Nvidia Pascal GP104 Chip Pictured!


At the rate things are going, Pascal may end up the most hyped graphics card release in recent memory. So far we’ve been treated to die shots of GP106, the low-end chip used in the Drive PX 2. The GP104, set to release a little over a month from now, has remained hidden from view, till today.

Coming out from Chinese forums, we can finally see what GP104 looks like. The SKU we have before us is the GP104-200, the one that is expected to bed used for the GTX 1070, the middle of the pack for GP104. The die size comes in at about 333 mm which is remarkably similar to the GM204. Around the die, we are able to see some Samsung 8Gbps 8Gb modules. This is what we have expected for the GTX 1070 and suitable for the GTX 1080 if it doesn’t use GDDRRX.

Overall, the leak today confirms what we already know about Nvidia’s plans. They will start off with the small GXx04 die as the “flagship” and follow it up with the bigger die later on. If the die size is correct, we maybe seeing a decently larger chip than the GM204 due to the die shrink. However, Pascal may bring back some of the compute cut out in Maxwell so it remains to be seen how the chip will truly perform.

AMD Releases Lacklustre Q1 Results

Nearing the end of the cycle for their current generation products, its not surprising to see poor financial results come out from AMD. Last year was a terrible one and it looks like 2016 won’t be much better, at least for Q1. For the first quarter of 2016, AMD posted a net loss of  $109 million from an operating revenue of $832 million. Unsurprisingly, it is better than 2015 as that year was arguably the worst ever.

AMD blames the revenue drop of 13% sequentially and 19% year-over-year as lower semi-custom sales. This is somewhat expected as we continue the PS4 and Xbox One lifecycle. The bright side is that Sony is set to release the PlayStation 4 Neo and even the Xbox One will see new revisions if not a full upgrade. Combined with the Nintendo NX, those should bounce back the semi-custom segment as consumers buy more consoles again.

Even though margins improved slightly to 32% (Intel posts around 60%), the increase in expenses led to the loss. This is reportedly due to increased R&D for upcoming products, which in my mind are due to Vega/Navi and Zen+ since Zen and Polaris are all set in stone by now. With Polaris 10 and Zen coming this year and even an Apple deal in the works, AMD has a good chance to turn things around as long as they can execute and head back to the black.

Nvidia Release Pascal Architecture White Paper

When AMD and Nvidia release all of those TFLOPs numbers, it’s important to realize that those are theoretical maximums. In order of a chip to reach that number, its architecture has to be extremely efficient and powerful to use. When Pascal first launched, Nvidia released some details about what it would look like. With the release of the white paper for the architecture, there are a few additional highlights worth noting.

First off, we know that Pascal has cut the SM (Stream Multiprocessor) down from 128 FP32 cores to 64. This allows for better distribution of processing power to tasks and as each SM keeps the same amount of register files and other support hardware, throughput is increased overall. Nvidia has also tweaked the SM so datapaths are more streamlined and sharing information within the SM takes less power and hardware. The scheduler has also seen some improvements and updates to ensure the SM is constantly being fed.Cache sizes have also been increased from 3MB to 4MB and a dedicated shared memory space of 64KB per SM has been added This is lower than the 96KB per SM in Maxwell but if you consider the doubled SM count relative to a same size Maxwell chip, it’s actually an increase of 16KB per SM. Finally, Nvidia detailed the P100 interposer layout for HBM2, something for us to look forward to when HBM2 finally arrives.

For other details, be sure to check out our earlier write up on the Pascal architecture.

TSMC Expects 7nm Mass Production by Early 2018

Now that 14nm/16nm chips are finally upon us en masse, some are already looking past that to the next node. Logically, the next node would be 10nm but that won’t be true for GPUs. Both AMD and Nvidia have tended to skips nodes and jump on every other node to save cost. This means today’s announcement from TSMC on 7nm holds special importance for the PC GPU market.

According to the latest shareholder report, TSMC is planning to bring forward 7nm production from previous roadmaps. This is reportedly due to a desire to beat competitors Intel and Samsung/Global Foundries to the new node. TSMC already has 20 customers lined up for 7nm, with 15 tapeouts expected in 2017 and mass production in 2018. 2 of those customers are pretty much guaranteed to be Apple and Nvidia.

Unlike 10nm which is mobile oriented, 7nm will target high-performance parts like GPUs as well. This means if TSMC hits 7nm before Samsung/Global Foundries, Nvidia has a chance to beat AMD to the new node and hold a process advantage. 7nm is expected to be 60% denser and 30-40% more efficient than 10nm so it’s a good deal better than 14/16nm. Given the difficulties Intel has faced with 10nm and how close we are to the end of silicon, it remains to see if TSMC can reach its goal.

High-End Intel Broadwell-E Processors Listed and Priced

With the official release nearly upon us, Intel’s Broadwell-E CPUs have started popping up everywhere. First, we had all of the various motherboard vendors announce support for the new Broadwell-E CPUs for their X99 motherboards. Next, Intel even leaked the chips on their driver website, confirming the rumoured specifications. Now, we finally get retail listing for the chips from NCIX along with pricing.

The pricing is pretty exorbitant right now with the low-end i7-6800K coming in at $629.99. All fo the other CPUs are much more expensive with the  i7-6850K at $889.99 and i7-6900K at $1495.99. That’s the same price as the rumoured $1500 for the i7-6950X which is listed for an exorbitant $2349.98. Of course, these are likely only placeholder prices till the real launch so we can expect the real prices to be quite a bit lower if past history is anything to go by.

Broadwell-E is expected to bring the 10 core i7 6950X along with Broadwell improvements to Intel’s HEDT. With a relatively simple updated, X99 motherboards with LGA 2011-3 will work with the new chips. While these prices are unrealistic, in my mind, intel may plan to squeeze consumers as much as they can. Intel recently cut 12,000 staff and if they can find a way to make more money, they’ll take it.

AMD Reveals Polaris 10 and 11 Market Positioning

While we’ve pretty much confirmed that GP104 will replace the current Maxwell chips with the new GTX 1080 and 1070, things are less clear from AMD. We got some clarification yesterday from the release of a new roadmap that appeared to show Polaris 10 replacing current Fiji cards. With a new statement as part of their Q1 earnings release, AMD is shedding a bit more light on where they see Polaris 11 fitting in.

“AMD demonstrated its “Polaris” 10 and 11 next-generation GPUs, with Polaris 11 targeting the notebook market and “Polaris” 10 aimed at the mainstream desktop and high-end gaming notebook segment. “Polaris” architecture-based GPUs are expected to deliver a 2x performance per watt improvement over current generation products and are designed for intensive workloads including 4K video playback and virtual reality (VR).”

From the statement, we can see that Polaris 11 is meant for mainstream desktop and high-end gaming notebook segment. To me, this suggests that Polaris 10 will be branded 480 and 480X which has been the mainstream segment. With at 2304 stream processors, this would make for a good 390X replacement and once you consider the significant improvements GCN 4.0 brings, it would be competitive with Fury. Polaris 11 seems to be targeting the low power segment with notebooks and like x70/x70X which have historically been the top end notebook cards.

If our speculation is correct, this means AMD is transitioning to a release schedule similar to Nvidia. The mainstream chip with Polaris 10 would come in first with a slight improvement over the current Fiji flagships. A few months later, in early 2017, we will see Vega with HBM2 come in as a true upgrade over Fury X. Starting off, it looks like GP104 and Polaris 10 will battle it out quite equally so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Nvidia Pascal GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 Prices Leaked

With Computex just over a month away, leaks have been popping up daily about Nvidia’s upcoming Pascal graphics cards. So far, we’ve seen a lot of leak around the physical card but nothing yet on core specifications or pricing. Today, according to Taiwanese insiders, we are getting a look at how much GP104 will set buyers back. The GTX 1070 will reportedly sell for NT $ 19990 and the GTX1080 will sell for NT $ 27990.

Converting the prices, you get around $620 and $870 for the 1070 and 1080 respectively. That seems a bit high considering that you can find the 980 at about $500 and the 980Ti at $700. However, if you only consider NT prices, that’s exactly in line with what the GTX 980 and 980Ti cost in Taiwan respectively. This suggests to me that the GP104 cards would be priced where the GTX 980 and 980Ti are right now based on the market they are selling in

These prices are in line with what we’ve come to expect from Nvidia and mirror the GTX 670/680 and GTX 970/980 launches. The GTX 1070 will significantly less and offer competitive performance and the GTX 1080 will command the extra flagship premium. While high the prices are understandable given the new process and architecture. It’s just a shame that the top end GP100 won’t be the true flagship anymore at launch.

Microsoft Ends Xbox 360 Production

Even we look forwards towards a potential Xbox One revision, Microsoft is turning over a page to their past. After nearly 11 years in production, Microsoft is finally ending Xbox 360 manufacturing. This means while Xbox 360s will continue to be sold and Xbox Live related services supported, once the stock runs out, that will be it for the console. Over its lifetime, the 360 sold at least 84 million units.

Like most consoles, the 360 went through a number of hardware revisions throughout the years. As we all remember, the original Xenon release ended up suffering from the infamous red ring of death. It wasn’t till 2 revisions later with the Falcon and a core die shrink that Microsoft finally got the situation under control. Since then Microsoft has continued to release upgraded versions till the most recent one in September 2014.

In concert with Xbox Live, the Xbox 360 changed the gaming landscape for consoles. In addition to allowing a unified online presence for consoles, the Xbox also ushered in easy streaming for Netflix. For now, continued support is expected till 2018 but for Microsoft’s backwards compatibility efforts may mean you can always play some retro games on the Xbox One. If you do want a 360 though, you’ll have to grab them quickly before they disappear.

AMD Graphics Roadmap Reveals Fiji Replacement

One of the biggest concerns about Polaris 10 has been whether or not it will be a true replacement for Fury X. With the latest leaks out, most of the information points to about 100W TDP with 2304 shaders and clock speeds around 1050Mhz. Compared to Nvidia’s Pascal GP104, this doesn’t sound very competitive, leading to concerns that Nvidia would dominate the high-end. With the release today of AMD’s more detailed roadmap, our concerns have been laid to rest.

The new official roadmap offers a bit more detail than the one AMD showed back at Capsaicin. The new one offers more detail around Polaris 10 and 11, with both chips working to replace the entire Fury and 300 series lineup. This means the top Polaris 11 chip will offer enough performance to at least match, if not exceed Fury X. This should be competitive enough against GP104. If the 2304 shader report is true, AMD has truly revamped GCN 4.0 into something that is significantly superior to GCN 1.0 while cutting power consumption at the same time.

The layout for Polaris compared to the current lineup also suggests there will be no rebrands for the 400 series. It suggests that Polaris 10 will go from about 490X to 480 while Polaris 11 will fill in 470X down to at least 460. With how well small die low power Polaris 11 has done, rebrands don’t really make any sense. Finally, Vega will drop in 2017 with HBM2 and not in late 2016 as some have hoped.

With the improvements AMD has done, I am really looking forward to what Polaris and GCN 4.0 will bring to the graphics landscape.

Nvidia GTX 1080/1070 Shroud Teardown Appears Online

Earlier in the week, we got our first glimpse of what might be the GTX 1080 might look like. That was pretty much what we expected given what saw earlier of leaked GTX 1080/1070 cooler shrouds. Today, VideoCardz has found someone who has been able to tear down the cooler shroud of the 1080/1070 and show us just how they are made. The shroud reportedly comes in 4 separate parts that are put together to form the entire component.

In the case of this specific leak, the process used is die-sinking. The biggest part comes with the GTX 10_0 punched out, with the third spot left uncut. This will allow for easier reuse to turn it either in GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 shrouds as production needs dictate. The polygonal fan bracket itself is made of magnesium alloy and is the next largest piece. Finally, we have a Nvidia logo and a side panel that has GeForce GTX punched out.

More and more leaks are expected given the fact that GP104 has already entered mass production. There is no way for GP104 to arrive at Computex unless Nvidia already has everything being made. At this point, we should be seeing GP104 cards starting to be shipped to stores in preparation for the launch. All we need now is a leak confirming the GTX 1060Ti.

Skylake Core M Heading for Apple MacBook

Last year, Apple surprised the world with their new MacBook, their thinnest laptop yet. In a first, the slim device only had one USB Type-C port and featured a fanless Intel Broadwell Core M CPU with a Retina display. Today, Apple has updated their MacBook as they’ve previously announced. The new laptop features upgraded internals throughout, with the headline being the new Skylake Core-M CPUs.

The new Skylake Core m3-6Y30, the Core m5-6Y54 and the Core m7-6Y75 all keep the same base clock as their Broadwell counterparts but the m3 sees a 100Mhz drop in boost, the m5 100Mhz increase and the m7 200Mhz increase. Combined with the architecture improvements, CPU performance should improve but not by much. The iGPU get upgraded to an HD 515 which uses the new Gen9 architecture and a 50Mhz boost for the m7. This should lead to a nice boost to graphics performance.

Other changes are the use of LPDDR3 1866 up from 1600. The battery also gets a bump up by 1.7 Wh to 41.4 Wh, gaining an extra hour of battery life. Storage also reported is improved with a new PCIe SSD but no word yet on specifics. Finally, we get a new Rose Gold, aka Pink, colour option for those that want it. Pricing remains the same as the current lineup.

Intel Q1 Results Revealed – 12,000 Job Cuts Planned

Three days ago, word came out from Intel about a series of massive layoffs in the works. Today, Intel has officially revealed just how deep the cuts are going to be and they are deep. Around 11% of their global workforce of nearly 107,000 workers will be let go in either voluntary or involuntary layoffs. This means as many as 12,000 employees of Intel may soon be entering the job market.

The cuts are set to be part of the transition from being a “PC company to one that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices”. This change comes as the PC business continues of soften and 40% of company revenue have come from the data center and Internet of Things segments. Compared to Q1 2015, Q1 2016 was slightly worse, with a 1.2% drop in gross margins though revenue was up 7%.

Platform sales volume (processors and chipsets) fell 15% but revenue was up 19% due to the higher selling prices. We can all see that with how much Skylake cost compared to Haswell. overall, the costs of restructuring will come to $1.2 billion, but Intel expects to save $750 million in 2017 and $1.4 billion every year after that. It will be interesting to see where most of the cuts land and if they will impact the fabs and R&D budgets.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro Coolers Features Dual Chambers

In recent years, closed loop liquid coolers have risen in popularity, bringing some of the highlights of liquid cooling to consumer segment. The latest in a long line of coolers, Cooler Master has unveiled their MasterLiquid Pro 120 and 240 liquid coolers with a daring new design. The two replace the current Nepton 120XL and Nepton 240M with potentially improved performance and durability.

The headline change is the new and improved pump with dual chambers. By moving critical pump parts to a separate chamber and exposing them only cool liquid, lifespan is improved. Cooler Master has also built the pump using ‘silent driver’ technology that they claim will lead to quieter operation. Another change is to the waterblock, where the coolant is now sprayed onto the middle. This spray down design isn’t actually anything new though as we’ve seen in previous Cooler Master coolers like the Nepton 240M.

The final and most noticeable change is to the radiator. Instead of the usual triangular fins, Cooler Master has moved to rectangular ones. This should lead to improved fin/radiator contact and better airflow at a cost to surface area exposed to the fan. The fans are also improved to MasterFan Pro Air Balance 120-mm models. The Pro 120 carries a $99.99 price tag, while the Pro 240 will sell for $119.99. It remains to be seen if the redesign will get around Asetek’s patents.

Nvidia Launches GM206 Based NVIDIA Quadro M2000

Even with Pascal just around the corner, Nvidia isn’t letting up with new graphics card launches. After AiB partners launched a series of low power GTX 950s based off of the GM206, Nvidia has launched their own card. Slotting into the professional lineup, the new Quadro M2000 features a full GM206 and is pretty much a 75W GTX 950 rebranded for the professional use.

At 768 CUDA cores and 1.3 TFLOPS of SP performance, the M2000 is the lowest member of the Maxwell Quadro lineup. The card replaces the Kepler-based K2200 which featured 640 CUDA cores. The card features 4GB of GDDR5 over a 128bit, offering 106 GB/s of bandwidth, 26GB/s more than it’s predecessor. Just like the recent slew of 75W GTX 950 cards, the M2000 won’t require a PCIe power connector, coming in with a slim single slot form factor with four DisplayPort 1.2.

With Maxwell just over a month away, it’s a really odd time for Nvidia to be releasing a new card. This leads me to suggest that Nvidia may not have any low-end Pascal cards out for the rest of 2016 except maybe a few mobile chips. From what we’ve heard, only GP104 will be unveiled at Computex so GP106 may not arrive for a while. A single Quadro M2000 will set you back 569 EUR.

Nvidia Pascal GP106 To Arrive Late 2016

Both AMD and Nvidia have tended to launch higher end flagships before moving to fill the rest of the lineup. The same is expected for Nvidia’s Pascal launch, with the “flagship” GP104 based cards set to arrive before the midrange GP106 does. As we know GP104 will arrive with the GTX 1080 and 1070 at Computex and reports are surfacing that we won’t see GP106 till the autumn of this year.

By holding back the release, Nvidia balances out their sales and gives a chance for last gen cards to get be cleared out of stock first. This is especially true of the low-end as GM206, the current Maxwell midrange chip, is still in production. Many of Nvidia’s AiB partners also recently launched new 75W GTX 950 cards, raising suggestions that Nvidia is preparing cards to counter the more power efficiency Polaris 11 which should arrive before GP106.

With GP104 reaching down to the 1060Ti, the GP106 will likely power the GTX 1060, 1050Ti and maybe even the GTX 1050 as well. According to the source, the chip will also not require a PCIe power connector, with a TDP of at least under 75W. This would put is TDP near that of Polaris 11 which is also under 75W. With GP106 already spotted on the Drive PX2, it’s only a matter of time though till Nvidia launches the cards,

Western Digital Releases ‘Gold’ HDDs for Datacenters

Coloured drives have long been a mainstay of Western Digital branding. The old Blue, Black, and Greens were supplemented in recent years by the addition of the Red and Purple lineups. Today, Western Digital has released a new colour, Gold, for the datacenter. The new Gold WD HDDs will co-exist with the current WD Re lineup of enterprise drives for a while but the new family will eventually supplant the old.

The 3 drives launching today are the 8TB WD8002FRYZ, 6TB WD6002FRYZ and 4TB WD4002FYYZ. The drives are all SATA 6 Gbps 3.5″ form factor with 7200rpm spindle speed, an extra large 128MB cache and using good old PMR platters. The 8TB model uses the HelioSeal helium fill that HGST, a WD subsidiary, pioneered with their drives. With lower capacities, the 6TB and 4TB are regular drives but the 6TB model does feature a ‘media cache’ to speed up writes. This sounds a lot like a NAND cache, making the 6TB Gold the first enterprise hybrid drive. 

Due to the use of helium, it’s interesting to see the 8TB drive actually has lower power consumption than the other too. On the other hand, the NAND cache makes the 6TB the best performing model. The 4TB is also somehow 18% faster than its Re predecessor. The 4TB and 6TB also feature their own form of HGST involvement as well, being made by HGST Japan. Perhaps this is a sign that Western Digital is moving their enterprise business over to their HGST division.

VAIO, Fujitsu and Toshiba PC Division Merger Stalls

With the PC market being increasingly commoditized, those firms without economies of scale are seeing their PC divisions are more of a liability than an asset. After being spun off from Sony nearly 3 years ago, VAIO entered talks with Fujitsu and Toshiba to merge their PC divisions together. Combined, the 3 would have challenged current Japanese market leader NEC Lenovo. Unfortunately, it appears that the talks have broken down for now.

The main breakdown in the negotiations was due to disagreements on how to merge assets. Japan Industrial Partners, the majority owner of VAIO, wanted to cut as much fat as possible during the merger. Fujitec on the other hand, wanted to keep as many of their current assets as possible and wanted to minimize restructuring. Toshiba seemed to be in no rush to close a deal even as their finances plunged even more into the red.

As the situation continues to deteriorate for the 3 firms, they may soon be back at the table to hammer out a deal. Combined, they would have over 30% of the domestic and just over 3% of the global market. That just might be enough to save them from disappearing. On their own though, they are unlikely to stand a chance of lasting any sustained period of time.

AMD Scores Apple Mac Design Wins with Polaris

After many fruitful years of partnerships with Apple, AMD is reportedly continuing the relationship with their latest Polaris based GPUs. Apple has alternated MacBook Pro suppliers between Nvidia and AMD in the past but tended towards AMD more with the Mac Pro. According to the source, the performance per watt of 14nm Polaris combined with the performance per dollar of the chips is what sold Apple.

AMD has long pursued a strategy os using smaller and more efficient chips to combat their biggest rival Nvidia. Prior to GCN, AMD tended to have smaller flagships that sipped less power and had lesser compute abilities. This all changed around with GCN where AMD focused on compute more while Nvidia did the opposite. This lead to Nvidia topping the efficiency charts and combined with their marketing soared in sales. If the rumours are true, Polaris 10 will be smaller than GP104, its main competitor.

With Polaris, AMD should be able to regain the efficiency advantage with both the move to 14nm and the new architecture. We may see Polaris based Macs as soon as WWDC in June, just after the cards launch at Computex. In addition to a ‘superior’ product, AMD is also willing to cut their margins a bit more in order to get a sale as we saw with the current-gen consoles. Perhaps, is AMD plays their cards well, we may see Zen Macs as well.

Toshiba Doubles Layoffs to Over 14000 Positions

The past few years haven’t been good for Japanese conglomerates and the it appears things are getting even worse at Toshiba. After a massive accounting scandal popped up last year, the Japanese firm ended up losing a massive $4.5 billion USD for the 2015 fiscal year. That led to planned cuts of 7,800 positions worldwide as an effort to cut costs. Things appear to have gotten worse though as Toshiba is now reported to cut over 14,000 positions in this round of layoffs.

At 14,000, this is double the initial estimates for cuts. 7,610 positions or around half are to come from the consumer electronics and PC business segments. Another 4,590 jobs were trimmed from the semiconductor business as well. Finally, 3,449 workers were offered early retirement packages. In total, this is about 7% of Toshiba global workforce of 198,741 people worldwide.

With the PC division set to be sold off eventually, the cuts there probably won’t mean much. The much bigger concern comes from the semiconductor business. Toshiba and partner SanDisk are one of the few NAND manufacturers, along with IMFT, SK Hynix and Samsung. Both companies have faced serve financial trouble and SanDisk recently sold itself to Western Digital. If WD is unable to revive SanDisk and Toshiba continues its downwards trend, we may lose a NAND producer, something no consumer wants.

Microsoft Edge to Gain Google WebM and VP9 Support

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer have long been panned as the red-headed stepchild among the various web browsers. The built-in Windows browser suffered from both a real and perceived lack of speed, features, and extension support. With Microsoft Edge, the company looks to be making sure their latest browser will keep up to date with current standards. As a result, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will bring WebM and VP9 support to the Windows 10 browser.

VP9 is Google’s latest experiment with video codecs. After VP8 largely failed against H.264 due to patent issues and a delayed release, Google is hoping VP9 take hold. Together with Microsoft and the rest of the Alliance for Open Media, Google hopes VP9 will offer a royalty-free alternative to H.265. As 4K content hasn’t yet quite taken hold, VP9 still stands a good chance to become the industry standard. The WebM container format and Opus audio codec will also be added as well.

Unfortunately for those involved, VP9 doesn’t have widespread hardware acceleration support yet. This means devices playing back VP9 content will likely have to resort to the CPU instead of a more power efficient ASIC. For Microsoft Edge, VP9 support will be turned off by default unless hardware acceleration is detected. Even with this glaring fault, the extensive use of VP9 on YouTube may eventually sway hardware manufacturers. Let the codec wars begin!

Apple WWDC 2016 Dates Revealed

Every year in June, Apple hosts their WWDC event and this year is the same. During the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple usually announces new OS X, iOS and other OS revisions. After running from June 8 to 12, this year’s event will go from June 13 to 17. Interestingly, the first about the dates came out from Siri when she was asked about the event.

Since Siri spilled the beans earlier today, Apple has since updated their event page, officially confirming WWDC will run from the 13th to 17th. Registration begins now till April 22nd with a $1,599 price tag for the San Francisco event.

This year, Apple is planning make major announcements for OS X, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. Some reports are suggesting that OS X might get a brand update to MacOS to bring it in line with the rest of Apple’s lineup. In addition to renaming the OS, there may be updates to Mac hardware as well due to newer Intel CPUs.

With a June event timetable, we may hopefully see some new GPUs in Macs as well. Computex will be happening 2 weeks prior so we may well get Polaris or Pascal GPUs in the refreshed Macs. We’ll bring you more information on WWDC as it comes out.

AMD Releases Graphics BIOS Update for R9 Nano & Fury X

When it comes to updating your BIOS, most users would be probably thinking about their motherboards. However, graphics card also have their own video BIOS which interfaces with the system BIOS and the graphics card hardware. A new VBIOS can add support for UEFI, speed and power profiles as well as improve stability. Today, AMD released an updated BIOS for their R9 Nano and R9 Fury X graphics cards.

According to AMD, the new BIOS is meant to improve UEFI BIOS support. Normally, you would see AMD’s AiB partners release new updates for their specific card models. However, in the case of the Nano and Fury X, these are reference designed Fiji based cards. We may see the Fury cards, which are all custom, get their own BIOS updates soon.

In addition to the UEFI support, some users are reporting that overclocking stability has improved. The Fury X was not particularly well-liked due to its lacklustre overclocking abilities, something this BIOS may fix. This also suggests that the Radeon Pro Duo may also overclock better than the original Fury X.

To update your relevant graphics card, you can download the new BIOS from AMD’s website here. AMD has chosen to release the updates as .roms which will make for a more complicated flashing process. The usual cautions of flashing your BIOS apply of course.

Sony PS4 Neo May Boast 2304 Core Polaris GPU and 4K

In a move that may replicate their moves around the PS4 launch, Sony appears to be making a major and bold move with the next-gen PS4. Dubbed PS4.5 or PS4K by various sources, the latest codename to come out is Neo. In addition to a new name, the new PlayStation will also feature completely upgraded internals with improved performance. What’s more, the console may even support 4K upscaling.

According to GiantBomb, the Neo will take the current internal hardware and simply make it better. The GDDR5 stays at 8GB but faster modules bring the bandwidth up to 218 GB/s. The 8 Jaguar cores get a clock speed boost to 2.1Ghz, up from 1.6Ghz. The most drastic change is reserved for the GPU, going from 800Mhz to 911Mhz and moving to 14nm Polaris. Furthermore, the CU count gets bumped from 18 to 36.

If Polaris keeps the number of stream processors in each CU, this means the GPU will have 2304 cores. This is smack where Polaris 10 is expected to be and will be a 290X/390X replacement, crazy for a console. What’s more likely is that AMD has shrunk the number of cores per CU with Polaris which would help with the promised efficiency and IPC gains. This would give a more believable core count of 1152 to 1728, much more reasonable numbers.

Finally, the Neo will feature 4K upscaling of 1080p content. This fits with rumours of 4K support and would make the Neo better suited for 4K TV sets. Upscaling isn’t as good as native resolution but it can come performance free with dedicated hardware. This also meshes with the requirements for PlayStation VR, with the better GPUbeing able to offer console levels of detail for the headset. The biggest surprise in my mind is the low $399 cost, the same as the original PS4.

ASUS Adds Broadwell-E Support to X99 Motherboards

Last week, we saw the first sign of support for Intel’s upcoming Broadwell-E CPUs. MSI was the first out of the gate with their announcement of new BIOS revisions to support Intel’s new line of Extreme CPUs followed by ASRock. Today, ASUS has announced their own support for Broadwell-E with new BIOS releases for their X99 series of motherboards. With 3 motherboard vendors offering support, Intel much be releasing their chips soon.

For most of the lineup, the new 3004 BIOS will be the one adding support. Interestingly, the Rampage IV and Rampage IV/U3.1 will have to rely on the 3007 BETA BIOS. I don’t know about you, but a beta BIOS doesn’t sound all that safe. In order to upgrade their firmware, users can either use the built-in EZ Flash 2 utility from within the BIOS or the USB BIOS Flashback/ROG Connect button from outside the system.

As we know, Broadwell-E will include the massive i7-6950X with 10 cores and 20 threads with 25MB of L3. The monster of a chip will also come with an equally massive price tag to match. The rest of the lineup will consist of the Core i7-6900K, i7-6850K and i7-6800K with the usual 6 and 8 core offerings. With Zen rumoured to peak at 8 cores for the consumer market, the 6950X may reign supreme for quite a while.

Nvidia Reportedly Stopped Maxwell GM204 and GM200 Production

Winding down production of a soon to be discontinued product is industry standard practice. When you see production of current models cease, that’s when you know the next generation is just around to corner. Two weeks ago, we brought you news that Nvidia may have stopped GTX 980Ti production. Now it seems that Nvidia has also ceased production of 2 other Maxwell-based GPUs in preparation of Pascal.

According to HWBattle, both of the GM204 based GPUs are no longer being supplied to AiB partners. This means the GTX 970 and 980 will disappear off store shelves sometime between the next 2 months given a normal logistics situation. At the same time, this means the replacements for GM200 and GM204 are well on their way and may arrive within 2 months as well. This is perfect for the late May launch at Computex.

As we’ve reported before, the replacements will be the 3 GP104 chips that will be called GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060Ti. These are the GP104-400, GP104-200 and GP104-150 respectively. Furthermore, the usual practice of launching reference cards first followed by custom ones will not be followed by the GTX 1070. Instead, the custom cards will launch at the same time as the reference models. With Computex just around the corner, we’ll all find out soon what GeForce Pascal truly is like.

Sony Planning PlayStation VR Demos at GameStop

As we’ve mentioned and time and time again, VR is a really VR sell unless the consumer has a chance to try it. Being told over and over again about VR without a chance to experience it as a new form of content consumption won’t sell many headsets. To combat this, Sony is planning to place their PlayStation VR headsets at many retail locations, mainly GameStop it seems. What’s more, the demo will hit the floor starting June.

Honestly, an in-store demo is pretty much expected as this point. Sony won’t be the only VR vendor as they will be sharing space with the HTC Vive demo units as well. The plan is for GameStop to provide over 500,000 experiences between June and December of this year. According to GameStop, the setup for PlayStation VR is easier, allowing for more units to be set up. This isn’t a surprise as GameStop is used to hosting console demo units while the HTC Vive will require a PC.

Finally, the reveal that PlayStation VR demos will arrive in June is a bit of a surprise. This means Sony plans to have the system all finalized and enough content created by June to start displaying it. To me, this suggests that Sony won’t have production ramped up to meet expected supply till October which is when the headset will officially launch. Given the supply issues facing the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, this is not the lease surprising.

Intel Planning Extensive Staff Layoffs

In the search for either greater margins or reducing costs, companies have always turned to layoffs as a way to do so. Usually the domain of ailing firms, it’s rare for a healthy and growing company to cut any of their staff. Even more surprising is that Intel, the giant chipmaker is reportedly planning a massive round of fresh layoffs throughout is operations. Perhaps, the PC downturn is finally hitting them as well.

As of the end of 2015, Intel had 107,000 employees worldwide, with a 5% overall increase despite 1,100 cuts last year. This time around, the cuts are expected to go much deeper, with some divisions losing up to double-digit percentages of their staff. This is surprising as Intel has reported stunning financial results for quite a few quarters in a row and already boasts margins above 60%, nearly unheard of in their competitors.

According to the source, the cuts are expected to be announced after the Q1 financial results next week. These cuts are also due to shuffles in the executive ranks, perhaps with a change in long terms plans. Some of the cuts will be due to cutting redundancies and consolidations due to the Altera purchase last year. We will bring you more information as soon as Intel makes an announcement.