Over the past 12 months, a lot of interesting events and releases have taken place in the computer hardware industry, a large number of which relate to the segments of graphics accelerators and processors. We have already mentioned the most significant of them in previous articles, and now it is the turn of other areas of the PC market.
In the gaming monitor industry, the outgoing year began with the announcement of Nvidia’s BFGD initiative, which plans to launch advanced 65-inch screens for gamers, while the second half of the year will be remembered for the release of the first devices using 4K matrices with a refresh rate of 144 Hz. 2018 turned out to be a very successful year for the Ukrainian sports overclocking gurus and, in particular, the Overclockers.UA team. Among SSD manufacturers, the main trend has been the release of drives with QLC memory, perceived with hostility by many PC enthusiasts, and there has been a period of stagnation in the segment of virtual reality headsets.
Big Fucking Format Gaming Display
In the desktop graphics segment, Nvidia feels better than ever. The lack of competition in the high-end video card market is pushing the “green” to bold experiments, for example, the release of advanced gaming monitors as part of the BFGD (Big Format Gaming Displays) initiative. This concept was presented as part of the January CES 2018 exhibition, and Acer, ASUS and Hewlett-Packard announced their interest in it.
The first BFGD monitors will be based on a 65-inch matrix from AU Optronics. The displays combine 4K resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, support for Nvidia G-Sync and High Dynamic Range (HDR). It also talks about full coverage of the DCI-P3 palette, peak brightness of 1000 cd / m², fast response time and the built-in Nvidia Shield Android console. The release of new products is scheduled for the first quarter of next year.
HP Omen X 65. Фото TechPowerUp
It is quite predictable that in order to become the owner of such a device, you will have to part with a fabulous amount. According to reports, the recommended prices for BFGD monitors will be in the range of 4,000 to 5,000 euros. Also, do not forget that for a comfortable game on such a display, you will need a top-end PC with one, or better, two flagship Nvidia GeForce graphics cards. Only a small handful of wealthy gamers can afford such pleasure today.
Acer Predator X27
Without departing from the topic of gaming monitors. This summer, a year and a half after debuting at CES 2017, 4K gaming displays with a refresh rate of 144Hz hit stores. They were remembered not only for their impressive technical characteristics, but also for the noisy fans in their composition, which pretty upset the newly minted owners. In Ukrainian retail, such monitors will cost about 85 thousand (Acer Predator X27) or 100 thousand (ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ) hryvnia.
128 GB to the masses
The development of events in the RAM market this year suggests that manufacturers have almost “squeezed out all the megahertz” from DDR4 RAM. At Computex 2018, the Taiwanese company G.Skill showed off a dual-channel Trident Z RGB DDR4 kit operating at an effective frequency of 5066 MHz. For comparison, today in extreme memory overclocking, overclockers have conquered the DDR4-5566 mark.
Meanwhile, the South Korean giant Samsung Electronics launched the release of 32-gigabyte DDR4 modules in the form factor DIMM and SO-DIMM. They are designed for use in gaming PCs, laptops or workstations and allow you to use up to 128 GB of RAM in a system with four RAM slots. True, it should be borne in mind that the standard mode of operation for such modules is a modest DDR4-2666, and only Intel Coffee Lake-S Refresh processors have guaranteed support for them.
This fall, together with partners, ASUS presented its vision of 32-gigabyte DDR4 sticks. Double Capacity/DC modules hold 32 memory chips, are tall, and are only supported by three ASUS motherboards based on the Intel Z390 chipset: ROG Z390 Maximus XI Apex, ROG Maximus XI Gene, and ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming. The main goal of these brackets is to double the maximum amount of RAM (from 32 to 64 GB) for boards with two slots.
G.Skill Trident Z RGB DC DDR4
QLC is the hit of the season
Solid-state drive companies have set up production of devices with 3D NAND QLC chips that store four bits in one cell at once. Almost every major vendor has introduced its SSDs, including Intel, Micron, Adata, and Samsung. The reason for the general transition to this type of flash memory lies in the fact that drives based on it should be significantly cheaper than analogues with TLC memory. However, experience has shown that this is not always the case.
Intel SSD 660p
The production of 3D NAND QLC chips was not easy for manufacturers and is accompanied by a large number of defects. From reliable sources, information was received that only 48% of the QLC chips released by the joint venture between Intel and Micron are suitable for use as part of an SSD. For comparison, in the case of 64-layer 3D NAND TLC, this value exceeds 90%.
Ultimately, the first drives using QLC NAND chips turned out to be not much cheaper than analogs with the familiar TLC memory. Together with low write speeds (when going beyond the limits of the SLC cache) and a smaller resource, the new products turn out to be not as attractive a product as the manufacturers originally intended. It remains to be hoped that vendors will be able to reduce the percentage of defects, and in the future we will have high-capacity SSDs with a price of one gigabyte of storage comparable to hard drives.
Among the large number of models of solid state drives that debuted this year, we can note the “reference” Samsung 970 Pro and 970 Evo, which improved read and write performance relative to their predecessors, as well as the Intel Optane SSD 905P with 3D XPoint memory. The latest SSDs are available not only in the form of low-profile PCI-E x4 expansion cards or 2.5-inch devices with a U.2 connector, but also in the M.2 22110 form factor. The price of such products is still high – in foreign retail for The 960 GB version is asking for $1,300.
Manufacturers of VR headsets seem to have given up on the hope that virtual reality will soon arrive in every home, which has led to a relative lull in the market over the past year. However, this does not mean that the relevant industry has begun to collapse. New games, as well as devices, continue to be released, but compared to the boom of 2016, there is a significant drop in interest in virtual reality.
One of the main novelties of the outgoing year is the HTC Vive Pro helmet. He received two AMOLED screens with a resolution of 1440×1600 pixels (against 1080×1200 pixels from the original Vive) and a refresh rate of 90 Hz, and also got support for the SteamVR Tracking 2.0 tracking system, capable of covering a room of 10×10 meters. The key drawback of the new VR headset was its price – in foreign retail for HTC Vive Pro they ask for $800. And for this money, the buyer will receive only the helmet itself, while the delivery kit of the $ 500 HTC Vive includes everything you need to work.
HTC Vive Pro
On the other hand, one cannot fail to note the growing popularity of standalone VR headsets. They have occupied a niche between screenless gadgets that involve the use of a smartphone and full-fledged devices that connect to a PC. All-in-one helmets like the Oculus Go or the HTC Vive Focus, while not boasting record-breaking processing power, allow wearers to immerse themselves in the virtual world for hours without having to be near a powerful computer.
Another indirect evidence that it is too early to bury virtual reality is the VirtualLink standard. It involves using a single USB Type-C cable to transmit video, data, and power to connected devices. It is expected to see widespread use in next-generation VR headsets, and is being promoted by a consortium led by Oculus, Valve, AMD, Microsoft, and Nvidia. The latter has already added a VirtualLink (USB Type-C) connector to the rear panel of Turing architecture graphics accelerators.
The notebook market this year did not feature a large number of high-profile announcements. Laptop manufacturers are behaving rather inertly, continuing to gradually update the hardware component of their products. Attention, perhaps, deserves the efforts of some vendors to pack desktop hardware into a relatively small case. For example, the Canadian Eurocom managed to shove the Intel Core i9-9900K processor, which places considerable demands on the cooling system, into the 17.3-inch Tornado F7W laptop.
Eurocom Tornado F7W
In turn, Acer has prepared a laptop addressed to fans of Advanced Micro Devices. One of the Predator Helios 500 configurations is not only equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700 desktop processor (8 cores / 16 threads, 3.2 / 4.1 GHz), but also with a Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics adapter. We emphasize that this is not a mobile Vega , which can be found in the new Apple MacBook Pro, but a full-fledged desktop-class accelerator with slightly reduced heat dissipation (nominal TDP – 120 W) and performance.
Acer Predator Helios 500
If we talk about competitive overclocking, then the team of our Overclockers.UA conference in the outgoing year more than once pleased the fans with new achievements. To begin with, it is worth noting the worthy performance of Ukrainian enthusiasts at the annual HWBot Team Cup championship. It was attended by 41 overclocking teams from different parts of the world, and the total number of disciplines in which the “tormentors of iron” fought was more than three dozen.
Thanks to the efforts of active Overclockers.UA participants at the HWBot Team Cup 2018, the team managed not only to enter the top five, but also to take fourth place after the final recalculation of points. This is the best result in the history of the team. It is gratifying that this year, not only the regulars of the Benchmarking section of the conference participated in filling the piggy bank of results.
Another reason to rejoice for your favorite team was waiting for the fans closer to the New Year and Christmas holidays. Last week, Overclockers.UA moved up to the fourth line of the HWBot Team League, placing itself among the strongest teams of sports overclockers. Let’s add that Ukraine, meanwhile, firmly settled on the 12th position in the HWBot Country League ranking.
The keynote of the next year will most likely be the confrontation between Intel and AMD in the processor market. Over the past couple of years, both manufacturers have been releasing new products with enviable regularity, bringing with them an increase in the processing power of the average PC. The next breakthrough in performance should ensure the transition to new microarchitectures and technological standards. Here, the advantage is on the side of Advanced Micro Devices, which is not burdened with its own production facilities, but work on Intel’s long-suffering 10-nm process technology is closer than ever to completion.
As for the discrete graphics market, here the pessimism regarding AMD is added by the staffing problems of the Radeon Technologies Group. The Reds’ current plans are for a 7nm Navi GPU to be released sometime next year, and let’s hope it stays that way. Nvidia, meanwhile, will be expanding the range of GeForce RTX video cards “downward”, starting with the release of the GeForce RTX 2060. The presentation of this accelerator will reportedly take place in early January as part of CES 2019.
Ahead of the market debut of Nvidia BFGD gaming monitors, the massive introduction of the PCI Express 4.0 interface, further price reductions for RAM and SSDs, new details about Intel GPUs and reasons to be proud of your favorite overclocking team. In other words, it certainly won’t be boring. Stay with us and Happy New Year!