Run Windows on Intel's Galileo

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2014 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: galileo, Intel, windows, SoC

Intel's first generation low powered SoC which goes by the name of Galileo and is powered by a 400MHz Quark X1000 is now capable of running Windows with the help of the latest firmware update.  Therefore if you are familiar enough with their tweaked Arduino IDE you should be able to build a testbed for low powered machines that will be running Windows.  You will want to have some time on hand, loading Windows to the microSD card can take up to two hours and those used to SSDs will be less than impressed with the boot times.  For developers this is not an issue and well worth the wait as it gives them a brand new tool to work with.  Pop by The Register for the full details of the firmware upgrade and installation process.

galileo_1.jpg

"Windows fans can run their OS of choice on Intel’s counter to Raspberry Pi, courtesy of an Intel firmware update."

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Source: The Register

VIA's Rumored New "Isaiah II" Based x86 CPU Will Compete With Intel Bay Trail and AMD Kabini Chips

Subject: Processors | August 19, 2014 - 09:06 PM |
Tagged: VIA, isaiah II, centaur technologies, centaur

VIA subsidiary Centaur Technology is rumored to be launching a new x86 processor at the end of August based on the "Isaiah II" architecture. This upcoming chip is a 64-bit SoC aimed at the mobile and low power space. So far, the only known implementation is a quad core version clocked at up to 2.0 GHz with a 2MB L2 cache. Benchmarks of the quad core Isaiah II-based processor recently appeared online, and if the SiSoft Sandra results hold true VIA has very competitive chip on its hands that outperforms Intel's Bay Trail Z3770 and holds its own against AMD's Jaguar-based Athlon 5350.

Centaur Technology.jpg

The SiSoft Sandra results below show the alleged Isaiah II quad core handily outmaneuvering Intel's Bay Trail SoC and trading wins with AMD's Athlon 5350. All three SoCs are quad core parts with integrated graphics solutions. The benchmarks were run on slightly different configurations as they do not share a motherboard or chipset in common. In the case of the VIA chip, it was paired with a motherboard using the VIA VX11H chipset).

Processor VIA Isaiah II Quad Core AMD Athlon 5350 Intel Atom Z3770
CPU Arithmetic 20.00 GOPS 22.66 GOPS 15.10 GOPS
CPU Multimedia 50.20 Mpix/s 47.56 Mpix/s 25.90 Mpix/s
Multicore Efficiency 3.10 GB/s 4.00 GB/s 1.70 GB/s
Cryptography (HS) 1.50 GB/s 1.48 GB/s 0.40 GB/s
PM Efficiency (ALU) 2.90 GIPS 2.88 GIPS 2.50 GIPS
Financial Analysis (DP FP64) 3.00 kOPT/S 3.64 kOPT/S 1.50 kOPT/S

For comparison, The Atom Z3770 is a quad core clocked at 1.46 GHz (2.39 GHz max turbo) with 2MB L2 cache and Intel HD Graphics clocked at up to 667 MHz supporting up to 4GB of 1066 MHz memory. Bay Trail is manufactured on a 22nm process and has a 2W SDP (Scenario Design Power). Further, the AMD "Kabini" Athlon 5350 features four Jaguar CPU cores clocked at 2.05 GHz, a 128-core GCN GPU clocked at 600 MHz, 2MB L2 cache, and support for 1600 MHz memory. AMD's Kabini SoC is a 28nm chip with a 25W TDP (Thermal Design Power). VIA's new chip allegedly supports modern instruction sets, including AVX 2.0, putting it on par with the AMD and Intel options. 

Processor VIA Isaiah II Quad Core AMD Athlon 5350 Intel Atom Z3770
CPU 4 Cores @ 2.00 GHz 4 Cores @ 2.05 GHz 4 Cores @ 1.46 GHz (up to 2.39 GHz turbo)
GPU ? 128 GCN Cores @ 600 MHz HD Graphics @ (up to) 667 MHz
Memory Support ? 1600 MHz 1066 MHz
L2 Cache 2 MB 2 MB 2 MB
TDP / SDP ? 25W 2W
Process Node ? 28nm 22nm
Price ? $55 $37

The SiSoft Sandra benchmarks spotted by TechPowerUp suggest that the Centaur Technology designed chip has potential. However, there are still several (important) unknowns at this point. Mainly, price and power usage. Also, the GPU VIA is using in the processor is still a mystery though Scott suspects an S3 GPU is possible through a partnership with HTC. 

The chip does seem to be offering up competitive performance, but pricing and power efficiency will play a major role in whether or not VIA gets any design wins with system OEMs. If I had to guess, the VIA chip will sit somewhere between the Intel and AMD offerings with the inclusion of motherboard chipset pushing it towards AMD's higher TDP.

If VIA prices it correctly, we could see the company making a slight comeback in the x86 market with consumer facing devices (particularly Windows 8.1 tablets). VIA has traditionally been known as the low power x86 licensee, and the new expanding mobile market is the ideal place for such a chip. Its past endeavors have not been well received (mainly due to timing and volume production/availability issues of the Nano processors), but I hope that Centaur Technology and VIA are able to pull this one off as I had started to forget the company existed (heh).

Source: TechPowerUp

Western Digital launches My Passport Metal Edition. 10th Anniversary Edition coming soon.

Subject: Storage | August 19, 2014 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: western digital, portable, my passport, hdd

It's the 10th anniversary of Western Digital's My Passport line. To celebrate the occasion, they have launched an updated series:

mpultra_anniversary_1.jpg

The My Passport Ultra is available in 1TB and 2TB capacities, in both 'Metal' and 'Anniversary' Editions. The aluminum enclosures have an old-school radio-dial style finish. Both editions communicate over USB 3.0. While the Anniversary model comes out in September, the Metal Edition is now shipping at $89 for 1TB and $139 for 2TB.

Full press blast after the break:

AMD squeezes 240GB onto a Radeon

Subject: Storage | August 19, 2014 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: amd, R7 240, ssd, radeon r7, barefoot 3, 19nm, toshiba mlc

We have seen the Barefoot 3 controller that AMD used in their first SSD before in OCZ's Vector 150, but not exactly like this.  The controller has been optimized to work with Toshiba's 19nm and is clocked slightly higher than the Vertex, though AMD will not say by how much.  That may account for the reduction in daily writes to 30GB/day and the warranty period to 4 years but as it is OCZ that is handling the warranty it is hard to determine the exact reasoning at this point.  On the plus side the MSRP is also reduced by $28 to $164 which still falls short of reaching the magic $0.50/GB mark.  The Tech Report tested the 240GB model here, as with other SSDs you can expect the 120GB to be slightly slower and the 480GB model to perform slightly faster.

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"AMD is getting into the storage business. The Radeon R7 SSD combines OCZ's Barefoot 3 controller with Toshiba's 19-nm MLC NAND, custom firmware, and a snazzy new sticker. We take a quick look to see what's what."

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Storage

An odd Q2 for tablets and PCs

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 19, 2014 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: jon peddie, gpu market share, q2 2014

Jon Peddie Research's latest Market Watch adds even more ironic humour to the media's continuing proclamations of the impending doom of the PC industry.  This quarter saw tablet sales decline while overall PCs were up and that was without any major releases to drive purchasers to adopt new technology.  While JPR does touch on the overall industry this report is focused on the sale of GPUs and APUs and happens to contain some great news for AMD.  They saw their overall share of the market increase by 11% from last quarter and by just over a percent of the entire market.  Intel saw a small rise in share though it does still hold the majority of the market as PCs with no discrete GPU are more likely to contain Intel's chips than AMDs.  That leaves NVIDIA who are still banking solely on discrete GPUs and saw over an 8% decline from last quarter and a decline of almost two percent in the total market.  Check out the other graphs in JPR's overview right here.

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"The big drop in graphics shipments in Q1 has been partially offset by a small rise this quarter. Shipments were up 3.2% quarter-to-quarter, and down 4.5% compared to the same quarter last year."

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Corsair Commander Mini Provides Ultimate Control of PC Cooling, Lighting, and Performance

Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 19, 2014 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: corsair, corsair commander, Corsair Link, Corsair Link Digital

You are probably already familiar with the Corsair Link functionality in Corsair "i" series of PSUs as well as their self contained watercoolers which allows intelligent fan control from a software control panel.  Corsair Commander is an expansion of that tool, allowing control of fans and LEDs in addition to your PSU and CPU cooler, as long as they bear the Corsair Link Digital decal.  For $60 you can think of it as a powerful, if specialized, fan controller with a few other tricks up its sleeve.

Commander-Mini_LP_1200.jpg

FREMONT, California —August 19, 2014 — Corsair, a worldwide leader in high-performance PC hardware components, today announced the availability of the Corsair Commander Mini control unit. The compact Commander Mini gives users the ability to connect and control multiple lights, fans, and other Corsair devices with an intuitive software interface.

Corsair Commander Mini
The Corsair Commander Mini is a centralized control unit for Corsair Link PC control and monitoring system. Equipped with four Corsair Link Digital ports, six fan control connectors, four temperature probe inputs, and a port for connecting Corsair Link LED lighting strips, Corsair Commander Mini lets users take complete control of their PC’s lighting and cooling. The unit is easy to install with an included mounting kit and connects to your PC via a standard SATA connector for power and an included cable to connect it to a USB 2.0 header on the PC’s motherboard.

Corsair Link gives ultimate PC control
Corsair Link marks an end to the days of case fans, component fans and case lighting that must be managed manually with hardware switches and dials, while simultaneously offering more advanced control and expansion options than motherboard BIOS settings. Everything is configurable from the PC’s desktop via the Corsair Link Dashboard software interface.

Precise Monitoring
Users can see how a system is operating at a glance with an unprecedented level of detail. Coolant temperature, ambient temperature (at multiple points), and the speed of case fans and fans built-in to compatible system components can be monitored, all via the Corsair Link Dashboard software.

A New Level of Control
Corsair Link gives PC users the power to manage fan speeds individually, set up customized cooling profiles, or program fans to respond to changes in ambient or component temperature. Lighting can be programmed to relay critical system information or to change the look of the system to provide an instant visual indicator of the selected cooling profile, or just for fun.

Expandable Eco-System
The Commander Mini fan controllers work with virtually any standard PC case fan, and the included temperature sensors can be placed nearly anywhere in a PC case. Expand your control by adding compatible peripherals, including Corsair i-Series liquid CPU coolers, i-Series power supplies, and DRAM cooling systems which feature the Corsair Link Digital logo.

Source: Corsair

Also, Corsair's Cherry MX RGB Launch Date Changed

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 18, 2014 - 10:02 PM |
Tagged: corsair, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx rgb

So I actually did not see this until after I published the Razer story. Just a few hours ago, Corsair posted an announcement to their Facebook page that claimed a "cbange" in launch date for their Cherry MX RGB-based keyboards. I actually forgot that the K70 RGB Red was supposed to be out already, with availability listed as "late July" (the rest were scheduled to arrive in "late August"). Corsair does not yet have a new date, but will comment "in a few weeks".

corsair-cherry-mx-rgb-front.jpg

Got to say, that does look nice.

While, again, no further details are given, it sounds like a technical hurdle is holding back the launch. Corsair claims that they want the product to live up to expectations. This, of course, chips further at the company's exclusivity window and could put them in direct competition with Razer's custom design, and may even be available second, almost in spite of the exclusivity arrangement.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma Announced

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 18, 2014 - 09:17 PM |
Tagged: razer, mechanical keyboard

Earlier in the year, we reported on Corsair's exclusivity over Cherry MX RGB-based mechanical keyboards. The thing is, Razer develops their own switches and is not reliant on ZF Electronics (Cherry Corporation). The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma mechanical keyboard uses their own switches, not Cherry's, and is not subject to Corsair's exclusivity. The keyboard can be ordered now for $179.99 USD and will be available in September.

razer-blackwidow-ultimate-chroma-front.png

I contacted Razer and asked them about their technology. They could not provide any direct comparison between their design and the Cherry MX RGB, but they were able to add a few details to their offering. The BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma was designed with its LEDs positioned away from moving parts and lined up with the keycap imprint. The LEDs are pointed upward for brightness.

Razer will be providing developers with Chroma SDK, allowing games and applications to control the Chroma-enabled device lighting to assist or immerse their users. I say "Chroma-enabled device" rather than "Chroma keyboards", because they already have plans for mice and headsets with the same technology. At the very least, they expect that users will appreciate coordinated colors across their gaming peripherals.

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma is available to order, for $179.99 USD ($199.99 CDN), and ships in September. A Chroma-enabled mouse, based on the DeathAdder design, and a Chroma-enabled headset, based on the Kraken model, are announced but do not yet have pricing or availability information.

Source: Razer

Can you really have a wireless gaming mouse?

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2014 - 05:05 PM |
Tagged: input, mouse, wireless gaming mouse, SteelSeries Sensei

Gaming mice have wires as it reduces input lag that would otherwise be the death of you while gaming.  Unfortunately for some this means they cannot sit on the couch streaming YouTube to their TVs since the wire on their mouse just isn't long enough.  SteelSeries claims to have overcome the technical problems of gaming wirelessly with their SteelSeries Sensei.  The software is definitely aimed at gamers, with an impressive array of settings to tweak and an impressive macro editor but that is not enough to solve the performance issues.  Believe it or not when TechGage compared it to a wired mouse they could not detect any difference whatsoever.  I would still recommend wearing pants while frying bacon regardless of your final mouse choice.

steelseries_sensei_wireless_mouse_01_thumb.jpg

"Want a high-performance wireless gaming mouse that doesn’t have its battery-life measured in seconds? Well, SteelSeries has released its renowned Sensei into the wild, free to run and frolic in grassy meadows, without the need of being tethered to unsightly cables. Does the result live up to our high expectations? There’s only one way to find out."

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Source: Techgage

Angelbird mixes style and performance with the wrk

Subject: Storage | August 18, 2014 - 03:15 PM |
Tagged: 512GB, angelbird, silicon motion, SMI, ssd, wrk

The simple look and extra care that went into manufacturing the Angelbird wrk SSDs show that they are serious about breaking into the market.  They have launched at a price slightly higher than average for the market but also bring the best sequential reads that Al has seen yet on a SATA drive.  Legit Reviews pried the drive open to reveal the Silicon Motion SM2246EN SATA III 6Gbps SSD controller previously seen on Corsair, PNY, ADATA and Transcend SSDs, along with MLC flash and 256MB of DDR3 cache.  In Legit Reviews testing of the drive they concluded that you should pick up the 256GB or 512GB model for the extra performance that it brings, you will not be disappointed.

angelbird-256gb-ssd-645x472.jpg

"Angelbird might night be a household name, but the Austrian company has been around in the SSD market for a number of years and has gotten a reputation for having high quality products. When we found out that Angelbird was coming out with a new SSD product like called the SSD wrk we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one of these drives and see what Angelbird has to offer consumers. Read on to find out!"

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Storage

A good old Gigabyte Overclocking Competition

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2014 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Extreme Overclocking Competition, overclocking

The weapons this year at Gigabyte's EOC were a Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K, Gigabyte Z97X-SOC FORCE LN2, Gigabyte HD7790, G.Skill TridentX F3-2933C12D-8GTXDG
and a Seasonic SSX-1200 Platinum PSU.  Team Awardfabrik hit 6578MHz on the i7-4790K with a mix of luck and skill while Team Switzerland took top spot for memory at 2106.3MHz.  Raw speed of one component is not enough to win this competition and when the nitrogen fog lifted it was Team HardwareLuxx with the overall win.  Check out what benchmarks were run and pictures and video from the event on MadShrimps.

EOC.JPG

"Each year Gigabyte Germany organizes the Extreme Overclocking Competition. At the EOC the best overclocking teams of Germany have a chance to prove who is still king. The main organizer behind each event is Germany’s finest Roman Hartung also known as der8auer at HWBot.org. This year besides Gigabyte also G.Skill, Intel, Seasonic and Gelid solutions provided the required hardware and funds to allow this clash of the titans to take place at the Know Cube at the Heilbronn Tech University."

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Source: MadShrimps

Gigabyte's New Essence Chassis Enables Fanless Mini PCs

Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 17, 2014 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, gigabyte, fanless, essence, Bay Trail

Gigabyte recently rolled out a new small form factor case called the Essence for DIY PCs. The chassis measures 300mm x 234mm x 74mm (~11.8" x 9.2" x 2.9"), comes bundled with a 120W PSU, and will happily hold a Mini ITX motherboard and laptop-sized hard drive. Large mesh vents on the side panels allow for plenty of airflow and ventilation to run a fanless system.

Gigabyte Essence SFF Case.png

The Essence case uses a SECC frame along with ABS plastic. A rectangular base, which hosts the front IO ports, holds the machine vertically and at a slight backwards tilt. The DC power components are mounted to the bottom of the motherboard tray and are driven by a 120W external power supply (Similar to the type of setup the Xbox 360 uses). The red removable motherboard tray (accessible via the right side panel) allows you to screw in a Mini ITX motherboard and a single 2.5" SSD or HDD up to 9.5mm thick.

Gigabyte Essence SFF Case With Removable Motherboard Tray and Components Installed.jpg

The front IO includes two USB 2.0 ports, one headphone output, and one microphone jack. Aesthetically speaking, the Essence looks nice with its red faceplate, silver power button, and black mesh side panels with embossed shapes. It is small enough that it could easily sit next to a monitor and act as a low power desktop or next to the TV as a home theater PC. So long as you do not mind it not fitting into an AV rack/stack, this case could be used along with a cheap SSD and fanless Bay Trail or Kabini-based system for a silent media box or streaming client for Steam games. 

Gigabyte Essence SFF Case With Removable Motherboard Tray.jpg

The Gigabyte Essence is now available in Japan for 13,800 Yen or approximately $125 USD. It comes with a one year warranty. There is no word yet on availability in other countries at this time, however.

Source: FanlessTech

Falcon Northwest Tiki-Z Special Edition Crams Titan Z And Liquid Cooled i7-4790K CPU Into A Stylish Micro Tower

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 16, 2014 - 01:40 AM |
Tagged: titan z, tiki-z, gtx titan z, gk110, falcon northwest, dual gpu

The Tiki-Z Special Edition is the latest custom PC from boutique vendor Falcon Northwest. This high-end enthusiast system, which starts at $5,614 manages to pack a dual GPU graphics card, liquid cooled CPU, 600W power supply, and up to 6TB of storage into a stylish micro tower that measures a mere 4” wide and 13” tall.

Falcon Northwest has taken the original Tiki chassis and made several notable tweaks to accommodate NVIDIA’s latest dual GPU card: the GeForce GTX TITAN Z which we reviewed here. The case has a custom (partial) side window that shows off the graphics card. This window can be green glass or smoke tinted acrylic with customizable laser cut venting. A ducted intake feeds cool air to the graphics card and vents at the rear and front of the case exhaust hot air. The exterior of the case can be painted in any single color of automobile paint for free or with a fully customized paint scheme with artwork at an additional cost.

Falcon Northwest Tiki-Z Micro Tower.jpg

In addition to the Titan Z with its 5,760 CUDA cores, 12GB of memory, and 8.1 TFLOPS of peak compute power, Falcon Northwest has packed a modular small form factor 600W PSU from SilverStone, an ASUS Z97I Plus motherboard, Intel Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” CPU with liquid cooler, up to 16GB of DDR3 1866MHz memory from G.Skill, and up to 6TB of storage (two 1TB SSDs and one 4TB Western Digital Green hard drive). The i7-4970K comes stock clocked at 4GHz (4.4GHz max turbo), but can be overclocked by Falcon Northwest upon request.

Needless to say, that is a lot of hardware to cram into a PC that can easily sit next to your monitor at your desk or in your living room!

The engineering, artwork, and support of this high end system all come at a price, however. The new Titan Z powered boutique PC starts at $5,614 USD and is available now from Falcon Northwest. To sweeten the deal, for a limited time Falcon Northwest is including a free ASUS PB287Q 4K monitor (3820x2160, 60Hz, 1ms response time, see more specification in our review) with each Tiki-Z purchase.

This system is an impressive feat of engineering and it certainly looks sharp with the artwork, custom side panel, and compact form factor. My only concern from a usability standpoint would be noise from the cooling systems for the GPU, CPU radiator, and PSU. One also has to consider that the Titan Z graphics card by itself is priced at $3,000 which puts the Tiki Z pricing back into the somewhat sane world of boutique PC pricing (heh at about $2,600 for the system minus the GPU). No question, this is not going to be a system for everyone and will even be a niche product within the niche market of those enthusiasts interested in pre-built gaming systems. Even so, if noise levels can be held in check it will make for one powerful little gaming box!

Khronos Announces "Next" OpenGL & Releases OpenGL 4.5

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | August 15, 2014 - 08:33 PM |
Tagged: siggraph 2014, Siggraph, OpenGL Next, opengl 4.5, opengl, nvidia, Mantle, Khronos, Intel, DirectX 12, amd

Let's be clear: there are two stories here. The first is the release of OpenGL 4.5 and the second is the announcement of the "Next Generation OpenGL Initiative". They both occur on the same press release, but they are two, different statements.

OpenGL 4.5 Released

OpenGL 4.5 expands the core specification with a few extensions. Compatible hardware, with OpenGL 4.5 drivers, will be guaranteed to support these. This includes features like direct_state_access, which allows accessing objects in a context without binding to it, and support of OpenGL ES3.1 features that are traditionally missing from OpenGL 4, which allows easier porting of OpenGL ES3.1 applications to OpenGL.

opengl_logo.jpg

It also adds a few new extensions as an option:

ARB_pipeline_statistics_query lets a developer ask the GPU what it has been doing. This could be useful for "profiling" an application (list completed work to identify optimization points).

ARB_sparse_buffer allows developers to perform calculations on pieces of generic buffers, without loading it all into memory. This is similar to ARB_sparse_textures... except that those are for textures. Buffers are useful for things like vertex data (and so forth).

ARB_transform_feedback_overflow_query is apparently designed to let developers choose whether or not to draw objects based on whether the buffer is overflowed. I might be wrong, but it seems like this would be useful for deciding whether or not to draw objects generated by geometry shaders.

KHR_blend_equation_advanced allows new blending equations between objects. If you use Photoshop, this would be "multiply", "screen", "darken", "lighten", "difference", and so forth. On NVIDIA's side, this will be directly supported on Maxwell and Tegra K1 (and later). Fermi and Kepler will support the functionality, but the driver will perform the calculations with shaders. AMD has yet to comment, as far as I can tell.

nvidia-opengl-debugger.jpg

Image from NVIDIA GTC Presentation

If you are a developer, NVIDIA has launched 340.65 (340.23.01 for Linux) beta drivers for developers. If you are not looking to create OpenGL 4.5 applications, do not get this driver. You really should not have any use for it, at all.

Next Generation OpenGL Initiative Announced

The Khronos Group has also announced "a call for participation" to outline a new specification for graphics and compute. They want it to allow developers explicit control over CPU and GPU tasks, be multithreaded, have minimal overhead, have a common shader language, and "rigorous conformance testing". This sounds a lot like the design goals of Mantle (and what we know of DirectX 12).

amd-mantle-queues.jpg

And really, from what I hear and understand, that is what OpenGL needs at this point. Graphics cards look nothing like they did a decade ago (or over two decades ago). They each have very similar interfaces and data structures, even if their fundamental architectures vary greatly. If we can draw a line in the sand, legacy APIs can be supported but not optimized heavily by the drivers. After a short time, available performance for legacy applications would be so high that it wouldn't matter, as long as they continue to run.

Add to it, next-generation drivers should be significantly easier to develop, considering the reduced error checking (and other responsibilities). As I said on Intel's DirectX 12 story, it is still unclear whether it will lead to enough performance increase to make most optimizations, such as those which increase workload or developer effort in exchange for queuing fewer GPU commands, unnecessary. We will need to wait for game developers to use it for a bit before we know.

The third incarnation of Microsoft's Pro Tablet Surfaces

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2014 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

With a 12" 2160x1440 resolution screen, a 4th generation Core i3, i5 or i7 and a full version of Win 8.1 the new Surface Pro 3 is the best tablet offered by Microsoft so far.  Overall it is thinner but 1.5" larger than the Pro 3 with better resolution with a battery that should last about 8 hours while you are working, slightly longer when just browsing.  The Surface Pen is a nice addition to the dock and stand we have become familiar with.  Overall The Inquirer was fairly impressed with Microsoft's new offering, apart from the pricing which is rather prohibitive even before accessorizing.

surface-pro-3-review-tablet-540x334.jpg

"THE SURFACE PRO 3 tablet brings some of the biggest and most welcome changes seen in the Surface tablet line yet, with a bigger and better 12in HD screen, a much thinner case and an improved keyboard and kickstand, meaning its never lived more up to its motto of "the tablet that can replace your laptop."

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Source: The Inquirer

Prying OpenGL to slip a little Mantle inside

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2014 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: amd, Mantle, opengl, OpenGL Next

Along with his announcements about FreeSync, Richard Huddy also discussed OpenGL Next and its relationship with Mantle and the role it played in DirectX 12's development.  AMD has given Chronos Group, the developers of OpenGL, complete access to Mantle to help them integrate it into future versions of the API starting with OpenGL Next.  He also discussed the advantages of Mantle over DirectX, citing AMD's ability to update it much more frequently than Intel has done with DX.  With over 75 developers working on titles that take advantage of Mantle the interest is definitely there but it is uncertain if devs will actually benefit from an API which updates at a pace faster than a game can be developed.  Read on at The Tech Report.

Richard Huddy-578-80.jpg

"At Siggraph yesterday, AMD's Richard Huddy gave us an update on Mantle, and he also revealed some interesting details about AMD's role in the development of the next-gen OpenGL API."

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Corsair Vengeance LPX and Dominator Platinum DDR4 Memory

Subject: Memory | August 15, 2014 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: ddr4, corsair, Vengeance LPX, Dominator Platinum

FREMONT, California — August 14, 2014 — Corsair, a leader in high-performance PC hardware, today announced the availability of Corsair Vengeance LPX and Dominator Platinum lines of high-speed DDR4 computer memory. This new generation of memory ushers in a new age of ultrafast computing with optimizations such as increased DRAM bandwidth, higher bus frequencies, lower power usage, and higher reliability.

Corsair Vengeance LPX and Dominator Platinum DDR4 memory kits are validated with motherboard partners (ASUS, ASRock, EVGA, Gigabyte, and MSI) and use the new XMP 2.0 profile to deliver easy, reliable overclocking performance with the upcoming next-generation Intel® X99 platforms and Intel® Core™ i7 processors (codenamed Haswell-E). The Vengeance LPX and Dominator Platinum memory kits are supplied with a limited lifetime warranty.

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Vengeance LPX

Vengeance LPX memory is a new Corsair memory line designed for high-performance overclocking with a low-profile heatspreader is made of pure aluminum for faster heat dissipation and the eight-layer PCB helps manage heat and provides superior overclocking headroom. The memory kits are available in black, red, white, or blue so that enthusiasts, gamers, and modders can add a touch style to match the color scheme of their PC.

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Dominator Platinum

Like the DDR3 memory versions, the new Dominator Platinum DDR4 memory kits have a striking industrial design for good looks, patented DHX technology for cooler operation, user-swappable colored “light pipes” for customizable downwash lighting, and Corsair Link compatibility for real-time temperature monitoring. Dominator Platinum memory is built with hand-screened ICs, undergoes rigorous performance testing, and incorporates state-of-the-art cooling for reliable performance in demanding environments.

Vengeance LPX and Dominator Platinum DDR4 Specifications

  • Unbuffered DDR4 SDRAM in 288-pin DIMM
  • Capacities at launch: 8GB (2x4GB), 16GB (4x4GB), 32GB (4x8GB) and 64GB (8x8GB)
  • Speeds at launch: 2666MHz, 2800MHz, and 3000MHz
  • Intel XMP 2.0 (Extreme Memory Profile) support

About DDR4
DDR4 is faster. Even at the baseline speed of DDR4 delivers twice the bandwidth with 2133 MT/s (million transfers per second) compared with the base DDR3 1600 MT/s. With optimizations games and applications have the potential to load faster and run more smoothly.

DDR4 uses a lot less power and runs cooler.
With each new generation of CPU and GPU architecture, system power consumption and heat generation become more and more important. DDR4 modules operate at an ultra-low standard 1.2 volts compared to the 1.5 and 1.65 volts of DDR3 memory, allowing DDR4 memory to consume significantly less power and generate less heat.

DDR4 memory modules can get bigger.
DDR3 is limited to 8GB modules for a maximum of 32GB on standard four-socket motherboards. DDR4 will have the ability to enable 16GB per module by 2015. A motherboard with eight memory slots will be upgradeable to an amazing 128GB or DDR4 memory.

Pricing, Availability, and Warranty
Corsair Vengeance LPX Series and Dominator Platinum DDR4 memory kits will be available at the end of August from Corsair's worldwide network of authorized distributors and resellers. The Vengeance LPX and Dominator Platinum memory kits are supplied with a limited lifetime warranty and are backed up by Corsair's customer service and technical support.

Source: Corsair

ASUS RT-AC87U Is First Wave 2 802.11ac Router Supporting MU-MIMO Technology

Subject: Networking | August 14, 2014 - 11:47 PM |
Tagged: wireless router, wave 2, rt-ac87u, rt-ac87r, qsr1000, mu-mimo, ASUS ROG, asus, 802.11ac

ASUS recently launched the RT-AC87U which is the first "wave 2" 802.11ac wireless router to support multi user MIMO (MU-MIMO) technology. Although the initial launch happened at the end of last month, the RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R (a variant exclusive to Best Buy) will finally be avaiable for purchase starting August 26th for around $279.99.

The RT-AC87U is a monster matte black router with four large external antennas and sleek fighter jet angles. I/O is mostly clustered on the rear of the router and includes four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one GbE WAN port, and one USB 2.0 port. In addition to the rear I/O, ASUS has positioned a USB 3.0 port on the front of the router (specifically the right corner of the front panel hidden behind a removeable rubber port cover).

ASUS RT-AC87 First Wave 2 Wireless AC Router With MU-MIMO.jpg

On the wireless front, the RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R supports the latest 802.11ac and newer 256QAM (600Mbps) 802.11n specification as well as legacy 802.11g/b/a Wi-Fi networks. The router supports simultaneous dual band operation, which results in maximum throughput of 1.73 Gbps on the 5GHz 802.11ac band (4 x 433 Mbps streams) and 600 Mbps on the 2.4GHz 802.11n band.

The new and interesting bit about the RT-AC87 is the MU-MIMO support. MU-MIMO, which stands for Multi-User Multple Input Multiple Output, is the evolution of MIMO technology which debuted with wireless N routers. The ASUS router is able to use multiple anntennas to communicate with a client device to increase bandwidth. Beamforming is used to focus the signal in the direction of the client to get better range and a stronger signal for that specific client. MU-MIMO builds on this technology by allowing the router to track, beamform, and employ multiple transmit and recieve antennas to talk to multiple clients simultaneously. Previously, routers were limited to communicating with a single client at a time (see the diagram below for an example).

SU-MIMO-compared-to-MU-MIMO.png

Multi-User MIMO will benefit those users that choose to connect the majority of their networked devices via Wi-Fi. However, the technology will be especially noticeable in areas flooded with various Wi-Fi networks such as apartments. According to Matthew Gast of Aerohive Networks, MU-MIMO will allow all wireless clients to get an acceptable data rate in crowded wireless areas at the expense of being able to deliver the highest data rate to a single client device. Especially when competing Wi-Fi networks are involved and fighting for channels, MU-MIMO will shine at keeping devices connected and talking to the access point. 

ASUS has chosen the Quantenna QSR100 chipset to handle the 802.11ac duties while a Broadcom BCM4709 chipset handles the 256QAM wireless N bands. Additionally, the RT-AC87 routers have 128MB of flash memory and 256MB of DDR3 RAM. According to ASUS, the router draws slightly over 45W.

On the software side of things, ASUS has chosen its own ASUSWRT firmware which includes parental controls, Time Machine backup support, VPN support, security software from TrendMicro (AiProtection), and AiCloud 2.0. USB support includes storage sharing as well as 3G/4G cellular modem internet connectivity.

In all, the ASUS RT-AC87U looks to be new home router champion packing quite a bit of hardware and leading the charge of Wave 2 802.11ac wireless routers. This all comes at a cost, however. The RT-AC87U and RT-AC87R will be available on August 26 with a MSRP of $269.99 and e-tail prices currently around $279.99.

For all the nitty-gritty details, check out this ASUS PCDIY blog post!

Source: Quantenna

AMD Catalyst 14.7 Release Candidate 3

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 14, 2014 - 07:20 PM |
Tagged: catalyst 14.7 RC3, beta, amd

A new Catalyst Release Candidate has arrived and as with the previous driver it no longer supports Windows 8.0 or the WDDM 1.2 driver, so upgrade to Win 7 or Win 8.1 before installing please.  AMD will eventually release a driver which supports WDDM 1.1 under Win 8.0 for those who do not upgrade.

AMD-Catalyst-12-11-Beta-11-7900-Modded-Driver-Crafted-for-Performance.jpg

Feature Highlights of the AMD Catalyst 14.7​ RC3 Driver for Windows Includes all improvements found in the AMD Catalyst 14.7 RC driver

  • Display interface enhancements to improve 4k monitor performance and reduce flickering.
  • Improvements apply to the following products: ​
    • AMD Radeon R9 290 Series
    • AMD Radeon R9 270 Series
    • AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series​ ​​
  • Even with these improvements, cable quality and other system variables can affect 4k performance. AMD recommends using DisplayPort 1.2 HBR2 certified cables with a length of 2m (~6 ft) or less when driving 4K monitors.​
  • Wildstar: AMD Crossfire profile support
  • Lichdom: Single GPU and Multi-GPU performance enhancements
  • Watch Dogs: Smoother gameplay on single GPU and Multi-GPU configurations​

Feature Highlights of the AMD Catalyst 14.7​ RC Driver for Windows

  • Includes all improvements found in the AMD Catalyst 14.6 RC driver
    • AMD ​CrossFire and AMD Radeon Dual Graphics profile update for Plants vs. Zombies​​​
    • Assassin's Creed IV - improved CrossFire scaling (3840x2160 High Settings) up to 93%
    • Collaboration with AOC has identified non-standard display timings as the root cause of 60Hz SST flickering exhibited by the AOC U2868PQU panel on certain AMD Radeon graphics cards.
    • A software workaround has been implemented in AMD Catalyst 14.7 RC driver to resolve the display timing issues with this display. Users are further encouraged to obtain newer display firmware from AOC that will resolve flickering at its origin.
    • Users are additionally advised to utilize DisplayPort-certified cables to ensure the integrity of the DisplayPort data connection.​​​

Feature Highlights of the AMD Catalyst 14.6 RC Driver for Windows

  • Plants vs. Zombies (Direct3D performance improvements):
    • AMD Radeon R9 290X - 1920x1080 Ultra – improves up to 11%
    • AMD Radeon R9 290X - 2560x1600 Ultra – improves up to 15%
    • AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire configuration (3840x2160 Ultra) - 92% scaling
  • 3DMark Sky Diver improvements:
    • AMD A4-6300 – improves up to 4%
    • Enables AMD Dual Graphics/AMD CrossFire support
  • Grid Auto Sport: AMD CrossFire profile
  • Wildstar: Power Xpress profile
    • Performance improvements to improve smoothness of application
    • Performance improves up to 24% at 2560x1600 on the AMD Radeon R9 and R7 Series of products for both single GPU and multi-GPU configurations.
  • Watch Dogs: AMD CrossFire – Frame pacing improvements
  • Battlefield Hardline Beta: AMD CrossFire profile

Known Issues

  • Running Watch Dogs with a R9 280X CrossFire configuration may result in the application running in CrossFire software compositing mode
  • Enabling Temporal SMAA in a CrossFire configuration when playing Watch Dogs will result in flickering
  • AMD CrossFire configurations with AMD Eyefinity enabled will see instability with BattleField 4 or Thief when running Mantle
  • Catalyst Install Manager text is covered by Express/Custom radio button text
  • Express Uninstall does not remove C:\Program Files\(AMD or ATI) folder
Source: AMD

Richard Huddy Discusses FreeSync Availability Timeframes

Subject: General Tech, Displays | August 14, 2014 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: amd, freesync, g-sync, Siggraph, siggraph 2014

At SIGGRAPH, Richard Huddy of AMD announced the release windows of FreeSync, their adaptive refresh rate technology, to The Tech Report. Compatible monitors will begin sampling "as early as" September. Actual products are expected to ship to consumers in early 2015. Apparently, more than one display vendor is working on support, although names and vendor-specific release windows are unannounced.

amd-freesync1.jpg

As for cost of implementation, Richard Huddy believes that the added cost should be no more than $10-20 USD (to the manufacturer). Of course, the final price to end-users cannot be derived from this - that depends on how quickly the display vendor expects to sell product, profit margins, their willingness to push new technology, competition, and so forth.

If you want to take full advantage of FreeSync, you will need a compatible GPU (look for "gaming" support in AMD's official FreeSync compatibility list). All future AMD GPUs are expected to support the technology.

Source: Tech Report