Category Archives: Intel

‘Pentium’ branded Sandy Bridge laptop for $268!

UPDATE 9/2/2011 – The deal is alive again.  I bought one and it is a reasonably nice screen and keyboard.

Here is a Lenovo “Pentium” branded Sandy Bridge laptop for $268! at Fry’s (Silicon Valley, don’t know about other regions).  That’s a little too good for me to pass up as my old wooden computer experiment is barely holding on from bit rot.  This thing has an Intel B940 dual-core processor that is a 32nm Sandy Bridge microarchitecture chip with all the power saving features of an i3 processor.  Hyperthreading is disabled though.  Comes with Windows 7 Home Premium license.  No HDMI port but c’mon, $268 is rock bottom prices.

Note that these deals will likely be gone in the morning so hurry up if you want one.

This should make you wonder why 10″ tablets should sell for $500, or even $400.  Those IPS displays and capacitive touchscreens are expensive now but they’ll have to come down in price as tablets push those components into the mainstream.  This laptop is obviously nowhere near as portable as a tablet, but it will make a nice luggable device that will primarily be used at home plugged in.

UPDATE – Damn it.  Fry’s reissued a Friday ad on Sunday and a bunch of people there were asking for this and they didn’t have it.

MacBook Air 2011 Model Launch Immenent

Normally I wouldn’t go out of my way to put forth a baseless prediction, but while browsing the prices I did notice that the refurbished models of the MacBook Air have all dropped by about $20, previously the entry level MacBook Air model was listed at $849 with a 15% discount. I have watched the refurbished store in the past and noticed that shortly before a product launch, the prices for a particular product would drop as a successor was released shortly there after. This would lead me to believe that Apple will probably launch a new MacBook Air right around the time of the WWDC. My only other explanation for Apple to reduce the prices of their refurbished MacBook Airs would be that the products simply aren’t moving from the refurbished market which would be something I have yet to witness from Apple.

The only reason why I am even bringing this up on this site is that after a quick Google search, I haven’t seen anyone else make this observation and thought I would try and be the first to call this prediction.  A number of other sites have predicted the next MacBook Air would be released around June/July with a SandyBridge Processor and Thunderbolt interface.  Most likely this will include an integrated  Intel HD3000 graphics chipset which will likely result in a significant boost in CPU performance all the while being inferior in 3D graphics.  Then again, who buys a MacBook Air for gaming or graphics editing?

UPDATE: Well, apparently I was incorrect in assuming the exact release date.   Hopefully Apple will refresh the model sooner than later.

MacBook Pro 2011, The Good and the Bad

Like many others, I had been holding my breath for the greatness of the Macbook Pro hoping some of the rumors where true while others were not.
First let’s take a look at the good which would be the obvious inclusion of the Sandy Bridge processor. The Core 2 Duo was aging gracefully, but still needed to be retired only to be replaced by a much speedier i5 offering two generations of performance boost over the Core 2 Duo. The immediate added bonus and probably the second most promoted item would be the inclusion of Light Peak, or as we have now rebranded it, Thunderbolt. With an interface that allows for 10GB of bandwidth across the interface, moving data to an SSD has never been so fast. In fact, I might want to run my games off of the external drive because of the speed. Also a couple of maintstays with the New Macbook Pro are the Firewire 800 port and two USB ports. We have the same Super drive without any mentioning of the BluRay drive at this time. Clearly Apple wants to distance itself from Sony and promote their iTunes store here. All MacBook Pros include an illuminated keyboard which they have for a couple of generations now. The resolution starts with the very familiar 1280×800 and moves upwards. We also include the familiar SD card slot which started with the 2010 generation of MacBook Pros  The one last good thing that I have to mention is that they have bumped up the hard drive capacity to 320 GB by default.  However, if you want to get an SSD, they are by no means any cheaper of an upgrade than they were a year ago.

Now time for what I consider the bad. The Macbook Air 13.3″ laptop has a superior 1440×900 resolution screen that makes me almost want that particluar laptop instead of the 13.3″ MacBook Pro. Also, and I personally hold Intel responsible for this, but the 13.3″ models also suffer from using Intel’s intregrated HD 3000 video card. This is an unfortunate departure from the nVidia chipsets in the last four generations of Macbook Pros. At this time, I have not met an Intel video chipset which I have liked. They are all slow performers and lack the power that I need just for my day to day operations. I may try the latest Macbook and change my mind, but I highly doubt this. I can usually tell when I am running a PC with an Intel graphics chip or an alternative.
Last and this is what I probably consider why I recommend anyone with a current Macbook Pro to stay away from this upgrad is that Apple has slashed the battery life with the new upgrade. They are now 3 hours less than the previous generation. That to me means that I might as well stick with my iPad for the long trips or try getting a different brand of laptop. -See Update.  I currently think a Lenovo Thinkpad T420 has my name on it. As much as I was looking forward to the new releases, Apple has done little to impress me and much to disappoint me.

As for Steve Jobs, please get well soon as I feel your company is beginning to disappoint me.

UPDATE: There was a bit of a misunderstanding on the battery life. Apparently the battery holds the same charge as before and the laptop has the same power draw as before, but the tests were changed.  As noted in a computer shopper review.  The battery life is the same in both 13.3″ laptops.  The new testing is that using the DVD drive during the operation of the laptop while the older test was based on “average” use.  Average use would be something akin to browsing the web or performing other low CPU intensive tasks.   I hope that holds accurate as I would hate to see newer generations of laptops moving towards power draining CPUs again.

Hold off on Intel Sandy Bridge for a month

Intel found a problem last week with the new H67 and P67 chipset used for the Sandy Bridge processors and decided to halt shipments last night.  The problem will be resolved by the end of February so hold off on the Sandy Bridge system purchases until the motherboard chipset is resolved.  Apparently the problem involves a slow degradation of the four 3 Gbps SATA ports but not the two 6 Gbps SATA ports, and it only affects 5% of the chipsets after 3 years of typical usage.  Doesn’t sound like a serious problem, but you’re better off waiting for a fixed chipset.

Actually, you won’t have a choice but to wait since the motherboards have already been pulled.  Newegg has already yanked all the P67 and H67 motherboards and we probably won’t see products until end of February or possibly as late as April for volume shipments.  This basically means a halt to all Sandy Bridge products since there’s no point buying a CPU if you can’t get a motherboard for it.  If you already have an H67 or P67 motherboard, I would ask the vendor for a recall and I’d expect them to send me a replacement.

Intel ‘Sandy Bridge’ i5 2500K plus mobo for $280

Wow, Micro Center really has a great bundle deal on the new Intel “Sandy Bridge” i5 2500K quad-core unlocked CPU and GA-P67A-UD3 LGA 1155 P67 ATX Motherboard for $280!  These new CPUs are the newest and most advanced consumer CPUs to date.

Note that this price is for in-store pickup only, but they still offer some great non-bundled deals.  Any of the “K” designated models are multiplier unlocked which is the only practical method of Sandy Bridge overclocking.  Base clock overclocking is now impractical because everything is tied into a single base clock and it forces too many components to run in overdrive which severely limits the degree to which you can boost the system.

This particular “P67” motherboard is needed to support memory and CPU overclocking (and apparently no HDMI, DVI, or VGA out even though the CPU has the GPU built in).  The “H67” motherboards support graphics overclocking.  Both support the integrated on-die CPU graphics of the new Sandy Bridge architecture.  And for those of you new to “Sandy Bridge”, here’s a good primer on the new architecture and review.

This particular bundle is great for power users without the need for an additional graphics card as the on-die GPU built into the CPU is as powerful as an entry level discrete graphics card.  Gamers will use this system with a high end graphics card for the best gaming performance.

MSI L1350 Netbook Wi-Fi problems and system hangs

I bought an MSI L1350 Netbook with a standard second-generation Intel N450 Atom processor for $230 last weekend which has an additional $30 rebate.  The Ralink 802.11 b/g/n mini PCI-E adapter that comes with the netbook has some very buggy drivers that cause Wi-Fi to intermittently disconnect or fail to find any network.  An even bigger problem is the fact that its drivers seem to cause Windows 7 to completely hang requiring a hard reboot.

I have found a solution that seems to have fixed the random Wi-Fi problems by updating to the latest Ralink drivers posted in March of 2010.  The system hasn’t hanged due to Wi-Fi drivers in two weeks now.  These are signed drivers so they are legitimate and you will not get a certificate warning.  If you happen to own this netbook or something with a similar network adapter, I would highly recommend updating the drivers.  It’s generally a good idea to update all your drivers anyways.

Another problem I’ve found is the Intel 3150 graphics driver blue screen of death when trying to launch Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder 3.1 (which is a very good free video capture and encoder software that allows you to broadcast high quality directly to sites like Ustream).  This problem affects all netbooks with the N450 CPU. The only way to fix this was to update the Intel 3150 integrated graphics driver and you can obtain a copy of it here on Intel’s site.

It sucks to have to get a consumer product that crashes so badly out of the box.  It’s even hard for me to handle and I can’t imagine the frustration that normal users would have.  This blog post should help you a lot if you managed to land here after googling these problems.

Intel Clarkdale dual-core Westmere system at 27.6W system power

This mini-ITX system based on Intel’s next generation Clarkdale dual-core “Westmere” 32nm CPU with a 45nm GPU and memory controller on the same CPU package has a system idle power consumption of 27.6 watts.  That seems pretty outrageously efficient for a system that performs about as well as a quad-core Q9600 2.66 GHz processor.  This is probably the first x86 CPU with a built in graphics controller and it is using a 32nm Westmere core which is a die shrunk Nehalem core with some modest architectural enhancements.

Now if we had switcheable graphics support on the desktop, then we’d have a gaming system that could idle at 27.6 watts compared to a normal gaming system that idles at 110 watts because the GPU can’t be turned off.  It would probably be the most energy efficient gaming system in the world.

DFI’s two systems on one motherboard

This is a VERY cool new motherboard from DFI. It features a P45 chipset motherboard along with an NVIDIA Ion motherboard and Intel Atom CPU on a single board with an integrated gigabit Ethernet switch. It comes with a USB and audio KVM switch as well. The system allows you to shut down or suspend your high performance P45 system and leave the NVIDIA ION chipset and Intel Atom CPU running in low power mode. The video quoted 30 watts which isn’t all that low power unfortunately.

Only downside to this that I can see is the $399 list price. Hopefully more motherboard makers will build a product like this and get the price to come down. What I want is a P55 chipset motherboard and the next generation PineTrail-D Atom system as the second system.

Two AMD Shanghai processors beaten by a single Intel i7-965

AMD had much to celebration last week as they managed to beat Intel’s Nehalem-EP to the mainstream two-socket server market with Shanghai.  AMD took a lead in SPECjbb, SPECweb, SPECfp, and Virtualization Nested Paging for the server market and it looked like they might have had 2 months of breathing room to before Nehalem-EP arrives in the two-socket server market.  But there was an unexpected party crasher today when a single Intel’s Nehalem i7-965 3.2 GHz single-socket processor for the desktop market decided to take on two brand new AMD Shanghai processors in the server benchmarks and win.

In the server space, the most commonly cited benchmark is general purpose integer performance which is measured by SPECint.  The table below shows the latest results from SPEC.

CPU GHz Socket Cores Threads SPECint_rate

base2006

SPECfp_rate

base2006

Intel Nehalem i7-965 3.2 1 4 8 117 82.9
AMD Shanghai 2384 2.7 2 4 8 113 105

AMD and Intel have been neck and neck in the server market in the last 4 years but never has a single top-end CPU from one competitor beaten two top-end processors from the other competitor.  Even on SPECfp high performance computing where AMD has dominated for the alst 4 years, the single i7-965 Nehalem comes relatively close to the performance of two Shanghai processors which almost guarantees dominance for Nehalem-EP two-socket servers when they arrive in a few months.

The Intel Nehalem i7-965 is showing a hint of what’s to come when Nehalem-EP arrives in two-socket configuration. In the past, Intel had difficulty scaling sockets because they remained on a single North Bridge memory controller and the Front Side Bus (FSB) but those days are gone with Nehalems integrated memory controller and new QuickPath interconnect architecture. As a result, the performance of Nehalem-EP is expected to scale extremely well because the number of memory controllers (built in to the Nehalem die) and the number of DDR3 memory channels will double.  This means we may see a two socket Nehalem-EP server crack 200 points on SPECint_rate_base2006 which is a massive leap for the mainstream server market.

Update 11/23/2008 – TechRadar has a first look at Nehalem-EP dual-socket and the performance is off the charts.