Friday, December 21, 2007

ATI CrossFire Technology Remains Open

ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, said on Thursday that it remained committed to its open eco-system strategy with multi-GPU technology. In fact, every company, including Intel Corp., might get the ability to use the “ATI CrossFire” logotype to push their platforms, provided that they had passed a validation process.

“We remain committed to an open ATI CrossFire eco-system,” said Chris Hook, a spokesperson for AMD.

ATI CrossFire and ATI CrossFireX are multi-GPU technologies that allow several graphics processing units to work in team to double or even triple the speed of a single high-end graphics accelerator.

Intel Corp. is the arch-rival of AMD in the market of x86 central processing units (CPUs). Besides microprocessors, Intel competes against AMD with its chipsets featuring built-in graphics cores. Still, all current Intel chipsets that have two PCI Express controllers as well as future chipsets, such as Intel X48 and P45, that have reportedly passed the validation tests of AMD and can support ATI CrossFire or ATI CrossFireX multi graphics chip technology.

“We are constantly working with the third-party companies, including Intel,” said Godfrey Cheng, who is in charge of ATI CrossFire multi-GPU technology at AMD.

There's no license fee for ATI CrossFire technology, the company said.

ATI CrossFireX is an improved version ATI CrossFire multi-GPU technology that has features like 3-way, 4-way GPU rendering on a single monitor.

Set the Stakes High: First Official Online Overclocking Contest Kicks Off

For years enthusiasts of performance computing as well as so-called professional overclockers shared their achievements online with other people without getting anything in return. But Gigabyte Technology, a leading maker of various computer components and other electronics equipment, wants to change that by kicking off its overclockers’ contest with prices equal to $12 thousand.

Gigabyte wants owners of Intel P35- and Intel X38-based mainboards from Gigabyte to share their results in 3DMark06 benchmarks. Since the results depend on central processing unit’s (CPU’s) performance, those, who manage to clock their microprocessors at a highest clock-speed possible, will have a high chance to win the competition. Winners of the contest will be determined based upon the same chipset motherboard, either Intel X38 or Intel P35.

The motherboard manufacturer also demands that a video of overclocking and the process of result’s obtaining were filmed, uploaded to YouTube web-site and made available to the public. Only North American residents can participate in the contest.

The winner of the contest is promised an Intel X48-based mainboard as well as $2500 in cash. Other leading participants will get from $200 to $200 along with some other prizes.

“The top 10 video winners will also take home Gigabyte wind breakers, Omega pen and laptop protectors are also given out to add excitement to the competition,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Gigabyte’s overclocker’s contest emphasizes two important trends. Overclocking of computer components is not only becoming akin to a minor tuning of a vehicle, but may actually be seen as an essential selling point. In addition, social web-sites, such as YouTube, have gained enough credibility to pay thousands of dollars just based on a video and a benchmark number submitted.

Toshiba Reveals Laptops with Rewritable HD DVD

Toshiba Corp., a leading maker of various electronics equipment and the main backer of HD DVD high-definition video format, announced this week that on Friday it would begin to sell the world’s first portable computers with rewritable HD DVD drive. The new multimedia center notebooks will not only be able to receive TV channels and playback HD DVD, but also to record high-def shows on modern media.

The new laptops from Toshiba are Qosmio G40/97E with 17” full-HD (1920x1200) screen and Qosmio F40/88EBL with 15.4” display that supports 1280x800 resolution. Both machines will come with 2GB of DDR2 memory, hard disk drive(s) from 160GB to 200GB, built-in TV-tuner that can receive two channels to allow end-users to watch one and record another. The new Qosmio notebooks feature Intel Core 2 Duo microprocessors as well as Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics accelerators that feature acceleration of HD DVD playback as well as quality high-definition video post-processing engines.

The key feature of the new Qosmio notebooks is HD DVD RW drives, which can playback, record and re-record HD DVD media. According to Toshiba, the capability will allow its customers to record high-definition TV shows on appropriate media, which has capacity of 15GB or 30GB. In addition, people will be able to record high-definition content on normal DVD media thanks to HD Rec technology. Given that 15GB HD DVD bulk media costs about $10, whereas a 4.7GB DVD costs about $0.25, the HD DVD burning capability will hardly become truly popular in foreseeable future.

The new portable computers from Toshiba are not light and will hardly be used as mobile PCs. But since they come with remote control, their positioning seems to be a multimedia center for small flats in Japan, where notebooks have gained popularity due to space constraints.

The 17” is expected to sell for about $3500, while the 15.4” version will be priced at about $2600, reports InformationWeek web-site. Presently the new Qosmio machines are only announced for Japan and it is unclear whether and when they are set to be offered in other regions.

EVGA Kicks off Motherboard Upgrade Promotion to Promote Nvidia nForce 780i

EVGA, well-known supplier of Nvidia-based graphics cards and mainboards, has initiated a promotion under which existing owners of Nvidia nForce 680i-based mainboards will be able to upgrade their platforms to those based on Nvidia nForce 780i. The program will allow original purchasers of rather expensive motherboards to get support of PCI Express 2.0 as well as Intel’s 45nm chips for $89 or €79.

The owners, who are interested in upgrading to an EVGA 780i mainboard, should register their EVGA 680i mainboards at EVGA web-site, fill-in a special upgrade form on the company’s web-site and send her or his EVGA 680i mainboard to the company in “like new condition” with all the accessories. The campaign is only available to those, who own fully-featured EVGA 680i platforms and those, whereas EVGA 122-CK-NF68-RX “will not be eligible for this promotion as this was sold as a recertified product”.

When the firm receives the motherboard and identifies that it works without issues and was not modified in any way, the vendor will charge $89 or €79, depending on end-user’s location, and send EVGA 780i platform back to the customer.

Present EVGA 680i owners will receive the following for their money:

* New EVGA 780i mainboard with two PCI Express 2.0 and one PCI Express 1.1 slots that supports ESA capability;
* 3-way SLI Bridge ($20 or €14 value);
* Free ground shipping ($10 or €7 value);
* New upgrade warranty (A1 lifetime/T1 2 year warranty).

EVGA’s intention to upgrade its Nvidia nForce 680i mainboards is a logical move to keep its motherboard customers loyal. Since Nvidia nForce 780i core-logic cannot provide a lot of innovations and its benefits compared to its predecessor are limited to support of 45nm microprocessors by Intel Corp. as well as rather inferior implementation of PCI Express 2.0 (via a PCI Express hub), hardly a lot of EVGA customers would upgrade at full price.

EVGA’s promotion campaign is subject to terms and conditions and will last for about two months.

Intel Sells off Telecom Optical Platform Assets to Emcore

Emcore Corp. and Intel Corp. have announced a definitive agreement for Emcore to acquire the telecom-related portion of Intel’s optical platform division. The acquisition will enhance Emcore’s presence in the telecommunications market and expand its fiber optics product portfolio, allowing Emcore to provide telecom clients with a broader product lineup. The sale of the division will allow Intel to concentrate on its core initiatives.

Under the terms of the transaction Intel will receive $85 million. The telecom assets to be acquired include intellectual property, assets and technology relating to tunable lasers, tunable transponders, 300-pin transponders and integrable tunable laser assemblies. The transaction is subject to regulatory review and certain other closing conditions, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008.

“The optical telecom components business continues to be an attractive market opportunity, but we believe this business and its assets are an optimal fit with Emcore. The two companies will work together following the close of the transaction to complete a smooth transition of the business,” said Doug Davis, vice president, Intel digital enterprise group, and general manager, embedded and communications group.

The sale of these telecom-related assets enables Intel to focus its investments on core communications and embedded market segments in line with its platform strategies. In addition to this announced transaction, Intel is currently exploring strategic alternatives regarding the enterprise-focused portion of its Optical Platform Division.

“We are excited about this acquisition and the opportunity to continue building upon Intel’s leading tunable laser technology, strong product quality and history of customer service and satisfaction. The acquired assets should drive substantial product cost reduction, and the combined product portfolio should enable Emcore to gain a greater share of customer spending. Emcore estimates these assets will generate $65 million of revenue in 2008, and believes this acquisition will accelerate its path to earnings per share profitability as expected in mid-2008,” said Reuben Richards, chief executive of Emcore.

Toshiba’s Next-Generation HDTVs to Use Rambus’ XDR Memory

Toshiba Corp., a leading designer and producer of consumer electronics, this week said that it had licensed XDR memory technology from Rambus, a leading designer of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and interface technologies. Toshiba plans to use XDR memory along with its next-generation core-logic for high-definition televisions (HDTVs).

Toshiba has licensed its XDR memory controller interface cell (XIO) and XDR memory controller (XMC) for next-generation high-definition television (HDTV) chipsets. The XIO and XMC will be implemented in Toshiba’s 65nm process and XDR memory will operate at 4800MHz. The new HDTVs are projected to be based either on the Cell processor developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, or Spurs Engine processor, which was developed by Toshiba; or derivatives of the aforementioned.

Higher memory performance as delivered by the XDR architecture enables the advanced features of next-generation HDTVs such as 1080p+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rates, 12-bit color, multiple full HD Picture-in-Picture (PiP) data streams, and advanced image enhancement algorithms, said Rambus. Toshiba did not unveil any details concerning its next-gen HDTVs.

Rambus solutions are backed by comprehensive engineering support services that range from chip design to system integration. XDR DRAM licensees include Elpida Memory, Qimonda AG, and Samsung Electronics.

“HDTVs now require as much memory bandwidth as many PCs in order to deliver the advanced features consumers demand. With the XDR memory architecture, we are able to achieve both superior performance and a reduced bill of materials for our customers’ HDTV applications,” said Hideki Moriyama, deputy general manager of the system LSI division at Toshiba’s Semiconductor Company.

Intel Set to Postpone Introduction of New Quad-Core Microprocessors

Intel Corp. may postpone the actual release of its quad-core microprocessors produced using 45nm process technology due to an undisclosed defect and the fact that both Intel and its partners have a lot of central processing units (CPUs) with four processing engines made using 65nm tech in stock. It is unclear whether the delay will affect the world’s largest x86 chipmaker financially.

Initially Intel planned to roll-out its code-named Wolfdale and Yorkfield microprocessors that are projected to be marketed under Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme brand-names on the 10th of January, 2008. But the plans have changed and, according to a news-story at HKEPC web-site, Intel will only be able to release dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo 8000-series (Wolfdale) processors in February, while Intel Core 2 Quad 9000-series (Yorkfield) will only see the light of the day in February or March.

The media report claims that Intel has discovered a “slight processor system bus defect” in its quad-core processors code-named Yorkfield. In addition, there are Intel Core 2 Quad 6000-series processors made at 65nm process technology, which are still unbeatable by AMD Phenom rivals with four processing engines. In fact, the release of the Intel Core Q9000-series chips would negatively affect sales of already available quad-core products.

Currently Intel commercially ships a family of processors made using 45nm process technology, which includes its Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 processor for high-end desktops and workstations as well as a lineup of various Intel Xeon processors with two or four processing engines for dual-pcoressor workstations.

Each of Intel’s dual-core central processing units made using 45nm process technology have 410 million transistors, up significantly from 291 million of current dual-core Conroe processors, however, thanks to 45nm process technology, the chips will have die size of 107 square millimeters, down about 25% from 155 square millimeters of the Conroe, which means significant cost reduction. Intel’s quad-core chips consist of two dual-core dice on a single piece of substrate.

Intel’s new CPUs produced using 45nm process technology have greater instructions per clock (IPC) execution, which means that they will be faster and more efficient even at the same clock-speeds with the current generation chips. Besides, the new chips should be able to run at higher clock-speeds compared to today’s Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad products.

The major micro-architectural improvements for new Intel Core 2 processors, besides SSE4 instruction set, include the so-called Unique Super Shuffle Engine and Radix 16 technique. The Super Shuffle Engine is a full-width, single-pass shuffle unit that is 128-bits wide, which can perform full-width shuffles in a single cycle. This significantly improves performance for SSE2, SSE3 and SSE4 instructions that have shuffle-like operations such as pack, unpack and wider packed shifts. This feature will increase performance for content creation, imaging, video and high-performance computing. Radix 16 technique, according to Intel, roughly doubles the divider speed over previous generations for computations used in nearly all applications. In addition, Intel also improved virtualization technology as well as added some features to dynamic acceleration technology, which is supposed to boost single-threaded applications’ performance on multi-core chips.

AMD Unleashes AMD Phenom Microprocessor for Overclockers

Advanced Micro Devices on Wednesday announced its new AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition microprocessor designed specifically for gamers and overclockers and which performance can be customized using AMD’s OverDrive utility directly from Microsoft Windows operating system.

Quad-core AMD Phenom processor 9600 Black Edition will operate at 2.30GHz clock-speed, 2MB shared L3 cache and 512KB dedicated L2 cache per core and will have support for dual-channel PC2-8500 (DDR2 1066MHz), just like the typical AMD Phenom 9600 chip. However, the Black Edition processor has unlocked clock multiplier, which allows enthusiasts to clock the new chip higher than 2.30GHz without any issues that are associated with overclocking.

The customizable clock multiplier and auto-adjustable memory frequency of the new chip enables amateurs and value-conscious enthusiasts to maximize the performance of their desktop computers without substantial hassles. Typically enthusiasts have to increase base HyperTransport bus speed from default 200MHz, which eventually causes not only CPU clock-speed boost, but also alters HT bus and memory frequency, meaning that other components apart from the microprocessor also should be able to handle increased speeds. Previously customizable clock multiplier were only available on high-end AMD Athlon 64 FX processors that used to retail for as much as $1000 per chip.

The newest Black Edition processor from AMD enables customizable platform performance with AMD OverDrive software, a comprehensive Windows-based performance tuning utility. Previously AMD Athlon 64 X2 Black Edition chips could only be overclocked using BIOS settings of a mainboard, which might not be convenient enough for some end-users. Nevertheless, AMD stressed that it is not responsible for damages caused by overclocking even when overclocking is enabled with AMD OverDrive.

According to a statement by AMD, the AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition central processing unit has the same price as previously introduced AMD Phenom 9600, or $283 in 1000-unit quantities.