Podcast #454 - Cryptocurrency Revisited, XBox One X, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2017 - 10:38 AM |
Tagged: xps, video, Samsung, Project Scorpio, powerplay, podcast, logitech, G433, g-sync, freesync, destiny 2, dell, cryptocurrency, corsair, Area-51, alienware

PC Perspective Podcast #454 - 06/15/17

Join us for talk about Cryptocurreny mining resurgence, XBox One X, 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, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:26:18
 
Podcast topics of discussion:
 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

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Samsung Announces FreeSync 2 HDR Displays, includes C49HG90 49-in UltraWide!

Subject: Displays | June 9, 2017 - 11:24 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, hdr, freesync 2, freesync, CHG90, CHG70, amd

Samsung made a surprise announcement this morning, taking the wraps off of the first FreeSync 2 monitors to grace our pages, officially. These gaming displays come in three difference sizes, one of them incredibly unique, and all with HDR support and Quantum Dot Technology to go along with the variable refresh rate technology of FreeSync. 

All three displays utilize the QLED Quantum Dot tech first showcased in the QLED TV lineup launched just this past January at CES. It uses a new metal core and has some impressive color quality capabilities, going to 125% of the sRGB color space and 95% of the DCI-PE color space! I don't yet know what the peak luminance is, or how many backlight zones there might be for HDR support, but I have asked Samsung for clarification and will update here when I get feedback. All three displays use VA panels.

All three displays also become the first to pass certification with AMD for FreeSync 2, which we initially detailed WAY BACK in January of this year. FreeSync 2 should tell us that this display meets some minimum standards for latency, color quality, and low frame rate compensation. These are all great on paper, though I am still looking for details from AMD on what exactly the minimum standards have been set to. At the time, AMD would only tell me that FreeSync 2 displays "will require a doubling of the perceivable brightness and doubling of the viewable color volume based on the sRGB standards."

C49HG90_006_L-Perspective_Black2.jpg

The bad boy of the group, the Samsung CHG90 (part number C49HG90), is easily the most interesting. It comes in with a staggering screen size of 49-inches and a brand new 32:9 aspect ratio with an 1800R curvature. With a 3840x1080 resolution, I am eager to see this display in person and judge how the ultra-wide design impacts our gaming and our productivity capability. (They call this resolution DFHD, for double full HD.) The refresh rate peaks at 144 Hz and a four-channel scanner is in place to minimize any motion blur or ghosting. A 1ms rated response time also makes this monitor incredibly impressive, on paper. Price for the C49HG90 is set at $1499 with preorders starting today on Amazon.com. (Amazon lists a June 30th release date, but I am looking to clarify.)

Also on the docket is the CHG70, available in two sizes, a 32-in (C32HG70) and a 27-in (C27HG70) model. Both are 2560x1440 resolution screens with 16:9 aspect ratios, 1ms response times and FreeSync 2 integrations. That means the same 125% sRGB and 95% DCI-P3 color space support along with the Samsung Quantum Dot technology. Both will sport a 144 Hz refresh rate and an 1800R curvature. The specifications are essentially identical between all three models, making the selection process an easier choice based on price segment and screen real estate. The C27HG70 will be on preorder from Samsung.com exclusively for $599 while the C32HG70 will be on preorder at Newegg.com for $699, just $100 more.

All three displays will feature a Game Mode to optimize image settings for...gaming.

Samsung’s CHG90 extends the playing field for virtual competitors, with its 49-inch design representing the widest gaming monitor available. The monitor delivers a dramatic 1,800R curvature and an ultra-wide 178-degree viewing angle, ensuring that content is clearly visible from nearly any location within a given space. As a result, gamers no longer need to worry about the logistics, expenses, and bezel interference that occur when combining multiple smaller monitors together for an expanded view.

The new CHG90 monitor includes a height adjustable stand (HAS), allowing flexible height adjustment for improved viewing comfort. Designed for the most demanding games, the CHG70 monitor goes a step further with a dual-hinge stand that provides users more precise control over how the display panel is positioned.

In addition to Game Mode, a feature that optimizes image setting for playing games when connected to a PC or a game console, each of the new monitors include a game OSD dashboard, designed to blend seamlessly into game interfaces.

A full table of specifications is below and trust me on this one guys, I am already up in Samsung's and AMD's face to get these monitors in here for review!

monitor-spec.png

Now all we are missing is the power of a Radeon RX Vega card to push this high resolution, high refresh rate HDR goodness!!

Source: Samsung

IBM Announces 5nm Breakthrough with Silicon Nanosheet Technology

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 09:31 PM |
Tagged: silicon nanosheet, Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, 5nm

It seems only yesterday that we saw Intel introduce their 22nm FinFET technology, and now we are going all the way down to 5nm.  This is obviously an exaggeration.  The march of process technology has been more than a little challenging for the past 5+ years for everyone in the industry.  Intel has made it look a little easier by being able to finance these advances a little better than the other pure-play foundries.  It does not mean that they have not experienced challenges on their own.

We have seen some breakthroughs these past years with everyone jumping onto FinFETs with TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES introducing their own processes.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES initially had set out on their own, but that particular endeavor did not pan out.  The ended up licensing Samsung’s 14nm processes (LPE and LPP) to start producing chips of their own, primarily for AMD in their graphics and this latest generation of Ryzen CPUs.

NicolasLoubet-1440x960.jpg

These advances have not been easy.  While FinFETs are needed at these lower nodes to continue to provide the performance and power efficiency while supporting these transistor densities, the technology will not last forever.  10nm and 7nm lines will continue to use them, but many believe that while we will see the densities improve, the power characteristics will start to lag behind.  The theory is that past 7nm nodes traditional FinFETs will no longer work as desired.  This is very reminiscent of the sub 28nm processes that attempted to use planar structures on bulk silicon.  In that case the chips could be made, but power issues plagued the designs and eventually support for those process lines were dropped.

IBM and their research associates Samsung, GLOBALFOUNDRIES at SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex in Albany, NY have announced a breakthrough in a new “Gate-All-Around” architecture made on a 5nm process.  FinFETs are essentially a rectangle surround on three sides by gates, giving it the “fin” physical characteristics.  This new technology now covers the fourth side and embeds these channels in nanosheets of silicon.

The problem with FinFETs is that they will eventually be unable to scale with power as transistors get closer and closer.  While density scales, power and performance will get worse as compared to previous nodes.  The 5nm silicon nanosheet technology gives a significant boost to power and efficiency, thereby doing to FinFETs what they did with planar structures at the 20/22nm nodes.

ibm-suny-asml-euv-machine-1440x812.jpg

One of the working EUV litho machines at SUNY Albany.

IBM asserts that the average chip the size of a fingernail can contain up to 30 billion transistors and continue to see the density, power, and efficiency improvements that we would expect with a normal process shrink.  The company expects these process nodes to start rolling out in a 2019 time frame if all goes as planned.

There are few details in how IBM was able to achieve this result.  We do know a couple things about it.  EUV lithography was used extensively to avoid the multi-patterning nightmare that this would entail.  For the past two years Ametek has been installing 100 watt EUV litho machines throughout the world to select clients.  One of these is located on the SUNY Albany campus where this research was done.  We also know that deposition was done layer by layer with silicon and the other materials.

What we don’t know is how long it takes to create a complete wafer.  Usually these test wafers are packed full of SRAM and very little logic.  It is a useful test and creates a baseline for many structures that will eventually be applied to this process.  We do not know how long it takes to produce such a wafer, but considering how the layers look to be deposited it takes a long, long time with current tools and machinery.  Cutting edge wafers in production can take upwards of 16 weeks to complete.  I hesitate to even guess how long each test wafer takes.  Because of the very 3D nature of the design, I am curious as to how the litho stages work and how many passes are still needed to complete the design.

This looks to be a very significant advancement in process technology that should be mass produced in the timeline suggested by IBM.  It is a significant jump, but it seems to borrow a lot of previous FinFET structures.  It does not encompass anything exotic like “quantum wells”, but is able to go lower than the currently specified 7nm processes that TSMC, Samsung, and Intel have hinted at (and yes, process node names should be taken with a grain of salt from all parties at this time).  IBM does appear to be comparing this to what Samsung calls its 7nm process in terms of dimensions and transistor density.

Nanosheet-5nm-for-release-1.jpg

Cross section of a 5nm transistor showing the embedded channels and silicon nanosheets.

While Moore’s Law has been stretched thin as of late, we are still seeing these scientists and engineers pushing against the laws of physics to achieve better performance and scaling at incredibly small dimensions.  The silicon nanosheet technology looks to be an effective and relatively affordable path towards smaller sizes without requiring exotic materials to achieve.  IBM and its partners look to have produced a process node that will continue the march towards smaller, more efficient, and more powerful devices.  It is not exactly around the corner, but 2019 is close enough to start planning designs that could potentially utilize this node.

Source: IBM

Honey, I shrunk the silicon

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: IBM, global foundries, Samsung, 5nm, 3nm. eulv, GAAFET

Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography has been the hope for reducing process size below the current size but it had not been used to create a successful 5nm chip, until now.  IBM, Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES have succeeded in producing a chip using IBM's gate-all-around transistors, which will be known as GAAFETs and will likely replace the current tri-gate FinFETs used today.  A GAAFET resembles a FinFET rotated 90 degrees so that the channels run horizontally, stacked three layers high with gates filling in the gaps, hence the name chosen. 

Density will go up, this process will fit 30 billion transistors in a 50mm2 chip, 50% more than the previous best commercial process and performance can be increased by 40% at the same power as our current chips or offer the same performance while consuming 75% less power.  Ars Technica delves into the technology required to make GAAFETs and more of the potential in their article.

5nm.PNG

"IBM, working with Samsung and GlobalFoundries, has unveiled the world's first 5nm silicon chip. Beyond the usual power, performance, and density improvement from moving to smaller transistors, the 5nm IBM chip is notable for being one of the first to use horizontal gate-all-around (GAA) transistors, and the first real use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

A dock for your Samsung S8? That would be DeX

Subject: Mobile | May 12, 2017 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, DeX, galaxy s8, galaxy s8+

Move over Surface, the new Galaxies are getting a docking station too.  The Dex is a charging port with talent, adding USB-A 2.0, ethernet, HDMI, and a USB-C charging port to your phone's capabilities.  Plug the dock into a monitor and you will be presented a limited Android system which supports various Samsung apps, as well as Microsoft Office apps, Gmail and YouTube; The Inquirer tested out a few others for compatibility in their review.  There is a virtual desktop app that will let you take over a desktop computer as well, according to the page on Samsung.  Gaming is not particularly good, unless you utilize the workaround The Inq discovered; pick up a USB C to HDMI adapter and bypass the DeX as opposed to the native screen mirroring which occurs with the DeX software.

DeX5-540x334.jpg

"In a nutshell, DeX is a dock for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ that outputs a desktop experience from your phone to a big screen. It acts as little more than a portal, relying entirely on your phone's processing power to generate the experience, doing so via HDMI, making it compatible with most TVs and monitors."

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Source: The Inquirer

Samsung's other QD ... the CF791 quantum dot display

Subject: Displays | April 26, 2017 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, quantum dots, freesync, CF791

Over the past several years we have discussed the technology behind quantum dots, the new display technology which will provide greatly improved colour representation and gamuts on the next generation of displays.  Samsung are one of the first to deliver to market with their CF791 and Kitguru were given the opportunity to review the display.  The display is ultrawide, allowing a resolution of 3440x1440 on its 34" screen which has a 1500R curvature.  The monitors response time may be unremarkable at 4ms however the refresh rate can reach 100Hz and it is FreeSync compatible.  Their testing showed the monitor capable of 100% of sRGB and 84% of AdobeRGB, so this monitor could be effective for either gaming or content creation.  Drop by to see the full story.

Samsung-CF791-Curver-Monitor-Review-on-KitGuru-INTRODUCTION-650.jpg

"Quantum is one of those technology words that seems to generally be associated with good things in computing – like “fuzzy logic” used to be with washing machines. But where the Samsung CF791 is concerned, quantum means something. This is the first screen we have seen with “quantum dot” technology, which is an improvement on regular LCD technology that promises better colour."

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Source: Kitguru

Podcast #443 - Thermoelectric Coolers, Storage Reviews, and a StarCraft Remaster. oh my.

Subject: Editorial | March 30, 2017 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: starcraft, Silverstone, Samsung, podcast, Phonoic, Optane, microSD, Lexar, HEX 2.0, drobo, CORSAIR ONE, ashes of the singularity, aida64, 5N2

PC Perspective Podcast #443 - 03/30/17

Join us for Thermoelectric Coolers, Tiny PSUs, Lots o' Storage, some trips down nostaglia lane, 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, Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:34:48

 

Source:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Today Samsung released an update to their EVO+ microSD card line. The new model is the 'EVO Plus'. Yes, I know, it's confusing to me as well, especially when trying to research the new vs. old iterations for this mini-review. Here's a few quick visual comparisons between both models:

256-comp.jpg

On the left, we have the 'older' version of the Plus (I mean the '+'), while on the right we have the new plus, designated as a '2017 model' on the Samsung site. Note the rating differences between the two. The '+' on the left is rated at UHS-I U1 (10 MB/s minimum write speed), while the newer 'Plus' version is rated at UHS-I U3 (30 MB/s minimum write speed). I also ran across what looked like the older version packaging.

package-comp.jpg

The packaging on the right is what we had in hand for this review. The image on the left was found at the Samsung website, and confuses things even further, as the 'Plus' on the package does not match the markings on the card itself ('+'). It looks as if Samsung may have silently updated the specs of the 256GB '+' model at some point in the recent past, as that model claims significantly faster write speeds (90 MB/s) than the older/other '+' models previously claimed (~20 MB/s). With that confusion out of the way, let's dig into the specs of this newest EVO Plus:

evoplus-caps-1.png

For clarification on the Speed Class and Grade, I direct you to our previous article covering those aspects in detail. For here I'll briefly state that the interface can handle 104 MB/s while the media itself is required to sustain a minimum of 30 MB/s of typical streaming recorded content. The specs go on to claim 100MB/s reads and 90 MB/s writes (60 MB/s for the 64GB model). Doing some quick checks, here's what I saw with some simple file copies to and from a 128GB EVO Plus:

copy test.png

Our figures didn't exceed the specified performance, but they came close, which more than satisfies their 'up to' claim, with over 80 MB/s writes and 93 MB/s reads. I was able to separately confirm 85-89 MB/s writes and 99 MB/s reads with Iometer accessing with 128KB sequential transfers.

Pricing (MSRP)

Pricing seems to be running a bit high on these, with pricing running close to double of the previous version of this very same part (the EVO+ 128GB can be found for $50 at the time of this writing). Sure you are getting a U3 rated card with over four times the achievable write speed, but the reads are very similar, and if your camera only requires U1 speeds, the price premium does not seem to be worthwhile. It is also worth noting that even faster UHS-II spec cards that transfer at 150 MB/s can be had and even come with a reader at a lower cost.

In summary, the Samsung EVO Plus microSD cards look to be decent performers, but the pricing needs to come down some to be truly competitive in this space. I'd also like to see the product labeling and marketing a bit more clear between the '+' and the 'Plus' models, as they can easily confuse those not so familiar with SD card classes and grades. It also makes searching for them rather difficult, as most search engines parse 'Plus' interchangeably with '+', adding to the potential confusion.

PCPerSilverPNG-300.png

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

What Makes Ryzen Tick

We have been exposed to details about the Zen architecture for the past several Hot Chips conventions as well as other points of information directly from AMD.  Zen was a clean sheet design that borrowed some of the best features from the Bulldozer and Jaguar architectures, as well as integrating many new ideas that had not been executed in AMD processors before.  The fusion of ideas from higher performance cores, lower power cores, and experience gained in APU/GPU design have all come together in a very impressive package that is the Ryzen CPU.

zen_01.jpg

It is well known that AMD brought back Jim Keller to head the CPU group after the slow downward spiral that AMD entered in CPU design.  While the Athlon 64 was a tremendous part for the time, the subsequent CPUs being offered by the company did not retain that leadership position.  The original Phenom had problems right off the bat and could not compete well with Intel’s latest dual and quad cores.  The Phenom II shored up their position a bit, but in the end could not keep pace with the products that Intel continued to introduce with their newly minted “tic-toc” cycle.  Bulldozer had issues  out of the gate and did not have performance numbers that were significantly greater than the previous generation “Thuban” 6 core Phenom II product, much less the latest Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge products that it would compete with.

AMD attempted to stop the bleeding by iterating and evolving the Bulldozer architecture with Piledriver, Steamroller, and Excavator.  The final products based on this design arc seemed to do fine for the markets they were aimed at, but certainly did not regain any marketshare with AMD’s shrinking desktop numbers.  No matter what AMD did, the base architecture just could not overcome some of the basic properties that impeded strong IPC performance.

52_perc_design_opt.png

The primary goal of this new architecture is to increase IPC to a level consistent to what Intel has to offer.  AMD aimed to increase IPC per clock by at least 40% over the previous Excavator core.  This is a pretty aggressive goal considering where AMD was with the Bulldozer architecture that was focused on good multi-threaded performance and high clock speeds.  AMD claims that it has in fact increased IPC by an impressive 54% from the previous Excavator based core.  Not only has AMD seemingly hit its performance goals, but it exceeded them.  AMD also plans on using the Zen architecture to power products from mobile products to the highest TDP parts offered.

 

The Zen Core

The basis for Ryzen are the CCX modules.  These modules contain four Zen cores along with 8 MB of shared L3 cache.  Each core has 64 KB of L1 I-cache and 32 KB of D-cache.  There is a total of 512 KB of L2 cache.  These caches are inclusive.  The L3 cache acts as a victim cache which partially copies what is in L1 and L2 caches.  AMD has improved the performance of their caches to a very large degree as compared to previous architectures.  The arrangement here allows the individual cores to quickly snoop any changes in the caches of the others for shared workloads.  So if a cache line is changed on one core, other cores requiring that data can quickly snoop into the shared L3 and read it.  Doing this allows the CPU doing the actual work to not be interrupted by cache read requests from other cores.

ccx.png

l2_cache.png

l3_cache.png

Each core can handle two threads, but unlike Bulldozer has a single integer core.  Bulldozer modules featured two integer units and a shared FPU/SIMD.  Zen gets rid of CMT for good and we have a single integer and FPU units for each core.  The core can address two threads by utilizing AMD’s version of SMT (symmetric multi-threading).  There is a primary thread that gets higher priority while the second thread has to wait until resources are freed up.  This works far better in the real world than in how I explained it as resources are constantly being shuffled about and the primary thread will not monopolize all resources within the core.

Click here to read more about AMD's Zen architecture in Ryzen!

Are you sure that's wise? Samsung is shrinking the Note 7's battery so they can sell refurbs

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2017 - 11:27 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, note 7

From what Slashdot is reporting we are unlikely to see refurbished Note 7s in North America but they will be appearing in markets on the far side of the Pacific.  The battery was determined to be the cause of the rather spectacular failure of Samsung's latest tablet and so they will be installing a battery with a smaller capacity in the refurbished models.  One hopes it is physically smaller or more carfeully manufactured, as it was the expansion and puncturing of the battery which caused them to burst into flames.  It is understandable that Samsung would like to recoup some losses, this seems like a very risky move to undertake.

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"Samsung is said to be swapping the Note 7's 3,500 mAh batteries with a "3,000 to 3,200 mAh" batteries, according to The Korean Economic Daily's sources, predominately for sale in emerging markets such as India and Vietnam."

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Source: Slashdot