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Galaxy Note II Quick Impressions and Tidbits

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Hardware, Mobile | 0 comments

It’s been a month since I switched to a Galaxy Note II from a Galaxy Nexus and I couldn’t be any happier. Compared to the Nexus, the Note II is a huge upgrade in nearly every way, and I’m not just talking about the Note II’s massive screen.

PROS

The Galaxy Note II has a speedy quad-core processor, along with a capable GPU, extremely long battery life, the S-Pen functionality, and best of all, a MicroSDXC slot for additional storage capacity. While the Galaxy Nexus is still a great phone, it was starting to show it’s age as a smartphone, as it is fast approaching the two-year mark. The one thing I will miss is the huge selection of custom ROMs and the strong developer support of the Galaxy Nexus, as the development scene for the Galaxy Note II seriously pales in comparison.

BUGS & CONS

With a limited choice of ROMs available for the Verizon Galaxy Note II, I’ve have been experimenting with several ROMs, including ROMs based on 4.1.2 TouchWiz and 4.2.2 AOSP. Having come from the Galaxy Nexus, my heart was already set on using a AOSP-based ROM, such as AOKP and ParanoidAndroid. While AOSP ROMs run extremely fast on the Note II, I found that many of them had some serious bugs & limitations that really dampen the functionality of the Note II, particularly the S-Pen functionality. Another major issue I found was that the battery life on AOSP ROMs was significantly reduced in comparison to TouchWiz ROMs.

While I am not a big fan of TouchWiz, I have decided to settle on CleanROM 4.9 by Scott’s ROMs, as it seems that AOSP ROMs are not quite up to par with TouchWiz ROMs on the Note II.

BUGS

I’m still experimenting with I recently flashed a new ROM on my Verizon Galaxy Note II.  However, I noticed that I lost USB connectivity with the phone, as my computer would not detect the Note II. Interestingly, the Note II would still charge. Thanks to a post by Jack Mai over at the Android Central forums, I was able to restore USB PC detection by accessing one of the Note II’s hidden menus and resetting the USB configuration of the phone. To gain access to this menu, dial in the following code: *#7284#

Here, you will see options for UART and USB, as well as a button that says “Qualcomm USB Settings.” Make sure both of the UART and USB settings are set to PDA. Click on “Qualcomm USB Settings” and select the MTP + ADB option. Once set, press the “SAVE and RESET” button and your Note II will reboot. Once rebooted, USB functionality should be restored to your Note II. Kudos goes to Jack Mai over at the Android Central forums for posting this solution.

CONCLUSION

The Galaxy Note II is easily one of the best smartphones I have ever owned. While the 5.5″ screen was initially intimidating, I now find it to be just perfect for my use; I actually have to squint when using phones with smaller screen sizes. The performance, battery life, audio & screen quality, the capabilities of the S-Pen, have all been nothing but excellent. If you’re considering a reliable Android-powered smartphone and don’t mind the screen size, the Galaxy Note II may be just the right phone for you. Read More

Apple WWDC 2013 Recap

Apple WWDC 2013 Recap

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in Hardware, Mobile, News, Software | 0 comments

For those that missed out on Apple’s WWDC 2013 Keynote in San Francisco yesterday, here are the major points:


  •  iOS7: The newest version of iOS introduces major graphic and UI changes. This was a change that was greatly needed, as the iOS UI was feeling increasingly stale and outdated, especially when compared to the Holo UI found in recent Android OS releases, 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and 4.1-4.2 (JellyBean). Interestingly, some of the visual changes seem to take a cue from the TouchWiz UX 2.0 interface found in Samsung’s Galaxy S3/S4/Note II phones.
  • MacOS X 10.9 Mavericks: The next version of the venerable OS X was also unveiled. Aside from updates to Safari, iCloud, etc., there were no significant UI changes in Mavericks. The most significant announcement for OS X Mavericks was that it was optimized to be more energy efficient.
  • MacBook Air Haswell Refresh: As expected, Apple refreshed their entire MacBook Air lineup, replacing Ivy Bridge with Haswell. As we’ve seen from the Haswell launch earlier this month, the refreshed MacBook Air models with Haswell will offer greater battery life than previous MacBook Air models. Apple claims that the 13″ model can last up to 12 hours on a single charge.
  • Mac Pro’s New Design: Apple also showcased the new Mac Pro workstation, which sports a significant chassis change from previous Mac Pros. The new Mac Pro is cylindrical and robotic-looking, resembling R2D2 from Star Wars. I’m not sure if I dig the new design, as it looks rather silly than modern/futuristic. Still, it would be interesting to see the thermal cooling aspects of the new chassis. Aside from the chassis, the specs are certainly impressive, boasting a 12-core, Ivy Bridge-based Intel Xeon E5 processor, along with multi-GPU support, PCI Express 3.0, Thunderbolt 2.0 and more.
  • iTunes Radio Streaming: As expected, Apple unveiled it’s new music streaming service, in response to Google’s Play Music streaming service that was released last month.
While it was nice to see that Apple unveiled the new iOS7 and refreshed the MacBook Air with Haswell, I can’t but help feel underwhelmed. With Apple’s mobile marketshare and sales taking a beating from Google’s Android devices, many were hoping to see some significant changes to the iPhone and iPad lineup, but such updates were surprisingly absent from the WWDC.

For those interested in watching the full Apple WWDC 2013 Keynote, you can find the video over at Apple’s website here: Apple Events – WWDC 2013 Keynote

Source:
AnandTech – WWDC 13 Keynote Blog Live
IGN – Apple WWDC 2013 Recap: iOS 7, iTunes Radio, and the Mac Pro Read More

It’s Haswell Day!

It’s Haswell Day!

Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 in Hardware, News | 0 comments

It’s the first day of June and the NDAs on Haswell have expired, meaning we finally get to see all the performance comparisons, benchmarks, and details on Intel’s fourth generation Core-i architecture! The usual suspects have their reviews up already:

AnandTech – The Haswell Review: Intel Core i7-4770K & i5-4670K Tested
Guru3D – Core i7 4770K processor review
TechReport – Haswell compared to… everything
[H]ard|OCP – Intel Haswell i7-4770K IPC and Overclocking Review
Tom’s Hardware – The Core i7-4770K Review: Haswell Is Faster; Desktop Enthusiasts Yawn

For those that have not been following Haswell, it is Intel’s 22nm ‘tock’ in the tick-tock schedule that Intel has been pursuing since 2005, meaning that Haswell is a brand new architecture. Like previous ‘tocks’ (Sandy Bridge, Nehalem, Conroe), Haswell brings about some major improvements, particularly with power consumption and integrated graphics performance. From the reviews I’ve gone through so far, Haswell seems to be 5-15% faster per clock than Ivy Bridge, depending on the application. In comparison to Sandy Bridge and Nehalem, the performance increase is up to 25% and 40% respectively.

Along with the performance increases, Intel has improved power use efficiency with Haswell, providing vendors more opportunities to produce laptops and tablets that have a much longer battery life than with previous Intel processsor generations. Haswell also introduces some new CPU instructions, such as AVX2, which gives Haswell the potential to perform almost twice as fast than Ivy Bridge if AVX2 is fully utilized in an application.

The only place where Haswell seems to fall short is overclocking. Overclocking enthusiasts are running into high temperature issues when cranking up the voltage and are seeing the overclocking range at 4.0 – 4.5 GHz on average. Intel seems to be using the exact same TIM that was used on Ivy Bridge (which also had similar thermal issues when overclocking). For those intent on extreme overclocking with Haswell, delidding the processor seems to be necessary to reach higher clocks.

All in all, the new Haswell family seems to be a great upgrade, especially for those that are using a Core 2 or Nehalem-based Core-i7 setup. Read More

NVIDIA Launches the GeForce GTX 780 at $649

NVIDIA Launches the GeForce GTX 780 at $649

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Hardware, News | 0 comments

NVIDIA officially launched the GeForce GTX 780 today, the newest addition to NVIDIA’s high-end graphics lineup.

The GeForce GTX 780 doesn’t introduce any new technology or a new GPU chipset, as it is a part of the Kepler family. The GTX 780 also uses the same GK110 GPU that was introduced a few months earlier with the GeForce Titan, but it has been slightly gimped, with lesser amount of steam processors and texture units. As a result, the GTX 780 is slower than the Titan, but not by much.

Benchmarks of the GeForce GTX 780 can be found at several hardware sites:

Sources:
AnandTech – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Review: The New High End
The Tech Report – Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 780 graphics card reviewed
[H]ard|OCP – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Review
Guru3D – GeForce 780 GTX Review
Hexus.net – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Read More

AMD Stocks Rise on Intel Buyout Rumor

AMD Stocks Rise on Intel Buyout Rumor

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Hardware, News | 0 comments

Stocks on AMD rose significantly today, up 14% at $3.22, it’s largest increase since July 2011. The cause? Apparently, tech investors on Wall Street caught wind of rumors of a possible AMD buyout from rival Intel.

Over the years, most tech enthusiasts, including myself, usually wouldn’t even give such rumors a second thought. A purchase of AMD by Intel would most likely be blocked by the FTC, due to anti-trust laws; it would leave Intel in control over the entire desktop and server processor market without competition. While I still believe that such a purchase will not happen, several tech investors believe that anti-trust would no longer be an issue, as AMD’s ability to compete head-on with Intel has diminished significantly in the last seven years, as well as the desktop computing market increasingly losing steam to the mobile computing market, where ARM processors currently dominate.

However, if a purchase of AMD by Intel does occur without being blocked by the FTC, there would be several consequences, of which I list below:

1.) Higher processor prices. Without competition from AMD, Intel would be free to set any price on their desktop and server processors.
2.) Innovation slowing down. Without competition from AMD, Intel may decide to slow down processor innovations. A perfect example is the computer audio market, in which computer audio technology stagnated for a significant amount of time, after Creative bought out it’s main and only rival, Aureal.
3.) Delays in the release of new processors. Without competition from AMD, Intel may decide to delay the release of new processors, as it would not be pressured into obsoleting it’s own products too quickly.
4.) Drop in competition in the GPU market. A purchase of AMD would also mean acquiring AMD’s entire graphics division. While it’s possible that Intel could continue AMD’s pursuit of the mid and high-end GPU market, it could put nVIDIA into a difficult situation, depending on how Intel approaches the GPU market. Either way, it would leave the GPU desktop/laptop/server market with two major GPU manufacturers, instead of three.

For these reasons, I would be very much opposed to a AMD buyout by Intel as it would essentially hurt us consumers in the end.

While a purchase by Intel is unlikely, there is still a possibility that AMD may be acquired by someone else, as AMD continues to struggle with cash flow issues. However, any purchase of AMD from another entity would have to be dealt with carefully, as it would mean that AMD would lose it’s x86 license and the license is not transferable (as per Intel-AMD’s x86 cross-licensing agreement).

Sources:
The Wall Street Journal – Chart of the Day: AMD Shares Spike
MarketWatch – AMD surges as Intel, XBox talk surfaces: report

 




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TechPulse 2013

TechPulse 2013

Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in General, Hardware, Mobile, Software, Virtualization | 0 comments


A cloudy, yet warm morning in St. Paul, Minnesota at the RiverCentre.

A cloudy, yet warm morning in St. Paul, Minnesota at the RiverCentre.


Good morning, everyone! It’s a cloudy, yet warm morning here in St. Paul, Minnesota! I will be at the River Centre in St. Paul today, covering this year’s TechPulse 2013 event! TechPulse is a technology based conference that is held annually in St. Paul, covering the latest IT technologies for small business and enterprise usage.

Stay tuned for updates throughout the day!

8:30 AM – 9:15 AM: Welcome Presentation

TechPulse presenters opening TechPulse 2013 and what's to come throughout the day.

TechPulse presenters opening TechPulse 2013 and what’s to come throughout the day.


Welcome presentation begins with two speakers, introducing TechPulse 2013, discussing today’s breakout sessions and the end of the day prizes. The speakers also discussed about the challenges IT firms face these days and presented several topographical charts of current and future IT infrastructures.

9:15 – 9:30 AM: Break

At Belkin's booth, with several of their networking products on display.

At Belkin’s booth, with several of their networking products on display.


The TechPulse staff had issues with printing out name tags this morning, but after getting registered, I was able to pick up my tag without issue. Checked out a few booths, such as Dell, D-Link, Belkin, and Microsoft. Dell’s booth mostly centered on their enterprise solutions, cloud computing, SonicWall Firewall solutions, etc. Microsoft’s booth was a bit sparse, with a MS Surface device on display. D-Link’s booth was a bit more interesting, presenting a lot of different IP and video security products. As for Belkin, they had a few network technologies on display, such as their router lineup.

9:30 – 10:15: Welcome to the Paradigm of Tablet Computing
Speaker: Jeffrey Funk | Lenovo

Jeffrey Funk discussing the different attributes of tablets.

Jeffrey Funk discussing the different attributes of tablets.


Jeffrey Funk opened the session by discussing about the wide range of tablets of different configurations, such as platforms, interfaces, screen sizes, applications, etc. He focused on the implications of tablets in an IT environment and brought up five questions:

* What will be supported? (integration, security, support)
* What will be the primary use? (device strengths, transferable experience)
* What is the ideal screen size? (ergonomic, viewing size, work space)
* What are the primary applications? (primary use., native app, app choices)
* What is the main interaction? (keyboard, pen, capacitive touch)

With these questions, Jeffrey focused on the strengths of tablets and the beneficial roles that they could play in the workplace.

10:15 – 10:30 AM: Break

TechPulse 2013 bustling with attendees.

TechPulse 2013 bustling with attendees.


After the first session, I visited some more booths, such as WatchGuard, which had several interesting hardware security routers on display. There were also some non-tech booths available, such as Wildlife Preservation and autism-related booths.

10:30 – 11:15 AM: Securing Networks in a Virtual, Cloudy World
Speaker: Corey Nachreiner | WatchGuard

Corey Nachreiner demonstrating a Web 2.0 attack running on a virtualized platform.

Corey Nachreiner demonstrating a Web 2.0 attack running on a virtualized platform.


Corey Nachreiner began the session by giving a presentation quick history overview of virtualization and where it is today. He discussed about the common virtualization platforms and the typical virtualization infrastructures found in IT environments these days.

Corey then stressed the importance of securing virtualization platforms and how much of these platforms are not being secured properly. He cited different examples of highly publicized exploits, such as the Zeus bot network and the Sony PSN security breach and how hackers took advantage of virtualization platforms for their malicious attacks. He noted that with the rise of Web 2.0 platforms and applications, the risk of web security exploits are higher than ever.

An example Web 2.0 web attack on a virtualized platform was then demoed. Corey ran three VMs (Windows 7, Back Track 5rd Linux distro, and Linux terminal) and used an XSS exploit on a fake social media website to demonstrate how a cross-browser attack works in the background.

Afterwords, Corey discussed several ways of securing virtualization platforms, such as keeping hypervisors updated, and applying common practice server security approaches on VMs.

11:15 – 11:30 AM: Break

Lenovo hybrid laptops on display at the Lenovo area.

Lenovo hybrid laptops on display at the Lenovo area.


I checked out the Lenovo booth, where they had several of their ThinkCentre workstations and ThinkPad laptops and tablets on display.

11:30 – 12:15 PM: Iterative Website Development
Speakers: Charles Goodman & Dan Feller | Plaudit Design

As I am currently transitioning from an IT role to more of a mobile/web developer role, I decided to attend the Iterative Website Development session, presented by Charles Goodman & Dan Feller from Plaudit Design. The session was much more marketing-orientated rather than developer-orientated, but still a great session, as Charles and Dan covered a lot of great ideas that companies should be doing for their website marketing.

The following below is an outline of what the session covered:

  • Introduction to Iterative Website Development
  • Web Site Approaches
  • Stagnant
  1. Business misrepresented.
  2. Outdated technology.
  3. Doesn’t fulfill audience needs.
  4. Results in an eventual costly overhaul.
  • Active
  1. Accurate representation.
  2. Takes advantage of technology.
  3. Fulfills audience needs.
  4. Spreads out expenses and delivers results faster.
  • Iterative Methodology
  1. Opportunity -> Brainstorm -> Plan -> Implement -> Measure
  • Benefits
  1. Less investments with time and money.
  2. Easer to measure small changes.
  3. Easier to plan and manage small changes vs. ramifications of modifying an entire site at once.
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO) benefits.
  • When Full Redesign is Appropriate
  1. Web design out of date.
  2. Website tech is old, unusable, phased out.
  3. Website does not meet business needs or does not reflect company.
  • Types of Changes (Branding / Design)
  1. Logo.
  2. Colors.
  3. Fonts.
  4. Photography.
  5. Minor stylistic changes.
  6. Layout adjustments.
  7. Structure and content.
  8. Adding, removing, and moving content sections/categories.
  9. Content – Copy and messages.
  • Functionality and Experience
  1. Improvements to specific elements.
  2. Adding a new interactive element.
  3. Upgrading technology as the web evolves.
  • Process
  1. Sholom iterative website example.
  • Step 1: Identify Opportunity
  1. Analytic data.
  2. Feedback or surveys.
  3. External inspiration.
  • Step 2: Brainstorm Solutions
  1. Research possible causes / improvements.
  2. Analyze.
  3. Generate a list of ideas.
  4. Select implementation(s).
  • Step 3: Plan
  1. Outline implementation.
  2. Define how to measure success.
  3. Gather resources (e.g. content).
  4. Create a schedule.
  • Step 4: Implement
  1. Design.
  2. Develop.
  3. Review.
  4. Launch.
  • Step 5: Measure Results.
  1. Use analytics and context.
  2. Determine if goals were met.
  3. Adjust your theory.
  • Analyze Results
  1. Google Analytics.
  2. Survey Results.
  • Parallel Design Model (A/B Testing)
  1. Advanced testing method.
  2. Applies to any type of update.
  3. Applies to any size of update.
  4. Solves implementation debates.
  5. Great for optimizing user experience.
  6. Website needs to be consistently updated.
  • Tips
  1. Improve existing material.
  2. Start small.
  3. Define goals and measure.
  4. Intuition is important when theorizing, but trust your data.
  5. Balance data and context.
Off to lunch!

12:15 – 2:00 PM: Lunch & Keynote Speakers

The lunch provided at TechPulse was pretty formal, as we were served a full course meal, which included a Ceasar salad, a choice of Rosemary chicken breast, steak, or pasta, and a small dessert. While elaborate, the meal itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but was a nice experience nonetheless, as it allowed for the ability to chit-chat with other TechPulse visitors that were seated at our table.

During lunch, a presentation on improvisation in the workplace was given by three keynote speakers: Mark Bergren, Molly Cox, and Jim Detmar. These three individuals are the authors behind “Improvise This!: How to Think on Your Feet so You Don’t Fall on Your Face“, a book which is devoted to introducing improvisation to the workplace to achieve dramatic changes in the workplace and life in general. They spoke about several different aspects of improvisation and performed live skits to demonstrate such techniques. The speakers invited several people from the audience to participate in the improv activities, resulting in some humorous skits.

2:00 – 2:15 PM: Break

Before the final breakout session, I deposited all the lottery tickets (for the prize giveaway event at the end of TechPulse) and took the opportunity to visit a few more booths.

FRSecure had an interesting laptop hacking demo setup at their booth, as they demonstrated that they could bypass a password secured login screen in Windows 7 using available hacking scripts available online. The demonstrator loaded the exploit on the USB drive, restarted the laptop, and booted directly to the USB drive to load the script. Once loaded, the demonstrator used the available options in the script to wipe out the Administrator password and was able to login into the Windows 7 partition easily after performing the exploit. Their main point was that without encrypting the hard drive, it was possible to get access to laptop data, no matter how complex the password was.

2:15 – 3:00 PM: Basics of Network Infrastructure and Demystifying Wireless Design
Speaker: Dan Skrove | D-Link

In this session, Dan Skrove from D-Link discussed the basics of network and wireless infrastructures. He began with a brief history on networking technology, eventually leading into a discussion of different types of network switches that are commonly found in today’s workplace. Dan pointed out the differences between unmanaged and managed switches, as well as the pros and cons for each type of switch.

For the second half of the session, Dan discussed about the behavior of wireless networks, their frequencies, and interference issues typically found with them. The differences between 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz was discussed, as well as the recommended channels that should be utilized for an optimal Wi-Fi configuration. Dan also briefly touched upon PoE (Power Over Ethernet) technology, primarily focusing on technical specifications and the bandwidth found in PoE solutions.

On to the prize drawings!

3:00 – 3:45 PM: Closing & Prize Giveaway

The conclusion of TechPulse 2013 and the drawing of prizes.

The conclusion of TechPulse 2013 and the drawing of prizes.


Everyone gathered in the main conference room, in which the TechPulse presenters thanked TechPulse 2013 attendees. They then moved onto the prizes, which were numerous and included lucrative items such as 42″ LCD TVs, 27″ LCD monitors, 2 TB external drives, 3 TB external drives, Xbox360 Kinect kits, Xbox360 games, Fujifilm cameras, etc.

The presenters drew names from the lottery wheel that people had submitted their accumulated lottery tickets into. Although I was able to deposit ten tickets, my friend Joey amassed about forty tickets, dramatically increasing his chances for a prize. In the end, I was able to win a Fujifilm FinePix AX650 15 MP digital camera.

That concludes this year’s TechPulse 2013 event! I would like to thank the TechPulse organizers for putting together such a great technology-based event, as well as my friend Joey, who made me aware that such an event was taking place this week in St. Paul!

I will be uploading the recordings for the breakout sessions at a later date. Read More

Zenbook and ASUS RMA Blues

Posted by on Apr 27, 2013 in General, Hardware | 0 comments

Some of you may recall that I purchased an ASUS Zenbook UX21E 11″ Ultrabook back in late 2011. The Zenbook UX21E was the first generation Zenbook and was the UltraBook showcase for Intel. It was hoped to be the PC alternative to MacBook Air. As I was primarily a Windows user and was looking for a lightweight, yet powerful laptop, the Zenbook UX21E seemed to be a proper choice.

When I purchased it, it ran great at the time, albeit some minor issues. However, over time, significant issues developed with the Zenbook, as power and battery issues became more apparent. The Zenbook began to shut off randomly while running off the battery. It degraded to a point in which it would shut off only a few minutes running on the battery.

Another issue was that the Zenbook would power off immediately when the AC adapter was unplugged. Because of this, there have been countless times where I lost my work due to the AC adapter being unplugged by accident. I did find somewhat of a workaround, as I found out that the shut off issue doesn’t occur as long as my Zenbook is in “Battery Performance” mode when the AC adapter is unplugged. Due to these issues, I wasn’t able to use my Zenbook as intended and pretty much became as useful as a paperweight.

Doing research online, these issues seem to be very common to the Zenbook UX21/31 line, with the cause likely due to hardware flaws. Fortunately, ASUS offers a standard two-year warranty with all of their Zenbook models, so I finally sent it in for an RMA last month. The RMA process was quick, as they responded promptly and set up the RMA case within a few hours. After getting the RMA information, I shipped the Zenbook (along with the AC adapter) to ASUS RMA. ASUS had my Zenbook for two weeks.

When I got it back, ASUS RMA stated that the motherboard was swapped out. I also received a new AC adapter. I found that the SSD was wiped and had the default ASUS Windows 7 Home Premium image installed, but fortunately, I made a image backup of my Windows 8 partition prior to shipping the Zenbook back to ASUS.

For a few days, the Zenbook UX21E seemed to be working fine without issue. I even installed the new Ubuntu 13.04 on it, alongside my Windows 8 Pro installation. However, the same battery and power issues returned, and I am now in the process of returning my Zenbook a second time. This is very disappointing, as I expected better QA from ASUS, as one of the top tier PC manufacturers.

I am hoping that the issues will be resolved after the second RMA, but I am already on the look for a new laptop; one that’s reliable, has great battery life, and well suited for mobile development. Because of my experience with the first generation Zenbook, I would suggest avoiding the first generation Zenbook altogether, and personally will the second and third generation Zenbooks altogether.

It’s sad, because the Zenbook could have easily been a great Windows alternative to the MacBook Air. However, the QA issues and the other minor flaws with the keyboard and Wi-Fi performance totally keeps it from being a viable choice. Read More

Intel Changes Mind: Broadwell & Skylake Processors Will Be LGA Upgradeable

Intel Changes Mind: Broadwell & Skylake Processors Will Be LGA Upgradeable

Posted by on Mar 23, 2013 in Hardware, News | 0 comments

In previous Intel processor roadmaps, there was indication that Intel was planning on releasing future generation processors such as Broadwell and Skylake only in an integrated SOC, BGA format, making it impossible for user-upgradeable processors. This move, naturally alarmed many (particularly PC hardware enthusiasts), as the ability to swap out processors from motherboards gave users the flexibility to upgrade to new or different processors without having to swap out motherboards.

However, Xbit Laboratories is reporting that Intel has changed it’s mind and will be releasing processors in LGA format, up until 2015:

According to unidentified sources from Taiwan-based mainboard manufacturers cited by DigiTimes web-site, Intel will retain LGA packaging for 95% of desktop central processing units until, at least, the first half of 2015, when the company rolls-out chips powered by code-named Skylake micro-architecture. There will be entry-level chips for desktops based on Broadwell and Skylake architectures in BGA packaging, just like there are various Atom and ultra-low-power chips in BGA form-factor today. Still the majority of mainstream desktop chips will come in LGA packaging, which allows interchangeability of chips for OEMs and upgradeability for the end-user.


While this may relieve PC hardware enthusiasts for the time-being, it still brings to question exactly how long will x86 processors be user-upgradeable. With x86 processors becoming more increasingly SOC, given that traditional motherboard functionality (i.e. memory controllers, system bus controllers, voltage regulators, and integrated graphics) have been integrated into processors in recent years, it may be inevitable that it will be no longer possible to have user-upgradeable processors in the near future.

Source:
X-Bit Laboratories – Intel Changes Plans: Set to Continue with Upgradeable LGA Platforms Even with Skylake Chips.
Ars Technica – Like it or not, nonreplaceable CPUs may be the future of desktops Read More

AMD Launches the First New GPU in 2013: Radeon HD 7790

AMD Launches the First New GPU in 2013: Radeon HD 7790

Posted by on Mar 22, 2013 in Hardware, News | 0 comments

AMD has launched it’s first new graphics card for 2013, the Radeon HD 7790. The Radeon HD 7790 is a $149 USD midrange graphics card that is meant to fill the pricing void between the Radeon HD 7770 and the Radeon HD 7850.

Although the HD 7790 is branded as a HD 7000 series card, it uses an entirely new GPU (entitled “Bonaire”) and is actually a part of the next generation Sea Islands GPU family, rather than the Southern Islands GPU family. While a new GPU microarchitecture usually constitutes a new generation branding for both nVIDIA and AMD, AMD announced earlier that it would continue to utilize the HD 7000 branding, due to the popularity of the Radeon HD 7000 series.

Reviews of the Radeon HD 7790 can be found at on various tech sites:
AnandTech – AMD Radeon HD 7790 Review Feat. Sapphire: The First Desktop Sea Islands
[H]ard|OCP – ASUS Radeon HD 7790 DirectCU II OC Video Card Review
TechReport – AMD’s Radeon HD 7790 graphics card reviewed
Guru3D – Radeon HD 7790 Review
Tom’s Hardware – AMD Radeon HD 7790 Review: Graphics Core Next At $150

Despite being limited to a 128-bit memory bus and having less than half of the ROPs found in the Radeon HD 7850, it performs well and is even comparable in performance with the HD 7850 in some games/applications. As part of the new Sea Islands GPU family, this is pretty promising and should be interesting to see how a high-end Sea Islands GPU (HD 7975? HD 7995?) performs.
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