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AMD Gets the Direct CU Treatment
In the previous roundup I covered the DirectCU II models from Asus featuring NVIDIA based chips. These boards included the GTX 580, 570, and 560 products. All of these were DirectCU II based with all the updated features that are included as compared to the original DirectCU products. With the AMD parts Asus has split the top four products into two categories; DirectCU II and the original DirectCU. When we start looking at thermal properties and price points, we will see why Asus took this route.
AMD has had a strong couple of years with their graphics chips. While they were not able to take the single GPU performance crown in this previous generation, their products were very capable and competitive across the board and at every price point. In fact, there are some features that these cards have at particular price points that make them very desirable in quite a few applications. In particular are the 2 GB of memory on the HD 6900 series cards where the competition from NVIDIA at those price points features 1 GB and 1.25 GB. In titles such as Skyrim, with the HD texture DLC enabled, these cards start to limit performance at 1920x1080 and above due to the memory requirements needed for these higher resolution textures.
Introduction and Features
SilverStone has a long-standing reputation among PC enthusiasts for providing a full line of high quality enclosures, power supplies, cooling components, and accessories. In 2006, SilverStone introduced the Temjin TJ08, an impressive Micro-ATX tower case with dual 120mm cooling fans. It helped pioneer the idea of large tower cooling performance in a small package. Today, improved technology and the latest designs have enabled SilverStone engineers to create another innovative small tower case in the TJ08-Evolution with even better cooling performance than the original. The SilverStone TJ08-E is a premium enclosure designed specifically for SFF motherboards and features a beautiful black anodized aluminum front panel, excellent cooling performance, removable sides, top, and motherboard tray, and it packs a lot of storage capacity into a small tower chassis.
(Courtesy of SilverStone)
To improve cooling performance, a SilverStone "Air Penetrator" 180mm fan has been installed behind the front panel to create a virtual airflow tunnel through the chassis with positive air pressure. This is a two-speed fan with a small, easily accessible speed selector switch mounted around on the side of the front I/O panel. SilverStone claims that by designing the TJ08-E with the positive air pressure concept, it enables better cooling performance than traditional chassis but also helps to prevent dust from penetrating into the chassis by use of a large, easily accessible filter on the intake fan and forcing air out of the chassis through unfiltered openings. A standard ATX power supply can be installed in a dedicated compartment, which features a top mounted air intake grill covered by a magnetic dust filter.
A paper, titled “The Bleak Future of NAND Flash Memory” was recently jointly published by the University of California and Microsoft Research. It has been picked up by many media outlets who all seem to be beating the same morbid drum, spinning tales of a seemingly apocalyptic end to the reign of flash-based storage devices. While I agree with some of what these authors have to say, I have reservations about the methods upon which the paper is based.
TLC and beyond?
The paper kicks off by declaring steep increases in latency and drops in lifetime associated with increases in bits-per-cell. While this is true, flash memory manufacturers are not making large pushes to increase bits-per-cell beyond the standard MLC (2 bits per cell) tech. Sure some have dabbled in 3-bit MLC, also called Triple Level Cell (TLC) which is a bit of a misnomer since storing three bits in a cell actually requires eight voltage level bands, not three as the name implies. Moving from SLC to MLC doubles density, but the diminishing returns increase sharply after that – MLC to TLC only increases capacity by a another 1.5x, but sees a 2-4x reduction in performance and endurance. In light of this, there is little demand for TLC flash, and where there is, it’s clear by the usage cases that it is not meant for anything beyond light usage. There's nothing wrong with the paper going down this road, but the reality is that increasing bits per cell is not the envelope being pushed by the flash memory industry.
Wait a second – where is 25nm MLC?
Looking at the above we see a glaring omission – 25nm MLC flash, which has been around for close to two years now, and constitutes the majority of shipping flash memory parts currently in production. SLC was also omitted, but I can see the reason for this – it’s hard to get your hands on 25nm SLC these days. Why? Because MLC technology has been improved upon to the point where ‘enterprise MLC’ (eMLC) is rapidly replacing SLC even despite the supposed reduction in reliability and endurance over SLC. The reasons for this are simple, and are completely sidestepped or otherwise overlooked by the paper:
- SSD controllers employ write combination and wear leveling techniques.
- Some controllers even compress data on-the-fly as to further reduce writes and provisioning.
- Controller-level Error Correction (ECC) has improved dramatically with each process shrink.
- SSD controllers can be programmed to compensate for the drift of data stored in a cell (eMLC).
Introduction, Design, User Interface
As you may already know from my ultrabook editorial, I’m not entirely sold on them. There are disadvantages to being thin.
And as if to remind me of it, a Lenovo ThinkPad T420 suddenly appeared at my doorstep. Okay, that’s exaggerating a bit - I did know it was coming - but the timing of receiving an old-school laptop couldn't have been better. Not only because I wanted to take a closer look at a laptop purposely designed to not be thin, but also because we haven’t had a ThinkPad T series for review in, well, forever.
This is a return to form for me. I owned several ThinkPads during my late teens, my college days, and the years just after college. My favorite was a T42 with a 14-inch display.
Of course, laptops have come a long way since then. The ThinkPad T420 we received for review is a good example of a mid-range model. Let’s look at the hardware specifications.
According to Lenovo’s website, this configuration is the second pre-configured option available. It can be had for about $1000 after an eCoupon provided by Lenovo. All of the features above are standard, even the 1600x900 display and Nvidia graphics. They are standard only for this model, however - some less powerful versions are available at lower prices.
The only option that came with our review unit was a 9-cell battery, which will set you back $50. We received both the 6-cell and the 9-cell batteries, so we will be testing the laptop’s battery life with both.
MSI's Alex Chang Speaks Up
MSI was founded in 1986 and started producing motherboards and video cards for the quickly growing PC market. Throughout the life of the company they have further diversified their offerings to include barebones systems, notebooks, networking/communication devices, and industrial products. While MSI has a nice base of products, they are still primarily a motherboard and video card company. In the past 10 years MSI has become one of the top brands in North America for video cards, and they have taken a very aggressive approach to design with these products.
I had the chance to send MSI quite a few questions concerning their video card business and how they develop their products.
What is your name, title, and how long have you worked at MSI?
My name is Bob, and I’m…. actually, I’m just Alex Chang. I’m the Associate Marketing Manager. I’ve been with the company for 2 years.
Typically how long does it take from the original reference design card release to when we can first expect to see a Twin Frozr III based card hit retail? How much longer does it take to create the “Lightning” based products?
Historically, we’ve seen the introduction of a non-reference thermal solution within 2-4 weeks of product launch. As an example, GTX580 was launched in November 2010, and by December there was already a reference PCB GTX580 w/ the Twin Frozr II cooler.
In the case of Lightning cards, the development timeframe is longer due to more R&D, validation, and procurement of components. With GTX580, the timeframe was around 6 months, but moving forward MSI is pulling in the launch timeframe of our flagship products.
Quarter Down but Year Up
Yesterday NVIDIA released their latest financial results for Q4 2012 and FY2012. There was some good and bad mixed in the results, but overall it was a very successful year for NVIDIA.
Q4 saw gross revenue top $953.2 million US with a net income of $116 million US. This is about $53 million less in gross revenue and $62 million down in net income as compared to last quarter. There are several reasons as to why this happened, but the majority of it appears to be due to the hard drive shortage affecting add-in sales. Simply put, the increase in hard drive prices caused most OEMs to take a good look at the price points of the entire system, and oftentimes would cut out the add-in graphics and just use integrated.
Tegra 3 promises a 50% increase in revenue for NVIDIA this coming year.
Two other reasons for the lower than expected quarter were start of the transition to 28 nm products based on Kepler. They are ramping up production on 28 nm and slowing down 40 nm. Yields on 28 nm are not where they expected them to be, and there is also a shortage of wafer starts for that line. This had a pretty minimal affect overall on Q4, but it will be one of the prime reasons why revenue looks like it will be down in Q1 2013.
Introduction, Design, User Interface, Display And Audio Quality
We have a lot of laptop reviews here at PC Perspective. As you’d expect, we generally use the same benchmarks and use the same principles whenever reviewing a laptop.
Yet we’ve never before put all of this down in writing so that our readers could understand exactly what we’re doing. Since this is a new year with new laptops to review, now is a good time introduce new benchmarks and get rid of old ones - which also makes this a good time to share information with our readers.
The first page of any laptop review here at PC Perspective is dominated by some very subjective criteria.
Design comes first, and is also the most subjective. It refers to a laptop’s build quality, general layout and attractiveness. This is where we comment on a laptop’s aesthetics, and it’s also where we comment on a laptop’s perceived durability. We look at details like the display hinges, the chassis, the display lid and overall material quality. An ideal laptop design is attractive to the eye, pleasurable to touch, and feels sturdy in normal use.
Southern Islands Get Small
When AMD first started to talk to me about the upcoming Southern Islands GPUs they tried to warn me. Really they did. "Be prepared for just an onslaught of card releases for 2012," I was told. In much the same strategy the company took with the HD 6000 series of cards, the new Radeon HD 7000 cards have been trickling out, part by part, so as to make sure the name "AMD" and the brand "Radeon" are showing up as often as possible in your news feeds and on my keyboard. In late December we wrote our review of the Radeon HD 7970 3GB flagship card and then followed that up in January with a review of the Radeon HD 7950. In those briefings were told in a general way about Cape Verde, the Radeon HD 7700 series, and Pitcairn, the Radeon HD 7800 series, but without the details of performance, specifications or release dates. We have the answer for one more of these families now: Cape Verde.
Cape Verde is the smallest of the Southern Islands dies and falls into the sub-$175 graphics market depending on card vendors' pricing and overclocking settings. The real question we all wanted to know is what performance levels these new cards were going to offer and if they could be the TRUE successor to popular Radeon HD 5770. While the answer will take pages and pages of details to cement into place, I can say that while an impressive card, I wasn't as excited as I had wanted to be.
But I am getting ahead of myself... Check out our video review right here and then keep reading on for the full evaluation!!
AMD Cape Verde - the smallest of the Southern Islands
GPU companies like to brag when they are on top - you'll see that as a recurring theme in our story today. One such case is the success of the Radeon HD 5770 that mentioned above - it still today sits on the throne of the most adopted DX11 capable GPU on the Steam Hardware Survey, one of our best places for information on the general PC gamer.
While the inclusion of it, as well as the Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850, on this list are great for AMD a couple of years ago, the lack of a 6000-series card here shows us that users need another reason to upgrade; another card that is mass market enough (ala under $200) and offers performance advantages that really push gamers to spend that extra cheddar.
Bring in the Cape Verde GPU...
Rosewill produces a whole lineup of products with seemingly incongruous variety. You can get matching brands for your blood pressure monitor, your wine opener, your DSLR bag, and your computer power supply. The vast majority of Rosewill's distribution flows through Newegg.
Their RK-9000 mechanical keyboard was manufactured by CoStar under the Rosewill branding. With that product, they brought a high quality mechanical keyboard to North America for a very decent price of just under a hundred dollars. For what might as well be considered a Filco keyboard, that is an outstanding price. It did not have media keys; it did not have backlighting; but it was a solid keyboard which felt great to type on and had outstanding performance.
Check out our video review of the Rosewill RK-9000 second generation and read on for the written review
At some point Rosewill decided to discontinue the RK-9000 without an official announcement. Beyond a sudden and sustained drop in availability, there was no evidence that the keyboard was no longer produced. A few silent months went by until Rosewill officially announced a second generation of RK-9000 mechanical keyboards. It was then clear why the RK-9000 was discontinued: it was being replaced and updated.
We were approached by the company to conduct a review of their recently released mechanical keyboards. Included was not just the Cherry MX Blue switched RK-9000, but also its three newly introduced siblings: the MX Brown switched RK-9000BR, the MX Black switched RK-9000BL, and the MX Red switched RK-9000RE. A little under three months ago we have received the review units and have been in the process of testing them ever since.
What Rosewill was unaware of was that I am a proud owner of the original RK-9000 keyboard. This review is more than a review of Rosewill’s new products, but also will be a comparison between the new product and their original offering. Despite sharing a Newegg product page with its ancestor, the new keyboard is not identical. For good measure, I also have a Razer BlackWidow Ultimate lying around -- slightly dilute the oversaturation of the letter R in tested product names… albeit, not the company names.
A new contender has enterkeyed.
If you happen to have an original RK-9000, is it time for an upgrade? If you are interested in all of the hoopla about mechanical keyboards, is this the correct time and place to dive in?
Introduction and Features
Thermatake's Toughpower Cable Management Series includes five models ranging from 1,000W up to 1,500W. The Toughpower Cable Management 1350W PSU we have up for review today can deliver 1,350W. Thermaltake states that all of the Toughpower Cable Management Series power supplies are built with the latest technological advances in circuitry design with industrial grade components and feature high efficiency (80 Plus Silver certified), smart cable management, and come backed by Thermaltake's 5-year warranty.
Here is what Thermaltake has to say about the Toughpower Cable Management Series: "Proper airflow within computer system plays an extremely important role in making sure CPU, Graphic Cards, Hard Drives and other critical components are getting adequate cooling. Thermaltake Cable Management Technology allows users to only use the cables needed from the power supply that reduces the amount of cable clutter within the computer to improve cooling and reduce system noise."
Thermaltake Toughpower Cable Management 1350W PSU Key Features:
• 24/7 @ 50°C: Guaranteed to deliver 1350W continuous power
• Compliance with Intel ATX 12V v2.3 and SSI EPS 12V v2.91 standards
• 80 PLUS Silver certified: 87-91% efficiency @ 20-100% load
• Double-forward switching circuitry offers low power loss and high reliability
• DC-to-DC converters provide high efficiency and stable performance
• Robust, dedicated dual +12V rails (60A for 12V1 and 60A for 12V2)
• High quality 105°C Japanese capacitors: ensure superb performance and reliability
• Multi-GPU ready: comes with 8 x PCI-E 6+2 pin connectors
• Designed to support quad core, i7 and Core i5 CPUs
• Silent operation with intelligent 140mm cooling fan speed control
• Fixed and modular smart cable management system
• Universal AC input (90~264V) with Active PFC
• Dimensions:150 x 86 x 200mm (W x H x L)
• Over-current, over-power, over-voltage, under-voltage and short circuit protection
• Safety/EMI approvals: CE,TUV,FCC, UL, CUL, GOST and BSMI certified
• 5-Year warranty
Introduction, Design, User Interface
Late in December of 2011 we received the Transformer Prime for review. What we did not recieve, however, was the keyboard dock. High demand by journalists for a look at the company's latest and greatest Transformer had left them short of docks, in turn leaving us short of a dock.
Now we've finally had our hands on one. Since it was shipped to us several weeks after the review Prime, we were able to give it our full attention. As with the original Transformer, the dock is one of the features that help the Prime stand out from the crowd - but that doesn't mean it is automatically destined for greatness. If the Prime wants to act like a laptop, it will have to be able to compete with laptops - and that's a tall order for a system without Windows or an x86 processor.
Besides a keyboard, the dock adds a few other specifications that are worth mentioning. Let's take a look at them.
So, as with the previous dock, you’re not just buying a keyboard. You’re also receiving an extended battery with impressive capacity and some additional connectivity. Given the MSRP of $150, however, you’d kind of expect there to be more than just a keyboard.
Introduction, Features, Technical Specifications
PC enclosures continue to evolve as new hardware comes to market like Intel's new Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge processors, affordable solid state drives, and custom liquid cooling solutions. It is more critical than ever that users pay strict attention to not only what a PC case looks like, but what hardware it supports. Since it was founded in 2004, NZXT has been developing unique PC cases to satisfy the appetites of PC gamers and hardware enthusiasts alike. Their latest creation dubbed the Switch 810 is a full-tower "hybird" case that is optimized to support liquid cooling or air-cooled solutions.
The Switch 810 brings together many crowd favorites like right-mounted hard drives with removable HD cages and support for 140 to 240mm radiators to give users a plethora of options for cooling their PC components. If you don't want to go the liquid cooling route, the Switch 810 has room for 10 fans on the front, back, top, and bottom panels. PC builders can use 120mm or 140mm fans, and NZXT starts them off by including four 140mm fans with the Switch 810 to provide excellent airflow for any PC setup.
Introduction and Features
NZXT recently released three power supplies in their new HALE82 Series, with output capacities of 650W, 750W, and 850W. This new lineup compliments NZXT's 80Plus Gold HALE90 Series and is targeted towards gamers and other power hungry enthusiasts. The HALE82 units are built by Seasonic and are 80Plus Bronze certified (82%~85% efficiency). The HALE82 850W PSU we have up for review comes with a full compliment of fixed and modular cables, a dual ball bearing 120mm fan, includes universal AC input with Active PFC and is backed by NZXT's 5-year warranty.
NZXT HALE82 850W PSU Key Features:
• 80+ Bronze Certification - The HALE82 series from NZXT operates with high efficiency: at 20%, 50%, and 100% loads, efficiencies are 82%, 85%, and 82% respectively.
• 100% Japanese Capacitors - High quality components promote longer lifespan and better reliability.
• 120mm Two-Ball Bearing Fan - For smooth, silent rotation and optimal air intake.
• Strong Single +12V Rail - A single +12V rail provides stability and ease of use with the ability to deliver clean currents under a heavy load.
• Modular Design - Includes a selection of flat cables that allow the user to pick and choose which cables they want to use, maximizing cable management and airflow inside chassis.
• Large Tower Support - Extended 8pin connector for bottom mounted cases or large cases.
• Dual 8pin connector - For high end motherbaords dedicated to overclocking.
• Keeping it Safe - The HALE80 series offers over voltage, current, power, temperature, under voltage, and short circuit protection.
• Warranty: 5-Years
• Price: $139.99 USD (Directron.com December 2011)
Layout and Features
From the Forums is a new segment here on PC Perspective where we dive through the best content on the PC Perspective Forums and bring it to the main stage here on pcper.com. Even though this content isn't direct from our editors it brings value to the reader and so we wanted to push into the spotlight! Our forums are some of the best online if you are looking for community fun and gaming or have a particularly annoying issue you are trying to work out on your latest build. Be sure you stop by to see what our members are up to today!!
Windwithme has been a member of the PC Perspective Forums since mid-2009 and has continually contributed with in-depth reviews of hardware including motherboard, graphics cards SSDs and more. Though English is not his native language, and because of that some of his text will seem odd to US readers, the content is great and we are glad to have Windwithme as part of our community! Enjoy! You can find the original thread for this content right here.
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Ever since Intel officially launch Sandy Bridge-E new platform in 2011 November,
several motherboard companies successively roll out new motherboard based on X79 chipset to support Intel next generation high-end platform.
Due to the continuous effort of self-own brand management made by FOXCONN, Quantum Force series still dominant high-end motherboard.
FOXCONN X79 Quantumian-1 still provides various choices for the market though the quantities of Quantum Force series are not as various as they are in the past time. Soon after the release of Intel X79 chipset, FOXCONN promptly roll out corresponding X79 motherboard. Quantum Force was naming in a special way which the Intel code won’t be shown on the models.
This time, Quantumian-1 which belongs to the series of Quantum Force still follows the high-end style both in material and design.
The patterns shown on exterior packing of high-end product are always different which exhibits the great efforts on art design.
The full picture of FOXCONN Quantumian-1
Quantum Force is common to use black and red to create contrast visual sense.
Currently, there are more and more motherboard brands adopt these two colors to match.
It is known that the market segment of Quantumian-1 x79 is positioned as high-end product line.
Besides, the corresponding specification, design and featured over clocking function have also been highly highlighted.
- Product manual
- easy guide
- nVIDIA SLI 3Way bridge
- IO shield
- SATA connectors and cables both in red and yellow
- DC power cable SATA
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Today we take a look at Intel's newest 6Gb/sec SATA SSD - the 520 Series. This is the second non-Intel controller to appear in one of their products. The first was the Marvell controller, which appeared in the 510 Series last March. This time around, Intel has gone with SandForce. This should leave at least one SATA 6Gb/sec model to be released. Taylorsville is the code name for the next SATA 6Gb/sec native-Intel controller, which has been on their roadmap since mid-2010 but has yet to actually materialize. While Taylorsville development continues, Intel has stop-gapped the 6Gb/sec slot with the 510 and now the 520 Series. Intel seemingly worked wonders with the stock Marvell firmware, and while the Marvell controller was much improved over stock, it still lagged far behind other higher performing SATA 6Gb/sec solutions. The SandForce was one of the much more capable controllers eating the 510's lunch, but how much further could Intel improve upon the SandForce firmware?
I guess a good question to answer up front is - What took them so long?!?! The answer is a bit complicated. Intel has actually been working on getting the 520 out the door for over a year now. They had to start with the same base SandForce firmware but accomplish two things for their version to be successful:
- Optimize to perform better than other equivalent SandForce models (from competitors).
- Pass Intel's stringent validation testing.
They didn't say so directly, but I can only imagine Intel's process was plagued by multiple 'back to the drawing board' moments. Trying to one-up competition like OCZ can't be easy as they've been tweaking SandForce firmware since the very beginning. There's also those nasty bugs that would cause random BSOD's or even permanently brick the drive. Such failures have no place in an Intel SSD. Intel's upper limit for each SSD line is a 0.75% annual failure rate, and we've seen SandForce SSD's failing at a higher rate than that this past year.
With each tweak made, Intel would have to once again pass their drives through another round of full validation testing. This is no small task for Intel. As an example: It took Intel just a couple of weeks to recreate and correct the long-term performance issue I discovered back in 2009, but despite mountingpressure, they could not release the updated firmware until it had successfully passed their validation a full three months later. Intel takes this testing very seriously, and that's what leads people to trust their reliability.
Four Displays for Under $70
Running multiple displays on your PC is becoming a trend that everyone is trying to jump on board with thanks in large part to the push of Eyefinity from AMD over the past few years. Gaming is a great application for multi-display configurations but in truth game compatibility and game benefits haven't reached the level I had hoped they would by 2012. But while gaming still has a way to go, the consumer applications for having more than a single monitor continue to expand and cement themselves in the minds of users.
Galaxy is the only NVIDIA partner that is really taking this market seriously with an onslaught of cards branded as MDT, Multiple Display Technology. Using non-NVIDIA hardware in conjunction with NVIDIA GPUs, Galaxy has created some very unique products for consumers like the recently reviewed GeForce GTX 570 MDT. Today we are going to be showing you the new Galaxy MDT GeForce GT 520 offering that brings support for a total of four simultaneous display outputs to a card with a reasonable cost of under $120.
The Galaxy MDT GeForce GT 520
Long time readers of PC Perspective already likely know what to expect based on the GPU we are using here but the Galaxy MDT model offers quite a few interesting changes.
The retail packaging clearly indicates the purpose of this card for users looking at running more than two displays. The GT 520 is not an incredibly powerful GPU when it comes to gaming but Galaxy isn't really pushing the card in that manner. Here are the general specs of the GPU for those that are interested:
- 48 CUDA cores
- 810 MHz core clock
- 1GB DD3 memory
- 900 MHz memory clock
- 64-bit memory bus width
- 4 ROPs
- DirectX 11 support
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
A couple of days ago we looked at a pair of SSD's from Patriot. Next up is a pair of SSD's from Corsair. These are another two SandForce controlled units, but this time it's Async IMFT flash vs. Sync IMFT flash:
We'll carry the Patriot Pyro (IMFT Async) into the results for comparison, and keeping the other benchmark OCZ and Intel models in with the mix of results. The OCZ Vertex 3 and Agility 3 will again share the same SandForce controller, but OCZ has been known to add many performance tweaks to their firmware. Let's see if Corsair was able to use 'tweaked' firmware or instead went with the stock one provided by SandForce.
The Corsair Force 3 and Force GT are both available in the following capacities:
The added capacity points are a bonus of how IMFT can stack their dies in 'odd' multiples (i.e. 3 per package, making a 24GB TSOP). Varying slightly from low to high capacities (and across the two models), specs range from 490 to 525 MB/sec writes and 550 to 555 MB/sec reads. 60GB models get 80,000 4K IOPS and the rest get a rating of 85,000 4K IOPS. Corsairs specs indicate IOMeter 2008 was used for this test, and it's important to note that 2008's writes were a repeating pattern that is easily and fully compressible by the SandForce controller, meaning those specs were derived using fully compressible data.
AMD Gives a Glimpse of the Near Future
AMD has released an updated roadmap for these next two years, and the information contained within is quite revealing of where AMD is going and how they are shifting their lineup to be less dependent on a single manufacturer. The Financial Analyst Day has brought a few surprises of where AMD is headed, and how they will get there. Rory Read and Mark Papermaster have brought a new level of energy to the company that seemingly has been either absent or muted. Sometimes a new set of eyes on a problem, or in this case the attitudes and culture of a company, can bring about significant changes for the positive. From what we have seen so far from Rory and company is a new energy and direction for AMD. While AMD is still sticking to their roots, they are looking to further expand upon their expertise in some areas, all the while being flexible enough to license products from other companies that are far enough away from AMD's core competence that it pays to license rather than force engineers to re-invent the wheel.
The roadmaps cover graphics, desktop, mobile, and server products through 2013.
This first slide is a snapshot of the current and upcoming APU lineup. Southern Islands is the codename for the recently released HD 7000 series of desktop parts. This will cover products from the 7700 level on up to the top end 7990. Of great interest are the Brazos 2.0 and Hondo chips. AMD had cancelled the "Krishna" series of chips which would have been based on Bobcat cores up to 4 on 28 nm. Details are still pending, but it seems Brazos 2.0 will still be 40 nm parts but much more refined so they can be clocked higher and still pull less power. Hondo looks to be the basic Brazos core, but for Ultra Low Power (lower clocks, possibly disabled units, etc.) which would presumably scale to 5 watts and possibly lower.
3 NV for DCII
The world of video cards is a much changed place over the past few years. Where once we saw only “sticker versions” of cards mass produced by a handful of manufacturers, we are now seeing some really nice differentiation from the major manufacturers. While the first iterations of these new cards are typically mass produced by NVIDIA or AMD and then distributed to their partners for initial sales, these manufacturers are now more consistently getting their own unique versions out to retail in record time. MSI was one of the first to put out their own unique designs, but now we are seeing Asus becoming much more aggressive with products of their own.
The DirectCU II line is Asus’ response to the growing number of original designs from other manufacturers. The easiest way to categorize these designs is that they straddle nicely the very high end and extreme products like the MSI Lightning series and those of the reference design boards with standard cooling. These are unique designs that integrate features and cooling solutions that are well above that of reference cards.
DirectCU II applies primarily to the cooling solutions on these boards. The copper heatipipes in the DirectCU II cooler are in direct contact with the GPU. These heatpipes then are distributed through two separate aluminum fin arrays, each with their own fan. So each card has either a dual slot or triple slot cooling solution with two 80 mm fans that dynamically adjust to the temperature of the chip. The second part of this is branded “Super Alloy Power” in which Asus has upgraded most of the electrical components on the board to match higher specifications. Hi-C caps, proadlizers, polymer caps, and higher quality chokes round out the upgraded components which should translate into more stable overclocked performance and a longer lifespan.
Tahiti Gets Clipped
It has been just over a month since we first got our hands on the AMD Southern Islands architecture in the form of the Radeon HD 7970 3GB graphics card. It was then a couple of long weeks as we waited for the consumer to get the chance to buy that same hardware though we had to admit that the $550+ price tags were scaring many away. Originally we were going to have both the Radeon HD 7970 and the Radeon HD 7950 in our hands before January 9th, but that didn't pan out and instead the little brother was held in waiting a bit longer.
Today we are reviewing that sibling, the Radeon HD 7950 3GB GPU that offers basically the same technology and feature set with a slightly diminished core and a matching, slightly diminished price. In truth I don't think that the estimated MSRP of $449 is going to really capture that many more hearts than the $549 price of the HD 7970 did, but AMD is hoping that they can ride their performance advantage to as many profits as they can while they wait for NVIDIA to properly react.
Check out our video review right here and then continue on to our complete benchmarking analysis!!
Southern Islands Gets Scaled Back a Bit
As I said above, the Radeon HD 7950 3GB is pretty similar to the HD 7970. It is based on the same 28nm, DirectX 11.1, PCI Express 3.0, 4.31 billion transistor GPU and includes the same massive 3GB frame buffer as its older brother. The Tahiti GPU is the first of its kind of all of those facets but it has a few of the computational portions disabled.
If you haven't read up on the Southern Islands architecture, or Tahiti GPU based around it, you are missing quite a bit of important information on the current lineup of parts from AMD. I would very much encourage you to head over to our Radeon HD 7970 3GB Tahiti review and look over the first three pages as it provides a detailed breakdown of the new features and the pretty dramatic shift in design that Southern Islands introduced to the AMD GPU team.
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