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AMD Details Zen at ISSCC

Subject: Processors | February 9, 2017 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: Zen, Skylake, Samsung, ryzen, kaby lake, ISSCC, Intel, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, AM4, 14 nm FinFET

Yesterday EE Times posted some interesting information that they had gleaned at ISSCC.  AMD released a paper describing the design process and advances they were able to achieve with the Zen architecture manufactured on Samsung’s/GF’s 14nm FinFETT process.  AMD went over some of the basic measurements at the transistor scale and how it compares to what Intel currently has on their latest 14nm process.

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The first thing that jumps out is that AMD claimes that their 4 core/8 thread x86 core is about 10% smaller than what Intel has with one of their latest CPUs.  We assume it is either Kaby Lake or Skylake.  AMD did not exactly go over exactly what they were counting when looking at the cores because there are some significant differences between the two architectures.  We are not sure if that 44mm sq. figure includes the L3 cache or the L2 caches.  My guess is that it probably includes L2 cache but not L3.  I could be easily wrong here.

Going down the table we see that AMD and Samsung/GF are able to get their SRAM sizes down smaller than what Intel is able to do.  AMD has double the amount of L2 cache per core, but it is only about 60% larger than Intel’s 256 KB L2.  AMD also has a much smaller L3 cache as well than Intel.  Both are 8 MB units but AMD comes in at 16 mm sq. while Intel is at 19.1 mm sq.  There will be differences in how AMD and Intel set up these caches, and until we see L3 performance comparisons we cannot assume too much.

Zen-comparison.png

(Image courtesy of ISSCC)

In some of the basic measurements of the different processes we see that Intel has advantages throughout.  This is not surprising as Intel has been well known to push process technology beyond what others are able to do.  In theory their products will have denser logic throughout, including the SRAM cells.  When looking at this information we wonder how AMD has been able to make their cores and caches smaller.  Part of that is due to the likely setup of cache control and access.

One of the most likely culprits of this smaller size is that the less advanced FPU/SSE/AVX units that AMD has in Zen.  They support AVX-256, but it has to be done in double the cycles.  They can do single cycle AVX-128, but Intel’s throughput is much higher than what AMD can achieve.  AVX is not the end-all, be-all but it is gaining in importance in high performance computing and editing applications.  David Kanter in his article covering the architecture explicitly said that AMD made this decision to lower the die size and power constraints for this product.

Ryzen will undoubtedly be a pretty large chip overall once both modules and 16 MB of L3 cache are put together.  My guess would be in the 220 mm sq. range, but again that is only a guess once all is said and done (northbridge, southbridge, PCI-E controllers, etc.).  What is perhaps most interesting of it all is that AMD has a part that on the surface is very close to the Broadwell-E based Intel i7 chips.  The i7-6900K runs at 3.2 to 3.7 GHz, features 8 cores and 16 threads, and around 20 MB of L2/L3 cache.  AMD’s top end looks to run at 3.6 GHz, features the same number of cores and threads, and has 20 MB of L2/L3 cache.  The Intel part is rated at 140 watts TDP while the AMD part will have a max of 95 watts TDP.

If Ryzen is truly competitive in this top end space (with a price to undercut Intel, yet not destroy their own margins) then AMD is going to be in a good position for the rest of this year.  We will find out exactly what is coming our way next month, but all indications point to Ryzen being competitive in overall performance while being able to undercut Intel in TDPs for comparable cores/threads.  We are counting down the days...

Source: AMD

ZTE Axon 7 Receives OTA Nougat Update

Subject: Mobile | February 9, 2017 - 12:26 AM |
Tagged: zte, axon 7, google, nougat, Android, android 7.0

Well that was quick. About two weeks ago, we reported on ZTE Mobile Deutschland’s Facebook post that said Android 7.0 would miss January, but arrive some time in Q1. For North America, that apparently means the second week of February, because my device was just notified, about an hour ago, that A2017UV1.1.0B15 was available for over-the-air update. It just finished installing.

zte-2017-axon7-nougatupdate.jpg

In my case, I needed to hold the on button a few times to get the phone to boot into the second stage of installation, but ZTE mentions it in the pre-install notes, so that’s good. Then, when the phone moved on to the new lock screen, my fingerprint reader didn’t work until after I typed in the lock screen password. I’m not sure why the phone didn’t accept the fingerprint reader until after I successfully logged in, especially since it used the fingerprints on file from Android 6.0, I didn’t need to set it up again, but it’s a small inconvenience. Just don’t perform the update if you can’t access your password manager and you don’t remember the unlock code off the top of your head.

While I don’t have a Daydream VR headset, I’ll probably pick one up soon and give it a test. The Daydream app is installed on the device, though, so you can finally enjoy Android-based VR content if you pick one up.

If your phone hasn’t alerted you yet, find your unlock password and check for updates in the settings app.

Source: ZTE

A peek at The Bard’s Tale 4

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: gaming, bards tale, inxile

inXile have been very busy recently, doing a stellar job at resurrecting Wasteland into a new, modern RPG which is soon to see its third incarnation released.  The long anticipated Torment: Tides of Numenara arrives at the end of this month, the beta has been a tantalizing taste as was the YouTube 'choose your own adventure' teaser.  There is another project they have been working on, bringing the old Bard's Tale gaming into the modern era.  A trailer showing in-game footage, including combat has just been release which you can see over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.  It certainly doesn't look like the Bard's Tale of old!

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"On the game HUD, you can see your party occupying 2 rows of 4 spaces each. Enemies will line up on the opposite grid with the same number of slots. The exact positioning of enemies, as well as your own party, will determine which attacks can land, and which will swing wild past their mark."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Jump into Kaby Lake naked

Subject: Processors | February 8, 2017 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: kaby lake, i5-7600K, Intel

[H]ard|OCP followed up their series on replacing the TIM underneath the heatspreader on Kaby Lake processors with another series depicting the i5-7600K in the buff.  They removed the heatspreader completely and tried watercooling the die directly.  As you can see in the video this requires more work than you might immediately assume, it was not simply shimming which was involved, some of the socket on the motherboard needed to be trimmed with a knife in order to get the waterblock to sit directly on the core.  In the end the results were somewhat depressing, the risks involved are high and the benefits almost non-existent.  If you are willing to risk it, replacing the TIM and reattaching the heatspreader is a far better choice.

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"After our recent experiments with delidding and relidding our 7700K and 7600K to see if we could get better operating temperatures, we decided it was time to go topless! Popping the top on your CPU is one thing, and getting it to work in the current processor socket is another. Get out your pocket knife, we are going to have to make some cuts."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: [H]ard|OCP

FreeSync 2 - The Adaptification!

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2017 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: amd, FreeSync2, David Glen, Syed Hussain

TechARP published a video of their interview with AMD's David Glen and Syed Hussain in which they discussed what to expect from FreeSync 2.  They also listed some key points for those who do not wish to watch the full video; either can be found right here.  The question on most people's minds is answered immediately, this will not be a Vega only product and if your GPU supports the current version it will support the sequel.  We will not see support for it until a new driver is released, then again we also await new monitors to hit the market as well so it is hard to be upset at AMD for the delay.

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"While waiting for AMD to finalise Radeon FreeSync 2 and its certification program for their partners, let’s share with you our Q&A session with the two key AMD engineers in charge of the Radeon FreeSync 2 project – David Glen and Syed Athar Hussain."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Techgage

ASRock Announces H110-STX MXM Mini-STX Motherboard with MXM GPU Support

Subject: Motherboards | February 8, 2017 - 03:15 PM |
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, PCI-E 3.0, MXM, motherboard, mobile gpu, mini-stx, H110-STX-MXM, asrock

ASRock has announced a new mini-STX motherboard with an interesting twist, as the H110-STX MXM motherboard offers support for current MXM (version 3.0b, up to 120W) mobile graphics cards.

H110_STX_MXM.jpg

Like the ECS H110 motherboard featured in our recent Mini-STX build, the ASRock H110-STX MXM is based on the LGA1151 socket (though CPU TDP was not in the source post), offers a pair a DDR SODIMM slots for up to 32GB of DDR4 notebook memory. Storage support is excellent with dual SATA ports and M.2 SSD support. Importantly, this ASRock board uses PCI Express 3.0 on both the MXM (PCIe 3.0 x16) and M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4) slots. Display output capability is excellent as well, quoting the TechPowerUp post:

"Display connectivity includes one HDMI port that's wired to the CPU's onboard graphics, a second HDMI port wired to the MXM slot, a full-size DisplayPort wired to the MXM, and a Thunderbolt port with mini-DisplayPort wiring to the MXM."

There are some roadblocks to building up a gaming system with this motherboard, not the least of which is cost. Consider that compatible MXM 3.0b options (with a recent GPU) are hundreds of dollars from a place like Eurocom (a GTX 980M is around $800, for example). Naturally, if you had a damaged gaming notebook with a usable MXM GPU, this board might be a nice option for re-purposing that graphics card. Cooling for the MXM card is another issue, however, though harvesting an MXM card from a notebook could potentially allow implementing the existing thermal solution from the laptop.

H110_STX_MXM_2.jpg

Look closely and you will see a Z270 product name in this ASRock photo

Update: We now have full specifications from ASRock's product page, which include:

  • Socket LGA1151 for Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron (Kabylake)
  • Supports MXM Graphics Card (Type-B , Up to 120W)
  • Supports DDR4 2400MHz, 2 x SO-DIMM, up to 32GB system memory
  • 1 x HDMI (4K@60Hz), 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x Mini-DisplayPort
  • 3x USB3.0 Type-A, 1x Thunderbolt 3 with USB 3.1 Type-C
  • 1x M.2 (Key E), 2x M.2 (Key M)
  • 1x Intel i219V Gigabit LAN
  • DC 19V / 220W power input

Of note, the chipset is listed as Z270, though the product name and primary motherboard photo suggest H110. The H110-STX MXM is part of ASRocks industrial motherboard offerings (with signage and gaming the mentioned applications), and includes a 220W power supply. Pricing and availability were not mentioned.

Source: TechPowerUp

Star Wars Humble Bundle III; better than the movie!

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 08:01 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Star Wars, humble bundle

Do like Star Wars games, PCPer and Unicef?  If so there is a Humble Bundle perfect for you running for the next two weeks.  Depending on how much you pay you can get up to 15 games and an X-Wing verus TIE Fighter t-shirt, with a percentage of your purchase helping us to continue to provide the content you love.  There is some overlap with previous bundles you may have picked up but for those of you missing KOTOR 1 or 2, The Force Unleashed 1 or 2, Shadows of the Empire or even the second Star Wars Battlefront game it is well worth the cost.

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How can you resist that t-shirt?

 

The new ASUS Maximus IX Formula is put through its paces

Subject: Motherboards | February 7, 2017 - 07:35 PM |
Tagged: z270 express, Maximus IX Formula, intel z270, ASUS ROG, asus

ASUS' Maximus Formula series have become familiar to high end system builders and the newest member looks to live up to our expectations.  The list of features is comprehensive, including two M.2 slots and a U.2 slot, two USB 3.1 ports including a Type-C and an ASUS 2T2R dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac antenna.  [H]ard|OCP had mixed results when overclocking, some testers had a perfect experience while others ran into some hurdles, that may be due to the processors they used so do not immediately write this motherboard off.  Take a look at the full review before you decide one way or the other.

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"ASUS is nothing like Hollywood. ASUS can actually turn out sequels which not only match the originals, but surpass them. ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus IX Formula is another sequel in the long line of Maximus motherboards. Can ASUS continue its long history of awesome sequels? One things for certain, it’s no Robocop 3."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel's Atom C2xxx processors may just make like a banana and split

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, c2000, Avoton

"System May Experience Inability to Boot or May Cease Operation" is not the errata note you want to read, but for those running devices powered by an Intel Avoton C2xxx family Atom processor it is something to pay attention to.  The Low Pin Count bus clock may stop functioning permanently after the chip has been in service for a time, rendering the device non-functional.  Intel had little to say about the issue when approached by The Register but did state that there is a board level workaround available to resolve the issue.

The Avoton famliy of chips were released in 2013 and were designed to compete against ARM's new low powered server chips.  The flaw is likely responsible for the issues with Cisco routers that have been reported on recently; the chip can also be found in the Synology DS1815+ and some Dell server products.  It will be interesting to see how Intel responds to this issue, they have a history of reluctance discussing flaws in their product's architecture.

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"Intel's Atom C2000 processor family has a fault that effectively bricks devices, costing the company a significant amount of money to correct. But the semiconductor giant won't disclosed precisely how many chips are affected nor which products are at risk."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Logitech Announces BRIO Webcam: 4K and HDR

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 09:31 AM |
Tagged: logitech, webcam, brio, 4k, hdr

Today’s announcement of the Logitech BRIO rolls in many features that have been lacking in webcams. With it, you can record in 720p30, 720p60, 1080p30, 1080p60, and, the big reveal, 4K30. It is also capable of shooting in HDR using RightLight 3, although they don’t specify color space formats, so it’s unclear what you will be able to capture with video recording software.

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On top of these interesting video modes, the camera also supports infrared for Windows Hello “or other facial recognition software”. Unlike Intel’s RealSense, the webcam claims support for the relatively ancient Core 2 and higher, which sounds promising for AMD users. I’m curious what open-source developers will be able to accomplish, especially if it’s general enough to do background rejection (and so forth). Obviously, this is just my speculation -- Logitech hasn’t even hinted at this in their documentation.

As you would expect for a 4K sensor, Logitech is also advertising quite a bit of digital zoom. They claim up to 5X and FOVs user-configurable between 65 degrees and 90 degrees.

Finally, the price is $199 USD / $249 CDN and it ships today.

Source: Logitech

Mozilla to Require Rust (and Dependencies) for Firefox

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 07:47 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, web browser, Rust, llvm

Firefox 52 will be the company’s next Extended Support Release (ESR) branch of their popular web browser. After this release, Mozilla is planning a few changes that will break compatibility, especially if you’re building the browser from source. If you’re an end-user, the major one to look out for is Mozilla disabling NPAPI-based plugins (except Flash) unless you are using Firefox 52 ESR. This change will land in the consumer version of Firefox 52, though. It’s not really clear why they didn’t just wait until Firefox 53, rather than add a soft-kill in Firefox 52 and hard-code it the next version, but that’s their decision. It really does not affect me in the slightest.

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The more interesting change, however, is that Mozilla will begin requiring Rust (and LLVM) in an upcoming version. I’ve seen multiple sources claim Firefox 53, Firefox 54, and Firefox 55 as possible targets for this, but, at some point around those versions, critical components of the browser will be written in Rust. As more of the browser is migrated to this language, it should be progressively faster and more secure, as this language is designed to enforce memory safety and task concurrency.

Firefox 52 is expected in March.

If you were going to sell Mechanical Keyboards, what name would you choose?

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: MK Fission, mechanical keyboard, input, Cherry MX

If you wanted MechanicalKeyboards.com then TechPowerUp has some bad news for you, as it is already taken.  When not brainstorming with Captain Obvious, they are the North American retailer for Ducky Keyboards, a name you might have possibly heard before.  Their MK Fission comes in 18 flavours, you can only choose black or white keycaps but you have your choice of the full range of Cherry switches.  If you have lost track of the score that includes Red, Brown, Blue, Black, Silent Red, Speed Silver, Green, Clear and White.  The keyboard has blue backlighting and the RGB disease has only infected the outer casing of the keyboard, giving it a look which might be familiar to anyone who knew someone in the 90s' with questionable taste in car accessories.

mk-fission.jpg

"MechanicalKeyboards.com is a prominent retailer of mechanical keyboards, as the name would suggest, based in the USA. Today we get to take a look at their new MK Fission full size keyboard that comes in 18 possible options to choose from, Yes, there is RGB included but perhaps not the way you think."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: TechPowerUp

Lenovo Announces new ThinkPad P51s P51 and P71 Mobile Workstations

Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 6, 2017 - 08:37 PM |
Tagged: xeon, Thinkpad, quadro, P71, P51s, P51, nvidia, notebook, mobile workstation, Lenovo, kaby lake, core i7

Lenovo has announced a trio of new ThinkPad mobile workstations, featuring updated Intel 7th-generation Core (Kaby Lake) processors and NVIDIA Quadro graphics, and among these is the thinnest and lightest ThinkPad mobile workstation to date in the P51s.

P51s.jpg

"Engineered to deliver breakthrough levels of performance, reliability and long battery life, the ThinkPad P51s features a new chassis, designed to meet customer demands for a powerful but portable machine. Developed with engineers and professional designers in mind, this mobile workstation features Intel’s 7th generation Core i7 processors and the latest NVIDIA Quadro dedicated workstation graphics, as well as a 4K UHD IPS display with optional IR camera."

Lenovo says that the ThinkPad P51s is more than a half pound lighter than the previous generation (P50s), stating that "the P51s is the lightest and thinnest mobile workstation ever developed by ThinkPad" at 14.4 x 9.95 x 0.79 inches, and weight starting at 4.3 lbs.

Specs for the P51s include:

  • Up to a 7th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
  • NVIDIA Quadro M520M Graphics
  • Choice of standard or touchscreen FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, or 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS display
  • Up to 32 GB DDR4 2133 RAM (2x SODIMM slots)
  • Storage options including up to 1 TB (5400 rpm) HDD and 1 TB NVMe PCIe SSDs
  • USB-C with Intel Thunderbolt 3
  • 802.11ac and LTE-A wireless connectivity

Lenovo also announced the ThinkPad P51, which is slightly larger than the P51s, but brings the option of Intel Xeon E3-v6 processors (in addition to Kaby Lake Core i7 CPUs), Quadro M2200M graphics, faster 2400 MHz memory up to 64 GB (4x SODIMM slots), and up to a 4K IPS display with X-Rite Pantone color calibration.

Thinkpad_P51.jpg

Finally there is the new VR-ready P71 mobile workstation, which offers up to an NVIDIA Quadro P5000M GPU along with Oculus and HTC VR certification.

"Lenovo is also bringing virtual reality to life with the new ThinkPad P71. One of the most talked about technologies today, VR has the ability to bring a new visual perspective and immersive experience to our customers’ workflow. In our new P71, the NVIDIA Pascal-based Quadro GPUs offer a stunning level of performance never before seen in a mobile workstation, and it comes equipped with full Oculus and HTC certifications, along with NVIDIA’s VR-ready certification."

Thinkpad_P71.jpg

Pricing and availability is as follows:

  • ThinkPad P51s, starting at $1049, March
  • ThinkPad P51, starting at $1399, April
  • ThinkPad P71, starting at $1849, April
Source: Lenovo
Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

NVIDIA P100 comes to Quadro

At the start of the SOLIDWORKS World conference this week, NVIDIA took the cover off of a handful of new Quadro cards targeting professional graphics workloads. Though the bulk of NVIDIA’s discussion covered lower cost options like the Quadro P4000, P2000, and below, the most interesting product sits at the high end, the Quadro GP100.

As you might guess from the name alone, the Quadro GP100 is based on the GP100 GPU, the same silicon used on the Tesla P100 announced back in April of 2016. At the time, the GP100 GPU was specifically billed as an HPC accelerator for servers. It had a unique form factor with a passive cooler that required additional chassis fans. Just a couple of months later, a PCIe version of the GP100 was released under the Tesla GP100 brand with the same specifications.

quadro2017-2.jpg

Today that GPU hardware gets a third iteration as the Quadro GP100. Let’s take a look at the Quadro GP100 specifications and how it compares to some recent Quadro offerings.

  Quadro GP100 Quadro P6000 Quadro M6000 Full GP100
GPU GP100 GP102 GM200 GP100 (Pascal)
SMs 56 60 48 60
TPCs 28 30 24 (30?)
FP32 CUDA Cores / SM 64 64 64 64
FP32 CUDA Cores / GPU 3584 3840 3072 3840
FP64 CUDA Cores / SM 32 2 2 32
FP64 CUDA Cores / GPU 1792 120 96 1920
Base Clock 1303 MHz 1417 MHz 1026 MHz TBD
GPU Boost Clock 1442 MHz 1530 MHz 1152 MHz TBD
FP32 TFLOPS (SP) 10.3 12.0 7.0 TBD
FP64 TFLOPS (DP) 5.15 0.375 0.221 TBD
Texture Units 224 240 192 240
ROPs 128? 96 96 128?
Memory Interface 1.4 Gbps
4096-bit HBM2
9 Gbps
384-bit GDDR5X
6.6 Gbps
384-bit
GDDR5
4096-bit HBM2
Memory Bandwidth 716 GB/s 432 GB/s 316.8 GB/s ?
Memory Size 16GB 24 GB 12GB 16GB
TDP 235 W 250 W 250 W TBD
Transistors 15.3 billion 12 billion 8 billion 15.3 billion
GPU Die Size 610mm2 471 mm2 601 mm2 610mm2
Manufacturing Process 16nm 16nm 28nm 16nm

There are some interesting stats here that may not be obvious at first glance. Most interesting is that despite the pricing and segmentation, the GP100 is not the de facto fastest Quadro card from NVIDIA depending on your workload. With 3584 CUDA cores running at somewhere around 1400 MHz at Boost speeds, the single precision (32-bit) rating for GP100 is 10.3 TFLOPS, less than the recently released P6000 card. Based on GP102, the P6000 has 3840 CUDA cores running at something around 1500 MHz for a total of 12 TFLOPS.

gp102-blockdiagram.jpg

GP100 (full) Block Diagram

Clearly the placement for Quadro GP100 is based around its 64-bit, double precision performance, and its ability to offer real-time simulations on more complex workloads than other Pascal-based Quadro cards can offer. The Quadro GP100 offers 1/2 DP compute rate, totaling 5.2 TFLOPS. The P6000 on the other hand is only capable of 0.375 TLOPS with the standard, consumer level 1/32 DP rate. Inclusion of ECC memory support on GP100 is also something no other recent Quadro card has.

quadro2017-3.jpg

Raw graphics performance and throughput is going to be questionable until someone does some testing, but it seems likely that the Quadro P6000 will still be the best solution for that by at least a slim margin. With a higher CUDA core count, higher clock speeds and equivalent architecture, the P6000 should run games, graphics rendering and design applications very well.

There are other important differences offered by the GP100. The memory system is built around a 16GB HBM2 implementation which means more total memory bandwidth but at a lower capacity than the 24GB Quadro P6000. Offering 66% more memory bandwidth does mean that the GP100 offers applications that are pixel throughput bound an advantage, as long as the compute capability keeps up on the backend.

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Continue reading our preview of the new Quadro GP100!

Do you like turtles? Upgrade your online banter with the Turtle Beach Stream Mic

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 07:46 PM |
Tagged: turtle beach, microphone, audio, Stream Mic

Upgrading your microphone from the one found on your gaming headset can make a significant difference in the way you sound online.  Being able to do so for around $50 and to be able to use the same device on your PC, Xbox and PS4 might just convince some that the upgrade is worth it.  The Turtle Beach Multi-Format Stream Microphone can be transferred between devices with a simple switch and it will run without any drivers.  It also has a a built in headphone amplifier so you can move your headset with you without unplugging.  Drop by eTeknix for a look at it.

DSC_1916.jpg

"While many of us only need a standard headset with a simple boom mic, there’s a growing demand for higher quality microphones for both gamers and streamers, on Twitch, YouTube Live and much more. Turtle Beach are not the first to make a dedicated streaming microphone, but they are one of the more affordable options too, and their new Stream Mic comes with support for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, making it a tempting solution for the multi-format gamer and streamer."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: eTeknix

The first Cyber Grand Challenge; using AI to hunt bugs. What could go wrong?

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: darpa, ai, security, Usenix Enigma 2017

DARPA hosted the first Cyber Grand Challenge last summer, in which the software from seven machine learning projects competed to find and patch vulnerabilities in a network, and to attack each other.  While the specific vulnerabilities discovered have not been made public you can read a bit about what was revealed about the contest at Usenix Enigma 2017 over at The Register.  For instance, one of the programs managed to find a flaw in the OS all the machines were running on and then hack into another to steal data.  A different machine noticed this occurring and patched itself on the fly, making sure that it was protected from that particular attack.  Also worth noting is that the entire contest was over in 20 minutes. 

enigma-logo.png

"The exact nature of these new bug types remains under wraps, although we hear that at least one involves exploitable vulnerabilities in data queues."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Palit Introduces Fanless GeForce GTX 1050 Ti KalmX GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 6, 2017 - 04:43 PM |
Tagged: video card, silent, Passive, palit, nvidia, KalmX, GTX 1050 Ti, graphics card, gpu, geforce

Palit is offering a passively-cooled GTX 1050 Ti option with their new KalmX card, which features a large heatsink and (of course) zero fan noise.

kalmx_1.jpg

"With passive cooler and the advanced powerful Pascal architecture, Palit GeForce GTX 1050 Ti KalmX - pursue the silent 0dB gaming environment. Palit GeForce GTX 1050 Ti gives you the gaming horsepower to take on today’s most demanding titles in full 1080p HD @ 60 FPS."

kalmx_3.jpg

The specs are identical to a reference GTX 1050 Ti (4GB GDDR5 @ 7 Gb/s, Base 1290/Boost 1392 MHz, etc.), so expect the full performance of this GPU - with some moderate case airflow, no doubt.

kalmx_2.jpg

We don't have specifics on pricing or availablity just yet.

Source: Palit
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

Mini-STX is the newest, smallest PC form-factor that accepts a socketed CPU, and in this review we'll be taking a look at a complete mini-STX build that will occupy just 1.53 liters of space. With a total size of just 6.1 x 5.98 x 2.56 inches, the SilverStone VT01 case offers a very small footprint, and the ECS H110S-2P motherboard accepts Intel desktop CPUs up to 65W (though I may have ignored this specification).

DSC_0490.jpg

PS3 controller for scale. (And becuase it's the best controller ever.)

The Smallest Form-Factor

The world of small form-factor PC hardware is divided between tiny kit solutions such as the Intel NUC (and the host of mini-PCs from various manufacturers), and the mini-ITX form-factor for system builders. The advantage of mini-ITX is its ability to host standard components, such as desktop-class processors and full-length graphics cards. However, mini-ITX requires a significantly larger enclosure than a mini-PC, and the "thin mini-ITX" standard has been something of a bridge between the two, essentially halving the height requirement of mini-ITX. Now, an even smaller standard has emerged, and it almost makes mini-ITX look big in comparison.

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Left: ECS H110S-2P (mini-STX) / Right: EVGA Z170 Stinger (mini-ITX)

Mini-STX had been teased for a couple of years (I wrote my first news post about it in January of 2015), and was originally an Intel concept called "5x5"; though the motherboard is actually about 5.8 x 5.5 inches (147 x 140 mm). At CES 2016 I was able to preview a SilverStone enclosure design for these systems, and ECS is one of the manufacturers producing mini-STX motherboards with an Intel H110-based board introduced this past summer. We saw some shipping products for the newest form-factor in 2016, and both companies were kind enough to send along a sample of these micro-sized components for a build. With the parts on hand it is now time to assemble my first mini-STX system, and of course I'll cover the process - and results - right here!

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Continue reading our review of a mini-STX computer build featuring ECS and SilverStone!

Windows 10 Game Mode Gets Benchmarked, Still Needs Work

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2017 - 04:54 AM |
Tagged: windows insider, Windows Game Mode, windows 10, pc gaming, creators update, beta

Last month Microsoft confirmed that a new "Game Mode" would be part of the upcoming Windows 10 Creator's Update planned for a spring release ("early 2017"). Microsoft has recently started rolling out the Game Mode to its beta testers in the latest Windows Insider preview build (for those on the fast track anyway, I am currently on the slow ring and do not have Game Mode yet). Now that it is rolled out in preview form, gamers have naturally started benchmarking it, and PC Games News has posted an article on their testing of the new feature and their findings on two Win32 and one UWP game. Not to spoil the results, but at this point Game Mode does not appear to offer anything and can even result in less frames per second with it turned on with its only saving grace being that in some situations it does offer increased performance when the Game DVR feature is also being used to record gameplay. They tested both a NVIDIA GTX 1060 and an AMD RX 480, and Game Mode in it's current preview software on a preview OS appears to have more benefits for NVIDIA while the AMD card PC Games News tested mostly just did it's thing regardless of whether Game Mode was turned on or off (heh, not necessarily a bad thing). 

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With Game Mode now rolling out to Windows Insiders, there is more information on how Microsoft plans to implement it. Rather than hiding it in the Xbox app, Microsoft has thankfully put it in the main settings app under the Gaming category and users access it by bringing up a Game Bar menu in-game for those games that support it (PC Games News noted Doom and GTA V did not work). Game Mode is an OS-level feature that will dedicate a certain amount of CPU threads to the game when it is turned on and leaves the remaining threads to be used by background processes (which themselves are reportedly minimized). Currently, this seems to work better with multi-threaded games and older games that were coded to only use one or two threads may not see any benefit in turning Game Mode on (and it may actually result in lower FPS). To Microsoft's credit, they are not over promising with Game Mode and note that it should be good for around 2% better performance when enabled with Game Mode having a bigger impact on UWP titles.

I encourage you to check out the PC Games News article where they have their benchmark results presented in a number of bar graphs. Most of the tests saw little to no benefit from using Game Mode, but not a negative effect. Some games like Hitman saw a 6% increase in average frames per second on the GTX 1060. On the other side of things, Forza Horizon 3 (ironically, a UWP game) performance actually drops when Game Mode is turned on to the tune of 13% to 23% less FPS with the RX 480 and 9% to 15% less with the GTX 1060. As far as Tomb Raider, things are more in the middle and things stay the same or get slightly better minimum frames per second when Game Mode and Game DVR are both turned on (though oddly there is a result in there that shows a performance drop with Game Mode on and Game DVR off).

It ia also worth noting that overall, the trend seems to be that Game Mode is going to be most beneficial at increasing the minimum frame rates on games with the Game DVR feature is being used moreso than getting overall maximum or average FPS out of a game. The biggest hurdle is going to be game compatiblity, especially for older games, and Microsoft tweaking things so that at worst Game Mode won't tank performance (like it currently does with Hitman minimum frame rates when Game Mode is on but DVR is off) and things will stay the same as if Game Mode was not on at all and at best gamers will get slightly smoother gameplay.

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Source: PCGamesN.com

Right now Game Mode is not compelling, but it is still a work in progress and if Microsoft can get Game Mode right it could be a useful addition (and incentive to upgrade to Windows 10 is probably why they are interested in pursuing this feature) and could come in handy especially on gaming laptops! I am not writing off the feature yet, and neither should you, but I do hope that compatibility is improved and the performance hits are reduced or eliminated when it is enabled. My guess is that the games that will work well with Game Mode are going to be almost all newer games and especially games that are developed post Creator's Update final release with Game Mode in mind.

Hopefully we can use our frame rating on the final product to see how well it truly works as far as user experience and smooth gameplay. What are your thoughts on Windows 10's Game Mode?

Micron Planning To Launch GDDR6 Graphics Memory In 2017

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 4, 2017 - 08:29 PM |
Tagged: micron, graphics memory, gddr6

This year is shaping up to be a good year for memory with the promise of 3D XPoint (Intel/Micron), HBM2 (SK Hynix and Samsung), and now GDDR6 graphics memory from Micron launching this year. While GDDR6 was originally planned to be launched next year, Micron recently announced its intentions to start producing the memory chips by the later half of 2017 which would put it much earlier than previously expected.

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Computer World reports that Micron is citing the rise of e-sports and gaming driving the computer market that now sees three year upgrade cycles rather than five year cycles (I am not sure how accurate that is, however as it seems like PCs are actually lasting longer between upgrade as far as relevance but i digress) as the primary reason for shifting GDDR6 production into high gear and moving up the launch window. The company expects the e-sports market to grow to 500 million fans by 2020, and it is a growing market that Micron wants to stay relevant in.

If you missed our previous coverage, GDDR6 is the successor to GDDR5 and offers twice the bandwidth at 16 Gb/s (gigabits per second) per die. It is also faster than GDDR5X (12 Gb/s) and uses 20% less power which the gaming laptop market will appreciate. HBM2 still holds the bandwidth crown though as it offers 256 GB/s per stack and up to 1TB/s with four stacks connected to a GPU on package.

As such, High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2 and then HBM3) will power the high end gaming and professional graphics cards while GDDR6 will become the memory used for mid range cards and GDDR5X (which is actually capable of going faster but will likely not be pushed much past 12 Gbps after all if GDDR6 does come out this soon) will replace GDDR5 on most if not all of the lower end products.

I am not sure if Micron’s reasoning of e-sports, faster upgrade cycles, and VR being the motivating factor(s) to ramping up production early is sound or not, but I will certainly take the faster memory coming out sooner rather than later! Depending on exactly when in 2017 the chips start rolling off the fabs, we could see graphics cards using the new memory technology as soon as early 2018 (just in time for CES announcements? oh boy I can see the PR flooding in already! hehe).

Will Samsung change course as well and try for a 2017 release for its GDDR6 memory as well?

Are you ready for GDDR6?