Tuesday 07 December 2010

Intel and NVIDIA Prepare to Kiss and Make up With Settlement


 Christo [PCD]    07 Dec : 11:32
 None    Hardware

Union may represent effort to hold off surging AMD

Union may represent effort to hold off surging AMD

NVIDIA has new GPUs (the 500 series) -- but so does AMD. And AMD is currently beating NVIDIA in sales of discrete GPUs.

Likewise Intel, long having dominated the netbook/light laptop market with its Atom process is concerned about AMD's new "Fusion" accelerated processing unit, which packs a better integrated GPU than atom. Intel's primary hope to hang on to its market share involves pairing Atom with NVIDIA's ION lightweight GPU at an affordable price. But Intel and NVIDIA have been involved in a bitter long-standing feud that has resulted in Intel making ION offerings more expensive than its own inferior chipset.

But much like Lex Luthor and Superman occasionally do in the comics, these bitter enemies have found cause to try to set their difference aside, while facing a common threat. The pair was set to go to battle with each other in a trial starting Dec 6 in Delaware's Chancery Court. NVIDIA and Intel, though, have asked the court to postpone the trial concerning licensing issues to 2011, buying time for a settlement.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang coyly commented, "We’re always in talks. Our two companies are always in talks."

The settlement would be advantageous to both firms. Both have grown weary during the long legal campaign, which has stretched over six years, since being filed in 2004. The legal battle has been filled with suits and countersuits, with both chipmakers trying to deny each other access to their respective technologies, and alleging breaches of contract.

While Intel is the largest CPU chipmaker and NVIDIA is the world's second largest graphics chipmaker, both companies have missed out on potential revenue that could have come from joint products.

If they can reach a settlement, the quality of desktop hardware could be boosted. By allowing NVIDIA the right to make chipsets for its new CPUs, something that Intel has currently rejected, consumers could gain access to faster gaming and productivity offerings. And in the netbook sector the pair could at last offer an affordable ION+Atom platform that would mark a true competitor to AMD's dual-threat "Brazos" Fusion chip.

Is NVIDIA finally ready to put away its "can of whoop-[censored]"? We should have an answer to that in weeks or months to come.

Intel and NVIDIA have a common enemy -- the resurgent AMD. The pair are reportedly in talks to settle a long-standing lawsuit and increase their cooperation. (Source: Anandtech)


[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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Wednesday 09 June 2010

NVIDIA Brings Out the Big Guns -- a Dual Fermi GPU 430W Beast


 Christo [PCD]    09 Jun : 13:49
 None    Hardware

Somewhere in Taiwan a power supply is weeping

Somewhere in Taiwan a power supply is weeping

Fermi was long delayed, but it is finally hitting the market and reminding ATI that it hasn't totally won the graphics war, even if it did get quite the head start on DirectX 11. At Computex in Taiwan NVIDIA unveiled an impressive portfolio of upcoming products that looks to jump start the struggling GPU maker. Highlights included upcoming Fermi mobile GPUs and a mid-range GPU, the GeForce GTX 465, which is based on GF100 chips binned aside for minor defects.

But NVIDIA saved perhaps the best for last. Today, along with board partner Galaxy it unveiled a beastly dual-GPU Fermi board designed to make even the toughest gaming rigs weep over some incredible high framerates -- and power draws.

The board carries two GTX 470 chips and draws over twice what a single Fermi draws -- which means that it sucks down loads of power, falling inside a massive 430 W TDP. It requires two (!) 8-pin connectors to feed its mighty cities of transistors.

Power supply manufacturers can breathe a brief sigh of relief, though; there's no word when or if the card will be officially released. The card is thought to carry 3 GB of GDDR5 memory -- matching NVIDIA's current Quadro card, which primarily retails for commercial use. And it can likely double for a portable space heater in a pinch.

The dual GPU spotting in the wild confirms months of rumors. Many rumors point to an upcoming release of a dual chip version called the "GTX 490". While there's no word from NVIDIA on whether this is indeed the official title, we can at least take the dual core Fermi off the list of mythical monsters, leaving behind dragons, sasquatches, and, of course, the ever-popular Kraken.


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Monday 24 May 2010

Seagate Tries for Hybrid Hard Drives Again With Momentus XT


 Christo [PCD]    24 May : 20:23
 None    Misc

Complete redesign combines speed with affordability

Complete redesign combines speed with affordability

The promise of superfast access speeds has been fulfilled by solid state drives using NAND flash memory, but it comes at a high monetary cost. Many enthusiasts, prosumers, and corporate users have already adopted SSDs as hard drives are typically the primary bottlenecks in a computer system. While CPUs and RAM measure their access speeds in nanoseconds, traditional magnetic-based hard disk drives are still measured in milliseconds.

The primary advantage for HDDs is the low cost of production, even for faster 7200 and 10k RPM drives. Samsung and Seagate tried before to bridge the gap between low-cost HDDs and fast SSDs using a hybrid hard drive, combining a single magnetic platter with a small amount of NAND flash memory. The NAND would act as a cache, similar in theory to a small scale tiered storage solution like that used by many corporations for their datacenters.

However, the experiment failed. NAND was still too expensive in 2007, and the small amount that was used proved insufficient. Performance turned out to be worse in some situations, and the capacity of Seagate's sole model was soon overtaken by other products with higher areal density.

Now, three years later, Seagate has learned its lesson with its all new Momentus XT. The company calls it a Solid State Hybrid Drive, and it will be available exclusively in a 2.5-inch form factor. There are 250, 320, and 500GB models, all of which feature 32MB of DRAM cache and a 4GB single-layer cell NAND flash cache. There will unfortunately not be any 6Gbps SATA support, despite the XT moniker.

The secret sauce this time is what Seagate calls "Adaptive Memory". The firm has developed new algorithms based on their years of research and producing firmware for regular drives. These algorithms monitor data access transactions over time, and will place a copy of the most frequently accessed data (such as Windows system files) onto flash storage. A table also keeps track and counts of how frequently data is used in order to prioritize it for retention and caching.

This is similar in concept to Microsoft's ReadyBoost, but uses much faster SLC rather than the sluggish commodity NAND that ended up being used in USB flash drives and SD cards. The algorithms are also much more advanced, as is the garbage collection and firmware. Seagate developed its own proprietary NAND flash controller specifically for the Momentus XT.

This also means that the Momentus XT is also operating system agnostic, and can be used with Unix/Linux environments and MacBooks.

Seagate insisted on using the flash as a cache instead of primary storage for additional reliability. Their tests show that over 250GB of data a day could be written to the NAND for 5 years and it would still function.

Although the Momentus XT isn't as fast as an SSD, Seagate thinks that it will be close enough that its customers won't be able to notice the difference qualitatively. While most consumers will notice the difference between a 5400RPM drive and a 7200RPM drive, they might not necessarily notice the difference between a 7200RPM and 10k RPM drive, an argument that the company has used before as a justification for not producing a 10k RPM consumer drive.

To continue the example, Seagate likens the Momentus XT to a 7200RPM drive and SSDs as 10k RPM drives; while the SSDs are much faster, qualitatively consumers won't notice the difference. The company expects that it will be able to hold off the SSD onslaught for a couple of years with this strategy, despite the lowering cost of NAND flash memory. In fact, as NAND flash prices drop due to the introduction of new process nodes, Seagate will be able to fit more NAND into the same space and offer even greater performance.

The first OEM to adopt the Momentus XT will be ASUS for their ROG G73JH gaming laptop, which will feature two of the drives. Seagate will also be shipping Momentus XT drives out to the channel this week for retail distribution.

Two reviews of the new Momentus XT can be found here and here.
[Submitted by Christo [PCD]]

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