PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 3 - Intel Core i7-4790K

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 16, 2014 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: Intel, holiday, devil's canyon, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

Today, we go from rusty gates (or rather cutting the bolts off of them with a Dremel) to tri-gates. Either way, you are probably looking for hardware that prides itself on variable speed. If you are looking to build or upgrade an upper-mainstream desktop PC, then the Intel Core i7-4790K is the last stop before Haswell-E.

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The CPU, codenamed Devil's Canyon, was Intel's offering for mainstream gamers and non-Enthusiast (capital E) enthusiasts during their Haswell refresh. It is cooler than its 4770K predecessor due to an improved thermal interface under the processor lid. It is a deal this week because its price dropped down to $299.99, which is about $50 below Intel's list price.

intel-devilscanyon-overview.JPG

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?

Far Cry 4 Does Not Support Dual-Core Processors: Is the Budget Landscape Shifting?

Subject: Processors | November 21, 2014 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: quad core, pentium, gaming, far cry 4, dual-core, dragon age inquisition, cpus, budget, athlon

A new report covering dual-core woes with Far Cry 4 paints a "bleak future" for budget gamers.

far_cry_4.jpg

Image credit: Polygon

For a while now the dual-core Pentium processors have been a great option for budget gaming, with the Pentium G3220 and newer G3258 Anniversary Edition taking center stage in a number of budget gaming builds. Today, we may be nearing the end of the road for dual-core CPUs entirely as a couple of high-profile games now require a quad-core CPU.

pentium_box.jpg

Is the anniversary really...over?

Far Cry 4 won't even open with a dual-core CPU installed, and while the game will load when using dual-core CPU's with hyper-threading enabled (for 4 total "cores") the performance isn't very good. PC World's article points to users "reporting that Far Cry 4 flat-out refuses to work with 'straight' dual-core PCs - chips that don’t use hyperthreading to 'fake' having additional cores." The article references a "black-screen 'failure to launch' bug" being reported by users with these dual-core chips.

This should come as good news for AMD, who has embraced quad-core designs throughout their lineup, including very affordable offerings in the budget space. 

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Image credit: AMD

AMD offers very good gaming performance with a part like the Athlon X4 760K, which matched the Pentium G3220 in our budget gaming shootout and was neck and neck with the Pentium in our $550 1080p gaming PC article back in April. And the Athlon 760K is now selling for just under $77, close to the current best-selling $70 Pentium.

Ubisoft has made no secret of their new game's hefty system requirements, with an Intel Core i5-750 or AMD Phenom II X4 955 listed as the minimum CPUs supported. Another high-profile new release, Dragon Age: Inquisition, also requires a quad core CPU and cannot be played on dual-core machines.

dragon_age.jpg

Image credit: Origin

Looks like the budget gaming landscape is changing. AMD’s position looks very good unless Intel chooses to challenge the under $80 price segment with some true quad-core parts (and their current 4-core CPUs start at more than twice that amount).

Source: PC World

AMD Announces Carrizo and Carrizo-L SOCs

Subject: Processors | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: amd, APU, carrizo, Carrizo-L, Kaveri, Excavator, Steamroller, SoC, Intel, mobile

AMD has certainly gone about doing things in a slightly different manner than we are used to.  Today they announced their two latest APUs which will begin shipping in the first half of 2015.  These APUs are running at AMD and are being validated as we speak.  AMD did not release many details on these products, but what we do know is pretty interesting.

Carrizo is based on the latest iteration of AMD’s CPU technology.  Excavator is the codename for these latest CPU cores, and they promise to be smaller and more efficient than the previous Steamroller core which powers the latest Kaveri based APUs.  Carrizo-L is the lower power variant which will be based on the Puma+ core.  The current Beema APU is based on the Puma architecture.

AMD_Mobility_Roadmap_2015.jpg

Roadmaps show that the Carrizo APUs will be 28 nm products, presumably fabricated by GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  Many were hoping that AMD would make the jump to 20 nm with this generation of products, but that does not seem to be the case.  This is not surprising due to the limitations of that particular process when dealing with large designs that require a lot of current.  AMD will likely be pushing for 16 nm FinFET for the generation of products after Carrizo.

The big Carrizo supposedly has a next generation GCN unit.  My guess here is that it will use the same design as we saw with the R9 285.  That particular product is a next generation unit that has improved efficiency.  AMD did not release how many GCN cores will be present in Carizzo, but it will be very similar to what we see now with Kaveri.  Carrizo-L will use the same GCN units as the previous generation Beema based products.

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I believe AMD has spent a lot more time hand tuning Excavator instead of relying on a lot of automated place and route.  This should allow them to retain much of the performance of the part, all the while cutting down on transistor count dramatically.  Some rumors that I have seen point to each Excavator module being 40% smaller than Steamroller.  I am not entirely sure they have achieved that type of improvement, but more hand layout does typically mean greater efficiency and less waste.  The downside to hand layout is that it is extremely time and manpower intensive.  Intel can afford this type of design while AMD has to rely more on automated place and route.

Carrizo will be the first HSA 1.0 compliant SOC.  It is in fact an SOC as it integrates the southbridge functions that previously had been handled by external chips like the A88X that supports the current Kaveri desktop APUs.  Carrizo and Carrizo-L will also share the same infrastructure.  This means that motherboards that these APUs will be soldered onto are interchangeable.  One motherboard from the partner OEMs will be able to address multiple markets that will see products range from 4 watts TDP up to 35 watts.

Finally, both APUs feature the security processor that allows them access to the ARM TrustZone technology.  This is a very small ARM processor that handles the secure boot partition and handles the security requests.  This puts AMD on par with Intel and their secure computing solution (vPro).

carrizo_02.png

These products will be aimed only at the mobile market.  So far AMD has not announced Carrizo for the desktop market, but when they do I would imagine that they will hit a max TDP of around 65 watts.  AMD claims that Carrizo is one of the biggest jumps for them in terms of power efficiency.  A lot of different pieces of technology have all come together with this product to make them more competitive with Intel and their process advantage.  Time will tell if this is the case, but for now AMD is staying relevant and pushing their product releases so that they are more consistently ontime.

Source: AMD

Intel to Merge PC and Mobile Businesses

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel

Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.

Intel-logo.png

And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.

At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.

The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.

Source: WSJ
Author:
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Intel

Core M 5Y70 Specifications

Back in August of this year, Intel invited me out to Portland, Oregon to talk about the future of processors and process technology. Broadwell is the first microarchitecture to ship on Intel's newest 14nm process technology and the performance and power implications of it are as impressive as they are complex. We finally have the first retail product based on Broadwell-Y in our hands and I am eager to see how this combination of technology is going to be implemented.

If you have not read through my article that dives into the intricacies of the 14nm process and the architectural changes coming with Broadwell, then I would highly recommend that you do so before diving any further into this review. Our Intel Core M Processor: Broadwell Architecture and 14nm Process Reveal story clearly explains the "how" and "why" for many of the decisions that determined the direction the Core M 5Y70 heads in.

As I stated at the time:

"The information provided by Intel about Broadwell-Y today shows me the company is clearly innovating and iterating on its plans set in place years ago with the focus on power efficiency. Broadwell and the 14nm process technology will likely be another substantial leap between Intel and AMD in the x86 tablet space and should make an impact on other tablet markets (like Android) as long as pricing can remain competitive. That 14nm process gives Intel an advantage that no one else in the industry can claim and unless Intel begins fabricating processors for the competition (not completely out of the question), that will remain a house advantage."

With a background on Intel's goals with Broadwell-Y, let's look at the first true implementation.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core M 5Y70 Broadwell-Y Processor!!

Battle of the low cost SoCs, Sempron versus Celeron

Subject: Processors | November 3, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: Sempron 2650, low cost, Intel, Celeron J1800, asus AM1M-A, ASRock D1800M, amd

For a mere $60 you can get the ASRock D1800M motherboard with a Celeron J1800 installed, or for about $8 more you can get a socketed Sempron 2650 and compatible motherboard.  After that it is merely a matter of adding a PSU, RAM and storage and you have a working machine for very little cost. Those were the systems which Hardware Secrets tested out to see which low cost, low powered system made more sense to purchase for light browsing and media consumption.  As you would expect the 1Ghz clock advantage that the Celeron enjoys pushed its performance above the Sempron in all tests but 3D Mark but what is interesting is that the performance gap was nowhere near as large a percentage difference as the clock speed.  While it is clear that the Celeron runs cooler, quieter and faster the fact that the AMD solution is socketed might sway some buyers decision.  Check out the full review if you are interested in working machines that cost less than $200 to assemble.

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"Both AMD and Intel recently released new families of low cost, low TDP desktop CPUs. AMD launched the AM1 platform with Sempron and Athlon "Kabini" processors, while Intel released the "Bay Trail-D" Celeron and Pentium CPUs, recognizable by the use of the letter "J" on the model naming. Among the lowest-end models of each family are, respectively, the AMD Sempron 2650, and the Intel Celeron J1800. Let's compare the performance of those CPUs and discover which one is the best buy in the low-end market segment."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Eighteen-core Xeon E7 v3 Based on Haswell-EX in Q2'15

Subject: Processors | October 29, 2014 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, Haswell-EX, Ivy Bridge-EX

Last February, Intel launched the Xeon E7 v2 line of CPUs. Based on the Ivy Bridge architecture, they replaced the original Xeon E7s, developed from Sandy Bridge, that were released in April 2011. Intel is now planning to release Haswell-EX in the second quarter of 2015. No specific SKUs are listed, this information describes the product family as a whole.

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This is Ivy Bridge-EX. Haswell-EX will have 3 extra cores (and look a bit different).

To set the tone, these are not small chips. Using the previous generation as an example, Ivy Bridge-EX was over twice the size (surface area) of Ivy Bridge-E, and it contained over twice the number of transistors. While Ivy Bridge-EX was available with up to 15 physical cores per processor, double that with HyperThreading, Haswell-EX is increasing that to 18, or 36 simultaneous threads with HyperThreading. If that is not enough cores, then you can pick up an eight-socket motherboard and load it up with multiple of these.

Other than their gigantic size, these chips are fairly similar to the Xeon E5 processors that are based on Haswell-E. If you need eighteen cores per package, and can spare several thousand dollars per processor, you should be able to give someone your money in just a handful of months.

Source: KitGuru

ARM Announces Mali-T800 Series of Mobile GPUs

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 04:30 AM |
Tagged: arm, mali-T800, mali

While some mobile SoC manufacturers have created their own graphics architectures, others license from ARM (and some even have a mixture of each within their product stack). There does not seem to be a specific push with this generation, rather just increases in the areas that make the most sense. Some comments tout increased energy efficiency, others higher performance, and even API support got a boost to OpenGL ES 3.1, which brings compute shaders to mobile graphics applications (without invoking OpenCL, etc.).

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Three models are in the Mali-T800 series: the T820, the T830, and the T860. As you climb in the list, the products go from entry level to high-performance mobile. GPUs are often designed in modularized segments, which ARM calls cores. You see this frequently in desktop, discrete graphics cards where an entire product stack contains a handful of actual designs, but products are made by disabling whole modules. The T820 and T830 can scale between one to four "core" modules, each core containing four actual "shader cores", while the T860 can scale between one to sixteen "core" modules, each core with 16 "shader cores". Again "core modules" are groups that contain actual shader processors (and L2 cache, etc.). Cores in cores.

This is probably why NVIDIA calls them "Streaming Multiprocessors" that contain "CUDA Cores".

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ARM does not (yet) provide an actual GFLOP rating for these processors, and it is up to manufacturers to some extent. It is normally a matter of multiplying the clock frequency by the number of ops per cycle and by the number of shader units available. I tried, but I assume my assumption of instructions per clock was off because the number I was getting did not match with known values from previous generations, so I assumed that I made a mistake. Also, again, ARM considers their performance figures to be conservative. Manufacturers should have no problem exceeding these, effortlessly.

As for a release timeline? Because these architectures are designed for manufacturers to implement, you should start seeing them within devices hitting retail in late 2015, early 2016.

Source: ARM

Intel Broadwell-E Expected for Q1 2016

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Chipsets | October 23, 2014 - 03:25 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Broadwell, Broadwell-E, Haswell-E

VR-Zone China got hold of an alleged Intel leak, go figure, that talks about their next enthusiast processor platform, Broadwell-E. This architecture is mostly Haswell-E that has its (rated) feature size shrunk down to 14nm. Given an available BIOS, it is expected to support at least some existing LGA 2011-v3 motherboards with the X99 chipset. Like Haswell, they are sticking with a maximum of 40 PCIe lanes. We will need to wait for individual SKUs to see whether one or more models will be limited to 28 lanes, like the Haswell-E-based Core i7-5820K.

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Image Credit: Chinese VR-Zone

Intel claims 140W TDP, which is identical to the current three offerings of Haswell-E, for all options. The slide claims six and eight core models will be available (also identical to Haswell-E).

One bullet-point that baffled me is, "Integrated Memory Controller: 4 Channels DDR4 2400, 1 DIMM per Channel". Double-checking with the other writers here, just to make sure sure, it seems like the slide claims that Broadwell-E will only support four sticks of DDR4. This makes zero sense for a couple of reasons. First, one of the main selling points of the enthusiast platform has been the obscene amount of RAM that workstation users demand. Second, and more importantly, if it is compatible with existing motherboards, what is it going to do? Fail to POST if you install a fifth stick? This has to be a typo or referring to something else entirely.

When will you be able to get it? A bit later than we were hoping. It is expected for Q1 2016, rather than late 2015.

AMD Cuts APU Prices and Q3 Results Fallout

Subject: Processors | October 22, 2014 - 10:02 PM |
Tagged: Richland, Q3 results, lisa su, Kaveri, APU, amd, A10 7850K

While AMD made a small profit last quarter, the Q4 outlook from the company is not nearly as rosy.  AMD estimates that Q4 revenues will be around 12% lower than Q3, making for a rare drop in what is typically a robust season for sales.  Unlike Intel, AMD is seeing a very soft PC market for their products.  Intel so far has been able to deliver parts that are as fast, if not faster than the latest APUs, but they also feature lower TDPs while at a comparable price.  The one area that AMD has a significant advantage is in terms of 3D performance and better driver support.

To keep the chips selling during this very important quarter, AMD is cutting the prices on their entire lineup of FM2+ parts.  This includes the entire Kaveri based lineup from the top end A10-7850K to the A6-7400K.  AMD is also cutting the prices on the previous Richland based parts, which include the A10-6800K.  Also of interest is that buyers of A10 APUs will be able to select one of three game titles (Murdered: Soul Suspect, Thief, or Sniper Elite 3) for free, or use the included code to purchase Corel’s Aftershot Pro 2 for only $5.

  A10-7850K A10-7800 A10-7700K A8-7600 A6-7400K
Compute Cores 12 (4+8) 12 (4+8) 10 (4+6) 10 (4+6) 6 (2+4)
Graphics R7 R7 R7 R7 R5
TDP (cTDP) 95 (65/45) 65 (45) 95 (65/45) 65 (45) 65 (45)
Suggested Price $143 $133 $123 $92 $58

The A10-7850K is a pretty good part overall, though of course it does suffer at the hands of Intel when it comes to pure CPU performance.  It still is a pretty quick part that competes well with Intel’s 2 core/4 thread chips.  3D performance from the integrated graphics is class leading, and the potential for using that unit for HSA applications is another checkmark for AMD.  We have yet to see widespread adoption of HSA, but we are seeing more and more software products coming out that support it.  Having tested it out myself, the GPU portion of the APU can be enabled when using a standalone GPU from either AMD or NVIDIA.  The Kaveri chips also support TrueAudio, which will show up in more titles throughout the next year.

One aspect of AMD’s latest FM2+ platform that cannot be ignored is the pretty robust selection of good and interesting motherboards that are offered at very low prices.  Products such as the Gigabyte G1.Sniper.A88X and the MSI A88X-G45 Gaming motherboards are well rounded products that typically sell in the $90 to $110 range.  Top end products like the Asus Crossblade Ranger are still quite affordable at around $160.  Budget offerings are still pretty decent and they come in the $50 range.

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One other product that has sparked interest is the Athlon X4 860K Black Edition.  This product is clocked between 3.7 GHz and 4.0 GHz, features two Steamroller modules, and is priced at a very reasonable $90.  The downside is that there is no GPU portion enabled, while the upside is that there is potentially more thermal headroom for the CPU portion to be clocked higher than previous A10-7850K parts.  This will of course differ from individual chips, but the potential is there to have a pretty solid CPU for a very low price.  Add in the low motherboard prices, and this has the making of a nice budget enthusiast system.

So why the cuts now?  We can simply look at last week’s results for AMD’s previous quarter, as well as how the next quarter is stacking up.  While AMD made a small profit last quarter, predictions for Q4 look grim.  AMD is looking at around a 12% decrease in revenue, as stated above.  AMD has a choice in that they can keep ASPs higher, but risk shipping less product in the very important 4th quarter; or they can sacrifice ASPs and potentially ship a lot more product.  The end result of cutting the prices on their entire line of APUs will be of course lower ASPs, but a higher volume of parts being shipped and sold.  In terms of cash flow, it is likely more important to see parts flowing rather than having higher inventories with a higher ASP.  This also means that more APUs being sold will mean more motherboards from their partners moving through the channel.

Intel does have several huge advantages over AMD in that they have a very solid 22 nm process, a huge workforce that can hand tune their processors, and enough marketing money to make any company other than Apple squirm.  AMD is at the mercy of the pure-play foundries in terms of process node tweaks and shrinks.  AMD spent a long time at 32 nm PD-SOI before it was able to migrated to 28 nm HKMG.  It looks to be 2015 before AMD sees anything below 28 nm for their desktop APUs, but it could be sooner for their smaller APUs and ARM based products on planar 20 nm HKMG processes.  We don’t know a all of the specifics of the upcoming 16/14nm FinFET products from TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, so it will be hard to compare/contrast to Intel’s 2nd generation 14 nm TriGate line.  All we know is that it will most assuredly be better than the current 28 nm HKMG that AMD is stuck at.

Source: AMD