Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Bulldozer to Vishera

 

Bulldozer is the word.  Ok, perhaps it is not “the” word, but it is “a” word.  When AMD let that little codename slip some years back, AMD enthusiasts and tech journalists started to salivate about the possibilities.  Here was a unique and very new architecture that promised excellent single thread performance and outstanding multi-threaded performance all in a package that was easy to swallow and digest.  Probiotics for the PC.  Some could argue that the end product for Bulldozer and probiotics are the same, but I am not overly fond of writing articles containing four letter colorful metaphors.

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The long and short of Bulldozer is that it was a product that was pushed out too fast, it had specifications that were too aggressive for the time, and it never delivered on the promise of the architecture.  Logically there are some very good reasons behind the architecture, but implementing these ideas into a successful product is another story altogether.  The chip was never able to reach the GHz range it was supposed to and stay within reasonable TDP limits.  To get the chip out in a timely manner, timings had to be loosened internally so the chip could even run.  Performance per clock was pretty dismal, and the top end FX-8150 was only marginally faster than the previous top end Phenom II X6 1100T.  In some cases, the X6 was still faster and a more competent “all around” processor.

There really was not a whole lot for AMD to do about the situation.  It had to have a new product, and it just did not turn out as nicely as they had hoped.  The reasons for this are legion, but simply put AMD is competing with a company that is over ten times the size, with the resulting R&D budgets that such a size (and margins) can afford.  Engineers looking for work are a dime a dozen, and Intel can hire as many as they need.  So, instead of respinning Bulldozer ad nauseum and releasing new speed grades throughout the year by tweaking the process and metal layer design, AMD let the product line sit and stagnate at the top end for a year (though they did release higher TDP models based on the dual module FX-4000 and triple module FX-6000 series).  Engineers were pushed into more forward looking projects.  One of these is Vishera.

Click here to read the rest of the Vishera Review!

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Trinity Finally Comes to the Desktop

Trinity.  Where to start?  I find myself asking that question, as the road to this release is somewhat tortuous.  Trinity, as a product code name, came around in early 2011.  The first working silicon was shown that Summer.  The first actual release of product was the mobile part in late Spring of this year.  Throughout the summer notebook designs based on Trinity started to trickle out.  Today we cover the release of the desktop versions of this product.

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AMD has certainly had its ups and downs when it comes to APU releases.  Their first real APU was Zacate, based on the new Bobcat CPU architecture.  This product was an unmitigated success for AMD.  Llano, on the other hand, had a pretty rocky start.  Production and various supply issues caused it to be far less of a success than hoped.  These issues were oddly enough not cleared up until late Spring of this year.  By then mobile Trinity was out and people were looking towards the desktop version of the chip.  AMD saw the situation, and the massive supply of Llano chips that it had, and decided to delay introduction of desktop Trinity until a later date.

To say that expectations for Trinity are high is an understatement.  AMD has been on the ropes for quite a few years in terms of CPU performance.  While the Phenom II series were at least competitive with the Core 2 Duo and Quad chips, they did not match up well against the latest i7/i5/i3 series of parts.  Bulldozer was supposed to erase the processor advantage Intel had, but it came out of the oven as a seemingly half baked part.  Piledriver was designed to succeed Bulldozer, and is supposed to shore up the architecture to make it more competitive.  Piledriver is the basis of Trinity.  Piledriver does sport significant improvements in clockspeed, power consumption, and IPC (instructions per clock).  People are hopeful that Trinity would be able to match the performance of current Ivy Bridge processors from Intel, or at least get close.

So does it match Intel?  In ways, I suppose.  How much better is it than Bulldozer?  That particular answer is actually a bit surprising.  Is it really that much of a step above Llano?  Yet another somewhat surprising answer for that particular question.  Make no mistake, Trinity for desktop is a major launch for AMD, and their continued existence as a CPU manufacturer depends heavily on this part.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Trinity A10 APUs!!

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Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Hardware Specifications

Ahead of the release of Windows 8 and the onslaught of Windows 8-based tablets that will hit the market next month, Intel is taking the cover off the processor that many of these new devices will be powered by, the Intel Atom Z2760 previously known by the codename of Clover Trail.  Intel is claiming that the Atom Z2760 is the beginning of a completely new Atom direction, now a complete SoC (system-on-a-chip) design that lowers power requirements, extends battery life and allows Intel's x86 architecture to find its way into smaller and more portable devices. 

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At it's heart, Clover Trail is based on the same Saltwell CPU core design that was found in the Medfield processor powering a handful of smartphones over in Europe.  That means the Atom lineup remains an in-order architecture with a dual-issue command structure - nothing incredibly revolutionary there. 

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Unlike Medfield though, the Atom Z2760 is a dual-core design that still enables HyperThreading for four-threaded operating system integration.  The cores will run at 1.8 GHz and it includes 1MB of L2 cache divided between the two cores evenly.  Memory is connected through a dual-channel 32-bit bus to low power DDR2 memory running at 800 MHz and capacities up to 2GB. 

Continue reading our information on Intel's Clover Trail Atom Z2760 SoC!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Trinity's GPU Performance

Editor's Note: Right before the release of this story some discussion has been ongoing at other hardware sites about the methods AMD employed with this NDA and release of information.  Essentially, AMD allowed us to write about only the gaming benchmarks and specifications for the Trinity APU, rather than allowing the full gamut of results including CPU tests, power consumption, etc.  Why?  Obviously AMD wants to see a good message be released about their product; by release info in stages they can at least allow a brief window for that.  

Does it suck that they did this?  Yes.  Do I feel like we should have NOT published this because of those circumstances?  Not at all.  Information is information and we felt that getting it to you as soon as possible was beneficial.  Also, because the parts are not on sale today we are not risking adversely affecting your purchasing decision with these limited benchmarks.  When the parts DO go on sale, you will have our full review with all the positives and negatives laid out before you, in the open.  

This kind of stuff happens often in our world - NVIDIA sent out GTX 660 cards but not GTX 650s because of lack luster performance for example - and we balance it and judge it on a case by case basis.  I don't think anyone looking at this story sees a "full review" and would think to make a final decision about ANY product from it.  That's not the goal.  But just as we sometimes show you rumored specs and performance numbers on upcoming parts before the NDAs expire, we did this today with  Trinity - it just so happens it was with AMD's blessing.  

AMD has graciously allowed us the chance to give readers a small glimpse at the performance of the upcoming A series APUs based on the Trinity processor.  Today we are covering the SKUs that will be released, general gaming performance, and what kind of power consumption we are seeing as compared to the previous Llano processor and any Intel processor we can lay hands upon.

Trinity is based on the updated Piledriver architecture, which is an update to Bulldozer.  Piledriver improves upon IPC by a small amount over Bulldozer, but the biggest impact is that of power consumption and higher clockspeeds.  It was pretty well known that Bulldozer did not hit the performance expectations of both AMD and consumers.  Part of this was due to the design pulling more power at the target clockspeeds than was expected.  To remedy this, AMD lowered clockspeeds.  Piledriver fixes most of those power issues, as well as sprinkles some extra efficiency into the design, so that clockspeeds can scale to speeds that will make these products more competitive with current Intel offerings.

 

The Lineup

The top end model that AMD will be offering of the socket FM2 processors (for the time being) is the A10 5800K.  This little number is a dual module/quad core processor running at 3.8 GHz with a turbo speed of 4.2 GHz.  We see below the exact model range of products that AMD will be offering.  This does not include the rumored Athlon II editions that will have a disabled GPU onboard.  Each module features 2 MB of L2 cache, for a total of 4 MB on the processor.  The A10 series does not feature a dedicated L3 cache as the FX processors do.  This particular part is unlocked as well, so expect some decent overclocking right off the bat.

 

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The A10 5800K features the VLIW 4 based graphics portion, which is significantly more efficient than the previous VLIW 5 based unit in Llano (A8 3870K and brethren).  Even though it features the same number of stream processors as the 3870K, AMD is confident that this particular unit is upwards of 20% faster than the previous model.  This GPU portion is running at a brisk 800 MHz.  The GPU core is also unlocked, so expect some significant leaps in that piece of the puzzle as well.

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That is about all I can give out at this time, since this is primarily based on what we see in the diagram and what we have learned from the previous Trinity release (for notebooks).

Click to read the entire post here.

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer:

Apple Produces the new A6 for the iPhone 5

 

Today is the day that world gets introduced to the iPhone 5.  I of course was very curious about what Apple would be bringing to market the year after the death of Steve Jobs.  The excitement leading up to the iPhone announcement was somewhat muted as compared to years past, and a lot of that could be attributed to what has been happening in the Android market.  Companies like Samsung and HTC have released new high end phones that are not only faster and more expansive than previous versions, but they also worked really well and were feature packed.  While the iPhone 5 will be another success for Apple, for those somewhat dispassionate about the cellphone market will likely just shrug and say to themselves, “It looks like Apple caught up for the year, but too bad they really didn’t introduce anything really groundbreaking.”

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If there was one area that many were anxiously awaiting, it was that of the SOC (system on a chip) that Apple would use for the iPhone 5.  Speculation went basically from using a fresh piece of silicon based on the A5X (faster clocks, smaller graphics portion) to having a quad core monster running at high speeds but still sipping power.  It seems that we actually got something in between.  This is not a bad thing, but as we go forward we will likely see that the silicon again only matches what other manufacturers have been using since earlier this year.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Core Philosophy

Ah, IDF – the Intel Developer Forum.  Almost every year–while I sit in slightly uncomfortable chairs and stare at outdated and color washed projector screens–information is passed on about Intel's future architectures, products and technologies.  Last year we learned the final details about Ivy Bridge, and this year we are getting the first details about Haswell, which is the first architecture designed by Intel from the ground up for servers, desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. 

Design Philosophy

While Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge were really derivatives of prior designs and thought processes, the Haswell design is something completely different for the company.  Yes, the microarchitecture of Haswell is still very similar to Sandy Bridge (SNB), but the differences are more philosophical rather than technological. 

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Intel's target is a converged core: a single design that is flexible enough to be utilized in mobility devices like tablets while also scaling to the performance levels required for workstations and servers.  They retain the majority of the architecture design from Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge including the core design as well as the key features that make Intel's parts unique: HyperThreading, Intel Turbo Boost, and the ring interconnect. 

The three pillars that Intel wanted to address with Haswell were performance, modularity, and power innovations.  Each of these has its own key goals including improving performance of legacy code (existing), and having the ability to extract greater parallelism with less coding work for developers. 

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Continue reading our preview of the upcoming Intel Haswell architecture!!

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

HotChips 2012

 

Ah, the end of August.  School is about to start.  American college football is about to get underway.  Hot Chips is now in full swing.  I guess the end of August caters to all sorts of people.  For the people who are most interested in Hot Chips, the amount of information on next generation CPU architectures is something to really look forward to.  AMD is taking this opportunity to give us a few tantalizing bits of information about their next generation Steamroller core which will be introduced with the codenamed “Kaveri” APU due out in 2013.

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AMD is seemingly on the brink of releasing the latest architectural update with Vishera.  This is a Piledriver+ based CPU that will find its way into AM3+ sockets.  On the server side it is expected that the Abu Dhabi processors will also be released in a late September timeframe.  Trinity was the first example of a Piledriver based product, and it showed markedly improved thermals as compared to previous Bulldozer based products, and featured a nice little bump in IPC in both single and multi-threaded applications.  Vishera and Abu Dhabi look to be Piledriver+, which essentially means that there are a few more tweaks in the design that *should* allow it to go faster per clock than Trinity.  There have been a few performance leaks so far, but nothing that has been concrete (or has shown final production-ready silicon).

Until that time when Vishera and its ilk are released, AMD is teasing us with some Steamroller information.  This presentation is featured at Hotchips today (August 28).  It is a very general overview of improvements, but very few details about how AMD is achieving increased performance with this next gen architecture are given.  So with that, I will dive into what information we have.

Click to read the entire article here.

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A selection of parts

AMD is without a doubt going through some very tough times with massive personnel issues as well as some problems with products and profitability.  But that doesn’t mean the current product line from AMD is without merit and that you can’t build a great system for various environments, including those users looking for a mainstream and small form factor gaming and home theater PC. 

While preparing for Quakecon 2012 we needed to build a system to take on the road for some minor editing and presentation control purposes.  We wanted the PC to be small and compact, yet still powerful enough to take on some basic computing and gaming tasks.  I happen to have some AMD Llano APUs in the office and thought they would fit perfectly.

If you are on the hunt for a small PC that can do some modest gaming and serve as an HTPC, then you might find our build here interesting.  And while it isn't nearly as exciting as building a Llano PC while blindfolded - it's pretty close.

Case: Lian-Li PC-Q08B

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Continue reading our AMD Llano APU Build article!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

A slightly lower cost Ivy Bridge

Just a couple of short months ago, Intel released the desktop versions of its latest CPU architecture codenamed Ivy Bridge – and officially named the Intel 3rd Generation Core Processor. Ivy Bridge has a much cleaner sound to it if you ask me.  

At launch, we tested and reviewed the highest-end offering, the Core i7-3770K, a quad-core HyperThreaded part that runs as fast as 3.9 GHz with Turbo Boost. It included the highest end processor graphics Intel has developed – the HD 4000. Currently selling for only $350, the i7-3770K is a fantastic processor, but isn't the bargain that many DIY PC builders are looking for. The new Core i5-3470 from Intel – the processor we are reviewing today – might be just that.

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I am not going to spend time discussing the upgrades and benefits that the new Ivy Bridge processors offer over their predecessors, or the competition, from an architectural stand point. If you want some background on Ivy Bridge and why it does what it does, you'll want to read the first few pages of our original Core i7-3770K / Ivy Bridge review from April

The Core i5-3470 Processor

Interestingly, in the initial information from Intel about the Ivy Bridge processor lineup, the Core i5-3470 wasn't even on the list. There was a 3450 and 3550, but nothing in between. The Core i5-3470 currently sells for about $200 and compares with some other Ivy Bridge processors with the following specifications:

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Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i5-3470 Ivy Bridge and HD 2500 Processor!!

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Manufacturer: NVIDIA

GK110 Specifications

When the Fermi architecture was first discussed in September of 2009 at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference it marked an interesting turn for the company. Not only was NVIDIA releasing details about a GPU that wasn’t going to be available to consumers for another six months, but also that NVIDIA was building GPUs not strictly for gaming anymore – HPC and GPGPU were a defining target of all the company’s resources going forward.

Kepler on the other hand seemed to go back in the other direction with a consumer graphics release in March of this year without discussion of the Tesla / Quadro side of the picture. While the company liked to tout that Kepler was built for gamers I think you’ll find that with the information NVIDIA released today, Kepler was still very much designed to be an HPC powerhouse. More than likely NVIDIA’s release schedules were altered by the very successful launch of AMD’s Tahiti graphics cards under the HD 7900 brand. As a result, gamers got access to GK104 before NVIDIA’s flagship professional conference and the announcement of GK110 – a 7.1 billion transistor GPU aimed squarely at parallel computing workloads.

Kepler GK110

With the Fermi design NVIDIA took a gamble and changed directions with its GPU design betting that it could develop a microprocessor that was primarily intended for the professional markets while still appealing to the gaming markets that have sustained it for the majority of the company’s existence. While the GTX 480 flagship consumer card and the GTX 580 to some degree had overheating and efficiency drawbacks for gaming workloads compared to AMD GPUs, the GTX 680 based on Kepler GK104 has improved on them greatly. NVIDIA has still designed Kepler for high-performance computing though with a focus this time on power efficiency as well as performance though we haven’t seen the true king of this product line until today.

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GK110 Die Shot

Built on the 28nm process technology from TSMC, GK110 is an absolutely MASSIVE chip built on 7.1 billion transistors and though NVIDIA hasn’t given us a die size, it is likely coming close the reticle limit of 550 square millimeters. NVIDIA is proud to call this chip the most ‘architecturally complex’ microprocessor ever built and while impressive, it means there is potential for some issues when it comes to producing a chip of this size. This GPU will be able to offer more than 1 TFlop of double precision computing power with greater than 80% efficiency and 3x the performance per watt of Fermi designs.

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Continue reading our overview of the newly announced NVIDIA Kepler GK110 GPU!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

An update to a great architecture

This article will focus on the new Ivy Bridge, 3rd Generation Core Processor from a desktop perspective.  If you are curious as the performance and features of the Ivy Bridge mobile processors, be sure to check out our Core i7-3720QM ASUS N56VM review here!!

One of the great things about the way Intel works as a company is that we get very few surprises on an annual basis in terms of the technology they release.  With the success of shows like the Intel Developer Forum permitting the release of architectural details months and often years ahead of the actual product, developers, OEMs and the press are able to learn about them over a longer period of time.  As you might imagine, that results in both a much better understanding of the new processor in question and also a much less hurried one.  If only GPU cycles would follow the same path...

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Because of this long-tail release of a CPU, we already know quite a bit about Ivy Bridge, the new 22nm processor architecture from Intel to be rebranded as the 3rd Generation Intel Core Processor Family.  Ivy Bridge is the "tick" that brings a completely new process technology node as we have seen over the last several years but this CPU does more than take the CPU from 32nm to 22nm.  Both the x86 and the processor graphics portions of the die have some changes though the majority fall with the GPU.

Ivy Bridge Architecture

In previous tick-tock scenarios the "tick" results in a jump in process technology (45nm to 32nm, etc) with very little else being done.  This isn't just to keep things organized in slides above but it also keeps Intel's engineers focused on one job at a time - either a new microprocessor architecture OR a new process node; but not both.

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For the x86 portion of Ivy Bridge this plan stays in tract.  The architecture is mostly unchanged from the currently available Sandy Bridge processors including the continuation of a 2-chip platform solution and integrated graphics, memory controller, display engine, PCI Express and LLC along with the IA cores.  

Continue reading our review of the new Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge Processor!!

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

More MHz for the Masses

AMD has had a rough time of it lately when it comes to CPUs. Early last year when we saw the performance of the low power Bobcat architecture, we thought 2011 would be a breakout year for AMD. Bulldozer was on the horizon and it promised performance a step above what Intel could offer. This harkened back to the heady days of the original Athlon and Athlon 64 where AMD held a performance advantage over all of Intel’s parts. On the graphics side AMD had just released the 6000 series of chips, all of which came close in performance to NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture, but had a decided advantage in terms of die size and power consumption. Then the doubts started to roll in around the April timeframe. Whispers hinted that Bulldozer was delayed, and not only was it delayed it was not meeting performance expectations.

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The introduction of the first Llano products did not help things. The “improved” CPU performance was less than expected, even though the GPU portion was class leading. The manufacturing issues we saw with Llano did not bode well for AMD or the upcoming Bulldozer products. GLOBALFOUNDRIES was simply not able to achieve good yields on these new 32 nm products. Then of course the hammer struck. Bulldozer was released, well behind schedule, and with performance that barely rose above that of the previous Phenom II series of chips. The top end FX-8150 was competitive with the previous Phenom II X6 1100T, but it paled in comparison to the Intel i7 2600 which was right around the same price range.

Read the entire review here.

Author:
Manufacturer: Epic Games

The Truth

There are few people in the gaming industry that you simply must pay attention to when they speak.  One of them is John Carmack, founder of id Software and a friend of the site, creator of Doom.  Another is Epic Games' Tim Sweeney, another pioneer in the field of computer graphics that brought us the magic of Unreal before bringing the rest of the gaming industry the Unreal Engine. 

At DICE 2012, a trade show for game developers to demo their wares and learn from each other, Sweeney gave a talk on the future of computing hardware and its future.  (You can see the source of my information and slides here at Gamespot.) Many pundits, media and even developers have brought up the idea that the next console generation that we know is coming will be the last - we will have reached the point in our computing capacity that gamers and designers will be comfortable with the quality and realism provided.  Forever. 

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Think about that a moment; has anything ever appeared so obviously crazy?  Yet, in a world where gaming has seemed to regress into the handheld spaces of iPhone and iPad, many would have you believe that it is indeed the case.  Companies like NVIDIA and AMD that spend billions of dollars developing new high-powered graphics technologies would simply NOT do so anymore and instead focus only on low power.  Actually...that is kind of happening with NVIDIA Tegra and AMD's move to APUs, but both claim that the development of leading graphics technology is what allows them to feed the low end - the sub-$100 graphics cards, SoC for phones and tablets and more.

Sweeney started the discussion by teaching everyone a little about human anatomy. 

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The human eye has been studied quite extensively and the amount of information we know about it would likely surprise.  With 120 million monochrome receptors and 5M color, the eye and brain are able to do what even our most advanced cameras are unable to.

Continue reading our story on the computing needs for visual computing!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

A New Chip for a New Year

When Intel launched the Sandy Bridge-E platform in November, there were three processors listed on the specification sheet.  The Core i7-3960X is the flagship, 6-core processor with the ~$1000 price tag, the Core i7-3930K still had 6-cores but a much lower cost and similar clock speeds and the Core i7-3820 was the only quad-core option and was listed for a Q1 release.  We reviewed the Core i7-3930K in December and found that it offered nearly the same performance as the more expensive unit at about half the price. 

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Today we are getting a preview of the Core i7-3820 that will be released likely in early February and will come with a much more reasonable price tag of $285 to fill out the LGA2011 socket.  The question that we must ask then is can the quad-core Core i7-3820 compete against the currently available quad-core Sandy Bridge parts that fit in the widely available LGA1155 socket?  We not only have to consider performance but also the features of each platform as well as the total cost. 

Same Feature Set, New Die

While most of the features of the Core i7-3820 are going to be identical to those of the previous SNB-E processors we have seen, there are some important differences with this chip.  Let's see what is familiar first.  The Core i7-3820 is based on the Sandy Bridge-E design that works on the LGA2011 socket and the X79 chipset and motherboards currently on the market.  It includes a quad-channel memory controller and 40 lanes of PCI Express that are actually capable of PCIe 3.0 speeds.  HyperThreading is still enabled so you are getting the benefit of being able to run twice as many threads as you have cores. 

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There are some very important changes on this CPU as well though starting with a quad-core design.  This directly pits this Sandy Bridge-E part against the currently existing Sandy Bridge processors running on the Z68/P67 chipset and LGA1155 socket.  Also, the L3 cache on the Core i7-3820 is at 10MB, 5MB less than the Core i7-3960X and 2MB less than the Core i7-3930K.  We are basically talking about a processor that bridges the gap between the original SNB and newer SNB-E parts and it creates some interesting battles and comparisons. 

Continue reading our review of the Core i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E CPU!!!

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Speed Bumps and Unlocked Processors

AMD has announced the latest members of their fairly successful APU series for both the desktop and the mobile markets.  The original release in June of this year saw the first fully integrated 32 nm APUs from AMD.  These proved to be quite popular with their decent CPU performance and outstanding integrated graphics speed and quality.  The launch was not entirely smooth for AMD though, even though the company had been shipping products to partners and OEMs for some months.

The desktop saw limited SKUs, and the availability of the top end parts was disappointing to say the least.  AMD and their partners at GLOBALFOUNDRIES were not able to produce enough usable chips to supply demand.  Quantities were tight throughout the summer, and the mobile market did not see as big of a boost for AMD as was hoped.  AMD did get a lot of new business though, as the thermal and power envelopes of these A-series chips were able to match that of Intel.

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Continue reading our analysis of the new AMD APU releases, both notebook and desktop!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

The Low Cost Sandy Bridge-E

In the conclusion to my original story looking at the performance characteristics of the Sandy Bridge-E platform, I wrote this:

I am most interested in the Core i7-3930K (as I think most of you will be), but we are going to have to wait a bit to see if we can get performance and power results for that part.

Well good readers, I am here with that information!  After getting my hands on the Core i7-3930K processor that makes up the other 50% of the available options for the X79 chipset motherboards, I can definitively say that THIS is the processor you want.  Unless you are crazy-go-nuts rich.  

With a clock speed only about 2.5% lower than its bigger brother yet a price that is 44% lower, the LGA2011 socket definitely has its enthusiast favorite. 

The Sandy Bridge-E Summary

I am not going to bother reprinting everything that we discussed about the new Sandy Bridge-E processor architecture, the X79 chipset and platform changes here though if you haven't read about them before today, you should definitely take a look at my earlier article

Here is a quicker summary:

The answer might surprise you, but truthfully not a whole lot has changed.  In fact, from a purely architectural stand point (when looking at the x86 processor cores), Sandy Bridge-E looks essentially identical to the cores found in currently available Sandy Bridge CPUs.  You will see the same benefits of the additional AVX instruction set in applications that take advantage of it, a shared L3 cache that exists between all of the cores for data coherency and the ring bus introduced with Sandy Bridge is still there to move data between the cores, cache and uncore sections of the die.

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Turbo Boost technology makes a return here as well with the updated 2.0 version in full effect - there are more steppings in scalability on this part than on the Nehalem or Westmere CPUs. 

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i7-3930K Sandy Bridge-E processor!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Sandy Bridge-E is just what you expect

Introduction

It has been more than three years since Intel released the first Core i7 processor built around the Nehalem CPU architecture along with the X58 chipset.  It quickly became the platform of choice for the enthusiast market (gamers and overclockers), and remained in that role even as the world of processors evolved around it with the release of Westmere and Sandy Bridge.  Yes, we have been big supporters of the Sandy Bridge Core i7 parts for some time as the "new" platform of choice for gamers, but part of us always fondly remembered the days of Nehalem and X58. 

Well, Intel shared the sentimentl and this holiday they are officially unveiling the Sandy Bridge-E platform and the X79 chipset.  The "E" stands for enthusiast in this case and you'll find that many of the same decisions and patterns apply from the Nehalem release to this one.  Nehalem and X58 was really meant as a workstation design but the performance and features were so good that Intel wanted to offer it to the high-end consumer as well. Sandy Bridge-E is the same thing - this design is clearly built for the high-profit areas of computing including workstation and servers but those that want the best available technology will find it pretty damn attractive as well. 

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But what actually makes a Sandy Bridge-E processor (now going with the Core i7-3xxx model naming scheme) different from the Sandy Bridge CPUs we have come to love since it was released in January of this year?

The Sandy Bridge-E Architecture

The answer might surprise you, but truthfully not a whole lot has changed.  In fact, from a purely architectural stand point (when looking at the x86 processor cores), Sandy Bridge-E looks essentially identical to the cores found in currently available Sandy Bridge CPUs.  You will see the same benefits of the additional AVX instruction set in applications that take advantage of it, a shared L3 cache that exists between all of the cores for data coherency and the ring bus introduced with Sandy Bridge is still there to move data between the cores, cache and uncore sections of the die.

Click here to continue reading our review of the new Sandy Bridge-E processor, the Core i7-3960X!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Bulldozer Architecture

Introduction

Bulldozer.  Since its initial unveiling and placement on the roadmap many have called the Bulldozer architecture the savior of AMD, the processor that would finally turn the tide back against Intel and its dominance in the performance desktop market.  After quite literally YEARS of waiting we have finally gotten our hands on the Bulldozer processors, now called the AMD FX series of CPUs, and can report on our performance and benchmarking of the platform.

With all of the leaks surrounding the FX processor launch you might be surprised by quite a bit of our findings - both on the positive and the negative side of things.  With all of the news in the past weeks about Bulldozer, now we can finally give you the REAL information.

Before we dive right into the performance part of our story I think it is important to revisit the Bulldozer architecture and describe what makes it different than the Phenom II architecutre as well as Intel's Sandy Bridge design.  Josh wrote up a great look at the architecture earlier in the year with information that is still 100% pertinent and we recount much of that writing here.  If you are comfortable with the architeture design points, then feel free to skip ahead to the sections you are more interested in - but I recommend highly you give the data below a look first. 

The below text was taken from Bulldozer at ISSCC 2011 - The Future of AMD Processors.

Bulldozer Architecture Revisited

Bulldozer brings very little from the previous generation of CPUs, except perhaps the experience of the engineers working on these designs.  Since the original Athlon, the basic floor plan of the CPU architecture AMD has used is relatively unchanged.  Certainly there were significant changes throughout the years to keep up in performance, but the 10,000 foot view of the actual decode, integer, and floating point units were very similar throughout the years.  TLB’s increasing in size, more instructions in flight, etc. were all tweaked and improved upon.  Aspects such as larger L2 caches, integrated memory controllers, and the addition of a shared L3 cache have all brought improvements to the architecture.  But the overall data flow is very similar to that of the original Athlon introduced 14 years ago.

As covered in our previous article about Bulldozer, it is a modular design which will come in several flavors depending on the market it is addressing.  The basic building block of the Bulldozer core is a 213 million transistor unit which features 2 MB of L2 cache.  This block contains the fetch and decode unit, two integer execution units, a shared 2 x 128 bit floating point/SIMD unit, L1 data and instruction caches, and a large shared L2 unit.  All of this is manufactured on GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 32nm, 11 metal layer SOI process.  This entire unit, plus 2 MB of L2 cache, is contained in approximately 30.9 mm squared of die space.

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Continue reading our review of the AMD FX Processor (codenamed Bulldozer)!!

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Manufacturer: id Software

RAGE Peforms...well

RAGE is not as dependant on your graphics hardware as it is on your CPU and storage system (which may be an industry first); the reason for which we will discover when talking about the texture pop-up issue on the next page.

Introduction

The first id Software designed game since the release of Doom 3 in August of 2004, RAGE has a lot riding on it.  Not only is this the introduction of the idTech 5 game engine but also culminates more than 4 years of development and the first new IP from the developer since the creation of Quake.  And since the first discussions and demonstrations of Carmack's new MegaTexture technology, gamers have been expecting a lot as well. 

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Would this game be impressive enough on the visuals to warrant all the delays we have seen?  Would it push today's GPUs in a way that few games are capable of?  It looks like we have answers to both of those questions and you might be a bit disappointed.  

Performance Characteristics

First, let's get to the heart of the performance question: will your hardware play RAGE?  Chances are, very much so.  I ran through some tests of RAGE on a variety of hardware including the GeForce GTX 580, 560 Ti, 460 1GB and the Radeon HD 6970, HD 6950, HD 6870 and HD 5850.  The test bed included an Intel Core i7-965 Nehalem CPU, 6GB of DDR3-1333 memory running off of a 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive.  Here are the results from our performance tests running at 1920x1080 resolution with 4x AA enabled in the game options:

Continue reading our initial look at RAGE performance and image quality!!

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Manufacturer: PC Perspective

The Basics

Introduction

If you have been visiting PC Perspective at all over the last week there is no doubt you have seen a lot of discussion about the currently running Battlefield 3 beta.  We posted an article looking at performance of several different GPUs in the game and then followed it up with a look at older cards like the GeForce 9800 GT.  We did a live stream of some PC Perspective staff playing BF3 with readers and fans, showed off and tested the locked Caspian Border map and even looked at multi-GPU scaling performance.  It was a lot of testing and a lot of time, but now that we have completed it, we are ready to summarize our findings in a piece that many have been clamoring for - a Battlefield 3 system build guide.

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The purpose of this article is simple: gather our many hours or testing and research and present the results in a way that simply says "here is the hardware we recommend."  It is a the exact same philosophy that makes our PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard so successful as it gives the reader all the information they need, all in one place.

Continue reading our guide for building a system for Battlefield 3!!