News of the day (January 31, 2011)

 Sandy Bridge B2 chipsets: a bug!
  Posted on 1296492034 by Marc

Here’s some news that’s likely to have quite some repercussions: Intel has just announced that 8 million Intel “Cougar Point” chipsets already shipped, namely all the chipsets launched at the same time as the Sandy Bridge processors, whether Desktop (P67/Q67) or Mobile (HM65/HM67), are affected by a critical bug.

According to the Intel announcement, four of the six SATA ports on the chipset may, on some chips, deteriorate over time because of a problem with the chipset’s metallic coating. The first signs are a slowdown in performance due to higher error rates, followed by ports simply no longer being functional. Intel says that users can however continue to use their machines while waiting for a permanent solution. The return rates over a three year period are expected to between 5 and 15%.

Intel has stopped shipping the B2 chipset revision and a new revision to correct the problem is already in production. However they are unlikely to be shipped before the end of February, with a return to standard volumes expected in April. Intel says that the cost of repairs and replacements linked to this incident will be around USD 700 million, against a fall in turnover of just USD 300 million in the first quarter, though this forecast does seem low.

Note, SATA ports 0 and 1 (those that can funciton at SATA 6 Gbits) are not affected by the bug, which is limited to SATA ports 2, 3, 4 and 5. They are therefore the ports to prioritise and if you need to connect additional peripherals, we advise you to use an additional SATA controller, whether integrated onto the motherboard or not. The simplest solution is of course to delay purchase of your Sandy Bridge configurations.

It now remains to be seen how motherboard manufacturers will handle replacement in practice.

 AMD FirePro: the DVI is back
  Posted on 1296486275 by Damien

In April 2010, AMD rolled out its Radeon HD 5000 GPUs in pro versions, the FirePro Vx800s and 2460 Multi-Views. These models put the accent on DisplayPort connectivity to facilitate multi-screen set ups via Eyefinity, partly abandoning the DVI connector, which is however more widely used, as a result. NVIDIA has followed suit with its latest Quadros, which for the most part, only have a single DVI connector accompanied by two DisplayPort outs.

All these solutions make use of two 27 or 30’’ screens complicated as an active adaptor is required to convert the DisplayPort signal for the DVI Dual-Link. This solution can be costly and stability, in our experience, is approximative. Although the cost of such an adaptor isn’t really an issue for very high-end models, doing without it allows AMD to increase competitiveness in other segments, at the same time as giving more reliable solutions for this type of screen.

With this in mind, AMD has just unveiled the FirePro V5800 DVI which has two DVI Dual-Link links instead of just one and they are accompanied by two DisplayPort outs on the standard FirePro V5800. To recap, the FirePro V5800 is similar to the Radeon HD 5770, with lower clocks and a single slot design.

In the Multi-View range, made up of entry level models designed uniquely for multi-screen displays, AMD has introduced the FirePro 2270. It uses the same little GPU as the Radeon HD 5400s, along with 256 MB of memory. In a low profile format, it only has a single DMS-59 connector that allows the combination of two DVI Single-Link outs. Without DVI Dual-Link support, the card doesn’t really impress opposite the FirePro V3800 which has 512 MB of memory, a faster GPU and a DVI Dual-Link connector as well as a DisplayPort, all for a lower price! The FirePro 2270 has been announced at $149 against $109 for the FirePro V3800.

Note that the FirePro V5800 DVI is still an ATI FirePro whie the FirePro 2270 is now part of the AMD brand range… and is therefore priced a good deal higher!

 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 coming in February?
  Posted on 1296483844 by Marc

While AMD is getting ready for the mid-February launch of the Radeon HD 6900, codename Antilles, which combines two Cayman GPUs on a single card, NVIDIA is reported to have its reaction ready already. According to Nordic Hardware, a card that may well be called the GeForce GTX 590, combines two GF110s on the same card with no less than 3 GB of memory.

All of the chip’s 512 CUDA cores are said to be activated on this card, with NVIDIA playing with voltage and the chip clock so as to avoid seeing energy consumption levels of up to double that of the GTX 580 at 600 watts! Obviously NVIDIA doesn’t want to allow AMD to lay claim to having the fastest card in the business, as it did with the Radeon HD 5970. NVIDIA will no doubt give the card specs at the last minute, so as to be able to offer a slightly faster card which doesn’t also double up as a cooker!

 ASRock, no.3 for motherboards
  Posted on 1296483405 by Marc

According to DigiTimes, ASRock took its opportunities in 2010 and climbed to 3rd place in the motherboard market standings. With sales of 8 million motherboards, ASRock has jumped ahead of ECS and MSI who both shipped 7 million. Biostar’s a bit further back with 5 million units shipped.

ASUS is for its part still in the lead with no fewer than 21.6 million boards sold, a disappointing figure however given that ASUS was targetting volumes of 25 million. Gigabyte is still in second place, with 18 million motherboards sold.

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