Introduction and Specifications
XPoint. Optane. QuantX. We've been hearing these terms thrown around for two years now. A form of 3D stackable non-volatile memory that promised 10x the density of DRAM and 1000x the speed and endurance of NAND. These were bold statements, and over the following months, we would see them misunderstood and misconstrued by many in the industry. These misconceptions were further amplified by some poor demo choices on the part of Intel (fortunately countered by some better choices made by Micron). Fortunately cooler heads prevailed as Jim Handy and other industry analysts helped explain that a 1000x improvement at the die level does not translate to the same improvement at the device level, especially when the first round of devices must comply with what will soon become a legacy method of connecting a persistent storage device to a PC.
Did I just suggest that PCIe 3.0 and the NVMe protocol - developed just for high-speed storage, is already legacy tech? Well, sorta.
That 'Future NVM' bar at the bottom of that chart there was a 2-year old prototype iteration of what is now Optane. Note that while NVMe was able to shrink down the yellow bar a bit, as you introduce faster and faster storage, the rest of the equation (meaning software, including the OS kernel) starts to have a larger and larger impact on limiting the ultimate speed of the device.
NAND Flash simplified schematic (via Wikipedia)
Before getting into the first retail product to push all of these links in the storage chain to the limit, let's explain how XPoint works and what makes it faster. Taking random writes as an example, NAND Flash (above) must program cells in pages and erase cells in blocks. As modern flash has increased in capacity, the sizes of those pages and blocks have scaled up roughly proportionally. At present day we are at pages >4KB and block sizes in the megabytes. When it comes to randomly writing to an already full section of flash, simply changing the contents of one byte on one page requires the clearing and rewriting of the entire block. The difference between what you wanted to write and what the flash had to rewrite to accomplish that operation is called the write amplification factor. It's something that must be dealt with when it comes to flash memory management, but for XPoint it is a completely different story:
XPoint is bit addressible. The 'cross' structure means you can select very small groups of data via Wordlines, with the ultimate selection resolving down to a single bit.
Since the programmed element effectively acts as a resistor, its output is read directly and quickly. Even better - none of that write amplification nonsense mentioned above applies here at all. There are no pages or blocks. If you want to write a byte, go ahead. Even better is that the bits can be changed regardless of their former state, meaning no erase or clear cycle must take place before writing - you just overwrite directly over what was previously stored. Is that 1000x faster / 1000x more write endurance than NAND thing starting to make more sense now?
Ok, with all of the background out of the way, let's get into the meat of the story. I present the P4800X:
Subject: Processors | April 19, 2017 - 08:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: skylake-x, ryzen, kaby lake x, Intel, Core, coffee lake, amd
According to DigiTimes, Intel is expecting to release several new processors earlier than they had originally planned. That said, there are two issues with this report. The first point, which should be expected, is that it compares internal dates that were never meant to be public. It is not like Intel has changed their advertised roadmap.
The second problem is that it’s somewhat contradicted by Intel’s earlier, public statements.
Their rumor claims that Intel will push up the launch of Basin Falls, which is Skylake-X, Kaby Lake-X, and X299, by about two months (around June). It also claims that Coffee Lake, which was originally scheduled for January 2018, will be released in August 2017. Both of these moves are being attributed to AMD’s new products.
The potential, somewhat, sort-of contradiction comes from a tweet that Intel made back in February. In it, they said that the 8th generation of Core processors are expected for 2H’17. This time frame doesn’t include January, although it only barely includes August, too. If Intel was always planning on launching Coffee Lake for the “back to school” season, then at least that half of DigiTimes’ story would be completely incorrect. On the other hand, if Intel’s tweet was talking about a sampling / paper launch in December, with volume shipment soon to follow, then DigiTimes would be fairly accurate.
We don’t know unless someone at Intel confirms either-or.
As for Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X, it would be interesting to see them launch at Computex / E3. Previous rumors (also from DigiTimes) that place it in the Gamescom, which is a huge gaming conference in Cologne. Interestingly, this rumor claims that only the four-, six-, eight-, and ten-core models will arrive at the time, with a twelve-core model waiting until the whole line was supposed to launch.
This omission makes me wonder if, in fact, Intel are rushing the launch, but they realize that they cannot get enough good chips to fill out the top-end SKU. In that case, it would make sense to push the smaller and partially-disabled chips out the door, while banking the big chips that can run all twelve cores at a reasonable voltage for some clock rate.
If so, that would, in fact, speak volumes about AMD’s roadmap (and Intel’s opinion of it).
Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2017 - 04:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, idf
It is not a post-PC world but it is now officially a post-IDF world as Intel announces they are too diverse to host such a PC-centric conference. It was 20 years ago today that the first IDF was held in Beijing and Intel announced some time ago the cancellation of this years event in China, however until today they had still planned to hold their scheduled event in San Francisco. The rationale offered is Intel's expansion into FPGAs, Optane storage, IoT devices, wireless communications and other fields pushes them beyond the scope traditionally represented at the IDF. Why cancellation of the event in preference of broadening the scope is not explained in their announcement. Ars Technica has related links here.
"While the company earlier said that it would not have a Chinese event, the San Francisco IDF was still being planned, albeit with a "new format," in the early months of 2017. It appears now that this 'new format' is in fact 'non-existence.'"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Leaked NSA point-and-pwn hack tools menace Win2k to Windows 8 @ The Register
- Spring tech gift guide: Fathers' Day, Easter and just because @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft raises pistol, pulls the trigger on Windows 7, 8 updates for new Intel, AMD chips @ The Register
- The F-Secure RADAR Advanced Security Scanner @ TechARP
- noblechairs EPIC Series Gaming Chair @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2017 - 12:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sueball, qualcomm, Intel, blackberry, apple
Ah, the old days of Microsoft versus governments, Apple and Samsung, Intel and AMD, SCO and ... well just about everyone; lately there has not been much legal vitriol in the headlines. This may change as Qualcomm is now involved in several suits which are likely to become high profile. First up is what may be the driving force behind their need to seek restitution from Apple; they were just ordered to pay Blackberry $815 million after that company was successful in their legal battle to dispute certain royalty payments. Even a company as large as Qualcomm is going to feel the pain from that.
On to the real upcoming battle royal, featuring Apple and Qualcomm over the iPhone 7. It seems that Apple has taken offence to Qualcomm's claims that Apple handicapped their chip to ensure it did not out perform the models which contained an Intel chipset. Qualcomm released a large rebuttal to the lawsuit which Apple launched this January which you can read about at Ars Technica, or follow the link to read the entire document. This may prove to be the next interesting technological legal battle, stay tuned for more.
"For example, Qualcomm’s technological contributions enable popular smartphone apps such as Uber, Snapchat, Spotify, Apple Music, Skype, Google Maps, and Pokémon GO, among others."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creators Update: Small Tweaks For a Big Difference @ Techgage
- Microsoft reduces Patch Tuesday to an incomprehensible mess @ The Inquirer
- Windows 10 Creators Update general rollout begins with a privacy dialogue @ The Register
- Scientists Prove Your Phone's PIN Can Be Stolen Using Its Gyroscope Data @ Slashdot
- PC sales slump might be over, unless it isn't @ The Inquirer
- Systems-on-a-chip are a huge, unaudited attack surface, says Project Zero's Wi‑Fi attack man @ The Register
- Still no flash in a flash as chip supplies remain fried @ The Register
- Canada Hid the Konami Code In Its Commemorative $10 Bill Launch @ Slashdot
Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2017 - 01:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, 14nm, 14 nm FinFET
At Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Day event in San Francisco there was a lot of talk about how Intel's 14nm process technology compares to the 16nm, 14nm, and 10nm offerings of their competitors. Investors and enthusiasts are curious if Intel can hold their lead in process tech as Samsung seems to be on track to release chips fabbed on 10nm process before Intel will. Intel rightly pointed out that not all process tech is measured the same way and that pitch measurements give only one part of the picture; meaning Samsung might not actually be smaller than them.
The Tech Report were present at that meeting and have written up an in depth look at what Intel means when they dispute the competitions claims, as well as their rationale behind their belief that the 14nm node still has a lot of life left in it.
"As process sizes grow smaller and smaller, Intel believes that the true characteristics of those technology advances are being clouded by an over-reliance on a single nanometer figure. At its Technology and Manufacturing Day this week, the company defended its process leadership and proposed fresh metrics that could more accurately describe what a given process is capable of."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Scientists Discover Way To Transmit Taste of Lemonade Over Internet @ Slashdot
- There's a Samsung Galaxy S8 Microsoft Edition, for some reason @ The Inquirer
- 'Trash-80' escapes the dustbin of history with new TRS-80 emulator @ The Register
- Beyond Zelda: The first month of Switch games acts as a promising crystal ball @ Ars Technica
- ZX Spectrum Vega Plus backers complain of months-long refund delays @ The Register
- Microsoft wants screaming Windows fans, not just users @ The Register
- GDC 2017 and NVIDIA Editor's Day Coverage @ Neoseeker
Subject: Processors | March 28, 2017 - 11:48 AM | Morry Teitelman
Tagged: FinalWire, aida64, ryzen, amd, Intel
Courtesy of FinalWire
Today, FinalWire Ltd. announced the release of version 5.90 of their diagnostic and benchmarking tool, AIDA64. This new version updates their Extreme Edition, Engineer Edition, and Business Edition of the software, available here.
The latest version of AIDA64 has been optimized to work with AMD's Ryzen "Summit Ridge" and Intel's "Apollo Lake" processors, as well as updated to work with Microsoft's Windows 10 Creators Update release. The benchmarks and performance tests housed within AIDA64 have been updated for the Ryzen processor to utilize the VX2, FMA3, AES-NI and SHA instruction sets.
New features include:
- AVX2 and FMA accelerated 64-bit benchmarks for AMD Ryzen Summit Ridge processors
- Microsoft Windows 10 Creators Update support
- Optimized 64-bit benchmarks for Intel Apollo Lake SoC
- Improved support for Intel Cannonlake, Coffee Lake, Denverton, Kaby Lake-X, Skylake-X CPUs
- Preliminary support for AMD Zen server processors
- Preliminary support for Intel Gemini Lake SoC and Knights Mill HPC CPU
- NZXT Kraken X52 sensor support
- Socket AM4 motherboards support
- Improved support for Intel B250, H270, Q270 and Z270 chipset based motherboards
- EastRising ER-OLEDM032 (SSD1322) OLED support
- SMBIOS 3.1.1 support
- Crucial M600, Crucial MX300, Intel Pro 5400s, SanDisk Plus, WD Blue SSD support
- Improved support for Samsung NVMe SSDs
- Advanced support for HighPoint RocketRAID 27xx RAID controllers
- GPU details for nVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, Quadro GP100, Tesla P6
Software updates new to this release (since AIDA64 v5.00):
- AVX and FMA accelerated FP32 and FP64 ray tracing benchmarks
- Vulkan graphics accelerator diagnostics
- RemoteSensor smartphone and tablet LCD integration
- Logitech Arx Control smartphone and tablet LCD integration
- Microsoft Windows 10 TH2 (November Update) support
- Proper DPI scaling to better support high-resolution LCD and OLED displays
- AVX and FMA accelerated 64-bit benchmarks for AMD A-Series Bristol Ridge and Carrizo APUs
- AVX2 and FMA accelerated 64-bit benchmarks for Intel Broadwell, Kaby Lake and Skylake CPUs
- AVX and SSE accelerated 64-bit benchmarks for AMD Nolan APU
- Optimized 64-bit benchmarks for Intel Braswell and Cherry Trail processors
- Advanced SMART disk health monitoring
- Hot Keys to switch LCD pages, start or stop logging, show or hide SensorPanel
- Corsair K65, K70, K95, Corsair Strafe, Logitech G13, G19, G19s, G910, Razer Chroma RGB LED keyboard support
- Corsair, Logitech, Razer RGB LED mouse support
- Corsair and Razer RGB LED mousepad support
- AlphaCool Heatmaster II, Aquaduct, Aquaero, AquaStream XT, AquaStream Ultimate, Farbwerk, MPS, NZXT GRID+ V2, PowerAdjust 2, PowerAdjust 3 sensor devices support
- Improved Corsair Link sensor support
- NZXT Kraken water cooling sensor support
- Corsair AXi, Corsair HXi, Corsair RMi, Enermax Digifanless, Thermaltake DPS-G power supply unit sensor support
- Support for Gravitech, LCD Smartie Hardware, Leo Bodnar, Modding-FAQ, Noteu, Odospace, Saitek Pro Flight Instrument Panel, Saitek X52 Pro, UCSD LCD devices
- Portrait mode support for AlphaCool and Samsung SPF LCDs
- System certificates information
- Advanced support for Adaptec and Marvell RAID controllers
AIDA64 is developed by FinalWire Ltd., headquartered in Budapest, Hungary. The company’s founding members are veteran software developers who have worked together on programming system utilities for more than two decades. Currently, they have ten products in their portfolio, all based on the award-winning AIDA technology: AIDA64 Extreme, AIDA64 Engineer, AIDA64 Network Audit, AIDA64 Business and AIDA64 for Android,, iOS, Sailfish OS, Tizen, Ubuntu Touch and Windows Phone. For more information, visit www.aida64.com.
Subject: Storage | March 27, 2017 - 12:16 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, Optane Memory, Optane, M.2, Intel, cache, 3D XPoint
We are just about to hit two years since Intel and Micron jointly launched 3D XPoint, and there have certainly been a lot of stories about it since. Intel officially launched the P4800X last week, and this week they are officially launching Optane Memory. The base level information about Optane Memory is mostly unchanged, however, we do have a slide deck we are allowed to pick from to point out some of the things we can look forward to once the new tech starts hitting devices you can own.
Alright, so this is Optane Memory in a nutshell. Put some XPoint memory on an M.2 form factor device, leverage Intel's SRT caching tech, and you get a 16GB or 32GB cache laid over your system's primary HDD.
To help explain what good Optane can do for typical desktop workloads, first we need to dig into Queue Depths a bit. Above are some examples of the typical QD various desktop applications run at. This data is from direct IO trace captures of systems in actual use. Now that we've established that the majority of desktop workloads operate at very low Queue Depths (<= 4), lets see where Optane performance falls relative to other storage technologies:
There's a bit to digest in this chart, but let me walk you through it. The ranges tapering off show the percentage of IOs falling at the various Queue Depths, while the green, red, and orange lines ramping up to higher IOPS (right axis) show relative SSD performance at those same Queue Depths. The key to Optane's performance benefit here is that it can ramp up to full performance at very low QD's, while the other NAND-based parts require significantly higher parallel requests to achieve full rated performance. This is what will ultimately lead to a much snappier responsiveness for, well, just about anything hitting the storage. Fun fact - there is actually a HDD on that chart. It's the yellow line that you might have mistook as the horizontal axis :).
As you can see, we have a few integrators on board already. Official support requires a 270 series motherboard and Kaby Lake CPU, but it is possible that motherboard makers could backport the required NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST 15.5 requirements into older systems.
For those curious, if caching is the only way power users will be able to go with Optane, that's not the case. Atop that pyramid there sits an 'Intel Optane SSD', which should basically be a consumer version of the P4800X. It is sure to be an incredibly fast SSD, but that performance will most definitely come at a price!
We should be testing Optane Memory shortly and will finally have some publishable results of this new tech as soon as we can!
If you look at the current 2-in-1 notebook market, it is clear that the single greatest influence is the Lenovo Yoga. Despite initial efforts to differentiate convertible Notebook-tablet designs, newly released machines such as the HP Spectre x360 series and the Dell XPS 13" 2-in-1 make it clear that the 360-degree "Yoga-style" hinge is the preferred method.
Today, we are looking at a unique application on the 360-degree hinge, the Lenovo Yoga Book. Will this new take on the 2-in-1 concept be so influential?
The Lenovo Yoga Book is 10.1" tablet that aims to find a unique way to implement a stylus on a modern touch device. The device itself is a super thin clamshell-style design, featuring an LCD on one side of the device, and a large touch-sensitive area on the opposing side.
This large touch area serves two purposes. Primarily, it acts as a surface for the included stylus that Lenovo is calling the Real Pen. Using the Real Pen, users can do thing such as sketch in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator or takes notes in an application such as Microsoft OneNote.
The Real Pen has more tricks up its sleeve than just a normal stylus. It can be converted from a pen with a Stylus tip on it to a full ballpoint pen. When paired with the "Create Pad" included with the Yoga Book, you can write on top of a piece of actual paper using the ballpoint pen, and still have the device pick up on what you are drawing.
Subject: Storage | March 19, 2017 - 12:21 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, SSD DC P4800X, Optane Memory, Optane, Intel, client, 750GB, 3D XPoint, 375GB, 1.5TB
Intel brought us out to their Folsom campus last week for some in-depth product briefings. Much of our briefing is still under embargo, but the portion that officially lifts this morning is the SSD DC P4800X:
MSRP for the 375GB model is estimated at $1520 ($4/GB), which is rather spendy, but given that the product has shown it can effectively displace RAM in servers, we should be comparing the cost/GB with DRAM and not NAND. It should also be noted this is also nearly half the cost/GB of the X25-M at its launch. Capacities will go all the way up to 1.5TB, and U.2 form factor versions are also on the way.
For those wanting a bit more technical info, the P4800X uses a 7-channel controller, with the 375GB model having 4 dies per channel (28 total). Overprovisioning does not do for Optane what it did for NAND flash, as XPoint can be rewritten at the byte level and does not need to be programmed in (KB) pages and erased in larger (MB) blocks. The only extra space on Optane SSDs is for ECC, firmware, and a small spare area to map out any failed cells.
Those with a keen eye (and calculator) might have noted that the early TBW values only put the P4800X at 30 DWPD for a 3-year period. At the event, Intel confirmed that they anticipate the P4800X to qualify at that same 30 DWPD for a 5-year period by the time volume shipment occurs.
Subject: Processors | March 17, 2017 - 03:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, Intel, ryzen, sanity check
Ars Technica asks the question that many reasonable people are also pondering, "Intel still beats Ryzen at games, but how much does it matter?". We here at PCPer have seen the same sorts of responses which Ars has, there is a group of people who had the expectation that Ryzen would miraculously beat any and all Intel chips at every possible task. More experienced heads were hoping for about what we received, a chip which can challenge Broadwell, offering performance which improved greatly on their previous architecture. The launch has revealed some growing pains with AMD's new baby but not anything which makes Ryzen bad.
Indeed, with more DX12 or Vulkan games arriving we should see AMD's performance improve, especially if programmers start to take more effective advantage of high core counts. Head over to read the article, unless you feel that is not a requirement to comment on this topic.
"In spite of this, reading the various reviews around the Web—and comment threads, tweets, and reddit posts—one gets the feeling that many were hoping or expecting Ryzen to somehow beat Intel across the board, and there's a prevailing narrative that Ryzen is in some sense a bad gaming chip. But this argument is often paired with the claim that some kind of non-specific "optimization" is going to salvage the processor's performance, that AMD fans just need to keep the faith for a few months, and that soon Ryzen's full power will be revealed."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web: