Micron Declares GDDR5X Right on Track

Engineers at the Micron Development Center in Munich have announced that they have gotten their first samples of GDDR5X back from their fab before schedule and have started testing. In addition to that, Micron is expecting to ramp up volume production of GDDR5X on their 20nm memory process sometime in mid-2016. GDDR5X is an evolution on GDDR5 rather than a new memory technology and is expected to tide the industry over till HBM2 and HMC come online.

In early testing, some of the GDDR5X samples have already hit 13Gbps, just short of the eventual 14Gbps goal for the production modules. Combined with a new improved prefetch and new quad data rate, GDDR5X is expected to double the bandwidth over GDDR5 while increasing capacity and reducing power consumption. With progress going well, samples will begin to ship to partners (like AMD and Nvidia) in the spring. This means we will be unlikely to see any GDDR5X based cards until fall 2016.

While GDDR5X will still fall short of HBM2 bandwidth, it will undoubtedly be cheaper. It will also allow GPUs to be made with narrower buses while still maintaining the same overall bandwidth, allowing for reduced power consumption, cheaper GPUs and faster GPUs. We can expect the mainstream and even performance segments to utilize GDDR5X while the budget cards stick with GDDR5 and the enthusiast cards use HBM2. For more on GDDR5X, check out our write-up here.

Intel SSD 750 PCIe 1.2TB NVMe Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Once in a while we see a new generation of products being released that completely change how we view the area and make what we used to think was good into something rather mediocre. Such a time is upon us right now thanks to Intel and their brand new consumer drives, the Intel SSD 750 Series. I’ll be taking a closer look at the 1.2TB PCIe Half-Height Half-Length (HH-HL) add-in card today, but the drive is also available as a smaller version with 400GB capacity and both capacities are also available as 2.5″ inch form factor with an SFF8639 connector.

The Intel SSD 750 series is an NVMe based drive which both is a wonderful thing and has a hitch at the same time. Your motherboard has to support it and you need the proper drivers to get the full potential. But assuming we have this, and major manufacturer are all upgrading their Intel 9 series motherboards to support this, then you have the next generation of storage drives.

What started out as something available only for enterprises and at a price that no normal person could afford has now moved into the consumer range. In a way, this storage drive can be seen as a consumer version of the Enterprise DC series and now that the processes have matured and a lot of R&D costs have been paid by enterprises utilizing the DC drives, we end users rake the benefits.

NVMe is the next generation of storage connectivity and it will replace the AHCI standard the same way that replaced the IDE. AHCI and SATA3 were created for with mechanical drives in mind and it’s far from the perfect platform to build flash storage upon. NVMe on the other hand is designed from the ground up for this use and performs a lot better thanks to this. NVMe lowers overall CPU overhead because NVMe has a simplified command set which minimizes the number of CPU clocks per I/O in comparison to AHCI.

I’ve talked a lot about how great this new drive performs, but I haven’t mentioned any numbers yet and that has to change. The drive is rated for impressive 2400MB/s read and 1200MB/s write performance at sequential operations and has even more impressive 440K IOPS read and 290K IOPS random 4K write performance.

The drive is rated for 70GB writes per day that equals to 219TB total bytes written over a five-year period. It comes with a mean time before failure of 1.2 million hours and is backed by a five-year warranty. SMART, TRIM, and ECC are also part of the package.

Diving further into the card and having a look at the PCB on the bottom of the card and we find 14-BFA packages with 20nm Intel Multi-Level Cell NAND and two Micron DDR3 DRAM packages.

Removing the giant heatsink isn’t an easy task, and it is one that I failed at. It is mounted so solid that I couldn’t make it move the tiniest bit despite having removed all screws. I wasn’t using more than a sensible amount of force on a product like this, and I had to give up as I didn’t want to destroy the card.

Inside the large heatsink that covers the entire card, we find a smaller one that can be removed and below we find the SSD controller.

Intel is using their own proprietary controller named the CH29AE41AB0 and I really like how Intel used proper thermal paste rather than pads. Overall the cooler design is impressive for a storage drive and it should keep the drive running perfectly in even the most demanding setups.

G.SKILL Announced World’s Fastest DDR4 128GB Memory Kit at 2800MHz

G.Skill has introduced their newest memory modules and this time we get a new RipJaws4 kit. The new kit isn’t a small one as it comes with a total memory of 128GB distributed across eight 16GB modules. The new kit is the first DDR4 128GB kit with a speed of 2800MHz and it comes with CL16 timings. The memory modules use the latest 20nm fabrication process by Samsung and they’re said to take performance to a whole new level.

“During development of these DDR4 16GB modules, we see amazing future potential for 128GB (16GBx8) memory kits in extreme high capacity operation on upcoming platforms,” says Tequila Huang, Vice President of Research & Development, G.SKILL. “We will be witnessing the beginning of a new set of standards for extreme capacity and performance DDR4 memory kits on both current and future computing platforms. Needless to say, we are very excited for this release.”

16GB memory modules aren’t anything new as such, they have already been available in the server market. Now that capacity is paving its way to consumer memory modules, suitable for workstation level workloads where high capacity memory is vital. The new quad-channel kit has been validated on the latest ASUS X99 Rampage V Extreme motherboard.

The new modules aren’t just available at large capacities and speed, you can also find smaller kits with less than 8 modules and frequencies ranging from DDR4-2133 MHz to the aforementioned DDR4-2800 MHz. The modules also come backed by G.Skill’s limited lifetime warranty.

AMD Greenland GPUs Might Go Straight to 14nm Process

AMD is putting the final touches on everything and preparing to launch their new Radeon R300 series graphics cards very soon, but before it even hits the market we already get information about the next generation of AMD graphics cards. The R9 300 series is set to launch in June during Computex in Taipei and it will continue to use the 28nm process as the 20nm process just isn’t viable yet for these kind of products, the costs are just too high.

But the next generation of AMD cards from the Arctic Islands series, codenamed Greenland, will be built on the 14nm FinFET technology. This means that AMD could skip the 20nm process entirely. Another detail revealed is that the Greenland card will use the second generation of HBM memory with increased bandwidth and capacity. It is expected that AMD’s 14nm FinFET process will be produced by Globalfoundries OEM.

This could mean some promising times ahead of us with more powerful GPUs that use even less power than they do today, but also heavily improved memory in both capacity and speed. I can hardly wait to see what AMD has to offer here, although we should be looking forward to the next generation R9 300 cards instead. Computex isn’t far away, so it will be an exciting summer.

Samsung Has Started Mass Producing 8 Gigabit LPDDR4 Mobile DRAM

Samsung announced that they have started the mass production of the industries first 8 gigabit Low Power Double Data Rate 4 (LPDDR4) mobile DRAM based on 20nm process technology. The new memory is faster than most desktop and server memory and at the same time it consumes less power.

This is perfect, just in time for the next wave of UHD and flagship mobile devices and the LPDDR4 offers twice the performance over the previous LPDDR3 packages. With an I/O data rate of up to 3,200 megabits per second (Mbps) they are two times faster than a typical DDR3 DRAM used in PCs. This is perfect for UHD video recording and playback just as well as for continuous shooting of high-resolution images with over 20 megapixels. The new LPDDR4 packages do all that at just 1.1 volt, which at a 2GB package would be a 40% power saving compared to the predecessor.

Samsung started providing 2GB LPDDR4 and 3GB LPDDR4 DRAM packages this month based on 8Gb and 6Gb LPDDR4 dies, respectively, and will provide 4GB LPDDR4 packages in early 2015. Samsung expects to rapidly increase the production volume of its 20nm DRAM line-ups, including the new 8Gb LPDDR4 mobile DRAM and the recently introduced 8Gb DDR4 DRAM for servers, which in return mean cheaper costs for everyone.

Thanks to BusinessWire for providing us with this information

AMD CEO Claims “We do not Live in the Shadow of Intel”

The battle will be raging until the end of time, Intel vs AMD, who’s better? Who’s faster? Who’s more affordable?

Recently, AMD CEO Rory Read announced that his chief operating officer, Lisa Su, would become the new top dog – effective immediately. In one of her first statements, she made it clear that AMD will not live in the shadows of its competitor – Intel. Lisa marks the first female CEO of this kind in the industry and has been given the task of taking on the transformation of AMD through three clearly announced points. Being described as a ‘straight shooter’, Lisa described simply the new direction for AMD.

The first and highest priority is to produce great products, IP, technologies, system software platforms and customer relations. Her first tasks as the CEO will be to oversee the new AMD releases of K11 and K12 chips, the Seattle ARM server series and the Radeon 20nm graphics series, will they live up to these expectations?

This is followed by improved customer satisfaction. Lisa claims there will be 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020 and AMD wants a large market share. They plan to do a lot of this through their company partnerships which currently boast big-name companies such as HP, Lenovo, Acer, Dell and Apple.

Lastly she’s made it clear that AMD needs to release its products on time, focusing on simple, fast and decisive qualities. As we said before, Lisa doesn’t mess around – she’s made it clear that she’s got high expectations of her company’s future and she’s envisioned AMD as a world leading company in the years to come.

Is this a solid push in the right direction that AMD needs, or is this a front that they’re putting up to draw attention to their brand? Either way, we’re excited to see what Lisa and her staff can accomplish in 2014 and beyond.

What is your preferred platform and why? Most of all, what do you use your platform for?

Image courtesy of Silicon Valley Business Journal

New 20nm AMD Graphics Cards Not Expected Until 2015

The new Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 and 970 have blown us away with their mixture of high performance and low power consumption; so where are the AMD cards to compete with them? We have the R9 285, but with AMD shooting down rumours about the R9 285X, we may now be waiting until 2015 before we see a new generation of cards from AMD.

The Radeon R300 series, also currently known as “Pirate Island” is still nowhere to be seen, but rumour suggests that AMD will launch their new high-end cards early next year – best estimate would be just inside 6 months. There are said to be three ranges in the Pirate Island series; the high-end “Bermuda”, the mid range “Fijian” or “Fiji” and the low-end “Treasure Island”. It is expected that the Radeon R9 380 “Fiji” will be the first to market.

It has been suggested that the cards will use a 20nm process, but with TSMC currently using their 20nm fabs for Apple products, it seems unlikely that AMD will get to market with 20nm hardware, Nvidia pushed forward with 28nm for good reason and AMD and Nvidia are likely to stay with it and skip to 16nm when the time for the next-next generation comes. However, if AMD can pull off a range of cards at 20nm, it could prove a big win for the company in this never-ending battle between themselves and Nvidia.

Pirate Island will incorporate other new AMD technologies such as GCN 2.0, we should also see improved connectivity such as HDMI 2.0 and an updated DisplayPort to stay competitive with Nvidia.

If you’re waiting for the new AMD cards, don’t hold your breath for too long; with any luck we may see something new on display at CES 2015 in January.

Thank you MyDrivers for providing us with this information.

Corsair Force LX 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Corsair is known to provide us with a wide spectrum of Solid State Drives and we have already tested many of them in the past. Now the time has come for their newest entry level and budget drive in the Force family; the Corsair Force LX 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD).

There isn’t really any computer anywhere in the world that wouldn’t benefit from an upgrade of a solid state drive. You don’t need to have a brand new and high-end system to gain the benefits, even older system will benefit greatly in performance from such an upgrade. On top of that, it is one of the simplest and cheapest upgrades you can do. Solid state drive prices are dropping lower and lower all the time while the performance figures keep rising.

Corsair is trying a lot of new controllers since they moved away from the now out-dated SandForce controllers, and this drive is using a Silicon Motion controller. As comparison, their high-end and mainstream drives use the LAMD controller now. This drive also features Micron 20 nm MLC flash, and those two together should show us some stable figures.

Being a Corsair Drive it comes bundled with the Corsair SSD Toolbox; a collection of useful tools and information-readouts about your solid state drive. While other drives in your system will show up in the tool, the core functions are restricted to Corsair disks, as to be expected. But that is OK, as each company provide tools for the important things in one way or another.

The Corsair SSD Toolbox has a very simple interface and doesn’t look to fancy. This is a great thing for a tool like that. You can read out all the basic drive information like firmware, size and raid setup. It also allows you to update the firmware of the drive, a thing that has gotten easier since we’ve put the SandForce controllers behind us. It’s to be noted that for drives released prior to the Force3 series , they need their own independent tools.

Corsair have also switched to making drives without over-provisioning, they have however given the users the option to do this themselves if they wish to. This can of course also be done via the SSD Toolbox. It also has a page for all the S.M.A.R.T. information and a cloning tool to duplicate your old system disk onto a brand new high speed SSD.

On user request they have also added a feature for manual and scheduled TRIM functions for garbage cleaning. The final function of the Toolbox is the secure wipe function, one that is great to have directly there instead of having to boot into a separate Unix/Linux system to do so.

Rumour: AMD’s Future 20nm GPU Architecture Called “Faraway”

While all the attention with regards to AMD graphics has been around the release of the new Tonga GPU it appears that some new information has emerged and gone fairly unnoticed. One source is reporting that the codename for a future AMD GPU architecture has been revealed. The naming for that future GPU architecture is “Faraway Islands” which is rumoured to be the successor to Pirate Islands, both are to be based on the 20nm architecture and are slated for 2015 releases. This in itself is interesting information because it suggests AMD will stick with the 20nm process unlike Nvidia who are rumoured to be jumping to 16nm as soon as possible. It also begs the question why is AMD bothering with two 20nm GPUs if it knows Faraway Islands is superior to Pirate Islands, surely they should just opt for the superior one to start with. Faraway Islands is rumoured to be a unified GPU that will be used across all AMD’s GPU and APU products including graphics cards, APUs and their upcoming ARM SoCs.

Of course, it could just all be one epic troll. Faraway easily splits up into Far Away, AMD’s new releases always seem to be far away so who knows!

Source: CHW.com and WCCFTech, Via: Softpedia

Image #1 courtesy of AMD, Image #2 courtesy of WCCFTech

Angelbird SSD wrk 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


I was pretty excited when I got this Solid State Drive (SSD) in the mail, since it is the first chance I’m getting to get hands-on with one of Angelbirds drives.

Being a new player, Angelbird needs their products to stand out from the rest. This doesn’t seem to be a difficult thing for the designers of Angelbird, as all their products have a sleek simplistic, but beautiful design. Among the current products are mobile and normal Solid State Drives as well as a creatively designed PCI-Express host- and raid-board.

Angelbird Technologies GmbH is a relative new player in the market, “a hi-tech company based in Vorarlberg, which although the smallest province of Austria, has an international reputation as a region of pioneering and innovation. The company’s headquarters is in the town of Lustenau surrounded by mountains and close to the border of Switzerland and Germany. The team behind Angelbird is young, experienced and passionate, with a love for quality and attention to detail. Angelbird products are developed with the environment in mind.” That is how the company is described by Roman Rabitsch, CEO.

The Angelbird SSD wrk is based upon the Silicon Motion 2246EN controller and uses 20nm Micron custom packed NAND chips. The flash chips are synchronous MLC that should give us a steady and good performance in our tests. The interface is SATA3 6GB/s and backwards compatible to 3Gb/s and 1.5GB/s SATA interfaces; it is also SATA 3.1 compliant.

The drive is rated for more then 2 million hours MTBF and comes with a 3 year limited warranty. Power consumption is barely noticeable with just 0.25W in idle and 1.97W maximum draw. It also promises great data retention with 10 years at 25°C and reliability with build-in EDC and ECC function.

Other features offered by the drive are advanced dynamic global wear-leveling and bad block management algorithm as well as increased data reliability through reduced coupling effects with data shaping. It also features overload protection and of course S.M.A.R.T.

Being a 2½ inch slim drive, it measures 7mm in height, 100.2mm in length and 69.8 in width, ready to slide into your laptop or notebook. The rated specifications are 563MB/s sustained read speed and 450MB/s write speed with up to 72k IOPS and an access time of 0.1ms. It’s time to get this disk on the test bench and see if it lives up to those specifications.

HGST Announces New Ultrastar 12Gb/S SAS SSD Sized up to 1.6TB

HGST, a Western Digital company, announced its next generation of Ultrastar 12GB/s SAS solid-state drives today. Building upon the award-winning first generation, the new Ultrastar SSDs come in up to 1.6 TB size.

The new Ultrastar SSD800MH.B, Ultrastar SSD1600MM and Ultrastar SSD1600MR are using Intel 20nm high endurance enterprise-grade MLC NAND and the well proven HGST 12GB/s SAS technology, making them the ideal building blocks for server and storage systems running today’s performance-sensitive enterprise applications.

The new drives come in a variety of sizes depending on the model. The SSD800MH.B that is designed for write intensive operations will be available between 100GB and 800GB, the SSD1600MM for the balanced system will range from 200GB to 1.6TB and the SSD1600MR will feature from 250GB to 1.6TB for read intensive application use.

All 3 drives are said to offer a throughput of up to 1,100MB/s along with random read and write performance of up to 130k/110k IOPS respectively. They are backed by a 5 year Warranty at a MTBF of 2 Million hours.

As enterprise-class they come with the choice of security options including Instant Secure Erase (ISE), Self-Encrypting Drives (SED), and TCG enterprise SED with FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 certification.

“HGST leads the industry in SAS SSDs, which continue to be the preferred storage building blocks for a large variety of server and storage systems that support a growing set of data-intensive enterprise applications,” said Ulrich Hansen, vice president of SSD product marketing, HGST. “As our OEM, cloud and enterprise customers implement solutions to meet a variety of storage needs, SSDs and HDDs will increasingly be deployed in tiered pools of storage based on respective TCO strengths. HGST is in a unique position of offering a complete enterprise storage portfolio with leading solutions in both product categories.”

The new HGST Ultrastar SSD800MH.B, Ultrastar SSD1600MM and Ultrastar SSD1600MR SAS SSDs are currently completing qualifications at several server and storage system OEMs, and are generally available now.

Thank you HGST for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of HGST.

AMD Confirms 20nm in 2015, 16nm in 2016 Likely

Will we see AMD’s next-generation graphics cards arrive this year? If so, will they be based on the next-gen 20nm process shrink? Those are questions we’ve been pondering for a while now and if AMD’s most recent conference call for its Q2 financial performance is anything to go by then we now have a much better idea. During its conference call AMD’s Lisa Su, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, told listeners that “We (AMD) will be shipping products in 20 nanometre next year and as we move forward obviously a FinFET is also important”. Therefore we can strongly expect AMD’s 2015 releases to arrive with 20nm technology, but we should also expect anything released this year to still be 28nm in design. That’s not to say 28nm will be replaced as soon as 2014 is over, 28nm will likely continue in a lot of new 2015 products just because the 28nm process is mature, profitable and well-refined.

AMD’s CEO Rory Read has already commented on AMD’s potential transition to 20nm stating that AMD is waiting for the optimal crossover point between profitability, cost of the technology and cost of the product. With TSMC only properly gearing up 20nm production a few months ago it seems likely that the crossover point will not arrive until 2015.

Source: Fudzilla

Image courtesy of AMD

Nvidia GM204 Maxwell GPUs May Jump From 28nm to 16nm, Skip 20nm

The launch of Nvidia’s GM204 Maxwell-based video cards is expected to be fairly close. We should see the GTX 800 series based on the new architecture by the end of the year for sure, current rumours are touting the third quarter which means by the end of September. There will not be any process node upgrades with the GTX 800 series despite TSMC being ready with their 20nm process, the current 28nm process will prevail with the first wave of products, the “A Stepping”. The GTX 880 Ti, GTX 880, GTX 870 and GTX 860 will all launch with a 28nm GM204 GPU. Expect the GTX 880 Ti to have the fully enabled and unlocked GPU die and as you descend down the stack more parts of the die will be soldered off.

The surprising news is that next year the Maxwell “B Stepping” will involve a die-shrink. However, this is not going to be a 28nm to 20nm shrink but instead a 28nm to 16nm shrink. Nvidia will apparently be the first to make use of TSMC’s 16nm FinFET technology. This will take place mid-Q1 (so in February sometime) and means that there will be a 4-6 month spacing between Maxwell A and B. Interestingly the 16nm variants are rumoured to get the same names as their 28nm predecessors, this may confuse the retail product stack even more as we’ll end up with two GTX 880 Tis, one 28nm and one 16nm. This won’t be the first time Nvidia released a new stepping into the same product series, we saw two GK110 steppings with the GTX 700 series. This is what allowed graphics cards like the GTX 780 GHz Edition to be released when other GTX 780s based on the first GK110 stepping struggled to get near those frequencies. However, with the GK110 example no die-shrink was involved. Due to that fact we could see alternate outcomes. Nvidia might potentially release a new series, the GTX 900, where they will re-release the GTX 800 product stack but at 16nm. Or we might see the 16nm parts re-released within the existing GTX 800 series with new names, such as adding a “+”, changing the 0 to 5 or adding some other kind of name signifier.

Source: SemiAccurate, Via: VideoCardz

Image courtesy of Nvidia

Nvidia GTX 870MX Spotted In ASUS Gaming Laptop – Could Be High-End Maxwell

A new Nvidia GTX 800 series mobile GPU has shown up in the retail channel in Thailand hinting at the potential for a high-end Maxwell part. The news is really exciting because it would be the first high-end Maxwell part we have seen, the GTX 750 Ti is all we’ve seen so far from Maxwell. The listing shows an ASUS G750JS gaming notebook sporting an Nvidia GTX 870MX, currently we only know of the GTX 870M which is a Kepler GK104 based part. The GTX 870MX nomeclature along with the GTX 880MX are both apparently reserved for Maxwell based parts, likely 28nm given 20nm production issues. The fact that this notebook might be sporting a Maxwell based high-end GPU is also reinforced by the different part number: GTX 870M variant goes by the part number G750JS-T4104H while this model uses G750JS-T4108H. 

Of course after all of that discussion there is also just the possibility that the GTX 870MX is a typo and that the change in part number could just be from a stock refresh or the change in part number could refer to a change in other components used and it could be totally unrelated to the GPU.

Source: Notebook Review, Via: WCCFTech

Image #1 courtesy of Nvidia, image #2 courtesy of Notebook Review Forums

TSMC To Boost 20nm Production During Rest of 2014 – Good News For AMD/Nvidia

There’s good news for AMD, Nvidia and graphics card enthusiasts because the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is announcing increased capacity for the second half of this year. TSMC claim 20nm production will ramp up in Q3 to account for 10% of their revenues and by Q4 that will be 20%. TSMC are also looking to ride the global semiconductor wave which is expected to rise 3-5% annually over the next half decade, TSMC’s growth rates will be higher than the industry average.

In 2013 TSMC’s production reached 15.67 million 8 inch equivalent wafers, up from 14.04 million in 2012. TSMC is currently pushing towards 20nm production, is starting early roll-out of 16nm production and is researching experimental 10nm production which it hopes to mass produce by 2016 and have trial production of in 2015. The future certainly looks bright for TSMC and if you’re a graphics card enthusiast this is only good news – smaller process nodes means the potential for more performance. Bring on 20nm I say!

Source: Digitimes

Image courtesy of ExtremeTech.com

Nvidia GTX 880 Flagship Maxwell GPU Detailed, Features ARM Cores

 

We’ve already heard some early rumours about the Nvidia GM204 and now we’re hearing some details about the GM210. As you might expect, and as the name suggests, the GM210 is expected to replace the GK110 GPU we currently have. According to details the GM210 has a 512 bit memory interface, 384 texture mapping units (TMUs) while most the other details remain unspecified or unknown. The GM210 GPU will likely make use of 20nm if TSMC can get volume production into gear in time, but the use of 28nm technology is also possible. Rumours that came out early last month suggested we might see a 28nm Maxwell based GTX 800 series followed by a 20nm Maxwell based GTX 900 series shortly after when the 20nm process becomes mature enough to allow for such mass production. That same logic could apply here: we might see a 28nm GM210 then a new stepping based on 20nm at a later date using the same GPU.

The second interesting note about this GM210 GPU is that it may be called the GTX 880 Enterprise Edition. This is not that unexpected as we’ve seen Nvidia aim the GTX Titan, Titan Black and Titan Z at the more enterprise market. The GTX 880 Enterprise Edition is rumoured to contain 8 full ARMv8 cores allowing for greater functionality in the HPC (high performance computing) market. If the GTX 880 Enterprise Edition does end up being the flagship GM210 part then we may of course see more cut-down versions used to create the rest of the GTX 800 product stack. As always, rumours are rumours so treat them as such!

Source: Expreview and Xtreme Systems Forums

Image courtesy of Teksyndicate

Nvidia Maxwell GM204 GPU Gets Detailed

More details have emerged on Nvidia’s upcoming 20nm Maxwell GPUs which will form the new GTX 800 series, however, as always these are very premature and somewhat vague details. As a result we encourage readers to remember they could be untrue, inaccurate or subject to change. The GM204 is the part in question and GM204 is believed to be the direct successor to the GK104 Kepler GPU that currently makes up the GTX 770, GTX 760, GTX 680, GTX 670 and GTX 660 Ti. Like GK104 the GM204 makes use of a 256 bit wide memory bus which also implies the card will come as standard with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM with an option for 4GB models if Nvidia vendors choose to double up. We’ve also heard about the existence of the flagship GM210 GPU which will succeed the GK110 GPU, GM210. As a result we expect the GM210 to lead the top of the GTX 800 series (for example the GTX 890, GTX 880 Ti, GTX 880), while the GM204 GPU will likely make up the mid-range (GTX 870, GTX 860 Ti, GTX 860). Speculation suggests that it is possible the GM204 GPU may use Maxwell architecture but make use of the 28nm process to keep the costs down, this leads to further logical reinforcement that GM204 will be a mid-range Maxwell GPU.

Source: Expreview

Image credit to HQWallPapers.Org and Expreview

Intel Roadmap Shows New Line of SSDs Due For Launch Around Q4

During a tech conference over in Italy, where Intel have been displaying their upcoming roadmap for the CPU market, they have also touched on what the SSD side of their business will look like over the next few months. Although Intel does cover both the consumer and enterprise sides of the market as reflected in the roadmap, what is particularly interesting is the consumer trail towards the end of this year.

Not only does the map show that the will be expecting to see the successor to the 730 Series SSD around Q4, known as ‘August Ridge’  at this moment in time, but it also gives us an indication that there will be mSATA and M.2 variants of the 750 series coming to market around the same sort of time – a key move for any SSD manufacturer who wants to stay at the forefront of the market.

Based on our knowledge of their competitors and where the market is targeted, we may expect to see drives ranging from 64GB in a mSATA format and 128GB in M.2 and 2.5″ formats, growing up to around 960GB on the upper end of the scale. Although we do not have detailed information on the drives specifications, we have word that they will be built on Intel’s 20nm NAND although the controller has not ben detailed at this moment, nor pricing for that matter.

Source and image courtesy of TechPowerUp

Alleged AMD “Bermuda” R9 390X Specifications Detailed – 20nm, DX12 and More!

With AMD’s RX-2XX series now seemingly complete after the recent launches of the R9 295X2 and the R5 230, speculation is already hotting up for what might come next. Since AMD’s RX-X00 branding is relatively young we can safely assume the next series will go by the same naming conventions but transition from 2 to 3. At the top end WCCFTech reports that we should expect the R9 390X, R9 380X and R9 370X as the successors to the R9 290X, R9 280X and R9 270X. These next-generation cards should take advantage of TSMC’s 20nm process which is a shrink down from the current 28nm generation of AMD GCN based GPUs. 

These new 20nm parts will be codenamed “Pirate Islands” and succeed the current “Volcanic Islands” based RX 200 series. There will be three main GPU cores available which will probably be sub-divided to form multiple graphics card SKUs. Bermuda is the replacement for Hawaii (R9 295X2, R9 290X, R9 290), Fiji is the replacement for Tahiti (R9 280X and R9 280) and Treasure Island is the replacement for Curacao (R9 270X and R9 270). This new generation of AMD graphics cards is expected around late November 2014, that’s still 7 months away. Given that AMD and Nvidia are both relying on the same 20nm TSMC process we should also expect Maxwell to be delivered in a similar Q4 2014 time frame. The above specifications are all subject to change, as you might expect this early on in the development cycle. However, it’s great to see AMD will be continuing to increase stream processor count while shrinking the process node size and maintaining high clock speeds. If these early specifications are anything to go by AMD’s RX 300 series will be impressive to say the least.

Image #1 courtesy of PCGamesHardware.de, Image #2 courtesy of WCCFTech

Nvidia GM107 GPU Detailed, Will Form GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti

VideoCardz have managed to get a hold of the new Nvidia GM107 GPU die layout. The GM107 is based on the next-generation Maxwell GPU architecture and according to rumours it contains a very different layout to its predecessor “Kepler”. In the GM107 die, which is expected to form the GTX 750 and GTX 750Ti, there are five SMM (streaming multiprocessors) blocks which each contain 128 CUDA cores. This makes it different to Kepler where one SMX unit contained 192 CUDA cores. If these rumours and the above image is true it means that the GM107 features 640 CUDA cores. Apparently all five SMM units are enabled on the GTX 750 Ti meaning it gets all 640 CUDA cores while the GTX 750 is rumoured to have one of these disabled meaning 512 CUDA cores in total.

Apparently the GM107 and another smaller (read: slower performing) chip, the GM108, are both to be built on the 28nm process with the Maxwell architecture. In terms of the higher end the GM206, GM204 and GM200 are the three GPU dies that will succeed the GK106, GK104 and GK110 respectively. These GPUs are expected to be built from Maxwell with a 20nm, not 28nm, process.

Image courtesy of VideoCardz.com, Via TechPowerUp

AMD To Tape Out 14nm and 20nm Process Chips In Next 2 Quarters

AMD recently made a public statement about starting production and development on 14nm FinFET and 20nm Planar manufacturing process based chips. AMD says work will begin on both processes within the next two quarters (6 months) reports X-Bit Labs. AMD’s 20nm process will be done with TSMC and the 20nm chips produced will be part of AMD’s next generation of GPUs. On the other hand the 14nm FinFET process is being done with Global Foundries and these 14nm chips are going to be used in low power AMD processors – aimed at tablets, smartphones and notebooks.

Both the 20nm and 14nm chips will enter production in 2014. 20nm production with TSMC is expected to start in February 2014 while 14nm production with Global Foundries will also take place before the first half of 2014.

“We are typically at the leading edge across the technology nodes. We are fully top-top-bottom in 28nm now across all of our products, and we are transitioning to both 20nm and to FinFETs over the next couple of quarters in terms of designs. So we will continue to do that across our foundry partners. […] We will do 20nm first and then we will go to FinFETs,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of global business units at AMD, during quarterly conference call with financial analysts.

While AMD will begin production in 2014 it is likely that most of the products based off these new manufacturing processes will arrive in 2015. That said we could begin to see some products emerge in the second half of 2014, such as new AMD GPUs based on the 20nm process. The vast majority of AMD products that will be sold in 2014 will be based on the 32nm and 28nm SOI processes.

Image courtesy of Engadget

OCZ Vertex 450 256GB SSD Review

Introduction


Since I have been reviewing SSDs, there is one particular brand that as been at the forefront of my testing and who are always willing to send me the latest revision of their most popular drives. This is of course OCZ and since I took a look at the Vertex 3 nearly two years ago, I’ve seen a number of Vertex drives since. One of these drives that I looked at – namely the Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB is one that I still use to this day in my laptop for rendering work when out and about at events and its not skipped a beat on me once – proof that the drives are highly reliable in the long run!

Moving forward to today, the advances in SSD technology as we know are moving quicker than ever and drives are no pouring out of factories quicker that we would have imagined just a few years ago, but the big names in the SSD market are all trying to keep the users on their side by re-kindling and improving on their known product lines in order to try and keep the upper hand.

The Vertex line of drives as highlighted above is again seeing another update and a fresher look at the same time, hoping to keep it as one of the more popular drives in the SSD market. The most recent update that we saw from OCZ was with the slightly older Vertex 3, whilst the Vertex 4 is the more recent of these two drives, the V3 was a huge seller and with the move over to 20nm NAND, the creation of the Vertex 3.20 was made with scope that users of the Vertex 3 would see the update and move across to the better performing drive.

The other key element of the Vertex drives is value. In a market where competition is fierce, being able to bring top level performance down to mainstream prices is a huge factor in sales and this is what the new Vertex 450 is primarily aimed for. Since the acquisition of Indilinx, OCZ have been fitting their own proprietary controllers to their drives reducing the overall cost of the drives, which as we know is great news for the end user. The BF3-M10 controller that we see in use in the 450 is a slightly cut back version of that used on the Vector. Whilst it has a slightly lower clock speed, its clock generator has been optimised for performance and with the teaming of some 20nm NAND, OCZ have built the drive with Vector like specifications – but at a lower cost.

Unlike the Vertex 3.20 which saw a change to the standard OCZ packaging – a blister pack of all things – the 450 sees the return of the ‘standard’ OCZ outfit, with a 2.5″ to 3.52 drive bay adaptor, fitting screws and a copy of Acromis True Image for cloning the contents of your current drive to this with ease.

TSMC Stepping Up To 20nm Manufacturing Process

Digitimes reports thats TSMC is stepping up its purchases of equipment that is needed for the transition to the 20nm process. TSMC expects to enter volume production of 20nm based silicon from the first quarter of 2014 according to Digitimes’ sources.

“TSMC’s investment in 20nm manufacturing equipment for the fourth quarter of 2013 is expected to outpace that allocated for the third quarter, said the sources. In addition, shipments of equipment for TSMC’s 16nm HKMG process have kicked off, the sources noted.”

TSMC recently announced that it had tripled production and revenues of 28nm wafers in 2013 compared to 2012. TSMC also revealed its capital expenditure target had been raised to a record $9.5 to 10 billion USD as a result. According to Digitimes “TSMC expects to initiate volume production of 20nm chips in early 2014 followed by volume production of 16nm FinFETs in about one year.”

What this means for us graphics cards enthusiasts out there is that Nvidia and AMD will both soon have to make the shift from 28nm to 20nm process manufacturing. This means that the next generation of graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia has to be 20nm based because 28nm production will be put on the back-burner by TSMC.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Nvidia’s Maxwell (GTX 800) Confirmed For Q1 Of 2014

We have already heard that we may be seeing an Nvidia GTX 790 dual GK110 GPU in the near future and now VideoCardz reports that we will also be seeing Nvidia’s Maxwell GPUs come as early as Q1 of 2014. VideoCardz cites manufacturer sources which state that the GTX 800 series will arrive at some stage in February/March.

The report states that it is unlikely that we will see 20nm GPUs with Maxwell as TSMC will not be ready with mass production in time. Samples of 20nm GPUs could be available to Nvidia by the end of this year but if 20nm GPUs launch in February or March 2014 we should expect an effective paper launch and serious supply shortages because mass production isn’t expected to take place until June 2014. Since the GTX 700 series was just a rebranded GTX 600 series, the GTX 800 series could be a revised version of the 28nm Kepler architecture in a “tick-tock” style but again the details are sketchy.

Either way the message is clear, expect something new from Nvidia’s desktop graphics card segment in early 2014. We expect many more details to emerge between now and then.

Image courtesy of Nvidia

OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB SSD Review

When it comes to SSD line-ups, its safe to say that OCZ has got virtually every inch of ground covered with budget, performance and all round value drives with the Octane, Vertex 3 & 4 and recently the Vector series of drives. At the same time of covering all price points, OCZ have proven reliability and a huge following of users, but now that the SSD has become more mainstream and the number of users that are adopting the faster technology grows, the market is become heavily inundated with new models meaning that for some the choice is too great and for those vendors that have been in the SSD sector for a while now, their now older models are not getting the same attention that they used to.

OCZ’s Vertex line of drives in my option are some of the best selling drives out there and now that they have been around for a good couple of years and then they were one of the pioneers of using MLC NAND flash to store data on their drives, pairing it with one of the most successful controllers of the SSD world – the SandForce SF-2281. Believe it or not, this is the second re-release of the Vertex 3 and this time round OCZ have made the point of making it clear about the update to the drive.

When the Vertex 3 was first released it included 34nm MLC NAND and following the move to 25nm NAND without much of an announcement from OCZ, there was a lot of upset from the consumers with some buying the 34nm drives without a clue that 25nm were also available with some improvements to the performance. Moving forward to now, OCZ are yet again shrinking the size of technology on their drives and we now are seeing 20nm NAND – that’s almost half the original Vertex 3 of two years ago. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice however, OCZ this time round are making it well known that they have updated this drive and this includes a slight tweak to the name to reflect the 20nm NAND – hence Vertex 3.20.

For the end user this shift to newer technology means a drive that is even more affordable than before whilst still retaining the same roots as the original Vertex 3 with great performance and capacity and on the factory side for OCZ this also means reduced manufacturing costs – hence the drop in end user price. Whilst the drive itself will look 99.9% the same on the outside, there is one notable difference to the packaging. We’ve for a long time got used to the small card boxes that OCZ have used that open out to house the drive inside in an anti-staic bag and a set of screws and a drive bay adaptor behind, but with more and more chassis natively supporting SSDs with specific mounting points and trays compatible with 2.5″ drives, OCZ have made the decision to drop the extras and give the user just what they need – a simple no fuss packaging – also another way to reduce the cost overall.

Rumour: AMD HD 8970 Pictures And Specifications Emerge

An image has shown up on the notorious 4Chan website showing what is apparently a picture of the AMD HD 8970 graphics card. Alongside the pictures the uploader also added specification information. This states that the GPU is the 28nm Curacao XT architecture with 2304 stream processor, 48 ROPs, 144 TMUs and has 3GB of GDDR5 across a 384 bit memory interface. The graphics card also uses a 250W TDP which is higher than the 210W TDP the HD 7970 came with on launch.

The HD 8970 reportedly comes with a price tag of $549, the same as the HD 7970 at launch. This makes it $100 cheaper than the GTX 780 but we still can’t be sure which card is better so the lower price could be for a valid reason, such as lower performance. On the cooling front the card uses a similar cooling solution to the AMD reference HD 7990 except with two fans not three. The HD 8970 has two CrossFire X connectors for up to 4 way CrossFire X.

We are a bit late to this news, for which I apologise, so we could see details emerge very soon as the E3 2013 Expo (dates 11th – 13th of June) is when the AMD HD 8970 is speculated to be announced. This would make sense as AMD doesn’t want to lose business to Nvidia who got the GTX 700 series out very swiftly. If the E3 reveal is true then we could expect more details as soon as today and over the next few days, if not then the new HD 8000 series graphics cards will almost definitely arrive by the end of 2013 like previously speculatedAlthough what the 28nm GPU on the HD 8970 GPU means is that the 20nm process shift won’t occur until the HD 9000 series despite rumours which told us the HD 8000 series would bring the shift to the 20nm process earlier in an effort to get one over on Nvidia.

Although as always these are based on some rather shady postings on 4Chan that could easily be fake so we shall wait and see as to whether any of these details turn out to be true or not.

Image courtesy of 4Chan

Crucial M500 480GB SSD Review

At the start of the year during CES, the major buzz word of the show as we all know was 4K, but whilst this was a buzz word, in the storage sector there were other goings on the was stirring a whole heap of interest. For many years now we have been watching the solid state drive grow and grow, not only in terms of popularity but also their performance and most importantly capacity. One common factor that is associated with SSDs is with out a doubt their more weighty price tag in relation to their mechanical counterparts, however over the last year or so we’ve started to see the price per GB of storage come right down to a highly affordable level, which in turn has made the drives even more desirable.

During CES, Crucial had something rather special to shout about and when we look back to only a few years ago, what they had to shout about would have then sounded insane. This shout out that I’m referring to is a mainstream consumer 1TB – yes a ONE TERABYTE SSD. Because of the speed at which technology has been moving forward, we’ve seen die sizes shrink and bigger and faster NAND chips appear on the market, making the possibility of greater capacity drives, not only a reality, but also at a price that’s not too outrageous.

So forward comes the M500 SSD from Crucial, a drive that not only packs up to 960GB of storage, but also has the tech inside to ensure that it keeps up the pace right through to the last byte as we will see later on. Like many other drives these days, the M500 fits into an ultra slim 7mm frame, which is quickly becoming a new standard, but as some situations still require the thicker build, Crucial also include a self adhesive 2.5mm spacer which can be quickly stuck onto either side of the drive to make it fit that much better.