E3 2013: Dell Alienware X51 Gaming Desktop Refresh

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 13, 2013 - 04:17 AM |
Tagged: E3, E3 13, dell, alienware, alienware x51

The launch of Haswell led to many new product launches, and so did E3. The overlap? The Alienware X51 gaming desktop has been refreshed with some very compelling components at a surprisingly compelling price.

dell-alienware-x51.jpg

Unfortunately, there is a slight difference between the Canadian and the American offerings; it is not a case of one citizen paying more than the another, however, as things are more shuffled around than outright better. Our Canadian readers start with a base price of $1499.99, and Americans start out at $1449.99. Americans can spend an extra $100 to upgrade their DVD reader to a Blu-Ray drive, Canadians get Blu-Ray by default. Therefore, if you desire a Blu-Ray drive, it is $50 cheaper to be Canadian; otherwise, it is $50 cheaper to be American.

Whether you are Canadian or American, I would personally recommend spending the extra $100 upgrading your RAM from 8GB to 16 GB. Sure, 8GB is a lot, but the extra can go a long way especially with the direction that web browsers have been heading. You each, also, have the option of spending $300 and receiving a 256GB SSD albeit also at the expense of, beyond the $300, reducing your 2TB HDD down to a slower, 5400RPM 1TB drive.

In all, this actually looks quite compelling for someone who wishes to have a console-esque form-factor near their TV. Unfortunately there are currently no Ubuntu-based options for this X51, although you may freely ($0) choose between Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Windows 8 64-bit.

Source: Dell

WWDC 13: Dissecting Apple's New Hardware Changes. MacBook Air and the new Mac Pro.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2013 - 04:06 AM |
Tagged: wwdc 13, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, apple

Sometimes our "Perspective" is needed on Apple announcements because some big points just do not get covered by the usual sources. Other times, portions of the story can be relevant to our readers. This is one of those days where both are true. Either side should review our thoughts and analysis of Apple's recent ultrabook and, especially, their upcoming desktop offerings.

The MacBook Air has been, predictably, upgraded Intel's Haswell processors. Battery life is the first obvious benefit of the CPU, and that has been well reported. The 11-inch MacBook Air gains an extra four hours of battery life, usable for up to 9 hours between charges. The extra space on the 13-inch MacBook Air allows it to last 12 hours between charges.

apple-macbook-air.jpg

Less discussed, both MacBook Airs will contain Intel's Iris iGPU more commonly known as Intel HD 5000. You cannot get Intel HD 5000 graphics without selecting a BGA socket component which you would install by soldering it in place. While there are several better solutions from competing GPU vendors, Apple will have one of the first shipping implementations of Haswell's canonical graphics processor. Iris is said to have double the performance of previous generation Ivy Bridge graphics for a fraction of its power consumption.

Also included in the MacBook Air is an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi network adapter and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple is not typically known to introduce new standards and often lags severely behind what is available on the PC unless they had a hand in trademarking it, USB 3.0 being the obvious and recent example.

The specifications will be somewhat customizable, the user is able to select between: an i5 and an i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128, 256, or 512GB SSD. It has shipped the day it was announced with base prices ranging between $999 for an entry-level 11-inch and $1099 for an entry-level 13-inch.

But now we move on to the dying industry, desktop PCs, where all innovation has died unless it is to graft a touch interface to anything and everything.

"Can't innovate any more, my ass", grunts Phil Schiller, on the keynote stage.

Whether you like it, or think "innovation" is the best word, it's a legitimate new design some will want.

While the new Mac Pro is not a system that I would be interested in purchasing, for issues I will outline soon, these devices are what some users really want. I have been a very strong proponent of OEM devices as they highlight the benefit of the PC industry: choice. You can purchase a device, like the new Mac Pro, from a vendor; alternatively, you can purchase the components individually to assemble yourself and save a lot of money; otherwise, you can hire a small business computer store or technician.

We need more companies, like Apple, to try new devices and paradigms for workstations and other high-performance devices. While it is less ideal for Apple to be the ones coming up with these redesigns, Apple's platform encourages applications to be vendor-specific (only run on a Mac), it can still benefit the PC industry by demonstrating that life and demand still exists; trying something new could reap large benefits. Not everyone wants to have a full ATX case with discrete components but still want workstation performance, and that is okay.

Now when it comes to actual specifications, the typical coverage glossed over what could be easily approximated by a trip to Wikipedia and Google. Sure, some may have been in a rush within the auditorium, but still.

The specifications are:

  • Intel Xeon E5-2600 V2-class CPU, Ivy Bridge-E, 12 cores max (suggests single-socket)
  • 4-channel DDR3 ECC RAM, apparently 4 DIMMS which suggests 4x16GB (Max).
  • Dual FirePro GPUs, 4096 total shaders with 2x6GB GDDR5.
  • PCIe SSD
  • Thunderbolt 2, USB3.0, and WiFi ac (+ a/b/g/n??), Bluetooth 4.0

Now the downside is that basically anything you wish to add to the Mac Pro needs to be done through Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 4.0, or USB 3.0. When you purchase an all-in-one custom design, you forfeit your ability to reach in and modify the components. There is also no mention of pricing, and for a computer with this shoplist you should expect to pay a substantial invoice even without "The Apple Tax", but that is not the point of purchasing a high-end workstation. Apple certainly put in as close to the best-of-the-best as they could.

Now could people stop claiming the PC is dead and work towards sustaining it? I know people love stories of jarring industry shifts, but this is ridiculous.

Source: Apple

E3 2013: Bludgeon that horse again! Xbox One DRM

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, E3 13, E3

So heading up to E3, Microsoft decided to drop their DRM bombshell so it would get buried over the next couple of days. In terms of permissiveness, the Xbox One is not nearly as bad as feared; of course, it is still terrible in certain ways.

Microsoft will allow games to be played offline on the Xbox One... for 24 hours. If your internet connection has been offline for longer than that period (unclear whether the timer starts when internet goes out or from last update) then your system will be locked to live TV and disc-based movies. Games and apps, even ones which should have no online functionality, will cease to function until you reconnect with Xbox servers.

This also means that if the Xbox servers have an outage lasting between 24 hours and "taken offline forever", all gaming and apparently apps will cease to function on the Xbox One.

And people wonder why I freak out about Windows Store.

xbox-one-front.png

It's like if Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury

But at least they will allow some level of used-game transfer... if the publisher agrees. Check out this statement from Microsoft Studios:

In our role as a game publisher, Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this. In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.

So this will be an interesting experiment: how will revenue and profitability be affected for game publishers who deny used game sales? I honestly expect that used game sales actually promote the purchasing of more games and that initiatives to limit used game transfers will reduce user engagement. Of course Microsoft is now taking all of the flak from Sony, who may or may not be considering the same practice, but I am sure at least Microsoft is hoping that everyone will forget this when shiny new trailers erase the collective gamer memory.

In return, however, Microsoft is being fairly permissive when it comes to how many users can be licensed on a single disk. Up to ten family members are allowed access to your collective library.

And, after all, it should not be a surprise that a console game disappears when Microsoft shuts down their servers: consoles were always designed to be disposable. I have been proclaiming that for quite some time. The difference is now, people cannot really deny it.

Source: Microsoft

Computex 2013: Sony Unveils New Haswell-Powered VAIO Duo 13 Tablet and VAIO Pro 11" and 13" Ultrabooks

Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 5, 2013 - 09:53 AM |
Tagged: vaio pro, vaio duo 13, vaio, tablet, sony, computex 2013, computex

Tablets and ultrabooks are proving popular devices at Computex, and Sony recently joined the release party with three new Haswell-powered VAIO notebooks. The VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 are thin and light laptops while the VAIO Duo 13 is the company's first Haswell-powered convertible tablet (slider style).

All three new mobile devices share Full HD 1920 x 1080 Bravia Triluminos touchscreen displays, ClearAudio+ sound, Haswell processors, and respectable battery life.

Sony VAIO Duo 13 Slider Tablet.jpg

The VAIO Duo 13 is a 13" notebook that can be converted into a slate tablet by sliding the screen forward and having it lay on top of the keyboard. The keyboard is back-lit and sits above a tiny trackpad that is much wider than it is tall. Other features include a stylus, 8MP camera with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software called CamScanner, and a claimed 15 hour battery life according to Sony and as tested by MobileMark 2007.

Internal specifications match those of the VAIO Pro series, with a dual core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD, and a beefy 6,320 mAh battery.
Aside from the small trackpad, this looks like a solid device that matches Intel's "It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it” mantra. At the very least, it looks like a worthy (and improved) successor to the company's existing VAIO Duo 11 convertible tablet.

The VAIO Duo 13 will be available for purchase in Carbon Black or Carbon White later this month for $1,399.

Sony has also announced two new thin-and-light ultraportable VAIO Pro notebooks. As the product names suggest, they are 11” and 13” ultrabooks.

The VAIO Pro 11 weighs in at an ultra-light 1.92 pounds (0.87kg) and offers up a 1920 x 1080 display, backlight keyboard, trackpad (again, rather tiny), and decent internals.
Specifically, the base model Pro 11 notebook is powered by an Intel 4th Generation Core i5-4200U (dual core at 1.6GHz) processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. For a bit more, you can upgrade to a Core i7-4500U and a 256GB SSD. The base model has an MSRP of $1,150.00 USD.

Sony VIAO Pro Ultrabook.jpg

Sony's VAIO Pro 13 steps up to a larger 13” display (albeit still 1080p). The larger form factor is still only 2.33 pounds (1.06kg), however which is nice to see. The base model contains a Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB PCIe SSD. Users can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, however. The MSRP for the base model is $1,250.00 USD.

For only $100 over the base VAIO Pro 11, you can get a larger screen and faster storage drive which is pretty good. Judging by the reviews,  such as this one by The Verge, the Pro 13 is the one to get as the Pro 11 is almost too small with a hard-to-read screen and cramped keyboard. On the other hand, if you need portability however, it is hard to beat the Haswell-powered Pro 11.

Both the VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 will be available later this month for $1,150 and $1,250 respectively.

What do you think about Sony's new offerings? Any Duo 11 users out there wishing for a larger form factor?

Source: Sony

Computex 2013: MiTAC Announces High Density 7-Star ARMv8-Powered Server

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 4, 2013 - 11:44 PM |
Tagged: computex 2013, computex, X-Gene, mitac, ARMv8, appliedmicro, 7-star, 64-bit

During Computex, MiTAC announced a new high density "7-Star" ARMv8 server. Aimed at the enterprise market, the 7-Star platform is a 4U server that holds up to 18 compute cards. Each compute card contains an eight-core ARMv8-based X-Gene processor from AppliedMicro, two DDR3 DIMM slots, and space for two 2.5"/3.5" internal storage drives (SSD or HDD). The compute cards use a 10G SFP+ and a single Gigabit Ethernet port for networking purposes.

MiTAC 7-Star Shown Off At Computex.jpg

Of course, the interesting bit about the 7-Star is that it is one of the first server to use processors based on ARM's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture. MiTAC worked with ARM and AppliedMicro on the project, and it should be available later this year. It is currently being shown off at the ARM Holdings demo suite in Taipei, Taiwan. I'm intested to see how well these 64-bit ARM servers do, especially with new low power chips from Intel and AMD on the way!

Read more about ARMv8 at PC Perspective.

The full press release is below:

Source: MiTAC

Computex 2013: Gigabyte Launches New GB-XM1 SFF Brix PCs With Haswell and Kabini CPU Options

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 4, 2013 - 05:40 AM |
Tagged: Kabini, Intel, haswell, gigabyte, computex 2013, computex, brix, amd

Earlier this year, Gigabyte showed off a new small form factor (SFF) mini PC called the Brix during its New Idea Tech Tour. Those initial models came equipped with Intel Ivy Bridge processors, two SO-DIMM slots (a maximum of 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory), one mSATA slot, and one mPCI-E connector for storage and wireless networking respectively. The Brix hardware is housed in an aluminum chassis that doubles as a heatsink. However, since the Brix's debut, both Intel and AMD have come out with new more power efficient processors. In light of this, Gigabyte is not only showing off the original Brix PC at Computex 2013, but a new SKU called the GB-XM1 that comes equipped with your choice of Intel Haswell or AMD Kabini processors.

Gigabyte Brix SFF PC.jpg

The new 4.5 x 4.2 x 1.2" Gigabyte Brix XM1 PC supports mSATA, mPCI-E, dual display outputs, USB 3.0, and is VESA mountable. The Haswell variant's processor options range from a Core i3-4010U to a Core i7-4500U. On the AMD side of things, the GB-XM1 is available with options ranging from the E1-2100 to the A4-5000. All of the AMD "Kabini" chips are outfitted with 12 Radeon cores, but they differ from there. The highest-end chip, the A4-5000, is a quad core with 2MB of L2 cache while the lower tier chips are dual cores with only 1MB of L2 cache. The following chart outlines all of the Haswell and Kabini CPU choices.

GB-XM1 (Haswell) GB-XM1 (Kabini)
Core i7-4500U A4-5000
Core i5-4200U E2-3000
Core i3-4100U E1-2500
Core i3-4010U E1-2100

For more information on Kabini, check out our review of the AMD A4-5000 Kabini processor. If you need a refresher on Intel's Haswell architecture, you can also find a review of the Core i7-4770K here.

Gigabyte has not released pricing or availability information on the GB-XM1, but expect the Kabini models to be noticeably cheaper than the Haswell counterparts. Thankfully, it is not all bad news for Kabini users, as the Radeon cores help the low power processor accomplish 3D and media playback tasks, as noted in Josh's review.

For those interested in the mini Brix PC as a media center box or low-power desktop PC, Engadget reports that Gigabyte is also experimenting with specialized Brix SKUs, including a wireless charging pad for mobile devices and another Brix with a Pico projector. These accessories are merely prototypes at this point and may not go into mass production.

I'm glad to see Gigabyte moving forward with its Brix lineup to provide a useful alternative to Intel's NUC.

Computex 2013: ASUS Reveals New ROG Gaming and Overclocking Hardware

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 4, 2013 - 04:36 AM |
Tagged: z87, ROG, Maximus VI Formula, maximus vi, Intel, haswell, gaming, g30, crosschill, computex 2013, computex, asus

During an ASUS ROG press conference at Computex 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan, ASUS launched a number of new bits of hardware aimed at PC gamers and overclocking enthusiasts. In addition to the mini ITX Maximus VI Impact launch, ASUS showed off the ASUS Maximus VI Formula motherboard, OC Panel accessory, and ROG G30 desktop. The available details on each piece of hardware is as follows:

ASUS Maximus VI Formula Motherboard

While ASUS hinted at several of its Z87 motherboards last month by allowing us to post teaser photos ahead of the launch, until today enthusiasts have not seen the latest "Formula" motherboard. However, now that the board is official, you can see the new Z87 motherboard in high resolution photos below!

ASUS Maximus VI Formula Z87 Motherboard with SupremeFX and CrossChill.jpg

The board comes in red and black colors, and surprisingly, comes equipped with ASUS' thermal armor accessory which includes a plastic shroud for the front of the motherboard and a SECC back-plate with thermal pads to aid in cooling and supporting the motherboard (even with heavy CPU HSFs). In addition to the thermal armor, the board has finned heatsinks on the PCH and VRM hardware. The VRM heatsink in particular uses the company's CrossChill technology which allows user to integrate the VRM heatsink into their water cooling loop or leave it as air-cooled. The board also features a diagnostic display and start/reset buttons.

The ASUS Maximus VI Formula features a LGA 1150 CPU socket, four dual channel DDR3 DIMM slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots and a total of 10 SATA 3 6Gbps ports.

ASUS_ROG_Maximus_VI_Formula_with_ROG_Armor.jpg

The rear IO panel includes a mPCI-E Combo II card that supports 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless radios along with a M.2 NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) SSD slot at the top. Other IO includes:

  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports (one used for BIOS flashing)
  • 6 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs
  • 1 x S/PDIF connector
  • 1 x RJ45 Gigabit LAN
  • 6 x analog audio jacks

Overclocking technology includes ASUS' Extreme Engine DIGI+ III power delivery that incorporates 60A BlackWing chokes, (90% efficient) NexFET MOSFETs, and 10K Black Metallic capacitors.

Finally, ASUS has also added a SupremeFX chipset for quality onboard audio. This audio chip is capable of 120dB SNR, a headphone amplifier for 600 ohm cans, EMI shielding, and quality OpAMPs.

ASUS OC Panel Overclocking Accessory

The ASUS OC Panel is a hardware accessory for the company's ROG Maximus VI Extreme motherboard. It allows you to adjust the BCLK and other settings related to overclocking your processor in real time. It also provides CPU temperature feedback on the top of the LED display.

ASUS_ROG_Maximus_VI_Extreme_with_OC_Panel_Extreme_Mode.jpg

According to the press release, overclockers Andre Yang and Shamino managed to push a system with a Maximus VI Extreme motherboard, 32GB RAM, and a Core-i7 Haswell processor to 7GHz CPU and 4200MHz clockspeed using liquid nitrogen cooling. It looks like a cool accessory that will allow you to easily adjust the overclocking settings without rebooting into the UEFI BIOS. Pricing and availability have not been announced, but expect it soon.

ASUS ROG G30 Gaming Desktop

The ROG TYTAN G30 desktop PC features a stylized case with red LEDs and a front door with ROG and ASUS logos. Internals include an Intel Core i7 4770K "Haswell" processor and a NVIDIA GTX 780 graphics card. Even better, ASUS is using liquid cooling for the CPU, and offers a 1-button overclock of all four CPU cores to 4.1GHz. The PC also integrates ASUS' SonicMaster and AudioWizard technology which reportedly enhances in-game audio.

ASUS_ROG_G30_Gaming_Desktop_PC_with_ROG_AudioWizard.jpg

Again, pricing and availability for the haswell gaming PC are still unknown.

What do you think of ASUS' recent ROG product announcements? Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Computex 2013 news throughout the week!

Also read:

Source: ASUS

Computex 2013: ASUS G750 Gaming Notebook Uses Haswell, GTX 700M Hardware

Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 4, 2013 - 01:30 AM |
Tagged: asus, g750, gaming notebook, haswell, gtx 700M, nvidia, Intel, computex, computex 2013

With the launch of new processors and mobile graphics cards, many vendors are announcing gaming systems at the Computex 2013 trade show. One such product which was announced a couple of hours ago is the ASUS G750 17" gaming notebook. This portable powerhouse utilizes Intel's 4th Generation Core "Haswell" chips as well as NVIDIA's GTX 700M mobile GPU series in a sleek aluminum chassis to offer up decent gaming and compute performance on the go.

ASUS_ROG_G750_Gaming_Notebook_Front.jpg

Much like MSI's GS70, the ASUS G750 is monster of a laptop at 17". The aluminum chassis has a brushed metal texture and the large display lifts up and exends forward towards the keyboard slightly to angle the display without stressing the hinge (presumably). The backlit keyboard is full QWERTY with a number pad to the right and isolated arrow keys. A large touchpad occupies the area under the keyboard and has multi-touch support and hardware mouse buttons. The chassis itself has a highly angular design that does its best not to look boxy despite the large form factor. The most eye catching feature is actually on the back, however, where the two large stylized Battlestar Galactica-esque vents reside.

External connectivity options include a Kensington lock, two USB 3.0 ports, and a DVD multi drive on the left side of the G750. The right side of the gaming notebook hosts the power jack, and VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs as well as two USB 3.0 and two 3.5mm audio jacks. The headphone jack doubles as a S/PDIF output and also features a built-in headphone amplifier. ASUS Sonic Master audio and AudioWizard software offers 5 genre audio equalization modes.

ASUS_ROG_G750_Gaming_Notebook_Rear.jpg

As mentioned above, the system will use Core i7 Intel Haswell CPUs and the new NVIDIA GTX 700M graphics cards, which you can read about here. The exact CPU and GPU you get will depend on your configuration choices at checkout, though expect at least the GTX765M to be available.

ASUS has not yet announced pricing or availability for the G750. You can find the full release linked below.

Source: ASUS

Computex 2013: MSI Launches GS70 17" Gaming Notebook With GTX765M Graphics

Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: computex 2013, computex, nvidia, msi, kepler, Intel, haswell, gtx 700M, gs70, gaming notebook

A couple of weeks ago, MSI revealed the GX70 and GX60 gaming notebooks powered by AMD's latest Richland APUs and 8970M (and 7970M) discrete graphics cards. Today, the company added the GS70 notebook to its lineup, and it is the opposite in terms of underlying technology. Specifically, the GS70 is a 17" gaming notebook with an Intel Haswell processor and a NVIDIA GTX765M. The portable gaming machine is 22mm thick and weighs in at less than 5.7 pounds (2.6kg), which is a noticeably weight reduction versus the Richland-powered models.

MSI GS70 Stealth 17-inch Gaming Notebook.jpg

Expert Reviews UK goes hands-on with a prototype of the MSI GS70 at Computex 2013.

The GS70 comes clad in glossy black and is constructed of aluminum. External features include a large 17" (likely TN) display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, a SteelSeries-engineered multicolor backlit keyboard, and a large trackpad. Connectivity options include:

  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
  • 3 x audio jacks (with surround sound support)
  • 1 x SD card slot
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 2 x mini DisplayPort

Internal specifications include a not-yet-named Intel 4th Generation Core "Haswell" CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a NVIDIA GTX 765M. The discrete GPU is based on NVIDIA's Kepler architecture and features 768 CUDA cores clocked at 850 MHz and up to 2GB of graphics memory clocked at 1 GHz on a 128-bit bus. The system also uses a Killer NIC networking card and MSI's own SuperRAID technology that pairs two solid state drives in a RAID configuration for pure performance. The system should be able to play all modern PC games, though some details will need to be turned down. Multi-display output is supported for up to three external displays as well.

Unfortunately, MSI has not yet announced pricing or availability for this notebook. I would expect it to (paradoxically, despite the naming conventions) cost more than the existing GX70 (due to the newer, and faster, technology used) which starts at $1,399.99 MSRP. Keep an eye out for reviews later this year if you are interested in a mobile gaming PC, as this one looks interesting. Until then, Expert Reviews UK has some initial impressions and additional photos in this article.

Inspur Readies Tianhe-2 Supercomputer With 54 Petaflop Theoretical Peak Performance

Subject: Systems | June 3, 2013 - 09:27 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, tianhe-2, supercomputer, Ivy Bridge, HPC, China

A powerful new supercomputer constructed by Chinese company Inspur is currently in testing at the National University of Defense Technology. Called the Tianhe-2, the new supercomputer has 16,000 compute nodes and approximately 54 Petaflops of peak theoretical compute performance.
Destined for the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China, the open HPC platform will be used for education and research projects. The Tianhe-2 is composed of 125 racks with 128 compute nodes in each rack.

The compute nodes are broken down into two types: CPM and APU modules. One of each node type makes up a single compute board. The CPM module hosts four Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 128GB system memory, and a single Intel Xeon Phi accelerator card with 8GB of its own memory. Each APU module adds five Xeon Phi cards to every compute board. The compute boards (a CPM module + a APU module) contain two NICs that connect the various compute boards with Inspur's custom THExpress2 high bandwidth interconnects. Finally, the Tianhe-2 supercomputer will have access to 12.4 Petabytes of storage that is shared across all of the compute boards.

In all, the Tianhe-2 is powered by 32,000 Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 1.024 Petabytes of system memory (not counting Phi dedicated memory--which would make the total 1.404 PB), and 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi MIC (Many Integrated Cores) cards. That is a total of 3,120,000 processor cores (though keep in mind that number is primarily made up of the relatively simple individual Phi cores as there are 57 cores to each Phi card).

Artist Rendition of Inspur-built Tianhe-2 Chinese Supercomputer.png

Inspur claims up to 3.432 TFlops of peak compute performance per compute node (which, for simplicity they break down as one node is 2 Ivy Bridge chips, 64GB memory, and 3 Xeon Phi cards although the two compute modules that make up a node are not physically laid out that way) for a total theoretical potential compute power of 54,912 TFlops (or 54.912 Petaflops) across the entire supercomputer. In the latest Linpack benchmark run, researchers saw up to 63% efficiency in attaining peak performance -- 30.65 PFlops out of 49.19 PFlops peak/theoretical performance -- when only using 14,336 nodes with 50GB RAM each. Further testing and optimization should improve that number, and when all nodes are brought online the real world performance will naturally be higher than the current benchmarks. With that said, the Tianhe-2 is already besting Cray's TITAN, which is promising (though I hope Cray comes back next year and takes the crown again, heh).

In order to keep all of this hardware cool, Inspur is planning a custom liquid cooling system using chilled water. The Tianhe-2 will draw up to 17.6 MW of power under load. Once the liquid cooling system is implemented the supercomputer will draw 24MW while under load.
This is an impressive system, and an interesting take on a supercomputer architecture considering the rise in popularity of heterogeneous architectures that pair massive numbers of CPUs with graphics processing units (GPUs).

The Tianhe-2 supercomputer will be reconstructed at its permanent home at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China once the testing phase is finished. It will be one of the top supercomputers in the world once it is fully online! HPC Wire has a nice article with slides an further details on the upcoming processing powerhouse that is worth a read if you are into this sort of HPC stuff.

Also read: Cray unveils the TITAN supercomputer.

Source: HPC Wire