Hardware

GN's Ongoing Side Project: Video Compression

By Published August 13, 2017 at 11:31 pm

Storing multiple terabytes of video content monthly is, obviously, a drive-intensive business -- particularly when using RAID for local editing scratch disks, a NAS for internal server access, and web remote backup. Rather than buy more drives and build a data library that is both impossible to manage and impossible to search, we decided to use our disks smarter and begin compressing broll as it falls into disuse. Deletion is the final step, at some point, but the compression is small enough as to be a non-concern right now. We're able to compress our broll anywhere from 50-86%, depending on what kind of content is contained therein, and do so with nearly 0 perceptible impact to content quality. All that's required is a processor with a lot of threads, as that's what we wrote our compression script to use, and some extra power each month.

Threadripper saw use recently in a temporary compression rig for us, as we wanted to try the CPU out in a real-world use case for our day-to-day operations. The effort can be seen below:

Computers have come a long way since their inception. Some of the first computers (built by the military) used electromagnets to calculate torpedo trajectories. Since then, computers have become almost incomprehensibly more powerful and accessible to the point at which the concept of virtual reality headsets aren’t even science fiction.

In gaming PCs, these power increases have often been used to ensure higher FPS, faster game mechanics, and more immersive graphics settings. Despite this, the computational power in modern PCs can be used for a variety of applications. Many uses such as design, communication, servers, etc. are well known, but one lesser known use is contributing to distributed computation programs such as BOINC and Folding@Home.

BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) and Folding@home (also sometimes referred to as FAH and F@H) are research programs that utilize distributed computing to provide researchers large amounts of computational power without the need of supercomputers. BOINC allows for users to support a variety of programs (including searching for extraterrestrial life, simulating molecular simulations, predicting the climate, etc.). In contrast, Folding@home is run by Stanford and is a singular program that simulates protein folding.

First we’ll discuss what distributed computing is (and its relation to traditional supercomputers), then we’ll cover some noteable projects we’re fond of.

AMD Threadripper on Liquid Nitrogen (Interview)

By Published August 11, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Visiting AMD during the Threadripper announcement event gave us access to a live LN2-overclocking demonstration, where one of the early Threadripper CPUs hit 5.2GHz on LN2 and scored north of 4000 points in Cinebench. Overclocking was performed on two systems, one using an internal engineering sample motherboard and the other using an early ASRock board. LN2 pots will be made available by Der8auer and KINGPIN, though the LN2 pots used by AMD were custom-made for the task, given that the socket is completely new.

Ask GN 56: AMD TCTL, Die vs. Full Block Cooling

By Published August 09, 2017 at 11:13 pm

This episode of Ask GN (#56) revisits the topic of AMD's Temperature Control (TCTL) offset on Ryzen CPUs, aiming to help demystify why the company has elected to implement the feature on its consumer-grade CPUs. The topic was resurrected with thanks to Threadripper's imminent launch, just hours away, as the new TR CPUs also include a 27C TCTL offset. Alongside this, we talk Threadripper CPU die layout diagrams and our use of dry erase marker (yes, really), sensationalism and clickbait on YouTube, Peltier coolers, Ivy Bridge, and more.

For a separate update on what's going on behind the scenes, our Patreon backers may be happy to hear that we've just posted an update on the Patreon page. The update discusses major impending changes to our CPU testing procedure, as Threadripper's launch will be the last major CPU we cover for a little while. Well, a few weeks, at least. That'll give us some time to rework our testing for next year, as our methods tend to remain in place for about a year at a time.

Timestamps below.

This week’s hardware news recap goes over some follow-up AMD coverage, closes the storyline on Corsair’s partial acquisition, and talks new products and industry news. We open with AMD RX Vega mining confirmations and talk about the “packs” – AMD’s discount bundling supposed to help get cards into the hands of gamers.

The RX Vega discussion is mostly to confirm an industry rumor: We’ve received reports from contacts at AIB partners that RX Vega will be capable of mining at 70MH/s, which is something around double current RX 580 numbers. This will lead to more limited supply of RX Vega cards, we’d suspect, but AMD’s been trying to plan for this with their “bundle packs” – purchasers can spend an extra $100 to get discounts. Unfortunately, nothing says those discounts must be spent, and an extra $100 isn’t going to stop miners who are used to paying 2x prices, anyway.

Show notes below.

Under guidelines by AMD that we could show Threadripper CPU installation and cooler installation, we figured it’d also be pertinent to show cooler coverage on TR and RAM clearance. These all fall under the “installation” bucket and normally wouldn’t get attention from us, but Threadripper’s uniquely sized socket with uniquely positioned dies demands more instruction.

Threadripper thermal compound & coldplate coverage has been a primary topic of discussion since we first showed motherboards at Computex. We’ve generally offered that, theoretically, coldplate coverage should be “fine” as long as the two Threadripper CPU dies are adequately covered by the coldplate. In order to determine once and for all whether Asetek coolers will cover the IHS appropriately, seeing as that’s what TR ships with, we mapped out the dies on one of our samples, then compared that to CLC thermal paste silk screens, coldplates, and applied thermal compound.

 

Fractal Finally Intros Tempered Glass Case Variant

By Published August 02, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Fractal Design is responsible for the Fractal Define C, one of our top-preferred cases from the past year. The Define C is a stout, well-constructed enclosure with competitive acoustics damping (behind only the Pure Base 600, in our tests) and thought-out cable management. Now, at what feels to be the mid-point of an ongoing trend in the industry, Fractal has announced its introduction of the Fractal Define C TG and Fractal Define C Mini TG (the latter is a shrunken ITX version of the ATX Define C).

AMD Distancing from CrossFire with RX Vega

By Published July 31, 2017 at 8:06 pm

During press briefings leading to Vega’s gaming variant launch, which looks similar to the FE card (but with DSBR and power saving features now enabled), GamersNexus met with several members of AMD’s RTG team to discuss RX Vega’s future.

One such conversation with a group of media led to the topic of lacking CrossFire marketing materials in RX Vega’s slide decks, with parallels drawn to Polaris’ brandished claims from 2016. With the Polaris launch, great emphasis was placed on dual RX 480 cards evenly embattling GTX 1080 hardware – something we later found to be of mixed virtue. This time, it seems, none of the CrossFire claims were made; in fact, "CrossFire" wasn’t once mentioned during any of the day-long media briefing. It wasn’t until media round-table sessions later in the day that the topic of CrossFire came up.

The prices are $400 for the RX Vega 56, $500 for the RX Vega 64, and we think $600 for the liquid-cooled RX Vega 64 Aqua. AMD’s launching these with different bundles for their other products as well, but we’ll talk about that momentarily. Today, we’re providing details on the RX Vega specifications, pricing, and other preliminary information (like TDP/TGP) for the GPU. We’ll have a separate content piece coming out shortly that provides a deeper dive on the Vega GPU architecture.

The RX Vega 64 flagship launches at $500 for the reference card – and so likely the range is $500 to $600 for AIB partner models, which would include your standard Strix, Twin Frozr, Windforce, and other coolers. Liquid-cooled models will clock higher by way of reduced power leakage, as we previously showed, though air cooled models can also accomplish this to some lesser but non-trivial extent. AMD’s liquid-cooled model did not carry a standalone price, but had a bundle price of $700 for the card with various discounts for other parts. More on that later.

There’s no doubt that most the news circulating right now will pertain to AMD’s new driver update – and it’s an impressive update, one which we’ll discuss below, but we wanted to revive the “gaming” & “pro” mode discussion.

In speaking with AMD about its “Gaming” and “Pro” toggle switch in the Vega drivers – something we previously demonstrated to be a UI-only switch – we learned that the company intends to do something more meaningful going forward. As of now, the toggle is nothing more than a psychological switch, limiting its usefulness to removing the WattMan button from the UI – not all that useful, in other words. Functionally pointless for Vega: FE as it launched, and symptomatic of a driver package which was either woefully incomplete or intended to encourage a placebo effect.

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