It’s another week in PC hardware, where we recap some of the biggest hardware announcements of the week. In the past seven days, we’ve gotten a peek at the future of the processor, the state of the graphics card market since AMD shook it up last week, and insights on the progression of hard drive technology. Interested? Read on!
New processors abound! As the years pass, Moore’s Law, which predicts that the number of transistors that can be squeezed into a processor doubles every two years continues to hold true in the industry. However, a new report, as seen on ExtremeTech and TechSpot suggests that Intel will delay the introduction of its 10nm Cannonlake processors. The reasons for doing so aren’t clear at this point, but it is highly likely that Intel’s manufacturing partners are not capable of producing healthy 10nm products just yet.
The company introduced its Tick-Tock business model in 2007, where a ‘tick’ would be the shrinking of the previous generations’ processor manufacturing process, and a ‘tock’ would be a completely new architecture.
The upcoming 14nm Skylake processors are a completely new design and therefore fall into the ‘tock’ category, to be succeeded by 10nm Cannonlake processors, but this latest development would mark the first time Intel skipped a beat in this business model. Instead of Skylake, the report claims Intel will release Kaby Lake, based on Skylake’s 14nm processes. The fact is, it’s becoming harder and harder to miniaturize processors, and Moore’s Law – which is more of a guideline than a scientific law really – will one day die away (no pun intended).
Starting in 2016, AMD will release its all new processors based on the Zen architecture, an all-new design that should result in a massive performance jump of about 40% over existing products. Along with the processor is the all-new AM4 socket design that will be used universally from high-end desktop processors to low-end APUs. However, the change will not be immediate. According to reports, it will take AMD at least 2 more years to introduce successors to existing products based on the new Zen architecture and AM4 socket.
The first processors to use the AM4 socket will be APUs codenamed ‘Bristol Ridge’ and ‘Stoney Ridge’. These mid and low-range processors will use ‘Excavator’ processor cores combined with Radeon graphics cores. High-end ‘Summit Ridge’ APUs on the other hand will feature up to 8 Zen cores, the highest core count for an AMD APU. Paired with DDR4 memory, these multithreaded APUs should offer a significant performance improvement over existing products from both AMD itself, and Intel.
AMD launched its Fury X graphics card to much fanfare last week, we’ve since seen partners like MSI, XFX, Sapphire, and others all unveil their own Fury X’s and the reviews are finally in. To recap the specifications, the Fury X, based on the Fiji architecture has 4096 shaders, 64 ROPs, 8.9m transistors clocked at 1050MHz, 4GB of high-bandwidth memory with a bus width of 4096 bits, and comes package in a closed loop water cooling solution.
According to the latest reviews, for the most part, the Fury X performs just shy of what the GTX 980Ti achieves. As AMD designed it, the Fury X is targeted at those looking to game at 4K resolutions. At those resolutions, the Fury X bests NVIDIA’s highest-end single-GPU offering, the Titan X, most likely due to the high-bandwidth memory. Check out the 4K benchmarks below courtesy of TechPowerUp.
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Apparently, those Fury X numbers, in addition AMD releasing a bunch new graphics cards were enough to grab NVIDIA’s attention. Recent reports state that the green team is considering slashing the price of the GTX 980Ti, GTX 980 and GTX 970. Both the Fury X and the GTX 980Ti have a MSRP of $649, but it seems NVIDIA’s partners are already cutting prices to be more competitive, at least in the UK.
HBM is only one advancement in graphics that can help boost performance, new connector specifications can also help with that. The people over at the PCI Special Interest Group are now closer to releasing the final specifications for the PCI Express 4.0 connector.
The new connector will be capable of a massive 16GT/s per lane and 32GB/s transfers, double of what is possible on today’s PCIe 3.0 connectors. Unfortunately, new PCIe 4.0 graphics cards will not be backwards compatible with PCIe 3.0 slots, so a new motherboard will be required to use those cards. Still, it won’t be at least until “after 2017” for the specification to be finalized and implemented, so you don’t need to worry about upgrading for now.
2015 is the year of the PC stick it seems. Full Windows PCs the size of a pack of gum are rushing to market from Intel, Lenovo, and most recently Archos. I can imagine these PC sticks being useful in a number of use cases, Windows Insiders who plan to stick with the program once Windows 10 is released being one of them.
The Lenovo IdeaCenter Stick 300 will be available in July for $129. It features an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a full-size USB port, MicroUSB, a SD card reader and interfaces via HDMI. It runs full Windows 8.1 which is of course upgradable to Windows 10. All you have to do is plug it into a HDMI display or TV and you’re good to go.
The PC stick from Archos is pretty much exactly the same as the one from Lenovo, with the only differences being the design, the fact that it will ship with Windows 10 and its amazingly affordable $99 (£79) price tag. The question remains, when can we get one?!
Seagate recently showed off its new HAMR (pronounced ‘Hammer’) hard disk drives. HAMR, which stands for Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording is a technology that will make room for 50TB HDDs in the next few years, and upwards of 100TB in the next decade. Basically, HAMR technology includes a laser added to a hard drive head, which will heat up the area that is being written to, ultimately allowing data to be written on a smaller scale, and therefore increasing the amount of data that can be stored on each platter within the drive.
Hard drives featuring the technology should go on sale in 2017 and shouldn’t be more expensive than traditional hard drives. This technology will effectively keep hard drives in the picture in the foreseeable future. Unless the price of SSDs dramatically decreases, they won’t be replacing hard drives and ever-growing need for more storage capacity anytime soon.
Speaking of hard drives, storage makers are expected to start shipping USB 3.1 products soon. Motherboard makers like Asus and component makers like Addonics have already released USB 3.1 motherboard extensions and hard drive makers are expected to follow suit.
USB 3.1 is mostly known for its reversible Type-C connector but is also available in the traditional Type-A. It will offer speeds of up to 10Gbits/s, double of what USB 3.0 is capable of. LaCie, a Seagate subsidiary already unveiled an external HDD with reversible USB 3.1, but because the USB 3.1 controller is expensive, the drives won’t sell cheap.
That’s it for this week in PC hardware. Tell me, does the future of PC hardware look promising to you? Sound off in the comments section below.Further reading: AMD, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia, Seagate, TWIPCH