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Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 05:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: passive cooling, maxwell, gtx 750 ti
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti is fast but also power efficient, enough-so that Ryan found it a worthwhile upgrade for cheap desktops with cheap power supplies that were never intended for discrete graphics. Of course, this recommendation is about making the best of what you got; better options probably exist if you are building a PC (or getting one built by a friend or a computer store).
Image Credit: Tom's Hardware
Tom's Hardware went another route: make it fanless.
After wrecking a passively-cooled Radeon HD 7750, which is probably a crime in Texas, they clamped it on to the Maxwell-based GTX 750 Ti. While the cooler was designed for good airflow, they decided to leave it in a completely-enclosed case without fans. Under load, the card reached 80 C within about twenty minutes. The driver backed off performance slightly, 1-3% depending on your frame of reference, but was able to maintain that target temperature.
Now, if only it accepted SLi, this person might be happy.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os
Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.
The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.
This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.
The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 2, 2014 - 02:29 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Tamesh, Kabini, fit-PC4, compulab, amd
Passively cooled PCs are an interesting niche, often associated with the need for silence. Be it audio recording or home theater appliances, some situations are just not well suited to having a whirring fan.
Recently announced is the fit-PC4 is a fanless system, fourth in its lineage. This time the system is using AMD for its CPU and GPU. Two models are available, separated into "Pro" and "Value". Its specifications are broken down into the table below.
|fit-PC4 Pro||fit-PC4 Value|
|Processor||AMD GX-420CA (25W TDP, Kabini)||AMD A4-1250 APU (8W TDP, Temash)|
|- CPU||Quad-core (Jaguar-based) @ 2.0 GHz||Dual-core (Jaguar-based) @ 1.0 GHz|
|- GPU||Radeon HD 8400E||Radeon HD 8210|
|RAM||Up to 16GB (2 DIMM)|
|Storage||2.5" HDD/SSD + mSATA + microSD|
2x HDMI 1.4a (1920x1200 max) with CEC support
S/PDIF, line-out, mic-in (I assume 3.5mm)
2x Gigabit Ethernet
mini-PCIe slot for cellular modem
2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0
|Bluetooth||4.0||3.0 + HS|
|Dimensions||16cm x 19cm x 3.7cm||16cm x 16cm x 2.5cm|
Interestingly, the company considers these devices "ruggedized" as well as fanless. As such, they have a 5-year warranty. It seems to be quite the feature-packed device with two HDMI 1.4 outlets, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and an available slot for a cellular modem. The Pro even has 802.11ac WiFi. I am not entirely sure the intended purpose of this device, but the company claims that the previous generation product was often purchased by video surveillance and digital signage customers. Interestingly, Windows 7 and Linux are the two choices for operating systems.
The fit-PC4 is available now in either a $299 (Value-Barebone) or $380 (Pro-Barebone) model.
Subject: Mobile | March 2, 2014 - 12:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: virgin mobile, Sprint, Samsung, mvno, galaxy s5, boost mobile
Samsung officially launched the Galaxy S5 at MWC last month, with tweaked software and slightly improved hardware specifications. The new smartphone will launch in 150 countries, including the US, on April 11th. Unfortunately, Samsung did not disclose the exact pricing and carriers that will offer the device at launch. Naturally, the big US carriers will all get the latest flagship at some point this year, but beyond that it is hard to say who will pick it up and who will pass. With that said, at least two MVNOs are confirmed to be offering up the Galaxy S5 later this year.
Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that run pre-paid cell phone plans without contracts that run hardware on Sprint's cellular network. The two carriers announced on their respective Facebook pages that the Galaxy S5 is officially coming to their network in the second quarter of this year. Both companies are remaining silent on the pricing of the smartphone though, with a Virgin Mobile representative stating that the company did not have pricing information yet.
Users can expect to pay nearly full price for the Galaxy S5 as the pre-paid carriers do not subsidize the price over a multi-year contract. I would expect the phone to go for around $800, however. While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay upwards of $800 out of pocket only to run it on a cheap MVNO, there are still cost savings to be realized so long as you are not upgrading every year. More options are always nice, and seeing a flagship smartphone coming to MVNOs so soon after launch is a welcome change. Here's hoping more MVNOs jump on board, especially those using alternative networks for pre-paid customers living in areas with poor Sprint coverage.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | March 1, 2014 - 09:51 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: corsair, mining
When mining some form of cryptographic coin, very few components in the system are utilized. A GPU is basically a self-contained massively parallel cruncher with its own memory and logic. The host system just needs to batch the tasks which leads to PCs with dirt-cheap CPUs, a very modest amount of RAM, and quite literally a half-dozen high-end graphics cards.
If you thought that gaming machines skew a little too much towards GPUs, you should see a mining rig with five R9 290X cards fed by a Sempron.
As you can guess, since many GPUs are double-slot, it might be difficult to fit seven of them in a seven-slot motherboard with a limited number PCIe lanes. To get around this limitation, miners attach their graphics cards to extension cables. Thankfully (for them), mining does not pass a lot of data across the bus to the host system. Even a single PCIe fails to be a bottleneck, apparently.
Anyway, the Corsair blog created an open-air rack which hangs six graphics cards (five HD 7970s and a R9 290X) above a motherboard housing an Intel Celeron G1830. For air, a quartet of Corsair fans suck air upwards and around the graphics cards. For power, of course they use the Corsair AX1500i because why not mine with an arc welding torch. It apparently had more power capacity than the breaker they originally hooked it up to. Whoops.
While ridiculous, I do hope to see systems with multiple (even mismatched) graphics processors as we move toward batches of general mathematics. PhysX was not entirely successful in teaching users that GPUs do not need to be in SLi or Crossfire configurations to load balance. It is just finding an appropriate way to split tasks without requiring a lot of bottlenecks in setting it up.
I might not mine coins, but I could see some benefit to having 35 TeraFLOPs across seven compute devices. I could also see Corsair wanting to sell me a power supply for said PC.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 1, 2014 - 03:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is a tiny and cheap (as in a starting price of ~$28) computer that was originally intended for educational purposes. It is built around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC which itself is based on the ARM architecture. Its VideoCore IV 3D graphics processor relies upon a closed-source driver because, until yesterday, Broadcom had not provided documentation or code. Technically, the code they released is for a different SoC but both Broadcomm and the Raspberry Pi Foundation believe the tools are there to port it over.
And the foundation wants to drum up interest by offering a $10,000 bounty for Quake III running acceptably on the Pi with the ported open source drivers.
If interested, you can look at Broadcom for the documentation and 3-clause BSD-licensed source code. You can also check out the Raspberry Pi Foundation for a blog post which mentions the competition (as well as their 2-year anniversary). GPU drivers are a good thing to be open-sourced. As I have been saying, the further "upstream" a piece of code is, the more it trickles down as a dependency for other software. The vocabulary that software needs to communicate with a hardware platform is quite high up there. Leaving those tools to society is a good thing for society.
Granted, it will probably not have a meaningful impact in this case... but there is a chance.
Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2014 - 02:59 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: prime instant video, prime, music streaming, amazon
Amazon has been exploring changes to its Prime subscription service, and while drone air delivery may be years out, a music streaming service is a realistic possibility. The company already offers video streaming via its Prime service in the form of a limited selection of its total Instant Video library that can be streamed for free with a yearly Prime subscription. on the music side of things specifically, Amazon already has a massive downloadable paid-for MP3 library with a browser-based (and a new PC application) digital locker and media player.
Amazon Cloud Player, a browser-based media player for purchased MP3 files.
In short, all of the pieces for a music streaming service are in place. Amazon has the e-commerce and programing experience, distribution medium, and gobs of cloud storage and processing power. Amazon simply needs the go-ahead from the labels in the form of licensing agreements which appear to be in progress according to Recode.
An Amazon-run music streaming service would face stiff competition from existing competitors such as Spotify, but if any company can come in and make it work at scale in a competitive market it is Amazon. Especially if Amazon is able to replicate music streaming and offline caching using mobile apps like Spotify offers without charging extra for the privilege. Music streaming seems to be a natural addition to its Prime Instant offering, and may just be the spoonful of sugar that makes a possible Prime subscription price increase easier to swallow.
Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2014 - 02:16 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: microsoft, Windows Store, appstore
Microsoft introduced its own application download repository with Windows 8 along with an SDK for developers to put together touch friendly applications around the formerly-Metro-No-Longer-Modern-Whatever-It-Is-Called-This-Month user interface. Dubbed the Windows Store, it would be the source of applications for Windows RT, Windows Phone, and Windows x86/64 alike.
Since the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview in February 2012, users have been able to use the Windows Store application to search for and download both free and paid-for apps. The Windows Store is a curated marketplace with applications that must be certified for compatibility by Microsoft who takes a percentage of sale price (30% or less depending on number of downloads).
At the end of last year, Microsoft had approximately 142,000 apps listed in the Store. Further, the company is seeing as many as 4 million application downloads per day from the Store. The 4 million downloads per day number was uncovered by Alex Wilhelm at TechCrunch, and is a 134.6% increase over the downloads/day number from October 2013. The breakdown of application type is pre-dominately free with paid applications acconting for less than half of the daily downloads (which makes sense).
At the current download rate, Microsoft could push as many as 1.46 billion app downloads a year. All things considered, the Windows Store is still dwarfed in downloads, number of apps, and popularity by the iOS, Google, and Mac app stores, but it is showing a surprising amount of growth lately. Hopefully this rise in popularity will beget more popularity from the cycle of developers getting interested in the Store and users getting new applications. (Ideally, as the Windows Store userbase grows, developers will have increased incentive to program new, or port existing, apps
to Metro which should further bring in new users and so on).
Have you used the Windows Store to find new Start Screen apps?
Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 06:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam, valve
Today, Valve announced that its Steam Family Sharing program is available for all users. This initiative allows Steam accounts to authorize devices to access their library on other accounts. The intention is for each family member to have their own account while being able to borrow games from one another. This can also extend to "their guests". It does not include titles which use third-party DRM, accounts, or subscriptions - Valve obviously does not have direct control over them.
There are other rules and restrictions, of course, but the account and device limits are quite high: 5 accounts across 10 devices. This does not get around region locks and a game which is VAC-banned cannot be shared. Ultimately, be careful sharing your games with your kids if they are jerks.
To setup Family Library Sharing in the Steam Client, go to View > Settings > Family and start to authorize and manage other computers. Just do not allow Cheating Charlie. For more information, check out Valve's promotional site and FAQ.
Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 02:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, Chromebook
If you have purchased the Acer C720 Chromebook because it was relatively quick and very inexpensive you have probably been happy with it but maybe you wish it could do more. To do so you could follow these instructions to install either Ubuntu or Bohdi Linux. The process is a little more complicated than installing the OS from a CD but they have provided step by step instructions on how to accomplish this process. Bring new life to your Chromebook with just a bit of work.
"Chromebooks are amazing little machines. They are a marvel of speed and simplicity. The Acer C720 Chromebook is certainly near the top of the list of Chromebooks to be purchased (next to the Chromebook Pixel, of course). It's speedy and it's inexpensive. But for some, the simplistic nature of the devices doesn't offer enough power or flexibility. For those who need more from this Acer platform, I have the answer – in fact, I have two answers."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Your CIO is now a venture capitalist and you work at their startup @ The Register
- Exclusive interview with Peter Hirschfeld from Wavemaster @ Kitguru
- 10 amazingly stupid things the 'experts' will try to tell you about Microsoft @ ZDNet
Subject: Motherboards | February 28, 2014 - 01:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: msi, A58, Kaveri, FM2+, micro ATX, atx
MSI has launched three new low cost FM2+ motherboards based around AMD's budget A58 chipset. The new boards include an ATX form factor MSI A58-G41 PC Mate and two micro ATX boards: the A58M-E35 and the A58M-E33. The boards are compatible with AMD's Richland, Trinity, and Kaveri APUs and support PCI-E 3.0. The cost savings come from using the A58 chipset which drops support for SATA III 6Gpbs and USB 3.0. The boards further have smaller heatsinks and fewer overclocking features. Despite the restrictions, the new MSI A58 FM2+ motherboards still incorporate MSI's OC Genie 4, Click BIOS 4, and Command Center technologies along with the company's Military Class 4 hardware components.
The MSI A58-G41 PC Mate is an ATX form factor board with an FM2+ CPU socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, six SATA II 3Gbps ports, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, and three legacy PCI expansion slots. Rear IO on this board includes two PS/2 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, a single Gigabit LAN port, three analog audio jacks, and three video outputs (HDMI, VGA, and DVI).
The Micro ATX A58M-E35 also has an FM2+ socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, and six SATA II ports, but the expansion slot layout is scaled down. There is a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI-E 3.0 x1 slot, and one PCI slot. Rear IO on this board is identical to the A58-G41 board above (six USB 2.0, two PS/2, one GbE port, three audio, and three video outputs).
Finally, MSI's lowest-end A58M-E33 is a Micro ATX board similar in layout to the A58-E35, but with fewer port options. The expansion slot and memory slot configuration stays the same as the E35, but there are two fewer SATA II ports (four total) and two fewer USB 2.0 ports on the rear IO panel. Speaking of I/O, the board is similar to the E35 except that it lacks a DVI video output and two USB 2.0 ports.
MSI has not yet released exact pricing, but expect these boards to be well under $100, and the two micro ATX variants to be closer to the $50 mark based on prices of the higher-end A78 and A88 chipset-based motherboards. All three will be available for purchase later this year.
Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 12:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: power supply, HCP-1300, antec, 80 Plus Platinum
Antec has released a new high capacity HCP-1300 Platinum power supply fit for the highest-end workstations and cryptocurrency mining rigs. The 80 PLUS Platinum rated PSU is up to 94% efficient meaning less wasted electricity and more profit for miners running power hungry GPU farms. The HCP-1300 Platinum, as the name implies can deliver up to 1300W to the system, including 10 PCI-E power connectors.
The new PSU uses a fully modular design with a look towards the future. Antec is using 16-pin cable connectors for future modular cables as well as a 20+8 pin motherboard connector to accommodate future ATX motherboards that might require an additional four power pins over today's 20+4 pin boards. A 135mm fan keeps the internal components cool at high loads. Other enthusiast-friendly features include CircuitShield technology and an OC Link connector. The OC Link allows adventurous enthusiasts and miners to connect two HCP-1300 Platinum power supplies together and have them work in tandem to power a single ultra high end system (hopefully you miners attempting this are plugging the PSUs into dedicated AC circuits!).
This enthusiast PSU comes at a premium, however. In fact, the Antec HCP-1300 Platinum will set you back $312 for a single unit. On the bright side, it does come with a generous seven year warranty.
Will this beastly power supply be at the heart of your next Dream System?
Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 03:48 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: x240, video, tegra, podcast, origin, nvidia, MWC, litecoin, Lenovo, Intel, icera, eos 17 slx, dogecoin, bitcoin, atom, amd, 750ti
PC Perspective Podcast #289 - 02/27/2014
Join us this week as we discuss the Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano
Week in Review:
0:21:48 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: Storage | February 27, 2014 - 02:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SSD 730, ssd, Intel, Overclocked
Today marks the release of the first overclocked SSD to hit the market, the Intel 730 which is based on the SSD DC S3500 and SSD DC S3700 series for data centers. As these were drives specifically crafted for the datacenter they were both more expensive than consumer models and were optimized for completely different uses. The new Intel 730 drive is overclocked, the NAND functions at 600MHz compared to the DC's 400MHz and the cache RAM speed is jumped up to 100MHz from 83MHz. The Tech Report discovered that extra frequency comes at a price, the wattage consumed by this drive is significantly higher than just about any other SSD they have reviewed, no wonder Intel labels this as specifically for desktops.
Make sure to check out Allyn's fresh off the presses review of this drive and don't let his temperature readings shock you too much.
"Intel's new 730 Series desktop SSD is rather unique. It's based on the company's datacenter drives, it has an extra flash die onboard, and the controller and NAND are both clocked well beyond their usual speeds. We take a closer look."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Intel SSD 730 Series @ The SSD Review
- The SSD Endurance Experiment: Data retention after 600TB @ The Tech Report
- OCZ Vector 150 and OCZ Vertex 460 Review: New SSDs from Toshiba's OCZ Storage Solutions @ X-Bit Labs
- Crucial M500 480GB SSD @ NikKTech
- Sandisk X210 240GB Business Class Solid State Drive @ eTeknix
- ntel’s 3rd Generation SSD Controller Manufactured By LSI @ SSD Review
- Angelbird Adler SSDs & SSD2Go PRO Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MyDigitalSSD Super Cache 2 128GB M.2 SATA 6G @ SSD Review
- 8 PCIe & SATA M.2 SSDs Test ASRock’s Fatal1ty 990FX Killer AM3+ AMD MotherBoard @ SSD Review
- SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- SanDisk Connect 64GB Wireless Flash Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- ADATA DashDrive Elite SE720 128GB External SSD @ Kitguru
- Kingston DataTraveler Mini 3.0 16GB Flash Drive Review @ Legit Reviews
- Seagate Desktop HDD 4 TB vs. Western Digital WD Black 4 TB Hard Drive Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Matsunichi 500GB USB 3.0 Portable HDD @ TechwareLabs
- Seagate Desktop SSHD 2 TB Hard Drive Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Thecus N5550 NAS Server @ NikKTech
Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 11:37 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: euv, photolithography, Intel, TSMC, DSA
A recent test at TSMC proved their experimental extreme UV lithography process is a little too extreme after a misaligned laser caused serious internal damage to their prototype. This is rather sad news for TSMC as EUV has been touted as the best way to reduce the chip making process below 10nm. Intel has been hedging their bets about EUV, they have invested heavily in the development of the technology but recently have teamed up with ASML Holdings and Arkema to work on directed self assembly, where the chips are convinced to form out of solution on a molecular basis. We are not quite talking Von Neumann machines but it is certainly within the same realm of thought. Other researchers are working on electron etching; forsaking light and its comparatively large wavelength for much smaller etching tools. You can read more about how companies such as Intel are trying to keep Moore's law alive at The Register.
"A recent test of the next-generation chip-etching technology known as extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) has come a cropper at chip-baking giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD Press Talks Up Major Open-Source Linux Driver Features, But Fails @ Phoronix
- Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S specs comparison @ The Inquirer
- 'Black Phone': This handset will SELF-DESTRUCT in 30 seconds @ The Register
- Microsoft's Office 2013 Service Pack 1 slips out with fixes, features @ The Register
- Mantle no more? GDC sessions point to the next DirectX @ The Tech Report
- BlackBerry brings back call, end keys, touchpad to Q20 keyboard cutie @ The Register
- Google makes it easy for Gmail users to dump newsletters @ The Inquirer
- Taste-O-Vision Is Now A Thing @ Hack a Day
- The TR Podcast 150: From Mantle to Maxwell, and beyond
Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 02:19 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: toughpower gold, thermaltake, power supply, 80 Plus Gold
Thermaltake has launched three new power supplies under its Toughpower Gold series. The new models come in 550W, 650W, and 750W capacities and offer up a semi-modular design and 80 PLUS Gold efficiency ratings.
The new power supplies are rated at 87% to 92% efficient depending on the load and fall under the 80 PLUS Gold designation. Additionally, the PSUs offer a single rail design to deliver stable power to graphics cards and the processor. A semi-modular design has the 24 pin and 8 pin motherboard power connectors permanently attached and connection points for a variety of additional power cables. Thermaltake has gone for a flat cable design which should mean the cables are easier to route and hide behind the motherboard tray. Other features include high quality Japanese capacitors and a reportedly quiet 140mm fan that hits 18dB under typical loads.
The 550W offers two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors while the top end 750W version supports up to four 8-pin PCI-E power connectors meaning it can easily power CrossFire and SLI multi-GPU setups.
You can find more information on the Toughpower Gold power supplies on their respective product pages.
Unfortunately, pricing and exact availability has not yet been released.
Subject: Processors | February 26, 2014 - 11:46 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, Samsung, exynos 5, big.little, arm, 28nm
Samsung recently announced two new 32-bit Exynos 5 processors with the eight core Exynos 5 Octa 5422 and six core Exynos 5 Hexa 5260. Both SoCs utilize a combination of ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 CPU cores along with ARM's Mali graphics. Unlike the previous Exynos 5 chips, the upcoming processors utilize a big.LITTLE configuration variant called big.LITTLE MP that allows all CPU cores to be used simultaneously. Samsung continues to use a 28nm process node, and the SoCs should be available for use in smartphones and tablets immediately.
The Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5422 offers up eight CPU cores and an ARM Mali T628 MP6 GPU. The CPU configuration consists of four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 2.1GHz and four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. Devices using this chip will be able to tap up to all eight cores at the same time for demanding workloads, allowing the device to complete the computations and return to a lower-power or sleep state sooner. Devices using previous generation Exynos chips were faced with an either-or scenario when it came to using the A15 or A7 groups of cores, but the big.LITTLE MP configuration opens up new possibilites.
While the Octa 5422 occupies the new high end for the lineup, the Exynos 5 Hexa 5260 is a new midrange chip that is the first six core Exynos product. This chip uses an as-yet-unnamed ARM Mali GPU along with six ARM cores. The configuration on this SoC is four low power Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.3GHz paired with two Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. Devices can use all six cores at a time or more selectively. The Hexa 5260 offers up two higher powered cores for single threaded performance along with four power sipping cores for running background tasks and parallel workloads.
The new chips offer up access to more cores for more performance at the cost of higher power draw. While the additional cores may seem like overkill for checking email and surfing the web, the additional power can enable things like onboard voice recognition, machine vision, faster photo filtering and editing, and other parallel-friendly tasks. Notably, the GPU should be able to assist with some of this parallel processing, but GPGPU is still relatively new whereas developers have had much more time to familiarize themselves with and optimize applications for multiple CPU threads. Yes, the increasing number of cores lends itself well to marketing, but that does not preclude them from having real world performance benefits and application possibilities. As such, I'm interested to see what these chips can do and what developers are able to wring out of them.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 26, 2014 - 09:20 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x360, Windows 8.1, tablet, hp, convertible tablet, convertible, Bay Trail
At MWC 2014, HP showed off an interesting convertible laptop similar in form factor to Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The HP X360 is a Bay Trail-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 that brings the 360-degree hinged hybrid laptop/tablet form factor to an affordable $460 price point. The red plastic and brushed aluminum PC is available for purchase now and will begin shipping in early March.
HP's new X360 tablet measures 12.12” x 8.46” x 0.86” and weighs in at a portable 3.08 pounds. It is noticeably larger than other Bay Trail tablets like the ASUS T100 and Dell Venue series, but it also has an integrated keyboard and trackpad attached via a permanently attached double hinge to the 11.6” LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1366x768. The chassis is a glossy red plastic while the keyboard cover and palm rest use a brushed aluminum surface that surrounds a large gesture compatible touchpad and a chiclet-style keyboard that appears to be well spaced for an 11.6” machine (excluding the arrow keys which are bunched up in the bottom-right corner in order to allow full sized shift and enter keys). A silver chassis version is also in the works, but will not be available until later this year.
The HP X360 features external I/O more akin to a traditional laptop than a tablet with the following connectivity options.
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x RJ45 (10/100 Ethernet)
- 1 x headphone/mic combo jack
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x SIM card slot
Internally, the HP X360 uses an Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and a 2 cell Lithium Ion battery rated for up to four and a half hours of use. HP has further packed its tablet with Beats Audio technology. Interestingly, the Pentium N3520 CPU is a quad core chip based on Intel's Bay Trail (Atom) architecture which uses Silvermont cores and Intel HD graphics. The CPU is clocked at 2.166 GHz base and 2.42 GHz Turbo with 2MB of cache.
The X360 can be used as a laptop or a tablet in several configurations by swinging the display around appropriately. It is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga system, though HP is using a slightly different hinge design.
The real advantage of the HP X360 is its price. At a starting price of $389 for the 4GB model, the X360 is much cheaper than the (admittedly more powerful) Yoga alternatives while still being a capable machine for note taking and media consumption. It lies in a middle ground between Bay Trail-powered tablets and Haswell-powered laptops. For an $80 premium over the ASUS T100, users get a more traditional convertible PC with more storage (albeit slower mechanical storage) and a faster clocked processor.
Personally, I'm tempted and have been debating between this and the T100 as a second portable machine to replace my aging Dell XT with comparably abysmal battery life (heh).
You can find more information on the new X360 (HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 PC) on this HP product page.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 26, 2014 - 07:18 PM | Ryan Shrout
Overclocking the memory and GPU clock speeds on an AMD APU can greatly improve gaming performance - it is known. With the new AMD A10-7850K in hand I decided to do a quick test and see how much we could improve average frame rates for mainstream gamers with only some minor tweaking of the motherboard BIOS.
Using some high-end G.Skill RipJaws DDR3-2400 memory, we were able to push memory speeds on the Kaveri APU up to 2400 MHz, a 50% increase over the stock 1600 MHz rate. We also increased the clock speed on the GPU portion of the A10-7850K from 720 MHz to 1028 MHz, a 42% boost. Interestingly, as you'll see in the video below, the memory speed had a MUCH more dramatic impact on our average frame rates in-game.
In the three games we tested for this video, GRID 2, Bioshock Infinite and Battlefield 4, total performance gain ranged from 26% to 38%. Clearly that can make the AMD Kaveri APU an even more potent gaming platform if you are willing to shell out for the high speed memory.
|Stock||GPU OC||Memory OC||Total OC||Avg FPS Change|
|22.4 FPS||23.7 FPS||28.2 FPS||29.1 FPS||+29%|
High + 2xAA
|33.5 FPS||36.3 FPS||41.1 FPS||42.3 FPS||+26%|
|30.1 FPS||30.9 FPS||40.2 FPS||41.8 FPS||+38%|
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2014 - 06:17 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, DirectX, amd
UPDATE (2/27/14): AMD sent over a statement today after seeing our story.
AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle, and AMD is very excited to share the future of our own API with developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference.
Credit over to Scott and his reader at The Tech Report for spotting this interesting news today!!
It appears that DirectX and OpenGL are going to be announcing some changes at next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. According to some information found in the session details, both APIs are trying to steal some of the thunder from AMD's Mantle, recently released with the Battlefield 4 patch. Mantle is na API was built by AMD to enable more direct access (lower level) to its GCN graphics hardware allowing developers to code games that are more efficient, providing better performance for the PC gamer.
From the session titled DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform we find this description (emphasis mine):
For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.
However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.
Come learn our plans to deliver.
Another DirectX session hosted by Microsoft is titled DirectX: Direct3D Futures (emphasis mine):
Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!
In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware.
If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.
Now look at a line from our initial article on AMD Mantle when announced at its Hawaii tech day event:
It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.
This is all sounding very familiar. It would appear that Microsoft has finally been listening to the development community and is working on the performance aspects of DirectX. Likely due in no small part to the push of AMD and Mantle's development, an updated DirectX 12 that includes a similar feature set and similar performance changes would shift the market in a few key ways.
Is it time again for innovation with DirectX?
First and foremost, what does this do for AMD's Mantle in the near or distant future? For now, BF4 will still include Mantle support as will games like Thief (update pending) but going forward, if these DX12 changes are as specific as I am being led to believe, then it would be hard to see anyone really sticking with the AMD-only route. Of course, if DX12 doesn't really address the performance and overhead issues in the same way that Mantle does then all bets are off and we are back to square one.
Interestingly, OpenGL might also be getting into the ring with the session Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL:
Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.
This description seems to indicate more about new or lesser known programming methods that can be used with OpenGL to lower overhead without the need for custom APIs or even DX12. This could be new modules from vendors or possibly a new revision to OpenGL - we'll find out next month.
All of this leaves us with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered when we get to GDC in mid-March. Will this new version of DirectX be enough to reduce API overhead to appease even the stingiest of game developers? How will AMD react to this new competitor to Mantle (or was Mantle really only created to push this process along)? What time frame does Microsoft have on DX12? Does this save NVIDIA from any more pressure to build its own custom API?
Gaming continues to be the driving factor of excitement and innovation for the PC! Stay tuned for an exciting spring!
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