Podcast #473 - AMD Q3 Earnings, Forza 7 Performance, Allyn's storage rant, and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 26, 2017 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, x370, VROC, video, ROG Strix, podcast, nzxt, forza 7, b350, asus, ARM PSA, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #473 - 10/26/17

Join us for discussion on AMD Q3 Earnings, Forza 7 Performance, Allyn's storage rant, 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: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Ken Addison

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:03:33

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:27:25 Allyn’s RAID rant
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 0:45:55 Allyn: Cinemaps
  4. Closing/outro

 

Source:

Podcast #470 - Intel VROC, AMD TR RAID, Google Pixel 2, and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2017 - 10:39 AM |
Tagged: Zotac Zbox, Z370 Godlike, VROC, video, usb 3.2, Samsung Odyssey, ryzen, PS2000e, podcast, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, Pinnacle, msi, lumberyard, Intel, Grado, google, Glaive, cryorig h5 ultimate, corsair, Cooler Master Cosmos C700P, AWS, apple, amd, a11

PC Perspective Podcast #470 - 10/05/17

Join us for discussion on Intel VROC, AMD TR RAID, Google Pixel 2, 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, Jermey Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:41:19

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: 1:38:20 Want a big SATA SSD?
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

Intel Quad RAID-0 Optane Memory 32GB Bootable Without VROC Key!

Subject: Storage | October 4, 2017 - 09:24 PM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, skylake-x, RAID-0, Optane, Intel, bootable, boot

We've been playing around a bit with Intel VROC lately. This new tech lets you create a RAID of NVMe SSDs connected directly to newer Intel Skylake-X CPUs, without the assistance of any additional chipset or other RAID controlling hardware on the X299 platform. While the technology is not fully rolled out, we did manage to get it working and test a few different array types as a secondary volume. One of the pieces of conflicting info we had been trying to clear up was can you boot from a VROC array without the currently unobtanium VROC key...

VROC-booted-3.jpeg

Well, it seems that question has been answered with our own tinkering. While there was absolutely no indication in the BIOS that our Optane Memory quad RAID-0 was bootable (the array is configurable but does not appear in the bootable devices list), I'm sitting here looking at Windows installed directly to a VROC array!

Important relevant screenshots below:

VROC-booted-1-.png

VROC-booted-2.png

For the moment this will only work with Intel SSDs, but Intel's VROC FAQ states that 'selected third-party SSDs' will be supported, but is unclear if that includes bootability (future support changes would come as BIOS updates since they must be applied at the CPU level). We're still digging into VROC as well as AMD's RAID implementation. Much more to follow, so stay tuned!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

Introduction

We've been hearing about Intel's VROC (NVMe RAID) technology for a few months now. ASUS started slipping clues in with their X299 motherboard releases starting back in May. The idea was very exciting, as prior NVMe RAID implementations on Z170 and Z270 platforms were bottlenecked by the chipset's PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI link to the CPU, and they also had to trade away SATA ports for M.2 PCIe lanes in order to accomplish the feat. X99 motherboards supported SATA RAID and even sported four additional ports, but they were left out of NVMe bootable RAID altogether. It would be foolish of Intel to launch a successor to their higher end workstation-class platform without a feature available in two (soon to be three) generations of their consumer platform.

To get a grip on what VROC is all about, lets set up some context with a few slides:

slide-1.png

First, we have a slide laying out what the acronyms mean:

  • VROC = Virtual RAID on CPU
  • VMD = Volume Management Device

What's a VMD you say?

slide-2.png

...so the VMD is extra logic present on Intel Skylake-SP CPUs, which enables the processor to group up to 16 lanes of storage (4x4) into a single PCIe storage domain. There are three VMD controllers per CPU.

slide-3.png

VROC is the next logical step, and takes things a bit further. While boot support is restricted to within a single VMD, PCIe switches can be added downstream to create a bootable RAID possibly exceeding 4 SSDs. So long as the array need not be bootable, VROC enables spanning across multiple VMDs and even across CPUs!

Assembling the Missing Pieces

Unlike prior Intel storage technology launches, the VROC launch has been piecemeal at best and contradictory at worst. We initially heard that VROC would only support Intel SSDs, but Intel later published a FAQ that stated 'selected third-party SSDs' would also be supported. One thing they have remained steadfast on is the requirement for a hardware key to unlock RAID-1 and RAID-5 modes - a seemingly silly requirement given their consumer chipset supports bootable RAID-0,1,5 without any key requirement (and VROC only supports one additional SSD over Z170/Z270/Z370, which can boot from 3-drive arrays).

On the 'piecemeal' topic, we need three things for VROC to work:

  • BIOS support for enabling VMD Domains for select groups of PCIe lanes.
  • Hardware for connecting a group of NVMe SSDs to that group of PCIe lanes.
  • A driver for OS mounting and managing of the array.

Let's run down this list and see what is currently available:

BIOS support?

170927121509.png

Check. Hardware for connecting multiple drives to the configured set of lanes?

170927-165526.jpg

Check (960 PRO pic here). Note that the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card will only work on motherboards supporting PCIe bifurcation, which allows the CPU to split PCIe lanes into subgroups without the need of a PLX chip. You can see two bifurcated modes in the above screenshot - one intended for VMD/VROC, while the other (data) selection enables bifurcation without enabling the VMD controller. This option presents the four SSDs to the OS without the need of any special driver.

With the above installed, and the slot configured for VROC in the BIOS, we are greeted by the expected disappointing result:

VROC-2.png

Now for that pesky driver. After a bit of digging around the dark corners of the internet:

VROC-11.png

Check! (well, that's what it looked like after I rapidly clicked my way through the array creation)

Don't even pretend like you won't read the rest of this review! (click here now!)

Podcast #452 - Computex Special

Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2017 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: x299, WD, VROC, video, Vega, toshiba, Threadripper, snapdragon 835, ryzen mobile, qnap, podcast, nvidia, msi, max-q, Killer xTend, Intel, evga, Core i9, asus, asrock, arm, amd, agesa, a75, A55

PC Perspective Podcast #452 - 01/01/17

Join us for talk about Computex 2017 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: 2:07:12
 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. Intel news
    2. AMD news
      1. 0:55:00 RX Vega pushed to end of July (SIGGRAPH), FE on June 27th
    3. NVIDIA news
    4. ARM news
    5. Storage news
    6. New notebooks
  3. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

ASUS X299 Enables Intel Virtual RAID on CPU - RAID-0 up to 20 SSDs!

Subject: Storage | May 31, 2017 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, Virtual RAID on CPU, raid, Intel, asus

Ken and I have been refreshing our Google search results ever since seeing the term 'VROC' slipped into the ASUS press releases. Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) is a Skylake-X specific optional feature that is a carryover from Intel's XEON parts employing RSTe to create a RAID without the need for the chipset to tie it all together.

Well, we finally saw an article pop up over at PCWorld, complete with a photo of the elusive Hyper M.2 X16 card:

dsc06473-100724331-orig.jpg

The theory is that you will be able to use the 1, 2, or 3 M.2 slots of an ASUS X299 motherboard, presumably passing through the chipset (and bottlenecked by DMI), or you can shift the SSDs over to a Hyper M.2 X16 card and have four piped directly to the Skylake-X CPU. If you don't have your lanes all occupied by GPUs, you can even add additional cards to scale up to a max theoretical 20-way RAID-0 supporting a *very* theoretical 128GBps.

A couple of gotchas here:

  • Only works with Skylake-X (not Kaby Lake-X)
  • RAID-1 and RAID-5 are only possible with a dongle (seriously?)
  • VROC is supposedly only bootable when using Intel SSDs (what?)

Ok, so the first one is understandable given Kaby Lake-X will only have 16 PCIe lanes direclty off of the CPU.

dsc06470-100724330-orig.jpg

The second is, well, annoying, but understandable once you consider that some server builders may want to capitalize on the RSTe-type technology without having to purchase server hardware. It's still a significant annoyance, because how long has it been since anyone has had to deal with a freaking hardware dongle to unlock a feature on a consumer part. That said, most enthusiasts are probably fine with RAID-0 for their SSD volume, given they would be going purely for increased performance.

dsc06542-100724333-orig.jpg

The third essentially makes this awesome tech dead on arrival. Requiring only Intel branded M.2 SSDs for VROC bootability is a nail in the coffin. Enthusiasts are not going to want to buy 4 or 8 (or more) middle of the road Intel SSDs (the only M.2 NAND SSD available from Intel is the 600p) for their crazy RAID - they are going to go with something faster, and if that can't boot, that's a major issue.

More to follow as we learn more. We'll keep a lookout and keep you posted as we get official word from Intel on VROC!

Source: PCWorld

Computex 2017: ASUS Announces Republic of Gamers, STRIX X299-based Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 30, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, Strix X299-E, ROG, Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex, raid, NVMe, LiveDash, Intel, computex 2017, asus, 802.11ad, 10G

Hot on the heels of Intel's Core i9 Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X announcements today, ASUS has released details on its X299 offerings. While you can find details on the more Prime and TUF ASUS Motherboards here, we're taking a look at the flagship Republic of Gamers products in this post.

Today ASUS is taking the wraps off of 3 X299 ROG Motherboards, the Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex, and Strix X299-E.

One of the interesting features ASUS is talking about with these X299 boards is Intel VROC technology. While we'll have a post with some more details about VROC soon, essentially it allows for a bootable M.2 NVMe RAID to exist from the CPU PCIe lanes.

While NVMe RAID is supported on the Z170 and Z270 platforms, it depends on all data going through the chipset to function which creates a bottleneck. Using an add-in card in the PCIe slot of your motherboard, VROC claims to allow NVME SSDs to operate in a RAID away from the chipset, while still being bootable.

ROG Rampage VI Extreme_2D.png

Rampage VI Extreme

As we've historically seen with ASUS ROG Motherboards, the "Extreme" model tends to be where we see innovative new features that will later find their way into the rest of ASUS's motherboard lineup, and the Rampage VI Extreme seems to be no different.

ROG Rampage VI Extreme_3D.png

Networking seems to be a big focus for the Rampage VI Extreme, with the addition of 802.11ad wireless networking. While 802.11ad devices are just starting to come out, it's use of 60GHz wireless in order to hit speeds of up to 4.6GBps is very compelling. However, by using such high-frequency wireless technology, 802.11ad signals will not penetrate surfaces like walls and mostly depend on line of sight. This is more for fast file transfers within one room, with the rest of your house still utilizing 802.11ac.

Wired networking sees an upgrade too on the Rampage VI Extreme, with the addition of a 10 Gigabit NIC. We saw ASUS integrate 10G networking on the X99-E WS 10G late last year, and it's great to see continued commitment to bringing 10G to consumers.

In addition to the VROC add-in card for NVMe SSDs that we mentioned previously, the Rampage VI Extreme features 3 onboard M.2 slots (2 slots come from the use of the DIMM.2 module in one of the memory slots). ASUS says this will help clean up your chassis while still giving you maximum storage options. It's unclear if these SSDs are being routed through the chipset, or are going directly to the CPU using Intel's VROC technology which would provide more throughput.

For users looking for a bit of flair on their motherboard, in addition to built-in RGB lighting, the Rampage VI Extreme features a new LiveDash OLED display for displaying real-time system information on your motherboard. You can also customize this display to offer custom messages and graphics to complement your case mod.

Rampage VI Apex

A newer addition to the ROG family, the Apex motherboards are meant for maximum overclocking and performance. This means that you'll actually sacrifice some features from other X299 boards in order to get a lean product you can push to the edge.

For instance, the Rampage VI Apex only provide 1 DIMM slot per memory channel, which ASUS claims allows the optimal trace routing to improve performance and stability with the fastest memory kits. In addition, you'll also find 2 DIMM.2 slots to add a total of 4 PCIe M.2 SSDs to your system.

While it may not be meant for gamers, the Rampage VI Apex is sure to set some records in the high-end overclocking realm.

Strix X299-E

Unlike the uncompromising motherboards we've talked about so far, the Strix X299-E aims to bring a more entry-level motherboard to the ROG line. 

ROG Strix X299-E Gaming_2D.png

Keeping the same design cues as the other ROG motherboards, the Strix X299-E also keeps a lot of the same features. Users can expect the same PCIe slots and headers as other ROG boards. Additionally, features like onboard RGB lighting with Aura Sync Software, USB 3.1 Gen2, SupremeFX audio, and Intel Gigabit networking make the Strix X299-E a compelling product that should suit the needs of most users.

ROG Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex and ROG Strix X299-E motherboards will be available at leading resellers in North America starting in late June with the STRIX series arriving first.

Source: ASUS

Computex 2017: ASUS Announces Prime and TUF Intel X299 Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 30, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, skylake-x, raid, NVMe, LiveDash, kaby lake-x, Intel, HEDT, computex 2017, asus, 802.11ad

Alongside the announcement of Intel's Core i9 Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs, ASUS has unveiled details of their X299 motherboards. While we've already taken a look updates to the Republic of Gamers line of products, ASUS also released details about their "Prime" and "TUF" X299 products.

Prime_x299_Deluxe_3D-3-AURA.jpg

ASUS PRIME

The Prime line of motherboards from ASUS are their entry-level options for any given platform. However just because they are the lowest cost boards doesn't mean that they are lacking in features.

All X299 Prime motherboards feature 3-way SLI thanks to the additional PCIe lanes available in the X299 platform (supported 44 lane CPUs are required). These available x16 slots are all reinforced with ASUS SafeSlot technology to help prevent heavy GPUs from damaging your motherboard.

The new Prime motherboards also feature the Realtek S1220A which we first saw on ASUS's Z270 products. ASUS claims that the S1220A paired with high-quality audio components on board help produce an onboard sound that rivals some dedicated sound cards.

Additionally, all X299 boards feature RGB LED headers with Aura Sync compatibility for maximum customizability. 

For the storage-focused, Intel VROC technology found on ASUS's X299 boards will allow for high-speed M.2 NVMe SSD RAIDs without being bottlenecked by chipset bandwidth, unlike on the Z270 platform.

Though the use of an add-in card users will be able to RAID multiple M.2 SSDs into a bootable array, utilizing full bandwidth from the available CPU PCIe lanes. ASUS even says that you can link multiple of these VROC cards together! 

In addition to these features, the Prime X299-Deluxe adds some very exciting features

Prime_x299_Deluxe_WiFI+MB-2.jpg

Wireless networking has seen an enhancement with the adoption of integrated 802.11ad Wi-Fi. This brand new wireless technology capable of 4.6Gbps transfer speeds uses spectrum in the 60Ghz range. While these high-speed radio waves cannot penetrate surfaces like walls, for applications like super fast file transfer between PCs in one room, or high-quality video streaming to wireless displays this should be ideal.

Along with Intel VROC support, the Prime X299-Deluxe has dual onboard M.2 Slots and a single U.2 Slot for high-speed storage options.

The new LiveDash display is a small OLED panel on the motherboard that allows you to display system statistics as well as custom animations and text for additional customization.

Prime_x299_Deluxe_TBEX3.jpg

In addition to the features on the motherboard, ASUS is including their ThunderboltEX 3 expansion card with the Prime X299-Deluxe so that owners can utilize Thunderbolt 3 technology with up to 40Gbps of bandwidth.

ASUS TUF X299

The TUF line has always been focused on ultimate reliability and durability. This is accomplished with high-quality components and more stringent testing standards than other products. 

TUF X299 MARK1_KV1_AURA.png

The ASUS TUF X299 Mark 1 is the all-new flagship motherboard for the TUF line. Redesigned Thermal Armor design helps to streamline airflow across the motherboard while also providing cooling to the onboard M.2 slot.

The Fortifier backplate uses a carefully shaped metal plate to stiffen the board to prevent warping. A removable GPU holder is also supplied to help support the weight of heavy graphics cards.

The new version of ASUS TUF Detective software allows users to perform diagnostics wirelessly over an included USB Bluetooth adapter rather than depending on a wired connection like the previous implementation.

TUF X299 MARK2_2D_AURA.png

The TUF X299 Mark 2 removes the Thermal Armor and Fortifier, but retains all of the great reliability and durability aspects of the TUF Mark 2,

ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe, Prime X299-A and TUF X299 Mark 1 motherboards will be available at leading resellers in North America starting in late June

Source: ASUS