This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

Every week, we bring you the latest in PC hardware news, informing you of the interesting developments in the category. This week, we’ve got more news on upcoming processors from Intel, what’s happening in the competitive graphics space, new displays, devices, and a peek at the potential future of computing.  

Processors

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

Intel’s 6th generation Skylake processors are just around the corner, and online retailers are gearing up for the launch. This is good news for us as we finally get a chance to look at the preliminary pricing of the new chips. Intel will reportedly price its new line of processors about 10% more than the previous lineup. This will range from $211 for the Core i5-6400, a successor to the Core i7 4460, to $393 for the Core i7-6700K which succeeds the Core i7-4790K. In case you were wondering, Skylake is based on the new LGA 1151 socket, so those on Haswell processors that plan on upgrading will not be able to use the same motherboard. A BIOS upgrade won’t cut it this time.

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

Recent reports claim that Intel will be delaying the launch of its 28nm SoFIA SoC, also known as the Atom x3 4G. As its name suggests, this low-end affordable processor features an integrated 4G LTE modem making it perfect for tablets (like a potential Surface Mini) or even phablets. The x3, due later this year now has its release date pushed back to Q1 2016 if the reports are true. Although the design of the chips is complete and ready to be mass produced, its software development is falling behind, effectively putting another dent in Intel’s effects to make a name for itself in the small form factor space.

Graphics

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

The graphics market is in full force now that NVIDIA and AMD are competing with the best of what they have to offer. NVIDIA’s partners have also been busy customizing the GeForce GTX 980 Ti with unique cooling solutions and factory overclocks.

Zotac has just recently started selling its GTX 980 TI AMP! Extreme Edition card. This triple-slot monstrosity is factory overclocked by 25% over the reference design, putting its core clock at 1253 MHz (which goes up to 1335 MHz boost) and a memory clock of 7220 MHz. This should put it well ahead of the GTX Titan X in benchmarks, and best of all, Zotac is only adding a $50 premium to it, selling the card for $699.

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

On the lower end of the spectrum, NVIDIA is reportedly preparing to launch the GTX 950. This particular graphics card is designed to compete with the recently announced Radeon R7 370. The low-end card supposedly features a cut-down version of the GM206-300 GPU found in the GTX 960 and will come with two memory options; either 2GB of 4GB depending on buyer needs. Availability should be in the coming weeks and its price should be around the $150 mark if it were to compete with AMD’s similarly positioned card.

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

Speaking of AMD, the company is finally back in the game with the release of its Fiji-based Fury X. When AMD announced the card, it announced several other products, but didn’t reveal much in the way of specs. We don’t know much about the Radeon R9 Fury, the dual-GPU Fury card, or the miniature R9 Nano. However, in a recent review of the R9 Fury X, Anandtech claims that the Nano will feature the full Fiji core with 4096 steam processors, similar to that of the Fury X, instead of the cut-down version that will supposedly debut on the R9 Fury. This puts it in an interesting position considering it will only require 175W to operate compared to the 275W that the Fury X needs.

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

In other news, early adopters of the Fury X have noticed that the integrated water cooler emits and ‘noticeable whine’ that can be very distracting to gamers. Although AMD hasn’t publicly acknowledged the issue, it seems the company has already taken action to solve it. Newer cards feature an improved water cooler – also designed by Cooler Master – that is practically silent with the exception of the fan. Reports state that there is no way to differentiate the new cards from the old ones by looking at the retail packaging, but once opened, the new cards apparently feature a monochrome Cooler Master logo instead of the multi-color logo used on the first batch. Something to keep in mind if you plan on buying the Fury X.

Displays

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

There isn’t much of a choice when it comes to curved 4K displays designed for gamers, so it’s always good to see more of such displays make it to market. The latest entrant comes from Acer, which has developed a 34” cinematic-widescreen display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440. The display packs a full-size DisplayPort 1.2a connection in addition to a mini-DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0 ports. It also comes with a USB 3.0 hub and a built-in stereo speaker system with a 3.5mm headphone jack. To sweeten the deal, it comes with AMD FreeSync technology for perfect frame synchronization when used with supported AMD graphics cards. All this does come at a price though and is expected to hit retail at around $1000. No news on availability just yet.

Devices

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

This may not be for the average Joe, but it is a PC, so we’ll tell you about it anyway. The Surface Hub is now available for pre-order, this giant TV/PC/Oversized tablet is designed primarily for businesses that need a powerful presentation and collaboration tool in their offices. The Surface Hub comes in two display sizes, 55” (Full HD) and 84” (4K), both support 100 touch-points and come with a 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. The 55” model comes with a 4th generation Intel Core i5 processor with Intel HD 4600 graphics, while the 84” model comes with a beefier Core i7 processor and NVIDIA Quadro K2200 graphics. Both run Windows 10 out-of-the-box and yes, you can use them as glorified TVs if you want thanks to the numerous modes of display input supported including DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA.

Check out the full list of specifications over at the Surface Hub website, and if you’re interested, Microsoft prices the devices at $6,999 and $19,999 for the 55” and 84” models respectively.

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

What if I told you, that contrary to what you may think, today’s computers, from your smartphone to the most powerful supercomputers, are actually “intrinsically slow and wasteful”? Last week, we talked about Moore’s Law, and how todays manufacturing processes are unable to keep up with is proposed trajectory. We will eventually reach a point where we can no longer shrink microprocessors, at least not with current materials. Quantum computing has for a long time been regarded as a potential solutions, be we are not technically capable of building them just yet. So what now?

Well, scientists over at the University of California developed a new type of computer called a memcomputer. Inspired by the human brain, this computers stores and processes information simultaneously. The best part is that unlike quantum computers which require a carefully controlled environment to operate, memcomputers can be built using today’s technology and can operate at room temperature.

This Week in PC Hardware: Skylake pricing, graphics monstrosities, and the brain-like memcomputer

So how do memcomputers work? Think of it this way, when a traditional computer is faced with a mathematical problem, it would utilize both the memory and the CPU to come up with a solution. For example, when given a massive set of numbers, and asked to determine how many of those numbers add up to say, 10, the computer would first store those numbers in memory, then send two numbers at a time to the CPU to calculate if they add up to ten, each time bringing the answer back to memory. This goes back and forth until all the numbers have been calculated. If given a set of say, 1 million numbers, it could take a traditional computer ages to process that information. A memcomputer would complete it in seconds. How? Hear it from Massimiliano Di Ventra, and physicist and computer scientist at the university:

“…this very sort of problem, which could take our most advanced computer decades, could take a memcomputer only seconds. That’s because rather than hassling with a back-and-fourth data-shuffle, the internal architecture of the memcomputer essentially sets up a giant maze for electricity to run through. To oversimplify whats going on: In the maze, you can imagine the entrance is a single number and all the possible exits are every other possible number it could be combined with. The maze is also constructed so that electric current can only jolt through to correct combinations (combinations that add up to 10, for example). In a single blast the memcomputer will set up a maze, have electricity run it, and store which the numbers combined with the first number to add up to 10.

Instead of taking 10 trillion back-and-fourth runs, a memcomputer will run 10 million mazes. Imagine each maze and each back-and-fourth run takes a sluggish 1 second. Our memcomputer is done in 116 days, yet 300,000 years later a classic computer is still number-crunching.”

We highly encourage you to head over to PopularMechanics to read the full article on memcomputers and Di Ventra’s work.

That’s all for this week in PC hardware, as usual, we ask you to head over to the comments section below to let us know what your thoughts are on this week’s news. Are you planning on upgrading to the new Skylake processors, or new graphics from AMD or NVIDIA, are you in the market for a new display? Sound off below!

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