AMD GPU Lineup Announced: R9 and R7 Series

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | September 25, 2013 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, R9, R7, GPU14, amd

The next generation of AMD graphics processors are being announced this afternoon. They carefully mentioned this event is not a launch. We do not yet know, although I hope we will learn today, when you can give them your money.

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When you can, you will have five products to choose from:

  • R7 250
  • R7 260X
  • R9 270X
  • R9 280X
  • R9 290X

AMD only provides 3D Mark Fire Strike scores for performance. I assume they are using the final score, and not the "graphics score" although they were unclear.

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The R7 250 is the low end card of the group with 1GB of GDDR5. Performance, according to 3DMark scores (>2000 on Fire Strike), is expected to be about two-thirds of what an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti can deliver. Then again, that card retails for about ~$130 USD. The R7 250 has an expected retail value of less than < $89 USD. This is a pretty decent offering which can probably play Battlefield 3 at 1080p if you play with the graphics quality settings somewhere around "medium". This is just my estimate, of course.

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The R7 260X is the next level up. The RAM has been double over the R7 250 to 2GB of GDDR5 and its 3DMark score almost doubled, too (> 3700 on Fire Strike). This puts it almost smack dab atop the Radeon HD 6970. The R7 260X is about $20-30 USD cheaper than the HD 6970. The R7 is expected to retail for $139. Good price cut while keeping up to date on architecture.

amd-gpu14-04.png

The R9 270X is the low end of the high end parts. With 2GB of GDDR5 and a 3DMark Fire Strike score of >5500, this is aimed at the GeForce 670. The R7 270X will retail for around ~$199 which is about $120 USD cheaper than NVIDIA's offering.

amd-gpu14-05.png

The R9 280X should be pretty close to the 7970 GHz Edition. It will be about ~$90 cheaper with an expected retail value of $299. It also has a bump in frame buffer over the lower-tier R9 270X, containing 3GB of GDDR5.

amd-gpu14-06.png

Not a lot is known about the top end, R9 290X, except that it will be the first gaming GPU to cross 5 TeraFLOPs of compute performance. To put that into comparison, the GeForce Titan has a theoretical maximum of 4.5 TeraFLOPs.

amd-gpu14-07.png

If you are interested in the R9 290X and Battlefield 4, you will be able to pre-order a limited edition package containing both products. Pre-orders open "from select partners" October 3rd. For how much? Who knows.

We will keep you informed as we are informed. Also, the announcement is still going on, so tune in!

Source: AMD

JavaOne 2013: GPU Is Coming Whether You Know It or Not

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 23, 2013 - 09:38 PM |
Tagged: JavaOne, JavaOne 2013, gpgpu

Are the enterprise users still here? Oh, hey!

GPU acceleration throws a group of many similar calculations at thousands of simple cores. Their architecture makes it very cheap and power efficient for the amount of work they achieve. Gamers, obviously, enjoy the efficiency at tasks such as calculating pixels on a screen or modifying thousands of vertex positions. This technology has evolved more generally than graphics. Enterprise and research applications have been taking notice over the years.

GPU discussion, specifically, starts around 16 minutes.

Java, a friend of scientific and "big-data" developers, is also evolving in a few directions including "offload".

IBM's CTO of Java, John Duimovich, discussed a few experiments they created when optimizing the platform to use new hardware. Sorting arrays, a common task, saw between a 2-fold and 48-fold increase of performance. Including the latency of moving data and initializing GPU code, a 32,000-entry array took less than 1.5ms to sort, compared to about 3ms on the CPU. The sample code was programmed in CUDA.

The goal of these tests is, as far as I can tell, to (eventually) automatically use specialized hardware for Java's many built-in libraries. The pitch is free performance. Of course there is only so much you can get for free. Still, optimizing the few usual suspects is an obvious advantage, especially if it just translates average calls to existing better-suited libraries.

Hopefully they choose to support more than just CUDA whenever they take it beyond experimentation. The OpenPOWER Consortium, responsible for many of these changes, currently consists of IBM, Mellanox, TYAN, Google, and NVIDIA.

Source: JavaOne

Gabe Newell LinuxCon Keynote. Announcement Next Week.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2013 - 09:15 PM |
Tagged: Steam Box, LinuxCon, Gabe Newell

Valve Software, as demonstrated a couple of days ago, still believe in Linux as the future of gaming platforms. Gabe Newell discussed this situation at LinuxCon, this morning, which was streamed live over the internet (and I transcribed after the teaser break at the bottom of the article). Someone decided to rip the stream, not the best quality but good enough, and put it on Youtube. I found it and embed it below. Enjoy!

Gabe Newell highlights, from the seventh minute straight through to the end, why proprietary platforms look successful and how they (sooner-or-later) fail by their own design. Simply put, you can control what is on it. Software you do not like, or even their updates, can be stuck in certification or even excluded from the platform entirely. You can limit malicious software, at least to some extent, or even competing products.

Ultimately, however, you limit yourself by not feeding in to the competition of the crowd.

If you wanted to get your cartridge made you bought it, you know, FOB in Tokyo. If you had a competitive product, miraculously, your ROMs didn't show up until, you know, 3 months after the platform holder's product had entered market and stuff like that. And that was really where the dominant models for what was happening in gaming ((came from)).

But, not too surprisingly, open systems were advancing faster than the proprietary systems had. There used to be these completely de novo graphics solutions for gaming consoles and they've all been replaced by PC-derived hardware. The openness of the PC as a hardware standard meant that the rate of innovation was way faster. So even though, you would think, that the console guys would have a huge incentive to invest in it, they were unable to be competitive.

Microsoft attempts to exert control over their platform with modern Windows which is met by a year-over-year regression in PC sales; at the same time, PC gaming is the industry hotbed of innovation and it is booming as a result. In a time of declining sales in PC hardware, Steam saw a 76% growth (unclear but it sounds like revenue) from last year.

Valve really believes the industry will shift toward a model with little divide between creator and consumer. The community has been "an order of magnitude" more productive than the actual staff of Team Fortress 2.

Does Valve want to compete with that?

This will only happen with open platforms. Even the consoles, with systems sold under parts and labor costs to exert control, have learned to embrace the indie developer. The next gen consoles market indie developers, prior to launch, seemingly more than the industry behemoths and that includes their own titles. They open their platforms a little bit but it might still not be enough to hold off the slow and steady advance of PC gaming be it through Windows, Linux, or even web standards.

Speaking of which, Linux and web standards are oft criticized because they are fragmented. Gabe Newell, intentionally or unintentionally, claimed proprietary platforms are more fragmented. Open platforms have multiple bodies push and pull the blob but it all tends to flow in the same direction. Proprietary platforms have lean bodies with control over where they can go, just many of them. You have a dominant and a few competing platforms for each sector: phones and tablets, consoles, desktops, and so forth.

He noted each has a web browser and, because the web is an open standard, is the most unified experience across devices of multiple sectors. Open fragmentation is small compared to the gaps between proprietary silos across sectors. ((As a side note: Windows RT is also designed to be one platform for all platforms but, as we have been saying for a while, you would prefer an open alternative to all RT all the time... and, according to the second and third paragraphs of this editorial, it will probably suffer from all of the same problems inherent to proprietary platforms anyway.))

Everybody just sort of automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of wherever they are. There may be pluses or minuses of their specific environment but nobody says, "Oh I'm in an airplane now, I'm going to use a completely different method of accessing data across a network". We think that should be more broadly true as well. That you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as being things which require a completely different way for users to interact or acquire assets or developers to program or deliver to those targets.

Obviously if that is the direction you are going in, Linux is the most obvious basis for that and none of the proprietary, closed platforms are going to be able to provide that form of grand unification between mobile, living room, and desktop.

Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities that we see for bringing Linux into the living room and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile.

Well, we will certainly be looking forward to next week.

Personally, for almost two years I found it weird how Google, Valve, and Apple (if the longstanding rumors were true) were each pushing for wearable computing, Steam Box/Apple TV/Google TV, and content distribution at the same time. I would not be surprised, in the slightest, for Valve to add media functionality to Steam and Big Picture and secure a spot in the iTunes and Play Store market.

As for how wearables fit in? I could never quite figure that out but it always felt suspicious.

Read on for our transcript of the keynote speech. Bare with us, it is a little bit rough.

Source: LinuxCon

Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2013 Keynote Live Blog Day 2

Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:47 PM |
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!

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The event starts at 9am PT / 12pm ET on Wednesday the 11th!

 

 

 

IDF 2013: Announcing Quark SoCs that are even smaller than Atom

Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 02:31 PM |
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.

quark1.jpg

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. 

quark2.jpg

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.

quark3.jpg

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!

Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2013 Keynote Live Blog

Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 11:02 AM |
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!

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IFA 2013: ASUS Zenbook UX301 and UX302 Sleek Glass

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 4, 2013 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: zenbook, ifa 2013, asus

How about some Ultrabooks? We got Ultrabooks. Thin, light, and metal brushed with their characteristic circular pattern. They are proud of that design, proud enough to cover it, the top of the lid, with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it from scratches and gouges. It feels a little absurd to say, but covering metal in glass for increased durability seems to make sense and could help your premium laptop look new for longer.

ZenbookUX301.jpg

These 13.3-inch laptops come in two resolutions: 1920x1080 Full HD is the lower offering, with 2560x1440 for higher-end tastes. Both monitors are IPS-based with 10-point multi-touch capabilities.

The raw specifications for the UX301 are:

  • Intel Core i5-4200U or i7-4500U or i7-4558U
  • 4GB or 8GB DDR3L
  • Intel HD 5100 Graphics
  • SATA 3 SSD (up to 512GB RAID0)
  • 13.3-inch 2560 x 1440 WQHD or 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS multitouch
  • 802.11ac (dual-band), Bluetooth 4.0
  • Mini DisplayPort, Micro-HDMI 1.4
  • 2x USB3.0, 3.5mm headphone/mic, SD card reader
  • Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro

Zenbook UX302.jpg

For the UX302:

  • Intel Core i5-4200U or i7-4500U
  • 4GB DDR3L
  • Intel HD 4400 or NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M (2GB)
  • Up to a 750GB HDD with 16 GB SSD cache
  • 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS multitouch
  • 802.11ac (dual-band), Bluetooth 4.0
  • Mini Displayport, HDMI 1.4
  • 3x USB 3.0, 3.5mm headphone/mic, SD card reader
  • Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro

The UX301 seems to be the more-premium device with obviously higher specs, at least for options, despite being almost 2mm thinner (15.5mm vs 17.2 for the UX302) and a quarter of a pound lighter (1.38kg vs 1.5 kg for the UX302). Both models are listed as a 50W battery, which I assume means 50Wh since watts are not a unit of electrical storage, but I am not entirely sure.

No information about pricing and availability has been released.

Press release after the break.

Source: ASUS

IFA 2013: ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T Tegra 4 Powered

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 4, 2013 - 11:34 AM |
Tagged: TF701T, ifa 2013, asus

Among the ASUS announcements is their new Transformer Pad TF701T. Being a Transformer Pad, the TF701T is an Android Tablet which can be used alone or docked in a keyboard for extra battery life and USB 3.0 support -- or, of course, for a keyboard. The touch display is IPS-based, 10.1", and with a native resolution of 2560x1600.

TF701T.jpg

The other raw specifications include:

  • NVIDIA Tegra 4 T40X quad-core SoC.
  • 2GB DDR3L RAM
  • WiFi B/G/N (dual-band) with Miracast support
  • Bluetooth 3.0+EDR
  • Speaker with ASUS "SonicMaster" technology
  • 32GB and 64GB options
  • MicroSDXC port on tablet if you need more storage.
  • SDXC port on the dock if you need even more storage or, of course, to load pictures from a camera
  • USB 3.0 (on dock).
  • 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack.

I find it somewhat interesting that ASUS listed the Tegra 4 "T40X". It seems odd to declare a specific model if, unless I completely missed something, Tegra 4 is not announced to be binned in to multiple SKUs. This might suggest Tegra 4 will have more options than simply, "Get Tegra 4 or wait for Tegra 4i with the built-in Icera modem". Then again, it could be another case of over-description. Either way, it is something we will watch closely and report further on.

Pricing and availability information has not yet been released.

Press release after the break.

Source: ASUS

Battlefield 4: Levelution Teaser

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 23, 2013 - 11:31 PM |
Tagged: battlefield 4, gamescom

Battlefield 4 is still at Gamescom, possibly the last big trade show before launch, and they are still trickling out news. DICE just released their Levelution teaser, which is a cheesy name and I will not pretend to ignore that, but an interesting premise for level design. Keeping in line with the original premise for Battlefield, levels are designed for too many options to fully consider, leading to the characteristic "Battlefield Moments".

A Battlefield Moment is when something amazing, genius, or plain stupid happens in a multiplayer match and draws your attention.

Some popular examples include:

Of course capturing these moments are much more common since Bad Company 2 just due to how common video editing is. Battlefield 2 also had its moments. A personal favorite is when I dropped anti-tank mines, while parachuting, atop a heavy tank. It turns out the time it took to fall was enough for it to arm. I also enjoy proclaiming myself "The Kool-Aid Man" before running someone in my Teamspeak channel down by crashing a jeep through a wall.

DICE wants to show off their engine technology by including many user-triggered events, big and small, to give players options. You can destroy cover, lower doors, and otherwise succeed with out-of-box ideas. Check out the video, above, for more examples.

I am pretty sure the marketing people like showing off video of a skyscraper crumbling, too.

Battlefield 4 will launch October 29th in North America.

Battlefield 4 Demo: Paracel Storm at Gamescom

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 23, 2013 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: battlefield 4, gamescom

EA TV conducted a broadcast of Battlefield 4, spectating gameplay from the attendees of Gamescom. Almost 13 minutes of were posted to Youtube and, because our readers are awesome, you get to see it here. Destructibility exceeding even Bad Company 2 is displayed in this map, Paracel Storm, as Russia and China fight over an island cluster.

... And the observer tools look interesting, too!

The hook of the map, at least one of them, is a windmill out in the ocean anchoring a destroyed frigate. Once the windmill is destroyed the wreckage is released, runs aground near a control point, and destroys a multi-level structure.

The video also announced another gametype, "Obliteration", which seems somewhat like a play on the Rush mode from Bad Company and Assault from Halo 2. Each team has 3 "MCOM" points which can be destroyed by planting a randomly spawning bomb. An interesting mashup.

I am, still, slightly upset that we have yet to see free bombing since Battlefield 2. Rumors have circulated, due to the promotional images from China Rising DLC, that bombers will make a reappearance in, at least, that DLC. The mechanic of bombers allows you to either: in the sky, carpet bomb to clear predictable attack paths; on the ground, lure enemies into bombing paths and chat with teammates in the sky.

Of course this is less relevant outside of the clan skirmish sphere, but still fun with a handful of friends on a public server.

What are you thoughts on the video? What are you looking forward to about Battlefield 4? What are you hoping for in Battlefield 4?

Stay tuned in case anything more comes out from Gamescom. Battlefield 4 launches October 29th with a Beta coming earlier that month.