The ASRock Z490 PG Velocita Motherboard Review: It Means SPEED

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For the foreseeable future, or at least until Intel’s Rocket Lake is likely to be unveiled, Intel’s main platform for consumers is currently the Z490 chipset for Comet Lake. The options available for consumers offer a wide variety of models, but perhaps one of the most competitively priced mid-range ones is the ASRock Z490 PG Velocita. Some of the board’s main features include dual M.2 slots, eight SATA, 2.5 G Ethernet, and a competitive 13-phase power delivery. This is our review.

Sony Announces Xperia 5 II: 120Hz Full-Fledged Small Phone

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Today Sony is following up on one of its newer form-factors that the company had introduced last year with the Xperia 5. The new Xperia 1 II (read as mark two), follows up on the smaller flagship sibling device, retaining its form-factor, but also substantially improving its design as well as maintaining an almost complete feature-parity with the bigger Xperia 1 II.

The new phone also sets out to differentiate itself from other Sony offerings: the company seemingly has focused on the more gaming-centric usability of the device even though externally it does not have the flair of a gaming phone. With a new internal heat dissipation system and a 120Hz refresh rate OLED and 240Hz sample rate touch input, the Xperia 5 II punches above its weight when it comes to fluidity.

Apple Announces 5nm A14 SoC – Meagre Upgrades, Or Just Less Power Hungry?

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Amongst the new iPad and Watch devices released today, Apple made news in releasing the new A14 SoC chip. Apple’s newest generation silicon design is noteworthy in that is the industry’s first commercial chip to be manufactured on a 5nm process node, marking this the first of a new generation of designs that are expected to significantly push the envelope in the semiconductor space.

Apple’s event disclosures this year were a bit confusing as the company was comparing the new A14 metrics against the A12, given that’s what the previous generation iPad Air had been using until now – we’ll need to add some proper context behind the figures to extrapolate what this means.

On the CPU side of things, Apple is using new generation large performance cores as well as new small power efficient cores, but remains in a 2+4 configuration. Apple here claims a 40% performance boost on the part of the CPUs, although the company doesn’t specify exactly what this metric refers to – is it single-threaded performance? Is it multi-threaded performance? Is it for the large or the small cores?

What we do know though is that it’s in reference to the A12 chipset, and the A13 already had claimed a 20% boost over that generation. Simple arithmetic thus dictates that the A14 would be roughly 16% faster than the A13 if Apple’s performance metric measurements are consistent between generations.

On the GPU side, we also see a similar calculation as Apple claims a 30% performance boost compared to the A12 generation thanks to the new 4-core GPU in the A14. Normalising this against the A13 this would mean only an 8.3% performance boost which is actually quite meagre.

In other areas, Apple is boasting more significant performance jumps such as the new 16-core neural engine which now sports up to 11TOPs inferencing throughput, which is over double the 5TOPs of the A12 and 83% more than the estimated 6TOPs of the A13 neural engine.

Apple does advertise a new image signal processor amongst new features of the SoC, but otherwise the performance metrics (aside from the neural engine) seem rather conservative given the fact that the new chip is boasting 11.8 billion transistors, a 38% generational increase over the A13’s 8.5bn figures.

The one explanation and theory I have is that Apple might have finally pulled back on their excessive peak power draw at the maximum performance states of the CPUs and GPUs, and thus peak performance wouldn’t have seen such a large jump this generation, but favour more sustainable thermal figures.

Apple’s A12 and A13 chips were large performance upgrades both on the side of the CPU and GPU, however one criticism I had made of the company’s designs is that they both increased the power draw beyond what was usually sustainable in a mobile thermal envelope. This meant that while the designs had amazing peak performance figures, the chips were unable to sustain them for prolonged periods beyond 2-3 minutes. Keeping that in mind, the devices throttled to performance levels that were still ahead of the competition, leaving Apple in a leadership position in terms of efficiency.

What speaks against such a theory is that Apple made no mention at all of concrete power or power efficiency improvements this generation, which is rather very unusual given they’ve traditionally always made a remark on this aspect of the new A-series designs.

We’ll just have to wait and see if this is indicative of the actual products not having improved in this regard, of it’s just an omission and side-effect of the new more streamlined presentation style of the event.

Whatever the performance and efficiency figures are, what Apple can boast about is having the industry’s first ever 5nm silicon design. The new TSMC-fabricated A14 thus represents the cutting-edge of semiconductor technology today, and Apple made sure to mention this during the presentation.

Related Reading:

Apple Announces new 8th gen iPad with A12, iPad Air with 5nm A14 Chip

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This year’s September Apple event has been relatively unusual, not only because of the pandemic and online-only nature of the show, but also because amongst the new hardware releases there’s been an evident lack of a new iPhone at this point in time.

Apple however didn’t disappoint, and managed to showcase brand-new iPads and Apple Watches. Amongst the new tablet line-up, we find the new 8th generation iPad which sees an upgrade in its computing capabilities with the new A12 chip, and the newest iPad Air which sees a total redesign, adopting the design queues of the iPad Pro siblings, and also for the first time introducing the new Apple A14 chipset – the industry’s first 5nm processor.

The Apple 2020 Fall Event Live Blog – Starts at 10am PT (17:00 UTC)

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Today Apple is hosting its 2020 fall launch event. This year due to circumstances, we’ll be going virtual and remote, however we’ll still be live blogging the show for those who prefer non-video formats. Apple’s WWDC online event had been a great success and we expect a similar format for today’s announcements.

What will we be seeing today? Rumours state that the new iPhone won’t make it to the September event this time around, although we’re still expecting a set of different other new Apple devices. Maybe a new iPad? New Apple TV? Stay tuned as the event starts off at 10am PT (17:00 UTC).

The 2020 Browser Battle: Surfing With Speed

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Accessing the internet is one of the most basic tasks for any computer, but webpages in 2020 are incredibly complex so how the browser interprets the code and renders it as a viewable webpage is no simple task. Modern browsers have both a rendering or layout engine, as well as a scripting engine, and both factor into how well the browser can handle any particular task.

The Armari Magnetar X64T Workstation OC Review: 128 Threads at 4.0 GHz, Sustained!

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Blitzing around a race track in a fast car only ever convinces you of one thing: I need to go around the track even faster. I need a better car, I need a better engine, better brakes, or better tires. I need that special go faster juice, and I need to nail the perfect run. The world of professional computing works the same, whether it comes down to rendering, rapid prototyping, scientific compute, medical imaging, weather modelling, or something like oil and gas simulation, the more raw horsepower there is, the more can be done. So enter the new Armari Magnetar X64T – an overclocked 64-core Threadripper 3990X that holds the new SPECworkstation3 world record. We got hold of one. It’s really fast.

Samsung’s Note20 Ultra Variable Refresh Rate Display Explained

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In August 2020, Samsung launched the new Note20 Ultra – an interesting device that we have on our review test bed. It’s safe to say that over the last few generations, there hasn’t been all that much exciting about the Note line of devices – the phones typically use the new silicon and camera technologies that were introduced in the Galaxy S-series of the same year, and the Note lends on its form factor, only improving upon the design and software experience around the S-Pen. This year’s Note20 Ultra, based on our testing, generally also follows the same formula, but with the important exception: the Samsung Note20 Ultra has, according to the company, the first mobile variable refresh rate (VRR) screen in the industry.

What is Variable Refresh Rate, or VRR

The refresh rate, in its broadest definition, is a property given to a display with regards to how frequently a display will update itself with the latest data supplied from the graphics processor. A standard display, either on a smartphone or on a computer monitor, often refreshes at 60 times per second, or at 60 Hz, with the delay between each frame at 16.66 milliseconds. This 60 Hz is a static refresh rate, and fixed for the lifetime of the product. Over the last decade, display manufacturers have built screens with different refresh rates depending on the content:  for content that is static, the display could choose to refresh at 33.33 milliseconds, or 30 times per second, and save power; for content that is active, like a video game, if the game can be rendered quickly enough, the display could refresh at 13.33 milliseconds (75 Hz) or 11.11 milliseconds (90 Hz) or 8.33 milliseconds (120 Hz).

Displays can also be made with multiple different refresh rates. Depending on the product, such as a simple PC monitor, then both 30 Hz or 60 Hz might be supported. Gaming devices might go the other way, and offer modes that run at 30 Hz, 60 Hz, 90 Hz, and 120 Hz, all within the same panel. These modes might be user selectable, or activate when specific applications are running. In the gaming ecosystem, these are known as ‘high refresh rate’ displays.

Where variable refresh rate displays differ is that they can often support a wide range of frame time delays on a very granular basis. On the specification sheets for these displays, the refresh rate might be give as a range, such as ’60 – 90 Hz’, incidicating that the display can support any value between these two numbers. The better displays strive to support larger ranges, however when it comes to the smartphone market, the term ‘variable refresh rate’ has been a bit abused in recent times, as there are two ways to implement a variable refresh rate display.

The two methods are known as:

  • Seamless Variable Refresh Rate
  • Refresh Rate Mode Switching

The difference between the two is important. In a Seamless VRR display, the refresh rate is expected to change on a frame-by-frame basis as required by the system. For a ‘VRR-enabled’ but non-seamless display, it relies on changing the refresh rate mode between different values – the display panel will operate in either a “normal” or “high-refresh-rate” mode, but the switching between the modes is not a continuous process. For these panels, the ‘range’ of the refresh rates supported is fairly discrete, such as fractions of the main refresh rate, whereas a Seamless VRR display is designed to be a continuous support from a standard refresh rate to a high refresh rate with all in-between.

For the most part, smartphone vendors have been playing down which one of these two they have been using, advertising both as ‘variable refresh rate’. If a phone vendor has claimed to support variable refresh rate, it has been misleading, as no device until now has supported a ‘seamless variable refresh rate’ that switches on a per-frame basis, which is typically what we would consider a true VRR solution to be. What these companies are doing instead is that they are using refresh rate mode switching, which is a rather important distinction.

Samsung Note20 Ultra: Seamless VRR

By contrast, Samsung with the new Note20 Ultra claims to have achieved seamless VRR, and I’ve been very curious to get my hands on a device and finally unveiling how this is implemented and if it delivers on its promises.

Starting off, the first thing a user might notice on the Note20 Ultra, compared to an S20 device, is that its high-refresh-rate mode is called “Adaptive” rather than “High”. The decription text is specific in that it now states the refresh rate will go “up to” 120Hz instead of outright stating 120Hz on the S20 series devices. So far so good.

Investigating Seamless VRR

Digging into the software, we find some key indications on Samsung’s display mode options.

I/DisplayManagerService: Display device changed: 
DisplayDeviceInfo{"Built-in Screen": uniqueId="local:19261213734341249", 
1440 x 3088, modeId 1, defaultModeId 1, 
supportedModes [
  {id=1, width=1440, height=3088, fps=60.000004},
  {id=2, width=1440, height=3088, fps=48.0},
  {id=3, width=1080, height=2316, fps=120.00001},
  {id=4, width=1080, height=2316, fps=96.00001},
  {id=5, width=1080, height=2316, fps=60.000004},
  {id=6, width=1080, height=2316, fps=48.0},
  {id=7, width=720, height=1544, fps=120.00001},
  {id=8, width=720, height=1544, fps=96.00001},
  {id=9, width=720, height=1544, fps=60.000004},
  {id=10, width=720, height=1544, fps=48.0}
]

From a software perspective, you’d normally expect Samsung’s advertised refresh rate modes from 1Hz to 120Hz to be exposed to the system, however this is not the case, and the phone features the same resolution and refresh rate modes that were also available on the S20 series. As from the data above, this means 48 Hz, 60 Hz, 96 Hz, and 120 Hz.

However, the key difference between the S20 series and the Note20 Ultra is that its refresh rate mode is described as operating in “REFRESH_RATE_MODE_SEAMLESS”  instead of “REFRESH_RATE_MODE_ALWAYS”. In that regard it does look like things are working correctly.

However one key component of variable refresh rate displays are the lower refresh modes to help save power. As shown on the list above, the ‘lowest’ refresh rate advertised is 48 Hz. So I went searching.

 

2020-09-07 19:42:16.764 948-948/? I/SurfaceFlinger: 
  setActiveConfig::RefreshRate: ID=2, Width=1080
2020-09-07 19:42:21.758 948-948/? I/SurfaceFlinger: 
  setActiveConfig::RefreshRate: ID=4, Width=1080

 

When interacting with the phone, it is possible to catch when the OS switches its refresh

3DFabric: The Home for TSMCÂ’s 2.5D and 3D Stacking Roadmap

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Interposers. EMIB. Foveros. Die-to-die stacking. ODI. AIB.TSVs. All these words and acronyms have one overriding feature – they are all involved in how two bits of silicon physically connect to each other. At the simple level, two chips can be connected through the printed circuit board – this is cheap but doesn’t allow for great bandwidth. Above this simple implementation, there are a variety of ways to connect multiple chiplets together, and TSMC has a number of these technologies. In order to unify all the different names it gives to its variants of its 2.5D and 3D packaging, TSMC has introduced its new overriding brand: 3DFabric.

The ASUS ZenFone 7 Pro Review: The Triple Flip-Camera

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ASUS last week released the brand new ZenFone 7 and ZenFone 7 Pro series, and today’s we’re ready to publish our testing of the company’s newest “mainsteam” flagship device.

This year’s ZenFone 7 series, consisting of the regular ZenFone 7 and the ZenFone 7 Pro are sticking to the quite well received and innovative flip-camera design, improving upon its specification by adding in an extra camera module. We’ve also seen key specification improvements on the part of the phone itself, with an important shift from an LCD screen to a new 90Hz AMOLED display, as well as adoption of Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 865 and 865+ chipsets.

This year, the company is also releasing two variants of the phone – beyond higher DRAM and storage configurations, the higher-end model features a higher-binned SoC as well as differentiates the camera systems by exclusively employing OIS – which is an interesting way to segment things.

The ASUS ROG Phone III Review: A 144Hz 6000mAh Beast With Caveats

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ASUS’s ROG Phones over the last few years have been devices of interesting differentiation, with the company delivering experiences that stood out from the crowd in one way or the other. This year, the new ROG Phone III doesn’t quite represent an as radical change compared to its predecessors, however ASUS makes some important upgrades and improvements to the popular gaming phone formula, updating the ROG3 to the newest Snapdragon 865+ SoC, introducing a 144Hz display, as well as most importantly, improving the every-day camera experience of the device.

ASUS Announces ZenFone 7 Series: The Triple-Flip Camera – Hands-On

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Today ASUS is announcing its follow-up to its innovative flip-camera design that was first introduced last year with the ZenFone 6. This year’s ZenFone 7 series, consisting of the regular ZenFone 7 and the ZenFone 7 Pro are sticking to the quite well received and innovative flip-camera design, improving upon its specification by adding in an extra camera module. We’ve also seen key specification improvements on the part of the phone itself, with an important shift from an LCD screen to a new 90Hz AMOLED display, as well as adoption of Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 865 and 865+ chipsets.

ASRock B550 Taichi Review: The $300 B550 Motherboard with Chutzpah

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Outside of its Aqua series of motherboards, which come with exquisitely crafted monoblocks, ASRock’s Taichi brand has been a critical part of the company’s offerings in the land of premium motherboards. The ASRock B550 Taichi sits at the top of its product stack and features an impressive quality feature set. Some of the most notable features include a large 16-phase power delivery, eight SATA ports, dual M.2 slots, an Intel 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller, and an Intel Wi-Fi 6 interface. At $300 it comes equal in price with the X570 version, which leaves questions on the table as to which one is actually worth the money.

Hot Chips 2020 Live Blog: Intel 10nm Agilex FPGAs (8:30am PT)

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Hot Chips has gone virtual this year! Lots of talks on lots of products, including Tiger Lake, Xe, POWER10, Xbox Series X, TPUv3, and a special Raja Koduri Keynote. Stay tuned at AnandTech for our live blogs as we commentate on each talk.

Our first session of Day 2 is on FPGAs, starting with updated to Intel’s 10nm Agilex family. Given that Intel spoke about 224G PAM4 transceivers last week at Architecture Day, we expect more of those sorts of details, along with new packaging options.

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