Gateway intros four new gaming desktops

via Engadget by Darren Murph on 2/25/09

While Gateway‘s been on the laptop bandwagon of late, it’s good to see the company doing its thang on the desktop front, too. Kicking things off is the bargain-priced LX6810-01, which houses 8GB of RAM, NVIDIA graphics, a built-in TV tuner and a $799.99 price tag. The even more affordable DX4200-11 gets going at just $609.99 and features an AMD quad-core CPU, ATI Radeon graphics, 6GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive. Stepping things up quite significantly is the FX6800-09, which sports a Core i7 CPU and a $1,649.99 sticker. Rounding out the bunch is the $1,299.99 FX6800-11 and the currently unpriced entry-level FX6800-01e. If any of these caught your fancy, head on past the break for a look at the full release.

Continue reading Gateway intros four new gaming desktops

AMD ushers in five new Phenom II CPUs, benchmarking ensues

via Engadget by Darren Murph on 2/9/09

Just a month after AMD launched its Phenom II CPUs and Dragon desktop platform, the chip maker is hitting back with five new processors in the quickly expanding line. The newcomers include the planet’s first 45nm triple-core CPU and three more quad-core siblings, all of which can operate in either AM2+ or AM3 sockets. As for performance? We hope your expectations haven’t been set too high, as the chips were generally found to be just “a logical extension of [the company’s] piecemeal upgrade plan and a fill in [the] gap to its lineup.” Reviewers across the web were generally pleased but underwhelmed by test results, with HotHardware noting that “overall, Intel still has the performance edge clock-for-clock and core-for-core.” In fairness, these chips were found to be good for overclocking, and for the right price, we could certainly see a few gamers giving them a go. For the full spill, dive on into the deep, intricate reviews below.

Read – Official AMD announcement
Read – HotHardware benchmarks
Read – PCPerspective benchmarks
Read – DesktopReview’s review

Overclocking guide shows what Intel’s Core i7 is / isn’t capable of

via Engadget by Darren Murph on 12/29/08

Oh sure, we’ve seen just how far Intel’s most potent Core i7 chip can be pushed under the most extreme conditions, but honestly, how’s that helping you? In short, it’s not. To that end, HotHardware has whipped up a useful, easy-to-digest guide on overclocking the Core i7 920, complete with benchmarks, recommendations and tips for dealing with excess heat without hooking up a liquid nitrogen tank. Interested to see how to crank a stock 920 to a level that outpaces the pricey 3.2GHz Core i7 Extreme Edition? The read link, friends — hit it.

AMD Phenom II processor bought, benchmarked, coveted

via Engadget by Tim Stevens on 12/23/08
AMD Phenom II processor bought, benchmarked, coveted

AMD, a company not exactly known for meeting its own deadlines, seemed to be trying to avoid news of painful delays for the Phenom II by simply not letting anyone say when the thing would be available. Now the chip is apparently in the hands of one lucky gamer at the HardOCP forums, Table21, who was kind enough to run it through its paces. The Phenom II 940 running at 3GHz scored a 4,091 on 3DMark06 and, once OC’d up to 3.85GHz, delivered a score of 5,086. It’s rather too early to draw any conclusions from these numbers, and we don’t know what he paid for the thing, but that performance does fall well behind Intel’s Core i7 Extreme that was similarly benchmarked last month, scoring 6,608 at the same clock speed. That’s quite a gap — but nothing a little liquid nitrogen won’t fix.

[Via PC Perspective]

Intel Launches Cheaper Intel Quad-core While AMD Still Looks Dumbfounded

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In addition to their mobile Extreme CPU, Intel has also announced its 3.0GHz Core 2 Extreme processor, the 65-nm QX6850 with four cores and dual 4MB Level 2 cache. The QX6850, touted as the fastest consumer processor now available, is the flagship of their new 1,333MHz Front Side Bus CPU family, which includes the Core 2 Duo E6850, E6750 and E6550, all of them with cheaper prices than the previous generation.

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850
3.00GHz 1333 4MBx2 $999
Intel Core 2 Duo E6850
3.00GHz 1333 4MB $266
Intel Core 2 Duo E6750
2.66GHz 1333 4MB $183
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550
2.33GHz 1333 4MB $163

[Anadtech]

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AMD: Go to ‘Barcelona’ over ‘Clovertown’

When it comes to quad-core chips, good things come to those who wait, Advanced Micro Devices believes.

After years breathing AMD’s dust, Intel beat its rival to the punch by releasing its quad-core Xeon 5300 “Clovertown” processor for servers in November. But AMD’s “Barcelona” quad-core chip, due to arrive midway through 2007, will be a significant notch faster than the Clovertown chips expected to be on the market at that time, said Randy Allen, AMD’s corporate vice president for server and workstation products.

“We expect across a wide variety of workloads for Barcelona to outperform Clovertown by 40 percent,” Allen said. The quad-core chip also will outperform AMD’s current dual-core Opterons on “floating point” mathematical calculations by a factor of 3.6 at the same clock rate, he said.

Trumpeting the performance of unreleased products is not a strategy unique to AMD. When launching the Xeon 5100 “Woodcrest,” chip Intel said its chips would beat AMD’s by at least 40 percent.

Having a quad-core product has helped restore Intel’s fortunes, and not just by buffing the chipmaker’s image, Mercury Research analyst Dean McCarron said. “Early indications are that Clovertown is contributing a meaningful amount of business to Intel in a surprisingly short period of time,” McCarron said. “It’s not marketing fluff.”

For its part, Intel points to Sun Microsystems’ announcement on Monday that it would sell Intel-based servers, ending its reliance on AMD as its exclusive x86 server chip supplier. “We’ll let our competitors talk the talk while we walk the walk,” spokesman Bill Kircos said, adding that Intel will improve performance and energy efficiency compared to today’s products.

In the third quarter of 2006, Intel’s restored competitiveness helped Intel reclaim server processor market share lost to AMD. Mercury Research figures for the fourth quarter aren’t yet available, but AMD warned earlier this month that its chip-selling prices were “significantly lower.”

Clovertown “has allowed Intel to put some pricing pressure on AMD. Intel can tout a lower price per core, given that it’s pricing much of the quad-core Xeon 5300 line the same as its dual-core Xeon 5100 chips,” said Technology Business Research analyst John Spooner.

“AMD has to respond to that by offering lower Opteron prices to satisfy those customers who might look at switching between now and when Barcelona comes out,” Spooner said. “Discussing Barcelona performance is another way to help stave off Intel for the time being.”

AMD stands by its Barcelona engineering decisions, though, including its choice to build a single chip with four cores rather than employing Intel’s dual-core, dual-chip package approach. AMD calls its approach “monolithic” or “native” quad-core.

Customers don’t care whether chips are monolithic or combine separate processors, Allen said, but they do care about performance. “We came to the conclusion that, given the capabilities and performance with the monolithic design, it was clearly the right answer,” Allen said.

Barcelona employs several features to improve performance, Allen said. Among them:

• It’s AMD’s first chip with a built-in level-three cache. Cache memory can respond faster than main memory, and Intel has relied on large amounts of cache to improve its processors’ performance. Each Barcelona core has its own 64-kilobyte first-level data cache, 64KB first-level instruction cache and 512KB second-level cache; and the four cores together share a 2MB third-level cache, though AMD has said that size can be increased.

• AMD redesigned the Barcelona core, marking the biggest changes since the company made its 2003 transition from its 32-bit Athlon chips to the current 64-bit lineup. The magnitude of the transition is about halfway between the small tweaks AMD has made to Opteron over the years and the clean-sheet redesign Intel employed in moving from NetBurst to its current Core design, Allen said.

• A faster floating-point engine performs mathematical calculations–long an Opteron strong suit, though not as important a part of the chip as that for integer operations. At a given clock frequency, a Barcelona core outperforms a current Opteron core by a factor of 1.8. By going quad-core, a Barcelona chip overall will provide a boost factor of 3.6, Allen said.

Not all things are better, though. Specifically, Barcelona’s clock frequency will be lower than that for the company’s dual-core chips. That’s a common situation because quad-core chips require more circuitry, and more circuitry means more power consumption and waste heat, unless the chips run slower.

AMD is moving its manufacturing from a 90-nanometer process to a 65-nanometer process, permitting more circuitry to fit in a given amount of chip real estate. Even with that change, the quad-core chips will run more slowly, Allen said. He argued that it’s worth the tradeoff, though, since the additional cores can run more jobs simultaneously, even if an individual job isn’t completed as swiftly.

“The slight degradation for frequency with quad-core will be overwhelmed by the increase in performance from dual-core to quad-core,” Allen said. He declined to mention the chips’ frequency.

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Intel sez Penryn’s done, lookout for 45nm Wolfdale / Yorkfield

If you’re desperate for some positive Intel news after hearing those less-than-inspiring margin forecasts earlier today, the chipmaker is once again keeping itself on track in regard to pumping out its forthcoming 45-nanometer processors. While we were briefed on the dual-core Wolfdale and quad-core Yorkfield just a few weeks back, Intel is now claiming that its Penryn-based chips are “complete” and will play nice with Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems when they hit the shelves. Both chips are (still) slated to hit production during the second half of this year, with manufacturing to hit full stride during 2008. Penryn is supposed to “extend the Core 2 architecture” by playing host to the next set of Intel’s Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE), and will also lend a hand in the future development of Montevina, and just in case you’re the (way) forward-looking type, you can expect Penryn’s successor — dubbed Nehalem — to roll out in late ’08.

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Review: Dell’s quad-core XPS 710 tower rips it up

xps 710

Dell recently set the bar a little bit higher for top-of-the-line machines — the rigs for people who don’t care how much their computer costs as long as it’s better than everyone else’s. Loaded up with Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad QX6700 processors at 2.66 GHz and two NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics cards (that’s Quad SLI for those keeping score at home), the XPS 710 has more horsepower than most people will know what to do with under the hood. Which might be one of the problems. For $6,000, is it worth breaking the bank to get the fastest computer possible? I took the XPS 710 for a test drive to find out.

Goodies in the Box
So what comes in the box when you drop over $6,000? Before we get to the tower, let’s take a look at the other goodies you get. First off, we have a 24-inch widescreen 2407FPW LCD monitor, a gigantic and bright beauty of a display. With a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, text is crisp and clear and everything looks really sharp. However, it’s the same number of pixels you get in a 17-inch Dell Inspiron laptop screen. Couldn’t Dell pump up the pixels a bit for a monitor that’s a solid 7 inches larger than a laptop screen with the same count? After all, the company’s 30-incher maxes out at 2,560 x 1,600, so it seems like there could be a happy medium in there. But in any case, at 1,920 x 1,200 the monitor looks really quite amazing.

The keyboard and mouse are fittingly as top of the line as the tower itself. First you get the Saitek Eclipse II Keyboard, featuring adjustable blue lights beneath the keys to make you feel like you’re piloting a spaceship when you’re checking your e-mail. If the lights get too bright or annoying for you, the knob in the upper right-hand corner of the keyboard will tone it down for you. Other extra buttons include audio controls and a mute button. Nothing too fancy, but it’s pretty much all you’d want on a keyboard.

The mouse that’s included is the Logitech G5 Laser Gaming Mouse, and what makes it stand out above other mice (other than the extra, somewhat oddly placed, buttons), is the fact that you can adjust the heft of the device via the included weight set. Simply pop out the little weight cartridge in the bottom of the mouse and add or subtract weights to your liking. It’s a small touch, but for gamers and just people who use a mouse all day it actually makes a substantial difference in the feel of the mouse.

Down to Business
All right, let’s talk about this tower, shall we? First off, it’s mammoth. The box it came in weighed nearly 70 pounds, and the tower is just huge, standing nearly three feet high. It’s beautifully detailed with brushed steel and glowing red lights on the front of it. What surprised me the most was how quiet it is. It actually sounds like a jet engine while starting up, but after a couple of seconds it quiets down to near-silent. It’s such a welcome change from my older tower’s obnoxiously loud fans that whir all the time.

As for the guts of the machine, I hope you have a lot of data to store, as this thing comes with a dual 160-GB RAID array and a 750-GB extra storage drive. It’s safe to say that you won’t run out of room anytime soon on this bad boy. It also has two DVD drives: one is read-only and the other is a burner for copying discs. Pretty much all the trimmings you would want aside from something insane like a Blu-ray drive or something, which let’s face it, no one really wants anyways.

Early Edition
So how does it actually perform? Well, for your standard computing tasks, like using the Web and running basic office programs, it’s certainly swift. However, it’s not noticeably faster than a dual-core machine, or really even much faster than an older 3.4-GHz Pentium 4, which my 18-month-old desktop is running.

But games are what this thing is built for, and games it can run well. Of course. Games like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Doom 3, and Unreal Tournament 2004 look amazing on the XPS. The draw distances — how far into the distance you can see things like mountains and buildings before they pop out of the “fog” — are as far as the eye can see, frame rates are sky high, and the resolution is maxed with all effects on. You really can just pump up all of the settings on this and it won’t even hiccup.

However, again, these games all look pretty damn good on a dual-core system for less than half the price. The fact of the matter is there aren’t many programs or games out there that’ll take advantage of a quad-core machine with Quad SLI graphics cards. What you’re paying for with this box is not the ability to play today’s hottest games really well, but to play tomorrow’s games really well. When games are engineered to take advantage of everything this has under the hood, it’ll blow dual-core machines out of the water. However, currently there just isn’t much out there that really makes this machine seem worth the massive price tag.

At the End of the Day…
It seems to me that the smart move would be to hold off until there’s software out there that can actually take advantage of this technology. By that time the price of quad-core boxes will have plummeted, and rather than having a race car with no track to drive it on, you’ll be able to take full advantage of everything it’s got right away. There’s no denying that the XPS 710 is one of the fastest and most impressive machines available today. The question is just whether or not it’s worth spending so much money just to be the first person to have one.

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First AMD 4×4 Mobo Spotted

3105_large_4x4_2.jpg

Intel may be getting all the attention with its quad core and Core 2 Duo blitzkrieg, but AMD’s not one to rest on its laurels. Its forthcoming 4×4 platform will place two dual-core CPUs on one mobo for a total of four cores. Asus’ L1N64-SLI WS will be the first mobo to support the 4×4 architecture and this here is an overview of what you can expect. It’ll have 4 memory slots (2 memory sticks dedicated for each processor), 12 SATA ports, and 4 PCI Express x16 slots. The two CPUs will be connected via AMD’s Direct Connect architecture. Spec-wise, the board is fully loaded. Our only concern will be pricing, as something with this many features can’t possibly be cheap and could potentially be more expensive than the Intel alternative.

3104_large_4x4_1.jpg

AMD 4×4 Mobo Details Unveiled [via Daily Tech]