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     Computex: The Ultrabook according to Intel
      Posted on 31/05/2011 at 19:57 by Damien
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    This Computex marked the return of Sean Maloney to centre stage. Expected to succeed Paul Otellini as Intel CEO, he recently had to take a good few months off following a serious illness, which affected his speech.

    It was therefore with some emotion that Mr Otellini launched himself into this keynote speech designed in great part to counter the ARM threat which has announced itself capable of taking 50% of the PC market between now and 2015.

    Intel of course doesn’t see things in quite the same way and began their presentation by going back over the advantages that the 22nm fabrication process and Tri-gate will have for Atom. Intel announced that the version of its process optimised for Atom will allow it to double the density of transistors at the same time as reducing in-load energy consumption by half, while up until now the developments to Atom in terms of energy economy were mainly focussed on consumpition at idle.

    This isn’t all however as Intel also wishes to relativise the loss in interest that laptops may suffer in the face of tablets. For this, several technologies designed to make the PC more responsive are being put into place, such as Smart Connect, which allows the system to come out of standby automatically for a short time to retrieve emails and other information which it may be useful to have to hand, and Rapid Start which allows very rapid secure standby and restart modes.

    Above all however, it’s the Ultrabook concept which is being highlighted and we salute it wholeheartedly although it’s not all that much of a surprise. While tablets are no doubt going to eat into part of the netbook market, the limitations in terms of performance of which they share, but in a nicer format, the keyboard remains sufficiently important for higher performance laptops to remain relevant.

    Johnny Shih, CEO of Asus, presenting the UX with its very nice looking design.

    The Intel strategy consists in pushing quality ultraportable designs such as the MacBook Air or the Asus UX that is being unveiled at this Computex. These Ultrabooks come close to the size of a tablet and have a very pleasing design. This should enable Intel to continue to generate interest for its high end components.

    The no.1 CPU manufacturer reckons on these Ultrabooks having a 40% market share by the end of 2012, swelling sales of Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge. It’s the following generation that will make the biggest jumps in favour of Ultrabooks however, Ultrabooks being a priority for the Haswell generation in 2013, announced as being able to reduce the thermal envelope of low voltage CPUs by 50%!

     Computex: All the X79 motherboards
      Posted on 31/05/2011 at 17:46 by Damien
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    Expected for the end of the year, socket 2011 is here en masse at Computex, each manufacturer showing at least one motherboard model equipped with an X79 chipset. Overall all the manufacturers seem to be turning towards a similar design that consists in placing the four memory channels in pairs on either side of the CPU socket. Given that this chipset still doesn’t offer native USB 3.0 support, dedicated controllers are of course present… but not in all models! Some are still in prototype form of course and don’t yet include some of the refinements that will be present in the final versions, such as radiators or the colour of the PCB. Note that the PCI Express ports are in 3.0 format here and therefore one 8x port on X79 is similar to a 16x port on the previous platforms. Note also that, with just one exception, there aren’t any models offering numerous PCI Express 16x ports via a switch such as the NVIDIA one, as these are currently limited to PCI Express 2.0.

    The Asrock X79 Extreme 4 has 3 PCI Express ports in 16x format. While two are cabled at 16x, the third is limited to 4x and connected to the chipset. An additional controller is included for the support of two USB 3.0 ports.

    Asus is showing no fewer than 6 versions of an X79 prototype motherboard. The standdard CIX79 and the, LE, EVO, PRO, PLUS and DELUXE. They all have the same base but come with varying details: digital audio out, FireWire, Power buttons, debug led, USB 3.0…

    The ECS X79R-A seems almost finalised. It’s a high end model with four PCI 16x ports (cabled at 8x when they are all used), 2 USB 3.0 controllers and Bluetooth.

    Gigabyte are showing the GA-X79A-UD3. The card has five PCI Express 16x ports, two of which are actually cabled at 16x. One of these drops to 8x when the third port, also at 8x, is used. The last two are at just 4x. An NEC controller takes care of the USB 3.0 support.

    MSI is showing three different cards based on the X79 chipset. The first, the X79A-GD65 has three PCI Express connectors in 16x format, one of which seems to be cabled at 4x. Two NEC controllers manage the USB 3.0 support. The X79A-GD70 is similar but employs better quality components, mainly in terms of the CPU power stage which is a good deal sturdier. Finally, an X79A-GD80 prototype has the particularity of having no fewer than four PCI-Express 1x ports in addition to the 16x format ports.

    The Sapphire PB-CI7X79N is probably the highest end model on show. In contrast to the other manufacturers, Sapphire has decided to use an NVIDIA NF200 PCI Express switch although it’s limited to PCI Express 2.0. As a result, of the six 16x format ports, only two are PCIE 3.0 compatible, one at 16x and the other at 4x. The four other parts share 32 PCI Express 2.0 lanes, either at 2x 16x or 4x 8x. USB 3.0 is of course supported via four ports at the back of the card and via an additional connector for a bracket or ports at the front.

    Finally, a model a little bit different, the P270WM from Clevo, which aims to offer a (trans)portable socket 2011 very rapidly.

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