In case you haven't noticed, multi-core processing has taken hold and the race is on to cram more cores onto a single die. But assuming developers can keep up, at some point, chip manufacturers are going to have address a potential major problem that could make adding more cores a useless endeavor. More specifically, a "memory wall" looms large in the not too distant future that, as Jon Stokes from ArsTechnica puts it, could make more than 16 cores pointless.
The problem stems from memory bandwidth not being able to keep pace with faster processors, whether those speed bumps come from a faster frequency or more cores. Put simply, memory is creating a bottleneck and can't feed the processor fast enough, a problem that has existed for some time. Intel and AMD have been able to mask the problem by adding more cache, but doing so doesn't overcome the memory wall, which looks poised to really rear its ugly head as more cores are piled on to new chip packages.
"Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories, in New Mexico, have simulated future high-performance computers containing the 8-core, 16‑core, and 32-core microprocessors that chip makers say are the future of the industry," writes Samuel K. Moore at IEEE Spectrum Online. "The results are distressing. Because of limited memory bandwidth and memory-management schemes that are poorly suited to supercomputers, the performance of these machines would level off or even decline with more cores."
Hit the jump to find out what solutions are being proposed.
Back in our September 2008 issue, we published a list of 9 Skills Every Nerd Needs – a lighthearted examination of the essential abilities Maximum PC readers should have in their geek arsenal. We still stand by that list, but we were somewhat one-upped last month when we saw that Gizmodo had since run its own list of 50 key geek skills. Their list was very respectable, but we thought that we could do better by not only expanding and refining our original story, but actually teaching you these skills. The highest echelon of geeks will be able to do everything in this list, and this is by no means a full categorization of the complete geek skillset – only what we consider to be the most indispensable abilities. Have anything to add to our list? Post it in the comments!
The holidays are shaping up to be happy for gamers on a mainstream budget. According to X-Bit Labs, AMD said it had reduced the price of its ATI Radeon HD 4870 videocard and that at least one online vendor will be selling the 512MB model for $199.
"The price of the ATI Radeon HD 4870 is dropping and we expect that the 512MB and 1GB boards should be available on Newegg today for around $199 and $239 respectively, offering an even more compelling value," a spokesperson for ATI/AMD said.
A cursory glance on Newegg backs the spokesperson's claim (not that we ever doubted him) with two 512MB models -- Sapphire and HIS -- already marked down to the promised price point, and even less if you want to try your hand at the mail-in-rebate game. The 1GB models haven't yet dropped quite as low, not before MIR anyway (we were right to be skeptical).
This year has been a good one for PC gamers as AMD and Nvidia have repeatedly cut prices and taken other measures, such as die shrinks (Nvidia) and giving graphics partners the green light to overclock (AMD), to try and one up each other.
Late last week Team Group launched 3GB (3x1GB) and 6GB (3x2GB) capacity kits in DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600, and DDR3-1866 form. Team Group wasn't the first to offer tri-channel memory kits for Intel's new Core i7 platform, but for the time being, the company is claiming it has the "market-fastest" modules around
DDR3-1333, 7-7-7-21-2T, 1.5V-1.6V
DDR3-1600, 8-8-8-24-2T, 1.65V
DDR3-1866, 9-9-9-24-2T, 1.65V
It's worth noting that at least one other memory company offers tri-channel memory rated at DDR3-1866. Corsair's high frequency kit lists the same latency timings and voltage requirement as Team Group's does, but this doesn't necessarily contradict the company's 'market-fastest' claim. Team Group's Xtreem DDR3-1866 memory does qualify as the highest frequency kits yet available, they're just not alone at the top.
Team Group, a company not as widely known in casual circles as some of the more commonly marketed brands, often targets the overclocking crowd. The company touts an extensive binning process on its high performance RAM, requiring that all modules pass a 24-hour burn-in test on "major overclocking motherboards from Asus and Gigabyte."
So much for boasting the 'market-fastest' tri-channel kit. That distinction belongs to Kingston, who's tri-channel DDR3-2000 kit was released on October 29, 2008.
After months of anticipation, Microsoft rolled out its latest dashboard update for the Xbox 360 console on November 19th, which among other things, added support for Netflix's streaming service. The update couldn't come quick enough for Netflix subscribers with an Xbox Live Gold account, but not everyone is finding that the wait was worth it.
An unknown glitch has been wreaking havoc on the video streams causing both loss of quality and long delays before a movie is watchable. Xbox 360 owners aren't alone in their plight, as the problem first manifested itself in homes using the $99 Roku box. A Netflix spokesman said the company is working on a fix for both platforms, but that might be hard to do without having identified the culprit.
"We're doing all of the analysis we can," said Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey. "We're looking at the region, at carriers...we're working diligently to identify the problem. Unteil we have, we certainly don't want to speculate at all. Look, there's no manual to take off the shelf here. Netflix has created something new here."
Swasey also said Netflix isn't taking the complaints lightly, despite the relatively small number of complaints.
Hit the jump and tell us how your Netflix experience has been.
AMD looks poised to kick off 2009 with a bang. Earlier this week, rumors surfaced of an updated CPU roadmap for the chip maker, which showed the suits in Santa Clara gearing up to release six new Phenom II X4 processors, along with various Athlon-branded chips. According to DigiTimes, AMD also has a few new chipsets on tap for the new year.
On the lower end, AMD will release its 760G chipset, an entry-level IGP part based on the RS780 architecture. DirectX10 and Shader Model 4.0 will both be represented in the760G, but noticeably absent will be the company's Unified Video Decoder (UVD), Hybrid CrossFireX technology, and HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.
A bit higher on the performance scale will be AMD's 790FX and 790GX IGP chipsets, both of which will support AM3 and the SB750 southbridge. Later in the year, AMD will introduce its RS880 IGP chipset, followed by the RD890 in September.
Apple is finding it extremely difficult to avoid being in Greenpeace’s cross hairs. Nearly a year ago, Greenpeace branded the iPhone as “toxic”. Now, the organization has flayed Apple’s pompous claim that its Macbook line of notebooks are the greenest there are.
The Macbook range of notebooks scored a highly disappointing 4.3 out of a possible 10 points on the organization’s green index. Greenpeace did laud Apple, though very frugally, for doing away with bromide flame-retardants and other toxic plastics. But it clearly believes that Apple should take more steps to substantiate its towering claims.
Greenpeace has put the ball in Apple’s court by asking it “to commit to phasing out additional substances with timelines, improve its policy on chemicals and its reporting on chemicals management.”
Configuring your next BMW isn't as easy as touching a table yet, but in the near future, it probably will be. BMW has released a video of its prototype BMW Product Navigator (aka BMW Konfigurator), which is powered by Microsoft Surface and designed by Vectorform, which created the interactive 2008 election map used by MSNBC.
As with the 2008 MSNBC project, Vectorform's BMW Product Navigator uses Microsoft Surface to manipulate video that is then shown on an HDTV. With the BMW Product Navigator, you place chips representing product options on the Microsoft Surface tabletop computer, and the changes you make affect the BMW shown on the video screen. And, just so you can make sure you're buying the Bimmer you want, Product Navigator can email you your custom configuration, print it, or copy it to a USB flash memory drive.
What do you think about the idea of gesturing your way to the car of your dreams? Is this the best way to use Microsoft Surface? For your chance to answer these and other burning questions, join us after the jump.
As the memory competition continues to heat up, unlikely alliances will forge. Thanks to a joint press release, Hitachi and Intel have recently announced that they’ve signed a development agreement in order to create breakthrough performance enterprise-class SSDs.
They’ll be off to a running start too, thanks to Intel’s already deep foothold in SSD technologies. Their NAND flash memory already allows for extremely high operating rate and according to Randy Wilhelm, VP and GM of Intel NAND Solutions Group, “The new solid-state drives for the enterprise include a number of architectural breakthroughs and improve performance and energy usage models that will change enterprise computing.” He continued, “Intel and Hitachi GST share a common objective in delivering SAS/FC products based on solid-state technology that will help enterprise customers meet the skyrocketing demands for performance while reducing space, power and cooling costs.”
It’s expected that these drives will be available sometime in early 2010, and will be sold exclusively through Hitachi.
Forty years ago Doug Engelbart gave the first ever public demonstration of the computer mouse. But it wasn't until 1985 that Logitech introduced its first retail rodent. Now, 23 years later, the peripheral maker says it has shipped its one billionth mouse, which is almost enough to accommodate every PC user in existence.
"Since the first click of the Logitech® P4 mouse in 1982, Logitech mice have played an indispensable role in the evolution of the personal computer,” said Gerald P. Quindlen, Logitech president and chief executive officer. “During the last few decades, the way people use computers has changed dramatically – what was once strictly a business tool has become highly integrated into our personal lives. Logitech has continually pursued innovations to meet those changing conditions, introducing – in the last five years alone – the world’s first laser mouse, hyper-fast scrolling and the nano-receiver."
As of this moment, Logitech mice scurry in over 100 countries around the globe and the company now produces 7.8 million mice each month. But getting to 2 billion might not be as easy. Desktop sales are down, and both notebooks (which sport trackpads) and touch screen interfaces could detract from the mouse market. Logitech also faces stiffer competition than it ever has before, with companies like Razer, OCZ, and several others all vying a piece of the peripheral pie.