Archive for August, 2008

Intel’s next-generation “Nehalem” architecture will be named the Intel Core i7, and will enter production during the fourth quarter, Intel said Sunday.

The brand will be the “first of several new identifiers to come as different products launch over the next year,” Intel said.

Intel did not give a formal explanation of what the “i7” brand stood for, or how future cores would be described in that context. The company did say that model numbers would be used, as they currently are, to provide more information about the chip. The Intel Core i7 processor brand logo will be available for high-performance desktop PCs with a separate black logo for Intel’s highest-end “Extreme Edition,” Intel said.

The production timeline is not news; Intel provided a fairly lengthy explanation of the Nehalem architecture in March, and said then that the first chips would ship during the fourth quarter.

Nehalem will contain two to eight cores, a 4-instruction-wide ISA, and two-way simultaneous multithreading. The notable additions include the QuickPath interconnect, with up to 25 Gbytes/s per link, and an integrated memory controller, as AMD’s own parts include. In addition, there will be a new 8-Mbyte shared level 3 cache.

Intel will discuss the Nehalem, as well as its return to graphics, Larrabee, and other chips beginning on August 19, at the Intel Developer Forum at San Francisco.

Advanced Micro Devices has launched the 790GX chipset, with graphics that are improved enough that the company claims it offers two times the graphics performance of a comparable chipset from Intel.

The 790GX builds on the well-regarded AMD 780G chipset , according to Adam Kozak, the product manager for AMD’s chipsets, and the company describes it as a “crossover” product between the mainstream and high-end markets, taking attributes from both. It uses the same graphics core (a Radeon HD 3300) but clocked at 700MHz.

Motherboards with the new chipset are expected from Asus, ASRock, BioStar, DFI, Elitegroup, LTD, Foxconn, Gigabyte., LTD, J&W Technology, Jetway, LTD, and MSI Computer Ltd, AMD said.

Graphics-wise, AMD is positioning the new chipset against the P45 from Intel and the nForce 750a from Nvidia. AMD’s 790GX contains both HybridPower and CrossFireX capabilities, allowing the chipset to stand alone with its graphics capabilities, or else use one or more discrete graphics cards for additional graphics horsepower: running Codemasters’ Grid, for example, allows for 1024 x 768 graphics in low detail while using the onboard GPU, and then 1152 x864 at 30 fps while pairing it with a Radeon HD 3470. Two Radeon 4870s together generate 75 fps in 1920 x 1200 resolution, according to AMD.

The chipset includes AMD’s “OverDrive” capability, allowing a user to overclock the memory, as well as advanced clock calibration, a new feature that aggressively overclocks the associated Phenom processor.

Using the 3DMark Vantage benchmark, AMD claims a benchmark score of about 3000, versus about a 1400 score with the Intel G45 chipset.

The 790GX also processes video at resolutions of 1080p and above.

The chipset supports two x8 PCI Express lanes and a single X6 PCI Express lane. Six 3.0-Gbits/s connections are included, and 12 USB 2.0 ports via the SB750 south-bridge chip.

VIA Nano Reference Platform

The mini-ITX platform has officially been adopted by Intel with the Atom products meaning that the VIA-created standard should actually become a standard now — good news for all.  For those that haven’t seen a mini-ITX motherboard yet you’ll be scratching your head at seeing such a compressed design.  There are two DDR2 DIMM slots, four SATA channels, one IDE connection and a single PCI Express x16 slot for graphics or other add-in cards.

On the back of the reference board are a CompactFlash connection (for some solid-state storage action) and a mini PCI slot as well.  These would be GREAT features to have on a retail board as well – I imagine booting off of an 8GB high-speed CF drive and using a standard drive for storage.

The external connections on the VIA reference board include the standard PS/2 connections, USB ports, serial output, dual NICs and VGA output to use in conjunction with the integrated S3 graphics core on the north bridge.  There are audio connections as well on the right hand side that support up to 6-channels of output.

Here you can see the VIA 82375 south bridge under a passive heatsink, four SATA channels on the motherboard that all support RAID and the single PCI Express x16 slot that gives the VIA Nano platform such an edge over Intel’s Atom for real world user applications.  Without a PCIe slot on the Atom motherboards, OEMs and users are forced to use the inferior integrated Intel IGP or a PCI graphics board, really limiting the possibilities of getting top performance out of the Atom architecture.

VIA’s reference design supports up to 4GB of DDR2-667 MHz memory though the controller is just single channel.

The only power connection on the VIA Nano motherboard is a 20-pin ATX power connector – don’t worry your 24-pin power supply connections will work just fine though.

Under that single large heatsink with the fan on it lies the VIA CN896 north bridge chip and the VIA Nano processor; in our case the CPU is the Nano L2100 which operates at 1.8 GHz on an 800 MHz front-side bus with a max TDP of 25 watts. The north bridge handles all the PCI/PCIe and memory controller functions and also sports the VIA Chrome9 HC IGP that supports DX9 features.  Nothing to scream about, but it turns out to be faster than Intel’s solution.

Here’s the classic “chip next to a quarter” image.

Intel Atom D945G Platform

Just like the VIA board, the Atom processor is soldered and permanently affixed.

The Intel D945GCLF is the same form factor as the VIA Nano reference platform: mini-ITX.  This board design looks to be much simpler at first glance and that is in fact the case as we investigate a bit further into the design.

The only expansion slot that the Intel Atom motherboard offers is a PCI slot – any graphics expansion you plan to do will have to be relegated to this older interface.  This is really VIA’s best selling point – they are allowing their platform to be completely open but Intel is ONLY ALLOWING their boards and board partners to ship with PCI slots.

The Intel board only has a single DIMM slot supporting up to 2GB of DDR2-667 memory.  The ATX power connector is again a 20-pin rather than 24-pin but will still fit with 24-pin PSUs.  There is a single IDE connection and two SATA channels for your storage connectivity.

Here you can see the processor heatsink is incredibly small and passive only and is dwarfed by the chipset heatsink above it.  Notice also that the Intel board requires you to use a secondary 4-pin power connection in addition to the standard ATX power connector.

The external connections on the board are similar to those seen on the VIA Nano reference board – PS/2, USB 2.0, serial, parallel, a single 10/100 NIC, 6-channel audio outputs and a VGA output.

Removing the heatsink reveals the full array of Intel chips – the Atom processor at the top, 945G north bridge in the middle and the Intel ICH7-M south bridge at the bottom.  It is interesting to see how much more cooling the 945G chipset requires compared to the Atom processor.

Wow, that is a TINY processor!  The model on this board is the Atom 230 that runs at 1.6 GHz on a 533 MHz FSB.

This poorly edited photo should show you the exact size comparison between the VIA Nano and Intel Atom processors – the Atom is the skinnier chip in the center with the Nano encompassing it with a much larger square.  It just goes to show that even though we think the Nano is incredibly small, Intel has a more cost efficient chip to offer up – the real question will be performance!

Intel® Desktop Board DG45FC
“Flying Creek”

Built in the mini-ITX form factor, Intel® Desktop Board DG45FC is a small but powerful desktop board with integrated HDMI display output and hardware accelerated decode during high-definition playback. With support of Intel® Core™2 Duo processors and up to 1333 FSB, you can expect a lot from this tiny desktop board! In addition to delivering outstanding performance and stability, the integrated graphics and connectors meet a variety of digital needs. Experience the maximum performance of integrated graphics capabilities with Intel graphics media accelerator X4500HD with Intel Clear Video technology with onboard HDMI and DVI graphics ports.

Intel Desktop Board DG45FC supports Dolby Home Theater* and is Microsoft Windows Vista* Premium WHQL certified.

Technical Specs:

Form factor:
Mini-ITX (6.70 inches by 6.70 inches [171.45 millimeters by 171.45 millimeters])

Processor:
* Support for an Intel® Core™2 Duo processor in an LGA775 socket
* Support for an Intel® Pentium® dual-core processor in an LGA775 socket
* Support for an Intel® Celeron® dual-core processor in an LGA775 socket
* Support for an Celeron® processor 400 sequence in an LGA775 socket

Memory:
* Two 240-pin DDR2 SDRAM Dual Inline Memory Module (DIMM) sockets
* Support for DDR2 800/667/533 MHz DIMMs
* Support for up to 4 GBΣ of system memory

Chipset:
* Intel® G45 Express Chipset

Audio:
Intel® High Definition Audio in the following configuration:
* 8-channel (7.1) audio subsystem with five analog audio outputs and one optical S/PDIF digital audio output using the IDT 92HD73E audio codec

Video:
Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD onboard graphics subsystem with integrated HDMI + DVI-I display ports

LAN:
Gigabit (10/100/1000 Mbits/sec) LAN subsystem using the Intel® 82567LF Gigabit Ethernet Controller

Peripheral interfaces:
* One serial port via header
* Up to 10 USB 2.0 ports (6 back ports and 4 via headers)
* 5 Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s ports, including 1 eSATA back port with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 support
* Consumer IR receiver and emitter (via internal)

Expansion capabilities:
One PCI Express* x1 bus add-in card connectors

A revolutionary product for lifestyle HD computing

Built with the fastest onboard graphics – AMD® 780G and with the help of 128MB side-port

memory, it further boosts up the graphics performance by another 15-19% in such a compact

size.

Featuring the hardware HD video decoder – Universal Video Decoder, and supporting Avivo™ HD

natively, MINIX™ 780G-SP128MB are also ready for DirectX® 10 like our award-winning (click

to view) JW-RS780UVD-AM2+ motherboard.

Key Features Highlight:

1. Integrated ATI Radeon™ HD 3200 Graphics

2. Supports DirectX® 10 3D graphics, Vista™ Aero Ready

3. Supports AMD® Phenom™ Quad-Core Processors (95W max.)

4. Built-in 128 MB Local Frame Buffer (Side-port memory)

5. Supports ATI Avivo™ HD technology and built-in Universal Video Decoder (UVD) which leverages CPU consumption when play HD movie, hence power-saving

6. Designed with 100% high quality solid capacitors and components to ensure high performance and great longevity

7. One PCI-Express slot for expansion

8. Two DDR2 SO-DIMM slots for extensible upgrade

9. Supports J&W® iPartner™ Control Centre

10. 7.1+2 Channel High-Performance HDA Codec with Content Protection (Realtek ALC885)