Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Falcon Northwest

Overview

Editor's Note: The initial version of this review incorrectly listed the Tiki as having 16GB of RAM, it actually has 32GB of memory.

Looking back through the PC Perspective archives as I prepared for this review, I was shocked to find we've never actually tested a Falcon Northwest Tiki system. Since its introduction in 2012, the Tiki has been a mainstay at conventions like CES, providing a compact solution for manufacturers to provide demos of their hardware and software.

With a base milled out of solid aluminum and GPU cut out window, the Tiki provides modest design flair while still remaining relatively tame and "adult-like" compared to many premium gaming PC options.

DSC05078.JPG

The Tiki is available with three different CPU platforms. Users have their pick from Intel X370 and X299, and even X470 platforms based around AMD’s Ryzen CPUs. It’s great to see system builders like Falcon Northwest embracing Ryzen CPUs in some of their flagship models like the Tiki.

Falcon Northwest Tiki  (configuration as reviewed)
Processor Intel Core i7-8086K (Coffee Lake)
Motherboard ROG STRIX Z370-I GAMING
Cooler Asetek 550LC 120mm AIO Water Cooler
Graphics NVIDIA TITAN Xp 12GB
Memory 32GB (2x16B) G.SKILL RIPJAWS V DDR4-3000
Storage

Intel SSD Optane 905P 1.5TB U.2

Power Supply Silverstone SFX-650W 
Dimensions 4" Wide x 13.5" Deep x 13.25" Tall. (715 cubic inches)
OS Windows 10 Pro
Price $6,242 (as configured) - Falcon NW

By looking at the specs, it’s clear that the configuration of Tiki we were sent for review packs a lot of punch into its relatively small form-factor. Not only is the Core i7-8086K the highest-end offering for the Z370 platform, Falcon Northwest has further overclocked the CPU to 5.3 GHz (single thread maximum).

The CPU isn’t the only high-end component found in the Tiki either. Both the graphics card and storage solutions are nearing “overkill level” with the inclusion of an NVIDIA Titan Xp as well as 1.5TB of 3D XPoint storage in the form of an Intel Optane 905P U.2 drive.

Click here to continue reading our review of the Falcon Northwest Tiki!

Podcast #503 - Intel i7-8086K, Corsair Void Pro headset, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2018 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: video, zotac, VOID PRO, toshiba, Optane, noctua, logitech, Intel, i7-8086k, G512, corsair, coolermaster, amd, podcast

PC Perspective Podcast #503 - 06/14/18

Join us this week for discussion on Intel i7-8086K, Corsair Void Pro headset, 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: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:18:14

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:10:55 Ryan: Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader for $8!
      1. Can get it in pink for $.01 less!
    2. 1:12:10 Jeremy: Go for the Gold with Corsair’s Crystal Series 460X
    3. 1:13:15 Josh: Whoa...
  4. Closing/outro
 
Source:
Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

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.

DSC04972.JPG

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.

Performance

The full test setup is as follows:

Test System Setup
CPU

Intel Core i7-8700K

Motherboard Gigabyte H370 Aorus Gaming 3 
Memory

16GB Crucial DDR4-2666 (running at DDR4-2666)

Storage

Intel SSD Optane 800P 

Intel Optane Memory 64GB and 1TB Western Digital Black

Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti 11GB
Graphics Drivers NVIDIA 397.93
Power Supply Corsair RM1000x
Operating System Windows 10 Pro x64 RS4

optanecache-5.png

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. 

Click here to continue reading our look at accelerating secondary drives with Optane

Podcast #502 - Computex coverage and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2018 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: xTend, xps, video, Vega, Threadripper, Snapdragon 850, seasonic, scmd, ROG, qualcomm, podcast, Optane, nvidia, microsoft, logitech, Killer Wireless, Isaac, InWin, Intel, i7-8086k, git, fortnite, EPYC, dell, crystal, corsair, CaseKing, asus, aorus, amd, 7nm

PC Perspective Podcast #502 - 06/07/18

Join us this week for discussion on Computex 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: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:45:27

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 1:00:40 ASUS all the things
  3. Picks of the Week:
  4. Closing/outro
 
Source:

Computex 2018: Intel Announces 380GB Optane 905P in M.2 22110 Form Factor

Subject: Storage | June 6, 2018 - 03:55 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Optane Memory, Optane, M.2 22110, M.2, Intel, 905P, 3D XPoint

At Computex 2018, Intel announced a new Optane 905P SSD:

905P Rear.PNG

...the Optane 905P 380GB, now in an M.2 form factor!

905P Front.jpg

This looks to be a miniaturization of the 7-channel controller previously only available on the desktop add-in cards (note there are 7 packages). There is a catch though, as fitting 7 packages plus a relatively large controller means this is not M.2 2280, but M.2 22110. The M.2 22110 (110mm long) form factor may limit where you can install this product, as mobile platforms and some desktop motherboards only support up to an M.2 2280 (80mm) length. Power consumption may also be a concern for mobile applications, as this looks to be the full blown 7-channel controller present on the desktop AIC variants of the 905P and 900P.

We have no performance numbers just yet, but based on the above we should see figures in-line with the desktop Optane parts (and higher than the previous 'Optane Memory'/800P M.2 parts, which used a controller with fewer channels). Things may be slightly slower since this part would be limited to a ~7W power envelope - that is the maximum you can get out of an M.2 port without damaging the motherboard or overheating the smaller surface area of an M.2 form factor.

An interesting point to bring up is that while 3D XPoint does not need to be overprovisioned like NAND flash does, there is a need to have some spare area as well as space for the translation layer (used for wear leveling - still a requirement for 3D XPoint as it must be managed to some degree). In the past, we've noted that smaller capacities of a given line will see slightly less of a proportion of available space when comparing the raw media present to the available capacity. Let's see how this (theoretically) works out for the new 905P:

I'm making an educated guess that the new 380GB part contains 4 die stacks within its packages. We've never seen 8 die stacks come out of Intel, and there is little reason to believe any would be used in this product based on the available capacity. Note that higher capacities run at ~17% excess media, but as the capacity reduces, the percentage excess increases. The 280GB 900P increases to 20% by that capacity, but the new 905P M.2 comes in at 18%. Not much of a loss there, meaning the cost/GB *should* come in-line with the pricing of the 480GB 900P, which should put the 905P 380GB right at a $450-$500 price point.

The new 905P M.2 22110 is due out later this year.

Source: Intel

Podcast #501 - Intel Optane DIMMS, DIY Keyboards, and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 31, 2018 - 10:15 AM |
Tagged: WATERCOOL, video, podcast, Optane, Luce, Intel, i7-8086k, dell, corsair, antec, adata

PC Perspective Podcast #501 - 05/31/18

Join us this week for discussion on Intel Optane DIMMS, DIY Keyboards, 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: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison, Jim Tanous

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:20:21

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 0:57:10 Jeremy: It’s a bargain!
    2. 0:58:20 Josh: Already available!
    3. 1:11:00 Alex: https://ergodox-ez.com/ non DIY keyboard
  4. Closing/outro
 
Source:

Intel Launches Optane DC Persistent Memory (DIMMs), Talks 20TB QLC SSDs

Subject: Storage | May 30, 2018 - 07:28 PM |
Tagged: ssd, QLC, Optane DC, Optane, Intel, DIMM, 3D XPoint, 20TB

Lots of good stuff coming out of Intel's press event earlier today. First up is Optane, now (finally and officially) in a DIMM form factor!:

Intel-Optane-Persistent-memory-1-.jpg

We have seen and tested Optane in several forms, but all so far have been bottlenecked by the interface and controller architectures. The only real way to fully realize the performance gains of 3D XPoint (how it works here) is to move away from the slower interfaces that are holding it back. A DIMM form factor is just the next logical step here.

filling-the-gaps-between-memory-and-storage-after.png

Intel shows the new 'Optane DC Persistent Memory' as yet another tier up the storage/memory stack. The new parts will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities. We don't have confirmation on the raw capacity, but based on Intel's typical max stack height of 4 dies per package, 3D XPoint's raw die capacity of 16GB, and a suspected 10 packages per DIMM, that should come to 640GB raw capacity. Combined with a 60 DWPD rating (up from 30DWPD for P4800X), this shows Intel is loosening up their design margins considerably. This makes sense as 3D XPoint was a radically new and unproven media when first launched, and it has now built up a decent track record in the field.

gap-3.png

Bridging The Gap chart - part of a sequence from our first P4800X review.

Recall that even with Intel's Optane DC SSD parts like the P4800X, there remained a ~100x latency gap between the DRAM and the storage. The move to DIMMs should help Intel push closer to the '1000x faster than NAND' claims made way back when 3D XPoint was launched. Even if DIMMs were able to extract all possible physical latency gains from XPoint, there will still be limitations imposed by today's software architectures, which still hold many legacy throwbacks from the times of HDDs. Intel generally tries to help this along by providing various caching solutions that allow Optane to directly augment the OS's memory. These new DIMMs, when coupled with supporting enterprise platforms capable of logically segmenting RAM and NV DIMM slots, should be able to be accessed either directly or as a memory expansion tier.

Circling back to raw performance, we'll have to let software evolve a bit further to see even better gains out of XPoint platforms. That's likely the reason Intel did not discuss any latency figures for the new products today. My guess is that latencies should push down into the 1-3us range, splitting the difference between current generation DRAM (~80-100ns) and PCIe-based Optane parts (~10us). While the DIMM form factor is certainly faster, there is still a management layer at play here, meaning some form of controller or a software layer to handle wear leveling. No raw XPoint sitting on the memory bus just yet.

Also out of the event came talks about QLC NAND flash. Recently announced by Intel / Micron, along with 96-layer 3D NAND development, QLC helps squeeze higher capacities out of given NAND flash dies. Endurance does take a hit, but so long as the higher density media is coupled to appropriate client/enterprise workloads, there should be no issue with premature media wear-out or data retention. Micron has already launched an enterprise QLC part, and while Intel been hush-hush on actual product launches, they did talk about both client and enterprise QLC parts (with the latter pushing into 20TB in a 2.5" form factor).

Press blast for Optane DC Persistent Memory appears after the break (a nicer layout is available by clicking the source link).

Some Dell Systems Shipping with 24GB of memory: 8GB DDR4 and 16GB Optane Memory

Subject: Memory, Storage | May 29, 2018 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: Optane, Intel, g3, dell

Recently I came across an interesting product listing on Dell’s website for its new G3 15” gaming notebook. These are budget-friendly gaming systems with mainstream discrete GeForce graphics cards in them like the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti. Starting at just $699 they offer a compelling balance of performance and value, though we haven’t yet gotten hands on one for testing.

One tidbit that seemed off to me was this:

dell1.png

Several of these systems list 24GB of memory through a combination of 8GB of DDR4 and 16GB of Optane Memory for caching. A similar wording exists in the configuration page for these machines:

dell2.png

Clicking on the More Info link takes you to the “Help Me Choose” portion of the page that details what system memory does, how it helps the performance of your machine, and how Optane comes into the mix. There is important wording to point out that Dell provides (emphasis mine):

Some systems allow you to add Intel® Optane™ memory, which is a system acceleration solution for the 7th Gen and 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processor platforms. This solution comes in a module format and by placing this new memory media between the processor and a slower SATA-based storage devices ( HDD, SSHD or SATA SSD), you are able to store commonly used data and programs closer to the processor, allowing the systems to access this information more quickly and improve overall system performance.

Mixing DRAM with Intel® Optane™ delivers better performance and cost. For example, 4 GB DRAM + 16GB Intel® Optane™ memory delivers better performance and cost than just 8GB DRAM.

What is the difference between Intel® Optane™ memory and DRAM? Does it replace DRAM?
The Intel® Optane™ memory module does not replace DRAM. It can be, however, added to DRAM to increase systems performance.

If I use Intel® Optane™ memory with an HDD to accelerate my games, game launches and level loads become faster and close to that of an SSD experience, but what about the game play? Is the game play impacted?
Game play will not be that different between an SSD and an HDD based systems since the games in loaded into DRAM during play.

While my initial reaction of this as a clever way to trick consumers into thinking they are getting 24GB of memory in their PC when in reality it is only 8GB holds true, there are a lot of interesting angles to take.

First, yes, I believe it is a poor decision to incorporate Optane Memory into the specification of “memory” in these PCs. Optane Memory is an accelerant for system storage, and cannot replace DRAM (as the FAQ on Dell’s website states). If you have 8GB of memory, and your application workload fills that, having 16GB of memory would be a tremendous improvement in performance. Having 16GB of Optane caching on your system will only aid in moving and swapping data from main storage INTO that 8GB pool of physical memory.

Where Dell’s statements hold true though is in instances where memory capacity is not the bottleneck of performance, and your system has a standard spinning hard drive rather than an SSD installed. Optane Memory and its caching capabilities will indeed improve performance more than doubling the main system memory in instances where memory is not the limiter.

I do hope that Dell isn’t choosing to remove SSD options or defaults from these notebooks in order to maintain that performance claim; but based on my quick check, any notebook configuration that has the “24GB of memory” claim to it does NOT offer an SSD upgrade path.

Though it isn't called out one way or the other in the Dell specifications, my expectation is that they are NOT configuring these systems to use the Optane Memory as a part of the Windows page file, which MIGHT show some interesting benefits in regards to lower system memory capacity. Instead, these are likely configured with Optane Memory as a cache for the 1TB hard drive that is also a required piece of the configuration. If I'm incorrect, this config will definitely warrant some more testing and research.

Where the argument might shift is in the idea of performance per dollar improvements to overall system responsiveness. As the cost of DDR4 memory has risen, 16GB of Optane Memory (at around $25) is well below the cost of a single 8GB SO-DIMM for these notebooks (in the $80-90 range), giving OEMs a significant pricing advantage towards their bottom line. And yes, we have proven that Optane Memory works well and accelerates application load times and even level loads in some games.

But will it allow you to run more applications or games that might need or want more than 8GB of system memory? No.

Ideally, these configurations would include both 16GB of DDR4 system memory AND the 16GB of Optane Memory to get the best possible performance. But as system vendors and Intel itself look for ways to differentiate a product stack, while keeping prices lower and margins higher, this is one of the more aggressive tactics we have seen.

I’m curious what Dell’s input on this will be, if this is a direction they plan on continuing or one that they are simply trialing. Will other OEMs follow suit? Hopefully I’ll be able to get some interesting answers this week and during Computex early next month.

For now, it is something that potential buyers of these systems should pay attention to and make sure they are properly informed as to the hardware configuration capabilities and limits.

Source: Dell
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Over the past couple of days, we saw some rumors and e-tailer appearances of the Intel SSD 905P. Essentially an incremental upgrade to the 900P, with a few notable differences. Specs see a slight bump across the board, as do capacities, but the most striking difference is Intel’s apparent choice to move forward with the blue-LED enabled design seen in a press deck slide that began circulating last year:

intel-optane-ssd-900p.jpg

That upper right design seemed pretty cool at the time, and I never thought we would see it materialize, but less than 24 hours ago this arrived at the office:

180502-163726.jpg

Note: The color is user adjustable - we just don't have the software for it yet.

*edit* colors are configurable via command line, using the most recent SSD toolbox app. The possible colors are limited (literally red/green/blue/off - that's it), but I've confirmed that the setting does persist after reboot / power cycling / changing systems. This is a welcome change over other RGB-enabled components that require software to always be installed to control (or even turn off) lighting. Here's a look at the other two colors:

180502-163529.jpg

180502-163629.jpg

*end edit*

Well now that it’s here, let’s see what it can do!

Read on for our full review of the Intel SSD 905P 960GB!

Intel Launches 8th Gen i3+, i5+, i7+ with Optane Memory Mobile Caching up to 64GB

Subject: Storage | April 3, 2018 - 04:56 AM |
Tagged: Optane Memory, Optane, NVMe, Intel, 8th generation core, 800p, 3D XPoint

Remember *way* back just before CES 2017, when we caught that 'Optane Memory Storage Accelerator' entry on some Lenovo laptop release docs? Well, those obviously never happened, and we figured out why a few months later when we reviewed Intel's Optane Memory products and realized that the first iteration of these products had no apparent hardware power management capabilities, meaning they would draw excessive power while idling in a mobile platform.

180307-190822.jpg

While the Optane Memory launch was a year ago, just last month we tested the 800P - what was meant to be the true usable standalone M.2 packaging for Optane. This part was nearly physically identical to Optane Memory, but with some tweaks to available capacities, and more importantly, support for hardware lower power idle states. While this opened the door for use in laptops, it still did not completely close the loop on an Optane-based caching solution for mobile platforms. That loop gets closed today:

2018-04-03-04-48-43.png

Along with a round of other new 8th generation CPU announcements (covered by Ken here), Intel has also launched a 'Core Plus' series, which are essentially the same 8th gen Core i3 / i5 / i7 parts, but with the addition of Optane Memory caching. These will be a newer, more power efficient version of the Optane Memory caching parts. While these were previously available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, this new round will add a 64GB tier to the mix.

2018-04-03-04-49-07.png

Another update being made to Optane Memory is that instead of caching the OS drive, Optane Memory will be able to cache a secondary data drive. This would be ideal for a system that was already using a fast NVMe SSD or 800P/900P as the OS drive, where the user also wanted to cache a very large secondary data HDD. The Optane Memory caching is currently limited to caching either the OS drive or a secondary drive - no current possibility to split the higher capacity Optane Memory modules across two separate drives (we asked, and will continue to press this suggestion).

Not sure what all of this 'Optane' / '3D XPoint' stuff is all about? Check out my article detailing how it all works here