Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

28HPCU: Cost Effective and Power Efficient

Have you ever been approached about something and upon first hearing about it, the opportunity just did not seem very exciting?  Then upon digging into things, it became much more interesting?  This happened to me with this announcement.  At first blush, who really cares that ARM is partnering with UMC at 28 nm?  Well, once I was able to chat with the people at ARM, it is much more interesting than initially expected.

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The new hotness in fabrication is the latest 14 nm and 16 nm processes from Samsung/GF and TSMC respectively.  It has been a good 4+ years since we last had a new process node that actually performed as expected.  The planar 22/20 nm products just were not entirely suitable for mass production.  Apple was one of the few to actually develop a part for TSMC’s 20 nm process that actually sold in the millions.  The main problem was a lack of power and speed scaling as compared to 28 nm processes.  Planar was a bad choice, but the development of FinFET technologies hadn’t been implemented in time for it to show up at this time by 3rd party manufacturers.

There is a problem with the latest process generations, though.  They are new, expensive, and are production constrained.  Also, they may not be entirely appropriate for the applications that are being developed.  There are several strengths with 28 nm as compared.  These are mature processes with an excess of line space.  The major fabs are offering very competitive pricing structures for 28 nm as they see space being cleared up on the lines with higher end SOCs, GPUs, and assorted ASICs migrating to the new process nodes.

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TSMC has typically been on the forefront of R&D with advanced nodes.  UMC is not as aggressive with their development, but they tend to let others do some of the heavy lifting and then integrate the new nodes when it fits their pricing and business models.  TSMC is on their third generation of 28 nm.  UMC is on their second, but that generation encompasses many of the advanced features of TSMC’s 3rd generation so it is actually quite competitive.

Click here to continue reading about ARM, UMC, and the 28HPCU process!

PCPer Racing Livestream! Thurs. Jan. 28th at 5:30 ET!

Subject: Editorial | January 27, 2016 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: Thrustmaster, T150, Rocket League, racing wheel, racing, project cars, livestream, GRID Autosport, gaming, force feedback, DiRT Rally, Assetto Corsa

Did you miss the live stream for yesterday racing action? No worries, catch up on the replay right here!

On Thursday, January 28th at 5:30 PM ET we will be hosting a livestream featuing some racing by several of our writers.  We welcome our readers to join up and race with us!  None of us are professionals, so there is a very good chance that anyone that joins can easily outrace us!

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We have teamed up with Thrustmaster to give away the TM T150 Racing Wheel!  The MSRP on this number is $199.99, but we are giving it away for free.  This was reviewed a few months ago and the results were very good for the price point.  You can read that entire review here!

We will be playing multiple games throughout the livestream, so get those Steam clients fired up and updated.

DiRT Rally

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We will be racing through the Rallycross portion of DR.  These are fun races and fairly quick.  Don't forget the Joker lap!

 

Project CARS

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This is another favorite and features a ton of tracks and cars with some interesting tire (tyre) physics thrown in for good measure!

 

Assetto Corsa

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Another fan favorite with lovely graphics and handling/physics that match the best games out there.

 

We will be announcing how to join up in the contest during the livestream!  Be sure to tune in!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Fighting for Relevance

AMD is still kicking.  While the results of this past year have been forgettable, they have overcome some significant hurdles and look like they are improving their position in terms of cutting costs while extracting as much revenue as possible.  There were plenty of ups and downs for this past quarter, but when compared to the rest of 2015 there were some solid steps forward here.

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The company reported revenues of $958 million, which is down from $1.06 billion last quarter.  The company also recorded a $103 million loss, but that is down significantly from the $197 million loss the quarter before.  Q3 did have a $65 million write-down due to unsold inventory.  Though the company made far less in revenues, they also shored up their losses.  The company is still bleeding, but they still have plenty of cash on hand for the next several quarters to survive.  When we talk about non-GAAP figures, AMD reports a $79 million loss for this past quarter.

For the entire year AMD recorded $3.99 billion in revenue with a net loss of $660 million.  This is down from FY 2014 revenues of $5.51 billion and a net loss of $403 million.  AMD certainly is trending downwards year over year, but they are hoping to reverse that come 2H 2016.

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Graphics continues to be solid for AMD as they increased their sales from last quarter, but are down year on year.  Holiday sales were brisk, but with only the high end Fury series being a new card during this season, the impact of that particular part was not as great as compared to the company having a new mid-range series like the newly introduced R9 380X.  The second half of 2016 will see the introduction of the Polaris based GPUs for both mobile and desktop applications.  Until then, AMD will continue to provide the current 28 nm lineup of GPUs to the market.  At this point we are under the assumption that AMD and NVIDIA are looking at the same timeframe for introducing their next generation parts due to process technology advances.  AMD already has working samples on Samsung’s/GLOBALFOUNDRIES 14nm LPP (low power plus) that they showed off at CES 2016.

Click here to continue reading about AMD's Q4 2015 and FY 2015 results!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Patreon
Tagged: video, patreon

Thank you for all you do!

Much of what I am going to say here is repeated from the description on our brand new Patreon support page, but I think a direct line to our readers is in order.

First, I think you may need a little back story. Ask anyone that has been doing online media in this field for any length of time and they will tell you that getting advertisers to sign on and support the production of "free" content has been getting more and more difficult. You'll see this proven out in the transition of several key personalities of our industry away from media into the companies they used to cover. And you'll see it in the absorption of some of our favorite media outlets, being purchased by larger entities with the promise of being able to continue doing what they have been doing. Or maybe you've seen it show as more interstitial ads, road blocks, sponsored site sections, etc. 

At PC Perspective we've seen the struggle first hand but I have done my best to keep as much of that influence away from my team. We are not immune - several years ago we started doing site skins, something we didn't plan for initially. I do think I have done a better than average job keeping the lights on here though, so to speak. We have good sell through on our ad inventory and some of the best companies in our industry support the work we do. 

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Some of the PC Perspective team at CES 2016

Let me be clear though - we aren't on the verge of going out of business. I am not asking for Patreon supporters to keep from firing anyone. We just wanted to maintain and grow our content library and capability and it seemed like the audience that benefits and enjoys that content might be the best place to start.

Some of you are likely asking yourself if supporting PC Perspective is really necessary? After all, you can chug out a 400 word blog in no time! The truth is that high quality, technical content takes a lot of man hours and those hours are expensive. Our problem is that to advertisers, a page view is a page view, they don't really care how much time and effort went into creating the content on that page. If we spend 20 hours developing a way to evaluate variable refresh rate monitors with an oscilloscope, but put the results on a single page at pcper.com, we get the same amount of traffic as someone that just posts an hour's worth of gameplay experiences. Both are valuable to the community, but one costs a lot more to produce.

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Frame Rating testing methodology helped move the industry forward

The easy way out is to create click bait style content (have you seen the new Marvel trailer??!?) and hope for enough extra page views to make up for the difference. But many people find the allure of the cheap/easy posts too easy and quickly devolve into press releases and marketing vomit. No one at PC Perspective wants to see that happen here.

Not only do we want to avoid a slide into that fate but we want to improve on what we are doing, going further down the path of technical analysis with high quality writing and video content. Very few people are working on this kind of writing and analysis yet it is vitally important to those of you that want the information to make critical purchasing decisions. And then you, in turn, pass those decisions on to others with less technical interest (brothers, mothers, friends). 

We have ideas for new regular shows including a PC Perspective Mailbag, a gaming / Virtual LAN Party show and even an old hardware post-mortem production. All of these take extra time beyond what each person has dedicated today and the additional funding provided by a successful Patreon campaign will help us towards those goals.

I don't want anyone to feel that they are somehow less of a fan of PC Perspective if you can't help - that's not what we are about and not what I stand for. Just being here, reading and commenting on our work means a lot to us. You can still help by spreading the word about stories you find interesting or even doing your regular Amazon.com shopping through our link on the right side bar.

But for those of you that can afford a monthly contribution, consider a "value for value" amount. How much do you think the content we have produced and will produce is worth to you? If that's $3/month, thank you! If that's $20/month, thank you as well! 

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Support PC Perspective through Patreon

http://www.patreon.com/pcper

The team and I spent a lot of our time in the last several weeks talking through this Patreon campaign and we are proud to offer ourselves up to our community. PC Perspective is going to be here for a long time, and support from readers like you will help us be sure we can continue to improve and innovate on the information and content we provide.

Again, thank you so much for support over the last 16 years!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

Looking Towards 2016

ARM invited us to a short conversation with them on the prospects of 2016.  The initial answer as to how they feel the upcoming year will pan out is, “Interesting”.  We covered a variety of topics ranging from VR to process technology.  ARM is not announcing any new products at this time, but throughout this year they will continue to push their latest Mali graphics products as well as the Cortex A72.

Trends to Watch in 2016

The one overriding trend that we will see is that of “good phones at every price point”.  ARM’s IP scales from very low to very high end mobile SOCs and their partners are taking advantage of the length and breadth of these technologies.  High end phones based on custom cores (Apple, Qualcomm) will compete against those licensing the Cortex A72 and A57 parts for their phones.  Lower end options that are less expensive and pull less power (which then requires less battery) will flesh out the midrange and budget parts.  Unlike several years ago, the products from top to bottom are eminently usable and relatively powerful products.

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Camera improvements will also take center stage for many products and continue to be a selling point and an area of differentiation for competitors.  Improved sensors and software will obviously be the areas where the ARM partners will focus on, but ARM is putting some work into this area as well.  Post processing requires quite a bit of power to do quickly and effectively.  ARM is helping here to leverage the Neon SIMD engine and leveraging the power of the Mali GPU.

4K video is becoming more and more common as well with handhelds, and ARM is hoping to leverage that capability in shooting static pictures.  A single 4K frame is around 8 megapixels in size.  So instead of capturing video, the handheld can achieve a “best shot” type functionality.  So the phone captures the 4K video and then users can choose the best shot available to them in that period of time.  This is a simple idea that will be a nice feature for those with a product that can capture 4K video.

Click here to read the rest of ARM's thoughts on 2016!

Podcast #378 - Updates from the Radeon Technology Group, a new case from Antec, ASUS Maximus VIII Gene and more!

Subject: Editorial | December 10, 2015 - 01:21 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, freesync, hdr, displayport 1.3, antec, P380, Maximus VIII Gene, killer networks, corsair, h5 sf, carbide 600

PC Perspective Podcast #378 - 12/10/2015

Join us this week as we discuss updates from the Radeon Technology Group, a new case from Antec, ASUS Maximus VIII Gene and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Mozilla Abandons Firefox OS Smartphones

Subject: Editorial, Mobile, Shows and Expos | December 9, 2015 - 07:04 AM |
Tagged: yahoo, mozilla, google, Firefox OS, Android

Author's Disclosure: I volunteer for Mozilla, unpaid. I've been to one of their events in 2013, but otherwise have no financial ties with them. They actually weren't aware that I was a journalist. Still, our readers should know my background when reading my editorial.

Mozilla has announced that, while Firefox OS will still be developed for “many connected devices,” the organization will stop developing and selling smartphones through carriers. Mozilla claims that the reason is because they “weren't able to offer the best user experience possible.” While the statement is generic enough to apply in a lot of contexts, I'm not sure how close to the center of that region it is.

This all occurred at the “Mozlando” conference in Florida.

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Firefox OS was born when stakeholders asked Mozilla to get involved in the iOS and Android duopoly. Unlike Windows, Blackberry, and other competitors, Mozilla has a history of leveraging Web standards to topple industry giants. Rather than trying to fight the industry leaders with a better platform, and hoping that developers create enough apps to draw users over, they expanded what Web could do to dig the ground out of their competitors.

This makes sense. Mobile apps were still in their infancy themselves, so Firefox OS wouldn't need to defeat decades of lock-in or orders of magnitude performance deltas. JavaScript is getting quite fast anyway, especially when transpiled from an unmanaged language like C, so apps could exist to show developers that the phones are just as capable as their competitors.

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The issue is that being able to achieve high performance is different from actually achieving it. The Web, as a platform, is getting panned as slow and “memory hungry” (even though free memory doesn't make a system faster -- it's all about the overhead required to manage it). Likewise, the first few phones landed at the low end, due in part to Mozilla, the non-profit organization remember, wanting to use Firefox OS to bring computing to new areas of the world. A few hiccups here and there added another coat of paint to the Web's perception of low performance.

Granted, they couldn't compete on the high end without a successful app ecosystem if they tried. Only the most hardcore of fans would purchase a several-hundred dollar smartphone, and intend to put up with just Web apps. Likewise, when I've told people that phones run on the Web, they didn't realize we mean “primarily localhost” until it's explicitly stated. People are afraid for their data caps, even though offline experiences are actually offline and stored locally.

The Dinosaur in the Room

Then there's the last question that I have. I am a bit concerned about the organization as a whole. They seem to be trying to shed several products lately, and narrow their focus. Granted, all of these announcements occur because of the event, so there's plenty of room for coincidence. They have announced that they will drop ad tiles, which I've heard praised.

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The problem is, why would they do that? Was it for good will, aligning with their non-profit values? (Update: Fixed double-negative typo) Or was it bringing in much less money than projected? If it's the latter, then how far do they need to shrink their influence, and how? Did they already over-extend, and will they need to compensate for that? Looking at their other decisions, they've downsized Firefox OS, they are thinking about spinning out Thunderbird again, and they have quietly shuttered several internal projects, like their division for skunkworks projects, called “Mozilla Labs.” Mozilla also has a division called "Mozilla Research," although that is going strong. They are continually hiring for projects like "Servo," a potential new browser engine, and "Rust," a programming language that is used for Servo and other projects.

While Mozilla is definitely stable enough, financially, to thrive in their core products, I'm concerned about how much they can do beyond that. I'm genuinely concerned that Mozilla is trying to restructure while looking like a warrior for both human rights and platforms of free expression. We will not see the books until a few months from now, so we can only speculate until then. The organization is pulling inward, though. I don't know how much of this is refocusing on the problems they can solve, or the problems they can afford. We will see.

Source: Techcrunch

Star Wars Battlefront at 3440x1440. That is all.

Subject: Editorial | October 12, 2015 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: XR341CK, Star Wars Battlefront, freesync, battlefront, amd, acer

I just happened to be doing some testing on the Acer XR341CK 34-in 3440x1440 FreeSync monitor with a 75 Hz refresh rate and started taking some screenshots. I have no real reason to do this, but I thought I might as well share some images from what I believe to be one of the most impressive looking games in a long time. Below I have included a handful of full resolution screenshots from the two multiplayer maps currently available in the nearly-over Battlefront beta. 

If you are a Star Wars fan and you haven't tried out the free beta, you owe it to yourself to do so. The combination of classic music, well known ships and locations, and simple to understand gameplay that is exciting and rewarding make this a fantastic experience thus far. I eagerly await the full release next month!

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Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

What you never knew you didn't know

While researching a few upcoming SD / microSD product reviews here at PC Perspective, I quickly found myself swimming in a sea of ratings and specifications. This write up was initially meant to explain and clarify these items, but it quickly grew into a reference too large to include in every SD card article, so I have spun it off here as a standalone reference. We hope it is as useful to you as it will be to our upcoming SD card reviews.

SD card speed ratings are a bit of a mess, so I'm going to do my best to clear things up here. I'll start with classes and grades. These are specs that define the *minimum* speed a given SD card should meet when reading or writing (both directions are used for the test). As with all flash devices, the write speed tends to be the more limiting factor. Without getting into gory detail, the tests used assume mostly sequential large writes and random reads occurring at no smaller than the minimum memory unit of the card (typically 512KB). The tests match the typical use case of an SD card, which is typically writing larger files (or sequential video streams), with minimal small writes (file table updates, etc).

Speed Class

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In the above chart, we see speed 'Class' 2, 4, 6, and 10. The SD card spec calls out very specific requirements for these specs, but the gist of it is that an unfragmented SD card will be able to write at a minimum MB/s corresponding to its rated class (e.g. Class 6 = 6 MB/s minimum transfer speed). The workload specified is meant to represent a typical media device writing to an SD card, with buffering to account for slower FAT table updates (small writes). With higher bus speed modes (more on that later), we also get higher classes. Older cards that are not rated under this spec are referred to as 'Class 0'.

Speed Grade

As we move higher than Class 10, we get to U1 and U3, which are referred to as UHS Speed Grades (contrary to the above table which states 'Class') in the SD card specification. The changeover from Class to Grade has something to do with speed modes, which also relates with the standard capacity of the card being used:

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U1 and U3 correspond to 10 and 30 MB/s minimums, but the test conditions are slightly different for these specs (so Class 10 is not *exactly* the same as a U1 rating, even though they both equate to 10 MB/sec). Cards not performing to U1 are classified as 'Speed Grade 0'. One final note here is that a U rating also implies a UHS speed mode (see the next section).

Read on as we decrypt all of the many specs and ratings present on SD and microSD cards!

Manufacturer: PC Perspective

New Components, New Approach

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After 20 or so enclosure reviews over the past year and a half and some pretty inconsistent test hardware along the way, I decided to adopt a standardized test bench for all reviews going forward. Makes sense, right? Turns out choosing the best components for a cases and cooling test system was a lot more difficult than I expected going in, as special consideration had to be made for everything from form-factor to noise and heat levels.

Along with the new components I will also be changing the approach to future reviews by expanding the scope of CPU cooler testing. After some debate as to the type of CPU cooler to employ I decided that a better test of an enclosure would be to use both closed-loop liquid and air cooling for every review, and provide thermal and noise results for each. For CPU cooler reviews themselves I'll be adding a "real-world" load result to the charts to offer a more realistic scenario, running a standard desktop application (in this case a video encoder) in addition to the torture-test result using Prime95.

But what about this new build? It isn't completely done but here's a quick look at the components I ended up with so far along with the rationale for each selection.

CPU – Intel Core i5-6600K ($249, Amazon.com)

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The introduction of Intel’s 6th generation Skylake processors provided the excuse opportunity for an upgrade after using an AMD FX-6300 system for the last couple of enclosure reviews, and after toying with the idea of the new i7-6700K, and immediately realizing this was likely overkill and (more importantly) completely unavailable for purchase at the time, I went with the more "reasonable" option with the i5. There has long been a debate as to the need for hyper-threading for gaming (though this may be changing with the introduction of DX12) but in any case this is still a very powerful processor and when stressed should produce a challenging enough thermal load to adequately test both CPU coolers and enclosures going forward.

GPU – XFX Double Dissipation Radeon R9 290X ($347, Amazon.com)

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This was by far the most difficult selection. I don’t think of my own use when choosing a card for a test system like this, as it must meet a set of criteria to be a good fit for enclosure benchmarks. If I choose a card that runs very cool and with minimal noise, GPU benchmarks will be far less significant as the card won’t adequately challenge the design and thermal characteristics of the enclosure. There are certainly options that run at greater temperatures and higher noise (a reference R9 290X for example), but I didn’t want a blower-style cooler with the GPU. Why? More and more GPUs are released with some sort of large multi-fan design rather than a blower, and for enclosure testing I want to know how the case handles the extra warm air.

Noise was an important consideration, as levels from an enclosure of course vary based on the installed components. With noise measurements a GPU cooler that has very low output at idle (or zero, as some recent cooler designs permit) will allow system idle levels to fall more on case fans and airflow than a GPU that might drown them out. (This would also allow a better benchmark of CPU cooler noise - particularly with self-contained liquid coolers and audible pump noise.) And while I wanted very quiet performance at idle, at load there must be sufficient noise to measure the performance of the enclosure in this regard, though of course nothing will truly tax a design quite like a loud blower. I hope I've found a good balance here.

Continue reading our look at the cases and cooling test system build!