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Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 04:08 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sandisk, sdxc, sdhc, sd card, 512GB
Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.
It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.
The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.
Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 03:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: gta5 gta online, delayed, delay, consolitis
We finally got the release date for Grand Theft Auto V PC... and it's delayed. But Scott, how can it be delayed if we just now have a firm date? Well, apart from Rockstar claiming that it will be available in the Autumn of 2014, which January 27th, 2015 is not, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will be arriving on November 18th, 2014 (which is technically before December 21st). To this I say...
... I hear it's lovely in the winter...
... meh. It's fine. Unless something comes up, or I find out that the port is awful and broken, I will still buy it. As always, delaying the release of your game risks potential customers growing disinterested in the product. Perhaps they had the plot spoiled by a friend or a Let's Play. Alternatively, perhaps they gained interest in it because of a friend or a Let's Play before it was available for their platform, and forgot about it before it could be purchased.
Hopefully the extra time is put to good use.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor
A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.
Image Credit: Liliputing
Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.
What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 01:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: fanless, passive cooling, noctua, NH-D15
Sure, humans may disagree that 67C (153F) is cool, but it is for a semiconductor. More impressive, it was the temperature recorded on a CPU with a 150W TDP attached to a fanless Noctua NH-D15. Does that mean it was noiseless? Nope. The test kept each of the case fans maxed out at 12V input DC (100%).
This, without the fans.
Hardwareluxx does not specify how much air gets blown across the passive cooler. Their claim is that the case fans just ensure that the ambient temperature is as low as possible. That seems fair, but I could also, for instance, blow cool air through a 3-inch drier hose attached to a bathroom suction fan stuck out the window. That would certainly keep passive coolers chilled while only being technically fanless.
Theoretically, of course. I'm not saying it's something I did in high school or anything...
Depending on how long of a hose is used, it could even be noise in a different location (rather than case fans in the same PC). Still, cooling 150W is a feat in itself. Then again, with over two pounds of heat fins, it makes sense.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 01:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: apple, apple a8, SoC, iphone 6, iphone 6 plus
So one of the first benchmarks for Apple's A8 SoC has been published to Rightware, and it is not very different from its predecessor. The Apple A7 GPU of last year's iPhone 5S received a score of 20,253.80 on the Basemark X synthetic benchmark. The updated Apple A8 GPU, found on the iPhone 6, saw a 4.7% increase, to 21204.26, on the same test.
Again, this is a synthetic benchmark and not necessarily representative of real-world performance. To me, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the GPU is identical, and the increase corresponds mostly to the increase in CPU performance. That said, it still does not explain the lack of increase that we see, despite Apple's switch to TSMC's 20nm process. Perhaps it matters more in power consumption and non-gaming performance? That does not align well with their 20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU claims...
Speaking of gaming performance, iOS 8 introduces the Metal API, which is Apple's response to Mantle, DirectX 12, and OpenGL Next Initiative. Maybe that boost will give Apple a pass for a generation? Perhaps we will see the two GPUs (A7 and A8) start to diverge in the Metal API? We shall see when more benchmarks and reviews get published.
Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 02:39 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, WCS, blizzard, blizzcon, esports
The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.
The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.
The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.
WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 10:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 9, windows, threshold, microsoft, leaked build, leak
Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT
A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.
Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.
Image Credit: Computerbase.de
There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).
Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 11, 2014 - 07:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: quad sli, quad crossfire, nvidia, amd
Psst. AMD fans. Don't tell "Team Green" but Linus decided to take four R9 290X graphics cards and configure them in Quad Crossfire formation. They did not seem to have too much difficulty setting it up, although they did have trouble with throttling and setting up Crossfire profiles. When they finally were able to test it, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 14979.
Psst. NVIDIA fans. Don't tell "Team Red" but Linus decided to take four GeForce Titan Black graphics cards and configure them in Quad SLI formation. He had a bit of a difficult time setting up the machine at first, requiring a reshuffle of the cards (how would reordering PCIe slots for identical cards do anything?) and a few driver crashes, but it worked. Eventually, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of around 13,300 (give or take a couple hundred).
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 06:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 210, snapdragon, LTE, cheap tablet
The Snapdragon 210 was recently announced by Qualcomm to be an SoC for cheap, sub-$100 tablets and mobile phones. With it, the company aims to bring LTE connectivity to that market segment, including Dual SIM support. It will be manufactured on the 28nm process, with up to four ARM CPU cores and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.
According to Qualcomm, the SoC can decode 1080p video. It will also be able to manage cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution, including HDR, autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. Let's be honest, you will not really get much more than that for a sub-$100 device.
The Snapdragon 210 has been given Quick Charge 2.0, normally reserved for the 400-line and up, refill the battery quickly when connected to a Quick Charge 2.0-supporting charger (ex: the Motorola Turbo Charger). Quick Charge 1.0 worked by optimizing how energy was delivered to the battery through a specification. Quick Charge 2.0 does the same, just with 60 watts of power (!!). For reference, the USB standard defines 2.5W, which is 5V at 0.5A, although the specification is regularly extended to 5 or 10 watts.
Devices featuring the Snapdragon 210 are expected for the first half of 2015.
Subject: Motherboards | September 11, 2014 - 04:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: magic smoke, linux, Intel X99, MSI X99S SLI Plus
It is inevitable that one will eventually come across hardware with a defect, either a flaw during its manufacture or because of shipping or user damage and when you do reviews the increased sample size pits the odds against you. This is why Phoronix has not been able to publish results of the i7 5960X on an MSI X99S SLI Plus motherboard as magic smoke was released upon initial boot up. The board has been RMA'd to NewEgg and MSI has contacted Phoronix directly to let them know they will be sending it off for analysis; a new motherboard and review should be up shortly. It just goes to show you that this sort of thing can happen to anyone but if you keep your temper in check all it is is a small hurdle not a huge obstruction and you will get to where you wanted to go eventually. Similar events involving mysterious smells and old UPSes have never occurred here at PC Perspective; especially not today.
I feel fine!
"This weekend I was planning to publish the first Linux benchmarks for Intel's incredibly powerful Core i7 5960X Haswell-E processor with X99 motherboard and DDR4 system memory. Unfortunately, all I can tell you now is that it's smoking, quite literally!"
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASUS Rampage V Extreme @ eTeknix
- Gigabyte GA-X99-SOC Force LN2 Motherboard w/ Special LGA2011-v3 CPU Socket @ Legit Reviews
- MSI X99S XPOWER AC @ eTeknix
- Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI Mini-ITX @ benchmark Reviews
- Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5 @ eTeknix
- ASUS Z97 Sabertooth MARK1 Motherboard Review @HiTech Legion
- ASRock D1800M Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 04:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: firefox, mozilla, web browser, web development
Remote Debugging for Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is available in early development on Firefox Nightly with an optional extension.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 03:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, corsair, logitech, Mad Catz, razer, roccat, steelseries, gaming mouse, keyboard, round up
The end of summer brings more than just pretty coloured leaves, you can also expect to see round ups of products released this year. The Register has put together an article looking at the best mice and keyboards for gamers which are currently available. In most cases they pair a keyboard and mouse from the same company so that your desk will look impressive with matching peripherals. It is not just about the aesthetics though, they also provide you with an overview of what features make each pairing unique and the features that should intrigue you. Check it out right here.
"In the case of the keyboards and mice I’m reviewing, it might be difficult to put forward a convincing argument that they are to blame, as they are all developed to make the very best of my gaming talents, but often this comes at a preposterous price."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- CM Storm Mizar, TteSports Saphira and Balista MK-1 Head-to-Head Mouse Review @ eTeknix
- GAMDIAS ZEUS Laser Gaming Mouse Review @ NikKTech
- Cougar 700M Mouse @ HardwareHeaven
- Zowie FK1 Gaming Mouse @ eTeknix
- Tt eSPORTS THERON Gaming Mouse Review @ Legit Reviews
- EVGA TORQ X10 Carbon Gaming Mouse Review @ Hardware Asylum
- ROCCAT Kone XTD Gaming Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
- Aorus Thunder M7 Mouse @ HardwareHeaven
- Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ TechwareLabs
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 03:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mojang ab, Minecraft, microsoft, consolitis
First and foremost, I would like to remind everyone of the Twitch.tv and Google acquisition rumors. Things are not done until they are done and it could be significantly more complicated than it appears on the surface. And yes, I am speaking from the position of someone who was bitten and wrote a news post on the subject.
Regardless, discussion has been circulating that Mojang AB, creators of Minecraft, were in talks to sell their company to Microsoft for $2 billion dollars. First, this tells us that randomly generated diamond and gold is worth a fortune; second, it tells us that Mojang, like Oculus, is twice the company that Instagram was. I guess all it took was those OpenGL filter effects.
Joking aside, two billion dollars is a significant chunk of money, about a third of Computing and Gaming Hardware's annual revenue. Minecraft is definitely a valuable asset, especially with the licensed media and merchandise, and would be a good addition to a publisher's portfolio (along with their employees if convinced to stay on). It is not entirely without basis, either. Competing publisher, Activision-Blizzard, allegedly planned to spend $500 million on Destiny, although Bungie denies that, which Activision claims is the cost of launching a new franchise nowadays.
The most interesting part of the rumor, to me, is the Bloomberg report which claims that Notch initiated the discussions. He was quite outspoken against Microsoft for a while, especially with the licensing requirements for Windows Store. Apparently, current head of Microsoft's Computing and Gaming Hardware division, Phil Spencer, is friends with Notch and has been visiting him and Mojang AB.
But until something official is announced, this is all speculation. That said, Notch has been particularly quiet about the topic on Twitter. To me, that strongly suggests that something is up.
Podcast #317 - ASUS X99 Deluxe Review, Core M Performance, 18 Core Xeons and much more news from IDF!
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 02:30 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, asus, X99, X99 Deluxe, Intel, core m, xeon e5-2600 v3, idf, idf 2014, fortville, 40GigE, dell, 5k, nvidia, GM204, maxwell
PC Perspective Podcast #317 - 09/11/2014
Join us this week as we discuss our ASUS X99 Deluxe Review, Core M Performance, 18 Core Xeons and much more news from IDF!
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: Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Tietelman
Program length: 1:33:48
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
1:15:50 NVIDIA GM204 info is leaking
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Allyn: Read our IDF news!
Subject: Motherboards | September 11, 2014 - 01:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Z10PE-D8 WS, C612, asus
Finally some new dual socketed goodness from Intel that can be used by prosperous enthusiasts. For those who can afford the pair of Xeon E5-2600 V3 CPUs required to run a dual CPU system you can have 4 PCIe 16x slots running at full speed and compatible with both SLI and CrossFire. The motherboard is more optimized for heavy productivity workloads such as graphics rendering but that is no reason not to use it to build the biggest and baddest gaming machine on the planet!
Fremont, CA (10th September, 2014) - ASUS today announced the Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard based on the Intel C612 chipset and with dual processor sockets ready for the latest Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product families.
The new Server System Infrastructure Enterprise Electronics Bay (SSI EEB) motherboards have superb storage support, including the ASUS PIKE II (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) card and support for PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0 x4 M.2 (Next-Generation Form Factor, or NGFF). They benefit also from the ASUS Q-Code Logger for one-touch easy maintenance and a Dr. Power LED lamp to clearly indicate unusual power status.
Ultimate PCI Express 3.0 multi-GPU power
The Z10PE-D8 WS is equipped to provide the ultimate workstation graphics power, with support for up to four dual-slot graphics cards. Both 4-Way NVIDIA GeForce SLI and AMD CrossFireX are supported, so it is an excellent choice for professionals who depend on powerful graphics in areas such as design, modeling and medical research, as well as processing-intensive simulation and rendering applications.
With a total of seven PCIe 3.0 slots, the Z10PE-D8 WS offers ample room for RAID cards, PCI Express-based solid-state drives (SSDs), video-capture cards and other high-speed components.
Premium components for premium power efficiency
Z10PE-D8 WS benefits from premium components hand-chosen and carefully arranged by ASUS engineers to provide optimum power efficiency. These include integrated Driver-MOSFETs (Dr. MOS) to save space and reduce operating temperatures for more efficient operation, and ASUS-exclusive Beat Thermal Chokes II. The new Beat Thermal Chokes II design delivers up to 94% power efficiency and lower temperatures under normal operation.
ASUS is the world’s first server manufacturer to introduce 12K solid capacitors — the Z10PE-D8 WS has these ultra-resilient components on board. These Japanese-made capacitors are able to withstand up to 12,000 hours of temperatures as high as 105°C, far exceeding everyday demands. And at a typical operating temperature of 65°C, our 12K capacitors have an expected lifespan of 1.2m hours — or well over a century.
The Z10PE-D8 WS also employs ProCool power connectors. The ProCool design eliminates hollow areas associated with traditional power connectors, ensuring a close and secure connection with the PSU power connector pins. The flush connection enables lower impedance and better heat dissipation – helping to prevent connector burnouts.
Flexible fan speed control, flexible storage and easy maintenance
The new Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard offers flexible fan-speed controls, which can be managed manually or automatically. In automatic mode, the fan speeds are adjusted according to the processor temperature. In manual mode, the administrator can set a fan curve according to cooling requirements.
The new Z10PE-D8 WS motherboard offers industry-leading storage flexibility, with a built-in M.2 connector supporting PCIe 3.0 x4 2260 (60mm), 2280 (80mm) and 22110 (110mm) devices, and support for the ASUS PIKE II (Proprietary I/O Kit Expansion) card for high-reliability, enterprise-grade 12Gbit/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) devices.
The motherboard also benefits from ASUS Q-Code Logger, an easy-maintenance button that records four-digit port 80 code logs to a flash drive with one touch, so administrators can diagnose problems quickly and easily. Similarly, the conveniently-located Dr. Power LED displays messages to clearly indicate a power fault.
AVAILABILITY & PRICING
The Z10PE-D8 WS is priced at $599 and will be available soon at ASUS authorized resellers and distributors.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 01:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: idf 2014, western digital, hgst, Intel, dell
The Tech Report have been busy scribing up the various announcements and product releases that Intel and others are revealing at this years IDF. The HDD is staying alive by offering larger capacities than were available previously, from Western Digital's 6.3 TB archival model to HGST's 10TB helium filled monster with a 3.2TB SSD also available for frequently accessed data. From Intel comes information on Skylake systems and their wireless charging to the first benchmarks we've seen for Core M ultraportables. Also present were Dell, which allowed TR some hands on time with their Venue 8 7000 and of course a small announcement from that other company.
"Somewhat surprisingly, the initial model's capacity is listed as 6.x TB. The Ae is based on an "innovative Progressive Capacity model" that allows WD to increase the capacity of shipping drives as yields improve and the company gets better at squeezing more data onto the platters. The gains will be small—capacities of 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 TB are listed as examples—but WD says the folks who need drives like these are hungry for even incremental improvements."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The TR Podcast 161: Haswell extremes, FX redux, and Tonga devil magic
- Intel demos Skylake silicon; production expected in 2H 2015 @ The Tech Report
- IDF: Intel announces A-Wear to push big data apps via Internet of Things @ The Inquirer
- Whopping 10TB disks spin out of HGST – plus 3.2TB flash slabs @ The Register
- Intel Publishes Initial Skylake Linux Graphics Support @ Phoronix
- Intel Core M 5Y70 Broadwell-Y Benchmarked At IDF 2014 @ Legit Reviews
- Use home networking kit? DDoS bot is BACK... and it has EVOLVED @ The Register
- Quanta lands half of Acer notebook orders for 2015 @ DigiTimes
- Robotic Arm Control from the BeagleBone Black @ Linux.com
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 02:27 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: twitch, Indiegogo, charity
So WillFerrellHatesCancer.org redirects to an Indiegogo page where he is raising money to fight cancer. Will Ferrell is doing so in partner with Twitch.TV. In fact, the former Saturday Night Live star will be at Twitch's San Francisco for a live-streamed event, where he will game for two hours with a randomly chosen donor ($10 minimum). Proceeds will go to Cancer for College and DonateGames.org.
The campaign started Wednesday and will go until October 12th at 23:59 PDT. It is Flexible Funding, but will only occur if they meet their goal of $375,000. Then again, the money goes toward college scholarships for cancer survivors and a charity which sells video games and accessories to fund cancer research or gives them to children and families who are affected by cancer.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 04:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, smartwatch, zenwatch
The ASUS ZenWatch is their "first wearable device produced in partnership with Google". It is a smart watch from the Android Wear platform. It has a curved glass display of unknown resolution, a leather strap, and a "quick-release clasp". It ships with numerous faces... because it's software and it is basically free after you pay the designer, especially with the price of storage these days. It requires a phone with Android 4.3 or later.
ASUS has customized the user interface with their ZenUI. Its main usability features either interact with your phone or track your fitness activity. It acts as a pedometer, calorie counter, heart rate monitor, and fitness goal tracker. Each of these are integrated around their ZenUI.
ASUS has not publicly announced pricing or availability. According to VR-Zone, ASUS representatives state "under $200". This is significantly less than Apple's "starting at $349".
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 03:59 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sdk, logitech g, logitech, arx control
The Arx platform is created by Logitech G to deliver "second screen experience" to PC gamers through their iOS or Android devices. Arx Control will have the ability to adjust your mouse DPI, rebind macros, and see the status of their gaming machine. Logitech did not specify the system information that would be given by app, but it does not matter in the end because they are releasing an SDK for it.
The Arx Control SDK, along with the LED Illumination SDK and the G-Key Macro SDK, will allow game and application developers to interact with "Logitech G" devices and the Arx Control app. This could range from providing ammo meters and timers, to offers of in-app purchases. That last point is clearly aimed more at developers than customers because that sounds really scary to me. Then again, it can be done correctly -- such as Team Fortress 2, in my opinion.
What could be cool is if a friend, watching you play, could contribute to the gameplay in some way. Then again, if a developer wanted to put that much effort, they could probably create a mobile web app. This is probably more useful for small things, like the aforementioned ammo and health status indicators, that would otherwise not be worth a developer's effort, without Logitech's platform.
The Logitech G Arx Control SDK is available now for free and the Arx Control App will be available soon on the iOS App Store and Google Play.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2014 - 03:34 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: TSV, Through Silicon Via, memory, idf 2014, idf
If you're a general computer user, you might have never heard the term "Through Silicon Via". If you geek out on photos of chip dies and wafers, and how chips are assembled and packaged, you might have heard about it. Regardless of your current knowledge of TSV, it's about to be a thing that impacts all of you in the near future.
Let's go into a bit of background first. We're going to talk about how chips are packaged. Micron has an excellent video on the process here:
The part we are going to focus on appears at 1:31 in the above video:
This is how chip dies are currently connected to the outside world. The dies are stacked (four high in the above pic) and a machine has to individually wire them to a substrate, which in turn communicates with the rest of the system. As you might imagine, things get more complex with this process as you stack more and more dies on top of each other:
16 layer die stack, pic courtesy NovaChips
...so we have these microchips with extremely small features, but to connect them we are limited to a relatively bulky process (called package-on-package). Stacking these flat planes of storage is a tricky thing to do, and one would naturally want to limit how many of those wires you need to connect. The catch is that those wires also equate to available throughput from the device (i.e. one wire per bit of a data bus). So, just how can we improve this method and increase data bus widths, throughput, etc?
Before I answer that, let me lead up to it by showing how flash memory has just taken a leap in performance. Samsung has recently made the jump to VNAND:
By stacking flash memory cells vertically within a die, Samsung was able to make many advances in flash memory, simply because they had more room within each die. Because of the complexity of the process, they also had to revert back to an older (larger) feature size. That compromise meant that the capacity of each die is similar to current 2D NAND tech, but the bonus is speed, longevity, and power reduction advantages by using this new process.
I showed you the VNAND example because it bears a striking resemblance to what is now happening in the area of die stacking and packaging. Imagine if you could stack dies by punching holes straight through them and making the connections directly through the bottom of each die. As it turns out, that's actually a thing: