Another Next Unit of Computing
Just about a year ago Intel released a new product called the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC for short. The idea was to allow Intel's board and design teams to bring the efficient performance of the ultra low voltage processors to a desktop, and creative, form factor. By taking what is essentially Ultrabook hardware and putting it in a 4-in by 4-in design Intel is attempting to rethink what the "desktop" computer is and how the industry develops for it.
We reviewed the first NUC last year, based on the Intel Ivy Bridge processor and took away a surprising amount of interest in the platform. It was (and is) a bit more expensive than many consumers are going to be willing to spend on such a "small" physical device but the performance and feature set is compelling.
This time around Intel has updated the 4x4 enclosure a bit and upgrade the hardware from Ivy Bridge to Haswell. That alone should result in a modest increase in CPU performance with quite a bit of increase in the integrated GPU performance courtesy of the Intel HD Graphics 5000. Other changes are on the table to; let's take a look.
The Intel D54250WYK NUC is a bare bones system that will run you about $360. You'll need to buy system memory and an mSATA SSD for storage (wireless is optional) to complete the build.
A Whole New Atom Family
This past spring I spent some time with Intel at its offices in Santa Clara to learn about a brand new architecture called Silvermont. Built for and targeted at low power platforms like tablets and smartphones, Silvermont was not simply another refresh of the aging Atom processors that were all based on Pentium cores from years ago; instead Silvermont was built from the ground up for low power consumption and high efficiency to compete against the juggernaut that is ARM and its partners. My initial preview of the Silvermont architecture had plenty of detail about the change to an out-of-order architecture, the dual-core modules that comprise it and the power optimizations included.
Today, during the annual Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco, we are finally able to reveal the remaining details about the new Atom processors based on Silvermont, code named Bay Trail. Not only do we have new information about the designs, but we were able to get our hands on some reference tablets integrating Bay Trail and the new Atom Z3000 series of SoCs to benchmark and compare to offerings from Qualcomm, NVIDIA and AMD.
A Whole New Atom Family
It should be surprise to anyone that the name “Intel Atom Processor” has had a stigma attached to it almost since its initial release during the netbook craze. It was known for being slow and hastily put together though it was still a very successful product in terms of sales. With each successive release and update, Diamondville to Pineview to Cedarview, Atom was improved but only marginally so. Even with Medfield and Clover Trail the products were based around that legacy infrastructure and it showed. Tablets and systems based on Clover Trail saw only moderate success and lukewarm reviews.
With Silvermont the Atom brand gets a second chance. Some may consider it a fifth or sixth chance, but Intel is sticking with the name. Silvermont as an architecture is incredibly flexible and will find its way into several Intel products like Avoton, Bay Trail and Merrifield and in segments from the micro-server to smartphones to convertible tablets. Not only that, but Intel is aware that Windows isn’t the only game out there anymore and the company will support the architecture across Linux, Android and Windows environments.
Atom has been in tablets for some time now, starting in September of last year with Clover Trail deigns being announced during IDF. In February we saw the initial Android-based options also filter out, again based on Clover Trail. They were okay, but really only stop-gaps to prove that Intel was serious about the space. The real test will be this holiday season with Bay Trail at the helm.
While we always knew these Bay Trail platforms were going be branded as Atom we now have the full details on the numbering scheme and productization of the architecture. The Atom Z3700 series will consist of quad-core SoCs with Intel HD graphics (the same design as the Core processor series though with fewer compute units) that will support Windows and Android operating systems. The Atom Z3600 will be dual-core processors, still with Intel HD graphics, targeted only at the Android market.
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:47 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: idf, idf 2013, Intel, keynote, live blog
We are preparing for the second day of keynotes at IDF so sign up below to get a reminder for our live blog! After the first keynote saw the introduction of Intel Quark SoCs, showcases of the first 14nm Broadwell processor and a 22nm LTE smartphone, day 2 could be even more exciting!
The event starts at 9am PT / 12pm ET on Wednesday the 11th!
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:31 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: quark, Intel, idf 2013, idf
In a very interesting and surprising announcement at the first Intel Developer Forum keynote this morning, Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich showed the first samples of Quark, a new SoC design that will enter into smaller devices that even Atom can reach.
Quark is the family name for the new line of SoCs that are open, synthesizable and support with industry standard software. An open SoC is simply one that will allow third-party IP integration with the processor cores while a synthesizable one can be moved and migrated to other production facilities as well. This opens up Intel to take Quark outside of its own fabrication facilities (though Krzanich said they would prefer not during Q&A) and allow partners to more easily integrate their own silicon with the Quark DNA. Intel had previously announced that Atom would be able to integrate with third-party IP but that seems to have been put on the back burner in favor of this.
Quark will not be an open core design in the same way that ARM's core can be, but instead Intel is opening up the interface fabric for direct connection to computing resources.
The Quark SoC is square in the middle
Krzanich showed off the chip on stage that is 1/5 the size of Atom and 1/10 the power levels of Atom (though I am not sure if we are referring to Clover Trail or Bay Trail for the comparison). That puts it in a class of products that only ARM-based designs have been able to reach until now and Intel displayed both reference systems and wearable designs.
UPDATE: Intel later clarified with me that the "1/5 size, 1/10 power" is for a Quark core against an Atom core at 22nm. It doesn't refer to the entire SoC package.
Intel hasn't yet told us what microarchitecture Quark is based on but if I were a betting man I would posit that it is related to the Silvermont designs we are looking at on Bay Trail but with a cut down feature set. Using any other existing design from Intel would result in higher than desired power consumption and die size levels but it could also be another ground up architecture as well.
I'll be poking around IDF for more information on Quark going forward but for now, it appears that Intel is firmly planting itself on a collision course with ARM and Qualcomm.
UPDATE 1: I did get some more information from Intel on the Quark SoC. It will be the first product based on the 14nm manufacturing process and is a 32-bit, single core, single thread chip based on a "Pentium ISA compatible CPU core." This confirms that it is an x86 processor though not exactly what CPU core it is based on. More soon!
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 11:02 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: live blog, keynote, Intel, idf 2013, idf
UPDATE: You can see the replay of our live blog below from Day 1 of IDF but be sure you head over to the Day 2 Live Blog page to set a reminder! Join us on Wednesday at 9am PT / 12pm ET!!
Today is the beginning of the 2013 Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco! Join me at 9am PT for the first of three live blogs of the main Intel keynotes where we will learn what direction Intel is taking on many fronts!
Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 11:32 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Temash, ifa 2013, asus, APU, amd, a4-1200
The hits just keep coming from ASUS this morning with the announcement of a new ultraportable notebook with the ambiguous name of X102BA. Though the name might not be catchy the device itself is more interesting because of the hardware that is powering it, specifically an AMD Temash A4-1200 APU.
This marks one of the few highly visible systems being powered by the AMD Temash architecture and I will be very curious to its reception. The APU itself is a dual-core part that runs at 1.0 GHz with integrated Radeon HD 8180 graphics that is more than enough for a modest Windows 8 working environment. There is a quad-core variant of Temash available but ASUS decided to go with the dual-core option. If you need more information on the new architecture that AMD created for Kabini and Temash (based on Jaguar CPU cores and GCN GPU cores) then you should see our coverage from their announcement back in May.
The rest of the specifications are a bit more tame, including a 1366x768 10.1-in 10-point multi-touch screen, USB 3.0, 802.11n WIFI, bundled Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 and a touted 2-second resume time.
Even though the battery life is only listed at 5 hours, the 2.4 pound weight makes the X102BA a very portable machine. Plus you can get it in Hot Pink!
Subject: Motherboards, Processors | September 3, 2013 - 06:19 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: x79, P9X79 PRO, Ivy Bridge-E, Intel, i7-4960X, asus
If you read our Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E review posted earlier today, you likely saw our overclocking results. After publication I got contacted by ASUS asking why we didn't attempt to overclock our CPU sample with one of their updated motherboards. In truth we were unable to get any of the pre-release UEFI firmware updates to apply to our P9X79 Pro or Rampage IV Extreme motherboards.
Move on to this afternoon and we were finally able to patch up the v1.02 of the P9X79 Pro and tossed in the same Core i7-4960X sample we used in our initial story. What were the results?
Click to Enlarge
As you can see above we were able to overclock the processor to 4.413 GHz at UEFI set voltage of only 1.40v. Previously we were only reaching a 4.3 GHz overclock and even had to up the voltage a bit higher.
I was hoping that I would be able to reach the 45x multiplier but alas it wasn't meant to be. I will keep messing with our 4960X to see how much further can push it.
Subject: Processors | September 3, 2013 - 05:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 4960x, core i7-4960x, i7-4960X, Intel, Ivy Bridge-E, lga 2011, x79
You won't see the release of Intel's new processor as being described as "fascinating as whatever was happening with that rancher dude in Wyoming with the chickens and the laser pointer", you will have to head to The Tech Report to enjoy that type of comment. Nor will you finally learn that 5% of people who buy this chip "Need more knobs for extreme overclocking."; unfortunately he is probably right on the money as there are very few reasons to upgrade from Sandy Bridge-E to IVB-E. Stick your tongue in your cheek and read the usual benchmarks delivered a few percentage points faster than the last generation.
The truly masochistic can immediately follow that up with Ryan's review here.
"The NSA intercepted our review of the Core i7-4960X before we even had it completed. Let's listen in and see what they made of it."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Core i7 4960X Review @ OCC
- Intel Core i7 4960X @ AnandTech
- Intel Core i7 4960X Ivy Bridge Extreme Processor Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Intel i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E @ LanOC Reviews
- Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition @ Bjorn3D
- Intel i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Intel Core i7 4960X, 4930K and 4820K tested @ Hardware.Info
- Intel Core i7 4960X EE CPU / Asus X79-Deluxe Motherboard @ Kitguru
- Intel Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition @ Legion Hardware
- Intel Core i7-4960X Ivy Bridge-E Review: New flagship, old flagship @ Techspot
Very Minor Changes
November 14th, 2011 - that is the date that Intel introduced the LGA 2011 socket and the Sandy Bridge-E processor. Intel continued their pattern of modifying their mainstream architecture, Sandy Bridge at the time, into a higher performance (and higher priced) enthusiast class. The new socket differentiated these components into their own category for workstation users and others who demand top performance. Today Intel officially unveils the Ivy Bridge-E platform with essentially the same mindset.
The top end offering under the IVB-E name is the Core i7-4960X, a six-core, HyperThreaded processor with Turbo Boost technology and up to 15MB of L3 cache. Sound familiar? It should. There is really very little different about the new 4960X when compared to the Sandy Bridge-E Core i7-3960X released in 2011. In fact, the new processors use the exact same socket and will work on the same X79 motherboards already on the market. (Pending, of course, on whether your manufacturer has updated the UEFI/Firmware accordingly.)
The Ivy Bridge-E Platform
Even though the platform and features are nearly identical between Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E there are some readers that might need a refresher or maybe had never really investigated Socket 2011 products before today. I'll step through the major building blocks of the new Core i7-4960X just in case.
Subject: Processors | August 30, 2013 - 04:28 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: x79, lga 2011, Ivy Bridge-E, i7-4960X
The i7-4960X has arrived and the fact that it is compatible with current LGA2011 boards might be the biggest hurdle for the Intel sales team. [H]ard|OCP tested it on a brand new ASUS X79 Deluxe and while it did prove to be a bit faster than a 3930K, or for that matter a 4770K, as well as using a little less power at full load it just does not offer enough of a jump to make swapping your SB-E chip out. Idle power is impressively low and if you are on an older LGA 1366 board you will certainly notice a jump, so there will certainly be a market for this generation of Intel chip.
"We debut Intel's next $1000 Extreme Desktop processor, the Core i7-4960X, this time with Ivy Bridge architecture and a couple of extra cores thrown in for good measure. It is a beast of a CPU for those that can actually harness its power and bandwidth, but how much better is it than Sandy Bridge-E and Haswell at the same clocks?"
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Haswell Linux Performance Remains Mixed Against Windows @ Phoronix
- Intel Core i5-4430 CPU LGA1150 Haswell @ Benchmark Reviews
- Intel Haswell i5-4670K vs. i7-4770K Comparison @ techPowerUp
- Desktop CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- The Workstation & Server CPU Comparison @ TechARP
- Mobile CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP