Another Next Unit of Computing
Just about a year ago Intel released a new product called the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC for short. The idea was to allow Intel's board and design teams to bring the efficient performance of the ultra low voltage processors to a desktop, and creative, form factor. By taking what is essentially Ultrabook hardware and putting it in a 4-in by 4-in design Intel is attempting to rethink what the "desktop" computer is and how the industry develops for it.
We reviewed the first NUC last year, based on the Intel Ivy Bridge processor and took away a surprising amount of interest in the platform. It was (and is) a bit more expensive than many consumers are going to be willing to spend on such a "small" physical device but the performance and feature set is compelling.
This time around Intel has updated the 4x4 enclosure a bit and upgrade the hardware from Ivy Bridge to Haswell. That alone should result in a modest increase in CPU performance with quite a bit of increase in the integrated GPU performance courtesy of the Intel HD Graphics 5000. Other changes are on the table to; let's take a look.
The Intel D54250WYK NUC is a bare bones system that will run you about $360. You'll need to buy system memory and an mSATA SSD for storage (wireless is optional) to complete the build.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2013 - 06:26 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, surround, podcast, nvidia, Intel, idf, haswell, frame rating, eyefinity, baytrail, amd, 4250U
PC Perspective Podcast #269 - 09/19/2013
Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating on Eyefinity, News from IDF, and rumors about new AMD GPUs
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0:54:45 Mushkin Scorpion Delux PCIe SSD
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Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2013 - 10:30 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: z87, Thunderbolt 2, sonnet, Intel, idf 2013, idf, gigabyte, asus, asrock, aja, 4k
Intel recently launched its next generation Thunderbolt 2 interface, and several devices using the new connection were shown off at the Intel Developer Forum. The major takeaway from Thunderbolt 2 is the increased bandwidth and benefits to video production houses working with large uncompressed media. Specifically, Thunderbolt 2 is a PCI-Express based external interface that sends both video output and data down a single cable. Upgrades over the original 10Gbps Thunderbolt standard include an updated to the DisplayPort 1.2 video standard and double the bandwidth to 20Gbps. Thanks to the increased bandwidth, Thunderbolt 2 enables simultaneous video output and video file transfer of 4K media. Video editors can watch and transfer 4K video to an DisplayPort-equipped monitor and external RAID array respectively.
Intel is kicking off the Thunderbolt 2 standard with the launch of its DSL5520 and DSL5320 Thunderbolt 2 controllers, which are already in the hands of device manufactures. In fact, there were quite a few bits of hardware being shown off at this years IDF that already support the new Thunderbolt 2 standard. Intel is expecting even more devices in 2014.
Professional video editing and workstation hardware with Thunderbolt 2
While consumer PC hardware will be supporting Thunderbolt 2, the new interface is most beneficial to professional users and IDF was the launch pad for several high end pieces of production gear. Sonnet launched the Echo Express III external PCI-E card chassis that allows users to hook up PCI-E cards to systems via Thunderbolt 2 (for example: video capture card or fast solid state storage). Also, AJA showed off a video/audio capture box called the IO 4K that supports daisy chaining other Thunderbolt 2 devices and acts as a video capture card capable of taking in 4K and UltraHD video sources as well as high end audio inputs. Finally, PROMISE Technology showed off its Pegasus2 RAID 5 enclosure and SANLink2 Thunderbolt 2 bridge device.
External boxes are not the only professional products with Thunderbolt 2 at IDF, however. The technology is also being integrated into workstations, including the Apple Mac Pro with six Thunderbolt 2 ports and HP’s new lineup of desktop workstations.
Z87 Motherboards With Thunderbolt 2
Thunderbolt 2 will also be used in consumer gear as well, including Z87 motherboards. Asus, AsRock, and Gigabyte all had motherboards on display that each featured two Thunderbolt 2 ports. The new interface will be available on the multiple boards from the manufacturers. German tech site ComputerBase.de posted several photos of Thunderbolt 2-equipped motherboards and gave a glimpse at the upcoming hardware.
The Asus Z87-Deluxe/Quad, an AsRock Z87 motherboard, and Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 TH spotted at IDF by ComputerBase.de.
Of note are the ASUS Z87-Deluxe/Quad, AsRock Extreme 11/ac, and Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH. All boards off LGA 1150 CPU sockets, four DDR3 DIMM slots, a slew of SATA 6Gbps ports, multiple PCI-E 3.0 x16 and x1 slots, and rich rear IO including two Thunderbolt 2 ports (naturally).
The AsRock Z87 Extreme 11/ac via ComputerBase.de.
The following chart breaks down the specifications. Unfortunately pricing and availability have not been announced for these boards, but expect to pay a premium for the high end gaming hardware and new Thunderbolt 2 controller. (The Asrock Extreme 11/ac in particular takes the word “high end” to the, well, extreme.)
|ASUS Z87-Deluxe/Quad||AsRock Extreme 11/ac||Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH|
|PCI-E 3.0 x16||3||4||5|
|PCI-E 3.0 x1||4||3||2|
|Audio||6 x analog, 1 x optical||5 x analog, 1 x optical||5 x analog, 1 x optical|
|Video out||1 x HDMI||1 x HDMI, 1 x DP||1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI|
|USB 3.0||6 (+4 USB 2.0)||6 (+2 USB 2.0)||6|
It is promising to see so many devices this early into Thunderbolt 2's launch, and the various high end motherboard using both Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3 gives consumers the best of both worlds and access to all manner of external peripherals. The bandwidth increase is certainly welcome, and I am interested to see what sorts of new devices it enables. For now, I think Thunderbolt 2 is going to be mainly a professional (or at least "pro-sumer") technology. With that siad, 4K capture and video output is already being worked on, and I am curious to see what other applications and technologies will really be able to push the new 20Gbps interface and what trickles down to the consumer space!
Are you excited about Thunderbolt 2? Let us know what you think of the IDF-launched products and the interface technology in general in the comments below!
Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2013 - 06:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, hd 5000, haswell, 4k
Intel has announced a new Haswell-powered NUC called the D54250WYK. The new barebones kit includes an Intel D54250WYB NUC motherboard with soldered processor in a small form factor case that measures 4.6″ x 4.4″ x 1.4″. The new NUC is faster, has new IO options, and reportedly fixes the overheating issues of previous NUC systems. The Haswell-powered NUC has a bit of competition with the recently launched Gigabyte BRIX system which also got an upgrade to Intel's latest consumer architecture.
The new NUC D54250WYK barebones kit.
The Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK uses a new 4.33" x 4.33" motherboard with a pre-soldered Intel Haswell Core i5-4250U processor. The system further supports two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB of 1600MHz memory), a single SATA port, two mini PCI-E slots (one for mSATA SSDs and one half-height for Wi-Fi NICs), and a USB 2.0 header supporting to USB 2.0 ports. The Core i5-4250U CPU is a 22nm chip with a 15W TDP. It is a dual core part clocked at 1.3GHz base and 2.6GHz Turbo with HyperThreading, 3MB of cache, and HD 5000 processor graphics (200Mhz base and 1GHz Turbo).
The new NUC motherboard and Haswell processor.
While Intel has removed Thunderbolt support, external IO is still decent, with the following ports:
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x Analog audio jacks
- 1 x Infrared receiver
2 x Video outputs:
- 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Mini HDMI 1.4
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 2 x USB 3.0
Notably, the Intel NUC Kit with i5-4250U CPU requires active cooling, but aftermarket cases offering passive cooling are likely in the works. Of course, users will be able to purchase the barebones D54250WYK kit or just the D54250WYB NUC motherboard and CPU that can be paired with a third party or custom built case. Like Gigabyte, Intel has not released specific pricing or availability, but expect the new Haswell-powered NUC to be coming soon as the system appears to be ready to go. Hopefully full reviews will be hitting the Internet soon!
Subject: Mobile | September 13, 2013 - 10:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Intel, haswell, google, Chromebook
At IDF this week Intel and Google announced new Chromebooks running Google's cloud friendly operating system. The new machines will be built by a number of PC laptop manufacturers and will be available later this year.
Notably, the new Chromebooks will feature Intel Haswell processors, which Google claims will result in increased performance along with up to 2-times the battery life of previous generation Chromebooks. In fact, several manufacturers are rating the battery life between 8 and 9.5 hours, which would be quite the feat if the number hold up to actual usage!
Acer, HP, and Toshiba will be releasing updated Chromebooks with Haswell CPUs and new laptop designs "over the coming months" for as-yet-unannounced prices. ASUS is also joining the Chromebook fray with a mini desktop PC running Chrome OS and requiring a monitor or TV for video output. Specifically, Acer will be putting out an 11.6" laptop that is 0.75" thick and weighs 2.76 pounds. HP is offering a larger display and more battery lfie with its 14" Chromebook measuing 0.81" thick and 4.08 pounds. You trade a bit of portability, but you get a larger display, keyboard, and battery. Toshiba will be unveiling a laptop form factor Chromebook as well, but specs on that particular system have not been revealed yet. As mentioned above, pricing has not been released, but expect the systems to be under $300.
Interestingly, Google claims that six of the leading PC laptop manufacturers are now offering their own spin on Google's Chromebook. Further, the Chromebooks account for around 20-percent of the sub-$300 PC market, according to Google. It seems that Chromebooks are slowly gaining traction though it remains to be seen if they will continue to be successful as Windows and Android budget ultraportable competition heats up and consumers become wary of "the cloud" and Internet applications in light of the various leaks concerning the NSA spying programs. (As Darren Kitchen of Hak5 would say, "encrypt all the things!")
Will you be picking up a Haswell-powered Chromebook?
A Whole New Atom Family
This past spring I spent some time with Intel at its offices in Santa Clara to learn about a brand new architecture called Silvermont. Built for and targeted at low power platforms like tablets and smartphones, Silvermont was not simply another refresh of the aging Atom processors that were all based on Pentium cores from years ago; instead Silvermont was built from the ground up for low power consumption and high efficiency to compete against the juggernaut that is ARM and its partners. My initial preview of the Silvermont architecture had plenty of detail about the change to an out-of-order architecture, the dual-core modules that comprise it and the power optimizations included.
Today, during the annual Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco, we are finally able to reveal the remaining details about the new Atom processors based on Silvermont, code named Bay Trail. Not only do we have new information about the designs, but we were able to get our hands on some reference tablets integrating Bay Trail and the new Atom Z3000 series of SoCs to benchmark and compare to offerings from Qualcomm, NVIDIA and AMD.
A Whole New Atom Family
It should be surprise to anyone that the name “Intel Atom Processor” has had a stigma attached to it almost since its initial release during the netbook craze. It was known for being slow and hastily put together though it was still a very successful product in terms of sales. With each successive release and update, Diamondville to Pineview to Cedarview, Atom was improved but only marginally so. Even with Medfield and Clover Trail the products were based around that legacy infrastructure and it showed. Tablets and systems based on Clover Trail saw only moderate success and lukewarm reviews.
With Silvermont the Atom brand gets a second chance. Some may consider it a fifth or sixth chance, but Intel is sticking with the name. Silvermont as an architecture is incredibly flexible and will find its way into several Intel products like Avoton, Bay Trail and Merrifield and in segments from the micro-server to smartphones to convertible tablets. Not only that, but Intel is aware that Windows isn’t the only game out there anymore and the company will support the architecture across Linux, Android and Windows environments.
Atom has been in tablets for some time now, starting in September of last year with Clover Trail deigns being announced during IDF. In February we saw the initial Android-based options also filter out, again based on Clover Trail. They were okay, but really only stop-gaps to prove that Intel was serious about the space. The real test will be this holiday season with Bay Trail at the helm.
While we always knew these Bay Trail platforms were going be branded as Atom we now have the full details on the numbering scheme and productization of the architecture. The Atom Z3700 series will consist of quad-core SoCs with Intel HD graphics (the same design as the Core processor series though with fewer compute units) that will support Windows and Android operating systems. The Atom Z3600 will be dual-core processors, still with Intel HD graphics, targeted only at the Android market.
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 06:47 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: idf, idf 2013, Intel, keynote, live blog
We are preparing for the second day of keynotes at IDF so sign up below to get a reminder for our live blog! After the first keynote saw the introduction of Intel Quark SoCs, showcases of the first 14nm Broadwell processor and a 22nm LTE smartphone, day 2 could be even more exciting!
The event starts at 9am PT / 12pm ET on Wednesday the 11th!
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2013 - 06:31 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: quark, Intel, idf 2013, idf
In a very interesting and surprising announcement at the first Intel Developer Forum keynote this morning, Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich showed the first samples of Quark, a new SoC design that will enter into smaller devices that even Atom can reach.
Quark is the family name for the new line of SoCs that are open, synthesizable and support with industry standard software. An open SoC is simply one that will allow third-party IP integration with the processor cores while a synthesizable one can be moved and migrated to other production facilities as well. This opens up Intel to take Quark outside of its own fabrication facilities (though Krzanich said they would prefer not during Q&A) and allow partners to more easily integrate their own silicon with the Quark DNA. Intel had previously announced that Atom would be able to integrate with third-party IP but that seems to have been put on the back burner in favor of this.
Quark will not be an open core design in the same way that ARM's core can be, but instead Intel is opening up the interface fabric for direct connection to computing resources.
The Quark SoC is square in the middle
Krzanich showed off the chip on stage that is 1/5 the size of Atom and 1/10 the power levels of Atom (though I am not sure if we are referring to Clover Trail or Bay Trail for the comparison). That puts it in a class of products that only ARM-based designs have been able to reach until now and Intel displayed both reference systems and wearable designs.
UPDATE: Intel later clarified with me that the "1/5 size, 1/10 power" is for a Quark core against an Atom core at 22nm. It doesn't refer to the entire SoC package.
Intel hasn't yet told us what microarchitecture Quark is based on but if I were a betting man I would posit that it is related to the Silvermont designs we are looking at on Bay Trail but with a cut down feature set. Using any other existing design from Intel would result in higher than desired power consumption and die size levels but it could also be another ground up architecture as well.
I'll be poking around IDF for more information on Quark going forward but for now, it appears that Intel is firmly planting itself on a collision course with ARM and Qualcomm.
UPDATE 1: I did get some more information from Intel on the Quark SoC. It will be the first product based on the 14nm manufacturing process and is a 32-bit, single core, single thread chip based on a "Pentium ISA compatible CPU core." This confirms that it is an x86 processor though not exactly what CPU core it is based on. More soon!
Subject: General Tech | September 10, 2013 - 06:29 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Intel, idf 2013, idf, haswell, fanless, convertible tablet, Broadwell, 14nm
New Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took the stage at IDF 2013 to talk about Intel's future and the PC market. The CEO believes that there is more innovation in the PC than ever before as the company introduces new Haswell and Broadwell chips, new form factors are being experimented with, and Intel moves from traditional CPU to SoC type of architectures.
Two such chips that Intel showed off that are aimed at consumer PCs include a new Haswell-Y chip and the launch of a 14nm Broadwell SoC.
Haswell Y is an ultra low power variant of the Haswell processors that have been avaialble in desktops since June. This new chip is a 4.5W TDP chip that will enable fanless mobile devices such as laptops and slate tablets. The x86-64 chip will allow fanless mobiles that run Windows and should be a good bit more powerful than current Atom-powered Windows mobiles!
A fanless Haswell Y system.
In addition to Haswell Y, Intel is introducing a 14nm Broadwell SoC. The Broadwell chips will be used in both servers and consumer products in 2014.
The 14nm Broadwell SoC.
Interestingly, it looks like Intel is well on its way to shipping chips as Intel showed off a working laptop with the Broadwell chip at IDF today. Further, Intel announced that the Broadwell chips will be shipping by the end of the year!
A 14nm Broadwell-powered laptop.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2013 - 05:38 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, smartphone, LTE, Intel, idf 2013, idf, Bay Trail, 22nm
This year at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel is announcing a slew of new products. Among the fray is a sneak peek at some of the mobile devices that will be utilizing the company's Bay Trail Atom SoCs.
The first device Intel showed off was a small Lenovo branded tablet that is likely the Intel-powered alternative to the current ARM-powered S5000 that was announced at IFA 2013 in Berlin. The Intel powered tablet is using a Bay Trail Atom SoC.
The mysteriously specc'd Lenovo tablet is not the only kit to use Bay Trail, however. Intel claims that there will be a number of new tablets on the way, including models that will be available for under $100 in time for this holiday season. Of course, beyond that specs were not announced.
Intel also showed off a new prototype smartphone that is powered by a new 22nm SoC. Ryan speculates that the chip is an Intel Merrifield-based SoC which is a mobile architecure derived from Silvermont. The company claims that the move to a 22nm manufacturing process for these mobile chips results in a 50% battery life improvement. Impressive, if those numbers hold true!
The smartphone further features an LTE radio, and Intel shared a speed test of the LTE modem during the conference. Today, the smartphone uses LTE for data and 3G for voice calls, but by the end of the year products will be able to use the LTE radio for both data and voice connections.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more IDF good-ness as it develops!