You might have known it in a past life as LightPeak, but Intel's high speed I/O interface is now ready for prime time under the new name of Thunderbolt, complete with a deal with Apple to see it appear on their latest MacBook Pro parts before seeing any PC availability next year. Can Thunderbolt challenge USB and Serial ATA?
Technically, Thunderbolt is pretty interesting as both data and display signals will transfer over the same cable with arbitration from the controller chip. It is a bi-directional communication that actually provides 10 Gbps of bandwidth PER PORT. It remains backwards compatible with existing DisplayPort displays, but since those devices likely do NOT have female mini-DisplayPort connections on them, they will not facilitate the daisy-chaining required for connecting multiple devices to a single Thunderbolt connection. Unlike what some people worried, Thunderbolt will carry some amount of power over cable, though how much hasn't really been specified yet.
PC Perspective has a full explanation of the technology as it stands.
After seeing (and being rather impressed by) what the Pro version of OCZ's forthcoming Sandforce SF-2200 series controller-sporting SSDs were capable of the other week, now we can see what the consumer level Vertex 3 product will be all about via a number of previews.
The beta Vertex 3 review sample I have here today manages around 45K IOPS in our 4KB random write test. That test runs for 3 minutes straight so obviously the cap should’ve kicked in. However it didn’t.
I asked SandForce why this was. SandForce told me that the initial pre-release firmwares on the SF-2200 drives don’t have the cap enabled, but the final release will put the cap in place. I also asked SandForce if it was possible for one of its partners to ship with a special firmware build that didn’t have the cap in place. SandForce replied that anything was possible.
I asked OCZ if this meant the drive I was testing wasn’t representative of final, shipping performance. OCZ stated very clearly that performance will not change between the drive I have today and the drive that goes on sale in the next 2 months. To me this sounds like SF and OCZ have struck another exclusive firmware deal to ensure slightly higher performance on the Vertex 3 compared to a standard SF-2200 based drive.
To accomplish this speed improvement, OCZ has implemented a number of improvements to the Vertex 3, not least the inclusion of support for the higher bandwidth ONFI (Open NAND Flash Interface) 2.1 memory and a SATA 6Gbps interface. The version we've been sent is the standard Vertex 3, rather than the Vertex 3 Pro previewed at Anandtech, and this means that it's fitted with Micron's new NAND flash memory too.
If you've been waiting to make the move to a solid state drive, the arrival of the Vertex 3 (and a handful of other next-gen SATA III drives) is going to shake things up a bit. Pricing on many of the current generation offerings is sure to fall somewhat, which we're will make the proposition more attractive to many users. And if you've got a system that doesn't have SATA III ports, by all means, consider the upgrade. If you've got a system with native SATA III support though, the Vertex 3 is one heck of a performer and will be worth the additional investment, as the numbers have shown.
Intel's latest Sandy Bridge architecture rules the CPU roost right now despite suffering from a motherboard chipset issue, but does AMD have what it takes to challenge their huge rival? The company has used the recent ISSCC 2011 conference to publish more details about their next-generation Bulldozer architecture to give us some clues about what they have (with every pun intended) in the pipeline.
Before we all go off the deep end and claim that AMD will surpass Intel in overall performance, we need to calm down. We are getting perilously close to the very limits of IPC (instructions per clock) with current technology and designs. It appears to me that with the Bulldozer architecture, AMD should reach parity with Intel and their latest generation of CPUs when it comes to IPC per core. Where AMD could have an advantage over Intel are in several specific categories.
PC Perspective delves into the world of Bulldozer.
I guess this is the moment we get to relegate the PC Gaming Alliance to the annals of history...
This leaves the ‘promoter’ lineup for the industry body looking decidedly lame. Besides the high profile departures, AMD has dropped down to member. The list of promoters now reads Capcom, Dell, Epic Games, Intel, Razer and Sony DADC. That means that the list of supposed champions includes two cross platform publishers, one CPU builder, one peripheral maker, one system builder and a CD manufacturer.
PC Authority has the full story.
As manufacturing processes get smaller and smaller, so the technology required to create processors using those smaller process nodes becomes more complex. Enter Intel, who will be spending US $5 billion to create a fabrication plant in Arizona geared up for the creation of 14nm parts.
The new Arizona factory, designated Fab 42, will be the most advanced, high-volume semiconductor manufacturing facility in the world, according to Intel. Construction of the new fab is expected to begin in the middle of this year and is expected to be completed in 2013. The new factory will make chips using 14nm manufacturing process on 300mm wafers.
X-Bit Labs have the story.
We've been hearing a fair few unhappy rumblings of late surrounding OCZ's Vertex 2 drives, with the company introducing a new revision of the product featuring what is alleged to hold a small capacity and lower performance due to a switch to 25nm NAND flash memory. Is there any truth to this? Tom's Hardware investigates.
The switch-over completed in mid-January, according to OCZ, and it was largely low-key. That is to say, it wasn’t really picked up on until customers started seeing lower capacities and reporting reduced performance from certain models compared to the older drives.
Fast-forward to mid-February. Sensing increased discontent over the community’s reaction, OCZ released a notice announcing its industry-first transition to 25 nm NAND adoption. The news purported that the smaller lithography would translate to more affordable performance-oriented SSDs. Indeed, the last time I looked at Vertex 2 pricing was mid-January, and the 120 GB drive was selling for $250. Today you can find the "exact same" model for $230.
What wasn’t addressed in OCZ’s release was whether the $230 drive, with its fancy 25 nm IMFT-based NAND actually is any slower or smaller than its predecessor. Naturally, I wanted to dig. After all, the complaint I received over and over again from Tom’s Hardware readers was that they were buying specific models and getting less usable capacity and unexpected performance results.
Read their findings in full over here.
I have to confess that I still can't see the lure of tablet systems such as the iPad at all personally, but it's clearly a huge growth market right now, with everyone forced to play catch-up to Apple's concept. Google's plans along these lines will come full to fruition with the release of the "Honeycomb" revision of their mobile device OS; Anandtech explore what it's all about.
Check out the full preview over here.
Remember when Half-Life 2's source code got stolen? Ever wonder how or why it happened? Then you'll want to read this story.
Gembe knew why they were there. But, bleary-eyed, he asked anyway.
"You are being charged with hacking into Valve Corporation's network, stealing the videogame Half-Life 2, leaking it onto the internet and causing damages in excess of $250 million," came the reply. "Get dressed."
EuroGamer has this fascinating tale in full.
In recent times, Sandforce's SF-1000 series controllers have ruled the roost in terms of performance, boasting a home in numerous SSDs from a number of manufacturers. Can their next-generation controllers mimic and improve on this notable success? A few sites have received early, pre-production professional level OCZ Vertex 3 Pro SSDs which are powered by a Sandforce SF-2500 part, potentially giving us an early feel for what they might have to offer.
1) Toggle Mode & ONFI 2 NAND support. Higher bandwidth NAND interfaces mean we should see much better performance without any architectural changes.
2) To accommodate the higher bandwidth NAND SandForce increased the size of on-chip memories and buffers as well as doubled the number of NAND die that can be active at one time. Finally there's native 6Gbps support to remove any interface bottlenecks. Both 1 & 2 will manifest as much higher read/write speed.
3) Better encryption. This is more of an enterprise feature but the SF-2000 controllers support AES-256 encryption across the drive (and double encryption to support different encryption keys for separate address ranges on the drive).
4) Better ECC. NAND densities and defect rates are going up, program/erase cycles are going down. The SF-2000 as a result has an improved ECC engine.
- 100G @ $525 ($5.25 / GB)
- 200G @ $775 ($3.87 / GB)
- 400G @ $1350 ($3.37 / GB)
It's amazing that we're still having to talk about GPU physics and who should support what in 2011 after it's been such a hot topic for years, but such discussions show no sign of ending for now. Along those lines, AMD's Manju Hegde (formerly of AGEIA) shares his current views on the GPU physics ecosystem.
'Also, we now have Takahiro Harada at AMD - he used to be a professor in Japan and then joined Havok and he's been here for two months. As you can see, we do have a physics strategy, which is built on this core team, and we're augmenting this with additional people too.'
bit-tech has the discussion in full.