few under $200 the X99P-SLI could be considered mid-range.  The board doesn't skimp on a lot at this price either, an M.2 slot, a pair of USB 3.1 ports, OP-AMP based onboard sound, a conveniently placed header for USB 3.0 on your front panel and yes, it does have a single SEx port.  Hardware Canucks breaks down how the PCIe slots are shared and many other of the boards features in their review which you should check out, the board was determined to be a Dam Good Value.

info_chart.jpg

"The X99 platform may not be known for affordability but Gigabyte's new X99P-SLI aims to change that opinion with USB 3.1, M.2, great overclocking, quad GPU support and more for less than $250."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Hunter-gatherers required a surprising amount of modern hardware to function

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 05:43 PM |
Tagged: gaming, far cry primal

The game may be set in the distant past but you will need modern hardware to get the most out of Far Cry Primal.  With a single GTX 980 Ti or Radeon R9 Fury X, you won't break 40fps on Ultra settings at 4K though the Fury will provide an experience that is essentially playable.  A pair of vanilla 980's or R9 390X cards will break 40fps on Ultra, with the Crossfire experience being noticeably superior at 4K assuming you enable VSYNC as [H]ard|OCP discovered.  For those who track memory usage the game never reached 4GB of usage, even at 4K.  This one does tax current GPUs somewhat but is unlikely to appear on many reviews as upcoming hardware will play this Far Cry without breaking a sweat. 

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"A new game in the Far Cry series is out on the PC called Far Cry Primal. We will run FCP through its paces on six video cards including SLI and CrossFire with the latest drivers and game patch to see what it takes to push these pixels. We will discuss this games stripped down graphics quality compared to Far Cry 4 and what it means for gaming."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The continuing fall of DRAM prices, a trend we can all get behind

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, price cuts

Recently the President of Nanya Technology, Pei Ing Lee, stated his belief that DRAM prices will continue to fall at the same rate they did over 2015.  With the arrival of DDR4 we all had a bit of sticker shock but when you look at the prices now they are nowhere near as painful.  As an example a 32GB kit of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 launched at $639.99 on Nov 13, 2014 and will now cost you $164.99.

Not all prices are going to fall to that extreme of a level but we saw the price of DDR3 and 4 drop over the past year and this is predicted to continue.  At current production levels Mr. Lee predicts drops of 20-30% but if Samsung, Hynix and Micron ramp up new production capacity at a similar rate to Nanya then a drop of 25-40% is not completely out of the question. 

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"Increased DRAM capacity coming from advanced processing nodes from Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology may result in some pricing uncertainty in the market in the second half of 2016, according to Taiwan DRAM maker Nanya Technology president Pei Ing Lee."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Video Perspective: Spending the day with an Oculus Rift

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 16, 2016 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: video, rift, Oculus

As part of our second day at GDC, Ken and I spent 4+ hours with Oculus during their "Game Days 2016" event, an opportunity for us to taste test games in 30 minute blocks, getting more hands on time than we ever have before. The event was perfectly organized and easy to work in, and it helps that the product is amazing as well.

oculus-rift-consumer-edition.png

Of the 40-ish games available to play, 30 of them will be available on the Rift launch day, March 28th. We were able to spend some time with the following:

We aren't game reviewers here, but we obviously have a deep interest in games, and thus, having access to these games is awesome. But more than that, access to the best software that VR will have to offer this spring is invaluable as we continue to evaluate hardware accurately for our readers. 

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Job Simulator

Ken and I sat down after the Oculus event to talk about the games we played, the experiences we had and what input the developers had about the technical issues and concerns surrounding VR development.

Ransomware Spreading Through Major Websites Via Infected Ad Servers

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 05:12 AM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malwarebytes, Malware, adware

Compromised ad servers have been pushing out ransomware directly to unwitting users of many popular domains. As reported by Ars Technica (via MalwareBytes and others), whose story is heavily referenced here, the domain list contains a number of high traffic sites.

"It hit some of the biggest publishers in the business, including msn (.com), nytimes (.com), bbc (.com), aol (.com), my.xfinity (.com), nfl (.com), realtor (.com), theweathernetwork (.com), thehill (.com), and newsweek (.com). Affected networks included those owned by Google, AppNexis, AOL, and Rubicon."

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(Image credit: Ars Technica)

Unfortunately, the story doesn't get better from here. The Ars report continues:

"The ads are also spreading on sites including answers (.com), zerohedge (.com), and infolinks (.com), according to SpiderLabs. Legitimate mainstream sites receive the malware from domain names that are associated with compromised ad networks. The most widely seen domain name in the current campaign is brentsmedia (.com)."

The ads have been traced back to multiple domains, including: trackmytraffic (.biz), talk915 (.pw), evangmedia (.com), and shangjiamedia (.com). The report continues:

"The SpiderLabs researchers speculate the people pushing the bad ads are on the lookout for expired domains containing the word "media" to capitalize on the reputation they may enjoy as a legitimate address."

The full article from Ars technica can be found here as well as the source link, and the cited Malware Bytes post can be found here.

So how did they do it? The banner ads themselves contained the malware, which could infect the viewers system undetected.

"When researchers deciphered the code, they discovered it enumerated a long list of security products and tools it avoided in an attempt to remain undetected.
'If the code doesn't find any of these programs, it continues with the flow and appends an iframe to the body of the html that leads to Angler EK [exploit kit] landing page,' SpiderLabs researchers Daniel Chechik, Simon Kenin, and Rami Kogan wrote. 'Upon successful exploitation, Angler infects the poor victim with both the Bedep trojan and the TeslaCrypt ransomware...' "

Of course it goes without saying that advertising online is a sticky issue. It can be intrusive, with ads blocking article text, or autoplay videos creating a cacophony of unwanted noise, somewhere amidst the many open tabs. Of course it can be done with class, respectful of the reader's experience (and I would use our own site as an example).

A large number of web users employ ad-blocking extensions to their browser, though it is often the case that ad revenue pays for the costs associated with keeping such sites online. This outbreak is a further blow to the current financial stability of many sites when news such as today's ransomware debacle hits the tech (and soon the mainstream) press.

Source: Ars Technica

2016 will be the year of the display, such as the first ever QLED display, the Philips 276E6ADSS

Subject: Displays | March 15, 2016 - 09:57 PM |
Tagged: quantum dots, philips, ips, epi, E-line 276E6ADSS

For a mere $300 you can see for yourself what the Quantum Dot displays we have been hearing rumours about for a few years now.  It remains an IPS panel and offers an impressive 99% Adobe RGB, or more than 100% of the standard sRGB colour gamut but at a price far below many professional grade monitors.  It delivers a brightness of 300 cd/m2 and a dynamic contrast ratio of 20,000,000.  It is a 16:9, 1080p display with a response time of 5ms, perhaps not as impressive as the variable refresh rate or a 4K monitor but if accurate colour reproduction is what you need then this display will certainly be worth consideration.

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Fremont, California – March 15, 2016 – Today EPI (North America brand license partner for Philips Monitors) announces the world’s first quantum dot-based monitor (E-line 276E6ADSS) is now available in North America. The new 27-inch monitor delivers 99% Adobe RGB color - 50 percent more color than traditional LED displays - thanks to Color IQ™ technology from QD Vision. The new E6 is ideal for entertainment, gaming, professional photography and design. It combines Color IQ optics with full HD resolution, resulting in a professional quality display at the price of mainstream monitors. The Philips 27-inch Quantum Dot display is now available on Amazon for $299.

QD Vision's Color IQ™ solution uses an innovative new semiconductor technology called quantum dots to precisely and efficiently convert light, delivering bluer blues, greener greens and redder reds. The result — vibrant, dynamic, “you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it” color.

Most of today's high-end monitors are capable of displaying only 95% of the Adobe RGB color gamut, while mainstream models are often limited to showing 70% of the Adobe spectrum. Using QD Vision's Color IQ solution, the Philips 27-inch Quantum Dot Display will deliver over 99% of the Adobe RGB spectrum - more than 100% of the standard sRGB color gamut - but at a fraction of the price of commercial displays.

The IPS-ADS display offers 1920 x 1080 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, 1000:1 static contrast, 5ms response time and 178°/178° viewing angles, making it possible to view the display from almost any angle. Unlike standard TN panels, IPS-ADS displays give you remarkably crisp images with vivid colors, making them ideal not only for photos, movies and web browsing, but also for professional applications that demand color accuracy and consistent brightness at all times. Ports include; VGA, DVI-D, HDMI (with MHL) and a 3.5mm audio output jack.

Source: Phillips

Basemark Announces VRScore Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: VRScore, VR, virtual reality, gdc 2016, GDC, crytek, CRYENGINE, benchmark, Basemark

Basemark has announced VRScore, a new benchmarking tool for VR produced in partnership with Crytek. The benchmark uses Crytek’s CRYENGINE along with the Basemark framework, and can be run with or without a head-mounted display (HMD).

VRScore Screen 04.png

"With VRScore, consumers and companies are able to reliably test their PC for VR readiness with various head mounted displays (HMDs). Unlike existing tools developed by hardware vendors themselves, VRScore has been developed independently to be an essential source of unbiased information for anyone interested in VR."

An independent solution is certainly welcome as we enter what promises to be the year of VR, and Basemark is well known for providing objective benchmark results with applications such as Basemark X and OS II, cross-platform benchmarks for mobile devices. The VRScore benchmark supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Razer's OSVR headsets, and the corporate versions include VRTrek, a left/right eye latency measurement device.

Here’s the list of features from Basemark:

  • Supports HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and OSVR
  • Uses CRYENGINE
  • Supports both DirectX 12 and DirectX 11 
  • Features Codename: Sky Harbor, an original IP game scene by Crytek
  • Includes tests for interactive VR (VR game), non-interactive VR (360 VR video) and VR spatial audio (360 sound) 
  • Can be used with or without an HMD
  • Power Board, an integrated online service, gives personalized PC upgrading advice and features performance ranking lists for HMDs, CPUs and GPUs
  • Corporate versions include VRTrek, a patent pending latency testing device with dual phototransistors for application to photon latency, display persistence, left and right eye latency, dropped frames and duplicated frames testing

VRScore-Trek.png

VRScore Trek eye latency measurement device, included with corporate version

VRScore is currently available only to corporate customers via the company’s early access program and Benchmark Development Program. The consumer versions (free and paid) will be released in June.

Source: Basemark

The new Razer Blade gaming laptop is compatible with external GPUs

Subject: Mobile | March 15, 2016 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: Razer Core, razer blade, gaming laptop

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The new version of Razer's Blade gaming notebook comes with a brand new feature, a USB-C port which is compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and allows the use of the Razer Core external graphics enclosure which you can see below.  This is the model that they were showing off at CES, which will allow you to use any GPU that will fit in the enclosure as opposed to the GTX 970M which is in the laptop.

Razer_Core.jpg

A quick rundown of the specifications are a quad-core Intel i7-6700HQ, 16GB of DDR4-2133, the aforementioned 6GB GTX 970M and a choice between a 256GB or 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD at a price of $2000 or $2200.  The integral touchscreen is a 14.0", 16:9 IGZO panel with a native resolution of 3200x1800 and LED backlighting.

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Click here to see the full PR and spec list.

Source: Razer

Oh snap, old phones and new IoT devices just sprung another leak

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2016 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, security, iot

TrendMicro discovered vulnerabilities in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series, including the 800, 805 and 810 on devices running a 3.10-version kernel.  They have privately discussed the issue with Google who have since pushed out updates to resolve these issues on their phones, preventing attackers from gaining root access with a specially crafted app.  Unfortunately that is the tip of the iceberg as according to Qualcomm more than a billion devices use Snapdragon processors or modems, many of them IoT devices which have not had this update.  With the already fragmented market getting worse as everyone and their dog are now creating IoT devices the chances are very good that your toaster, fridge and other random internet connected devices are vulnerable and will remain so. 

You should think twice when considering the balance of convenience and security when you are purchasing internet connected household appliances and other IoT devices.  You can see what Slashdot readers think about this here if you so desire.

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"Security experts at Trend Micro have discovered a vulnerability in Qualcomm Snapdragon-produced SoC devices. In fact, it is the same vulnerability that cropped up earlier in the month, affecting Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Edge Android handsets. This in itself is concerning as these are devices that are no longer in line for security updates, but more concerning is the fact that the same chips are used in IoT devices."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

ARM Partners with TSMC to Produce SoCs on 7nm FinFET

Subject: Processors | March 15, 2016 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, servers, process technology, low power, FinFET, datacenter, cpu, arm, 7nm, 7 nm FinFET

ARM and TSMC have announced their collaboration on 7 nm FinFET process technology for future SoCs. A multi-year agreement between the companies, products produces on this 7 nm FinFET process are intended to expand ARM’s reach “beyond mobile and into next-generation networks and data centers”.

tsmc-headquarters.jpg

TSMC Headquarters (Image credit: AndroidHeadlines)

So when can we expect to see 7nm SoCs on the market? The report from The Inquirer offers this quote from TSMC:

“A TSMC spokesperson told the INQUIRER in a statement: ‘Our 7nm technology development progress is on schedule. TSMC's 7nm technology development leverages our 10nm development very effectively. At the same time, 7nm offers a substantial density improvement, performance improvement and power reduction from 10nm’.”

Full press release after the break.

Source: ARM

AMD's Raja Koduri talks moving past CrossFire, smaller GPU dies, HBM2 and more.

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 15, 2016 - 06:02 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, raja koduri, Polaris, HBM2, hbm, dx12, crossfire, amd

After hosting the AMD Capsaicin event at GDC tonight, the SVP and Chief Architect of the Radeon Technologies Group Raja Koduri sat down with me to talk about the event and offered up some additional details on the Radeon Pro Duo, upcoming Polaris GPUs and more. The video below has the full interview but there are several highlights that stand out as noteworthy.

  • Raja claimed that one of the reasons to launch the dual-Fiji card as the Radeon Pro Duo for developers rather than pure Radeon, aimed at gamers, was to “get past CrossFire.” He believes we are at an inflection point with APIs. Where previously you would abstract two GPUs to appear as a single to the game engine, with DX12 and Vulkan the problem is more complex than that as we have seen in testing with early titles like Ashes of the Singularity.

    But with the dual-Fiji product mostly developed and prepared, AMD was able to find a market between the enthusiast and the creator to target, and thus the Radeon Pro branding was born.

    pro_duo_zoom.jpg

    Raja further expands on it, telling me that in order to make multi-GPU useful and productive for the next generation of APIs, getting multi-GPU hardware solutions in the hands of developers is crucial. He admitted that CrossFire in the past has had performance scaling concerns and compatibility issues, and that getting multi-GPU correct from the ground floor here is crucial.
     

  • With changes in Moore’s Law and the realities of process technology and processor construction, multi-GPU is going to be more important for the entire product stack, not just the extreme enthusiast crowd. Why? Because realities are dictating that GPU vendors build smaller, more power efficient GPUs, and to scale performance overall, multi-GPU solutions need to be efficient and plentiful. The “economics of the smaller die” are much better for AMD (and we assume NVIDIA) and by 2017-2019, this is the reality and will be how graphics performance will scale.

    Getting the software ecosystem going now is going to be crucial to ease into that standard.
     

  • The naming scheme of Polaris (10, 11…) has no equation, it’s just “a sequence of numbers” and we should only expect it to increase going forward. The next Polaris chip will be bigger than 11, that’s the secret he gave us.

    There have been concerns that AMD was only going to go for the mainstream gaming market with Polaris but Raja promised me and our readers that we “would be really really pleased.” We expect to see Polaris-based GPUs across the entire performance stack.
     

  • AMD’s primary goal here is to get many millions of gamers VR-ready, though getting the enthusiasts “that last millisecond” is still a goal and it will happen from Radeon.
     
  • No solid date on Polaris parts at all – I tried! (Other than the launches start in June.) Though Raja did promise that after tonight, he will only have his next alcoholic beverage until the launch of Polaris. Serious commitment!
     
  • Curious about the HBM2 inclusion in Vega on the roadmap and what that means for Polaris? Though he didn’t say it outright, it appears that Polaris will be using HBM1, leaving me to wonder about the memory capacity limitations inherent in that. Has AMD found a way to get past the 4GB barrier? We are trying to figure that out for sure.

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    Why is Polaris going to use HBM1? Raja pointed towards the extreme cost and expense of building the HBM ecosystem prepping the pipeline for the new memory technology as the culprit and AMD obviously wants to recoup some of that cost with another generation of GPU usage.

Speaking with Raja is always interesting and the confidence and knowledge he showcases is still what gives me assurance that the Radeon Technologies Group is headed in the correct direction. This is going to be a very interesting year for graphics, PC gaming and for GPU technologies, as showcased throughout the Capsaicin event, and I think everyone should be looking forward do it.

AMD Named Exclusive GPU Provider for Crytek VR First

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 14, 2016 - 11:00 PM |
Tagged: crytek, CRYENGINE, amd

AMD will be the sole GPU presence in the labs at universities participating in Crytek’s VR First initiative, which “provides colleges and universities a ready-made VR solution for developers, students and researchers”, according to AMD.

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AMD is leveraging the newly-announced Radeon Pro Duo graphics cards for this partnership, which lends immediate credibility to their positioning of the new GPU for VR development.

“The new labs will be equipped with AMD Radeon™ Pro Duo graphics cards with LiquidVR™ SDK, the world’s fastest VR content creator platform bridging content creation and consumption and offering an astonishing 16 teraflops of compute power. Designed to be compatible with multiple head mounted displays, including the Oculus Rift™ and HTC Vive™, AMD Radeon™ Pro Duo cards will encourage grassroots VR development around the world. The initial VR First Lab at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul is already up and running in January of this year.”

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Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli explains VR First:

“VR First labs will become key incubators for nurturing new talent in VR development and creating a global community well-prepared to innovate in this exciting and emerging field. VR experiences, harnessing the power of the CRYENGINE and developed using world-class Radeon™ hardware and software, will have the potential to fundamentally transform how we interact with technology.”

This certainly appears to be an early win for AMD in VR development, at least in the higher education sector.

Source: AMD