Nvidia’s GeForce 1080 Ti Raises Graphics Chip Bar Yet Again

The first reviews of the newly released Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti came out on Thursday, and by all accounts this card has performed beyond expectations.

Nvidia’s new GPU can perform 35 percent faster than its GTX 1080, the company has claimed.

Based on Nvidia’s Pascal architecture, this flagship gaming GPU includes next-gen 11-Gbps GDDR5X memory, and an 11-GB frame buffer.

The GTX 1080 Ti, which will be available soon for US$699, is even faster and more powerful than the more expensive Titan X Pascal, reviewers have noted. Released two years ago, the Tital X Pascal is priced at $1,100 or more online.

The Founders Edition of the new GTX 1080 Ti card is crafted with premium materials and components that include a die-cast aluminum body and 7-phase dual FET power supply. To keep this high-speed card cool, there’s a radial fan along with an advanced vapor chamber designed to provide consistent performance even in what Nvidia describes as “thermally challenging” environments.

The GTX 1080 Ti features Nvidia Ansel, which allows gamers to capture as well as create in-game screenshots that can be viewed in 360 degrees.

Power to the Gamer

With a price point of nearly $700, the GTX 1080 Ti is clearly aimed at the power gamer, and it will give those who invest in this hardware serious gaming power, according to the reviews.

“Nvidia’s new card offers over a thousand more CUDA cores than its cousin — 3,584 versus 2,560 — as well as 24 additional ROPs and 40 percent more texture units,” wrote Brad Chacos for PCWorld.

“The vanilla GTX 1080 was the most badass graphics card ever created when it launched less than a year ago and the GTX 1080 Ti blows it away on paper,” he added.

The card also delivers — mostly — in actual performance, but doesn’t quite meet the hype of the specs, reported GameSpot’s Jimmy Thang.

“The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performs 30 percent better than the GTX 1080 in this synthetic DirectX 11 test,” Thang noted in his review.

“While this represents the largest lead that the Ti has over the GTX 1080 at 1080p, it falls short of Nvidia’s 35 percent improvement claim,” he pointed out.

The Gee-Whiz Factor

The reviews generally seem positive, but early testers discovered a few issues.

“In all but memory capacity, which sits at an odd 11GB, the GTX 1080 Ti is a carbon copy of the Titan XP with a slightly higher clock speed,” wrote reviewer Mark Walton for Ars Technica.

While the card is indeed faster and more powerful, it hasn’t advanced graphics power by leaps or bounds, game testing also revealed — and the testing did include games in which characters do plenty of leaping.

“In the Tomb Raider benchmark at 1080p, the Ti outperforms the GTX 1080 by three percent, which is underwhelming,” wrote Gamespot’s Thang.

However, Nvidia could emerge as the winner of the graphics war with rival AMD — at least, for now — and this card actually is less expensive, so it could benefit gamers who want to take graphics to the next level.

“With competition at this end of the market some months away — AMD has pencilled in a Q2 2017 release for Vega — there’s little to stop Nvidia continuing to charge a premium for its top-of-the-range graphics cards,” added Ars‘ Walton.

The Fast and the Affordable

What could be a bigger factor for the success of the GTX 1080 Ti than its slight improvement in performance is the fact that it is a lot more affordable — and thus potentially accessible to a larger market than the previous flagship card.

“These days, when you have virtually unlimited choice in graphic cards, aggressive prices can be a key differentiator as customers are increasingly value-minded,” said Scott Steinberg, principal analyst at TechSavvy Global.

“There is a segment of the gaming market that will always step up to pay premium, but far and away the trend is getting the best value for the dollar,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The really good thing about the GTX 1080 Ti is that it improves on the Titan X performance and yet is a fraction of the cost,” noted Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

“This moves the price point down significantly — and while it is not yet a mainstream product, it’s positioning top end cards to be more accessible,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It makes everyone who paid a premium for the Titan X to look silly, as now [GTX 1080 Ti users] have more capability and at less money,” Entner explained. “The pace of advances and falling price point is accelerating and is actually becoming staggering.”

High Speed Ahead

It seems likely that GPUs could be the next segment of the computer ecosystem to follow with improved performance at ever-lower price points, in part as a way to reach more mainstream audiences. There likely will remain a high end, but the trickle down to the mass market GPUs could accelerate.

The question will be whether Nvidia will be able to get enough of these premium cards out to meet demand, as the Titan X was in relatively short supply until recently, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

The lower price and supply could be as crucial as a jump in performance, since few games actually demand the highest-end hardware. Yet even as advanced features in the hardware are becoming commonplace, this card could be a solid way to future-proof a high-end gaming machine.

“Most of the cards in this generation handle 4K, so that isn’t really a differentiator anymore. It is pure performance — and up until now, the very expensive Titan X was king,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

“Well, the king is dead. We have a new more affordable king — at least until they refresh the Titan X,” he added. “This card would be a great way to get ahead of the performance curve and ensure your new gaming rig doesn’t go obsolete prematurely.”

How to install an Intel or AMD CPU in your computer

The beating heart of any PC is its central processing unit.

Since the dawn of the Internet era, having a fast CPU has been a point of pride for many enthusiasts—and a must have for anybody looking to get intensive work done. In recent years, upgrading to a bleeding-edge CPUs has become less important in light of ever-faster graphics cards and theexperience-altering goodness of SSDs, mixed with slowing CPU performance gains generation-to-generation. But don’t let that fool you: The CPU remains one of the most important parts of your PC.

With so much on the line, you want to get it right. Here’s a quick overview to picking the right CPU for you, and instructions on how to actually install a processor in your PC.

Choosing a new CPU

Choosing the right CPU for your PC can be complex process, but if you start with a solid idea of what your budget is and what your goals are then you can make a decision pretty quickly. Let’s start at the high-end and work our way down.

Intel’s Core i7-5820K is a $390 six-core “Haswell-E” chip that’s based off of Intel’s Xeon server chips and uses the high-end LGA 2011-v3 socket. Spending more money will get you a CPU that’s only marginally faster; thus this chip represents our most expensive recommendation for people without very specific needs that require additional computing firepower.

Moving to the next step down, there’s Intel’s Core i7-4790K at $340. This chip has only four cores but it also has an extra 500MHz of clock speed over the i7-5820K and will occasionally outperform the more expensive chip in games and apps because of it. At $240, we have Intel’s Core i5-4690K which loses a bit of clock speed and hyper threading compared to the i7-4790K. The Core i5-4690K is the best compromise between price and performance on the market, and the chip gamers should pick up if they can afford it.

But if you can’t quite fit that chip into your budget you can step down to AMD’s FX-8320 which is a very capable chip at $140. Stepping all the way down to the bottom of the bin we have AMD’s $75 Athlon X4 860K, which is essentially one of AMD’s APUs, minus the graphics bits.

We recommend going with AMD’s chips if you have less than $200 to spend on a CPU because of the plethora of inexpensive but well-featured motherboards on designed for those chips. Additionally, AMD’s chips retain many of the features—like cryptographic acceleration and virtualization—that Intel disables on its cheaper Core i3 and Pentium chips.

There are many more processors available that what we’ve covered here; this was just an overview of some best picks at various price points. In general, Intel’s Core i7 chips are their most powerful, and best for multimedia editing; Core i5 chips lack hyperthreading and are thus less powerful than Core i7 chips, but should be plenty potent for gamers and most other users; and Core i3 chips are the weakest Core chips, but just fine for people who don’t push their systems too hard.

Other buying considerations

Don’t forget to buy a motherboard that’s compatible with your new CPU, as selecting mismatched parts is a common PC building mistake you’ll want to avoid.

While you’re considering the information above it’s important to remember that you probably want to spend more on some other components in modern PCs. If you’re presented with a choice between spending an extra $100 on your CPU or repurposing that money for a better graphics card or SSD, you should usually choose invest in a better GPU or SSD over a faster CPU if you’re buying anything beyond a bargain-basement chip. For builders on an even tighter budget remember to always prioritize purchasing an SSD over all else. (Yes, mechanical hard drives are that bad for your primary drive.)

Another wrinkle to consider is cooling. All of the CPUs on this list come with basic heatsinks that will provide absolutely adequate cooling for the life of your CPU; but many enthusiasts chose to spend money on bigger tower coolers or on water cooling. If you want a really quiet system, plan to overclock your processor, or you care about aesthetics, then investing in an aftermarket CPU cooler is probably the right decision for you. On the other hand, if a light humming noise and a boring looking heatsink don’t bother you than you can skip out on this purchase.

How to install an Intel CPU

With all of those purchasing considerations out of the way it time to install your new CPU. First we’ll look at installing Intel’s CPUs, and then AMD’s chips.

Start with your motherboard outside of your PC’s case, on a flat surface. Release the small metal lever holding the CPU retention bracket to Intel’s LGA socket in the motherboard.

Now you can insert your chip. Make sure that you line up the two guiding notches on the socket with the notches along the edge of your chip. These notches are designed to prevent you from seating the CPU in the socket in an improper manner. With the chip seated in the socket, you can lower the retention bracket back into place. Make sure that you slip the notch at the end of the bracket around the single screw at the base of the socket before you use the metal lever to lock the CPU into place.

When the CPU’s installed, it’s time to attach the cooler. If you’re using the stock Intel cooler there will already be thermal grease on the underside of the heatsink. If you’re using an aftermarket cooler, then you’ll need to apply a small rice-grain-sized dot of thermal grease—your cooler likely came with a small syringe of it—to the center of the CPU before you set the heatsink on top of it.

One of the nice things about Intel’s stock heatsink is that it uses push pins to attach itself to the motherboard. Simply place the cooler on top of your CPU and then press the push pins into the holes at each corner of the socket. Once the pins have been pushed through to the other side of the motherboard, press the black locking tab down into the mounting pin and twist it toward the center of the CPU, following the arrow engraved into the push pin, to lock the heatsink into place.

The final step is to connect the fan header wire leading from your CPU to the CPU fan header on your motherboard.

For aftermarket coolers this process can be more complex and potentially involve custom heatsink retention brackets and mounting solutions. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and refer to the relevant YouTube videos for guidance with those products.

How to install an AMD CPU

AMD’s chips have both a different kind of socket and a different method of mounting heatsinks compared to Intel’s system.

Looking at a fresh socket FM2+ motherboard, you’ll see that there are no metal pins on AMD’s socket. Rather, the pins that connect the CPU to the motherboard are on the underside of the CPU with AMD’s chips.

Start by flipping the CPU locking lever up from the socket. Then you can place your AMD CPU in the socket in such a way that the gold triangle on the corner of your chip matches up with the engraved triangle on the corner of the CPU socket. A light press should then seat your CPU firmly in the socket. Lower the retention lever on the side of the socket to lock your chip into place.

As with Intel’s stock cooler, AMD’s cooler will also come with thermal material on its underside from the factory. The big difference between Intel’s and AMD’s stock cooling solutions is that while Intel’s mounts with push-pins, AMD’s mounts with a more traditional notch-and-lever combination.

Start by hooking the mounting bracket on the cooler on to the plastic notch at the top end of the CPU socket. Then hook the bracket onto the notch at the opposite end of the socket. From here you can toggle the locking lever to press the heatsink up against the CPU and hold the heatsink firmly to the motherboard. Hooking both of the plastic notches with the heatsink mounting bracket is the most difficult part of this installation process.

 Now you’ve successfully picked out the right CPU for your PC build andyou’ve correctly installed it into your motherboard. Your computer’s not done yet, but you’ve taken a big step on the road to computing nirvana.

Ways to Clean Your Computer Keyboard

One of the best ways to keep a keyboard in top condition is periodic cleaning. As preventive maintenance, you should vacuum the keyboard weekly, or at least monthly. When vacuuming, you should use a soft brush attachment to dislodge the dust. Also note that some keyboards have keycaps that come off easily, so be careful when vacuuming; otherwise you may have to dig the keys out of the vacuum cleaner. I recommend using a small, handheld vacuum cleaner made for cleaning computers and sewing machines; these have enough suction to get the job done with little risk of removing your key tops.

You also can use compressed air to blow the dust and dirt out instead of using a vacuum. Before you dust a keyboard with the compressed air, however, power off the computer, unplug the keyboard, and turn it upside down so the particles of dirt and dust collected inside can fall out.

On most keyboards, each keycap is independently removable, which can be handy if a key sticks or acts erratically. For example, a common problem is a key that does not work every time you press it. This problem usually results from dirt collecting under the key. An excellent tool for removing keycaps on almost any keyboard is the U-shaped chip puller included in many computer tool kits. Simply slip the hooked ends of the tool under the keycap, squeeze the ends together to grip the underside of the keycap, and lift up. IBM sells a tool designed specifically for removing keycaps from its keyboards, but the chip puller works even better. After removing the cap, spray some compressed air into the space under the cap to dislodge the dirt. Then replace the cap and check the action of the key.

When you remove the keycap on some keyboards, you are actually detaching the entire key from the keyswitch. Be careful during the removal and reassembly of the keyboard; otherwise, you’ll break the switch. The classic IBM/Lexmark-type Model M keyboards (now made by Unicomp) use a removable keycap that leaves the actual key in place, enabling you to clean under the keycap without the risk of breaking the switches. If you don’t want to go through the effort of removing the keycaps, consider using cleaning wands with soft foam tips to clean beneath the keytops.

Spills can be a problem, too. If you spill a soft drink or cup of coffee into a keyboard, you do not necessarily have a disaster. Many keyboards that use membrane switches are spill resistant. However, you should immediately (or as soon as possible) disconnect the keyboard and flush it out with distilled water. Partially or fully disassemble the keyboard and use the water to wash the components. If the spilled liquid has dried, soak the keyboard in some of the water for a while. When you are sure the keyboard is clean, pour another gallon or so of distilled water over it and through the keyswitches to wash away any residual dirt. After the unit dries completely it should be perfectly functional. You might be surprised to know that drenching your keyboard with water does not harm the components. Just make sure you use distilled water, which is free from residue or mineral content. (Bottled water is not distilled; the distinct taste of many bottled waters comes from the trace minerals they contain!) Also, make sure the keyboard is fully dry before you try to use it; otherwise, some of the components might short out.

Fully drying a keyboard that has been soaked in water can take several days or more, so be prepared to wait. You can use compressed air to greatly speed up the drying process. Even then, if the contaminants were not fully flushed out, the keyboard may still not work correctly. In that case the best results will be obtained by completely disassembling the keyboard, washing and then drying each component individually, and then reassembling. Depending on the value and construction of the keyboard, a replacement may be the best option.

Computer Output Devices

Monitors

Monitors, commonly called as Visual Display Unit (VDU), are the main output device of a computer. It forms images from tiny dots, called pixels that are arranged in a rectangular form. The sharpness of the image depends upon the number of pixels.

There are two kinds of viewing screen used for monitors.

  • Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT)
  • Flat-Panel Display

Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) Monitor

The CRT display is made up of small picture elements called pixels. The smaller the pixels, the better the image clarity or resolution. It takes more than one illuminated pixel to form a whole character, such as the letter ‘e’ in the word help.

A finite number of characters can be displayed on a screen at once. The screen can be divided into a series of character boxes – fixed location on the screen where a standard character can be placed. Most screens are capable of displaying 80 characters of data horizontally and 25 lines vertically.

There are some disadvantages of CRT −

  • Large in Size
  • High power consumption

Flat-Panel Display Monitor

The flat-panel display refers to a class of video devices that have reduced volume, weight and power requirement in comparison to the CRT. You can hang them on walls or wear them on your wrists. Current uses of flat-panel displays include calculators, video games, monitors, laptop computer, and graphics display.

The flat-panel display is divided into two categories −

  • Emissive Displays − Emissive displays are devices that convert electrical energy into light. For example, plasma panel and LED (Light-Emitting Diodes).
  • Non-Emissive Displays − Non-emissive displays use optical effects to convert sunlight or light from some other source into graphics patterns. For example, LCD (Liquid-Crystal Device).

Printers

Printer is an output device, which is used to print information on paper.

There are two types of printers −

  • Impact Printers
  • Non-Impact Printers

Impact Printers

Impact printers print the characters by striking them on the ribbon, which is then pressed on the paper.

Characteristics of Impact Printers are the following −

  • Very low consumable costs
  • Very noisy
  • Useful for bulk printing due to low cost
  • There is physical contact with the paper to produce an image

These printers are of two types −

  • Character printers
  • Line printers

Character Printers

Character printers are the printers which print one character at a time.

These are further divided into two types:

  • Dot Matrix Printer(DMP)
  • Daisy Wheel

Dot Matrix Printer

In the market, one of the most popular printers is Dot Matrix Printer. These printers are popular because of their ease of printing and economical price. Each character printed is in the form of pattern of dots and head consists of a Matrix of Pins of size (5*7, 7*9, 9*7 or 9*9) which come out to form a character which is why it is called Dot Matrix Printer.

Advantages

  • Inexpensive
  • Widely Used
  • Other language characters can be printed

Disadvantages

  • Slow Speed
  • Poor Quality

Daisy Wheel

Head is lying on a wheel and pins corresponding to characters are like petals of Daisy (flower) which is why it is called Daisy Wheel Printer. These printers are generally used for word-processing in offices that require a few letters to be sent here and there with very nice quality.

Advantages

  • More reliable than DMP
  • Better quality
  • Fonts of character can be easily changed

Disadvantages

  • Slower than DMP
  • Noisy
  • More expensive than DMP

Line Printers

Line printers are the printers which print one line at a time.

These are of two types −

  • Drum Printer
  • Chain Printer

Drum Printer

This printer is like a drum in shape hence it is called drum printer. The surface of the drum is divided into a number of tracks. Total tracks are equal to the size of the paper, i.e. for a paper width of 132 characters, drum will have 132 tracks. A character set is embossed on the track. Different character sets available in the market are 48 character set, 64 and 96 characters set. One rotation of drum prints one line. Drum printers are fast in speed and can print 300 to 2000 lines per minute.

Advantages

  • Very high speed

Disadvantages

  • Very expensive
  • Characters fonts cannot be changed

Chain Printer

In this printer, a chain of character sets is used, hence it is called Chain Printer. A standard character set may have 48, 64, or 96 characters.

Advantages

  • Character fonts can easily be changed.
  • Different languages can be used with the same printer.

Disadvantages

  • Noisy

Non-impact Printers

Non-impact printers print the characters without using the ribbon. These printers print a complete page at a time, thus they are also called as Page Printers.

These printers are of two types −

  • Laser Printers
  • Inkjet Printers

Characteristics of Non-impact Printers

  • Faster than impact printers
  • They are not noisy
  • High quality
  • Supports many fonts and different character size

Laser Printers

These are non-impact page printers. They use laser lights to produce the dots needed to form the characters to be printed on a page.

Advantages

  • Very high speed
  • Very high quality output
  • Good graphics quality
  • Supports many fonts and different character size

Disadvantages

  • Expensive
  • Cannot be used to produce multiple copies of a document in a single printing

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are non-impact character printers based on a relatively new technology. They print characters by spraying small drops of ink onto paper. Inkjet printers produce high quality output with presentable features.

They make less noise because no hammering is done and these have many styles of printing modes available. Color printing is also possible. Some models of Inkjet printers can produce multiple copies of printing also.

Advantages

  • High quality printing
  • More reliable

Disadvantages

  • Expensive as the cost per page is high
  • Slow as compared to laser printer

Types of Computer Hardware You Must Understand

Your computing experience is made up of interactions with hardware and software. The hardware is all the tangible computer equipment, such as the monitor, central processing unit, keyboard, and mouse. The main body of a computer is the system unit. The system unit’s case houses a number of essential components.

1. The central processing unit (CPU) is responsible for processing most of the computer’s data, turning input into output.

As you might imagine, the speed and performance of the CPU is one of the biggest factors that determines how well a computer works. A CPU is a very small, thin silicon wafer that is encased in a ceramic chip and then mounted on a circuit board.

CPU speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz). The higher this measurement, the faster the CPU can operate. A hertz is a cycle per second; a gigahertz is 1 billion cycles per second. CPU speed is not the only measurement of its performance, though; different CPUs have efficiency-boosting technologies built into them that can increase data throughput in a number of ways.

A fairer comparison between two different CPUs is the number of instructions per second they can perform.

2. Memory consists of computer chips that hold data.

One type of memory, called Random Access Memory (RAM), forms the central pool of memory that a computer uses to operate. The more RAM a computer has, the more applications it can have open at once without the computer’s performance starting to bog down. More RAM can also make some applications perform better in general.

Memory capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB), which is a billion bytes. Most basic computers have at least 4GB today, with higher end systems having 16GB or more. Like the CPU, memory consists of small, thin silicon wafers, encased in ceramic chips and mounted on circuit boards. The circuit boards holding memory are called DIMMs, which stands for dual inline memory module.

3. hard drive stores software.

When the computer is turned off, whatever is on the hard drive remains there, so you don’t have to reload software every time you turn on the computer. The operating system and your applications load from the hard drive into memory, where they run.

Hard-drive capacity is also measured in gigabytes (GB), like memory. A typical hard drive might be 500 GB or even 1 terabyte (1,000 GB) or more. Most hard drives sold today are the traditional mechanical type that use metal platters to store data with magnetic polarity, but a newer type, called a solid state hard drive (SSHD), uses a type of memory, resulting in a fast, quiet, and reliable (but expensive) storage alternative.

4. In addition to the components in the system unit, a computer may come with one or more input devices.

Input devices include keyboards, mice, trackballs, and touchpads.

5. Each computer has some type of display screen.

Depending on the type of computer, the display screen may be built-in, or may be a separate unit called a monitor with its own power cord, as shown. Some displays are touchscreen, so you can use your finger on the screen to provide input to the computer.

Display quality is measured in resolution — that is, the number of pixels (individual colored dots) that comprise the display at its highest resolution. A typical resolution for a notebook PC is 1920 x 1080, for example. The first number is the horizontal resolution and the second one is the vertical resolution.

The aspect ratio of a display is the ratio of its width to its height, expressed in pixels. Displays may either be standard aspect ratio (4:3) or widescreen (16:9). For example, a small device might have a maximum resolution of 800 x 600; if you simplify that to a fraction, it comes out to 4/3.

6. Most desktop and notebook computers come with an optical drive, which is a drive that will read CDs, DVDs, and/or Blu-ray discs.

Optical drives get their name from the way data is written and read on the disc. A laser light shines on the surface, and a sensor measures how much light is bounced back from a certain spot.

Some laptop computers come without DVD capabilities because you can download and install software or play videos and music from the cloud (that is, via the Internet), so it’s possible to get along just fine without the ability to play DVDs. However, most desktop computers still come with a DVD drive.

7. Whatever computer you have, you will probably want to use it to connect to the Internet. That means you will want it to have a network adapter in it.

That capability may be built into the computer, or it may be added to the computer via an expansion board or a device that plugs into a port.

Internet connectivity can be either wired or wireless. A wired connection requires you to connect a cable from the computer to the device that supplies your Internet connection (such as a cable modem). That type of cable and connection is known as Ethernet.

A wireless connection allows the computer to communicate with the Internet connection device through radio waves. The type of wireless connection used for Internet connectivity is called Wi-Fi, or wireless Ethernet.

If high-speed Internet service is not available in your area, you may need to use a dial-up modem to connect using your home telephone line. Dial-up modems are nobody’s first choice — they are old, slow technology and they tie up your phone line.

Has Intel Invented a Universal Memory Tech?

Today’s computers shuttle data around a byzantine system of several different kinds of short- and long-term memory. No wonder, then, that engineers have long dreamed of one memory technology to rule them all, a universal memory that would simplify computing and streamline the path of data.

In March, Intel announced that it will sell to data centers a new kind of solid-state drive, called Optane, that it says could lead to this kind of simplification. Optane drives are nonvolatile, like flash memory, which means that they should use relatively little standby power and that they’re fast, like DRAM. “It really starts to marry the worlds of memory and storage together,” company CEO Brian Krzanich says in a promotional video, over the swells of heroic music. The technology “comes close to being the holy grail of memory,” says Intel executive vice president William Holt in the same video.

Whether 3D XPoint, the mystery technology inside Optane, can live up to this promise is likely to depend on the performance it delivers as well as Intel’s ability to scale up manufacturing using new materials and build out the right market. The 375-gigabyte Optane drive on offer now costs US $1,520, about three times the price of an equivalent solid-state drive.

This first product will enable data centers to do more with a smaller number of servers, says James Myers, who works on nonvolatile memory architecture at Intel. Myers gives an example of servers running a MySQL database, which, among other things, apps use to store instant messages. For a transaction to be useful in such applications, the data needs to be returned fast—within 10 milliseconds. An equivalent flash drive can perform 1,400 useful transactions per second; the Optane drive can perform over 16,000.

The Optane drive was announced with bombast, but the company is coy about the technology behind it. Myers says “3D” refers to the fact that the memory cells are stacked; “XPoint” alludes to the way the memory elements are arranged. While flash memory elements must be read and written in groups, XPoint elements—situated at the crossing point of interconnects—can be addressed individually. Myers says that this architecture, and something inherent to the storage materials themselves, makes 3D XPoint faster than flash memory.

Intel, which initially developed 3D XPoint in conjunction with Micron, won’t say what the technology really is, but this doesn’t seem to bother researchers or analysts. “Everyone seems to think it’s phase-change memory,” says semiconductor analyst Jim Handy. “I don’t care.” What matters to him—and, Intel hopes, its customers—is the performance.

The complexity of today’s memory hierarchy—a combination that often includes magnetic disks and flash for storage and DRAM and static RAM for memory—is a necessary evil. Each technology has its own strengths, so they must be combined. Data are shuttled around from speedy but expensive SRAM caches—which are close to the processor and embedded within it—to slower, less expensive (but still pricey) DRAM. Finally, data are stored in slow but reliable flash or hard-disk drives, or both. Even if it’s not possible to do it all in one memory technology, using only one for working memory close to the processor and one for longer-term storage would help simplify things. Intel says that XPoint memory could provide a speedier alternative to flash memory and magnetic hard disks. The company has also suggested it could supplement or supplant DRAM.

“DRAM is unique in its ability to waste power, so anything you can do to get rid of it is great,” says Handy. For example, Google is thought to store the index of the entire Internet on several power-hungry, quick-access DRAM servers. If the company could switch this over to 3D XPoint—which Intel claims has 10 times the density of DRAM—Google could use fewer servers and thus save power and money, according to Steven ­Swanson, a computer scientist at the University of California, San Diego.

Intel is providing software that will enable computers to operate Optane as memory as opposed to storage, but it will be slow. Optane drive latencies max out at 7 or 8 microseconds—way faster than flash, which takes hundreds of microseconds, but not touching DRAM’s low hundreds of nanoseconds. The Optane drives are fettered by the interface they use: They connect to the storage interface, not the memory interface.

In the short term, Intel’s drives are not likely to replace any existing memory technologies but will instead supplement them, says Swanson, who built a research drive based on the company’s 3D XPoint technology in 2011. Swanson expects the path to memory and storage simplification to be complex because computing systems will have to be redesigned to route data in new ways.

Swanson and Handy believe Intel started with storage to help smooth out some of the risk in launching a new memory technology. Making Optane a memory requires new circuit board designs and cooperation from programmers. To get those, Intel needs to show that there is a market for 3D XPoint and demonstrate its reliability. Intel says that a product using a memory interface will be out in 2018. Even using the interface, 3DXPoint still won’t be quite as fast as DRAM, but Intel promises that it will be denser and less expensive.

The success of this new memory, then, will hinge on data centers taking it up in a less than ideal initial form while the company works on scaling up production. Even though the flaws in today’s memory and storage hierarchy are universally acknowledged, trying to change it is a risky move. “Almost all memory companies have one or two potential competitors to this technology, and they’re all waiting to see what happens before they jump into [a] big investment,” says Swanson.

Memory enthusiasts disagree about whether a true universal memory is even physically possible. It is perhaps most useful as a goal to guide the computer industry forward. “The concept of the universal memory is attractive because the idea is to simplify,” says Wei Lu, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan and chief scientist at Crossbar, a resistive RAM startup company. “We have a big-data problem, and today’s computers are fundamentally not good at this.”

Motherboards Racing 200-Series Biostars Get Support from Intel Optane

Biostar has released several new BIOS updates to bring Intel Optane support to its its Racing 200-series motherboards.

Optane is Intel’s marketing name for the 3D XPoint technology it co-developed with Micron tp serve as a middle ground between an SSD and DRAM. By storing your computer’s most frequently used data, an Optane memory stick allows your system to make less trips between the processor and the much slower mechanical spinning-disk hard drive for data access.

Intel’s Optane memory looks like your average M.2 drive and fits into any M.2 slot on Intel 200-series chipset motherboards. The benefit of Optane memory is that it is much faster and more durable than NAND while also being cheaper and denser than DRAM.

During our initial evaluation of Intel’s Optane memory, we explained the benefits of upgrading as such:

Optane Memory can quickly and easily boost performance at a low price point. Intel designed the technology to speed up hard disk drives, but you can use RST to accelerate solid-state drives as well (more on the following page). You can only accelerate one drive at a time, and even though Intel doesn’t officially support it, it can be a secondary drive. This is good news for gamers who already use an SSD for the boot drive and a hard drive for game installations.

Biostar assured us these BIOS updates will make your current system feel a little snappier by reducing boot times and providing faster load times for your favorite games and applications.

Although updating your BIOS is a fairly straight-forward process, the company provided a step-by-step guide to getting the job done:

  1. Download the BIOS file from: http://www.biostar.com.tw/
  2. Copy the BIOS file onto a USB storage device (not NTFS format)
  3. Power on the motherboard and press ‘F12’ during POST (power-on self-test) screen.
  4. After POST screen, a menu for BIOS update will appear.
  5. Select USB device and press ‘Enter’, it will go into the BIOS update screen.
  6. Use the BIOS file listed on the left to update.
  7. Wait for the system to load the BIOS file.
  8. Press ‘Y’ to flash the BIOS and erase DMI data. The system will update the BIOS automatically.
  9. After reboot, the system will run with new BIOS. Turn-off the computer and install Optane Memory on M.2 slot to enjoy the performance upgrade.

Basic Computer Hardware Components

Basic Hardware Components

  Arithmetic/logic unit

Contains the electronic circuitry necessary to perform arithmetic and logical operations on data.

  Communications Devices

Enable a computer to connect to other computers. Devices that enable a computer to connect to other components; includes modems and network interface cards.

  Control Unit

The component in any computing system that works in coordinatin with the central processing unit to instruct, maintain and control the flow of information.

  Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The component in any computing system that represents the circuitry necessary to interpret and execute program instructions, it consists of the Control Unit, arithmetic/logic unit and the controller..  It is the corollary to the brain in organic systems.

  Hardware

Equipment that inputs, processes, outputs, and stores data.  It consists of input devices, a system unit, output devices, storage devices, and communication devices.

  Input Devices

Any computer peripheral used to enter data and/or control signals into a computer system. Some devices, such as modems, are capabile of both input as well as output.

  Examples of Input Devices

Biofeedback Input Devices—special equipment like gloves, body suits, and eyeglasses to translate movements, temperature, or skin-based electrical signals

Digital Camera—record photographs in the form of digital data that can be stored on a computer.

Digitizer—converts points, lines, and curves from a sketch, drawing, or photograph to digital impulses and transmits them to a computer

Electronic Whiteboard—captures anything drawn on special whiteboard

Joystick—uses the movement of a vertical stem to direct the pointer.  These are often used with computer games and have buttons you can press to activate events, depending upon the software.

Graphics Tablet—similar to a digitizer, but it also contains unique characters and commands that can be generated automatically by the person using the tablet

Image Scanner (page scanner)– an input device that can electronically capture an entire page of text or images such as photographs or art work.

Keyboard—most commonly used input device.  You enter data by pressing keys on the keyboard

Light Pen—used by touching it on the display to create or modify graphics

Microphone—used to record sound.

Modem—a device that converts data into a form suitable for both receipt and transmission by wire or radio such that it can be reconstructed at the destination point.

Mouse—a small palm-sized input device that you move across a flat surface to control the movement of the pointer on the screen

Pen Input—used to  (1) input data using hand-written characters and shapes that the computer can recognize (2) as a pointing device like a mouse to select items on the screen, and (3) to gesture (special symbols made with the pen that issue a command)

Optical Recognition Devices—use a light source to read codes, marks, and characters and convert them into digital data that can be processed by a computer

Pointing Stick (trackpoint or isometric pointing device)—a small device shaped like a pencil eraser that moves the insertion point as pressure is applied to the device

Terminals—consist of a keyboard and a screen – commonly used for special purpose input such as POS (Point-of Sale) information entry.

Touchpad (trackpad)—a flat rectangular surface that senses the movement of a finger on its surface to control the movement of the insertion point

Touch Screen—allows you to touch areas of the screen with your fingers to enter data.

Trackball—A pointing device like a mouse only with the ball on the top of the device instead of the bottom

  Laptop or Notebook or Netbook

A portable, integrated device in which the central processing unit (CPU), storage (hard disk and/or memory), input system (keyboard, trackpad, etc.), display and various data input and output channels (USB, Firewire, Ethernet, WiFi, etc.) are combined in a self-contained unit. Laptop or Notebook or Netbook computers are generally smaller than desktop computers, lending to their portability.

  Machine cycle

Machine Cycle or Processor Cycle or Instruction Cycle: the most basic logical mode of operation in a central processing unit (CPU). It consists of four steps that are “executed” continuously at a very high rate of speed: fetch, decode, execute and store. Only one execution cycle per machine cycle may be performed.

  Memory

Integrated circuits that temporarily store program instructions and data that can be retrieved.  Basic unit of memory is a byte.

  RAM (Random Access Memory) – a volatile form of memory, RAM generally functions as a computers “desktop” – the space in which data that is actively under review and/or manipulation can be processed.  As a result and as a general rule, the more RAM with which a computer is fitted, the more and faster data can be viewed and manipulated.  RAM needs to be cyclically “refreshed” from an outside power source in order to maintain the information contained therein.  When external power is removed, the data contents held in RAM disappears.  For this reason, RAM is sometimes referred to as short term memory.

  ROM (Read Only Memory) – a non-volatile form of memory, ROM stores data that does not commonly change, like startup instructions and data used when a computer if first turned on.

  CMOS –used to store information about the computer system, such as the amount of memory, the type of keyboard and monitors, and the type and capacity of disk drives.

  Output Devices

Devices that convert the results of processed data into a form that can be used and understood by the user.  A computer display is an example of an output device, as is a printer.  Whereas a computer display uses a screen to present visual information in virtual form, a printer produces hardcopy – a tangible form of the data or information. Audio speakers are another form of output device, converting electronic programming into human-audible sound.  Some devices are capable of being output as well as input devices.

  Examples of Output Devices

Computer display or monitor

Plotter- Designed for line drawing; often used for computer-aided design; some units can handle large paper sizes

Modem—a device that converts data into a form suitable for both receipt and transmission by wire or radio such that it can be reconstructed at the destination point.

Multifunction Devices—Combines printer, fax, scanner, and copier

Printers

Projectors

  Palmtop, PDA or PIM

Commonly the smallest of computing platforms, these are highly portable computing devices used primarily to organize task, contact, communications and other personally oriented information and data. These systems often have many of the same resources as a Laptop or Netbook computer: a CPU, storage, input system, display and one or more data input/output (I/O) channels. These devices can be purpose-built, or can have other primary functions, with smartphones being a good example of such a multifunction device.

  Peripheral Devices

A general term for any device connected to the system unit .

  Storage Devices

Store instructions and data when they are not being used by the system unit.

  Examples of Storage Devices

CD-ROM (compact disk read-only) — a smaller optical disk that can store about 450 times the data on a floppy

Data Cartridges—removable hard disk drives that provide both the storage capacity and fast access

Floppy disk/drive—a flexible platter coated with material that allows data to be recorded magnetically on the surface of the platters.

Hard Disk—one or more rigid platters coated with material that allows data to be recorded magnetically on the surface of the platters.

Smart Cards—size of credit card and contain a thin microprocessor capable of storing data. They are used as attendance tracking cards, identification cards, telephone cards, etc

Tape Cartidges—containing a long ribbon of plastic, one side of which is coated with a material that can be magnetized to record the binary codes that represent data.

  System Unit

Box-like case that contains the electronic circuits that cause the processing of data to occur. Part of the computer system where the computing is done.  This is where the computer programs are executed and the data is manipulated.  It consists of the Central Processing Unit (CPU), memory (Random Access Memory-RAM), and other electronics.

Best Tips for Maintaining Your Windows PC

When working (or playing) on your computer, you probably don’t think much about how you are going to clean up your files, backup your data, keep your system virus free, etc. However, these are tasks that need attention.

We’ve published useful article about different aspects of maintaining your computer. Below is a list our most useful articles about maintaining your computer, operating system, software, and data.

Organize and Manage Your Data

Before considering how you will regularly backup your data, it’s a good idea to organize your files and folders first so they are easier to backup. The following articles show you ways to organize your files, removing duplicate and old files, and securely delete files no longer needed.

Clean Up and Optimize Your System

Once you have organized your files and folders, it’s time to perform some basic cleanup tasks to optimize your system. The articles below discuss using CCleaner to cleanup temp files, cookies, and internet history, manage startup programs, and even how to whitelist important cookies. We also show you how to schedule disk cleanup and disk defragmentation in Windows, use Check Disk, clean up old downloads automatically, and the best tips for speeding up your PC. These tips could help improve the performance of your PC, as well.

Disinfect Your System

Before backing up your data (discussed later in this article), you should make sure your files are virus-free. We’ve covered various ways of disinfecting your PC, such as tools to clean your infected PC, how to scan files for viruses before using downloading and using them, and a simple trick to defeat fake anti-virus malware.

Analyze and Reduce Your Disk Usage

If, in the process of organizing your many files, you’ve discovered that you’re running low on disk space, there are easy ways to determine what is taking up the most space on your hard drive. The following articles show you 10 free tools for analyzing your hard drive space in Windows and some simple tips on reducing disk usage in Windows.

Tweak Windows to Improve Performance

Another way to improve your PC’s performance is to tweak Windows. The following articles show you how to disable startup programs and built-in Windows features you don’t use and make system restore use less hard drive space. We also list the 20 best registry hacks to improve Windows and even how to delete user accounts in Windows 7 so your system isn’t cluttered with user accounts you don’t use.

Keep Windows and Software Up-to-Date

Part of computer maintenance includes keeping Windows and your software programs up-to-date. The following articles show you how to force Windows to find update for more than just itself, such as for Microsoft Office and an easy method of checking for updates to your software programs. We also explain when you need to update your drivers and how to do so safely.

Back Up Your Data, Software Keys, and Drivers

Now that you’ve organized your files and folders and cleaned up, optimized your system, you need to consider your backup plan. Normally, when we think of backups, we think of backing up our data files. However, to make it easier to set up your system again, should the need arise, you should backup your software keys and drivers. This makes the process of re-installing software in a fresh install of Windows quicker and easier. The articles below show you how to recover keys for Windows and software programs and how to backup and restore hardware drivers. We also have collected the best articles we have published about backing up and syncing your data into one article.

Besides maintaining your Windows system and your data, we recommend cleaning the inside of your computer on a regular basis to prevent overheating and dust build up.

New 3D chip combines computing and data storage

As embedded intelligence is finding its way into ever more areas of our lives, fields ranging from autonomous driving to personalized medicine are generating huge amounts of data. But just as the flood of data is reaching massive proportions, the ability of computer chips to process it into useful information is stalling.

Now, researchers at Stanford University and MIT have built a new chip to overcome this hurdle. The results are published today in the journal Nature, by lead author Max Shulaker, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. Shulaker began the work as a PhD student alongside H.-S. Philip Wong and his advisor Subhasish Mitra, professors of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford. The team also included professors Roger Howe and Krishna Saraswat, also from Stanford.

Computers today comprise different chips cobbled together. There is a chip for computing and a separate chip for data storage, and the connections between the two are limited. As applications analyze increasingly massive volumes of data, the limited rate at which data can be moved between different chips is creating a critical communication “bottleneck.” And with limited real estate on the chip, there is not enough room to place them side-by-side, even as they have been miniaturized (a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law).

To make matters worse, the underlying devices, transistors made from silicon, are no longer improving at the historic rate that they have for decades.

The new prototype chip is a radical change from today’s chips. It uses multiple nanotechnologies, together with a new computer architecture, to reverse both of these trends.

Instead of relying on silicon-based devices, the chip uses carbon nanotubes, which are sheets of 2-D graphene formed into nanocylinders, and resistive random-access memory (RRAM) cells, a type of nonvolatile memory that operates by changing the resistance of a solid dielectric material. The researchers integrated over 1 million RRAM cells and 2 million carbon nanotube field-effect transistors, making the most complex nanoelectronic system ever made with emerging nanotechnologies.

The RRAM and carbon nanotubes are built vertically over one another, making a new, dense 3-D computer architecture with interleaving layers of logic and memory. By inserting ultradense wires between these layers, this 3-D architecture promises to address the communication bottleneck.

However, such an architecture is not possible with existing silicon-based technology, according to the paper’s lead author, Max Shulaker, who is a core member of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories. “Circuits today are 2-D, since building conventional silicon transistors involves extremely high temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Celsius,” says Shulaker. “If you then build a second layer of silicon circuits on top, that high temperature will damage the bottom layer of circuits.”

The key in this work is that carbon nanotube circuits and RRAM memory can be fabricated at much lower temperatures, below 200 C. “This means they can be built up in layers without harming the circuits beneath,” Shulaker says.

This provides several simultaneous benefits for future computing systems. “The devices are better: Logic made from carbon nanotubes can be an order of magnitude more energy-efficient compared to today’s logic made from silicon, and similarly, RRAM can be denser, faster, and more energy-efficient compared to DRAM,” Wong says, referring to a conventional memory known as dynamic random-access memory.

“In addition to improved devices, 3-D integration can address another key consideration in systems: the interconnects within and between chips,” Saraswat adds.

“The new 3-D computer architecture provides dense and fine-grained integration of computating and data storage, drastically overcoming the bottleneck from moving data between chips,” Mitra says. “As a result, the chip is able to store massive amounts of data and perform on-chip processing to transform a data deluge into useful information.”

To demonstrate the potential of the technology, the researchers took advantage of the ability of carbon nanotubes to also act as sensors. On the top layer of the chip they placed over 1 million carbon nanotube-based sensors, which they used to detect and classify ambient gases.

Due to the layering of sensing, data storage, and computing, the chip was able to measure each of the sensors in parallel, and then write directly into its memory, generating huge bandwidth, Shulaker says.

Three-dimensional integration is the most promising approach to continue the technology scaling path set forth by Moore’s laws, allowing an increasing number of devices to be integrated per unit volume, according to Jan Rabaey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, who was not involved in the research.

“It leads to a fundamentally different perspective on computing architectures, enabling an intimate interweaving of memory and logic,” Rabaey says. “These structures may be particularly suited for alternative learning-based computational paradigms such as brain-inspired systems and deep neural nets, and the approach presented by the authors is definitely a great first step in that direction.”

“One big advantage of our demonstration is that it is compatible with today’s silicon infrastructure, both in terms of fabrication and design,” says Howe.

“The fact that this strategy is both CMOS [complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor] compatible and viable for a variety of applications suggests that it is a significant step in the continued advancement of Moore’s Law,” says Ken Hansen, president and CEO of the Semiconductor Research Corporation, which supported the research. “To sustain the promise of Moore’s Law economics, innovative heterogeneous approaches are required as dimensional scaling is no longer sufficient. This pioneering work embodies that philosophy.”

The team is working to improve the underlying nanotechnologies, while exploring the new 3-D computer architecture. For Shulaker, the next step is working with Massachusetts-based semiconductor company Analog Devices to develop new versions of the system that take advantage of its ability to carry out sensing and data processing on the same chip.

So, for example, the devices could be used to detect signs of disease by sensing particular compounds in a patient’s breath, says Shulaker.

“The technology could not only improve traditional computing, but it also opens up a whole new range of applications that we can target,” he says. “My students are now investigating how we can produce chips that do more than just computing.”

“This demonstration of the 3-D integration of sensors, memory, and logic is an exceptionally innovative development that leverages current CMOS technology with the new capabilities of carbon nanotube field–effect transistors,” says Sam Fuller, CTO emeritus of Analog Devices, who was not involved in the research. “This has the potential to be the platform for many revolutionary applications in the future.”

This work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, Semiconductor Research Corporation, STARnet SONIC, and member companies of the Stanford SystemX Alliance.