Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Nvidia Readies New “G92” Graphics Processing Unit for November

Nvidia Corp., the world’s largest supplier of discrete graphics processing units (GPUs), reportedly plans to update its lineup of chips in mid-November this year. While according to media reports the company has no plans to dethrone its high-end GeForce 8800 Ultra with the new code-named G92 product, it is highly unlikely that Nvidia has no plans to offer a new top-of-the-range product this fall.

Several media reports claim that the G92 chip due to be commercially launched on the 12th of November will be positioned as a performance-mainstream part, not as an ultra high-end product. The chip will sport an improved PureVideo HD video engine, PCI Express 2.0 bus, DVI, DisplayPort as well as HDMI outputs, media reports claim. It remains to be seen whether the new product will also feature DirectX 10.1 capabilities. The new chip is projected to be made using 65nm process technology at TSMC.

Earlier this year Michael Hara, vice president of investor relations at Nvidia Corp., said that the company’s forthcoming flagship product would have peak computing power close to 1TFLOPs, about two times more compared to the current code-named G80 chips, which is used on the GeForce 8800 GTS, GTX and Ultra products.

Nvidia’s code-named G80 chip was introduced in mid-November, 2006, as a high-end offering from the company. Being made using 90nm process technology, the chip featured 681 million transistors without output logic, which means that the solution was quite expensive to build.

Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia Corp. already has a history of creating an expensive solutions and then making them faster and more affordable to manufacture. In June, 2005, Nvidia introduced its G70 processor that powered the company’s GeForce 7800 family of products and had a rather large die size. Already in March, 2006, the company released its G71 chip that had the same capabilities as the predecessor, but could operate at higher clock-speeds and also was cheaper to make. While the GeForce 7900 did not offer a two times performance improvement over the predecessor, the GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics card could boast with unbelievable peak computing power for that time as it featured two G71 GPUs.

Besides creating a chip that would feature over a billion of transistors, Nvidia may chose an option to produce a dual-chip graphics card based on relatively inexpensive graphics processors. Unfortunately, there is no reliable information whether Nvidia’s G92 is actually a complex high-end graphics processor, or a chip of modest complexity to replace Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS and power a dual-GPU “GX2” graphics card.

Nvidia does not comment on the news-stories.

Patriot Memory Unveils High-Speed, Low-Latency DDR3 Memory Modules

Patriot Memory, a leading supplier of high-performance memory products, has announced two new memory module kits aiming gamers and overclockers. One kit offers extreme clock-speed amid moderate latency settings, whereas another kit offers shrunk timings amid not so high frequencies.

From now on, Patriot’s Extreme Performance family includes PC3-12800 Low Latency and PC3-15000 Low Latency memory module kits, which both do offer performance that by far exceeds that of officially supported PC3-8500 standard. Patriot’s EP PC3-12800 Low Latency operates at 1600MHz with CL7 7-7-18 latency settings with 1.8V voltage, whereas the EP PC3-15000 Low Latency functions at 1866MHz with CL8 8-8-20 with 1.9V voltage settings.

Patriot’s new modules offer specifications that exceed those of competing products, but do not increase voltage settings towards 2.0V or 2.1V level from 1.5V default voltage of DDR3 memory, which indicates that the company has spent a lot of time picking up the fastest DDR3 chips and developing high-quality modules.

“Having the fastest DDR3 1866MHz modules on the market demonstrates Patriot’s leadership in the memory marketplace. Patriot will continue to push the envelope to develop and bring the fastest and highest quality memory to our customers,” said Les Henry, technical director of Patriot Memory.

The new modules utilize Patriot’s newly-designed print-circuit boards and heat-spreaders that increase heat dissipation and lowers temperatures of memory modules by 5% - 7%, according to the company’s claims.

Both Patriot EP PC3-12800 Low Latency and EP PC3-15000 Low Latency 2GB memory module kits are available today, pricing may vary, though, extreme-speed memory modules usually cost the same amount of money like entry-level desktop personal computers.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

AMD Faces Exodus of Executives Ahead of Major Product Launch

As the release of Advanced Micro Devices’ major product approaches, the company continues to lose executives consequently reducing its potential in the long-term future. Even though all of them are leaving for “personal reasons”, the amount of execs fleeing the company in the last year seems to be alarming.

AMD Loses ATI’s Executives and Not Only

On the 22nd of August AMD announced that its chief sales and marketing officer Henri Richard will leave the company after spending five years with it. Mr. Richard joined AMD on the 10th of April, 2002, months ahead of the company’s failure to release its highly-anticipated 64-bit processors on time and a period dramatically gloomy sales of AMD Athlon XP processors, which at the time could not compete against Intel’s Pentium 4.

On the last day of Summer several media outlets reported that Rick Hegberg will also resign from AMD shortly. Mr. Hegberg came to AMD from ATI Technologies, where he has been serving as senior vice president of world wide sales since 2003. The executive was responsible for the overall management of ATI’s world wide sales organization, as well as for achieving the company’s global sales revenue and customer satisfaction objectives among large customers and partners.

The resignation of Henri Richard and Rick Hegberg comes one month after former ATI chief executive David Orton left the company in July, weeks after Chris Evenden, the former public relations chief at ATI, stepped down.

David Orton, is among numerous of ex-ATI executives as well as specialists, who have left Advanced Micro Devices in the recent quarters. Richard R. Heye, a vice president of ATI, left AMD late last year, ironically, just three years after he left AMD for ATI; Paul Dal Santo also left AMD as it absorbed ATI; whereas Peter Edinger, another vice president of ATI, departed from AMD early this year. In addition, a number of public relations persons have left AMD since the two companies became one.

According to official statements, all the leaving AMD employees resign “because of the personal reasons” and it is a natural process since “people come and go”. However, there are no such huge flee of personnel from companies like Intel Corp. and Nvidia. For example, Intel laid off one thousand of managers last year as a part of its overall officially announced workforce reduction initiative, but the only person among the top managers to face changes was marketing chief Eric Kim, who became the chief of digital home group.

AMD Loses ATI’s Revenues, Sales of CPUs Head Down

Under the management of Hector Ruiz and Dirk Meyer, graphics and multimedia business of ATI Technologies lost 40% of graphics products revenue in Q2 2007 compared to Q2 2006 (down from $325 million to $195 million) and also lost 37% of consumer electronics sales in Q2 2007 annually (down from $135 million to $85 million). Moreover, sales of AMD’s own computing solutions also declined in Q2 2007 by 10% annually from $1.22 billion to $1.098 billion in Q2 2007, which is pretty alarming, as a year ago AMD’s computing solutions revenues did not include sales of ATI’s chipsets.

To top it all, AMD’s core management team managed to decrease ATI’s market share from 27.6% in the second quarter 2006 to 19.5% in the second quarter 2007 by decreasing graphics adapters’ shipments by nearly 20% year-over-year, according to figures by Jon Peddie Research.

By contrast to AMD, both Intel Corp. and Nvidia Corp. increased their year-over-year sales dramatically and the latter also managed to boost its graphics adapter market share across-the-board thanks to much more flexible business approach than that of AMD. Intel also does not have a flexible business approach, just like Advanced Micro Devices. But the company still managed not only to leave AMD behind in terms of performance for a year, but also succeeded in releasing quad-core x86 chips almost a year ahead of its smaller rival. Perhaps, this is why execs do not leave Intel and Nvidia – the two direct rivals of AMD – either “because of the personal reasons” or because of their failure to achieve certain goals within the company.

Quo Vadis, The New AMD?

The current financial situation of Advanced Micro Devices is a combination of AMD’s failure to recognize the threat of Intel’s Core micro-architecture back in late 2005, failure to deliver both new micro-architecture as well as quad-core chips on time and ATI’s failures to ensure that the new products and micro-architectures are available on time or ahead of the main rival Nvidia.
Obviously, every manager at both AMD and ATI is partly responsible for the present condition of the company, however, if all of them will step down “because of the personal reasons”, who will work at the company?

Venturer Electronics Plans Low-Cost HD DVD Player for Christmas

Venturer Electronics, a maker of consumer electronics based in Canada, has announced that its low-cost HD DVD player will be available on the
North America market by holiday shopping season. Even though the device will not support leading-edge technologies, it is likely to offer a nice value for mainstream customers who do not own expensive HDTVs.
“Responding to strong consumer demand for high definition video playback devices, Venturer will introduce the SHD7000 that offers the superior HD movie experience as defined by the DVD Forum,” a statement by Venturer reads.
The company’s SHD7000 player will lack full-HD will only offer 1080i maximum resolution (1920x1080, interlaced) which requires less advanced image processing and ultimately means more affordable hardware inside. Still, the player from Venturer will support Dolby TrueHD sound, HDMI connector and DVD upconverting capabilities, the feature-set that can satisfy unpretentious customers.
The suggested retail price of the new player will be just $199, according to an official claim quoted by DVDTown.com web-site, which is much more affordable compared to any existing Blu-ray or HD DVD player. It should be kept in mind, however, that Toshiba’s own HD-A2 player costs $299 and comes with five HD DVD movies, each of which is priced at $19.99.
The low-cost HD DVD player will indisputably drive the high-definition movie experience to the mass market. Given that contemporary DVDs only feature 720x480 resolution, even 720p (1280x720, progressive scan) and 1080i will provide considerable quality improvements to those, who own mainstream LCD or plasma HDTV-sets with 1366x768 resolution. As a result, HD DVD may become considerably more popular as a standard.

Diamond to Re-Enter Professional Graphics Accelerators Market

Diamond Multimedia, a well-known supplier of graphics cards in the
U.S., may have plans to enter the marker of professional graphics accelerators with new VFX 2000-series products. The new boards will not only be the first professional boards from Diamond in years, but will also be one of the first professional product from ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, marketed by a third-party add-in-card company.
The flagship of the new family from Diamond, reports HotHardware web-site, will be Diamond VFX 2000 which is believed to be a re-branded ATI FireGL V8650, which has 2GB of 2.0GHz GDDR4 memory as well as ATI R600 graphics processing unit with 320 unified shader processors. The top-of-the-range ATI FireGL product is positioned to serve the high-end of professional digital content creating (DCC) and similar markets and has price tag of $2799.

It is interesting to note that FireGL trademark was first introduced by Diamond Multimedia for its lineup of professional graphics cards based on chips from 3Dlabs and IBM. But after Diamond Multimedia became a part of S3 Graphics and multimedia division was spun-off as SonicBlue company, ATI Technologies acquired the FireGL assets from the independent company. But while now FireGL comes back to Diamond, the graphics cards designer will not use the well-known brand-name.
Since ATI acquired FireGL in 2001, the company has not allowed third-party graphics cards makers to market professional products under their brand-names. Instead, only shipped its FireGL graphics cards to its partners among workstations suppliers or sold the boards under ATI FireGL trademarks. However, Advanced Micro Devices, the new owner of ATI, recently decided to allow Sapphire Technology to sell FireGL professional accelerators, perhaps, to stop market share eroding, considering the rather aggressive business approach by arch-rival Nvidia Corp. with its Quadro family of professional graphics boards.
Diamond Multimedia officials did not comment on the news-story.

Third High Definition DVD Format to Come This Fall

The ongoing war between Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition video formats is heating up as appropriate players become more affordable. While the end of the battle is still far ahead, there is a small company from
London, England, which plans to offer truly affordable high-definition format called HD VMD already this fall.
New Medium Enterprises unveiled its first HD VMD (Versatile Multilayer Disc) player at IFA trade-show in Berlin along with the short list of movies to be available for the player this fall. The company, which positions its standard as “The New Definition of High Definition” promises affordable prices and widespread availability, but remains tight-lipped over the movies portfolio it is able to release.
NME’s ML622S player that is capable of DVD and HD VMD playback has recommended retail price of €179 ($243) and offers video playback encoded using MPEG-2/MPEG-2 HD, VC-1 or H.264 codecs in up to 1080p (1920x1200, progressive scan) resolution with up to 45Mb/s bitrate along with Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS audio.
The London-based startup launches its HD VMD technology worldwide in October or November with a competitive player and content bundle box which will include 5 new HD VMD titles for Australia, France, Iceland, India, Poland and Scandinavia. The company says that HD VMD’s “growing list of film content” includes “blockbuster films from Hollywood, Bollywood and International titles worldwide” including 16 Blocks, Apocalypto, Passion of the Christ, Lord of War, Lucky Number Slevin, plus the award winning children’s series, Lazy Town.
HD VMD technology is based on multi-layer DVD discs and red laser head. Each additional layer adds approximately up to 5 GB of memory over a standard DVD disc. VMD provides the ability to place up to 20 layers on a single disc with no quality loss in the content stored. This means capacity to record 100 GB or more without major changes to DVD players, but the disc technology requires new manufacturing process and production lines. Currently the company can produce up to 30GB discs. HD VMD is not supported by any major movie studios, like Blu-ray or HD DVD.

Palit, Gainward to Enter Mainboards Market

Palit Microsystems, a maker of computer components from Hong-Kong known primarily for its graphics cards, has quietly started to offer mainboards on its web-site. In addition, according to rumours published in a hardware bulletin board, Gainward, a wholly owned subsidiary of Palit, may also enter the motherboard market.

Nowadays the market of computer mainboards is not as crowded as it used to be, as because of the aggressive market expansion strategy of large mainboard makers smaller second- and third-tier manufacturers had to withdraw from the business. However, from time to time one or another computer components supplier tests the waters of the motherboard market seeking for additional revenue sources. This seems to be the case with Palit and, perhaps, its daughter company Gainward.
Currently Palit’s lineup of mainboards consists of three mainboards for Intel Socket 775 processors based on Intel P35 and Intel 945GC chipsets as well as two motherboards for AMD’s AM2 microprocessors based on Nvidia nForce chipsets. All the mainboards, except the Intel P35-based one, are aimed at low-cost personal computers, therefore, their main advantages will be their price, not exclusive technologies.
In addition, OCWorkBench hardware forum has published a picture of what it claims to be an Intel P35-based motherboard from Gainward. The authenticity of the image could not be verified, but it seems to be a copy of Intel P35A mainboard from Palit with Gainward’s logotype located on the surface of Ethernet port.
Neither Gainward, nor Palit are known for mainboards, therefore, their success on this new market is not imminent. Gainward is primarily known for high-performance graphics cards and adding an affordable mainboard into its lineup will not improve its business in any way.
Officials for Palit and Gainward did not comment on the news-story.

Acer Joins Blu-Ray Disc Association

Acer Inc., one of the world’s largest makers of personal computers (PCs), has joined the Blu-ray disc (BD) association, the promo group behind the Blu-ray format. As Acer is also the member of HD DVD promotion group, the intention to join the Blu-ray supporting camp emphasizes the company’s agnostic attitude towards the format war.

“We’re delighted to welcome Acer to the Blu-ray Disc Association. The addition of Acer provides one more sign of the growing momentum behind Blu-ray Disc and, more importantly, is a significant advantage for consumers, as it further expands the already broad options available to consumers in the personal computer space,” said Victor Matsuda, chairman of the BDA’s global promotions committee.
Up to now Acer has only offered HD DVD drives with its high-end notebooks, however, as the popularity of the new-generation DVD rises, the importance of Blu-ray disc rises as well, therefore, it is crucial for Acer to offer personal computers equipped with BD drives too. Acer first outlined plans to offer both Blu-ray and HD DVD-equipped laptops last year.
“With increasing demand and expectation for richer media content, Acer is adding Blu-ray disc technology into our notebooks and enabling users to experience high-definition content, playback and storage. Acer is pleased to be joining the Blu-ray Disc Association and to continue empowering our users to benefit from the freshest technologies available,” said Campbell Kan, vice president, mobile computing business unit, Acer Inc.
Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 27GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. But despite of the fact that HD DVD is much more affordable compared to Blu-ray, consumers still have not fully endorsed the new format, as it is unclear which of them will ultimately win the battle.

AMD Ships Quad-Core Opteron Processors for Revenue Company

Advanced Micro Devices on Friday confirmed it had begun shipments of its highly-anticipated quad-core server microprocessors in August. The claim means that after all the delays and set-backs with the new micro-architecture and the world’s first monolithic quad-core x86 chip, the chipmaker is on track to formally release the chips in early September.

“AMD can confirm that Barcelona has been shipping for revenue in August,” said Phil Hughes, an AMD’s spokesperson for server and workstation products.
Mr. Hughes declined to comment on clock-speeds or other specifications of the shipping products and also remained tight-lipped regarding volumes or demand for the new central processing units that, according to AMD’s chief executive, faced six months delay. Revenue shipments of anticipated quad-core product may help AMD to improve its financial results for the third quarter, as novelties are usually sold at much higher margins than existing products.

Quad-core AMD Opteron processors code-named Barcelona are based on the company’s next-generation micro-architecture and will be produced using 65nm process technology. Among the highlights of AMD’s new chips the manufacturer lists shared 2MB L3 cache, 128-bit floating point units (FPU), SSE4A instructions, support for dual-channel DDR2 memory and other innovations.
The code-named Barcelona processor will be the first x86 chip that contains four processing engines on one piece of silicon. Currently available quad-core Intel Xeon chips integrate two dual-core chips on one piece of substrate, which gives the manufacturer some additional flexibility, but offers slightly reduced performance compared to monolithic design.
AMD is expected to host official introduction of its quad-core AMD Opteron processors on the 10th of September. Initially AMD will offer quad-core microprocessors with reduced power consumption and clock-speed, but later in the year the chipmaker promised to release new versions of the quad-core Opteron with higher operating frequencies.

Creative Unveils Credit Card-Sized Zen with Screen

Creative Technology, a leading producer of digital media players and other multimedia equipment, this week unveiled its new Zen credit card-sized digital media player which combines rather large screen with tiny sizes and long battery life. The novelty may successfully compete against Apple’s iPod nano as well as full-sized iPod.

“The Creative Zen immediately gets your attention because it has the same size screen as our award-winning Creative Zen Vision:M, but it’s so much smaller, lighter and thinner. With the vibrant 2.5” screen, you can now have a great video watching or photo viewing experience with a very compact player,” said Craig McHugh, president of Creative Labs.
The new credit card-sized Zen is of the size of a typical plastic card, but is still equipped with 2.5” colour screen. The new media player can playback music for 25 hours, video for 5 hours and can also display photos from a Secure Digital card. The new Zen comes with built-in FM radio tuner as well as 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of flash memory. Credit card-sized Creative Zen supports a wide selection of video formats, including WMV9, MJPEG, MPEG4-SP, compatible DivX 4/5 and XviD.
Considering relatively small sizes, Creative credit card-sized Zen can compete against high-end Apple nano offerings, but it has better screen and an FM radio tuner. At the same time, it is much sleeker than Apple’s full-sized iPod and while it cannot offer 80GB of storage, it can provide longer battery operation.
Credit card-sized Creative Zen will be available next month in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB models, priced at $149.99, $199.99 and $299.99 respectively. A variety of accessories will be available for the Creative Zen when it hits retail and online stores.

AMD Quietly Adds New Dual-Core Opteron Chips into Lineup

Advanced Micro Devices has quietly added dual-core AMD Opteron processors with boosted clock-speeds into the lineup less than two weeks before introducing its quad-core Opteron chips. The new central processing units belong to the so-called “Special Edition” (SE) family of chips that has higher power consumption compared to typical AMD Opteron processors, but also offer a bit higher performance.

The new chips that AMD made available on Thursday are AMD Opteron processors 8224 SE and 2224 SE that operate at 3.20GHz, have thermal design power (TDP) 120W and are intended for multi-processor (MP) and dual-processor (DP) machines, respectively. In addition, AMD introduced models 8222, 2222 and 1222 that operate at 3.0GHz, but have mainstream 95W and 103W TDP.
The new chips from AMD are immediately available from AMD solution provider partners around the world. In 1000-unit quantities AMD charges $873 for the model 2224 SE, whereas the model 8224 SE costs $2149.
The new SE chips are intended for customers who want the absolutely highest dual-core performance and has no plans to wait before AMD makes available high-speed quad-core AMD Opteron processors later during the year. It highly unlikely though that there will be a lot of those planning to deploy a high-performance mission critical systems based on the new dual-core AMD Opteron SE chips.
The fresh breed of AMD Opteron dual-core processors are likely to become the last dual-core server chips from AMD that are made for performance improvements purposes. When quad-core microprocessors based on AMD’s next-generation micro-architecture become available later this year, the world’s second largest maker of x86 central processing units is likely to concentrate on making dual-core chips much more efficient in terms of power consumption.
AMD plans to launch its first quad-core AMD Opteron products in early September and update the family with higher-speed versions later during the year.

Microsoft’s New Patch to Improve 3D Games Performance on Windows Vista Systems

Microsoft Corp. has released yet another patch that should improve performance of three-dimensional games in Windows Vista environment. Nvidia Corp. has already started to recommend the hotfix to its customers along with a new beta driver package. However, it is unclear whether low performance and abnormal behavior is limited to Nvidia’s hardware and software only and does not affect ATI Radeon graphics products.
Microsoft explained that existing games and other graphics applications frequently allocate virtual memory for a copy of the video memory resources that the application uses. However, this is no longer necessary with Windows Vista, which has a special Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) manager that ensures that the content of every video memory allocation is maintained across display transitions. Still, the new operating system (OS) has a mechanism to emulate the behavior of previous versions of the OS for compatibility issues.
However, if an application creates its own in-memory copy of its video resources, or the application uses DirectX 9 or an earlier version, the virtual address space contains the WDDM video memory manager’s virtualized range and the application’s copy. Applications that use graphics APIs that are earlier than DirectX 10 and that target GPUs that have large amounts of video memory can easily exhaust their virtual address space causing low performance or erratic behaviour.
Microsoft said that to address this problem, the world’s largest maker of software is changing the way that the video memory manager maintains the content of video memory resources. This change is being made so that a permanent virtual address range does not have to be used for each virtualized allocation. With the new approach, only allocations that are created as “lockable” consume space in the virtual address space of the application. Allocations that are not created as “lockable” do not consume space. This approach significantly reduces the virtual address space that is used. Therefore, the application can run on large video memory configurations without reaching the limits.
Nvidia Corp. issued a statement claiming that the hotfix resolves abnormal application behavior such as crashes and extremely low frame rates when running some 3D applications “at very high graphics settings”. This issue is not limited to, but has been most commonly noticed on high-end graphics cards and the following applications: Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, Civilization IV, Company of Heroes, Half-Life 2, Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II, Supreme Commander, and Tom Clanc’s Rainbow Six Vegas.

GeCube Finally Releases “Gemini” Dual-Chip ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT Graphics Card

Infotek Corp. is first to announce the graphics card that Advanced Micro Devices wants to position against Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS graphics accelerator. But complexity of the product with two chips and necessity to offer mainstream pricing forced the manufacturer to use low-cost memory, which may thwart the success of the graphics card.

GeCube, Infotek’s subsidiary and a well-known graphics cards supplier, on Friday said it initiated shipments of the world’s first dual-chip graphics card based on ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics processing unit. The product, according to product positioning of ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, will compete against Nvidia Corp.’s GeForce 8600 GTS. But while the power of two GPUs will offer high horsepower, low-speed memory may limit performance of the dual-chip graphics board in real-world applications.
GeCube’s Gemini 3 Radeon HD 2600 XT X2 graphics cards (GC-D26XT2-F5) are equipped with two ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT (RV630) GPUs clocked at 800MHz and either 512MB (256MB per chip) or 1GB (512MB per chip) of 1.0GHz GDDR2 memory. The card support four dual-link DVI connectors with multiplexed HDMI signals as well as HDCP support. GeCube does not mention whether the new dual-GPU graphics board can operate in all types of mainboards with PCI Express x16 slot, or compatibility will be limited to those that support multi-GPU technologies..
The graphics cards supplier claims that once appropriate drivers and mainboards are available, the Gemini 3 graphics boards will be able to work in pairs, allowing four graphics processors to combine their rendering power.
ATI Radeon HD 2600 GPU sports 120 stream processors (SPs), 8 texture units (TUs) and 4 render back ends (RBEs). Typically the highest-speed – 2600 XT – incarnation of the chip is equipped with 1.40GHz or 2.20GHz memory chips, whereas the more affordable – 2600 Pro – version of the product features 1.0GHz memory. GeCube decided to use the high-speed RV630 graphics chip at 800MHz along with low-speed 1.0GHz memory, which may negatively impact performance of the solution.
GeCube’s Gemini 3 Radeon HD 2600XT X2 512MB graphics card with 512MB of memory has manufacturer suggested retail price of $259, whereas the 1GB version will cost $279. Both price-points exceed those projected by AMD earlier this year.

Plextor Transfers Assets to Shinano Kenshi

As announced earlier this year, Plextor on the 30th of August officially transferred its optical drive business to Shinano Kenshi, an industrial group in
Japan. Sales of Plextor-branded devices will continue going forward, but the reorganization will imminently cause changes in products release and design approaches.
Shinano Kenshi takes over Plextor’s product planning, development, design, product, sales and support as a part of global reorganization and streamlining of Shinano Kenshi’s own operations. It remains to be seen whether the enlargement of Plextor’s parent company will affect Plextor’s products. and whether the impact will be positive. What can be said for sure is that products sold under Plextor trademark will remain on the market in foreseeable future.
Earlier this year it was reported that as a part of the reorganization, the production of optical disk drives (ODDs) will be reduced to “10% of the peak production levels” and Plextor will concentrate its efforts on industrial equipment and the Plextalk digital sound recording playback equipment for blind. It was also noted that the transaction between Plextor and Shinano Kenshi will not affect Plextor’s business in the USA.
“This announcement by Shinano Kenshi will have no material affect on the operations of Plextor LLC, as we already completed a corporate reorganization in North and South America last year. Our business will continue as usual,” said Toru Nakazawa, president of Plextor LLC, USA.
Due to generally high production costs in Japan, since the year 2005 producers of ODDs, such as Sony and Teac started to outsource manufacturing to third parties in South Korea and Taiwan. Foxconn Electronics has received orders from Matsushita (Panasonic) for models targeting the retail market, while Asustek Computer has started making DVD burners for Pioneer, which now only keeps in-house production for high-end models, it was reported.
ODD business is so highly competitive that NEC and Sony have formed Sony-NEC Optiarc joint-venture to develop, design and manufacture of optical drives, whereas LG Electronics and Hitachi also have similar joint-venture. That said, it is hardly a surprise that Shinano Kenshi decided to fully take over Plextor to stay in the business.

JEDEC to Standardize Solid State Drives

JEDEC, the association that sets standard for dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and some other integrated circuits, has announced that it would work to standardize solid state drives (SSDs) as well. The move outlines importance of SSDs going forward and will allow the market of flash-based storage solutions to evolve quicker.

“JEDEC has initiated standardization for the solid state drive (SSD) segment of the computer industry. This nascent market is poised for explosive growth as the price gap between rotating media hard disks and non-volatile alternatives such as flash drives decreases,” a statement by JEDEC reads.
Since solid state drives use only chips and no moving mechanisms, flash-based SSDs are considerably faster and more reliable compared to traditional hard disk drives that use rotating media, moving heads and so on. Unfortunately, nowadays solid state drives are tangibly more expensive in terms of cost per gigabyte compared to HDDs.
The JEDEC effort will focus on broad based standardization of interfaces between the host system and the SSD, something which will ease development and manufacturing of solid state drives going forward. Realizing that there are a number of companies considering a variety of SSD technologies, JEDEC said it encourages them to contact the JEDEC office to coordinate efforts and accelerate user adoption of the technology.
It is interesting to note that from now on the organization calls itself JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, whereas earlier it was known as the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council.

Foxconn Unveils “Mars” Mainboard for Overclockers

In an attempt to solidify it success on the channel market, Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, has unveiled a new product family called Quantum Force, which is aimed specifically at computer enthusiasts and overclockers, the first breed of components for the aforementioned groups created by Foxconn. The first product in the lineup is a mainboard called Mars after the Roman god of war.

“Quantum Force is not just about a new product line, it is also a complete philosophy about how we develop our products” said Quantum Force product manager Greta Kuo.
Ms. Kuo explained that Quantum Force products will come with specially developed “Gladiator” BIOS versions and will use advanced print-circuit boards (PCBs), robust cooling systems, high-quality components, e.g. solid-state capacitors and so on. The company calls its new design philosophy as “Sword” and emphasizes that the products for enthusiasts and gamers will have improved stability.

The first mainboard from Foxconn’s Quantum Force family is Mars, which is based on Intel P35 core logic and which supports all LGA775 form-factor processors with up to 1333MHz processor system bus including the forthcoming chips made using 45nm process technology. The motherboard comes with 4 slots for DDR2 memory modules (up to PC2-8500 or 1066MHz), 2 slots for PCI Express x16 graphics cards, 3 PCI slots and 3 PCI Express x1 slots. Like all similar mainboards, Foxconn’s Mars features 7.1-channel integrated high-definition audio, Serial ATA hard disk drive controller with RAID capabilities and so on.

Foxconn promises that Gladiator BIOS will feature a broad set of parameters to tweak, something, which is important for those seeking to squeeze all the juices out of their hardware when overclocking. The company said that with an early BIOS edition and standard air cooling, Mars was able to overclock processor system bus to 2300MHz (575MHz quad pumped bus).
Foxconn will also establish a special quantum-force.net web-site to support end-users who own Quantum Force series products. The web-site includes a product registration function, access to Beta BIOS downloads, forums, tutorials, competitions and a range of video and interactive content for enthusiasts.
“Quantum-force.net is going to be a great home for our products on the Internet, and a really interesting place for enthusiasts to visit and learn more about our products and philosophy. Whether you are looking for overclocking advice, Beta BIOS downloads, help solving technical problems or you want to show off your own overclocking talents on our Power Wall, I would recommend all enthusiasts to visit this website” claims Greta Kuo.

AMD Makes SSE5 Specifications Available to Software Developers

Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday announced availability of Streaming SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) Extensions (SSE5) specification. The new instructions promise higher performance and execution efficiency and will be implemented into microprocessors due in 2009.

The 170 new SSE5 instructions will improve central processing units’ (CPUs’) performance in high performance computing (HPC), multimedia and security-related applications, according to AMD. The new set includes such instructions as fused multiply accumulate (FMACxx), integer multiply accumulate (IMAC, IMADC), permutation and conditional move, vector compare and test, precision control, rounding, and conversion instructions.
AMD explained that by increasing the number of operands an x86 instruction can handle from 2 to 3, SSE5 enables the consolidation of multiple, simple instructions into a single, more effective 3-operand instruction. The ability to execute 3-operand instructions is currently only possible on certain RISC architectures.
Fused Multiply Accumulate the 3-Operand Instruction capability enables the creation of new instructions which efficiently execute complex calculations. The FMAC instruction combines multiplication and addition to enable iterative calculations with one instruction. The simplification of the code enables rapid execution for more realistic graphics shading, rapid photographic rendering, spatialized audio, complex vector mathematics and other performance-intense applications.
The first microprocessors from AMD that support SSE5 will be those code-named Bulldozer expected to become available in 2009.
“Chip advancements and software improvements go hand-in-hand, to the benefit of consumers and enterprises alike. The impact of our designs are best realized when AMD-based servers, PCs and devices enable software to more effectively solve every-day problems and enhance every-day experiences,” said Phil Hester, senior vice president and chief technology officer, AMD.
By making the SSE5 specification available to developers today, AMD expects to ease the adoption of the new instructions for tool providers and software vendors who develop these performance-intense applications.
“By announcing our plans to add SSE5 instructions to the x86 instruction set ─ and by making the specification available today ─ we are enabling open and collaborative software innovation that will bring AMD’s advancements to life for our customers and end-users,” Mr. Hester added.

No More $499 Sony PlayStation 3 in Stock – Company

As expected, the inventory stock of relatively affordable Sony PlayStation 3 60GB has depleted and the company currently has no plans to proceed with the model that costs $499 in the
North America market. Even though there are still consoles on store shelves, in a few weeks those, who want to obtain a PlayStation 3 will again have only $599 option.
“We no longer have any [PS3 60GB] inventory in SCEA warehouses. All inventory has been purchased and shipped to retailers. We don’t have visibility as to if that is on their store shelves or in their warehouses at this time. However, based on inventory reports from our retailers, there is ample supply still left in the channel,” said Dave Karraker, senior director of corporate communications for Sony Computer Entertainment America, in an interview with PCWorld.
Earlier it was reported that Sony PlayStation 3 60GB inventory will last till late July, however, it is highly likely that it will be available for several more weeks, giving gamers an opportunity to start using the innovative game console for $499. Still, Sony’s online inventory had been fully depleted as of early this week.
The PlayStation 3 60GB game console with price slashed to $499 helped Sony to skyrocket sales of its latest game machine in the U.S., according to a report from NPD market tracking firm. It is also likely that sales of PS3 will be high in August, but after there are no more $499 machines left, they are likely to decrease unless Sony makes discounted game console available again.
Sony’s 60GB version of PlayStation 3 game console for the U.S. market has built-in PlayStation 2 hardware, which gives it ability to play all games developed for its predecessor. On the contrary, 80GB model available today relies on software emulation technologies, meaning that its backwards compatibility is not 100%.
“We won’t be making any further announcements regarding our PS3 model hardware strategy in North America until the 60GB model is exhausted and market conditions are evaluated,” a Sony representative is reported to have said.

Ageia Tests Next-Generation PhysX Accelerators – Photos

A web-site has published photos of what it claims to be a next-generation Ageia PhysX physics processing add-in-card. The board seems to be rather huge, while the revamped physics processing unit (PPU) also seems to be large, which implies that the new board will be rather powerful.

The new Ageia PhysX card is designed for PCI Express x8/x16 slots and is much longer compared to the first incarnation of physics accelerator for personal computers and also has much more complex print-circuit board design. The new board also has external power connector, which indicates that the card has pretty high power consumption. Besides, the new Agiea PhysX sports an interface akin to that used by graphics cards that feature ATI CrossFire or Nvidia SLI multi-GPU technology.
The fact that pictures of the board emerged on the Web means that Ageia is already testing the new generation of PPUs along with its add-in-board partners.

The next-generation Ageia PhysX chip is very large and resembles Intel’s first dual-core Smithfield processor. The huge die size of the chip implies that the new chip will feature much higher performance compared to the first-generation PPU. In addition, with improved multi-PPU technology the new generation of physics processing units will offer extreme physics performance.

Ageia yet has to unveil the new incarnation of PPUs to replace the first generation of its PhysX processors unveiled in 2006. However, there are currently not a lot of games that take advantage of physics accelerators, moreover, John Carmack, the developer of legendary Doom and Quake video games, said in a recent interview that Ageia PhysX has no future.

Ageia’s PhysX is the world’s first physics processing unit (PPU), which offloads software physics processing from central processing units and graphics processing units to it. The architecture of the PhysX PPU is tailored for multi-threaded processing of vertexes, which allows game creators to develop detailed, soft and precise animation and simulation of movements, hair, clothing, liquids, fluids and other. Currently Ageia’s PhysX is the world’s first and only dedicated physics processing unit, but the company expects more startups to offer similar technology.
To take advantage of advanced capabilities the PhysX has, game developers have to create games using Novodex SDK supplied by Ageia, which requires some additional effort from them. According to Ageia, more than one hundred games designed for and supporting the Ageia PhysX processor are in development from over 60 software creators and publishers.
Ageia did not comment on the news-story.

Asustek, Gigabyte to Start Producing New AMD Platforms in September

Asustek Computer and Gigabyte Technology, two large makers of computer mainboards, plan to release mainboards powered by Advanced Micro Devices’ new-generation AMD 790 core-logic set already in September. The new chipset will support innovative technologies like PCI Express 2.0 and will support AMD’s new microprocessors based on the improved K10 micro-architecture.

According to a news-story by DigiTimes web-site, mainboards powered by AMD 790 core-logic from Asustek and Gigabyte have already “delivered design verification test (DVT) samples” to the chipmaker. The new chipset will be launched in late September and the two of the world’s largest makers of motherboards will be able to commercially released new platforms soon after the formal launch.

Earlier media reports claimed that AMD’s RD790 north bridge supports HyperTransport 3.0 bus with up to 2.6GHz clock-speed as well as 42 PCI Express 2.0 lanes (two x16 lanes for graphics cards, one x4 lane to connect to I/O controller, one x4 lane for add-in boards and two x1 lanes for add-in cards). AMD RD790 is projected to be compatible with future microprocessors in AM2+ form-factor. The chip itself is rumoured to be made using 65nm process technology by TSMC.

AMD 790, which was originally developed by ATI Technologies, will be AMD’s first high-end core-logic by AMD in years, as previously the company relied on chipsets from companies like ATI (now part of AMD), Nvidia Corp., Silicon Integrated Systems Corp., Via Technologies and so on. The new chipset will support four-way multi-GPU CrossFire technology as well as CrossFire Physics technology and will pose a threat to Nvidia nForce chipsets for AMD platform. AMD790 will be the base for next-gen AMD dual-processor FASN8 platform for enthusiasts.

Officials for AMD did not comment on the news-story.