Author: Dirk Skuan

Intel wipes the floor with Samsung

Intel has managed to extend its lead over nearest rival Samsung, according to a new report from beancounters at IC Insights.

The report shows that Intel increased its lead over number two Samsung with 44 percent higher sales.

Another chipmaker on the block, Nvidia, saw its sales fall by six percent but at least it did better than Panasonic whose sales declined by 9 percent.

The figures do not show the effects of ON’s purchase of Sanyo Semiconductor in the first quarter of 2011, this caused ON’s semiconductor sales to jump by 58 percent.

In total, the top 20 semiconductor suppliers showed a sales increase of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2011 as compared to a year ago. This growth rate is one point greater than IC Insights’ full-year 2011 worldwide semiconductor market forecast of 10 percent.

All of the big five memory suppliers grew this year. Everyone other than Elpida, that is. The growth was thanks to strong results from flash memory products which made up for the tanking DRAM production.

Samsung, Micron Technology and Toshiba had double-digit increases on year in the first quarter.

However, since Elpida was DRAM dependant, it suffered from a 31 percent drop in revenues, IC Insights said. 

Boston 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme workstation reviewed

Boston is a company which has a reputation in IT as the supplier of high-end workstations, render boxes and servers to system integrators, as well as directly out to specialist companies in the 3D Industry.

Boston has been about since 1992. It has strived to climb to the top of the ladder in high performance power optimised technologies in the ISP, HPC, Enterprise and Broadcast marketplace.

Specialised workstations, servers and render boxes are extremely expensive and down time is not a great idea.

Over the years Boston has produced exceptional systems based around Supermicro, but for Boston to reach further into the more sophisticated marketplaces, a major manufacturing deal was struck direct with BOXX, a US Integrator of some of the most sophisticated overclocked 3D workstations in the world. The kind that give the Tier 1 builders a run for their money. When we were asked if we’d like to review a system, our answer was a swift yes. The systems from BOXX are something else.

An important point to note: BOXX is a recognised hardware vendor under the Autodesk Media & Entertainment certification program. BOXX machines have been tested and certified by Autodesk to run at optimal performance on Autodesk products, including Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, Mudbox and Softimage.

The system that was delivered was very high spec, consisting of the following:

Component

BOXX 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme Test System

CPU

2 X 3.33GHz Intel® Xeons™ (X5680 processors) overclocked to 4.2GHz

Mainboard

EVGA Classified SR-2 eATX

Memory

6 X 2GB (12GB Total) DDR3 1333MHz (PC3-10600) Memory Modules

Hard Drive(s)

2 X 300GB Western Digital VelociRaptors in Raid 1 (Via ICH 10 onboard Controller)

 

2 X 500GB (1TB) Seagate Constellation 2 drives in Raid 0 (Via ICH 10 onboard Controller) for data storage

Graphic Card(s)

1 X NVIDIA Quadro® 4000

 

1 X NVIDIA Quadro® 6000

 PSU

Seasonic 850Watt Modular

 DVDROM

20X Dual Layer DVD±RW Writer

Operating System

Windows 7 Professional  64-Bit with complete updates

Our system came expected, supplied with a Logitech Keyboard and Mouse, 3 x Nvidia® SLI bridges, ATI® Crossfire Bridge, an additional array of extra cables for the mainboard and PSU, with a good selection of software to get you up and running straight away. And that all important Windows recovery disc.

Something clever that struck us about the BOXX build was the actual hard drive deployment within the system. Opening up the read panel we found the 4 x 2 ½” system drives neatly mounted in place, with plenty of room for expansion.

A novel design then, though we did have reservations to heat. On closer inspection, the Asetek liquid cooling array fans for the CPUs also blasts air under the rear to keep those drives cool too. The rear panel to the chassis has a vent that the hot air quietly flows from. The company says it has tested the system with a range of drives and that airflow is not an issue.

Conclusions

This has to have been the most exciting Parts Built System we have tested in a long time.

Generally speaking, review systems are very well built, but this is an extraordinary unit with the strength to push things to the next level. The BOXX brushed aluminium chassis looks the part and will sit under most desks without looking out of place with the furnishings. It’s an important point in today’s studios key customers and new clients believe that image is everything.

The actual system performance from the I/O was what we had anticipated – extremely fast. The Sandra 2011 System Cryptography result is the fastest we have ever achieved. To deviate slightly, this unit can be upgraded in many ways beyond the original build, so those looking for the high speed boot should consider putting an enterprise SSD in place.

When you are spending cash of this nature, costs will be high – but those who require the absolute best in performance will find this is an exceptional option. Although we have seen extremely fast results, there is room to make things faster at the client’s request.

The render speed results from the recent release of POV-Ray and Cinebench 11.5 are speedy, and the BOXX system did almost half some of our other results – extremely quick indeed. This standalone unit has the power to meet the most demanding client’s high expectations for fast output.

To emphasise just how fast is fast, take a look at the staggering Cinebench 11.5 score.

The results obtained from the SPECapc’ s and SPECviewperf are without doubt the fastest we have produced.

Nvidia’s Quadro releases excelled on this platform. While the Quadro 4000 returned some pretty impressive results, the Quadro 6000 romped away in terms of raw power. It’s almost as if the mainboard was built for it.

Both cards performed above expectations, returning some very impressive results from the SPEC tests. SPECapc for SolidWorks 2007 again showed us our fastest results to date by the Quadro 6000, in both the “Day in the Life” result and the actual SPEC Graphic score.

As for SPECviewperf 11, astonishing to say the least. Maya-03 was running away at 115.97 and swiftly following was the SW-02 score of 65.79, fully backing up the SPECapc for SolidWorks results.

The Quadro 6000 just cannot be caught up to with its unprecedented performance – as the complete full FSAA run demonstrated, with the desired scaled composite results all the way down to 64X FSAA. Will we see faster any time soon? Time will tell. 

At going to print, the cost of the BOXX 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme with the Nvidia Quadro 4000 is £6,279.00 plus Vat and Delivery and can be purchased direct through Boston’s reseller Escape Studios. The full range of BOXX systems from Escape Studios can be found at this URL. The 3DBOXX 8550 Xtreme comes with a 3 year warranty.

*EyeSee One of our readers can win one of these powerful, 3DBOXX 4860 systems from Escape Studios. Entry details are here, terms and conditions apply

Intel Core i7-990X demonstrates the need for speed

Since launch nearly two years ago, the Intel i7 has had many people shocked at the utter raw performance that could and has been gained from that one small processor.  As each time framed release of the newer and much faster models has hit the streets the more we’re impressed by how much more performance the CPU delivers.   

People are hungry for faster gaming, hungry for faster productivity and hungry for the ultimate ”need for speed”. At the turn of this year we saw Intel releasing the Sandy Bridge architecture, a whole new kettle of fish with faster CPU chips, abd faster mainboards.  

For the majority it meant complete upgrade path, though bang for buck you cannot get any better. 

That’s until now.

The Intel Core i7 990X-Extreme Edition processor has hit the streets and brought with it two new mainboards that were announced late in December of 2011 supporting the current range of i7 processors. This did have many analysts thinking. The majority could see the reasoning why  it brought to the mainboard range a whole new set of features that would maintain Intel’s strategy in remaining competitive against AMD.  

So what is different about this new offering?   While maintaining a QPI pathway of 6.4GT/s and a top TDP of 130 Watts it has a slight increase in MHz performance from 3.33GHz on the over the Intel Core i7 980X to 3.46GHz with the 990X.   Within L2 Core The Intel Core i7 990X maintains and supports each core with 256KB.    And at L3 Cache, all six cores share the large 12MB cache.  

The Core i7 990X has a HyperThreading feature that will allows it to execute all 12 threads at once. The final feature of this CPU is the Turbo Boost technology.  This enabled Intel to push the CPU frequency up to 3.73 GHz at times when maximum performance is required.   

This CPU is aimed at those needing the fastest equipment in the marketplace.  

With the arrival of the parts we took an extremely analytical look at what we perceived the possible builds with the equipment we have on hand. We have to take into account that these new CPUs and Mainboards are not just only aimed at the general public but the system builder too, supporting the professional arena.   

You could build  a sensational multimedia system supported by either ATI’s or Nvidia’s multimedia cards, either standalone or in Crossfire or SLI Mode.    Or, you could build a superb Top End professional graphics workstation that fully uses the new SATA ratification and if you really wish to be impetuous, push the boat out, overclock the system in either of the those modes.

There are now a few professional system integrator companies providing these racked standalone solutions, though take heed, overclock the system in the professional market and you null and void your warranty.   Current system integrators suppliers are providing their own specialised warranties as we go to print.   So for those wishing to take the plunge and wish the system to be pushed that little bit more, it can be done.

In this review, though, the systems will remain at standard BIOS settings with the only exception being the memory settings adjusted to take advantage of the newer and much faster memory.  

There’s a large number of benchmarks available and you could spend all day  producing results if the time permitted.  In order to make this a factual hard hitting article we looked carefully at what the community really need  to see as timescales ran against us in providing you with more information.  Therefore we chose the following to highlight just how good the new complete architecture really is in all arenas.  In order to expedite the proceedings, all tests shown within are at their primary display default settings.  

Benchmarks and Software used in 64-bit Mode
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
SiSoftware Sandra 2011 (Latest Build)
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 2011
SPECviewperf 11.0 64-bit





There have been many rumours flying around about what this new i7 CPU can do and cannot do, but the results speak for themselves.    

We have to take a moment to reflect on the new mainboard’s performance.   Our friend the “Skull” is feature rich in many aspects which should keep many happy for a long time.  The heatpipe cooling which covers the key components is a very welcome addition to this top end mainboard and should ensure longevity of those critical success factors of the mainboard, especially when operating at peak outputs.   There are many ways to upgrade, too many to mention here.  One final point is that the mainboard  does come supplied with a Wi-Fi/BlueTooth Module.

The supplied components to back up the mainboard are up to Intel’s normal high standards, in our recent outing with Sandy Bridge we did like the new SATA cables and once more we’re pleased to see these parts in place.   The supplied software CD came with a good decent bundle of Intel’s own proprietary overclocking tool (Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU))and system monitoring which is a good bonus for the overclocker. 

Other packages included  AV software which means those not having any form of protection can get up and running straight away online and do what needs to be done.  What did take our attention was the updated and upgraded supplied and online manuals.  These have been smartly updated and more precise for many beginners building a system for the first time. This is, without any doubt a much faster CPU and there are significant gains to be seen.

For the multimedia aspects of the mainboardm both the Sapphire Radeon 6970 and Nvidia Geforce GTX 580 performed well.  So we have once more an option of choice, not only with a single high performing GPU but the choice of Crossfire and SLI modes. 

What of the Professional Cards from both ATI and Nvidia? Well these both have taken significant leaps forward in performance, not only from the offerings that the whole system has to offer but the actual driver packages recently released.  

We must suggest that a mission critical system should be balanced accordingly on an Intel platform that supports ECC and a Xeon CPU.  The DX58SO2 does offer the option of both ECC and Non ECC memory configurations and supports the almighty Xeon, though in ECC mode you are limited to a maximum of 24GB.

Finally we have to take away the unmistakable facts that Intel has produced a successor to the throne in the top bin CPU ratings.  Yes a premium price has to be paid.  

Overclockers go Ballistix (sp)

Every now and again that all important item pops up,  some call it a gadget, while others describe it as an extremely important part of the system.  Today we have a look at Crucial’s Ballistix Active DIMM Cooler that hit the streets at the end of November 2010.  

There are a few of these important parts available already on the market – some by other famous manufacturers, others by less well known.  Crucial wanted  to stay ahead of the game and always attempts to maintain its lead over its competitors.  We all strive to maintain a quiet and cool system that we get our money worth from before taking the leap up in getting a whole new system.  So can a simple £20 peripheral ensure longevity in our memory modules?   

Technical specs for the Crucial Ballistix Active Cooling Fan are listed below:

·    Dimensions: 155mm x 77.6mm x 71.6mm
·    Fan size: 2 x 60mm fans
·    Voltage: 12VDC
·    Fan speed: 3000 RPM +/- 10%
·    Noise: 25dBA (28max)
·    Airflow: 15CFM
·    Weight: 200g
·    Connection: 3-pin power connector (4-pin adapter included)

In order to test this new ingenious piece of equipment at its fullest capabilities we took our new Sandy Bridge system build along with Crucial’s all singing and dancing Ballistix, DDR3 PC3-17000 (2133MHz) memory as our choice.  This would certainly stretch the Ballistix DIMM Cooler.   Therefore our system build for this test is as follows

It’s important to keep it simple but also to maintain what an average modern high-end system would look like.   There is plenty of room for the overclocker here but in order to see what the stock values would return we maintained the system at stock with the only exception of changing the memory module speeds to their default of 2133MHz to gain optimal performance from the system and in turn get accurate results.

Ballistix

Test Environment
Maintaining an average room temperature of 22C we firstly ran the system without the Ballistix DIMM Cooler for 3 hours flat out covering all sorts of GPU and Memory intensive tests to try and “heat up” the system.  Results below show clearly an efficacy of both the stand alone system cooling and the new Ballistix memory modules fin cooling array.

Three hours running without the Ballistix Cooler

Ballistic

Moving up a gear we placed on top of the memory modules the new Crucial Ballistix Active Cooling Fan array.  We placed the fan array at the very top setting so that minimal interference with the memories own cooling fin array and that air would be distributed evenly and precisely across the full array of memory modules

Running for three hours

Ballistix

 

While maintaining the ambient room temperate at 22C the following day we then ran a further set of GPU and Memory intensive scripted tests over a 12 hour period.

Ballistix

 

Conclusions
The results show that Crucial’s Ballistix Active DIMM Cooler does do what is claimed on the package.   For £20 you see a significant reduction in heat generation from the memory DIMMS and remember these are no ordinary memory modules.

Crucial has done a YouTube thang with a cheery lassie who you can find here.

The video demonstration does give you a good idea on how airflow transits the system and how the Ballistix Active DIMM Cooler works in the environment.

As always one of the biggest questions asked is about noise.  From the enclosed test system we had set-up not a peep was to be heard.   You can’t ask for more than that.

Our results show an on average of 8 – 10C drop in temperature with the Ballistix Cooler in place which is an impressive performance.  Therefore as a final point of note when spending huge sums of monies on such expensive DIMMS – possibly even a new system build for an extra £20; you can for that minor outlay increase the longevity of your precious memory modules and good system stability.  The figures speak clearly for themselves.

Intel's Sandy Bridge delivers Speedy Gonzales results

For 18 months now the hot phrase has been the clocking potential of the Intel i7 CPUs and mainboard based on the X58 chipsets.  Along came Lynnfield,  six months later bringing with it  “bang for buck” for those who could not reach the ultimate offerings from Intel.  Over the last year,   Intel’s i7 CPU and the X58 chipset had us in awe at how much could be squeezed – and then some.   

Today’s offering of the Lynnfield successor is Sandy Bridge with the new Intel Core i7 2600K Processor.   Muhammad Ali once said “Champions aren’t made in gyms.   Champions are made from something they have deep inside them.  They have a desire, a dream, a vision.  They have to have the skill and the will.   But the will must be stronger than the skill”.

Within these 18 months the dawning of time has changed the way gaming and workstations function.   Intel’s i7 CPU and the X58 chipset most certainly had us in awe.    This brought forward our articles on “The Need for Speed”.   Whether a single socket Nehalem CPU or dual socket Nehalem CPUs  many have seen life changing opportunities for their gaming rigs, or as we fully focus on, the workstation environment.   

The changes have been huge and productivity has taken the biggest of leaps forward in many years. Not withstanding the costs of SSD’s has dropped dramatically and improved substantially meaning some of the fastest systems around are being built, today being a primary example.

Once more we see a significant change in focus with Intel’s offerings from the Nehalem family -enter the Sandy Bridge variant.  This variant, again, brings with it some very clever technological changes to the CPU and mainboard, and these will be covered briefly as we delve into the workings of both.  

The first Sandy Bridge chips to be unveiled today are as listed below


 
This range of CPUs from Intel is a serious choice for end-users, if cost is not a problem for those whose budgets just cannot reach the top end I7 CPUs. Performance is surprising to say the least. For a budget range CPU, in our opinion, the end-user is actually walking away with a very high end performing CPU.

Yes, you have read the Turbo Boost settings correctly.   On firing up for the first time we bounced straight into the BIOS and were nicely surprised seeing 3.8GHz in the Turbo Boost.   Pretty overwhelming.


 
With the new Intel DP67BG mainboard that we are looking at today we now see a mainboard schematic looking like this.

On arrival of the parts we took our normal analytical look at what we perceived the possible builds with the equipment we have to hand. 

Taking into account that these new CPU’s and Mainboards are not only aimed at the general public but the system builder too that supports the professional arena,  we see a rather juicy multimedia system that can be supported by either ATI’s or Nvidia’s Multimedia Cards. 

Or, a superb mid-range professional graphics workstation that fully utilises the new SATA ratification and if you really wish to push the boat out, overclock the system in either mode. 

There are a few professional system integrator companies now providing this, though take heed, overclock the system in the professional market and you null and void your warranty.   Current system integrators suppliers are providing their own warranties as we go to print.   So for once the mid range units are now affordable and we have at our disposal another excellent workstation to clarify oddities that some might see or hear of.

The plethora of benchmarks available in this arena; one could spend all day producing results if the time permitted, paralysis by analysis! 

In order to keep this a factual article we look carefully at what the community really needs  to see as timescales ran against us in providing you with more information.  So we chose the following to highlight just how good the new complete architecture really is in all arenas. 

In order to expedite the proceedings, all tests shown within are at their primary display default settings.  System left at default with the only exception of BIOS intrusion was to manually adjust the memory settings from 1333MHz to 2133MHz to obtain the full potential of Crucial’s new memory modules.

<<insert

 

Confucius once wrote: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

Today we have seen from within a marvellous array of choice, superb overclocking potential and finally something that will suit the needs of many a pocket looking for that all important upgrade they have been holding back on.  

On the arrival of new technology of this magnitude, it is sometimes hard to sit back and gather thoughts after witnessing some pretty remarkable performances being produced. After all that we have collated today; the results speak very clearly, this is without a doubt yet another winner that Intel has brought to the fore.  

From a Multimedia aspect, this mainboard has got a whole load of bang to it. Overclocking potential is great and we are sure that many will bring some remarkable results to the fore.  Though with the mainboard and CPU at stock levels the synthetic results gained from both Nvidia’s GTX 480 and the Sapphire Radeon 6970 are quite astonishing.   

However one must take into due consideration the helping hand within the systems I/O from Crucial’s supply of its superfast  C300 SSD and the almighty new Crucial Ballistix, DDR3 PC3-17000.  We took the system to the maximum at stock and ran it without falter for 8 days flat out. 

To conclude this sector, a hands down winner for all manufacturers concerned.

After many years of paying premiums for mid entry level workstations we have options that are affordable and have the power within to provide the end-users a substantial stable workstation that will last for some time to come.  

We have over these last few months completely stressed this unit to its fullest without any problems.   The mainboards offer plenty of room for expansion in whichever way they are utilised as a home gamer, SoHo Workstation. 

Or, and more probable within the corporate market, place as a stand alone desktop unit as there is so much power inside.  More probable, the studios, CAD/CAM and DCC market as the system shown within fully combined and once more reiterating, a sound solid fast system.

Onboard Audio replay was very good producing a crisp pleasant sound back to the ear.  The onboard LAN, fast and efficient as we did not encounter any problems whatsoever hooked up within our tasking units here.

Each of the professional graphics cards performed well above everyone’s  expectations, returning from the SPEC tests some very impressive results.  The driver optimisations from both ATI and NVIDIA have embraced the new technology marvellously.  One point of note is that ATI’s drivers are now catching up, so we should see a change here soon. 

Though once more we have to take into consideration the whole I/O as without this we would not be seeing such excellent performing scores from both companies supplying the professional graphic cards.

Consequently and once more we have to reiterate the objectivity of choice. 

Choice to the budget user that sees the complete unique benefits the mainboards have to offer – Firewire and Bluetooth on the same mainboard.  This novel concept we see normally on notebooks, therefore the beneficial choice to the end-user means more simplistic productivity. 

Choice in CPU, whether a budget entry or a more upscale CPU that brings them in close proximity to to the high-end i7 chips.  We must recount just how much Turbo boost is hidden under the hood at default – yes, 3.8GHz is something to behold.  

So once more “bang for buck” is here without spending a fortune.  Those wishing to move up a gear but have not got the funds to reach the high-end i7 CPUs, then without doubt the Intel Core i7 2600K Processor is tremendously powerful and will last the end-user for many years to come.

We also see choice within our multimedia graphic cards. 

Whether ATI’s CrossFire or NVIDIA’S SLI, both multi card scenarios will keep many a gamer happy for hours.  Though those wishing to use a single GPU from either will see huge differences in performance uptake. 

As for the professional cards, in a tandem array, we need to further investigate, so watch this space for more news.   

Whichever way this is perceived the purchaser is onto a “win win” – as importantly, we have to remember that the Dual Channel memory choice means a upgrade path when the timing and the budget is right as the baseline memory bandwidth shows a very respectable result.

Penultimately we come back to the vogue “need for speed and the option of choice”.  Previously this was for the few who could afford, now it is within the reach of the many.

Finally we return for one last recount.  We have just skimmed over the iceberg of what really lies underneath,  so a more in-depth article will follow covering much more than today’s brief appearance. 

We have fast affordable CPUs, mainboards with a whole remit of functionality which will flummox many.  Upgrades are easily achievable and, the “need for speed” is there now for everyone to enjoy.  An exceptional piece of post-Christmas marketing by Intel’s  public relations team.  

Overall Intel has surpassed itself with this upgrade, allowing many to have what they could only read about or place on their wish lists.   Sandy Bridge is without a doubt the fastest CPU on the block in this sector and for a reasonably priced CPU you get  superb performance.    

Positioning your confidence in motherboard auto-overclocking and the i7 2600K and 4GHz is easily reached,  and for those who want more it’s all within your grasp, yes, on fresh air,  without any fancy cooling arrays.

Nvidia Quadro 2000 – it's a kind of magic

A year has passed since the successful launch of Nvidia’s Quadro FX1800, and it has to be acknowledged by many as a successful mid range card that had a bit of bang to it.  

In recent months we have covered all the high performing Quadro Fermi performance cards and they have without doubt caught many unaware because of the sheer power beneath the hood. 

Like all professional cards the refresh comes along and so the time has come to reveal the Quadro FX1800’s replacement with the Quadro Fermi 2000.  Bouncing right in,  we notice a significant difference within the card’s design. It is smaller yet much more powerful than its predecessor.  

This card promises to deliver much more and at the same price. The big leap in CUDA cores available will let people use their already optimised software for greater performance levels.  Helping this along is an increase in memory bandwidth and that all important step up to 1GB of onboard GDDR5 memory.  

Here are how the two cards differ:

Comparison

System Set-Up and Software Used
Here are the details of the system we used to test the card.

System Specs

Benchmarks and Software Used 64-bit Mode
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
SPECapc  for 3ds Max 9
SPECapc for Maya 2009
SPECapc for SolidWorks 2007
SPECviewperf 11.0 64-bit.   

Each set of tests has been applied on the clean system hard drive shown above to ensure that no residue drivers were left installed with all updates/patches applied. A test/render has been completed many times over different periods of the system uptime. While maintaining the fair play rules of SPEC , HyperThreading and Turbo Boost have been enabled, with the memory being left in its default status. Tests have been conducted in accordance with the resolutions  detailed above @ 59Hz / 60Hz in 32 bit colour.   Results shown within this article are from the application / benchmark’s first run in accordance with the SPECviewperf and SPECapc fair play rules.  

 


 


 

Conclusions
This has been yet again an astonishing leap forward in Nvidia’s technology within the mid range sector. In most cases there are very significant advances. We have to take into account the new driver being built for this unit.  

We have reviewed over the last few months the complete Nvidia Quadro Fermi Range. Each article shows off each card in tremendous light in its chosen competitive area. Nvidia has done its homework here as the Quadro 2000 is an exceptional piece of engineering. 

One point to note is the clever slim line cooling array built into the Quadro 2000.   For those who have a supplied chassis that has a good intake fan then the aerodynamic front of the card most certainly will make use of that cool air, keeping key components cooler and in turn ensuring longevity of the product.

Currently the stand alone pricing of the Quadro 2000 is approximately £370.00  excluding tax and shipping. For some, and there are a few, this may be a touch too much, for others it’s a reasonable price point for a professional graphics card of this nature.  

The results shown within both SPECapc SM for 3ds Max 9  and SPECapcSM for Maya 2009  show very considerable improvements over the previous generation.
 
Within SPECviewperf 11 the scaling performance upgrade from the Quadro FX1800 to the Quadro 2000 has been extremely good in many areas from all the tests shown.  Combining the results into an Excel Spreadsheet we fully see the Quadro 2000 streaking ahead in the major applications.


 

There’s a 15 – 20 percent increase in many areas, more within some of the viewsets.

It just goes to show what exceptional work has gone into this card and its driver.

HTC Windows 7 Mobiles reviewed

For the last few years the optional choice for the professional out on the road has been the Blackberry, Palm Trio and a few other mobile devices. Then along came Windows Mobile, which had a slow uptake and some liked it.

Windows 6.5 Professional became the choice of many a professional with its seamless synchronisation with the master operating system of Vista and, more recently, Windows 7.   For a  professional, a mobile phone is a  lifeline to the outside world and rigorously policed as the contacts and contents inside would sell for huge sums on the open market.

The hullabaloo on the launch of the new Windows 7 phones had many up in arms. Many esteemed journalists had been left off the list and had to wait for press releases telling them what to expect.  

Many old road spiders didn’t really bother, as time would tell if this product would stand up to all the hype.  Quite happy with their Blackberrys and Windows 6.5 professional, why should people change?  Mr Microsoft says you should to keep up with the times.  After all we are looking at a device that will streamline your productivity with your current Windows operating systems and applications.   With this in mind, let’s compare the major features of the HTC HD2 that is currently being used now against the new HTC HD7 we might use in the future.

specifications

And so to the nitty gritty, deciding if it was time to come into the 21st century kicking.  

Our choice –  the new all singing and dancing HTC HD7, one of the direct successors to the current HTC line – even though many claim there’s a shortage of the Windows 7 mobile beasties.   

A quick recap on the press briefing and the HTC HD7 certainly looked to be the item to behold.
Our HTC HD7 arrived and within the box came the normal bits and pieces you would expect – a   charger with micro USB connection, a neat set of headphones and the sound playback reproduction is good, and last but not least the smallest manual we have ever seen. 

Everything else needed to be downloaded from Microsoft to get the phone sync’d up and running properly.  But of course registration through your Live account (if you had one) needed to be done first.  This just may put some people off straight away.

In the box
The HTC HD7 windows connectivity in both Bluetooth and Wireless we found to be really good, tying in nicely with the Plantronics professional headset and for those not in the know this Bluetooth headset runs two mobile phones at any one time – with excellent noise cancelling, and the Grand Cherokee’s U Connect Bluetooth system of the car. 

Contacts successfully transferred over and it was most pleasing and never dropped connection on a complete 800 mile road trip.   So a major plus here.   Construction of the phone is solid, the 4.3-inch screen is very sharp indeed and the font reproduction is clear.   

Flashed up

Once the battery and SIM card are locked into place and the back secured, you are left with a feeling of security as many mobile phones have a somewhat flimsy backing that can pop off when you least expect it.  

In the wireless mode within the office it picked up our own device straight away.   While out on our travels within several major hotels and motorway service stations that offered free wireless connectivity it hooked up straight away and we pulled off our mail and updates.

Contacts

The phone is just like having your cut down Windows 7 desktop popped onto a mobile device.  Those already using Windows 7 will have no problems but others may find the interface a little bit awkward to start with.  The HTC hub built into the set-up allows you to use  many different features of the internet like the weather, stocks and some interesting apps.   Many are free and there are a few you have to pay for.  

HTC Hub

The Microsoft Zune software interface has an array of features though at times you cannot help but feel it’s very much like something Apple would have made. You can tweak your phone settings from here and update the phones software directly from Microsoft, though the main features are fully focused upon Music, Videos, Pictures and Podcasts.  Very teen / twenties orientated indeed.   

The biggest push though is for gamers who wish to peruse their X-Box Live gaming.   Those into gaming will find this fun and play away many hours while stuck in the airport waiting for that long haul trip.  

Gaming
The  pictures it takes are good – we tried an extreme close up of a difficult shot and the proof is below.

Close up
Video – HTC claims you can make your own movies in HD as it comes with an 720p HD camcorder allowing you to capture film with incredible quality and detail. It’s ideal for turning your friends and family into stars.   A simple 20 second video test showed very good playback on both the HTC HD7 handset and when re ran it on a PC monitor, it was very sharp and clear reproduction using the Zune software.    

Conclusion

Some people  will love this, others will wait.  Many different tariffs can be obtained by the different providers for this new piece of hardware from HTC.  For now there are five different variants –  HTC 7 Surround, HTC 7 Mozart, HTC 7 Trophy, HTC 7 Pro and HTC HD7, though within the EU we are limited to 3 variants – the HTC HD7, HTC 7 Mozart and the HTC 7 Trophy.  Those of you looking for the HTC 7 Pro in the EU will have to wait.  Strange.

The Windows Phone 7 has a very fast operating system with polished animation and good performance. But a few things stand out which prevents a professional from making full usage of this bit of kit. There are some problems that will annoy many and these are:
·    No multi-tasking  – that means there’s a whole load of reloading and time wasting
·    No cut, copy, and paste functionality
·    No custom ringtone capability – to many this is the end users fun having that all important customised ringer
·    Limited customisation of the Start screen
·    Office apps are pretty limited in terms of what you can do from the phone – what, no Outlook?
·    Inconsistency in auto rotation. Now this is a frustrating point as just when you flip the phone back expecting it to follow, it stays stuck in place.  After several hard flicks of the phone it came out of portrait into landscape view.
·    Fully locked into the Zune software for PC connections with no drive or file access

For now the cons outweigh the pros as the phone is lacking in many areas of simple functionality.

Too much reliance has been placed on Live interfacing which is a pain for many. If running from Microsoft Exchange then you are laughing all the way to the corporation as everything hooks up readily. 

However there are a few who will say that this is a good thing – but honestly trusting your safe documents upon a server that you have no control over?  And security is today’s vogue Zippo really, as the investigations here could find no form of Anti Virus software etc that will protect your precious piece of equipment.

You cannot even scan the beast from your PC either as Mr Zune makes sure you cannot.  

So we have a mobile phone filled with features galore, but very readily open to hacks. This does make you sit back and wonder why the anti virus companies are not ready to launch as today’s smartphones are the vogue item to have.  

For those with teen children then it will be a winner with all the Twitter and Facebook interfaces in place.  Though, once more, your data on the phone is too readily accessible.

For this old road spider, for now, the HTC HD7 will sit in the background and I will continue with the HTC HD2 which has all the bells and whistles we need, until something else comes round  the corner.

AMD-ATI technology will make your eyes boggle

A few weeks back we ran an article on the mighty ATI FirePro V9800. We promised you a look at our findings covering ATI’s all singing and dancing Eyefinity technology. A variant has been with the consumer market for some months now and the professional market has finally caught up to a robust level. In April this year we saw a sneak peak of the professional variant and it showed exciting promise. TechEye takes a look.

3×1 Portrait Display Group. We can also have a 3×1 Landscape Display Group

 

3×2 Landscape Display Group 

3×1 Portrait display group

For this article we will focus on the array below:

 

Eyefinity is extremely easy to use as the guide is very self explanatory. The supported operating systems are: 

Microsoft Windows 7
Windows Vista
Linux
Windows XP
support for ATI Eyefinity technology is limited to two simultaneous displays at any time 

We pondered which system build to use and decided on the Single Socket Intel® Xeon 3.46GHz,  which has proved itself a winner. 

Component

Test  System

Mainboard

Supermicro X8SAX Workstation Board Rev 2

CPU

1 X 3.46GHz Intel® Xeon® X5677 Nehalem EP®, 12MB Shared Cache, 6.4GB/s QPI

HSF Coolers

Corsair H50-1 Hydro Series High-performance CPU Watercooler

Memory

6 X 2GB Crucial DDR3 (12GB Total) 1333MHz Unbuffered  ECC DIMMS  Memory Modules

Hard Drive

600GB Western Digital 10000RPM VelociRaptor

PCI Ex Graphics Card

ATI FirePro V9800

Operating System

Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit Professional

Setting out with our 6 X 24″ monitors we wanted to see what the maximum performance hit was from the ATI FirePro V9800, at peak resolution, while under load of one of the more common professional applications.

Starting out using Solidworks and using one monitor with the ATI FirePro V9800 brought in a graphical score of 3.81. The next sequence was four monitors running the application and two showing just the windows desktop. To our surprise the actual graphical score of 3.67 had dropped only by 0.14. Finally we pushed the whole six displays into one 5760 x 2400 unit and the final run took us by surprise again, showing a fine drop of only 0.13 with a graphical result of 3.54. The overall monitor increase only saw a very minor decrease in the final graphical output, an exceptionally good result.

We ran the Bentley MicroStation Benchmark to double check. These backed up our initial findings – it has to be reiterated, watching professional tests which absolutely stretch the V9800 chip to the limits, we wondered if it would be too much. But the V9800 didn’t falter once.

It goes without saying that this technology offers benefits to those wishing to use or currently using multi-monitor set-ups.

Displays are coming forward with thinner bezels, meaning better viewing, and the cost is dropping so it’s an attractive idea to show off quality high screen outputs of finished models to clients.

 

We finished off the day with a 5760 x 2400 in 32 bit colour set-up. ATI claims a maximum resolution of 7680 x 3200 grouping three displays wide by two displays high with landscape orientation using 2560×1600 display resolution for each monitor (24.6 megapixel resolution), this would be something to behold witnessing this in action.

 

We have only shown what can be done with the maximum suite of six monitors. If you really wish to push the boat out, you can set up 12 x 24″ monitors but you will need an additional ATI FirePro V9800. 

There are many ATI FirePro and FireGL cards that all support Eyefinity technology, though currently the top two high-end cards, the FirePro V9800 and FirePro V8800 support six and four monitors respectively and the remaining cards all supporting a standard two monitors.

One fundamental point of interest to all and most importantly to the finance and medical sectors is font clarity.

Sitting nine feet away from the compete display, the font reproduction was crystal clear and razor sharp. The actual picture quality was impeccably sharp too. Though if we carefully crawl back into the recruitment history of ATI it has to be noted some extremely very clever guys snaffled up from Matrox are to thank for this.

Overall this is an impressive piece of technology implementation within one graphics card. Eyefinity is simple to use and will have customers impressed when they see their final models on a massive landscape of displays.

Which ever way we look at things, ATI has released an exceptional piece of technology that is rapidly being taken up by the professional sectors.

3TB Western Digital Caviar Green reviewed

The news that shocked everyone on Tuesday was Western Digital’s formal announcement of the WD Caviar Green three terabytes (TB) spindle hard drive.  For many months rumours had been flying about that Seagate had one ready in the pipeline, but Western Digital was nearing launch. This announcement caught many analysts unaware.

Everyone wants  bigger and faster. Putting four platters of 750GB is quite an engineering feat.  It’s entirely feasible that WD labs are working on a one terabyte platter already.

These new three terabyte drives come with the usual array of Western Digital technology supporting reduced power consumption, perfect for external drives boxes, IntelliPower, IntelliSeek, NoTouch ramp load technology and last but not least Advanced Format (AF) which will make life much easier for many end users.

A lot of end-users are running with some form of Intel X48/X58 platform or the AMD equivalent. 

We know also that many storage units are also built around the X58/Tylersberg platform. Storage servers take on either dual or single socket Xeon’s/Opterons more often than not over Xeons.   So we settled upon a Uni-Processor solution from Supermicro, the X8SAX which is extremely flexible in upgrade paths and, supports Intel Core i7 / i7 Extreme Edition, and Intel Xeon 5600/5500/3600/3500 series processors (QPI up to 6.4 GT/s). 

Installation of the drive was a complete breeze with Western Digital supplying a RocketRaid PCI Express card just in case your mainboard bios does not support UEFI, kudos here for thinking on a long term solution for those who might  yelp “it doesn’t work” .  

Terabyte drive

tb2

In most instances end-users will have to remove the half height I/O bracket and slot it into place, for the server market this will be readily worked around.  Therefore our final system build for the this beast is:

tb3

tb4

tb5

tb6

tb7

We now turn to some real time back up results that unequivocally show the speed at which the Western Digital 3 Terabyte drive can read data.

tb8

 

It has to be said that this drive surpassed its predecessor with flying colours.   The results shown above prove it. If we take the 2TB Caviar Green results shown last year using Sandra 2009 within the File System test we saw 88.2MB/s versus today’s 145.36 MB/s on the 3TB Caviar Green and within the Physical Disc test 83.08MB/s versus today’s 102.49MB/s on the 3TB Caviar Green.   That’s a substantial improvement. 

OEMs, Sis and VARs will already be looking at their storage boxes – both external and rackmounts for data centres and the like.  Costs within these enterprise arenas are rising steeply and this is one area many will be looking to cut back upon but at the same time increasing their storage capabilities.  With the reduction in power with much larger storage capacities and faster read/writes this is an attractive spindle disc backed by Western Digital’s standard warranty. 
  
WD’s PR says you can store around 600,000 digital photos, 750,000 MP3 songs or 230 hours of Digital Video or, 360 hours of HD Video.   That’s a whole load of movie and MP3 storage.  

On going to print, these monstrous drives are already hitting e-tailers and suppliers. High demand is expected.  MRSP for the Western Digital Caviar Green 2.5 TB hard drive is £155.00 and the  three terabyte  hard drive swings in at £195.00 (all prices before shipping and taxes).

ATI FirePro V9800 Professional graphics card reviewed

Over the last six months we have exclusively looked into some astounding technical accomplishments in the professional graphics market place from both ATI and Nvidia. Each card has its own merits and place, depending upon budget.

We have completed the new Quadro Fermi range from Nvidia – quite something, to say the least.

Finally, the last in this series from ATI, the mighty 4GB FirePro V9800 has hit the beach. This is a very interesting configured professional workstation graphics card which will catch many by surprise for its cost and performance and most importantly for its versatility.

We looked at the FirePro V8800 at its launch back in April. After a further six months careful research and development, today we delve into the new FirePro V9800 and see what it has to offer.

The most significant advancement of the ATI FirePro V9800 is multi display support. Up to six monitors can be supported up to a resolution of Maximum Resolution of 2560×1600 @ 60Hz. This means a dramatic increase in display density and visualiaation capability for markets from medical imaging to DCC, CAD and digital signage.

Taking this into consideration let’s take a swift look at the variances within the features table between the FirePro V9800 and FirePro V8750 cards to gain some idea of the comparisons and how much of a technology leap is on the cards.

specifications

Technical Specifications
Supported Platforms
Microsoft Windows 7 (64-bit and 32-bit)
Microsoft Windows Vista (64-bit and 32-bit)
Microsoft Windows XP (64-bit and 32-bit)
Linux – Full OpenGL implementation (64-bit and 32-bit)
We all thought that the ATI FirePro V8800 was something to behold, but this really is something very special from ATI.

For six months the ATI FirePro V8800 has maintained the wealth as being one of the most popular ultra high-end professional graphic’s cards to be found within the professional market. Not any more, as the ATI FirePro V9800 will be having many readers licking their lips at just what has taken over. With all the basic facts in place we now get down to the meat and veg.

V9800 card

System Set-Up and Software Used
We have on several outings shown the mighty Supermicro X8SAX ATX workstation mainboard as our platform of choice as this is an extremely vogue set-up, liked by many tier 1 and system integrators. In maintaining continuity of our “in house” test platforms we head out once more with the system that kicks sand in the eyes of others.

System setup

Benchmarks and Software Used 64-bit Mode
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Cinebench 11.5 64-bit
Redway Turbine Benchmark
SPECapc for 3ds Max 9
SPECviewperf 11.0 64-bit. Tests ran at 1920 X 1080 Resolution

Each set of tests has been applied on the clean system hard drives shown above to ensure that no residue drivers were left installed, with all updates/patches applied. A test/render has been completed many times over different periods of the system uptime. Whilst maintaining the fair play rules of SPEC HyperThreading and Turbo Boost have been enabled, with the memory being left in its default status of Auto. Tests have been conducted in accordance with the resolutions detailed above @ 59Hz / 60Hz in 32 bit colour. Results that have been shown within this article are from the application/benchmarks first run in accordance with the SPECviewperf and SPECapc fair play rules.

cinebench

gpu

redway

SPECapc

full SPEC results

Conclusion
From our initial presentation and sneak look we knew just from the visual outputs witnessed that this was to be something special.

With an MRSP price tag of $3,499, it fits the bill perfectly in many areas. The key to the whole card is the huge multi display output. But what of performance output whilst hooked up to all these monitors? We have been advised of an approximate 10 percent drop when fully enabled for all six displays. In a few weeks we will be able to accurately report back as we will be testing the card and the system with a complete suite of monitors.So watch this space. ATI Eyefinity Technology looks to be one important piece of technology for the forthcoming months as more monitor manufacturers are examing what they can also get from the kit.

The actual positioning of the new ATI FirePro V9800 is aimed squarely at the most demanding of studios and design centres that require the best of outputs. This is a card that will have the studios, architectural companies and perceptive professionals screaming with desire.

With today’s ISV software packages for example Max, Maya and Solidworks so many commercial plugins are now readily available to enhance the packages. Add into place the combination of the ATI FirePro S400 Sync Module offering full hardware synchronisation with support for up to 4 GPUs per module – a possible 24 Synchronized Outputs per PC.

With this comes demand upon the whole system I/O and the professional cards. In order to meet the demands of these packages, the hardware and supporting Application Acceleration Tools have to be precise – for example the Stereoscopic/Quad-buffered 3D Rendering Pipeline. The investment is paying off with tremendous uptakes in many arenas of the professional industry – Medical, Oil and Gas, Science and even the Financial houses have much to gain.

Much of the performance improvement is down to the architecture of the new product, some down to the driver team, the unsung heroes that so many forget about. 

The ATI FirePro V9800 from the beginning of October should be hitting Resellers, SIs and VARs. Its price should be in the region of – $3,499 USD – £2220 – €2576, before shipping and local taxes. We foresee high demand.