Introduction, Specifications, and Design
Azulle's Inspire Barebone Mini PC offers a range of processor options and is, in all but the Intel Core i7 variant, a fanless system. The Inspire supports up to 32GB of DDR4 across two SoDIMMs, and supports both 2.5-inch SATA and M.2 storage. We had a chance to test out a Core i5-powered variant, and we'll explore both the design and performance in this review.
As this is a barebone system, the Inspire - like Intel NUC computers - requires users to supply memory and storage, leaving only the processor to be selected when you order. Four Intel platform options are available, with Apollo Lake ($169.99), Core i3 ($269.99), Core i5 ($334.99), and Core i7 ($449.99) CPUs. Our review unit is equipped with an Intel Core i5-7200U, which is the $334.99 configuration, and Azulle sent over NVMe storage and DDR4 memory to make this a complete system.
Specifications from Azulle:
- Intel Apollo Lake J4205
- Intel Kaby Lake i3-7100U
- Intel Kaby Lake i5-7200U
- Intel Kaby Lake i7-7500U
- RAM: Up to 32 GB DDR4
- Storage: MMC Optonal, SSD supported
- M.2. Slot: x1
- SATA: x1
- GPU: Intel® HD Graphics 620
- Wi-Fi: 2.4g/5.0g Dual-Band
- Ethernet: 1x Gigabit
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0
- DisplayPort: x1 Port, 4K @ 60 FPS
- HDMI: x1 Port, 4K @ 60 FPS
- USB: x3 3.0 Port, x1 Type-C
- SD Card Slot: x1
- IR: IR Control
- Audio Output: 3.5 mm Jack
- BIOS: Wake On LAN/ PXE/Auto Power
- Power Supply: 12V/3A
- Dimensions: 4.9 in x 4.9 in x 1.9 inches
Pricing and Availability:
- Inspire Mini PC Barebone - Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7200U: $334.99, Amazon
A little Optane for your HDD
Intel's Optane Memory caching solution, launched in April of 2017, was a straightforward feature. On supported hardware platforms, consisting of 7th and 8th generation Core processor-based computers, users could add a 16 or 32gb Optane M.2 module to their PC and enable acceleration for their slower boot device (generally a hard drive). Beyond that, there weren't any additional options; you could only enable and disable the caching solution.
However, users who were looking for more flexibility were out of luck. If you already had a fast boot device, such as an NVMe SSD, you had no use for these Optane Memory modules, even if you a slow hard drive in their system for mass storage uses that you wanted to speed up.
At GDC this year, Intel alongside the announcement of 64GB Optane Memory modules, announced that they are bringing support for secondary drive acceleration to the Optane Memory application.
Now that we've gotten our hands on this new 64GB module and the appropriate software, it's time to put it through its paces and see if it was worth the wait.
The full test setup is as follows:
|Test System Setup|
Intel Core i7-8700K
|Motherboard||Gigabyte H370 Aorus Gaming 3|
16GB Crucial DDR4-2666 (running at DDR4-2666)
Intel SSD Optane 800P
Intel Optane Memory 64GB and 1TB Western Digital Black
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti 11GB|
|Graphics Drivers||NVIDIA 397.93|
|Power Supply||Corsair RM1000x|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 RS4|
In coming up with test scenarios to properly evaluate drive caching on a secondary, mass storage device, we had a few criteria. First, we were looking for scenarios that require lots of storage, meaning that they wouldn't fit on a smaller SSD. In addition to requiring a lot of storage, the applications must also rely on fast storage.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 7, 2018 - 01:13 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Tiger Rapids, Intel, kaby lake
Recently seen in the Lenovo Yoga devices, mobile devices with dual screens are attracting attention but so far the implementation has not been without troubles. Intel showed off two prototype machines at Computex that they believe will offer what this segment of customers is looking for. The Tiger Rapids machine has a conventional touchscreen on one side and some sort of electronic paper display on the other, which has a bit of give to it so that using a stylus on it gives you some tactile feedback. It is powered by a Kaby Lake processor of some description, with an SSD and the unfortunately common lone USB Type-C port on it. At 4.7mm thin it is a fairly impressive design.
Their second does not bear a code name but resembles the Yoga as it has two traditional touchscreens with one generally displaying a keyboard. We don't know much about them, but you can take a peek at them over at The Inquirer.
"The first machine codenamed Tiger Rapids - this is Intel after all - mixes one touchscreen panel with an electronic paper display designed specifically for note taking and stylus scribbling, even coming with a slight give to simulate writing on paper."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- At last: Magic Leap reveals its revolutionary techno-goggles – but wait, there's a catch @ The Register
- Indiegogo Calls Time On The ZX Vega @ Hack a Day
- Valve Will Stop Removing Controversial Games on Steam Unless They Are 'Illegal or Straight up Trolling' @ Slashdot
- BlackBerry Key2 official with dual cameras and 'brand new' keyboard @ The Inquirer
- Tech ARP Computex 2018 Live Coverage – Day Three
- AMD Computex 2018 - Threadripper 2, 7nm Vega + More!
Subject: Processors | June 5, 2018 - 11:20 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: kaby lake, Intel, core i7, 8086K
It should come as no real surprise to those of you that read PC Perspective, but Intel officially unveiled the new Core i7-8086K processor during its keynote last night in Taipei at Computex. The specs are right in line with expectations, offering a 6-core / 12-thread chip with a peak Turbo clock speed of 5.0 GHz.
|Core i7-8700K||Core i7-8086K|
|Architecture||Coffee Lake||Coffee Lake|
|Base Clock||3.7 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|Turbo Clock||4.7 GHz||5.0 GHz|
|TDP||95 watts||95 watts (probably)|
The Core i7-8086K is a limited edition part with just 50,000 expected to be built, in celebration of the company's 50th anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the original Intel 8086 x86 processor. Pricing hasn't been released, but Intel is running a sweepstakes to give away 8,086 of the CPUs and it lists $425 as the value in the fine print, so that seems like a good guess.
The 300 MHz increases in base and Turbo clock speeds is impressive while sitting inside the same 95 watt TDP. We are eager to get one in for testing ourselves and see how that works in practice, though the limited edition nature of the part makes it a bit less interesting in the long run. (We were considering moving our GPU testbed to this for example, but using a part that may not be available for replication of our data in the future seems like a bad idea.)
I am sure many were hoping this limited edition part would be, or would be in addition to, an 8-core processor launch at Computex, but it doesn't appear that is in the cards.
Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2018 - 12:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, kaby lake, Skylake, security, spectre, meltdown
"Intel recently released stable microcode updates to mitigate the Spectre vulnerability on Skylake and newer CPUs. We ran back-to-back tests with and without the patch on one of our Kaby Lake systems to see just how much performance suffers in exchange for safety."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- EUV Defects Cited in 5-nm Node @ EE Times
- Intel pushes out stable Spectre fixes for Broadwell and Haswell machines @ The Inquirer
- You can Ring my bell: Amazon pays ONE BEEEEELLION+ dollars for smart home upstart @ The Register
- 4G found on Moon @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2018 - 01:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: spectre, Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, coffee lake
Intel has pushed out a new set of microcode patches which should mitigate Spectre on Skylake, Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake. The new patches come with a feature which customers have been clamouring for; a lack of the spontaneous reboots which plagued systems that had taken advantage of the originally released fixes. The Inquirer did not receive any information on the performance hit of these new fixes, though they should be comparable to the effect of the originals. Drop by for more info and links to Intel's patch roadmap.
"The latest Spectre-mitigating updates from Intel have passed "extensive testing by customers and industry partners to ensure the updated versions are ready for production," according to Intel's Navin Shenoy. "
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- iPhone X 'slump' is real, whisper supply chain moles @ The Register
- Hackers hijack Tesla's unsecured AWS account to mine cryptocurrency
- Year-old vuln turns Jenkins servers into Monero mining slaves @ The Register
- Acer Windows Mixed Reality headset @ The Inquirer
Subject: Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 03:24 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: kaby lake, convertible, CES 2018, CES, asus, 8th generation core, 2-in-1
While the ROG products made the biggest splash at the ASUS booth, ASUS also launched a small 2-in-1 laptop dubbed the ZenBook Flip 14 (UX461). The convertible tablet measures 327.4 x 226.5 x 13.9mm and comes wrapped in an Icicle Gold or Slate Gray colored aluminum unibody with spun metal finish. The ZenBook Flip 14 manages to pack quite a bit of hardware into its 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) package including a quad core Kaby Lake processor, NVMe storage, and discrete NVIDIA graphics.
Asus’ new 2-in-1 features a 14” 1920 x 1080 resolution multitouch display that dominates the top half of the notebook with an 80% screen-to-body ration thanks to its “NanoEdge” bezels that measure 7.15mm. The display is rated at 100% sRGB and offers 178° viewing angles along with support for the ASUS Pen active stylus. The ZenBook Flip 14 uses a 360° hinge to enable tablet, tent, and laptop modes with the display able to flip all the way around to touch the bottom of the keyboard housing. External I/O includes two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, one HDMI 2.0, one Micro SD, one combo audio jack, and one DC power input port. There is also an HD webcam and stereo Harman Kardon certified speakers with a two-channel amplifier.
The Zebook Flip looks nice on the outside, but it is the internal hardware that makes it interesting. Specifically, the half inch thick notebook is powered by an 8th Generation Core (KBL-R) Core i7-8550U quad core (4 core / 8 thread) processor clocked at 1.8 GHz base and up to 3.7 GHz Turbo with Intel UHD 620 graphics (1.1 GHz), up to 16 GB LPDDR3 (2133 MHz) RAM, and up to 512 GB of PCI-E x4-based NVMe solid state storage. The system can further be configured with a standalone GPU up to an NVIDIA MX150 (Pascal-based) though doing so adds slightly more weight (1.5kg bs 1.4kg with only Intel UHD 620 graphics). The laptop has dual band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2. ASUS claims “all day” battery life with the 57 Whr Li-Po battery delivering up to 13 hours of usage.
In a nice surprise we do have pricing and availability on this announcement with ASUS announcing that the 14” ZenBook Flip 14 UX461 available in March 2018 starting at $899. Of course, the discrete graphics and fully loading memory and storage will cost you extra, but creative types may want to take a look at this one if the reviews hold out on build quality as it seems to pack quite a bit of power into a small frame while staying portable and stylus-friendly!
Subject: Processors | November 6, 2017 - 02:00 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: radeon, Polaris, mobile, kaby lake, interposer, Intel, HBM2, gaming, EMIB, apple, amd, 8th generation core
In what is probably considered one of the worst kept secrets in the industry, Intel has announced a new CPU line for the mobile market that integrates AMD’s Radeon graphics. For the past year or so rumors of such a partnership were freely flowing, but now we finally get confirmation as to how this will be implemented and marketed.
Intel’s record on designing GPUs has been rather pedestrian. While they have kept up with the competition, a slew of small issues and incompatibilities have plagued each generation. Performance is also an issue when trying to compete with AMD’s APUs as well as discrete mobile graphics offerings from both AMD and NVIDIA. Software and driver support is another area where Intel has been unable to compete due largely to economics and the competitions’ decades of experience in this area.
There are many significant issues that have been solved in one fell swoop. Intel has partnered with AMD’s Semi-Custom Group to develop a modern and competent GPU that can be closely connected to the Intel CPU all the while utilizing HBM2 memory to improve overall performance. The packaging of this product utilizes Intel’s EMIB (Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge) tech.
EMIB is an interposer-like technology that integrates silicon bridges into the PCB instead of relying upon a large interposer. This allows a bit more flexibility in layout of the chips as well as lowers the Z height of the package as there is not a large interposer sitting between the chips and the PCB. Just as interposer technology allows the use of chips from different process technologies to work seamlessly together, EMIB provides that same flexibility.
The GPU looks to be based on the Polaris architecture which is a slight step back from AMD’s cutting edge Vega architecture. Polaris does not implement the Infinity Fabric component that Vega does. It is more conventional in terms of data communication. It is a step beyond what AMD has provided for Sony and Microsoft, who each utilize a semi-custom design for the latest console chips. AMD is able to integrate the HBM2 controller that is featured in Vega. Using HBM2 provides a tremendous amount of bandwidth along with power savings as compared to traditional GDDR-5 memory modules. It also saves dramatically on PCB space allowing for smaller form factors.
EMIB provides nearly all of the advantages of the interposer while keeping the optimal z-height of the standard PCB substrate.
Intel did have to do quite a bit of extra work on the power side of the equation. AMD utilizes their latest Infinity Fabric for fine grained power control in their upcoming Raven Ridge based Ryzen APUs. Intel had to modify their current hardware to be able to do much the same work with 3rd party silicon. This is no easy task as the CPU needs to monitor and continually adjust for GPU usage in a variety of scenarios. This type of work takes time and a lot of testing to fine tune as well as the inevitable hardware revisions to get thing to work correctly. This then needs to be balanced by the GPU driver stack which also tends to take control of power usage in mobile scenarios.
This combination of EMIB, Intel Kaby Lake CPU, HBM2, and a current AMD GPU make this a very interesting combination for the mobile and small form factor markets. The EMIB form factor provides very fast interconnect speeds and a smaller footprint due to the integration of HBM2 memory. The mature AMD Radeon software stack for both Windows and macOS environments provides Intel with another feature in which to sell their parts in areas where previously they were not considered. The 8th Gen Kaby Lake CPU provides the very latest CPU design on the new 14nm++ process for greater performance and better power efficiency.
This is one of those rare instances where such cooperation between intense rivals actually improves the situation for both. AMD gets a financial shot in the arm by signing a large and important customer for their Semi-Custom division. The royalty income from this partnership should be more consistent as compared to the console manufacturers due to the seasonality of the console product. This will have a very material effect on AMD’s bottom line for years to come. Intel gets a solid silicon solution with higher performance than they can offer, as well as aforementioned mature software stack for multiple OS. Finally throw in the HBM2 memory support for better power efficiency and a smaller form factor, and it is a clear win for all parties involved.
The PCB savings plus faster interconnects will allow these chips to power smaller form factors with better performance and battery life.
One of the unknowns here is what process node the GPU portion will be manufactured on. We do not know which foundry Intel will use, or if they will stay in-house. Currently TSMC manufactures the latest console SoCs while GLOBALFOUNDRIES handles the latest GPUS from AMD. Initially one would expect Intel to build the GPU in house, but the current rumor is that AMD will work to produce the chips with one of their traditional foundry partners. Once the chip is manufactured then it is sent to Intel to be integrated into their product.
Apple is one of the obvious candidates for this particular form factor and combination of parts. Apple has a long history with Intel on the CPU side and AMD on the GPU side. This product provides all of the solutions Apple needs to manufacture high performance products in smaller form factors. Gaming laptops also get a boost from such a combination that will offer relatively high performance with minimal power increases as well as the smaller form factor.
The potential (leaked) performance of the 8th Gen Intel CPU with Radeon Graphics.
The data above could very well be wrong about the potential performance of this combination. What we see is pretty compelling though. The Intel/AMD product performs like a higher end CPU with discrete GPU combo. It is faster than a NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti and trails the GTX 1060. It also is significantly faster than a desktop AMD RX 560 part. We can also see that it is going to be much faster than the flagship 15 watt TDP AMD Ryzen 7 2700U. We do not yet know how it compares to the rumored 65 watt TDP Raven Ridge based APUs from AMD that will likely be released next year. What will be fascinating here is how much power the new Intel combination will draw as compared to the discrete solutions utilizing NVIDIA graphics.
To reiterate, this is Intel as a customer for AMD’s Semi-Custom group rather than a licensing agreement between the two companies. They are working hand in hand in developing this solution and then both profiting from it. AMD getting royalties from every Intel package sold that features this technology will have a very positive effect on earnings. Intel gets a cutting edge and competent graphics solution along with the improved software and driver support such a package includes.
Update: We have been informed that AMD is producing the chips and selling them directly to Intel for integration into these new SKUs. There are no royalties or licensing, but the Semi-Custom division should still receive the revenue for these specialized products made only for Intel.
Subject: Processors, Chipsets | September 23, 2017 - 06:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Z370, z270, kaby lake, Intel, coffee lake
According to the Netherlands arm of Hardware.info, while Kaby Lake-based processors will physically fit into the LGA-1151 socket of Z370 motherboards, they will fail to boot. Since their post, Guru3D asked around to various motherboard manufacturers, and they claim that Intel is only going to support 8th Generation processors with that chipset via, again, allegedly, a firmware lock-out.
Thankfully, it's not Chocolate Lake.
Image credit: The Red List
If this is true, then it might be possible for Intel to allow board vendors to release a new BIOS that supports these older processors. Guru3D even goes one step further and suggests that, just maybe, motherboard vendors might have been able to support Coffee Lake on Z270 as well, if Intel would let them. I’m... skeptical about that last part in particular, but, regardless, it looks like you won’t have an upgrade path, even though the socket is identical.
It’s also interesting to think about the issue that Hardware.info experienced: the boot failed on the GPU step. The prevailing interpretation is that everything up to that point is close enough that the BIOS didn’t even think to fail.
My interpretation of the step that booting failed, however, is wondering whether there’s something odd about the new graphics setup that made Intel pull support for Z270. Also, Intel usually supports two CPU generations with each chipset, so we had no real reason to believe that Skylake and Kaby Lake would carry over except for the stalling of process tech keeping us on 14nm so long.
Still, if older CPUs are incompatible with Z370, and for purely artificial reasons, then that’s kind-of pathetic. Maybe I’m odd, but I tend to buy a new motherboard with new CPUs anyway, but I can’t envision the number of people who flash BIOSes with their old CPU before upgrading to a new one is all that high, so it seems a little petty to nickel and dime the few that do, especially at a time that AMD can legitimately call them out for it.
There has to be a reason, right?
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
With the release of Intel Z270 chipset, GIGABYTE unveiled its AORUS line of products. The AORUS branding differentiates the enthusiast and gamer friendly products from other GIGABYTE product lines, similar to how ASUS uses the ROG branding to differentiate their high performance product line. The Z270X-Gaming 8 is one of two "enhanced" boards in the AORUS, factory-customized with a Bitspower designed VRM hybrid water block. The board features the black and white branding common to the AORUS product line, with the rear panel cover and chipset featuring the brand logos. The board is designed around the Intel Z270 chipset with in-built support for the latest Intel LGA1151 Kaby Lake processor line (as well as support for Skylake processors) and Dual Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2400MHz speed. The Z270X-Gaming 8 can be found in retail with an MRSP of $399.99.
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard: four SATA III 6Gbps ports; two SATA-Express 10Gbps ports; two U.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps ports; two M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps capable ports with Intel Optane support built-in; two RJ-45 GigE ports - an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC and a Rivet Networks Killer E2500 NIC; a Rivet Networks Killer 802.11ac 2x2 Wireless adapter; four PCI-Express x16 slots; two PCI-Express x1 slots; Creative® Sound Core 3D 8-Channel audio subsystem; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI video ports; Intel Thunderbolt 40Gbps support; G-Chill hybrid VRM water block (designed by Bitspower); and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
GIGABYTE partnered with Bitspower in designing the integrated cooling solution for the Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard. The integrated VRM hybrid block, dubbed G-Chill by GIGABYTE, can operate with or without coolant. The block itself consists of a nickel-plated copper base plate, an acrylic top plate, a metal overplate, and a plastic cover to give it a unified appearance with the rest of the board components. The inlet and outlet ports are sealed with port covers by default, and are G1/4" threaded for use with any after-market water fittings currently available.