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30 nanoseconds is way too slow, down with the latency gap!

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2017 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: hbll, cache, l3 cache, Last Level Cache

There is an insidious latency gap lurking in your computer between your DRAM and your CPUs L3 cache.  The size of the latency depends on your processor as not all L3 cache are created equally but regardless there are wasted CPU cycles which could be reclaimed.   Piecemakers Technology, the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan and Intel are on the case, with a project to design something to fit in that niche between the CPU and DRAM.  Their prototype Last Level Cache is a chip with 17ns latency which would improve the efficiency at which L3 cache could be filled to pass onto the next level in the CPU.  The Register likens it to the way Intel has fit XPoint between the speed of SSDs and DRAM.  It will be interesting to see how this finds its way onto the market.

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"Jim Handy of Objective Analysis writes about this: "Furthermore, there's a much larger latency gap between the processor's internal Level 3 cache and the system DRAM than there is between any adjacent cache levels.""

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Source: The Register

Faster than a speeding Gigabyte, the Aorus GTX 1080 XE

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 20, 2017 - 07:54 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 1080 Xtreme Edition, GTX 1080, gigabyte, aorus

Gigabyte created their Aorus line of products to attract enthusiasts away from some of the competitions sub-brands, such as ASUS ROG.  It is somewhat similar to the Gigabyte Xtreme Edition released last year but their are some differences, such as the large copper heatsink attached to the bottom of the GPU.  The stated clockspeeds are the same as last years model and it also sports the two HDMI connections on the front of the card to connect to Gigabyte's VR Extended Front panel.  The Tech Report manually overclocked the card and saw the Aorus reach the highest frequencies they have seen from a GP104 chip, albeit by a small margin.  Check out the full review right here.

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"Aorus is expanding into graphics cards today with the GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G, a card that builds on the strong bones of Gigabyte's Editor's Choice-winning GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming. We dig in to see whether Aorus' take on a GTX 1080 is good enough for a repeat."

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The uncommon and very yellow Reeven Okeanos RC-1402

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 21, 2017 - 08:56 PM |
Tagged: reeven, Okeanos, Okeanos RC-1402

The Okeanos RC-1402 is a large hunk of metal, standing 140x135x163mm and weighing in at 1145g when both the 12cm and 14cm fans are attached.  This makes it just a bit smaller than Morry's beloved Noctua NH-D15, which will allow it to fit into slightly tighter builds.  [H]ard|OCP tested it on an i7-4770K and found its performance to be acceptable but not outstanding in any way.  Unfortunately, the price does stand out as it costs more than coolers which offer equivalent performance. Drop by for a look at their whole review.

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"The Reeven Okeanos RC-1402 is not exactly a new CPU air cooler, but it is not widely available in the United States so it has not gotten a lot of coverage in North America. The cost for the cooler is not low, and two staggered-sized fans are included in the box, so we have fairly high performance expectations for this twin tower cooler."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

FSP Group Launches CMT210 Mid-Tower ATX Case

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 23, 2017 - 06:44 AM |
Tagged: mid tower, led, FSP Group, fsp, atx

Today FSP Group (a company mainly known for power supplies with headquarters in Taiwan) is launching a new mid tower ATX computer case called the CMT210. The new PC mid-tower features a transparent side window, black angular exterior with LED accents, and a focus on cooling performance. The 460mm x 220mm x 432mm steel case is aimed at gamers and enthusiasts that want to show off their PC internals.

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The front of the CMT210 mid tower is dominated by a massive filtered vent that houses up to three 120mm fans or a 360mm water cooling radiator. The large vent with angled “water droplet” mesh is surrounded by a shroud that features colored accents in either black, red, silver, or deep blue depending on the model you choose. Up top the case offers two audio jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, and a single USB 2.0 port. (The USB 3.0 ports can be plugged into a USB 2.0 motherboard header with the included adapter if you are still holding off on upgrading to Kaby Lake or Ryzen.)

The top of the case is flat with no vents, and there are also no vents on the bottom. Instead there is a single 120mm exhaust fan vent at the rear of the case. FSP includes two of its own 120mm LED fans with the case that come pre-installed in the front and back.

The CMT210 is compatible with ATX motherboards, seven PCI slots, three 3.5” and three 2.5” tool-less drive bays, CPU coolers up to 160mm high and graphics cards up to 360mm long, and ATX power supplies (20.5cm). The power supply is bottom mounted in this case and the storage drives are snapped into trays in the bottom-front caddy and motherboard tray. There are cutouts for cable routing but no rubber grommets (not the end of the world, but they are a nice touch).

FSP claims that its new case is designed with "cooling, expansion, and compatibility" in mind. It is available now in the US though pricing is still unknown as retailers have not put up product pages yet. For more information on the CMT210 you can find details on this product page and this video.

I am curious how well the cooling setup will work with only a single exhaust fan especially if you had a multi GPU setup with aftermarket coolers. Hopefully Sebastian can put it through its paces at some point to examine the build quality and cooling prowess claims. If the price is right, it could be a good budget case as it does not look too bad and does not go crazy with LEDs and bling which is nice to see (I may just be getting old though haha).

What are your thoughts on PSU maker FSP Group getting into the case market?

Source: FSP

The Qt Company Announces Qt 3D Studio

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2017 - 09:46 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Qt, nvidia

NVIDIA has just donated their entire DRIVE Design Studio to The Qt Company, who will form it into Qt 3D Studio. This product will be a visual editor for 3D user interfaces, where layers of 2D and 3D objects can be created, animated, and integrated into C++ applications. It will take them a little while to clean it up for public consumption, but it will eventually be available under the commercial / open-source dual-license that users of Qt are accustomed to.

If you’re not familiar with the Qt Framework, then, basically, think of a cross-platform, open-source alternative to the .NET framework, although it is based in unmanaged C++. (It also competes with GTK+. This isn’t a major point, but I would like it to be clear that it’s not a two-person race between one proprietary and one open-source player.) When AMD updated their graphics drivers to Crimson Edition, and flaunted huge speed-ups, it was mostly because they switched the control panel's UI framework from .NET to Qt.

As an aside, The Qt Company joined the Khronos Group on the day that Vulkan launched, which was almost exactly a year ago, and they are actively working on integrating the API in their framework. Combined with today’s announcement, it’s not hard to imagine how much easier it will be, some day, to create efficient and beautiful UIs.

Update: Speaking of which, The Qt Company is apparently planning to release Vulkan support with Qt 5.10.

Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2017 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: X20, snapdragon, qualcomm, modem, LTE, DSDV, Category 18, Carrier Aggregation, CA, 5x20 MHz

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, their 2nd-generation Gigabit LTE solution built on 10nm FinFET and offering what Qualcomm says are “a number of industry firsts”, which include first to Category 18 (downlink) and first to receive up to 12 spacial LTE data streams simultaneously.

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“It is the first commercially announced Gigabit LTE chipset designed to deliver fiber-like LTE Category 18 download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, a 20 percent improvement in download speeds over the previous generation. Additionally, it allows support for up to 5x20 MHz downlink Carrier Aggregation (CA) across licensed and unlicensed FDD and TDD radio frequencies, as well as 4x4 MIMO on up to three aggregated LTE carriers. Lastly, it supports integrated Dual SIM Dual VoLTE (DSDV) capability, a first for Snapdragon LTE modems. These leading-edge features of the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem are supported by the first commercially announced single-chip RF transceiver capable of simultaneously receiving up to 12 spatial streams of LTE data.”

Compared the the X16 modem featured in the upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem moves from Cat 16 to Cat 18 on the downlink, with support for 5x20 MHz (vs. the X16’s 4x20 MHz) Carrier Aggregation and “can simultaneously receive 12 unique streams of data on as few as three 20 MHz carriers”, with up to 256-QAM and 100 Mbps per stream. Uplink is at the same 2x20 MHz/64-QAM as the X16 modem, for speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

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The X20 LTE modem now includes VoLTE for both cards in a dual-SIM implementation:

“The Snapdragon X20 LTE modem also features more advanced dual SIM functionality and, as the first Snapdragon LTE modem to support DSDV, it provides users with the benefits of Ultra HD Voice and other IMS-based services on both SIMs inserted into the device.”

Qualcomm has begun to sample the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem to customers, with the first commercial devices expected 1H 2018.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Qualcomm

Valve Software Releases Steam Audio SDK on GitHub

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2017 - 05:13 AM |
Tagged: valve, pc gaming

When VR started to take off, developers begun to realize that audio is worth some attention. Historically, it’s been difficult to market, but that’s par for the course when it comes to VR technology, so I guess that’s no excuse to pass it up anymore. Now Valve, the owners of the leading VR platform on the PC have just released an API for audio processing: Steam Audio SDK.

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Image Credit: Valve Software

First, I should mention that the SDK is not quite open. The GitHub page (and the source code ZIP in its releases tab) just contain the license (which is an EULA) and the readme. That said, Valve is under no obligation to provide these sorts of technology to the open (even though it would be nice) and they are maintaining builds for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. It is currently available as a C API and a plug-in for Unity. Unreal Engine 4, FMOD, and WWISE plug-ins are “coming soon”.

As for the technology itself, it has quite a few interesting features. As you might expect, it supports HRTF out of the box, which modifies a sound call to appear like it’s coming from a defined direction. The algorithm is based on experimental data, rather than some actual, physical process.

More interesting is their sound propagation and occlusion calculations. They are claiming that this can be raycast, and static scenes can bake some of the work ahead-of-time, which will reduce runtime overhead. Unlike VRWorks Audio or TrueAudio Next, it looks like they’re doing it on the CPU, though. I’m guessing this means that it will mostly raycast to fade between versions of the audio, rather than summing up contributions from thousands of individual rays at runtime (or an equivalent algorithm, like voxel leakage).

Still, this is available now as a C API and a Unity Plug-in, because Valve really likes Unity lately.

Source: Valve

It's a race to the pointy stikk! DoW 3 trailer drops

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2017 - 07:04 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dawn of war III, wauughh

Dawn of War certainly changes from version to version.  The first involved standard RTS fare, build bases and upgrade using resources collected on the map.  The second was more squad based, with a hero leading meatshields into the fray.  The third incarnation seems to lead off of the gameplay of the second, with at least some base and resource management making a comeback. 

The new feature are superunits, extremely large and destructive units which you will gain access to as you take over portions of the map.  Details are still a bit light but the game engine certainly looks pretty.  You can pop by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN to find a few of the other older teaser trailers.

"This cinematic-o-gameclip video introduces the broad story in Relic’s RTS and yes, it does basically boil down to finding a pointy stick. But what better item to fight over? If you can win a fight without a pointy stick, just imagine how powerful you’ll be once you get one!"

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Jack Sprat would approve of the third incarnation of the ASUS Zenbook

Subject: Mobile | February 20, 2017 - 07:03 PM |
Tagged: zenbook 3, UX390UA, ultrabook, kaby lake, asus. zenbook

We caught a glance at the new ASUS ZenBook 3 at CES and today Kitguru provides a full review of one, albeit a slightly different model.  The UX3901UA model contains a Kaby Lake i5-7200U with HD 620 graphics, 8GB LPDDR3-2133 and a 512GB M.2 SATA SSD.  The 12.5" screen is 1080p with no adaptive graphics or other tricks.  Where things seem to go off the rails is when you look at the thickness of the Zenbook, at its thickest it is 11.9mm (0.46").  This means you get no ethernet nor USB type A plugs as they simply would not fit and you have to content yourself with a single Type C plug.  For some the sacrifice is worth it; if you are one who likes petite sized computers you should head over for the full review.

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"What has really caught my eye about the ZenBook 3 is its physical dimensions – it measures just 11.9mm thick, while it weighs a mere 910g. With Kaby Lake hardware inside, as well as the promise of a crisp 1080p display and Harman Kardon speakers, could this be our new ultrabook of choice?"

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Source: Kitguru

AZiO's Armato mechnical keyboard has a big knob

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2017 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: cherry mx brown, input, mechanical keyboard, armato, AZiO

The Azio Armato is a big aluminium keyboard, with five macro keys located on the lower left, on the upper right are media control buttons beside the large volume knob.  The keyboard does come with a wrist rest, which attaches via a magnet so you can choose to remove it at will.  The keyboard does not require software, lighting is controlled via keystrokes and macros are recorded by pushing that large REC button and one of the macro keys, then up to up to 31 keys in sequence and the REC button again to save the macro.  You can see more of the Armato over at Benchmark Reviews.

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"In any case Benchmark Reviews has in hand their Armato Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, model MGK-ARMATO-01. As a single-color backlit mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches, it might seem as if there’s little to distinguish it from the many other similar products available. But first appearances can be deceiving, as we’ll find out in this review."

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