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Aug 6, 2014

AMD Launches Mighty Server/Supercomputer GPU with 16 GB GDDR5 VRAM

So far, the High Performance Computing stage has mostly been ruled by NVIDIA when it came to GPU compute acceleration, but Advanced Micro Devices has been doing its best to catch up, and it seems it just managed it.

And it isn't even holding onto the relatively unknown FireStream brand anymore. Even though that's the company's brand for stream processing and/or GPGPU in supercomputers, the company chose to sell its new server GPU under the FirePro brand instead. In fact, AMD even says that the new product, the FirePro S9150 server GPU, is the “first AMD architecture designed specifically with compute workloads in mind.” Looking at its hardware specs, we have to say that the newcomer definitely has what it takes to compete in the same league as NVIDIA's Tesla series. And that means a lot, seeing as how Tesla GPU compute accelerators power some of the most powerful supercomputers on the Top500 list. Anyway, the new AMD FirePro S9150 server GPU has 2,813 stream processors in 44 GCN compute units (graphics core next), as well as 16 GB of GDDR5 backing it up through an interface of 512 bits.

The memory bandwidth is, thus, of 320 GB/s, while the power consumption can go as high as 235W (which isn't as high as it could have been). In fact, it is the same as the 235W of NVIDIA's best Tesla card, the Tesla K40. The peak single-precision floating point performance is of 5.07 TFLOPS, 18% more than the Tesla K40, which has 4.29 TFLOPs. Meanwhile, double-precision floating point performance is of 2.53 TFLOPs vs. 1.43 TFLOPs. Clearly, AMD is playing for keeps here. There's a second HPC FirePro card from AMD, called AMD FirePro S9050. This one has 1,792 stream processors divided into 28 GCN compute units, plus 12 GB VRAM, a 384-bit memory interface, and a bandwidth of up to 264 GB/s. The power draw is of 225W.

Both newcomers utilize the PCI Express x16 card form factor and have passive cooling solutions. They also support AMD STREAM technology, which actually lets a server/supercomputer divert parallel processing tasks from the CPU (or CPUs) to the GPUs. Basically, it's the answer to NVIDIA's CUDA. With the launch of the FirePro S9150 and S9050 server GPUs, AMD has reaffirmed the long-lasting rivalry between it (or rather what used to be ATI Technologies) and NVIDIA. Sapphire will be the main distribution partner, with ASUS, GIGABYTE, Supermicro, and TYAN making compatible motherboards starting this quarter (Q3, 2014).

AMD FirePro S9150

AMD FirePro S9050
Images credits to AMD

Nokia May Be Readying Its Comeback on Smartphone Market

Since Nokia’s mobile division changed owner a couple of months ago, the Finnish company is looking for new ways to improve its income. The Nokia brand is still strong in some parts of the world, despite the fact that the company is not involved in the mobile phone business anymore.

Currently, Nokia is split in three subsidiaries, each of these in different fields of activity: Nokia Networks, HERE and Nokia Technologies. One of the most prolific of the three, Nokia Networks, seems to bring the highest income, but HERE is likely to become a solid source of profit very soon (if not already). HERE is one of Nokia’s current businesses, which is active in the mapping and location domain. HERE technology, praised by Windows Phone users and Nokia fans alike, is based on the cloud-computing model, which means that, regardless of what operating system one uses to access these services, they will be available. In the last couple of weeks, Nokia made some interesting moves that could be defined as attempts, even if weak, to enter the mobile phone market once again.

Even though HERE is a mobile business per se, as the company’s mapping and location services are now available on Windows Phone, Android and iOS mobile platforms, the company does not have a hardware component, so there are no physical products available. But what if Nokia started producing physical products like smartphones, smartwatches, or other mobile accessories that would help the company rebuild the giant that it once was? The recent job listings from LinkedIn confirm that Nokia is now looking to hire people that would help the company launch new consumer products, both “physical and digital.” Here is one of the job posts that was recently spotted on LinkedIn:

“Nokia is establishing a new businesses built on Nokia innovation, focusing on physical and digital products and services for consumers directly or through other customer companies. We have already identified a number of product opportunities where we can make a difference in the market in areas aligned with our vision and where our brand makes a difference, and we continue to look for new opportunities where we can win.”

Another sign that might point to Nokia’s comeback on the mobile phone market is the fact that the company has recently released an Android application called Z Launcher, which seems to be very popular among users. The Z Launcher is the work of a small team that thought that the Android launchers available in Google Play Store were not doing enough for users, so they developed their own solution. If Nokia is really still thinking at the smartphone market, this means only one thing: the Finnish company is readying its comeback. If and when that might happen is still a mystery, but I have a feeling that we will know more about Nokia’s plans for the mobile phone market by the end of this year.

I doubt the company will continue to put Windows Phone on its first devices, if there will be such devices, so the only viable way to gain some traction on the smartphone market would be to launch something based on Android OS. Either way, the first step is the most important one. It’s the thing that will define Nokia’s fate and its chance to grab the top spot in the smartphone business again. I do hope Nokia is not yet finished with mobile phones, but I’m well aware that a comeback is hard to achieve so soon. However, I’ll be watching this space and be amazed by what Nokia’s engineers manage to come up with in the future. I suggest Nokia fans to do the same, as the company may still have a few surprises under its sleeve.

Nokia products
Image credits to Nokia

MSI GT72 Dominator Pro Gaming Notebook Comes with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M or GTX 870M

Looking for a gaming notebook and you want to squeeze all the power you possible can under its hood? MSI has just rolled out the latest addition to its Dominator Pro lineup of advanced gaming systems.

The GT72 Dominator Pro takes design cues from matte-black racing super cars, offering customers what can be considered a highly aesthetic device. The laptop has been released as a reaction to the increasingly competitive gaming market, which tends to spurt out more and more heavily packed gaming devices, all cramped up under a sleek form factor. We should start the specification tour by saying that the laptop arrives with a 17.3-inch Full HD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution. The new device takes advantage of the high-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M or GTX 870M graphics card in order to transform the device into a gaming-ready machine. MSI says that compared to the previous-gen GTX 780M and GTX 770M, the new GPU architecture manages to boost performance by up to 15% (as proved by 3D Mark 11 standard tests).

What’s interesting is that the press-release doesn’t reveal the exact nature of the processor living under the hood. We are dealing with a Haswell i7 chip, but its exact specifications are unknown. A while ago, MSI rolled out the MSI G70 Dominator Dragon Edition which draws life from an Intel Core i7-4810MQ clocked at 2.7GHz. Anyway, going back to the GT72, MSI points out that this is the first laptop in the world to come boasting Killer DoubleShot Pro. This system offers support for both Killer Gb LAN and Wi-Fi 802.11ac protocol. It will deliver average latency improvements of 3.5 times higher than laptops supporting 802.11ac.

The machine utilizes the Killer Network Manager to tap into the Smart Teaming function and from there provide optimization of bandwidth usage between Wi-Fi and Gb LAN. The laptop also boasts Super RAID 3 technology with 4 SSD RAID 0, so the data read/write speed can reach up to 1600MB/sec or more. The device should be able to handle everything you throw at it, and since it benefits from the Cooler Boost 3 tech, it should do so quite noiselessly. Cooler Boost works in order to improve fan speed, keep CPU temperature and noise at optimal levels so that game playing isn't hindered.

Other specifications we should draw your attention to are Xplit Gamecaster (for online game streaming), SteelSeries keyboard with backlit keys, and Matrix multi-display tech which lets you connect the laptop to up to 3 external display (steaming up to 4K). It seems like the MSI website, lists the Intel Core i7-4710HQ chip as the only option for the new Dominator Pro. Anyway, prices seems to be started at $2,599 / €1,945. Images gallery available below, click for larger image.

MSI GT72 Dominator Pro arrives with the most powerful NVIDIA GPU
Images credits to MSI

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