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  • A 120 Hz 27'' screen from ASUS
  • SandForce & Trim: listen up!
  • NVIDIA launches the GeForce GTX 480M
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     A 120 Hz 27'' screen from ASUS
      Posted on 26/05/2010 at 15:51 by Marc
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    120 Hz screens have just broken a new barrier thanks to ASUS. Samsung was the first to launch such a screen, a 22” at the beginning of 2009, followed a year later by a 24” from Acer. Today ASUS has launched a 27” in the form of the PG276, with a TN panel offering a 1920x1080 resolution and a response time of 2ms.

    A prototype of this screen was already on show at CES at the beginning of the year, but this time availability seems to be approaching: note however that ASUS hasn’t yet given either a release date or a price.

     SandForce & Trim: listen up!
      Posted on 26/05/2010 at 10:31 by Marc
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    Since our article on TRIM and IOMeter, we have been running numerous SSDs through their paces so as to be able to best advise you. For the last month, we have among others had an SSD based on the SF-1200, the OCZ Vertex 2, but have been trying to resolve a to-say-the-least, strange problem, especially as it had never previously come up in the already numerous tests, particularly on UK and American sites, published on this controller.

    In effect, while the TRIM command had the expected impact on this SSD when we were using the Intel RST drivers, this wasn’t the case with the standard Microsoft Windows 7 drivers. This is rather problematic as with official Marvell and AMD drivers not supporting TRIM, the Microsoft drivers are the only TRIM compatible solution for non-Intel chipsets.

    We have been in contact with OCZ who have been working with SandForce over the last fortnight to identify the problem. They have now done so successfully and here is the explanation that SandForce has given us.

    First of all, you need an understanding of how the TRIM command works. With the command, the driver sends a group of addresses to the SSD which no longer correspond to data. Each group or “sector” contains 64 entries and for each of these entries is specified the starting LBA and the number of sequential addresses behind it that are also affected, up to 65536. Via the Identify Device data word 105, SandForce tells the AHCI driver that it doesn’t accept more than a group of 64 entries at a time, a parameter that is respected by the Intel RST driver.

    However the Microsoft TRIM driver doesn’t respect this and continues to send 4 to 8 sectors at a time, which doesn’t comply with the latest ATA standard according to SandForce and goes beyond the specifications of the SSD exposed to the driver, which means that these commands aren’t accounted for by the SSD. This is why on SandForce SSDs TRIM only works with the RST drivers!

    SandForce has told us that it will introduce a workaround that should address most of the issues associated with the Microsoft Driver implementation, but not all, as for instance it wont trim the entire SSD on a quick format. Ultimately, SandForce says, the best result would be for Microsoft to update their driver to comply with the latest ATA standard. SandForce says that they are in dicussions with Microsoft on this subject.

    In the meanwhile, in view of the importance of the TRIM command, we can only advise you not to buy an SSD based on a SandForce controller for platforms other than Intel.

     NVIDIA launches the GeForce GTX 480M
      Posted on 26/05/2010 at 00:43 by Damien
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    Via their blog, NVIDIA have announced the GeForce GTX 480M relatively discreetly. This is the first mobile chip derived from Fermi architecture and, surprise, it is based on the GF100.

    Of course, to fit it into even the largest laptops, it has had to be seriously cut down. It has a similar configuration to the supposed configuration of the GeForce GTX 465, namely 352 processing units with a memory bus down to 256 bits and clocks also revised significantly down. The GPU clock is down to 425 MHz and the processing units to 850 MHz. The same goes for the GDDR5 memory, with the clock down to 600 MHz (1200 MHz for data). All this has allowed NVIDIA to reduce TDP to 100 watts.

    Although at 100 watts this is still high, such a TDP is not unheard of as the Quadro FX 3800M (similar to the GeForce GTX 285Ms but with higher clocks) also have the same thermal envelope. With this TDP, that we hope is more realistic than the 250 watts announced for the standard GeForce GTX 480 (which is in fact closer to 300 watts), some casings will already be able to house the GeForce GTX 480M. The card comes with 2 GB of memory, which is more of a sales argument than anything else when it comes to laptops.

    Once again we can only regret the way NVIDIA has of tricking users by calling the card the GeForce GTX 480M when what they’re supplying is in fact a significantly cut down GeForce GTX 465. The performance levels of this GeForce GTX 480M will be a great distance below those for the GeForce GTX 480, with just 44% of its processing power and 43% of its memory bandwidth! Overall the card will probably give performances on a par with the GeForce GTX 260 or 275. Using clearer and more straightforward labelling such as ‘GeForce GTX 450M’ for example, would not however have allowed the card to benefit from the high-end desktop’s marketing. Note that this isn’t unfortunately anything new as the GeForce GTX 285M, for example, is only in fact a GeForce 9800 GTX with the memory clocked downwards. This is a deplorable tactic that AMD has also decided to adopt with its Radeon HD 5000s, the Mobility Radeon HD 5870 being in fact only a Radeon HD 5770 clocked downwards.

    In comparison to the current high end offer, this GeForce GTX 480M should take its place at the top in terms of performance without too much trouble. The Mobility Radeon HD 5870 should however remain an interesting alternative as although its performance levels are slightly down, TDP is half that on the GeForce! The announcement of this extreme mobile solution, which will be reserved for a handful of very large laptops from the “transportable” rather than “mobile” range, is above all a means for NVIDIA of not leaving the field completely open for AMD, who are running full sail to the wind in the mobile segment.

    The first partner to offer a solution based on the GeForce GTX 480M is the Taiwanese manufacturer Clevo. Eurocom who are selling configurations based on the Clevo systems, has already announced the arrival of 2 models in June: the X8100 Leopard, mobile Core i7, 18.4’’ and 5.6 kg as well as the D900F Panther, desktop Core i7, 17’’ and 5.4 kg. Note that the X8100 Leopard also offers 2 Mobility Radeon HD 5870s in CrossFire X as an option… a system with a similar TDP for much better performance levels. Eurocom has moreover announced the arrival of the Panther 2.0 this summer which will allow the combination of 2 GeForce GTX 480Ms in SLI.

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