AMD today announced the availability of a new six-core desktop processor and platform to accompany it, which includes a new chipset and support for hobbyists who like to tweak their processors to the limits of their heat sink and warranty.
The Phenom II X6, codenamed "Thuban," ranges in clock speed from 2.4GHz to 3.2GHz and has a new feature called Turbo Core that turns off unused cores and gives more clock speed to the few cores in use. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) offers a similar feature it calls TurboBoost on select processors. In the case of Thuban, AMD said it can offer about 400MHz to 500MHz more per core. So the top-end part can hit 3.6GHz, according to Adam Kozak, platform marketing manager for desktops at AMD (NYSE: AMD).
The Turbo Core technology monitors the power levels of the processor, so it knows when cores are being shut off from disuse. As the cores are "falling asleep," Turbo Core kicks in, keeping the processor in its existing thermal levels. It does not require a new cooling fan and older motherboards may be able to support it, said Kozak. Those that can support it will need to perform a BIOS upgrade.
Even without the Turbo Core feature, AMD expects a 40- to 50-percent performance improvement over its quad-cores. "We saw the jump from one to two cores had a nice improvement, almost 100 percent. From two cores to four, the uptick was a little slower, but what we've seen recently is a lot of application developers are starting to ... divvy up their workload for however many cores you've got," he told InternetNews.com.
The applications that will benefit most from six cores will likely be content rendering, such as audio and video, and gaming. If that performance is not enough, AMD is updating its OverDrive software used to tweak CPU performance. The System Diagram tab shows the system in totality, from CPU and bus speeds to voltages and fan speeds. Users can tweak every chip in their system, including the I/O and chipset.
With the Phenom II X6, AMD is releasing the new 8-series chipset. The 890 chipset supports 6Gbit/sec throughput and more PCI Express slots, either two 16x slots or four 8x slots. This can be used to chain a number of ATI graphics cards for high-speed GPU computing. The 8-series chipset also supports up to four graphics cards in one PC for just that reason.
The Phenom II X6 is socket compatible with any AM2+ or AM3 motherboard and is compatible with existing thermal levels, so current heat sinks and power supplies will support the processor.
There are two six-core processors available. The flagship is the Phenom II X6 1090T "Black Edition," which is shipped with none of its clocks locked, so overclockers can go wild. The 3.2GHz processor draws 125 watts, has 6MB of L3 cache and a 4GHz HyperTransport bus. Price is $295 in lots of 1,000.
By contrast, Intel's recently-released six-core/12-thread desktop processor, the Core i7 980, sells for $999. One Intel feature AMD's chips don't match is Hyper-Threading, which allows for simultaneous execution of two threads per core.
The Phenom II X6 1055T is the same as its bigger brother in all specs save its clock speed of 2.8GHz. It costs $199.
Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.
Western Digital boasts that its 300GB VelociRaptor is the world's fastest SATA hard drive ... except for the 600GB VelociRaptor announced today, which combines double the capacity with up to 15 percent more performance.
Designed for high-performance PCs, workstations, and blade servers, the 2.5-inch VelociRaptor is the only 10,000-rpm SATA drive on the market. The new 600GB and 450GB models pair a SATA 6Gb/sec interface with 32MB of cache and what WD calls the highest available reliability rating on a high-capacity SATA drive -- an enterprise-class 1.4 million hours MTBF.
Retail versions of the drive come in an IcePack mounting frame that fits into a standard 3.5-inch system bay and features a built-in heat sink to help keep the drive cool. The 450GB and 600GB VelociRaptors are priced at $299 and $329, respectively.
Nvidia has launched -- or slightly pre-launched, since cards won't reach retailers till mid-April -- the first products in its new "Fermi" line of graphics processing units. The GeForce GTX 470 and flagship GTX 480 cards are expected to sell for around $350 and $500, respectively.
Besides setting new benchmark speed records in DirectX 11 games, the Fermi GPUs promise ultra-photorealistic scenes and effects, with high-speed 32X antialiasing to smooth edges and interactive ray tracing never before available from a consumer product. An SLI setup with a pair of the new cards supports three-monitor, 5,760 by 1,080 surround stereoscopic 3D using Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses and compatible monitors.
Such a setup will also require at least a 1,000-watt power supply; Nvidia recommends that a desktop have a minimum 550-watt PSU for the 448-processing-core GTX 470 and a 600-watt PSU for the 480-core GTX 480. Each dual-slot card has one Mini HDMI and two dual-link DVI-I outputs.
IT managers and system builders seeking a compelling alternative to a 7,200 rpm hard drive can check out the SanDisk G3 SSD -- a flash-memory solid-state drive that opens files up to twice as fast, boasting sequential performance of up to 220MB/sec read and 120MB/sec write. The 120GB and 60GB models of the drive are priced at $400 and $230, respectively.
With no moving parts and backed by a 10-year limited warranty, the 120GB SanDisk G3 can endure up to 80TB of data written to it over its lifetime. A smart flash management system called ExtremeFFS accelerates random write performance and extends the drive's endurance, while Windows 7 TRIM support helps retain optimized performance.
Solid-state drives are fast by definition, but OCZ Technology Group's new Vertex Limited Edition (LE) is something special: Not only is it the company's fastest multilevel cell (MLC) flash drive to date, but it'll be available for only a brief time.
Designed for the most demanding applications, the Vertex LE delivers transfer rates of up to 270MB/sec read and 250MB/sec write and reaches 15,000 IOPS (4K random write), promoting excellent throughput and ultra-responsive performance. The SATA 3Gb/sec 2.5-inch drive is offered in 100GB and 200GB capacities and includes Windows 7 TRIM support to optimize performance over the SSD's lifespan.
OCZ will offer Vertex LE through its network of distribution partners over the next few weeks. Prices have not been announced.
AMD has added an energy-efficient, low-profile card to its ATI Radeon HD 5000 series of DirectX 11-capable graphics cards. The Radeon HD 5570 (approximately $85) is tailor-made for small-form-factor PCs and home theater systems destined for what AMD calls "Eye-Definition entertainment."
In addition to DirectX 11 and earlier game titles, the 5570 supports ATI Eyefinity multidisplay technology for two- or (with a DisplayPort monitor and adapter) three-screen computing, as well as ATI Stream technology that helps speed video transcoding and playback performance with applications such as Adobe Flash. HDMI 1.3a with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio support ensure a premium media PC experience. AMD suggests that OEMs team the 5570 card with the power-thrifty Phenom II X4 905e processor and an AMD 7 Series chipset.
You only have 10 fingers, but if you had 26, Microsoft's SideWinder X4 keyboard could keep up with you: That's how many keys can be pressed at once, thanks to anti-ghosting technology that independently scans each key and recognizes each press no matter how many other keys are hit at the same time. The result lets gamers execute key combinations with all the skill and speed they possess.
Shipping in March for $60, the X4 features macro recording that can string multiple moves into one press of a button, while a new automatic macro repetition feature lets users repeat the macro as needed with one key. Mode and profile switching provide easy ways to customize the keyboard for different games and users. Adjustable backlighting is standard too.
Multiple display specialist Matrox Graphics has introduced dual Graphics eXpansion Module (GXM) support to drive more monitors from a single PC. A second GXM can now be connected to the secondary output of a supported dual-monitor graphics card so two DualHead2Go GXMs can power up to four outputs in 2x2 or 4x1 modes, while two TripleHead2Go GXMs allow six displays in either a 3x2 or 6x1 setup.
A maximum of two GXMs of the same make and model can be connected to a supported graphics card. Stretched desktop mode is available with Matrox M-Series cards, while independent desktop support is available with M-Series, ATI HD 2000 and newer, ATI FireMV/GL, Nvidia 8-Series and newer, and Nvidia Quadro models. (See Matrox's compatibility page for details.)
The DualHead2Go GXM costs $169 for the Analog or $229 for a Digital or DisplayPort Edition. TripleHead2Go Digital and DP Editions are $329 each.
IBM researchers in Zurich, working with recording media scientists at Fujifilm, have demonstrated a world record in areal density on linear magnetic tape -- storing 29.5 billion bits per square inch, enough for a theoretical tape cartridge that holds 35 terabytes of uncompressed data.
Often considered an antique next to optical, hard, and solid-state drives, magnetic tape is still a popular archive medium for its low cost per megabyte and high energy efficiency (tape cartridges in jukebox-style library slots don't consume energy, unlike spinning disk drives).
To set the record, Fujifilm developed dual-coat magnetic tape with ultra-fine, perpendicularly oriented barium ferrite particles, just one-third the volume of current metal particles, while IBM contributed advanced servo control technologies, read/write head assemblies, and signal-processing algorithms to increase storage density almost fortyfold. A 35TB version of today's LTO Generation 4 cartridge could hold enough text to fill 248 miles of bookshelves.
AMD has introduced the ATI Radeon HD 5670, a graphics card that brings Microsoft DirectX 11 gaming to a $99 price point. The bargain brother of the Radeon HD 5970, 5800, and 5700 series, the 512MB card supports ATI Stream technology for accelerated video transcoding and HD playback, while ATI Eyefinity enables up to three displays to be used with a single Radeon HD 5670 card (one DisplayPort monitor or adapter required for more than two displays).
According to AMD, the card delivers up to 620 gigaflops of computing power and GDDR5 memory, beating Nvidia's GT 240 by at least 20 percent in a selection of today's most popular games as well as the latest DirectX 11 titles like Codemaster's Colin McRae: DiRT 2 and EA Phenomic's BattleForge. The company boasts that it has shipped 2 million DirectX 11 graphics chips to date.