Podcast #435 - Qualcomm aptX, FSP Twin 500w PSU, Micro 5100 Enteprise SSDs, AMD Fiscal Results, ASUS Tinker Board, ZeniMax

Subject: Editorial | February 2, 2017 - 10:34 AM |
Tagged: podcast, zenimax, UHD Blu-Ray, toshiba, tinker board, Reundant PSU, qualcomm, micron, Laser Networking, fsp, enterprise ssd, DirectX, delidding, asus, aptX, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #435 - 02/02/17

Join us this week as we discuss Qualcomm aptX, FSP Reundant PSUs, Micron Enterprise SSDs, 5G LTE, AMD Fiscal Year, ZeniMax lawsuit, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom, Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:46:22

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro
 

Source:

Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.1.2 Drivers Released

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 2, 2017 - 07:02 AM |
Tagged: graphics drivers, amd

A few days ago, AMD released their second graphics drivers of January 2017: Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.1.2. The main goal of these drivers are to support the early access of Conan Exiles as well as tomorrow’s closed beta for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. Optimization that AMD has been working on prior to release, for either game, are targeted at this version.

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Beyond game-specific optimizations, a handful of bugs are also fixed, ranging from crashes to rendering artifacts. There was also an issue with configuring WattMan on a system that has multiple monitors, where the memory clock would drop or bounce around. There is driver also has a bunch of known issues, including a couple of hangs and crashes under certain situations.

Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition 17.1.2 is available at AMD’s website.

Source: AMD

AMD Announces Q4 2016 and FY 2016 Results

Subject: Editorial | January 31, 2017 - 11:14 PM |
Tagged: Vega, ryzen, quarterly results, Q4 2016, Q4, FY 2016, amd, AM4

Today AMD announced their latest quarterly earnings.  There was much speculation as to how well or how poorly the company did, especially in light of Intel’s outstanding quarter and their record year.  Intel has shown that the market continues to be strong, even with the popular opinion that we are in a post-PC world.  Would AMD see a strong quarter, or would Intel take further bites out of the company?

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The results for AMD are somewhere in between.  It was not an overly strong quarter, but it was not weak either.  AMD saw strength in the GPU market with their latest RX series of GPUs for both desktop and mobile applications.  Their CPU sales seemingly were flat with limited new products in their CPU/APU stack.  AMD is still primarily shipping 32nm and 28nm products and will not introduce 14nm products until Ryzen in late Q1 of this year.  While AMD has improved their APU offerings at both mobile and desktop TDPs, they still rely on Carrizo and the Bristol Ridge derivative to provide new growth.  The company’s aging Piledriver based Vishera CPUs still comprise a significant portion of sales for the budget and midrange enthusiast markets.

The company had revenues of $1.11B US for Q4 with a $51M net loss.  Q3 featured revenues of $1.31B, but had a much larger loss of $293M.  The primary factor for that loss was the $340M charge for the adjusted wafer start agreement that AMD has with GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  AMD did make less this past quarter, but they were able to winnow their loss down to the $51M figure.  

While AMD stayed steady with the CPU/APU and GPU markets, their biggest decline came in the semi-custom products.  This is understandable due to the longer lead times on these products as compared to AMD’s CPUs/APUs and GPUs.  The console manufacturers purchase these designs and then pay out royalties as the chips are produced.  Sony and Microsoft each had new console revisions for this holiday season that feature new SoC designs from AMD for each.  To hit the holiday rush these companies made significant orders in Q2 and Q3 of this year to allow delivery in Q4.  Once those deliveries are made then Sony and Microsoft dramatically cut orders to allow good sell-through in Q4 and not have massive unsold quantities in Q1 2017.  With royalties down with fewer chips being delivered, AMD obviously suffers at the hand of seasonality typically one quarter sooner than Intel or NVIDIA does.

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For the year AMD had nearly $300M more in revenue as compared to 2015.  2016 ended at $4.27B as compared to 2015’s $3.99B.  This is generally where AMD has been for the past decade, but is lower than they have seen in years past with successful parts like Athlon and their Athlon 64 parts.  In 2005 AMD had $5.8B in revenue.  We see that AMD still has a way to go before matching some of their best years as a company.

One of the more interesting aspects is that even through these quarterly losses AMD has been able to increase their cash on hand.  AMD was approaching some $700M a few years back and with the losses they were taking it would not be all many years before liquidity was non-existent.  AMD has been able to build that up to $1.26B at the end of this quarter, giving them more of a cushion to rely upon in tight times.

AMD’s year on year improvement is tangible, but made more impressive when considering how big of an impact the $340M charge that the WSA incurred.  This shows that AMD has been very serious about cutting expenses and monetizing their products to the best of their ability.

This coming year should show further improvement for AMD due to a more competitive product stack in CPUs, APUs, and GPUs.  AMD announced that Ryzen will be launching sometimes this March, hitting the Q1 expectations that the company had in the second half of 2016.  Previous to that AMD thought they could push out limited amounts of Ryzen chips in late Q4 2016, but that did not turn out to be the case.  AMD has shown off multiple Ryzen samples running anywhere from 3.2 GHz base with a potential engineering sample with a boosted speed up to 4 GHz.  Ryzen looks far more competitive against Intel’s current and upcoming products than AMD has in years.

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The GPU side will also be getting a boost in the first half of 2017.  It looks like the high end GPU Vega will be launching in Q2 2017.  AMD has addressed the midrange and budget markets with the Polaris based chips but has been absent at the high end with 14nm chips.  AMD still produces and sells Fury and Nano based offerings that somewhat address the area above the midrange, but they do not adequately compete with the NVIDIA GTX 1070 and 1080 products.  Vega looks to be competitive with what NVIDIA has at the high end, and there is certainly a pent up demand for an AMD card in that market.

AMD had a solid 2016 that showed that the current management team could successfully lead the company through some very challenging times.  The company continues to move forward and we shall see new products with CPUs, GPUs, and motherboards that should all materially contribute to and expand AMD’s bottom line.

Source: AMD

Win our RX 460 Budget Gaming System!!

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 31, 2017 - 11:18 AM |
Tagged: rx 460, radeon, giveaway, contest, buildapc, amd

As part of our partnership with AMD to take a look at the Radeon RX 460 as a budget gaming graphics solution, we are giving away the computer we built for our testing. If you missed our previous stories, shame on you. Check them out here:

Check out the embeded block below to see how you can win our system. It is a global giveaway, so feel free to enter no matter where you live! Thanks again to AMD for providing the hardware for this build!

Radeon RX 460 Budget System Giveaway (sponsored by AMD)

Source: AMD

Sapphire Releases AMD Radeon RX460 with 1024 Shaders

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 18, 2017 - 08:43 PM |
Tagged: video, unlock, shaders, shader cores, sapphire, radeon, Polaris, graphics, gpu, gaming, card, bios, amd, 1024

As reported by WCCFtech, AMD partner Sapphire has a new 1024 stream processor version of the RX460 listed on their site (Chinese language), and this product reveal of course comes after it became known that RX460 graphics cards had the potential to have their stream processor count unlocked from 896 to 1024 via BIOS update.

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Sapphire RX460 1024SP 4G D5 Ultra Platinum OC (image credit: Sapphire)

The Sapphire RX460 1024SP edition offers a full Polaris 11 core operating at 1250 MHz, and it otherwise matches the specifications of a stock RX460 graphics card. Whether this product will be available outside of China is unknown, as is the potential pricing model should it be available in the USA. A 4GB Radeon RX460 retails for $99, while the current step-up option is the RX470, which doubles up on this 1024SP RX460's shader count with 2048, with a price increase of about 70% ($169).

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AMD Polaris GCN 4.0 GPU lineup (Credit WCCFtech)

As you may note from the chart above, there is also an RX470D option between these cards that features 1792 shaders, though this option is also China-only.

Source: WCCFtech
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Performance and Impressions

This content was sponsored by AMD.

Last week in part 1 of our look at the Radeon RX 460 as a budget gaming GPU, I detailed our progress through component selection. Centered around an XFX 2GB version of the Radeon RX 460, we built a machine using an Intel Core i3-6100, ASUS H110M motherboard, 8GB of DDR4 memory, both an SSD and a HDD, as well as an EVGA power supply and Corsair chassis. Part 1 discussed the reasons for our hardware selections as well as an unboxing and preview of the giveaway to come.

In today's short write up and video, I will discuss my impressions of the system overall as well as touch on the performance in a handful of games. Despite the low the price, and despite the budget moniker attributed to this build, a budding PC gamer or converted console gamer will find plenty of capability in this system.

Check out prices of Radeon RX 460 graphics cards on Amazon!!

Let's quickly recap the components making up our RX 460 budget build.

Our Radeon RX 460 Build

  Budget Radeon RX 460 Build
Processor Intel Core i3-6100 - $109
Cooler CRYORIG M9i - $19
Motherboard ASUS H110M-A/M.2 - $54
Memory 2 x 4GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4-2400 - $51
Graphics Card XFX Radeon RX 460 2GB - $98
Storage 240GB Sandisk SSD Plus - $68
1TB Western Digital Blue - $49
Case Corsair Carbide Series 88R - $49
Power Supply EVGA 500 Watt - $42
Monitor Nixues VUE24A 1080p 144Hz FreeSync - $251
Total Price $549 on Amazon; $799 with monitor on Amazon

For just $549 I was able to create shopping list of hardware that provides very impressive performance for the investment.

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The completed system is damn nice looking, if I do say so myself. The Corsair Carbide 88R case sports a matte black finish with a large window to peer in at the hardware contained within. Coupled with the Nixeus FreeSync display and some Logitech G mouse and keyboard hardware we love, this is a configuration that any PC gamer would be proud to display.

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Continue reading our performance thoughts on the RX 460 budget PC build!

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Our Radeon RX 460 Build

This content was sponsored by AMD.

Be sure you check out part 2 of our story where we detail the performance our RX 460 build provides as well as our contest page where you can win this PC from AMD and PC Perspective!

Just before CES this month, AMD came to me asking about our views and opinions on its Radeon RX 460 line of graphics cards, how the GPU is perceived in the market, and how I felt they could better position it to the target audience. It was at that point that I had to openly admit to never actually having installed and used an RX 460 GPU before. I know, shame on me.

I like to pride myself and PC Perspective on being one of the top sources of technical information in the world of PCs, gaming or otherwise, and in particular on GPUs. But a pitfall that I fall into, and I imagine many other reviewers and media do as well, is that I overly emphasize the high end of the market. And that I tend to shift what is considered a “budget” product up the scale more than I should. Is a $250 graphics card really a budget product that the mass market is going to purchase? No, and the numbers clearly point to that as fact. More buyers purchase cards in the sub-$150 segment than in any other, upgrading OEMs PCs and building low cost boxes for themselves and for the family/friends.

So, AMD came to me with a proposal to address this deficiency in my mental database. If we were willing to build a PC based on the RX 460, testing it and evaluating it honestly, and then give that built system back to the community, they would pay for the hardware and promotion of such an event. So here we are.

To build out the RX 460-based PC, I went to the experts in the world of budget PC builds, the /r/buildapc subreddit. The community here is known for being the best at penny-pinching and maximizing the performance-per-dollar implementations on builds. While not the only types of hardware they debate and discuss in that group, it definitely is the most requested. I started a thread there to ask for input and advice on building a system with the only requirements being inclusion of the Radeon RX 460 and perhaps an AMD FreeSync monitor.

Check out prices of Radeon RX 460 graphics cards on Amazon!!

The results were impressive; a solid collection of readers and contributors gave me suggestions for complete builds based around the RX 460. Processors varied, memory configurations varied, storage options varied, but in the end I had at least a dozen solid options that ranged in price from $400-800. With the advice of the community at hand, I set out to pick the components for our own build, which are highlighted below:

Our Radeon RX 460 Build

  Budget Radeon RX 460 Build
Processor Intel Core i3-6100 - $109
Cooler CRYORIG M9i - $19
Motherboard ASUS H110M-A/M.2 - $54
Memory 2 x 4GB Crucial Ballistix DDR4-2400 - $51
Graphics Card XFX Radeon RX 460 2GB - $98
Storage 240GB Sandisk SSD Plus - $68
1TB Western Digital Blue - $49
Case Corsair Carbide Series 88R - $49
Power Supply EVGA 500 Watt - $42
Monitor Nixues VUE24A 1080p 144Hz FreeSync - $251
Total Price $549 on Amazon; $799 with monitor on Amazon

I’ll go in order of presentation for simplicity sake. First up is the selection of the Intel Core i3-6100 processor. This CPU was the most popular offering in the /r/buildapc group and has been the darling of budget gaming builds for a while. It is frequently used because of it $109 price tag, along with dual-core, HyperThreaded performance at 3.7 GHz; giving you plenty of headroom for single threaded applications. Since most games aren’t going to utilize more than four threads, the PC gaming performance will be excellent as well. One frequent suggestion in our thread was the Intel Pentium G4560, a Kaby Lake based part that will sell for ~$70. That would have been my choice but it’s not shipping yet, and I don’t know when it will be.

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Continue reading our budget build based on the Radeon RX 460!

(Leak) AMD Vega 10 and Vega 20 Information Leaked

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 8, 2017 - 03:53 AM |
Tagged: vega 11, vega 10, navi, gpu, amd

During CES, AMD showed off demo machines running Ryzen CPUs and Vega graphics cards as well as gave the world a bit of information on the underlying architecture of Vega in an architectural preview that you can read about (or watch) here. AMD's Vega GPU is coming and it is poised to compete with NVIDIA on the high end (an area that has been left to NVIDIA for awhile now) in a big way.

Thanks to Videocardz, we have a bit more info on the products that we might see this year and what we can expect to see in the future. Specifically, the slides suggest that Vega 10 – the first GPUs to be based on the company's new architecture – may be available by the (end of) first half of 2017. Following that a dual GPU Vega 10 product is slated for a release in Q3 or Q4 of 2017 and a refreshed GPU based on smaller process node with more HBM2 memory called Vega 20 in the second half of 2018. The leaked slides also suggest that Navi (Vega's successor) might launch as soon as 2019 and will come in two variants called Navi 10 and Navi 11 (with Navi 11 being the smaller / less powerful GPU).

AMD Vega Leaked Info.jpg

The 14nm Vega 10 GPU allegedly offers up 64 NCUs and as much as 12 TFLOPS of single precision and 750 GFLOPS of double precision compute performance respectively. Half precision performance is twice that of FP32 at 24 TFLOPS (which would be good for things like machine learning). The NCUs allegedly run FP16 at 2x and DPFP at 1/16. If each NCU has 64 shaders like Polaris 10 and other GCN GPUs, then we are looking at a top-end Vega 10 chip having 4096 shaders which rivals that of Fiji. Further, Vega 10 supposedly has a TDP up to 225 watts.

For comparison, the 28nm 8.9 billion transistor Fiji-based R9 Fury X ran at 1050 MHz with a TDP of 275 watts and had a rated peak compute of 8.6 TFLOPS. While we do not know clock speeds of Vega 10, the numbers suggest that AMD has been able to clock the GPU much higher than Fiji while still using less power (and thus putting out less heat). This is possible with the move to the smaller process node, though I do wonder what yields will be like at first for the top end (and highest clocked) versions.

Vega 10 will be paired with two stacks of HBM2 memory on package which will offer 16GB of memory with memory bandwidth of 512 GB/s. The increase in memory bandwidth is thanks to the move to HBM2 from HBM (Fiji needed four HBM dies to hit 512 GB/s and had only 4GB).

The slide also hints at a "Vega 10 x2" in the second half of the year which is presumably a dual GPU product. The slide states that Vega 10 x2 will have four stacks of HBM2 (1TB/s) though it is not clear if they are simply adding the two stacks per GPU to claim the 1TB/s number or if both GPUs will have four stacks (this is unlikely though as there does not appear to be room on the package for two more stacks each and I am not sure if they could make the package bit enough to make room for them either). Even if we assume that they really mean 2x 512 GB/s per GPU (and maybe they can get more out of that in specific workloads across both) for memory bandwidth, the doubling of cores and at least potential compute performance will be big. This is going to be a big number crunching and machine learning card as well as for games of course. Clockspeeds will likely have to be much lower compared to the single GPU Vega 10 (especially with stated TDP of 300W) and workloads wont scale perfectly so potential compute performance will not be quite 2x but should still be a decent per-card boost.

AMD-Vega-GPU.jpg

Raja Koduri holds up a Vega GPU at CES 2017 via eTeknix

Moving into the second half of 2018, the leaked slides suggest that a Vega 20 GPU will be released based on a 7nm process node with 64 CUs and paired with four stacks of HBM2 for 16 GB or 32 GB of memory with 1TB/s of bandwidth. Interestingly, the shaders will be setup such that the GPU can still do half precision calculations at twice that of single precision, but will not take nearly the hit on double precision at Vega 10 at only 1/2 single precision rather than 1/16. The GPU(s) will use between 150W and 300W of power, and it seems these are set to be the real professional and workstation workhorses. A Vega 10 with 1/2 DPFP compute would hit 6 TFLOPS which is not bad (and it would hopefully be more than this due to faster clocks and architecture improvements).

Beyond that, the slides mention Navi's existence and that it will come in Navi 10 and Navi 11 but no other details were shared which makes sense as it is still far off.

You can see the leaked slides here. In all, it is an interesting look at potential Vega 10 and beyond GPUs but definitely keep in mind that this is leaked information and that the information allegedly came from an internal presentation that likely showed the graphics processors in their best possible/expect light. It does add a bit more hope to the fire of excitement for Vega though, and I hope that AMD pulls it off as my unlocked 6950 is no longer supported and it is only a matter of time before new games perform poorly or not at all!

Also read: 

Source: eTeknix.com
Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: AMD

AM4 Edging Closer to Retail

Many of us were thinking that one of the bigger stories around CES would be the unveiling of a goodly chunk of AM4 motherboards.  AM4 has been around for about half a year now, but only in system integrator builds (such as HP).  These have all been based around Bristol Ridge APU (essentially an updated Carrizo APU).  These SOCs are not exactly barn burners, but they provide a solid foundation for a low-cost build.  The APUs features 2 modules/4 cores, a GCN based GPU, and limited southbridge I/O functionality.

am4_01.jpg

During all this time the motherboards available from these OEMs are very basic units not fit for retail.  Users simply could not go out and buy a Bristol Ridge APU and motherboard for themselves off of Newegg, Amazon, and elsewhere.  Now after much speculation we finally got to see the first AM4 retail style boards unveiled at this year’s CES.  AMD showed off around 16 boards based on previously unseen B350 and X370 chipsets.

AMD has had a pretty limited number of chipsets that they have introduced over the years.  Their FM2+ offerings spanned the A series of chipsets, but they added very little in terms of functionality as compared to the 900 series that populate the AM3+ world.  The latest offering from AMD was the A88x which was released in September 2013.  At one time there was supposed to be a 1000 series of chipsets for AM3+, but those were cancelled and we have had the 900 series (which are identical to the previous 800 series) since 2011.  This has been a pretty stagnant area for AMD and their partners.  3rd party chips have helped shore up the feature divide between AMD and Intel’s regular release of new chipsets and technologies attached to them.

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There are three primary chipsets being released as well as two physical layer chips that allow the use of the onboard southbridge on Ryzen and Bristol Ridge.  The X370 for the enthusiast market, the B350 for the mainstream, and then the budget A320.  The two chipset options for utilizing the SOC’s southbridge functionality are the X300 and A/B300.

Before we jump into the chipsets we should take a look at what kind of functionality Ryzen and Bristol Ridge have that can be leveraged by motherboard manufacturers.  Bristol Ridge is a true SOC in that it contains the GPU, CPU, and southbridge functionality to stand alone.  Ryzen is different in that it does not have the GPU portion so it still requires a standalone graphics card to work.  Bristol Ridge is based off of the older Carrizo design and does not feature the flexibility in its I/O connections that Ryzen does.

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Bristol Ridge features up to 8 lanes of PCI-E 3.0.  The I/O on it includes 2 native SATA6G ports as well as the ability to either utilize two more PCI-e lanes or have them as x2 NVME.  That is about as flexible as it gets.  It also natively supports four USB 3.1 gen 1 ports.  For a chip that was designed to be a mobile focused SoC it makes sense that it will not max out PCI-E lanes or SATA ports.  It still is enough to satisfy most mobile and SFF builds.

Click here to read more about AMD's AM4 platform!

CES 2017: AMD Vega Running DOOM at 4K

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 6, 2017 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: Vega, doom, amd

One of the demos that AMD had at CES was their new Vega architecture running DOOM with Vulkan on Ultra settings at 4K resolution. With this configuration, the pre-release card was coasting along at the high 60s / low 70s frames per second. Compared to PC Gamer’s benchmarks of the Vulkan patch (ours was focused on 1080p) this puts Vega somewhat ahead of the GTX 1080, which averages the low 60s.

Some of the comments note that, during one of the melee kills, the frame rate stutters a bit, dropping down to about 37 FPS. That’s true, and I included a screenshot of it below, but momentary dips sometimes just happen. It could even be a bug in pre-release drivers for a brand new GPU architecture, after all.

amd-2017-ces-vegadip.png

Yes, the frame rate dipped in the video, but stutters happen. No big deal.

As always, this is a single, vendor-controlled data point. There will be other benchmarks, and NVIDIA has both GP102 and Volta to consider. The GTX 1080 is only ~314 mm2, so there’s a lot more room for enthusiast GPUs to expand on 14nm, but this test suggests Vega will at least surpass it. (When a process node is fully mature, you will typically see low-yield chips up to around 600mm2.)

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!