Hate the platform; not the processor. XBox Next chip revealed

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2011 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: xbox next, oban, amd

The XBox Next will be another win for AMD as SemiAccurate has confirmation that the GPU portion of the console will be an AMD chip.  The supplier for the CPU portion is a little less clear.  SemiAccurate has it as an IBM PowerPC chip similar to the current generation which uses a Xenon processor.  The newer XBox360 S used a XCGPU which was a 45nm version of the Xenon processor and an AMD Xenos GPU on the same die along with eDRAM, all wrapped up into one small package.  It does make sense that Microsoft would go that route as it should make supporting the previous generation of games much easier than implementing a new architecture.  It is very unlikely to be Cell based, even though that architecture shares the same PowerPC roots.

[H]ard|OCP has a dissenting opinion, or at least rumour, pegging the new XBox as a complete win for AMD.   They suppose it is possible that Bulldozer might find its way into the new console along with the already known GPU core; a fully AMD designed APU.  This also makes quite a bit of sense as AMD will have no trouble pairing the GPU and CPU as they've had quite a bit of practice.  Plus, it gives them something to do with the Bulldozer chips.

Either way the new chip will be named after a lovely Islay Scotch.

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"Yeah, basically, the chip is ‘done’, and first silicon likely went in to the oven in the last two weeks. If this is true, Microsoft should have silicon back in time to give the families of XBox systems engineers a miserable holiday season, their loved ones will be doing breakneck bring-up work on Xbox Next."

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Source: SemiAccurate
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction: Griefing the grieving

PC Gaming has been on its death bed for years -- if you believe the countless debates that have occurred most commonly over the last decade. The drum beat roared from the masses: “Why game on the PC anymore when you could just buy a console?” The focus of conversation was set upon the attack and defense of the PC as a viable platform at all, let alone the platform of choice. The question that swarms naggingly through my brain is quite the opposite: “In the long run, why game on a console?” The concept that consoles are better than PCs, given a fraction of the support that consoles receive, is about to die; console supporters are in various levels of grief.

1-game-over.png

U mad Mario Bros.?

I am an avid, though this editorial may suggest livid, video game supporter. My first exposure to video gaming was mixed between the Nintendo Entertainment System and the family 80286. I have equally fond memories with the keyboard as with the gamepad. The balance between console and PC was level throughout my life until just a few years ago when I carefully thought the situation over. The PC is now my platform of choice.

Continue reading our editorial: The Five Stages of Griefing: Death of the Consoles!!

16GB of DDR3-1600? Corsair has a couple of kits for that

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2011 - 04:50 PM |
Tagged: corsair, vengeance, vengeance lp, ddr3-1600, quad channel

With the arrival of quad-channel memory on the X79 chipset, 16GB kits are arriving on the shelves of suppliers.  This amount of memory was once only found on servers but why shouldn't you benefit from a huge pool of RAM on your enthusiast machine.  Corsair has two Vengeance kits on the market, the $90 Vengeance kit @ 9-9-9-24 and the Vengeance LP kit with low profile heatspreaders and timings @ 8-8-8-24 which will cost you about $150.  Interestingly the timings did not seem to effect the benchmarks in a meaningful way, the extra bandwidth available hides the difference though kits with much looser timing may well have an effect.  Speed does still matter as there were improvements on most of the benchmarks once the kits were overclocked.  Read on to see the numbers.

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"Corsair's quad-channel Vengeance memory modules are designed to work with Intel's new Sandy Bridge-E platform. We put two Vengeance kits to the test to see if running DDR3 memory in quad-channel really make all that much of a difference in practical applications like gaming."

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Source: Neoseeker

Remember the Phoenix BIOS screen?

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2011 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: bios, phoenix, win8, qualcomm, texas instruments, windows on arm, WOA

American Megatrends Inc., aka AMI, pretty much rules the world of the PC BIOS after virtually booting Phoenix and Award from the market.  A recent post on DigiTimes shows that Phoenix is planning on making a splash with the arrival of Windows 8.  It is not just the PC market that Phoenix intends to rise again in; they are working with ARM to develop a BIOS for Windows on ARM as well as talking with Qualcomm and Texas Instruments about designing BIOS for their devices.  Could it be that they will indeed fire up a new age of competition in the BIOS market?

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"BIOS player Phoenix Technologies has recently announced its latest Phoenix SCT 2.2 solution to assist its PC partners to develop systems based on Windows 8, according to the company.

Currently, American Megatrends (AMI) is dominating in the desktop BIOS market, with Insyde Software and Phoenix accounting for 55% and 45% of the notebook BIOS market, respectively.

President of Phoenix Greater China, Kelly Wu pointed out that the company's new solution has more than 60 new functions to support Windows 8 and is optimized for system performance, security, connectivity, mobility and user experience."

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Source: DigiTimes

Apple May Build New Data Center In Oregon

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2011 - 10:28 PM |
Tagged: server farm, Internet, data center, cloud, apple

CNet is reporting that Apple is currently considering constructing a new data center outside of Prineville, Oregon. The 31 Megawatt facility would be built on 160 acres outside of the small Oregon town and would join other prominent tech companies’ data centers including those of Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

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According to Oregon Live, it is the area’s mild climate (meaning lower cooling costs compared to naturally warmer climates in addition to all the heat from servers), low electricity costs, and certain “rural enterprise zones” that exempt computers and equipment from normal business property taxes. They state that such exemptions could save Apple several million dollars.

Although Apple has so far declined to comment, city officials have commented that the company looking to purchase the land for the data center codenamed “Maverick” appears to be serious about going through with the purchase. Two major issues stand in the way of Apple building a large data center in the area, however. The company is concerned about tax issues against their intangible assets. Due to Apple putting a great deal of stock (er, the other kind :P) in their brand name, trademarks, and patents, they could face further taxes in the way Oregon’s State Department of Revenue taxes data centers. The largest issue; however, lies in power concerns. In order to supply enough electricity to the various data centers in the area (including Apples should they indeed be building one), Bonneville Power Administration would need to upgrade the Ponderosa Substation, construct an additional substation, and add further transmission lines. This is because the utility company’s transmission capacity to the area is currently nearly maxed out. A 31 Megawatt data center would consume enough electricity to power approximately 22,000 homes and that kind of capacity is not available in an area where towns are a fifth of that size.

The upgrade to the areas electrical subsystems would cost nearly $26.5 million and would take almost three years. Member Services Director for the Central Electric Cooperative, Jeff Beaman, believes that after the appropriate upgrades, a new data center “seems doable.”

Whether this elusive “Maverick” is indeed Apple, and whether the company decides to build a data center remains to be seen; however, it is certainly plausible. Now that Apple is moving more services to the Internet, and the increased adoption of IOS devices thanks to the iPhone being available on all the major US carriers, the company would definitely benefit from having another facility on the other side of the country as their current North Carolina based data center for performance as well as redundancy and stability reasons. What are your thoughts on the reports, is Apple looking to put more cloud (server horsepower) in your icloud?

Source: Oregon Live

Mighty Mite; the ARM Cortex A15 and Samsung

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2011 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: Exynos 5250, Samsung, cortex a15, arm, 32nm

Samsung is the first to put ARM's new chip into a product, the Cortex A15.  While only 500MHz faster on paper, enhancements to the architecture have wonks predicting double the performance of the Cortex A9.  This little chip will be capable of outputting 2560 x 1600 video over DisplayPort as well as supporting SATA, UART, and USB 3.0.  This is a rather impressive list for a chip from a manufacturer that many have ignored.  You can bet that the power consumption on this chip will be minuscule, but the capabilities are not.  Check out SemiAccurate for the full story.

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"Samsung (SEO:005930) has started sampling a processor based on the latest microarchitecture, the A15, from ARM. The processor is fabbed using 32nm high-k metal gate low-power process technology. The processor clocks in at 2GHz, but thanks to advances in the microarchitecture, it is roughly twice as powerful as an A9-based processor running at 1.5GHz.

Samsung has named its new chip the Exynos 5250."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Algorithms, Voxels, and Octrees - Oh my indeed!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 2, 2011 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: nvidia

Even back around 2005 when the rush was still getting higher and higher resolutions to fill the finally high-resolution TVs, I always assumed that the next trail blazed in the graphics war would be lighting. Lighting is a complicated process which we are all very accustomed to it being done perfectly due to our living in the real world. Technologies such as Unreal Lightmass, PureLight, and Autodesk Beast have created more realistic lighting profiles that account for multiple bounces but cannot change in games like Mirror’s Edge. Battlefield 3, thanks to Geomerics, is one of the first games to take this problem on in semi real time such that if you alter a light the indirect lighting changes with it. The advancement does not stop there according to a recent NVIDIA blog which details research into better real time lighting.

That hand has got to be illegal in all 50 states.

P.S. -- For a 3d Technology company, just 480p Youtube -- really?

While the blog is quite vague in how the technology actually is producing its results, those results appear to be quite spectacular in quality. Unfortunately, while the quality looks amazing for being rendered at 25-70 FPS, there is no mention of what system is required to achieve those 25-70 FPS. Back to the vagueness: the demonstration is apparently not being performed upon triangular meshes relying on voxels instead. According to their explanation, their second lighting bounce is approximated to a single cone rather than multiple rays. If I understand their cone method enough, this approximation is incapable by design of expanding to third bounces and beyond; it appears to be a simplification that falls out of restricting yourself to just two lighting bounces in a voxel environment.

Regardless of when and how it will influence our technology; does the demonstration excite you for technologies to come? Place your predictions in the comments.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs

Lephone leaked by Lenovo

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2011 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, lephone, Android, windows phone

Lenovo is moving into BlackBerry's territory with several new mobile products, two phones and a tablet that can act as as phone.  The first phone will be running an older version of Android and bears the unfortunate name of Lephone K2.  The Inquirer reports that the other will be running Windows Phone OS though it would not be at all surprising if it ends up based on Win8.  This may really hurt RIM as they are currently the choice of smartphone for enterprise users; these same users are likely using a Lenovo as their PC.  With the already established place that Lenovo bears in the office, if they can create a decent phone that interacts with their Lenovo laptop or desktop, they could push RIM right out of the office.

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"CHINESE HARDWARE VENDOR Lenovo has unveiled not one but two smartphones, the Lephone K2 and an unnamed Windows Phone 7.5 Mango device.

The Lephone K2 is the Android device and will come with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, not Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Details are very light on Windows alternative, apart from that it will run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system and tip up in the second half of next year, according to PC Mag."

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Source: The Inquirer

Need style in your portable speakers?

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: audio, portable speakers, krator, N4-20U05 Neso 04

If you are on the road doing a presentation for clients or even just stuck playing DJ from a laptop with no real sound system it can help to have a nice looking set of speakers.  Pulling out a pair of old cream coloured boxes you've been dragging around for the past 5+ years just doesn't make the best of impressions.  Krator and their N4-20U05 Neso 04 stereo speakers on the other hand have a shape that is likely to bring positive comments from those who see them.  As an added bonus, apart from weak bass performance, XSReviews found these speakers to be quite good for the low cost.  Shame that you need to power them but at least it is over USB and not mains.

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"Krator are a Taiwanese company who are “on a mission to transform the landscape of consumer audio and computer gaming” and have recently released a stylish new range of speakers, including a new set in the Neso 04 range, inspired by raindrops."

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Source: XSReviews

So you want to play Batman? Dump the DX11!

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: gaming, batman arkham city, dx11, oops, consolitis

Just in case you were under the impression that Ryan was the only one having issues with DirectX 11 in Batman Arkham City, check out the problems [H]ard|OCP had.  DX11 was essentially unplayable even on multi-GPU systems, with NVIDIA handling the game a little better than AMD.  Using DX 11 in the game enables HBAO and tessellation as well as something new for NVIDIA users called Multi-View Soft Shadows, which do add to the visual quality of the game, if you are willing to live with an average 30fps or so ... with bonus stuttering.  Even better, this is yet another example of a game with its frames capped by default, not quite as bad as Need For Speed The Run but it is still limited to 24-62fps until an .ini file tweak is performed.

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"Batman: Arkham City is upon us, and we wanted to give you a preliminary look at how performance is stacking up. We've found some issues running in DX11 that seem to be a detriment to gameplay. DX11 may not be the best option, at this time, for this game, our performance data and feedback explain why."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP