Flipped your lid and want to reattach it?

Subject: Processors | February 23, 2017 - 04:07 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Skylake, kaby lake, delidding, relidding

[H]ard|OCP have been spending a lot of time removing the integrated heatspreader on recent Intel chips to see what effect it has on temperatures under load.  Along the way we picked up tips on 3D printing a delidder and thankfully there was not much death along the way.  One of their findings from this testing was that it can be beneficial to reattach the lid after changing out the thermal interface material and they have published a guide on how to do so.   You will need a variety of tools, from Permatex Red RTV to razor blades, by way of isopropyl alcohol and syringes; as well as a steady hand.  You may have many of the items on hand already and none are exceptionally expensive.

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"So we have covered a lot about taking your shiny new Intel CPUs apart lately, affectionately known as "delidding." What we have found in our journey is that "relidding" the processor might be an important part of the process as well. But what if you do not have a fancy tool that will help you put Humpty back together again?"

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Details Zen at ISSCC

Subject: Processors | February 9, 2017 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: Zen, Skylake, Samsung, ryzen, kaby lake, ISSCC, Intel, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, AM4, 14 nm FinFET

Yesterday EE Times posted some interesting information that they had gleaned at ISSCC.  AMD released a paper describing the design process and advances they were able to achieve with the Zen architecture manufactured on Samsung’s/GF’s 14nm FinFETT process.  AMD went over some of the basic measurements at the transistor scale and how it compares to what Intel currently has on their latest 14nm process.

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The first thing that jumps out is that AMD claimes that their 4 core/8 thread x86 core is about 10% smaller than what Intel has with one of their latest CPUs.  We assume it is either Kaby Lake or Skylake.  AMD did not exactly go over exactly what they were counting when looking at the cores because there are some significant differences between the two architectures.  We are not sure if that 44mm sq. figure includes the L3 cache or the L2 caches.  My guess is that it probably includes L2 cache but not L3.  I could be easily wrong here.

Going down the table we see that AMD and Samsung/GF are able to get their SRAM sizes down smaller than what Intel is able to do.  AMD has double the amount of L2 cache per core, but it is only about 60% larger than Intel’s 256 KB L2.  AMD also has a much smaller L3 cache as well than Intel.  Both are 8 MB units but AMD comes in at 16 mm sq. while Intel is at 19.1 mm sq.  There will be differences in how AMD and Intel set up these caches, and until we see L3 performance comparisons we cannot assume too much.

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(Image courtesy of ISSCC)

In some of the basic measurements of the different processes we see that Intel has advantages throughout.  This is not surprising as Intel has been well known to push process technology beyond what others are able to do.  In theory their products will have denser logic throughout, including the SRAM cells.  When looking at this information we wonder how AMD has been able to make their cores and caches smaller.  Part of that is due to the likely setup of cache control and access.

One of the most likely culprits of this smaller size is that the less advanced FPU/SSE/AVX units that AMD has in Zen.  They support AVX-256, but it has to be done in double the cycles.  They can do single cycle AVX-128, but Intel’s throughput is much higher than what AMD can achieve.  AVX is not the end-all, be-all but it is gaining in importance in high performance computing and editing applications.  David Kanter in his article covering the architecture explicitly said that AMD made this decision to lower the die size and power constraints for this product.

Ryzen will undoubtedly be a pretty large chip overall once both modules and 16 MB of L3 cache are put together.  My guess would be in the 220 mm sq. range, but again that is only a guess once all is said and done (northbridge, southbridge, PCI-E controllers, etc.).  What is perhaps most interesting of it all is that AMD has a part that on the surface is very close to the Broadwell-E based Intel i7 chips.  The i7-6900K runs at 3.2 to 3.7 GHz, features 8 cores and 16 threads, and around 20 MB of L2/L3 cache.  AMD’s top end looks to run at 3.6 GHz, features the same number of cores and threads, and has 20 MB of L2/L3 cache.  The Intel part is rated at 140 watts TDP while the AMD part will have a max of 95 watts TDP.

If Ryzen is truly competitive in this top end space (with a price to undercut Intel, yet not destroy their own margins) then AMD is going to be in a good position for the rest of this year.  We will find out exactly what is coming our way next month, but all indications point to Ryzen being competitive in overall performance while being able to undercut Intel in TDPs for comparable cores/threads.  We are counting down the days...

Source: AMD
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The Maximus VIII Impact is one of the Intel Z170 chipset offerings in the ROG (Republic of Gamer) board line. The board features the standard black and red ROG aesthetics in an mini-ITX form factor to accommodate space constrained system builds. ASUS chose to integrate black-chrome heat sinks into the board's build, giving it a sleek and modern appearance. The board's integrated Intel Z170 chipset integrates support for the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR4 memory. With an MSRP of $250, the Maximus VIII Impact comes a price premium for a high-quality and feature packed product.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS integrated the following features into the Maximus VIII Impact board: four SATA 3 ports; one U.2 32Gbps port; an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC; 2x2 802.11ac WiFI adapter; one PCI-Express x16 slot; on-board power, reset, Clear CMOS, and USB BIOS Flashback buttons; 2-digit Q-Code LED diagnostic display; ROG SupremeFX Impact III 8-Channel audio subsystem; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI video ports; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

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Courtesy of ASUS

The Maximus VIII Impact features an eight phase digital power system, providing more than enough power to the CPU for any task you throw its way. The power delivery system itself consists of International Rectifier PowIRStage MOSFETs, MicroFine alloy chokes, and 10k-rated Japanese-sourced black-metallic capacitors.

Continue reading our preview of the ASUS Maximus VIII Gene motherboard!

Fishing for performance improvements? A shallow dive into Intel's desktop Kaby Lake

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2016 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, 7th generation core

Ryan recently offered a sneak peek at Kaby Lake, which powered two HP Spectre laptops recently sent to PC Perspective for review.  [H]ard|OCP managed to acquire a desktop version of the i7-7700K along with a mysterious unreleased motherboard which supports both Skylake and Kaby Lake architectures.  When testing the two chips in Passmark there was no meaningful performance difference, a pattern repeated in 3D Mark and Sandra.  The performance per clock is not the whole story with this chip, there are new features and possible overclocking improvements but at the moment it does not look like there is a compelling reason to upgrade if you are already on Skylake.  The same is not true if you are using a previous generation.

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"If you are wondering what Intel's new Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake processor's performance will look like when it is launched next month at CES, we have a quick preview for you here today. Just some quick and dirty synthetic benchmark numbers to whet your appetite at 4.5GHz with comparison to the i7-6700K at matched clocks."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction

In August at the company’s annual developer forum, Intel officially took the lid off its 7th generation of Core processor series, codenamed Kaby Lake. The build up to this release has been an interesting one as we saw the retirement of the “tick tock” cadence of processor releases and instead are moving into a market where Intel can spend more development time on a single architecture design to refine and tweak it as the engineers see fit. With that knowledge in tow, I believed, as I think many still do today, that Kaby Lake would be something along the lines of a simple rebrand of current shipping product. After all, since we know of no major architectural changes from Skylake other than improvements in the video and media side of the GPU, what is left for us to look forward to?

As it turns out, the advantages of the 7th Generation Core processor family and Kaby Lake are more substantial than I expected. I was able to get a hold of two different notebooks from the HP Spectre lineup, as near to identical as I could manage, with the primary difference being the move from the 6th Generation Skylake design to the 7th Generation Kaby Lake. After running both machines through a gamut of tests ranging from productivity to content creation and of course battery life, I can say with authority that Intel’s 7th Gen product deserves more accolades than it is getting.

Architectural Refresher

Before we get into the systems and to our results, I think it’s worth taking some time to quickly go over some of what we know about Kaby Lake from the processor perspective. Most of this content was published back in August just after the Intel Developer Forum, so if you are sure you are caught up, you can jump right along to a pictorial look at the two notebooks being tested today.

At its core, the microarchitecture of Kaby Lake is identical to that of Skylake. Instructions per clock (IPC) remain the same with the exception of dedicated hardware changes in the media engine, so you should not expect any performance differences with Kaby Lake except with improved clock speeds.

Also worth noting is that Intel is still building Kaby Lake on 14nm process technology, the same used on Skylake. The term “same” will be debated as well as Intel claims that improvements made in the process technology over the last 24 months have allowed them to expand clock speeds and improve on efficiency.

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Dubbing this new revision of the process as “14nm+”, Intel tells me that they have improved the fin profile for the 3D transistors as well as channel strain while more tightly integrating the design process with manufacturing. The result is a 12% increase in process performance; that is a sizeable gain in a fairly tight time frame even for Intel.

That process improvement directly results in higher clock speeds for Kaby Lake when compared to Skylake when running at the same target TDPs. In general, we are looking at 300-400 MHz higher peak clock speeds in Turbo Boost situations when compared to similar TDP products in the 6th generation. Sustained clocks will very likely remain voltage / thermally limited but the ability spike up to higher clocks for even short bursts can improve performance and responsiveness of Kaby Lake when compared to Skylake.

Along with higher fixed clock speeds for Kaby Lake processors, tweaks to Speed Shift will allow these processors to get to peak clock speeds more quickly than previous designs. I extensively tested Speed Shift when the feature was first enabled in Windows 10 and found that the improvement in user experience was striking. Though the move from Skylake to Kaby Lake won’t be as big of a change, Intel was able to improve the behavior.

The graphics architecture and EU (execution unit) layout remains the same from Skylake, but Intel was able to integrate a new video decode unit to improve power efficiency. That new engine can work in parallel with the EUs to improve performance throughput as well, but obviously at the expensive of some power efficiency.

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Specific additions to the codec lineup include decode support for 10-bit HEVC and 8/10-bit VP9 as well as encode support for 10-bit HEVC and 9-bit VP9. The video engine adds HDR support with tone mapping though it does require EU utilization. Wide Color Gamut (Rec. 2020) is prepped and ready to go according to Intel for when that standard starts rolling out to displays.

Performance levels for these new HEVC encode/decode blocks is set to allow for 4K 120mbps real-time on both the Y-series (4.5 watt) and U-series (15 watt) processors.

It’s obvious that the changes to Kaby Lake from Skylake are subtle and even I found myself overlooking the benefits that it might offer. While the capabilities it has will be tested on the desktop side at a later date in 2017, for thin and light notebooks, convertibles and even some tablets, the 7th Generation Core processors do in fact take advantage of the process improvements and higher clock speeds to offer an improved user experience.

Continue reading our look at Kaby Lake mobile performance!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

A Watershed Moment in Mobile

This previous May I was invited to Austin to be briefed on the latest core innovations from ARM and their partners.  We were introduced to new CPU and GPU cores, as well as the surrounding technologies that provide the basis of a modern SOC in the ARM family.  We also were treated to more information about the process technologies that ARM would embrace with their Artisan and POP programs.  ARM is certainly far more aggressive now in their designs and partnerships than they have been in the past, or at least they are more willing to openly talk about them to the press.

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The big process news that ARM was able to share at this time was the design of 10nm parts using an upcoming TSMC process node.  This was fairly big news as TSMC was still introducing parts on their latest 16nm FF+ line.  NVIDIA had not even released their first 16FF+ parts to the world in early May.  Apple had dual sourced their 14/16 nm parts from Samsung and TSMC respectively, but these were based on LPE and FF lines (early nodes not yet optimized to LPP/FF+).  So the news that TSMC would have a working 10nm process in 2017 was important to many people.  2016 might be a year with some good performance and efficiency jumps, but it seems that 2017 would provide another big leap forward after years of seeming stagnation of pure play foundry technology at 28nm.

Yesterday we received a new announcement from ARM that shows an amazing shift in thought and industry inertia.  ARM is partnering with Intel to introduce select products on Intel’s upcoming 10nm foundry process.  This news is both surprising and expected.  It is surprising in that it happened as quickly as it did.  It is expected as Intel is facing a very different world than it had planned for 10 years ago.  We could argue that it is much different than they planned for 5 years ago.

Intel is the undisputed leader in process technologies and foundry practices.  They are the gold standard of developing new, cutting edge process nodes and implementing them on a vast scale.  This has served them well through the years as they could provide product to their customers seemingly on demand.  It also allowed them a leg up in technology when their designs may not have fit what the industry wanted or needed (Pentium 4, etc.).  It also allowed them to potentially compete in the mobile market with designs that were not entirely suited for ultra-low power.  x86 is a modern processor technology with decades of development behind it, but that development focused mainly on performance at higher TDP ranges.

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This past year Intel signaled their intent to move out of the sub 5 watt market and cede it to ARM and their partners.  Intel’s ultra mobile offerings just did not make an impact in an area that they were expected to.  For all of Intel’s advances in process technology, the base ARM architecture is just better suited to these power envelopes.  Instead of throwing good money after bad (in the form of development time, wafer starts, rebates) Intel has stepped away from this market.

This leaves Intel with a problem.  What to do with extra production capacity?  Running a fab is a very expensive endeavor.  If these megafabs are not producing chips 24/7, then the company is losing money.  This past year Intel has seen their fair share of layoffs and slowing down production/conversion of fabs.  The money spent on developing new, cutting edge process technologies cannot stop for the company if they want to keep their dominant position in the CPU industry.  Some years back they opened up their process products to select 3rd party companies to help fill in the gaps of production.  Right now Intel has far more production line space than they need for the current market demands.  Yes, there were delays in their latest Skylake based processors, but those were solved and Intel is full steam ahead.  Unfortunately, they do not seem to be keeping their fabs utilized at the level needed or desired.  The only real option seems to be opening up some fab space to more potential customers in a market that they are no longer competing directly in.

The Intel Custom Foundry Group is working with ARM to provide access to their 10nm HPM process node.  Initial production of these latest generation designs will commence in Q1 2017 with full scale production in Q4 2017.  We do not have exact information as to what cores will be used, but we can imagine that they will be Cortex-A73 and A53 parts in big.LITTLE designs.  Mali graphics will probably be the first to be offered on this advanced node as well due to the Artisan/POP program.  Initial customers have not been disclosed and we likely will not hear about them until early 2017.

This is a big step for Intel.  It is also a logical progression for them when we look over the changing market conditions of the past few years.  They were unable to adequately compete in the handheld/mobile market with their x86 designs, but they still wanted to profit off of this ever expanding area.  The logical way to monetize this market is to make the chips for those that are successfully competing here.  This will cut into Intel’s margins, but it should increase their overall revenue base if they are successful here.  There is no reason to believe that they won’t be.

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The last question we have is if the 10nm HPM node will be identical to what Intel will use for their next generation “Cannonlake” products.  My best guess is that the foundry process will be slightly different and will not provide some of the “secret sauce” that Intel will keep for themselves.  It will probably be a mobile focused process node that stresses efficiency rather than transistor switching speed.  I could be very wrong here, but I don’t believe that Intel will open up their process to everyone that comes to them hat in hand (AMD).

The partnership between ARM and Intel is a very interesting one that will benefit customers around the globe if it is handled correctly from both sides.  Intel has a “not invented here” culture that has both benefited it and caused it much grief.  Perhaps some flexibility on the foundry side will reap benefits of its own when dealing with very different designs than Intel is used to.  This is a titanic move from where Intel probably thought it would be when it first started to pursue the ultra-mobile market, but it is a move that shows the giant can still positively react to industry trends.

GIGABYTE Announces GeForce GTX 10 Series Gaming Laptops

Subject: Systems, Mobile | August 16, 2016 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, nvidia, notebook, laptop, Intel Core i7, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gigabyte, gaming

GIGABYTE has refreshed their gaming laptop lineup with NVIDIA's GTX 10 series graphics, announcing updated versions of the P55 & P57 Series, and thin-and-light P35 & P37.

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"GIGABYTE offers a variety of options based on preference while providing the latest GeForce® GTX 10 series graphics and the latest 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor for the power and performance to meet the growing demands of top tier applications, games, and Virtual Reality. With the superior performance GIAGBYTE also includes industry leading features such as M.2 PCIe SSD, DDR4 memory, USB 3.1 with Type-C connection, and HDMI 2.0."

The notebooks retain 6th-gen Intel (Skylake) Core processors, but now feature NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 GPUs.

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Here's a rundown of the new systems from GIGABYTE, beginning with the Performance Series:

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The GIGABYE P57 Gaming Laptop

"The new 17” P57 is pulling no punches when it comes to performance, including the all-new, ultra-powerful NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1070 & 1060 Graphics. With a fresh GPU, come fresh ID changes. Along with its subtle style, curved lines and orange accents, comes all-new additional air intake ventilation above the keyboard to improve thermal cooling. The backlit keyboard itself supports Anti-Ghost with 30-Key Rollover. The Full HD 1920x1080 IPS display provides vivid and immersive visuals, while a Swappable Bay is included for user preference of an optical drive, an additional HDD, or weight reduction."

Next we have the thin-and-light ULTRAFORCE Gaming models:

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The ULTRAFORCE P35

"The new 17.3” P37 reiterates what ULTRAFORCE is all about. Despite being a 17” model, the P37 weights under 2.7kg and retains an ultra-thin and light profile being less than 22.5mm thin. Paired with extreme mobility is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. The display comes in both options of 4K UHD 3840x2160 and FHD 1920x1080, achieving high-res gaming thanks to the performance boost with the new graphics.

The P37 includes a hot-swappable bay for an additional HDD, ODD, or to reduce weight for improved mobility, forming a quad-storage system with multiple M.2 PCIe SSDs and HDDs. The Macro Keys on the left, together with the included Macro Hub software, allows up to 25 programmable macros for one-click execution in any games and applications

Powerful yet portable, the thinnest gaming laptop of the series, the 15.6” P35, also has either a UHD 3840x2160 or FHD 1920x1080 display, delivering perfect and vivid colors for an enhanced gameplay experience. Included in the Ultrabook-like chassis is the powerful all-new NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. The P35 also features the iconic hot-swappable bay for flexible storage and the quad-storage system."

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The P37 keyboard features macro keys

We will update with pricing and availability for these new laptops when known.

Source: GIGABYTE
Subject: Systems, Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Introduction and Specifications

Dell's premium XPS notebook family includes both 15 inch and 13 inch variants, and ship with the latest 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors and all of the latest hardware. But the screens are what will grab your immediate attention; bright, rich, and with the narrowest bezels on any notebook courtesy of Dell's InfinityEdge displays.

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Since Ryan’s review of the XPS 13, which is now his daily driver, Dell has added the XPS 15, which is the smallest 15-inch notebook design you will find anywhere. The XPS 13 is already "the smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet", according to Dell, giving their XPS series a significant advantage in the ultrabook market. The secret is in the bezel, or lack thereof, which allows Dell to squeeze these notebooks into much smaller physical dimensions than you might expect given their display sizes.

But you get more than just a compact size with these XPS notebooks, as the overall quality of the machines rivals that of anything else you will find; and may just be the best Windows notebooks you can buy right now. Is this simply bluster? Notebooks, like smartphones, are a personal thing. They need to conform to the user to provide a great experience, and there are obviously many different kinds of users to satisfy. Ultimately, however, Dell has produced what could easily be described as class leaders with these machines.

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Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 13 and 15 notebooks!!

CoolChip Technologies Teases New Kinetic Cooler For Skylake Processors

Subject: Cases and Cooling | July 4, 2016 - 06:11 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, passive cooling, kinetic cooling, kinetic cooler, hsf, coolchip

Early last year startup CoolChip Technologies partnered with Cooler Master to show off a prototype kinetic cooler at CES 2015. The two companies were allegedly working on a new processor heatsink that would be priced in line with current heatsink + fan designs but would be smaller, quieter, and less prone to collecting dust! Unfortunately that revolutionary HSF product never materialized (just like the Sandia Labs prototype), and while we may still see that cooler some day it appears like it is not going to be anytime soon. With that said, it is not all bad news for fans of these promising processor coolers, because if a recent social media tease by the startup is any indication CoolChip technologies has decided to move forward with its own branded kinetic cooler!

Specifically, CoolChip teased a new and upcoming product launch aimed at cooling Intel Skylake CPUs with up to 70W TDPs. Along with the statement that the kinetic cooler is “coming soon!” the company posted three images of the new cooler, and it looks awesome.

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Resembling something a Predator might be using to cool their PC, the CoolChip cooler has a stationary base plate with a motor that spins a small array of fins in a manner that facilitates heat transfer from the base plate to the spinning heatsink (which is in lieu of a fan -- the heatsink is the fan) via a very thin layer of air that keeps the heatsink balanced as well. That spinning heatsink portion is then further surrounded by stationary rings of fins likely connected to the base plate using heatpipes for that extra bit of cooling potential. The inner impeller (vertical) fins are angled one direction while the outer stationary ring of horizontal fins are angled the opposite direction. The impeller pulls cool air in and pushes it outwards through the stationary fins and out into the case where case fans will then exhaust that hot air out of the case. CoolChips has an animated illustration of how this impeller design cools versus a traditional heatsink and fan design which is available on their website.

Other features of the small kinetic cooler include a braided cable with fan header to get power from the CPU_Fan header on the motherboard. It is not clear if this connector is 4 pin and supports PWM or not though. One of the more promising bits of this teaser is the photo of the cooler in retail packaging which adds at least a little bit of credence that we might actually see this product launch at some point. The package appears to include the 1U Low Profile Kinetic Cooler itself, a motherboard backplate, and a small tube of thermal paste (TIM).

Possibly the coolest (heh) part of this teased product is the third photo which suggests that there will be multiple color options for the impeller which would allow users to customize the heatsink color to match their PC’s design scheme.

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You can check out the post for yourself here. I am really excited to finally see new information on kinetic cooling, and this CoolChip cooler in particular looks really interesting and I hope that it actually materializes and I can finally read some reviews on it! What are your thoughts on kinetic cooling for PCs?

Also read:

Now that's a NUC of a different colour, the NUC6i5SYK

Subject: Systems | June 13, 2016 - 08:03 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, NUC6i5SYK, Skylake

The new NUC6i5SYK may look like the previous generations but the innards represent a huge step forward.  At the base is a Skylake Core i5-6260U which brings with it support for DDR4 and more importantly NVMe SSDs. Connectivity includes Ethernet, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi, miniDP 1.2 and proper HDMI CEC 1.4b output.  The barebones kit will run $380USD, not bad for this type of design.  Missing Remote put the new NUC through its paces; check out the results here.

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"Updated with an Intel Core i5-6260U with Intel Iris Graphics 540, support for NVMe SSD, and DDR4, the system has the opportunity to fix the shortcomings in the previous generation (cough, CSH). The sleek looks and features will not be as much of a bargain as the plug-in-and-go Intel Pentium based NUC5PGYH. Intel is asking $380/£335 for the barebones kit, but with quite a bit more performance, better networking, and features on tap, it could well be worth the extra dosh."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems