The AMD Vega GPU Architecture Teaser: Higher IPC, Tiling, & More, Coming in H1’2017

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As AMD was in the process of ramping up for the Polaris launch last year, one of the unexpected but much appreciated measures they took was to released a bare-bones GPU architecture roadmap for the next few years. AMD has traditionally held their cards very close to their proverbial chest on what they’re working on next, typically only announcing a new architecture weeks before it’s set to launch in retail products. Polaris itself was a departure from that, as it was announced a good 5 months in advance, but last year’s roadmap was the first honest-to-goodness look we’ve had at AMD’s long-term plans in a long time.

What did that map show us? After 2016’s Polaris would come Vega, and after that would be Navi. As a high-level roadmap it didn’t show us much – in fact other than a timeframe, the only detail attached to Vega was “HBM2”  – but it was enough to help understand one of the things AMD would be doing architecturally to set Vega apart from Polaris. As for the timeframe itself, that was ambiguous at best in AMD’s roadmap. But now as we draw closer to the launch of Vega, the picture has become clearer. AMD will be hitting a yearly cadence with Vega. The first chip, which tapped out last year, will be launching in the first half of this year (H1’17).

To that end, with Vega’s launch not too far over the horizon, AMD is ready to start talking about what will be their next GPU architecture. Last year at this time we got our first real glimpse into Polaris and what would become the Radeon RX 480/470/460, and this year AMD is back again with a teaser of things to come with Vega.

The AMD Vega GPU Architecture Teaser: Higher IPC, Tiling, & More, Coming in H1’2017

See the original posting on Anandtech

As AMD was in the process of ramping up for the Polaris launch last year, one of the unexpected but much appreciated measures they took was to released a bare-bones GPU architecture roadmap for the next few years. AMD has traditionally held their cards very close to their proverbial chest on what they’re working on next, typically only announcing a new architecture weeks before it’s set to launch in retail products. Polaris itself was a departure from that, as it was announced a good 5 months in advance, but last year’s roadmap was the first honest-to-goodness look we’ve had at AMD’s long-term plans in a long time.

What did that map show us? After 2016’s Polaris would come Vega, and after that would be Navi. As a high-level roadmap it didn’t show us much – in fact other than a timeframe, the only detail attached to Vega was “HBM2”  – but it was enough to help understand one of the things AMD would be doing architecturally to set Vega apart from Polaris. As for the timeframe itself, that was ambiguous at best in AMD’s roadmap. But now as we draw closer to the launch of Vega, the picture has become clearer. AMD will be hitting a yearly cadence with Vega. The first chip, which tapped out last year, will be launching in the first half of this year (H1’17).

To that end, with Vega’s launch not too far over the horizon, AMD is ready to start talking about what will be their next GPU architecture. Last year at this time we got our first real glimpse into Polaris and what would become the Radeon RX 480/470/460, and this year AMD is back again with a teaser of things to come with Vega.

Qualcomm Details Snapdragon 835: Kryo 280 CPU, Adreno 540 GPU, X16 LTE

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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 is the first mobile SoC to use Samsung’s new 10nm FinFET process. It includes a number of updates, including a revamped CPU configuration, that promise to deliver better performance and power efficiency relative to the Snapdragon 820. With its focus on heterogeneous computing, the Snapdragon 835 brings advanced capabilities to virtual reality, photo and video capture, video playback, and machine learning.

Intel Launches 7th Generation Kaby Lake: 15W/28W with Iris, 35-91W Desktop and Mobile Xeon

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The death of Intel’s ‘Tick-Tock’ means that Kaby Lake is Intel’s third crack at their 14nm process. 14nm started with Broadwell (5th Gen, tick), introduced a new microarchitecture with Skylake (6th Gen, tock), and now is in the ‘optimization’ stage with Kaby Lake (7th Gen). This means an improved ‘14nm Plus’, offering better power efficiency and higher frequencies through a less strained transistor floorplan. Intel is launching a myriad of SKUs under Kaby Lake, ranging from mobile KBL-U at 15W and 28W through mobile KBL-H at 45W and desktop-class KBL-S at 35W to 91W. This includes three overclocking SKUs for desktop, including an i3 variant. Here’s the front page of AnandTech’s Kaby Lake launch coverage.

The Intel Core i5-7600K (91W) Review: The More Amenable Mainstream Performer

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The Core i5-7600K, launched today, is the other unlocked processor from Intel’s 7th Generation line of Kaby Lake Processors. Kaby Lake is Intel’s third set of processors at 14nm, using the new 14+ process variant, which aims to give processors with a better frequency-voltage curve that translates into more performance, better efficiency, and the potential to push the silicon further and harder. Here is our review. 

MSI Cubi 2 Kaby Lake UCFF PC Review

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The Kaby Lake-U (KBL-U) series with 15W TDP CPUs was introduced along with the 4.5W Kaby Lake-Y ones in Q3 2016. The first set of products with Kaby Lake-U were ultrabooks. However, ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) PCs were not long behind. There are already three vendors in the market with Kaby Lake UCFF PCs – ASRock (Beebox-S), GIGABYTE (BRIX), and MSI (Cubi 2). MSI was the first to launch KBL-U UCFF PCs in the North American market. Read on for our evaluation of the Cubi2-005B and how it compares against UCFF PCs from the last couple of generations.

The GIGABYTE Z170X-Ultra Gaming & Z170X-Designare Motherboard Review

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In this review we are having a look at GIGABYTE’s Z170X-Ultra Gaming and Z170X-Designare, motherboards that were designed with a way of bringing U.2 support to the market. The two motherboards share many similarities, yet also several important differences, which we will examine and compare to other products currently available in the market.

Commercial NAS Operating Systems – Exploring Value-Additions – Part I

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A comprehensive overview of how various commercial off-the-shelf NAS operating systems address the core requirements was posted last month. From the perspective of addressed features, the core requirements are fulfilled by all vendors in the space. The user-experience, despite varying significantly from vendor to vendor, is difficult to convey from a marketing perspective to consumers. Therefore, there is a reliance on value-additions to sway the purchase decision. In this first follow-up article, we look at three of the most important value-additions that NAS vendors offer in their OS – multimedia support, surveillance recording / NVR capabilities, and remote access / cloud-related features.

The Apple Watch Series 2 Review: Building Towards Maturity

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Back in the first half of 2015 Apple released the first version of the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch was a long-rumored product, often referred to as the iWatch before its release. At the time, it represented the best attempt that I had seen to provide a compelling smartwatch experience, but it was clearly a first generation product with many flaws. It was not unlike the iPhone 2G or the iPad 1 in that regard, and for all the things it did well, there were other parts of the experience that really didn’t deliver. While this shouldn’t have been unexpected given the nature of first generation products, when a device is surrounded by so much hype for so many years, expectations can begin to run wild. On top of that, certain aspects like application performance were not up to the standards that are expected of a shipping product. In our review of the original Apple Watch we concluded that it was a good first attempt, but obviously flawed, and that ordinary consumers should wait for future iterations.

The launch of Apple Watch Series 2 comes two years after the original announcement of the Apple Watch. Even when you consider the six month gap between the first Apple Watch’s announcement and launch, this still represents a longer time between versions than the yearly cadence that we’ve come to expect for many other products. Having a product in the market for one and a half years is a good span of time to observe how users are making use of it, what features they are and aren’t using, and what parts of the experience create friction. For a first generation product this kind of information is essential to make the necessary improvements in future iterations, as taking the product in the wrong direction could doom its future prospects entirely. Read on to see what changes Apple has made, and whether they make Apple Watch Series 2 a product that is truly ready for consumers.

Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 SFF PC Review: A Premium Gaming Powerhouse

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Gaming systems and small form-factor (SFF) PCs have emerged as bright spots in the desktop PC market that has been subject to severe challenges recently. Many vendors have tried to combine the two, but space constraints and power concerns have ended up limiting the gaming performance of such systems. Zotac, in particular, has been very active in this space with their E-series SFF PCs. Earlier this year, Zotac released the ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 with an Intel Core i5-6400 and GTX 980. Within a short time of its arrival in the market, Zotac has released the updated EN1080. In addition to slight alterations in the motherboard design, the CPU and GPU have also been upgraded to the Core i7-6700 and Pascal-based GTX 1080. On paper, this has resulted in a premium Skylake PC that can handle the latest and greatest workloads thrown at it. Read on to find out how the unit performs in our rigorous benchmarking and evaluation process.

Extending Home Networks – A Comparison of G.hn, HomePlug AV2 and Wi-Fi Mesh

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Over the last decade or so, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of devices connecting to the home network. The popularity of IoT has meant that even devices that are not mobile require communication over the Internet, but, their placement might be far away from the primary router in the house. Given this situation, it is essential to find a reliable way to extend the reach of the home network. There have been many attempts to come up with a standardized way to do it, but consumers have been forced to use range extenders, powerline networking kits and the like to increase the reach of their home networks. Given the multitude of available options, what underlying technology should consumers look for? This article provides a comprehensive overview of the available options as well as a quantitative comparison in one particular residential scenario.

AMD Delivers Crimson ReLive Drivers: Yearly Feature Update for Radeon Gamers and Professionals

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This time last year we saw the launch of Radeon Crimson. This was AMD’s big attempt to state that a yearly cadence for software features was a good thing, and helped streamline the process for the number of initiatives that AMD participates in when it comes to GPUs. This year the update is called ‘Crimson ReLive’, and features a number of updates such as integrating the professional aspect of Radeon Pro into the cadence, a push towards VR features, and additional elements to gamers/streamers and even screen recording for professional software.

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS Review: Mainstream GTX 1070 with G-SYNC

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ASUS offers a wide assortment of gaming laptops under “Republic of Gamers”, or ‘ROG’, with models such as the G752 lineup, the liquid cooled models in the GX800 series, and a few models for those who need more gaming per dollar. Today we are looking at the ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS, which ASUS labels “Compact and Potent”. The Strix branding has morphed a bit over the years, and now tends to signify the more economical products from ASUS, and the GL502VS certainly fits that bill, with quite a bit of hardware packed into a reasonable budget.

AMD Announces Radeon Instinct: GPU Accelerators for Deep Learning, Coming In 2017

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With the launch of their Polaris family of GPUs earlier this year, much of AMD’s public focus in this space has been on the consumer side of matters. However now with the consumer launch behind them, AMD’s attention has been freed to focus on what comes next for their GPU families both present and future, and that is on the high-performance computing market. To that end, today AMD is taking the wraps off of their latest combined hardware and software initiative for the server market: Radeon Instinct. Aimed directly at the young-but-quickly-growing deep learning/machine learning/neural networking market, AMD is looking to grab a significant piece of what is potentially a very large and profitable market for the GPU vendors.

AMD Gives More Zen Details: Ryzen, 3.4 GHz+, NVMe, Neural Net Prediction, & 25 MHz Boost Steps

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In the eternal battle to drive more details out of AMD ahead of the full launch of its new Zen microarchitecture based CPUs, today AMD is lifting the lid on some new features in order to whet the appetite (and appease the hype-train, perhaps) and that will be part of the product launch. We now have new details on the brand naming, some platform details, and a high-level overview of what will be the key points being promoted when it comes to market.

We’ve covered a lot of Zen, from the initial announcement to some of the microarchitecture details at Hot Chips through to discussing the utility of singular benchmark data and then what might be happening on the server side through a detailed analysis of motherboards on display. A lot of us want it out already, and when it does, it will come out under the brand ‘Ryzen’.

Ryzen and AM4

It is pronounced ‘Rye-zen’, not ‘Riz-zen’, to clarify.

As expected, there will be several SKUs in the brand, although AMD is not releasing many details aside from the cache arrangement of the 8-core, thread chip (which we already knew was 4MB of L2 + [8+8] MB of L3 victim-cache), and that the base clock for the high-end SKU will be at least 3.4+ GHz. The fact that AMD says ‘at least’ dictates that they are still deciding exactly what to do here, although a similar thing was said leading up to the launch of Polaris-based RX cards (though that’s a different department).

We know that Ryzen will use the AM4 platform, shared with the previous generation Bristol Ridge which remains an OEM-only product for now. We’ve gone into detail about how AM4 will operate, using a split IO design between the CPU and the chipset such that for minimal function, a chipset is not needed, however AMD has pointed out that with Ryzen, AM4 with the right chipset will support USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps), NVMe SSDs, SATA-Express, and offer ‘ultimate upgradability’. The latter point may give an indication to the Ryzen based chipsets might offer numerous PCIe lanes, similar to what Intel does on the 100-series. That said, Intel has been developing that feature over years, and the Bristol Ridge chipsets for AM4 that have been announced already are not quite up to par with that, so it will be interesting to see.

We’re still waiting for detailed information on PCIe lane counts on Ryzen, how big that micro-op cache is in the core, if the L3 victim cache has limitations, how good the DDR4 controller is, power consumption, and what exactly the single core performance / IPC level is. Actually AMD did go into more detail with a few of these areas as well.

Power, Performance and Pre-Fetch: AMD SenseMI

Part of the demo in the pre-brief was a Handbrake video transcode, a multithreaded test, showing a near-identical completion time between a high-frequency Ryzen without turbo compared to an i7-6900K at similar frequencies. This mirrors the Blender test we saw back in August, although using a new benchmark this time but still multi-threaded. AMD also fired up some power meters, showing that Ryzen power consumption in this test was a few watts lower than the Intel part, implying that AMD is meeting its targets for power, performance and as a result, efficiency. The 40%+ improvement in IPC/efficiency is still being thrown around, and AMD seems confident that this target has been surpassed.

To that extent, at the pre-briefing, Ryan was shown two systems running Titan X graphics cards in SLI and Battlefield 1 at 4K settings – one system was running Ryzen, and the other an i7-6900K (the 8-core Broadwell-E chip). Ryan was unable to determine an obvious visual difference between the two frame-rate wise, which was the point of the demo. 

Mark Papermaster, CTO of AMD, explained during our briefing that during the Zen design stages, up to 300 engineers were working on the core engine with an aggressive mantra of higher IPC for no power gain. This is not an uncommon strategy for core designs. Part of this will be down to two new power modes, that adjust and extend the power/frequency curve, which are part of AMD’s new 5-stage ‘SenseMI’ technology.

SenseMI Stage 1: Pure Power

A number of recent microprocessor launches have revolved around silicon-optimized power profiles. We are now removed from the ‘one DVFS curve fits all’ application for high-end silicon, and AMD’s solution in Ryzen will be called Pure Power. The short explanation is that using distributed embedded sensors in the design (first introduced in bulk with Carrizo) that monitor temperature, speed and voltage, and the control center can manage the power consumption in real time. The glue behind this technology comes in form of AMD’s new ‘Infinity Fabric’.

‘What is this new Infinity Fabric?’ I hear you say. It was only explained in the context of that it provides control and through the Infinity System Management Unit it can adjust power consumption while keeping in mind everything else that’s happening. The fact that it’s described as a fabric suggests that it goes through the entire processor, connecting various parts together as part of that control. Whether this is something wildly different to what we saw in Carrizo, aside from being the next-gen power adjustment and under a new name, is hard to determine at this point but we are probing for more details.

The upshot of Pure Power is that the DVFS curve is lower and more optimized for a given piece of silicon than a generic DVFS curve, which results in giving lower power at various/all levels of performance. This in turn benefits the next part of SenseMI, Precision Boost.

SenseMi Stage 2: Precision Boost

For almost a decade now, most commercial PC processors have invoked some form of boost technology to enable processors to use less power when idle and fully take advantage of the power budget when only a few elements of the core design is needed. We see processors that sit at 2.2 GHz that boost to 2.7 GHz when only one thread is needed, for example, because the whole chip still remains under the power limit. AMD is implementing Precision Boost for Ryzen, increasing the DVFS curve to better performance due to Pure Power, but also offering frequency jumps in 25 MHz steps which is new.