Monthly Archives: November 2008

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takeMS Tri-Channel DDR3 MemoryThe German company takeMS has now released their JEDEC-compliant triple channel DDR3 memory kits for the Intel Core i7 processors.  The RAM requires 1.5v for memory voltage, and tops out at 1333Mhz.  An entry-level version providing 1066MHz speed is also available.  Both variations are being offered in 3GB and 6GB kits.

takeMS International’s memory kits require a minimal power drain, which helps to reduce the energy consumption of the entire CPU and also alleviate some of the stress on the memory controller. As most will know from an earlier Core i7 article, unless the BIOS setting is changed, Core i7 processors automatically clock down once a temperate/power draw/TDP threshold is reached.  Since the TakeMS memory modules run at 1.5v for energy consumption, takeMS customers may be able to overclock their computers more than those using 1.65v or higher DDR3 modules (or equal speed).

Although OCZ, Corsair, Patriot, G.Skill, Gingle, and Kingston all have released their DDR3 modules earlier than takeMS, don’t count them out of the game. The takeMS DDR3 modules are definitely a top contender in the memory module industry. takeMS focuses on high quality standards and a reasonable price to performance ratio, and the company offers a 10 year warranty on its memory modules to back it up.  The element that really makes the modules stand out, though, is the low voltage requirement, which will be quite interesting to many buyers.
 

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NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800NVIDA’s latest Quadro graphics card, the Quadro FX 5800, is designed for use by professional designers utilizing such tools as Photoshop, CAD software, or 3D modeling applications.  It is also used for medical imaging and gas/oil exploration operations.  The card is the first in the industry to feature 4GB of graphics memory, surpassing even NVIDIA’s top of the line enthusiast exclusive video cards like the 9800 GX2 (2GB).

In addition to the FX 5800’s massive RAM, it also presents up to 240 CUDA programmable parallel cores. The memory bandwidth is up to 102GB per second, the card supports interactive 4D modeling with time lapse capability, and the fill rates are above 52 billion texels per second. Furthermore, the Quadro FX 5800 features 10-bit color, with geometry performance of up to 300 million triangles per second.

Of course, the FX 5800 supports both DirectX 10 and OpenGL. It also features multi-device and multi-system virtualization as well as Quadro G-Sync 2.

The NVIDIA Quadro FX 5800 is priced around $3500, position toward designers, engineers, architects, and other professionals who need top of the line graphics cards as a business component.

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Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe Video CardThe new Palit Revolution 700 stakes claim to being the world’s fastest graphics card. It’s the first custom designed HD 4870 X2 in the world, and its features are quite impressive. The Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe presents dual GPUs pre-overclocked to 750MHz core speed, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and 3800 MHz memory speed.  It provides 2.4 teraflops of pure graphics power and 1600 stream processors which combine to create the strongest graphics card on the market. The Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe provides X2 performance and continues the trend of Palit’s Sonic Edition graphics cards, which offer enhanced memory and core speed.

The Palit Revolution 700 also offers a great cooling system. For Palit to create an effective cooling system for the Revolution 700 Deluxe, they custom designed an innovative cooling solution with dual fans, one for each GPU. Arriving with two PWM fans and four heat-pipes, the Revolution 700 Deluxe comes fully equipped to fight off heat while providing the same quality high performance. Created for two GPUs, the PWM fans provide enough airflow to not only cool the two GPUs on the Revolution Deluxe, but to cool them quietly. The temperature of the GPU controls the PWMs fan speed which varies depending on how warm the processor is, which enables silent operation much of the time.

Supporting DiplayPort, HDMI, Dual-Link DVI, and D-Sub, the Palit Revolution 700 Deluxe is the first HD 4870 X2 to support 4-in-1 display outputs. One could easily make the claim that the Revolution 700 Deluxe is a giant leap forward in the graphics industry and may be the graphics solution of the future with home entertainment and gaming.
 

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Intel Core i7 CPUIntel has been well-deserving of respect in the PC hardware industry since the introduction of the first Core microarchitecture, and their new Nehalem (Core i7) processors continue the trend of high performance that Intel has established.  The Core i7 processors are a significant release, especially important to those working in video editing, video encoding, and 3D rendering.  The new processor line definitely strengthens Intel’s reign over AMD even on the eve of AMD’s 45nm Phenom processor debut.

The Nehalem is a very power-efficient processor. Compared to earlier models, the Core i7 CPUs offer a 10-20% decrease in power consumption, quite a substantial amount.  No more than a year from now, Intel will also release the same architecture built on a 32nm, which should provide an even greater reduction in power consumption.   Nehalem also has great potential for notebooks PCs.

Initially, it was rumored that Intel had restricted the Core i7 processors in such a way that they could not be overclocked effectively due to the temperature, current power draw, and TDP evaluation of TURBO mode.  However, that did not turn out to be the case.  This limitation can simply be disabled via a motherboard BIOS option.   As for the actual overclocking, it’s a little different, but sometimes change can be a good thing.  Fortunately, the Core i7 overclocks just as well as its predecessor by increasing the BCLK (bus clock) or multiplier.

Like the Phenom, Intel’s Core i7 is sectioned into “core” and “uncore” areas. The core area includes the four processor cores and their L1 and L2 caches.  The uncore area contains the memory controller and shared L3 cache. The uncore runs at 2.66GHz for the Core i7-965 processor and 2.13GHz for the Core i7-940 and Core i7-920 processors.

As with the core clock, the uncore is set based on yield and performance targets. The uncore clock is governed by a basic multiplier of the BCLK (133MHz), which is 20x for the Core i7-965 and 16x for the Core i7-940 and Core i7-920. The uncore also uses a dedicated voltage (1.20V), which does not scale up/down.

Nehelam introduces many changes at once, including a static CMOS design, new power gate transistors, QPI, an integrated memory controller, Hyper Threading, and a couple other features and architectural tweaks. The only request we could ask would be 95W and 65W Nehalems to make this processor truly irresistible for everyone!

Introduction

The technology industry and enthusiasts alike are buzzing about the soon-to-be-released Core i7 CPUs from Intel.  Discussions are abundant for questions like “should I upgrade my computer?”  After all, the Intel Core i7 processors promise unparalleled efficiency and performance.

Mostly, enthusiasts are dying to find out how well their applications and benchmarks run on this next generation technology. Having a new generation CPU also means that other parts of the computer (i.e. the motherboard and RAM) also have to be upgraded.  Already, motherboard and memory manufacturers have announced X58 motherboard and triple channel DDR3 memory kits that are compatible with Intel Core i7 processors.

Fortunately, enthusiasts do not have to speculate any longer. Intel has sent pre-release samples of the entire Core i7 systems to respected technology websites for review. State of the art applications are used to run tests on the performance of a Core i7 system. The results are rather exciting, as you will soon see.

Intel Core i7 CPU

Intel Core i7 CPUThe code name for the Intel Core i7 is Nehalem. The primary goal of the Nehalem technology is scalability. Intel engineers have taken great pains to design the Intel Core i7 processors for scalability and ensure that the processors dynamically manage many of the core functions, such as cache, threads, and interfaces. In other words, you can expect to see different versions of the Core i7 processor for different types of computers. For example, there will be one version for laptops, a version for servers, another for personal desktops, and so on. This is done to enable various price points, performance, etc. for the needs of different users and requirements, and facilitate the utilization of processing power most efficiently.

The Nehalem micro architecture includes many prominent features that will enhance performance. The entire architecture dynamically manages cores, threads, interfaces, and power. The new architecture also allows running two threads simultaneously per core. That means a quad-core processor is capable of running up to eight threads simultaneously. New extensions are applied to Intel Streaming SMID that focus on improving string, XML, and text processing. The architecture also boasts a superior shared L3 cache. The high-end design delivers up to two or three times more peak bandwidth, and up to four times realized bandwidth when compared with Core 2 or Intel Xeon processors.

Intel Core i7

The Intel Core i7 will debut in three editions: Core i7-965, Core i7-940, and Core i7-920. The clock speeds, in GHz, are 3.20, 2.93, and 2.66 respectively. All three editions have 8MB of cache each. All three processors have recorded idle temperatures of around the 40 degrees range (Celsius), and load temperatures going into the 50-60 degrees range (depending on the configuration) at stock speeds and cooling. All of the processor models use Intel’s Quickpath Interconnect technology, which means that motherboards have to be upgraded along with the processors.

Intel Core i7 Processor Series Key Features & Specifications

 

  Intel Core i7 965
Extreme Edition
Intel Core i7 940 1 Intel Core i7 920
Clock Speed 3.2 GHz 2.93 GHz 2.66 GHz
QPI Speed (GT/s) 6.4 4.8 4.8
CPU Socket 1366 1366 1366
Shared L3 Cache 8 MB 8 MB 8 MB
Memory DDR3 Triple Channel DDR3 Triple Channel DDR3 Triple Channel
TDP 130 Watts 130 Watts 130 Watts
Overspeed Protection Removed Enforced Enforced
Architecture New Intel 45 nm
Nehalem
New Intel 45 nm
Nehalem
New Intel 45 nm
Nehalem
Quad Core Yes Yes Yes
Key Platform Features
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology 8-threaded performance on 4 cores
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology
  • 8M Shared Intel Smart Cache
  • Integrated Memory Controller with support for 3 channels of DDR3 memory
  • Intel QuickPath interconnect to Intel X58 Express Chipset

 

Intel DX58SO Motherboard

Intel DX58SO MotherboardBottle necks slow down performance. This happens when the processor, or one of its core, is unable to fetch data or instructions fast enough. The memory of the computer system is particularly important because of the amount of data that is passed through it as the system receives instructions from the applications. Theoretically speaking, this means that the faster a processor receives data from memory, the better the performance.

Traditionally, processors have been connected to the memory of a computer via an external bi-directional front-side bus (FSB). This bus served as the central connection point between the processors, the chipset that contains the memory controller hub, and all the other buses such as PCI, AGP, etc.

Intel engineers know that having more powerful processors means that the architecture must also be upgraded to ensure that data flows more quickly between all the different components, and thus the Quickpath Interconnect was created.

The most notable element of the Quickpath architecture is that the memory controller is now integrated into each microprocessor. Each processor has a dedicated memory controller. In the event that a processor needs to access data from the dedicated memory of another core, it can do so through a high speed connection. This allows the cores to get data from memory controllers directly, and connection with other components of the system is also greatly enhanced. The technology is named Quickpath Interconnect because that is precisely what it offers: high speed connection between all the components.

For this reason, the Core i7 processors can only be used on motherboards that support Quickpath Interconnect. The Intel DX58SO is one such example.

The Intel DX58SO motherboard (codename “Smackover”) consists of the Intel X58 Express chipset with ICH10R south bridge chip. The ICH offers support for all the other devices such as video and audio. All buses and components operate on a 133.33 MHz base clock. In other words, a multiplier is applied to the base clock to acquire a speed value. There are four multipliers on the motherboard that affects the overall system speed. They are the CPU speed, the memory speed, the Quickpath Interconnect (QPI) speed, and the uncore speed. The first three are dedicated to overclocking.  Uncore speed is the multiplier that is applied to devices that do not draw power from the processor. Together, these four multipliers manage the overall system performance.

Intel DX58SOBesides support for the Core i7 processors (it supports all three editions), the DX58SO also offers other features, including integrated Intel audio, improved graphics performance, and the PCI Express 2.0 interface that delivers up to 16GB/s bandwidth per port.

As all data and applications are stored on a systems hard drive, it is of utmost importance that the system is able to draw data from the drives very quickly. This is achieved through six SATA ports with transfer speeds of up to 3GB/s. For external storage devices, eSATA is available to help achieve the same performance.

With the DX58SO motherboard, Intel actually emphasizes system stability significantly. For example, the motherboard features an exclusive fault tolerant BIOS that virtually eliminates downtime due to a corrupted BIOS.

The new features certainly promise highly enhanced performance. However, how does the Core i7 perform under stringent hardware tests?

Test Results

Testing has been performed on four separate systems. The first three systems are the three editions of Core i7 processors. They are mounted on the DX58SO motherboard. The last system is the Intel X3350 processor (overclocked to 3.2 GHz), mounted on an ASUS P5E3 motherboard.

All 4 systems were put through a series of benchmarking tests using leading diagnostic/testing applications such as 3DMark system test, SANDRA 2009 system test, Everest Ultimate system test, POV Ray, SuperPi, WinRAR, Crysis, and World in Conflict tests. The results from so many tests reveal almost everything that enthusiasts would want to know about how the Core processors fare when compared to the X3350 overclocked processor. Performance values are obtained for CPU, memory, and storage system tests, single and quad-core rendering tests, and graphics performance tests (DirectX).

The CPU system tests reveal that the Core i7 processors outperform the X3350 processor by as much as 40%. The difference is even more dramatic for the memory tests. Memory bandwidth was shown to be over 100% higher (more than double) for all three editions of the Core i7 processor. Compared to the X3350 system, which uses external memory controllers, the direct memory controllers on the Core i7-based systems certainly works much better. 

The 3DMark scores are usually used by gamers to gauge how efficient a system performs when running a 3D game. There are two scores – one for the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and one for the CPU. The GPU scores showed very little differences, as the graphics card used on all systems is the same. As the graphics processing was offloaded to the GPU while the tests were ran, the results are rather predictable. However, the CPU reflects slight differences that fall between the range of 5% to 10%, with the highest end Core i7 processor having the highest score.

The SuperPi scores are used by overclockers and enthusiasts all over the world to benchmark and test the stability of an overclocked system. The assumption is that if a system can successfully compute PI values for up to the 32 millionth decimal place without error, it is moderately stable in terms of RAM and CPU. Tests done on 1M, 2M, and 4M calculations all show that the highest end Core i7 processor produces the best performance. The X3350 processor loses out to the Core i7 920 by a small margin.

Conclusion

Whether you are a hardcore 3D gamer, a professional graphics artist, or an overclocker, the information will help you make better buying decisions. After all, the additional power from the Core i7 processors is meant to provide significant value for the consumer.

3D applications, audio, and video software definitely perform much better on Core i7 based systems. The new architecture is also more stable compared to traditional configurations. Traditionally, graphics and video editing is very time-intensive as the system must process a great deal of data from activities such as panning, zooming, and adding special effects.  With higher performance hardware, the editing process can proceed more smoothly and requires less time. The latest edition of the immensely popular image and video software suite, Adobe CS4 from software giant Adobe Systems, has already announced that their software is now compatible with the latest Core i7 based systems.  Pegasys Inc.’s TMPGEnc also utilizes the threading capabilities of the processor very well.

Ultimately, the buying decision depends on one’s personal needs and preferences. The suggested retail price for Core i7 processors is as follows: $999.00 for Core i7-965, $562.00 for Core i7-940, and $299.00 for Core i7-920. For professionals and gamers who run a lot of resource intensive applications, the higher end models will be highly desirable. For typical consumers looking to upgrade for improved performance, anything better than the Core i7-920 may be overkill.

ASUS P6T Deluxe X58 Motherboard for Core i7 ProcessorsASUS offers another option for enthusiasts with an eye on the new Core i7 processors, the ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition motherboard. It is marketed as a fully loaded 1366 motherboard that offers unique features not found on other competing boards.  Features include a small 2.5" LCD display that provides overclocking options, three PCI express slots, and support for NVIDIA SLI multi-GPU technology. The high-end motherboard has a lot of competition, though, including the Intel DX58SO, MSI Eclipse, Foxconn Renaissance, and EVGA’s X58 SLI motherboard, as well as ASUS’ own Rampage II Extreme X58 motherboard. Enthusiasts will be interested to know how the fares when compared in terms of features, performance, and price.

The first distinct difference is the 2.5 inch LCD monitor. This is an exclusive device that can be plugged into the motherboard through any available USB port. It displays overclocking options and vital system information such as CPU temperature, fan speeds, etc. The user can easily monitor system performance, and take action should a problem arise (e.g. temperature rising to unstable/unacceptable levels). A Yahoo! Widget can also be used to access the data.

The ASUS P6T has three PCI Express 2.0 slots. The first two slots will run at x16 speed. If the second slot is set to x8 speed, the third slot can also run at x8 speed. This gives the user more flexibility for the hardware that can be used. Obviously, if you only need to use two slots (e.g. installing two graphics cards), both will run at x16 speed. In addition, a x4 speed PCI slot and two regular PCI slots are provided.

ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition Motherboard

Another key feature of the ASUS P6T motherboard is the inclusion of SLI support.  This is a strategic business move on the part of ASUS, since NVIDIA charges a royalty fee per motherboard sold to manufacturers that offer support for SLI.  It is not supported by all manufacturers for this reason.

Memory wise, the board offers six physical slots, separated into two different colors. To achieve maximum efficiency, only three or six memory modules should be installed. If only 3 modules are installed, the same color slots should be used. In total, you can install up to 12GB of memory on the ASUS board.

Overall, the ASUS P6T compares very favorably to other options in many ways.  While it doesn’t offer the four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots or fourteen USB 2.0 ports of the Foxconn Renaissance motherboard, the ASUS P6T is an excellent option due to the extras assuming it includes all the functionality you require.

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Gingle Triple-channel DDR3 Memory Kits for Intel Core i7 ProcessorsGingle has announced the launch of its triple-channel DDR3 memory kits for Intel Core i7 processors. Gingle’s new RAM modules are available in 3 GB (1 GB x 3) and 6 GB (2 GB x 3) variations as well as 1600MHz and 1800MHz speeds.  All variations share the same stock timings (8-8-8-24).  While Gingle’s 16000MHz memory requires 1.65v, it is interesting that Gingle’s 1800MHz modules do not conform to Intel’s recommended voltage, with a 1.8v requirement.  Pricing information has not yet been made public, but it is sure to follow soon.

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Seagate Savvio 15K.2 Hard DriveSeagate’s Savvio 15K.2 second generation, 2.5-inch hard drive claims to be the fastest and greenest mechanical disk drive in the world, with the highest performance and reliability of any HDD on the market today.  The 15,000 RPM drive also features a self-encrypting option that helps protect data from being stolen or hacked, while maintaining minimal power requirements with Seagate’s onboard PowerTrim(TM) technology (70% better power efficiency than comparable 3.5-inch 15,000 RPM drives).  Power consumption is a major factor for server farms that run hundreds of hard drives since any decrease in power consumption can make a significant impact on the monthly power bill.  146GB and 73GB versions are available.  Both variations use the same SAS 2.0 6Gb/s speed interface, which offers 100% faster maximum data throughput and higher signal strength from the previous interface revision.  The new interface makes the drive particularly well-suited for RAID configurations, which can yield as much as a 115% improvement for system-level performance.  The Seagate Savvio 15K.2 will begin shipping in December, 2008.

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Flipbac Angled Viewfinder and LCD Screen Protector for Digital CamerasThe Flipbac viewfinder helps customers snap angled photos from the hip, without having to kneel, or take candid portraits that include your own face. The angled viewfinder is ideal for experimenting with photography by taking photos from uncommon perspectives.

Flipbac Features:

  • Easy shooting from low angle or ground level positions
  • Take accurate pictures from unusual positions, including ground level, waist-high, or overhead
  • Snap candid, natural, and relaxed portraits
  • High quality LCD screen protector shields the camera when not in use
  • Viewfinder supports angles of more than 180 degrees for both landscape and portrait orientations
  • Compatible with most digital point-and-shoot and SLR cameras with 3" LCD screens

Pricing information has not yet been released, but should be available from the official product page soon.

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Alienware M17 Gaming NotebookAlienware’s latest M17 gaming notebook is feature-packed with ATI CrossFire multi-GPU technology (ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3870 GPUs), Intel’s first mobile quad-core CPU (Core 2 Extreme QX9300), up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, as much as 1TB disk storage (via dual 500GB HDDs in a RAID0 configuration), enhanced sound system (two speakers, with a built-in subwoofer), backlit keyboard, and much more.  The system is 17, and offers two display options (a standard LCD with a 1440×900 screen resolution or a Clearview WUXGA LCD with a 1920×1200 resolution).  The notebook features the Intel PM45 + ICH9M-E chipset, which can be outfitted with a TV tuner as well. The laptop is powered by a 12-cell lithium-ion battery.

Although the pricing begins quite reasonably for an Alienware system ($1,399), expect to pay significantly more for a fully-loaded configuration.

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