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: AMD Shows off 7nm Vega Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 5, 2018 - 11:58 PM |
Tagged: Vega, machine learning, instinct, HBM2, gpu, computex 2018, computex, amd, 7nm

AMD showed off its first 7nm GPU in the form of the expected AMD Radeon Instinct RX Vega graphics product and RX Vega GPU with 32GB of HBM2 memory. The new GPU uses the Vega architecture along with the open source ecosystem built by AMD to enable both graphics and GPGPU workloads. AMD demonstrated using the 7nm RX Vega GPU for ray tracing in a cool demo that showed realistic reflections and shadows being rendered on a per pixel basis in a model. Granted, we are still a long way away from seeing that kind of detail in real time gaming, but is still cool to see glimpses of that ray traced future.

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According to AMD, the 32GB of HBM2 memory will greatly benefit creators and enterprise clients that need to work with large datasets and be able to quickly make changes and updates to models before doing a final render. The larger memory buffer will also help in HPC applications with more big data databases being able to be kept close to the GPU for processing using the wide HBM2 memory bus. Further, HBM2 has physical size and energy efficiency benefits which will pique the interest of datacenters focused on maximizing TCO numbers.

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Dr. Lisa Su came on state towards the end of the 7nm Vega demonstration to show off the GPU in person, and you can see that it is rather tiny for the compute power it provides! It is shorter than the two stacks of HBM2 dies on either side, for example.

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Of course AMD did not disclose all the nitty-gritty specifications of the new machine learning graphics card that enthusiasts want to know. We will have to wait a bit longer for that information unfortunately!

As for other 7nm offerings? As Ryan talked about during CES in January, 2018 will primarily be the year for the machine learning-focused Radeon Instinct RX Vega 7nm GPU, with other consumer-focused GPUs using the smaller process node likely coming out in 2019. Whether those 7nm GPUs in 2019 will be a refreshed Vega or the new Navi is still up for debate, however AMD's graphics roadmap certainly doesn't rule out Navi as a possibility. In any case, AMD did state during the livestream that it intends to release a new GPU every year with the GPUs alternating between new architecture and new process node.

What are your thoughts on AMD's graphics roadmap and its first 7nm Vega GPU?

Source: AMD
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Overview

The initial announcement of Intel and AMD's collaboration on the "8th Gen Intel® Core™ processors With Radeon™ RX Vega M Graphics" (Kaby Lake-G) at CES this year caused a big stir amongst the PC hardware space. 

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Now that we've taken a look at the Intel Hades Canyon NUC and its impressive performance compared to mid-range gaming desktops, it's time to take a look at Kaby Lake-G in the mobile form factor.

Dell's XPS 15 2-in-1 is one of two notebooks utilizing the Intel Kaby Lake-G processor with Vega graphics, alongside the HP Envy Spectre x360.

DSC04941.JPG

Building upon the successful standard clamshell, this new notebook is Dell's first convertible XPS 15, featuring a 360-degree hinge which allows for a variety of configurations including tablet mode where the device folds back on itself.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
MSRP $1299 $1499 $1699 $2199
Screen 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch Display 15.6" 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch Display
CPU Core i5-8305G Core i7-8705G 
GPU AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics with 4GB HBM2 Memory
RAM 8GB DDR4-2400 (non-upgradable) 16GB DDR4-2400 (non-upgradable)
Storage 128GB SATA 256GB PCIe
Network Killer 1435 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth
Display Output

2 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x USB 3.1 Type-C (DisplayPort)

Connectivity

2 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x USB 3.1 Type-C
3.5mm headphone
MicroSD Card Reader

Audio Waves MaxxAudio® Pro 2W (1W x 2)
Weight 4.36 lbs (2 Kg)
Dimensions 13.9-in x 9.2-in x 0.36-0.63-in
(354mm x 235mm x 9-1mm)
Battery 75 WHr
Operating System Windows 10 Home / Pro (+$60)

As far as specifications are concerned, the XPS 15 2-in-1 impresses.. With up to a 4K, touch-enabled display, quad core processor, discrete AMD Vega graphics, and up to 16GB of memory, the hardware of the XPS 15 2-in-1 is a compelling package for gamers and content creators alike. For review, we recieved the top of the line XPS 15 2-in-1, with a 512GB SSD instead of the stock 256GB configuration (a $150 upgrade from Dell).

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Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1!

AMD Releases Updated Raven Ridge Desktop APU Graphics Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | May 18, 2018 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: Vega, ryzen, raven ridge, Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition, r5 2400g, r3 2200g, amd

Today, AMD released the first driver update for the desktop Raven Ridge APUs since their launch in February of this year.

The new Q2 2018 drivers are based on AMD's current Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition release and bring features such as ReLive and the Radeon overlay to the Vega-powered desktop platform.

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We haven't had a lot of time to look for potential performance enhancements this driver brings yet, but we did do a quick 3DMark run on our Ryzen 5 2400G with memory running at DDR4-3200.

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Here, we see healthy gains of around 5% in 3DMark Firestrike for the new driver. While I wouldn't expect big gains for older titles, newer titles that have come out since the initial Raven Ridge drive release in February will see the biggest gains.

We are still eager to see the mobile iterations of AMD's Raven Ridge processors get updated drivers, as notebooks such as the HP Envy X360 have not been updated since they launched in November of last year.

It's good to see progress from AMD on this front, but they must work harder to unify the graphics drivers of their APU products into the mainstream graphics driver releases if they want those products to be taken seriously as gaming options.

Source: AMD

AMD Announces Q1 2018 Results

Subject: Processors | April 25, 2018 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: Zen+, Vega, TSMC, ryzen, Results, Q1 2018, Polaris, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, financials, amd, 7nm, 12nm

Today AMD announced their latest financial results for Q1 2018. We expected it to be a good quarter with their guidance earlier this year, but I doubt many thought it would be as strong as it turned out to be. AMD posted revenue of $1.65 billion with a net income of $81 million. This is up from the expected $1.57 billion that analysts expected from what is typically a slow quarter. This is up 40% from Q1 2017 and its $1.18 billion and up 23% from Q4 2017.

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There are multiple reasons behind this revenue growth. The compute and graphics segment lead the way with $1.12B of revenue. The entire year of 2017 AMD had released parts seemingly nonstop since March and the introduction of Ryzen. Q1 continued this trend with the release of the first Ryzen APUs with Vega Graphics introducing the 2000 series. AMD also ramped up production of the newly released Zen+ Ryzen chips and started shipping those out to retailers and partners alike. Initial mobile Ryzen parts were also introduced and shipped with SKUs being also shipped to partners who have yet to announce and release products based on these chips. Finally the strength of the Radeon graphics chips in both gaming and blockchain applications allowed them a tremendous amount of sellthrough throughout 2017 and into 2018. AMD estimates that 10% of the quarter was due to blockchain demand.

Enterprise, Embedded, and Semi-Custom had a revenue of $532 million, which is lower than most analysts expected. Semi-Custom in particular has seen a decline over the past few quarters with the release and saturation of the market of the latest console platforms utilizing AMD designed chips. It appears as though much of the contract is front loaded in terms of revenue with royalties tapering off over time as sales decrease. AMD did have some significant wins, namely providing Intel with Vega based GPUs to be integrated with Intel’s Kaby Lake-G based units. These declines were offset by the shipment of EPYC based processors that are slowly ramping and being shipped to partners to be integrated into server platforms later this year. We have seen a handful of wins from companies like Dell EMC, but AMD is still slowly re-entering the market that they were forced to abandon with their previous, outdated Opteron products. AMD expects to reach mid-single digit marketshare during 2019, but for now they are just getting off the ground with this platform.

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The company is not standing still or resting on their laurels after the successful and heralded launch of the latest Ryzen 2000 series chips based on the Zen+ architecture. It is aggressively ramping their mobile chips featuring the Zen/Vega combination and have some 25 product wins being released throughout late spring and summer. Overall partners have some 60 products either shipping or will ship later this year featuring Ryzen based CPUs.

There is some fear that AMD will see its GPU sales throughput be impacted by the recent drop of cryptocurrency value. Several years back with the Bitcoin crash we saw a tremendous amount of secondhand product being sold and GPU revenues for the company tanked. AMD is a bit more optimistic about the upcoming quarter as they expect the current cryptocurrency/blockchain market is much more robust and people will be holding onto these cards to mine other products/workloads rather than drop them on eBay. My thought here is that we will see a rise in cards available on the secondary/used market, but quite a bit might be offset by latent gaming demand that has been held back due the outrageous prices of GPUs over the past year. People that have been waiting for prices to get back to MSRP or below will then buy. This could be further enhanced if memory prices start to drop, providing more affordable DDR4 and flash for SSDs.

The company is also forging ahead with advanced process technology. They have recently received silicon back from TSMC’s 7nm process and it looks to be a Vega based product. The rumor surrounding this is that it will be more of a compute platform initially rather than gaming oriented. Later this year AMD expects to receive new EPYC silicon, but it looks as though this will be from GLOBALFOUNDRIES 7nm process. AMD wants to be flexible in terms of manufacturing, but they have a long history with GLOBALFOUNDRIES when it comes to CPU production. The two companies work closely together to make sure the process and CPU design match up as cleanly as possible to allow products such as Zen to reach market successfully. The GPU arm is obviously more flexible here as they have a history with multiple foundry partners throughout the past two decades.

nongaap_results.PNG

AMD has set an aggressive, but achievable, timetable of product releases that is initially focusing on the CPU side but would logically be transitioning to the GPU side. Zen+ is out on time and has met with acclaim from consumers and reviewers alike. The latest GPU products are comparable in performance to what NVIDIA has to offer, though they are less power efficient for that level of performance. The “pipecleaner” Vega on 7nm will pave the way towards Navi based products that look to be introduced next year. AMD could possibly refresh Vega on 12nm, but so far there has been no concrete information that such a product exists. They may very well continue to rely on current Polaris and Vega products throughout the rest of this year while focusing on Navi efforts to have a more competitive part come 2019.

Q2 2018 looks to be another successful quarter for AMD. The company’s outlook calls for revenue in the $1.725 billion range, plus or minus $50 million. AMD expects continued growth in all Ryzen product lines and greater throughput of EPYC based products as companies test and release products based on that platform. The GPU market could remain flat, but will most likely decline. That decline will be more than covered by the sell-through of the Ryzen line from top to bottom.

AMD improved their margin by an impressive 4%. Going from 32% to 36% showed the strength and higher ASPs of both CPU and GPU products. AMD expects another 1% increase over the next quarter. While these are good numbers for AMD, they do not match the 58%+ for NVIDIA and Intel when it comes to their margins. AMD certainly has a lot of room for improvement, and a richer product stack will allow them to achieve greater ASPs and see a rise in their overall margins. If EPYC becomes more successful, then we could see another significant improvement in margins for the company.

AMD is getting back to where they belong in terms of product placement, competitiveness, and financial performance. The company has seen a huge improvement year on year and hopes to continue that with a rich product stack that addresses multiple areas of computing. AI and machine learning is ramping up in the company in terms of software support as they feel their CPUs and GPUs are already good enough to handle the workloads. As more money comes in, they can afford to diversify and create a wider product base to compete in more markets. So far Lisa Su has been very, very successful in helping pull AMD from the ashes to the competitive situation that they currently find themselves in.

 

Source: AMD

Is the GPU in Intel Kaby Lake-G More Polaris than Vega?

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | April 9, 2018 - 04:25 PM |
Tagged: Vega, Polaris, kaby lake-g, Intel, amd

Over the weekend, some interesting information has surfaced surrounding the new Kaby Lake-G hardware from Intel. A product that is officially called the “8th Generation Intel Core Processors with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics” is now looking like it might be more of a Polaris-based GPU than a Vega-based one. This creates an interesting marketing and technology capability discussion for the community, and both Intel and AMD, that is worth diving into.

PCWorld first posted the question this weekend, using some interesting data points as backup that Kaby Lake-G may in fact be based on Polaris. In Gordon’s story he notes that in AIDA64 the GPU is identified as “Polaris 22” while the Raven Ridge-based APUs from AMD show up as “Raven Ridge.” Obviously the device identification of a third party piece of software is a suspect credential in any situation, but the second point provided is more salient: based on the DXDiag information, the GPU on the Hades Canyon NUC powered by Kaby Lake-G does not support DirectX 12.1.

dx_diag_comparo-100754201-orig.jpg

Image source: PCWorld

AMD clearly stated in its launch of the Vega architecture last year that the new GPUs supported DX 12.1, among other features. The fact that the KBL-G part does NOT include support for it is compelling evidence that the GPU might be more similar to Polaris than Vega.

Tom’s Hardware did some more digging that was posted this morning, using a SiSoft Sandra test that can measure performance of FP16 math and FP32. For both the Radeon RX Vega 64 and 56 discrete graphics cards, running the test with FP16 math results in a score that is 65% faster than the FP32 results. With a Polaris-based graphics card, an RX 470, the scores between FP32 and FP16 were identical as the architecture can support FP16 math functions but doesn’t accelerate it with AMD’s “rapid packed math” feature (that was a part of the Vega launch).

tomsmath.jpg

Image source: Tom's Hardware

And you guessed it, the Kaby Lake-G part only runs essentially even in the FP16 mode. (Also note that AMD’s Raven Ridge APU that integrated Vega graphics does get accelerated by 61% using FP16.)

What Kaby Lake-G does have that leans toward Vega is support for HBM2 memory (which none of the Polaris cards have) and “high bandwidth memory cache controller and enhanced compute units with additional ROPs” according to the statement from Intel given to Tom’s Hardware.

It should be noted that just because the benchmarks and games that can support rapid packed math don’t take advantage of that capability today, does not mean they won’t have the capability to do so after a driver or firmware update. That being said, if that’s the plan, and even if it’s not, Intel should come out and tell the consumers and media.

The debate and accusations of conspiracy are running rampant again today with this news. Is Intel trying to pull one over on us by telling the community that this is a Vega-based product when it is in fact based on Polaris? Why would AMD allow and promote the Vega branding with a part that it knows didn’t meet the standards it created to be called a Vega architecture solution?

Another interesting thought comes when analyzing this debate with the Ryzen 7 2400G and Ryzen 5 2200G products, both of which claim to use Vega GPUs as a portion of the APU. However, without support for HBM2 or the high-bandwidth cache controller, does that somehow shortchange the branding for it? Or are the memory features of the GPU considered secondary to its design?

This is the very reason why companies hate labels, hate specifications, and hate having all of this tracked by a competent and technical media. Basically every company in the tech industry is guilty of this practice: Intel has 2-3 architectures running as “8th Generation” in the market, AMD is selling RX 500 cards that were once RX 400 cards, and NVIDIA has changed performance capabilities of the MX 150 at least once or twice.

The nature of semi-custom chips designs is that they are custom. Are the GPUs used in the PS4 and Xbox One or Xbox One X called Polaris, Vega, or something else? It would be safer for AMD and its partners to give each new product its own name, its own brand—but then the enthusiasts would want to know what it was most like, and how did it compare to Polaris, or Vega, etc.? It’s also possible that AMD was only willing to sell this product to Intel if it included some of these feature restrictions. In complicated negotiations like this one surely was, anything is feasible.

These are tough choices for companies to make. AMD loves having the Vega branding in more products as it gives weight to the development cost and time it spent on the design. Having Vega associated with more high-end consumer products, including those sold by Intel, give them leverage for other products down the road. From Intel’s vantage point using the Vega brand makes it looks like it has the very latest technology in its new processor and it can benefit from any cross-promotion that occurs around the Vega brand from AMD or its partners.

Unfortunately, it means that the devil is in the details, and the details are something that no one appears to be willing to share. Does it change the performance we saw in our recent Hades Canyon NUC review or our perspective on it as a product? It does not. But as features like Rapid Packed Math or the new geometry shader accelerate in adoption, the capability for Kaby Lake-G to utilize them is going to be scrutinized more heavily.

Source: Various
Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

System Overview

Announced at Intel's Developer Forum in 2012, and launched later that year, the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) project was initially a bit confusing to the enthusiast PC press. In a market that appeared to be discarding traditional desktops in favor of notebooks, it seemed a bit odd to launch a product that still depended on a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, yet didn't provide any more computing power.

Despite this criticism, the NUC lineup has rapidly expanded over the years, seeing success in areas such as digital signage and enterprise environments. However, the enthusiast PC market has mostly eluded the lure of the NUC.

Intel's Skylake-based Skull Canyon NUC was the company's first attempt to cater to the enthusiast market, with a slight stray from the traditional 4-in x 4-in form factor and the adoption of their best-ever integrated graphics solution in the Iris Pro. Additionally, the ability to connect external GPUs via Thunderbolt 3 meant Skull Canyon offered more of a focus on high-end PC graphics. 

However, Skull Canyon mostly fell on deaf ears among hardcore PC users, and it seemed that Intel lacked the proper solution to make a "gaming-focused" NUC device—until now.

8th Gen Intel Core processor.jpg

Announced at CES 2018, the lengthily named 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processors With Radeon™ RX Vega M Graphics (henceforth referred to as the code name, Kaby Lake-G) marks a new direction for Intel. By partnering with one of the leaders in high-end PC graphics, AMD, Intel can now pair their processors with graphics capable of playing modern games at high resolutions and frame rates.

DSC04773.JPG

The first product to launch using the new Kaby Lake-G family of processors is Intel's own NUC, the NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon). Will the marriage of Intel and AMD finally provide a NUC capable of at least moderate gaming? Let's dig a bit deeper and find out.

Click here to continue reading our review of the Intel Hades Canyon NUC!

The cult of Vega, FAR CRY 5 free with AMD systems

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2018 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: amd, Vega, farcry 5, ubisoft, RX 580, RX VEGA 64, RX Vega 56, gaming

If you purchase a custom built system with an RX 580 or either of the Vega cards, you will receive a coupon code which you can redeem for a copy of Far Cry 5 Standard edition.  Considering purchasing a full system is the only way to get a GPU for a marginally reasonable cost, it makes sense not to tie it to a GPU sale as has been tradition in the past.  UbiSoft have worked with AMD to ensure the game can take advantage of the various new features Vega offers such as FreeSync 2, Rapid Packed Math and Shader Intrinsics.  You can get more info on Vega here, or visit your favourite retailer for a look at qualifying systems.

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"Gamers looking for smooth, more immersive gameplay as they join The Resistance and help bring down the cult, can get Far Cry 5 FREE when they buy select pre-built systems featuring Radeon RX Vega 64, Radeon RX Vega 56 or Radeon RX 580 graphics cards starting today February 27th 2018."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: AMD
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: AMD

Overview

For the first time in several years, the notebook market has gotten very interesting from a performance standpoint. First, we had Intel’s launch of its Kaby-Lake Refresh 8th Generation processors which packed a true quad-core CPU into a 15W package. Then, we heard about AMD’s Raven Ridge which aimed to combine a quad-core mobile CPU with Radeon Vega graphics into that same 15W power target.

Even though the excitement over Raven Ridge may have subsided a bit after Intel and AMD’s joint announcement of Vega graphics combined with Intel CPUs in the Kaby-Lake G platform, that is still yet to be released and will reside in a significantly higher class of power usage.

So today we are taking a look at AMD’s Raven Ridge, what may be AMD’s first worthy entry into the thin-and-light notebook market.

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For our Raven Ridge testing, we are taking a look at the HP Envy x360, which at the time of writing is the only machine to be shipping with these Ryzen Mobile processors (although more machines have been announced and are coming soon). Additionally, we also wanted to wait a while for the software ecosystem on this new platform to stabilize (more on that later).

Continue reading our look at the new HP notebook powered by AMD Ryzen Mobile!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Beating AMD and Analyst Estimates

January 30th has rolled around and AMD released their Q4 2017 results. The results were positive and somewhat unexpected. I have been curious how the company fared and was waiting for these results to compare them to the relatively strong quarter that Intel experienced. At the Q3 earnings AMD was not entirely bullish about how Q4 would go. The knew that it was going to be a down quarter as compared to an unexpectedly strong third quarter, but they were unsure how that was going to pan out. The primary reason that Q4 was not going to be as strong was due to the known royalty income that AMD was expecting from their Semi-Custom Group. Q4 has traditionally been bad for that group as all of their buildup for the holiday season came from Q1 and Q2 rampings of the physical products that would be integrated into consoles.

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The results exceeded AMD’s and analysts’ expectations. They were expecting in the $1.39B range, but their actual revenue came in at a relatively strong $1.48B. Not only was the quarter stronger than expected, but AMD was able to pull out another positive net income of $61M. It has been a while since AMD was able to post back to back profitable quarters. This allowed AMD to have a net positive year to the tune of $43M where in 2016 AMD had a loss of $497M. 2017 as a whole was $1.06B more in revenue over 2016. AMD has been historically lean in terms of expenses for the past few years, and a massive boost in revenue has allowed them to invest in R&D as well as more aggressively ramp up their money making products to compete more adequately with Intel, who is having their own set of issues right now with manufacturing and security.

Click here to continue reading about AMD's Q4 2017 Earnings analysis!