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GamersNexus is the authority on in-depth computer hardware reviews as it pertains to gaming.

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    Differences Between DDR4 & GDDR5 Memory
    The finer distinctions between DDR and GDDR can easily be masked by the impressive on-paper specs of the newer GDDR5 standards, often inviting an obvious question with a not-so-obvious answer: Why can’t GDDR5 serve as system memory? In a simple response, it’s analogous to why a GPU cannot suffice as a CPU. Being more incisive, CPUs are comprised of complex cores using complex instruction sets in addition to on-die cache and integrated graphics. This makes the CPU suitable for the multitude of latency sensitive tasks often beset upon it; however, that aptness comes at a cost—a cost paid in silicon. Conversely, GPUs can apportion more chip space by using simpler, reduced-instruction-set based cores. As such, GPUs can feature hundreds, if not thousands of cores designed to process huge amounts of data in parallel. Whereas CPUs are optimized to process tasks in a serial/sequential manner with as little latency as possible, GPUs have a parallel architecture and are optimized for raw throughput. While the above doesn’t exactly explicate any differences between DDR and GDDR, the analogy is fitting. CPUs and GPUs both have access to temporary pools of memory, and just like both processors are highly specialized in how they handle data and workloads, so too is their associated memory.

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    Intel Optane Memory: A New Drive Caching Solution
    We recently covered Intel’s DC P4800X data center drive, with takes on the technology from two editors in video and article form. Those content pieces served as a technology overview for 3D Xpoint and Intel Optane (and should be referenced as primer material), but both indicated a distinct lack of any consumer-focused launch for the new half-memory, half-storage amalgam. Today, we’re back to discuss Intel’s Optane Memory modules, which will ship April 24 in the form of M.2 sticks. As Intel’s platform for 3D Xpoint (Micron also has one: QuantX), Optane will be deployed on standardized interfaces like PCI-e AICs, M.2, and eventually DIMM form factors. This means no special “Optane port,” so to speak, and should make adoption at least somewhat more likely. There’s still a challenging road ahead for Intel, of course, as Optane has big goals to somewhat unify memory and storage by creating a device with storage-like capacities and memory-like latencies. For more of a technology overview, check out Patrick Stone’s article on the DC P4800X.

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    5500MHz Memory Overclock Sets World Record (Ft. GSkill Trident Z DDR4)
    Professional overclocker Toppc recently set another world record for DDR4 SDRAM frequency. Using a set of G.SKILL DDR4 sticks (an unidentified kit from the Trident Z RGB line) bestriding an MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard, Toppc was able to achieve a 5.5 GHz DDR4 frequency—approximately a 500 MHz improvement over his record from last year. Toppc’s new record is verified by HWBot, accompanied by a screenshot of CPU-Z and Toppc’s extreme cooling setup, which involved LN2. Although an exact temperature was not provided, and details on the aforementioned G.SKILL kit are scant, we do know that the modules used Samsung 8GB ICs. Based on the limited information, we can infer or postulate that this is probably a new product from G.SKILL, as they announced new memory kits at Computex.

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    Memory Shortage Worsens in Face of iPhone 8 Launch
    We’ve been writing about the latest memory and Flash price increases for a bit now – and this does seem to happen every few years – but relief remains distant. The memory supply is limited for a few reasons right now, including new R&D processes by the big suppliers (Samsung, Toshiba, SK Hynix, Micron) as some of the suppliers attempt to move toward new process technology. More immediately and critical, the phone industry’s launch cycle is on the horizon, and that means drastically increased memory sales to phone vendors. Supply is finite – it has to come out of inventory somewhere, and that tends to be components. As enthusiasts, that’s where we see the increased prices come into play.

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    Video Cards Facing More Price Hurdles: GDDR Cost Increases
    Where video cards have had to deal with mining cost, memory and SSD products have had to deal with NAND supply and cost. Looks like video cards may soon join the party, as – according to DigiTimes and sources familiar with SK Hynix & Samsung supply – quotes in August increased 30.8% for manufacturers. That’s a jump from $6.50 in July to $8.50 in August. It sounds as if this stems from a supply-side deficit, based on initial reporting, and that’d indicate that products with a higher count of memory modules should see a bigger price hike. From what we’ve read, mobile devices (like gaming notebooks) may be more immediately impacted, with discrete cards facing indeterminate impact at this time.

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    The Cost of HBM2 vs. GDDR5 & Why AMD Had to Use It
    Variations of “HBM2 is expensive” have floated the web since well before Vega’s launch – since Fiji, really, with the first wave of HBM – without many concrete numbers on that expression. AMD isn’t just using HBM2 because it’s “shiny” and sounds good in marketing, but because Vega architecture is bandwidth starved to a point of HBM being necessary. That’s an expensive necessity, unfortunately, and chews away at margins, but AMD really had no choice in the matter. The company’s standalone MSRP structure for Vega 56 positions it competitively with the GTX 1070, carrying comparable performance, memory capacity, and target retail price, assuming things calm down for the entire GPU market at some point. Given HBM2’s higher cost and Vega 56’s bigger die, that leaves little room for AMD to profit when compared to GDDR5 solutions. That’s what we’re exploring today, alongside why AMD had to use HBM2. There are reasons that AMD went with HBM2, of course – we’ll talk about those later in the content. A lot of folks have asked why AMD can’t “just” use GDDR5 with Vega instead of HBM2, thinking that you just swap modules, but there are complications that make this impossible without a redesign of the memory controller. Vega is also bandwidth-starved to a point of complication, which we’ll walk through momentarily. Let’s start with prices, then talk architectural requirements.

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    The latest report out of TrendForce and DRAMeXchange indicates that the already-high DRAM prices will continue to climb through 2018. Original shortages were accused of being fallout from impending Samsung and iPhone major launches this year, but new information points toward a slow-down in production out of the big three memory manufacturers (Samsung, Micron, SK Hynix). The three companies claim to be running R&D efforts for future technologies, but the fact that all three coincide does mean that each group can continue to enjoy exceptionally high margins into the future.

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    Intel Optane Memory Modules in 2018
    During a presentation at the USB Global Technology Conference, Intel indicated that the roadmap for Intel Optane DIMMs lands their proprietary memory somewhere in the second half of 2018. Thus far, we’ve seen the storage and caching side of Intel Optane 3D XPoint. It seems in 2018, we’ll be afforded the opportunity to witness 3D XPoint as main memory.

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    DDR4 RAM Sales for Black Friday (Yes, You Read That Right)
    With the US Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, sales and discounts have begun making it almost affordable to build a PC again after months of high prices. One component that has seen huge price increases over 2017 has been DRAM, with little respite over the months. We found some deals on DDR4 RAM this week, so if you are in the market for a new kit or an upgrade, this is good news. Additionally, if you are someone looking for a CPU to go with a new kit of RAM, consider checking out the recent AMD CPU sale article or the Best CPUs of 2017 article for more.

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    Government Regulator Investigating DRAM Price Fixing Possibility
    China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is looking into the possibility of DRAM price-fixing between the major memory and Flash suppliers, with specific interest from the Pricing Supervision Department of said commission. An official from the regulatory body, Xu Xinyu of NDRC, stated the following: “We have noticed the price surge and will pay more attention to future problems that may be caused by ‘price fixing’ in the sector.” This comes following recent reports that Samsung initiated plans to increase supply by 20%, which still failed to meet rising demand. The NDRC told the China Daily, a state-run media outlet, that the NDRC has paid attention to DRAM pricing and demand over the past 18 months, and that memory suppliers are now under the eye of the NDRC. There are only four major suppliers in the industry, and those include SK Hynix, Micron, Toshiba, and Samsung.

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    RAM Price Report: DDR4 Same Price as Initial Launch
    While researching GPU prices and learning that GDDR5 memory price has increased by $20-$30 on the bill of materials lately, we started looking into the rising system memory prices. RAM pricing has proven somewhat cyclic over the past few years. We’ve reported on memory price increases dating back to 2012, and have done so seemingly every 2 years since that time. This research piece pulls five years of trend data, working in collaboration with PCPartPicker, to investigate why memory prices might be increasing, when we can expect a decrease, and more. DRAM prices are crazy right now. We’ve driven that point into the ground over the past few years, but pinpointing a “when” and a “why” is a difficult proposition. With the help of PCPartPicker, we’ve identified some general trends that seem almost cyclic, and provide some relief in pointing toward an eventual downturn.

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    HW News: GDDR6 Mass Production, MSFT Telemetry, & AMD Newhires
    This week's hardware news recap teases some of our upcoming content pieces, including a potential test on Dragonball FighterZ, along with pending-publication interviews of key Spectre & Meltdown researchers. In addition to that, as usual, we discuss major hardware news for the past few days. The headline item is the most notable, and pertains to Samsung's GDDR6 memory entering mass production, nearing readiness for deployment in future products. This will almost certainly include GPU products, alongside the expected mobile device deployments. We also talk AMD's new-hires and RTG restructure, its retiring of the implicit primitive discard accelerator for Vega, and SilverStone's new low-profile air cooler. Show notes are below the embedded video.

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    R5 2400G APU Memory Benchmarks & Single vs. Dual-Channel
    CPUs with integrated graphics always make memory interesting. Memory’s commoditization, ignoring recent price trends, has made it an item where you sort of pick what’s cheap and just buy it. With something like AMD’s Raven Ridge APUs, that memory choice could have a lot more impact than a budget gaming PC with a discrete GPU. We’ll be testing a handful of memory kits with the R5 2400G in today’s content, including single- versus dual-channel testing where all timings have been equalized. We’re also testing a few different motherboards with the same kit of memory, useful for determining how timings change between boards. We’re splitting these benchmarks into two sections: First, we’ll show the impact of various memory kits on performance when tested on a Gigabyte Gaming K5 motherboard, and we’ll then move over to demonstrate how a few popular motherboards affect results when left to auto XMP timings. We are focusing on memory scalability performance today, with a baseline provided by the G4560 and R3 GT1030 tests we ran a week ago. We’ll get to APU overclocking in a future content piece. For single-channel testing, we’re benchmarking the best kit – the Trident Z CL14 3200MHz option – with one channel in operation. Keep in mind that this is not a straight frequency comparison, e.g. not a 2400MHz vs. 3200MHz comparison. That’s because we’re changing timings along with the kits; basically, we’re looking at the whole picture, not just frequency scalability. The idea is to see how XMP with stock…

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    HW News: NV GPP, RAM Prices Getting Worse, & Coffee Lake in Z170
    The past week of hardware news has been peculiarly busy for this time of year, with a deluge of news posting toward the latter half of last week. For major stories, [H]ardOCP’s coverage of nVidia’s GPP agreements has undoubtedly garnered among the most attention in the news cycle, with additional stories of interest covering hacks to get Coffee Lake CPUs functional in Z170 and Z270 motherboards. We’ve got a couple of minor news items – new liquid coolers, a mini-review of a chair – and a couple of game industry items, like Valve’s return to game development. Find the written and filmed recaps below:

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    GDDR6 Slated for Next-Gen nVidia GPUs, Mass Production in 3 Months
    At GTC 2018, we learned that SK Hynix’s GDDR6 memory is bound for mass production in 3 months, and will be featured on several upcoming nVidia products. Some of these include autonomous vehicle components, but we also learned that we should expect GDDR6 on most, if not all, of nVidia’s upcoming gaming architecture cards. Given a mass production timeline of June-July for GDDR6 from SK Hynix, assuming Hynix is a launch-day memory provider, we can expect next-generation GPUs to become available after this timeframe. There still needs to be enough time to mount the memory to the boards, after all. We don’t have a hard date for when the next-generation GPU lineup will ship, but from this information, we can assume it’s at least 3 months away -- possibly more. Basically, what we know is that, assuming Hynix is a launch vendor, new GPUs are nebulously >3 months away.

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    HW News - AMD Going DDR5, HBM for CPUs, & 7nm Challenges
    This week's hardware news recap primarily focuses on some GN-exclusive items pertaining to AMD's plans with system memory in the future, mostly looking toward DDR5 for CPUs and HBM integration with CPUs, creating "near memory" for future products. All of this, of course, is before the major Ryzen 2 review publication timelines on Thursday this week, 9AM Eastern, when you'll find still more CPU news to look over. Be sure to check back for that. In the meantime, today's news covers memory stories, laptop updates, AMD staff changes, Spectre patches, and more.

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    Memory Industry Exposé Exclusive | GN Report
    We wrote a couple of scripts to scrape the data shown in this content, showing memory price trends for the year so far. We recently set forth on an information gathering mission to learn about how much it costs to actually buy different types of memory, allowing us to look at just how much the memory suppliers are making. They’re raking in record profits with record stock highs – just look at the below Hynix or Micron stock chart: Despite claimed cleanroom limitations, the companies are making record revenue. Today, we’re talking about why and how the memory industry is in the shape it’s in. This is Part 2 of our RAM Report series. The first part aired previously, and dug deep into five years of memory price data and earnings results for memory suppliers. Be sure to read or watch that content if you haven’t already.

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    HW News - China vs. Memory Makers, B450 Chipset Specs
    Despite Computex’s imminence, there are still plenty of pre-show announcements and news items to discuss. This week’s anchor item is the “conversation” that Micron has been having with memory suppliers; specifically, China’s Anti-Monopoly Bureau has discussed DRAM pricing with Samsung and Micron, Hynix likely to follow. Connecting the dots isn’t too hard here, but keep in mind that there’s still nothing confirmed with regard to price fixing possibilities. Separately, AMD’s B450 chipsets were detailed, passive AM4 coolers debuted, and JPR thinks cryptomining is waning, giving way to more affordable video cards for gamers. Show notes are below the video.

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    HW News - NVIDIA GPU Overstock, RAM Price Fixing Fines
    Hardware news hasn’t slowed since Computex; in fact, this week has been among the busiest in months, with several news items out of the “Big Three” manufacturers. NVidia has seemingly purchased too many GPUs, according to GamersNexus sources (and verifying other stories), GPU shipments overall are trending downward, Intel’s CEO “resigned,” and AMD is working on Vega 20 and V340 products. Other news for the week includes smaller items, like Be Quiet! opening a US service center and expanding US operations. Learn more in the video, or find the show notes below:  

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    What Are Memory Timings? CAS Latency, tRCD, tRP, & tRAS (Pt 1)
    Frequency is the most advertised spec of RAM. As anyone who’s dug a little deeper knows, memory performance depends on timings as well--and not just the primary ones. We found this out the hard way while doing comparative testing for an article on extremely high frequency memory which refused to stabilize. We shelved that article indefinitely, but due to reader interest (thanks, John), we decided to explore memory subtimings in greater depth. This content hopes to define memory timings and demystify the primary timings, including CAS (CL), tRAS, tRP, tRAS, and tRCD. As we define primary memory timings, we’ll also demonstrate how some memory ratios work (and how they sometimes can operate out of ratio), and how much tertiary and secondary timings (like tRFC) can impact performance. Our goal is to revisit this topic with a secondary and tertiary timings deep-dive, similar to this one. We got information and advice from several memory and motherboard manufacturers in the course of our research, and we were warned multiple times about the difficulty of tackling this subject. On the one hand, it’s easy to get lost in minutiae, and on the other it’s easy to summarize things incorrectly. As ASUS told us, “you need to take your time on this one.” This is a general introduction, to be followed by another article with more detail on secondary and tertiary timings.

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