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10 cool technologies to look for in your next PC

Impressive new technologies are revolutionizing PC performance, but should you buy now or wait for more improvements? These details will help you decide.

It's an exciting time for PC enthusiasts. I can't remember a period when so many existing technologies were being upgraded to the next generation and new technologies were being introduced. Even non-enthusiasts need to know about the changes that are happening to the desktop PC.

But knowing when to upgrade your PC to the latest and greatest can be a difficult decision. Should you buy now or wait for the even more advanced technology that has been promised by the likes of Intel, AMD, and others? For power users, and a lot of IT professionals fall into this category, waiting for a specific technology can have a huge impact on their future productivity and ultimate success. I will list 10 PC-based technologies that are either new or soon to be released and leave it to you whether it is "got to have" or "can do without" technology.

Note: Release schedules, specifications, and prices are subject to change prior to formal release. Use this information as a guideline only.

Extra info: This article is available as a PDF download that includes 11 tables containing additional details on availability, configuration, and technical specifications.

1: USB 3.0

USB devices are ubiquitous, so it's only natural to want to know more about the successor to USB 2.0. USB 3.0 increases the effective data transfer rate by a factor of more than six -- a huge improvement over USB 2.0. It also provides more power than USB 2.0 when devices need it, 4.5 Watts versus 2.5 Watts, respectively, and less when they don't. USB 3.0 is available now as a chip added to the motherboard or via an add-in card. AMD supports USB 3.0 natively and Intel has announced plans to support USB 3.0 in its 7-series Panther Point chipsets.

Additional resources

2: Intel Thunderbolt

Intel, along with Apple, has developed a technology to compete with USB called Thunderbolt -- although Intel prefers to think of Thunderbolt as coexisting with USB. Originally codenamed "Light Peak" and making use of optical cables, Thunderbolt is copper-based, allowing for 10 watts of power over the copper. Thunderbolt combines PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols into one shared interface.

There is quite a bit of confusion about the total bandwidth of a Thunderbolt port. According to this Intel Technology Brief, "A Thunderbolt connector is capable of providing two full-duplex channels. Each channel provides bi-directional 10Gbps of bandwidth." That is 20Gb/s upstream and 20Gb/s downstream. So why is Thunderbolt advertised at 10Gb/s or "only" twice the speed of USB 3.0? An Intel spokesman explained it this way in PC Magazine: "So in summation you have potential for up to 20Gb/s upstream AND 20Gb/s downstream, but any single device maxes out at 10Gb/s (you don't 'combine' the two channels)."

Of course, most consumer storage devices don't come anywhere near the 10Gb/s data rate, but that is changing with the faster SSDs and flash drives now being produced. Also, up to seven total devices can be daisy-chained to use the remaining 20Gb/s per direction total bandwidth. One or two of these can be high resolution DisplayPort v1.1a displays.

This speed comes at a price, though. A 2.0 meter copper-based Thunderbolt cable costs $49.00 USD, the cost due primarily to the Gennum GN2033 controllers and other electronics built into each end of the cable that performs the data moving and multiplexing magic. You also have to add the cost of the Thunderbolt controllers needed on both the host and peripheral device.

Expect Thunderbolt to be supported on Intel's Ivy Bridge processors but don't count on it being available on the 7-series Panther Point chipsets due out in March of 2012. There are limitations I won't bore you with here, but they are listed in this article, along with other Thunderbolt details.

Thunderbolt using optical cable, also known as 50G Silicon Photonics Link (PDF), continues to be in the works and may appear as early as 2012. According to Dave Salvator of Intel, "Current supported data rate is two channels at 10Gbps bi-directional each." Thunderbolt ports accept either copper or optical cables.

Additional resources

3: Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.0

That long name is the formal specification name of the follow-on to SATA Revision 2.0. SATA Revision 3.0 or SATA 6Gb/s doubles the effective data transfer rate of SATA Revision 2.0. Looking further out, the SATA Revision 3.2 specification is due by the end of 2011 that creates the SATA Express standard. SATA Express combines SATA software infrastructure and PCI Express to enable 8Gb/s using PCIe 2.0 or 16Gb/s using PCIe 3.0. Both SATA Revision 3.0 and SATA Express are intended to accommodate the increasing data speeds of sold-state and hybrid drives.

Except for Queued TRIM Command, SATA Revision 3.1 includes features primarily for non-PC devices.

Additional resources

4: PCI Express 3.0

PCI Express 3.0 is the next generation standard for the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express, or PCIe. For average PC users, this means that their graphics cards and other extreme I/O add-in cards will be able to transfer data at twice the rate of PCIe 2.0.

PCI Express 3.0 uses a more efficient method of data encoding, 128b/130b, with a 1.5385% overhead versus the 20% overhead of 8b/10b used in the PCIe 2.0 specification. This allows for a doubling of the effective transfer rate even though the total bandwidth increases only 60% from 5GT/s to 8GT/s. Tom's Hardware is reporting that the first three Sandy Bridge-E processors scheduled for release in November 2011 will have PCIe 3.0 capability but without the PCIe 3.0 certification.

Additional resources

5: SSDs & SSD Toolbox

SSDs promise huge increases in performance over the most common bottleneck in a personal computer system, data access to and from hard drives. SSDs are approaching and even exceeding 500MB/s sequential read and write rates. But there are plenty of cons that come with that speedy SSD. SSDs have small capacities and are still expensive compared to hard disk drives. While they are available and have been for quite a while now, the technology is going through birthing pains, as exemplified by the continued compatibility issues with the SandForce SF-2200 series of controllers (see below).

Firmware issues continue to appear, though as in the case of the Intel "Addresses Bad Context 13x Error," firmware updates to remediate the issue are available. SSDs require a different mindset than with traditional hard disk drives. To maximize life and performance, users need to be educated about defragmentation, Hibernation, AHCI and TRIM and Page File.

The Intel Solid-State Drive Toolbox (PDF) monitors and manages Intel's SSDs and adds new features. These features include the Intel SSD Optimizer TRIM function, System Configuration Tuner, Secure Erase, access to the SMART data, and running diagnostics to check for read or write errors. OCZ offers a toolbox for their SSDs, and Samsung provides the SSD Magician Tool. SSD Tweaker optimizes Windows for your SSD, and a free version is available.

Additional resources

6: SandForce DuraClass SSD controllers

SandForce has developed a controller for SSDs that adds these DuraClass technology features to the base SSD drive:

  • Five-year expected life using inexpensive MLC flash memory
  • SATA 6Gb/s Interface
  • DuraWrite -- Reduces write amplification to 0.5 (typical)
  • SandForce RAISE technology
  • (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) - Provides RAID-like redundant protection for single SSD computers
  • Automatic AES-128 encryption (SF-1000)
  • Automatic AES-256 encryption (SF-2000)
  • Currently available

Look for the SandForce DRIVEN logo when specing out an SSD or check out this list of SSDs that use the SandForce DuraClass Controllers. Before purchase, be aware that some users have reported problems (including some BSODs) with the SF-2200 controllers. SandForce continues to look into the issue and new firmware updates are in test now.

Additional resources

7: AMD Bulldozer

Power users have been anxiously awaiting the details of AMD's Bulldozer processors. The desktop processor models are called AMD FX and were officially launched on October 12, 2011. This is not your secretary's processor -- the full AMD FX lineup of CPUs is unlocked. Four models are available at the initial launch, one 4-core model, one 6-core model, and two 8-core models. The processors, codenamed Zambezi, have a 32nm die size. High-end FX models will ship with a sealed liquid cooling system made by Asetek, pictured here, though they will initially be limited to specific markets and not available at launch. Availability of the liquid cooling system in the U.S. is still to be determined.

Before you get too excited, you need to fully understand the exact meaning of a Bulldozer "core." The Bulldozer microarchitecture employs one module with "two tightly-linked processor cores" that share a fetch, decode, and 256-bit floating-point units and 2MB of L2 memory cache. For example, four Bulldozer modules provide the eight "cores" of the FX-8000 series processors. Testing by AnandTech and Tom's Hardware of an FX-8150 processor shows that single-threaded performance is similar to that of the Intel Core i5-2500K. Performance is better with higher workloads and multi-threaded applications that can utilize more of its eight "cores."

Additional resources

8: Intel Sandy Bridge-E

The next generation of Sandy Bridge processors is dubbed Sandy Bridge-E, with the E meaning Enthusiast. Unlike AMD, whichy delayed the release of its nex- generation processors, rumors are that the release date of three of the Sandy Bridge-E processors has been pushed up to November 2011. Performance increases of 12% to 65% are expected, compared to similar processors. While the Sandy Bridge-E processors will be built using the 32nm production process, the follow-on processor series, codenamed Ivy Bridge, which is expected in March 2012, will use the 22nm process.

It's a little confusing, but the Sandy Bridge-E processers will use the new LGA 2011 socket and the X79 Patsburg chipset. The Ivy Bridge processors will use the existing LGA 1155 socket plus the existing 6-series Cougar Point chipset or the yet-to-be-released 7-series Panther Point chipset. As mentioned above, one advantage of the 7-series Panther Point chipset is that it will have native USB 3.0 support.

Like AMD, X-bit labs is reporting that top Sandy Bridge-E models will ship with a new liquid cooling system. The RTS2011C liquid-cooling system looks remarkably like the AMD cooler, which may be more than coincidental, since both are supposedly built by Asetek. This cooling solution will also be sold separately, which is of note since Sandy Bridge-E processors may ship without a cooler.

You will want to wait before purchasing a Sandy Bridge-E processor if you are interested in using hardware accelerated virtualization. Rumors are that the C1 stepping revision has a problem with VT-d, Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O, which will be fixed in the C2 stepping.

Additional resources

9: DDR4 SDRAM

With publication of the DDR4 SDRAM standard not expected until mid-2012, don't expect to see DDR4 memory in desktops anytime soon. Availability is confusing since a presentation by the JEDEC director at MemCon 2010 suggested 2015. But BeHardware.com claims that Hynix plans to begin mass production of DDR4 SDRAM in the second half of 2102. Regardless of DDR4 memory module production dates, supporting processors and chipsets may lag well behind -- late 2013 is projected for AMD. Unless you are willing to wait until then, your next PC will contain DDR3 SDRAM memory. There is some good news for those wanting faster SDRAM in the near future. The FlyingSuicide Web site is reporting that Sandy Bridge-E processors will officially support DDR3 speeds up to 2133MHz. X-bit labs is reporting that Ivy Bridge processors will support DDR3 memory operating at 2800MHz, even though DDR3 memory at these speeds is not yet available. Either of these would be a great interim solution while waiting for DDR4, assuming of course that the rumors turn out to be accurate.

DDR4 is expected to use a point-to-point approach instead of dual- and triple-channel architecture, though JEDEC has not formally announced that it will be in the final spec. According to JDEC, "The DDR4 standard will be implemented with 3D support from the start." This means that memory can be stacked using technologies like Through-Silicon Via (TSV). The voltage is expected to eventually decrease from 1.2V to 1.05V.

Additional resources

10: Microsoft Windows 8

The major change in Windows 8 begins with the UI, called the Metro UI. A new start screen with Live Tiles replaces shortcut icons. A touch screen monitor will obviously be required if you want to use the new interface with your fingers instead of a mouse. The hints so far are of a UI more befitting a tablet than a personal computer. Yes, you almost certainly will be able to turn off the Metro UI in the final release, but why upgrade to Windows 8 just to turn off its biggest selling feature? It is still too early to tell what other new features will be available that will increase productivity and make for a better user experience on a PC. Windows 8 is expected to support USB 3.0, but as of this time there is no definite news whether Thunderbolt will also be supported. With Thunderbolt coming to the PC in 2012, Microsoft would be remiss to overlook it.

Many questions remain as to whether Windows 8 will be a success on a desktop PC in the workplace:

  • Will users adopt the new interface -- with or without a touch screen monitor?
  • Will employers invest in more expensive touch screen monitors?
  • Will Windows 8 be more productive?
  • Will reaching out to touch a monitor eight hours a day cause physiological pain or even harm?

Until more is known, expect businesses to take a cautious, even skeptical approach to Windows 8. Decide for yourself if you like the new interface- - preview Windows 8 by downloading the Windows Developer Preview, a pre-beta version for developers but available to everyone.

Additional resources

The bottom line

It's taken 30 years, but I finally have a system that is fast enough for my needs. My Foxconn BlackOps, Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 with RAID 10 system will more than suffice. Which leads to the obvious question: How much of this technology do you really need? The core wars between AMD and Intel continue, but realistically, how many of those Bulldozer "cores" can you keep busy in a world of single-threaded apps? Other technologies, like USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, SATA Revision 3.0, PCIe 3.0, SSDs, and SandForce promise immediate performance gains. Of course, needs vary, and whatever new technology you include in that next PC should be based on your individual needs.

With all of the buzz about the latest tablet or smart phone, the PC is still the workhorse for most cubicle residents. No matter how careful you are future-proofing your next personal computer, there will always be newer technologies on the horizon. But the next six months look like a great time to upgrade that relic sitting on your desktop you used to call a PC and get the bulk of the new technologies. Happy shopping!

Author's note: I would like to thank SandForce, Intel, and AMD for their help with this article.

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

38 comments
TanyaLongm
TanyaLongm

I WAS SO BAD IN SCHOOL, THATS WHY I WAS AFRAID OF LEARNING NEW STUFF. BUT ROSSETASTONE MAKES LEARNING THAT EASY THAT BEFORE I KNOW I STARTED SPEAK NEW LANGUAGES. IT WAS AWESOME FEELING TO UNDERSTAND LANGUAGES YOU ALWAYS DREAM OF. I WOULD RECOMMENDED THIS PROGRAM EVERYONE, EVEN THOSE WHO THINKS THEY WILL NEVER LEARN NEW STUFF BECAUSE OF THEIR AGE OR KNOWLEDGE. IT'S VERY EASY AND MOST IMPORTANT FAST. http://www.hererosettastone.com/ THANK YOU ROSSETASTONE SO SO MUCH. YOU MADE ME DEFERENT PERSON. P.S. NOW MY MOTHER (64) STARTED TO LEARN AND SHE IS DOING AS GOOD AS ME.

brocksamson2011
brocksamson2011

DDR4 SDRAM in the second half of 2102.....LOL dont think I or my current PC will live that long!

Asrugan
Asrugan

"Will reaching out to touch a monitor eight hours a day cause physiological pain or even harm?" Really? In a world where many folks do manual labor for 10/12 hours a day, they're worried occasionally raising your arm might hurt you? These guys need to get out more. Gesture control is the way of the future, and as long as keyboards are still part of our data entry, the gestures will only be a small part of the over all operation.

beck.joycem
beck.joycem

I find it interesting that all the hardware you're talking about is physically connected. A few years ago the talk was of everything becoming wireless, and certainly WiFi has made inroads - obviously - but still we depend on copper. When can I look forward to seeing the end of the spaghetti under my desk?

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

USB 3: See how well it works and plays with USB 2 and USB 1 devices coexistent. Not a major factor in the purchase decision for now. Thunderbolt (aka Light Peak): So intel and Apple have developed another competitor to USB, another "we don't want to play nice with others" interface. How many peripherals use FireWire? Lots if you have an apple. Not many if you don't. And Thunderbolt is completely incompatible with FireWire, so you'll be left with more junk in the bone yard. SATA 3 - buggy for now, a bane not a boon, according to early reports. SSD - price is coming down, a cool toy. Jury is still out on long-term reliability compared to magnetic media. Hard facts, not simulator projections. I can't remember how many "100 year MTBF" components I've replaced, and I'm nowhere near 100. ;-) Bulldozer and Sandy Bridge-E: see how good they really are, and whether there are drivers that will actually use the capabilities of the technology. (Remember multi-core and XP? It didn't buy you anything because the OS couldn't use it.) DDR-4: Why bother listing something as "don???t expect to see DDR4 memory in desktops anytime soon"? Windows-8: another MS vaporware. Called Beta, really more like Alpha. How many more years until it is really released? Does TR get kickbacks for singing the Microsoft song? I had great hopes from the title of the article. It was another disappointment.

chdchan
chdchan

I look forward to a small program that simultaneously streams mobile phone screen signals to PC and gains control over mobile phone (using PC keyboard and mouse) from a PC connected via USB. That even, if implemented as ROMware inside a LCD monitor with USB ports (connect phone, keyboard and mouse), can fast convert a mobile phone into a virtual computer workstation in no time.

dhamilt01
dhamilt01

All I want my computer to do is cold-boot in under 30 secs and ready to do work. Screw the nik-naks, screw the ding-dongs, screw the bells and whistles, screw the eye-ball candy. Just let me start working in under 30 seconds ... PLEASE! I have Windows 7 stripped to the bare bones. Still takes over a minute to finish booting up. Ridiculous! My old Windows 95 system came closest ... 42 seconds.

hkeeter
hkeeter

I've been waiting for a new interface/bus to the cpu chip for some time now. I mean with Ram running so fast and processors more than able to keep up, when will we go to 40 - 80 GB of memory on board or in chip so that we can have true instant boot. This would help the OS vendors as well because there would be less theft, when its already loaded/burned on a chip. I'm just saying even with new PCIe standard access times are in the 10-100s of miroseconds, with chip speeds in the sub-nanoseconds. This is where real performance gains will be.

trust2112
trust2112

Why as a computer enthusiest am I getting excited? I keep hearing that the PC Market is dead, but AMD, Intel and Nvidia keep pushing newer and faster. My question is when will I get a game to push these new technologies? Do I still need to go back to my 5 year old Crysis game to see if my new hardware can take it? PS, TigerDirect claims that you can only use 9xx series motherboards for the new FX chips. My MSI can take it, (870A- G54) says so on the website. Plus my other beef is with both Newegg and TD, why do they always show top of the line Intel systems agains AMD "barebones" systems? I guess that equal competition hasn't favored well in advertising dollars.

jelabarre
jelabarre

With the way my budget has been these past 6-7 years. my next "upgrade" PC will be whatever castoffs I can find in the recycling bin, or whatever someone is selling at a tag sale because they just *had* to upgrade their gaming rig. All this grand posturing with new technology is fine, but the way the economy is going, no one will have the money to actually buy any of it.

Hayk
Hayk

mass production of DDR4 SDRAM in the second half of !!!!2102!!!! (see in original text)

concernedITpro
concernedITpro

You hit it correctly that the majority of the enterprise will not adopt these technologies. For the cube dweller that uses email, a web based ERP, and occasional spreadsheet, they clearly don't need Win8 or a bulldozer cpu. Yet, I discuss with department managers all the time about what they think they need, verses what their CFO's are willing to pay for. While you suggest the cube dweller should look at replacing their "relic", you forget, they don't have the authority to do so, that's up to the CFO who is driven purely by profit. They don't care that cube resident is using an 8 year old pc. It still works and they get their job done. On the other hand, if it still works and they are productive, do they need more than 2 cores? I wish i had the answer.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Maybe it's hardware limitations, but why do the vendors mix new with the old? If they are going to supply USB3 and SATA3.x, why don't they make all the ports USB3 or SATA 3.x? That way, I don't have to look too closely at the port I'm plugging the device into. I know not every device can benefit from the higher speeds, but at least I can just plug it in without worrying about whether it's in a 2 or 3 port.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Power consumption is a major cost when an organization has thousands of systems drawing juice 24/7, or even a family with several computers doing the same. That doesn't even touch on 3rd world countries.

pgit
pgit

The purpose of this article is well taken, I consult with people on hardware purchases and no two have the exact same needs. I can see a lot of use for thunderbolt among my clients, I may find myself telling them to hold off until it goes a bit more mainstream. (people seem to like being told NOT to spend money these days, anyway :) ) I personally went with 8 cores (i5) and although everything runs like lightning on it, I have come to realize I don't really need 8 cores. 4 would have been sufficient, and maybe even more efficient. But there's work and then there's bragging rights, the bane of wallets everywhere... =\

hyposave
hyposave

Under #9: DDR4 SDRAM, it says: "begin mass production of DDR4 SDRAM in the second half of 2102." I'm sure you meant 2012. Still very interested to see DDR4 become a reality...

captainpj
captainpj

I'll put this one in my saved teck email folder but looks like I will wait for the next build till mid 2012, then hopefully when I'm watching hd movie and trying to complete a few other things my wait times will be reduced and heck I may miss the movie!

Ron_007
Ron_007

This sort of article is just the thing I've been looking for. The one thing that would make it better is moving the estimated dates up to the headings. About half of the items are estimated to be in the market by summer next year. The rest stretch out a little longer. So someone who is looking to maximize their performance potential may be willing to wait a few months to get that extra feature. (Yes, I know, there is always some wonderful new tech thing just around the corner) Now with SSDs becoming generally available (even if they still are bleeding edge) that leaves video as the main remaining bottle neck (or is there some other memory bus that is worse?) in WEI (Windows Experience Index ) scores. Can you do a followup with some upcoming video related improvements. (Yes, I know that Thunderbolt is one of those technologies.) Since Win8 is essentially "vaporware" at this point, no feature is "for sure" yet, is this list the place to promote it as tech to look for? And isn't it's GA release date at best out in late 2012 - 2013? I'll be passing on the link to this article to friends for the next year or so.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

"The core wars between AMD and Intel continue, but realistically, how many of those Bulldozer ???cores??? can you keep busy in a world of single-threaded apps?" The joy of having multiple cores is being able to run multiple apps at full power at once. That's what multi-core processors were originally made for: multitasking! If you're like me, you may be farming profession mats in WoW or another MMO whilst watching a HD movie on another monitor and having another program compileing code in the background. And not all apps are limited to single thread usage. Many higher-end production suits fully support multi-thread. Granted, an average user will be able to get by just fine with a single or dual core machine, but some of us heavy multi-taskers can top out a high-end CPU easily.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Of course, having a passion for fast desktop PCs I still want a faster system, but I really don't need one. I have to admit though, an 8 core Bulldozer or a 6 core Sandy Bridge-E processor with a SandForce Driven SSD and Gen 3 USB, SATA and PCIe sounds like a nice Christmas present. I have always enjoyed reading about new technologies for the desktop computer so this has been a lot of hard work but it has also been a labor of love to collect this information for you, TechRepublic reader. 1. USB 3.0 - The Intel X79 chipset scheduled for release in quarter 4 of 2011 is not expected to support USB 3.0. The Intel "Panther Point" Z77, Z75 and H77 chipsets are expected to support 4 USB ports. You will want USB 3.0 if you will be using external devices that transfer large amounts of data like external drives, external SSDs, flash drives and video or audio devices. 2. Thunderbolt - As I state in an article on my Web site, Thunderbolt is currently a Cadillac interconnect at a Cadillac price. The data transfer rate for Thunderbolt Optical listed in the table is the current bandwidth. Faster data rates over optical cable are possible in the future. The shorter 2.0 meter cable length of the only Thunderbolt cable currently available may be to provide the full 10.8Gb/s bandwidth for the DisplayPort protocol v1.1a. According to the DisplayPort Web site: "2560 x 1600 (WQXGA resolution) is supported over all 2-meter DP Certified? cables. Some cables, due to their design, may be capable of supporting 2560 x 1600 resolution over lengths longer than 2 meters." WQXGA resolution is the highest resolution supported by DisplayPort v1.a. 3. SATA Revision 3.0 - Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.0 - That's a mouthful. Give me a break. SATA revision 3.0 functionality: - Asynchronous Notification - ClickConnect - eSATA - HotPlug capable - Link Power Management - Native Command Queuing (NCQ) - Staggered Spin-Up - xSATA SATA Revision 3.1 features - SATA Universal Storage Module (USM) - Provides removable SATA storage solutions on consumer devices - mSATA - SATA for mobile devices - Zero-Power Optical Disk Drive ODD - Eliminates power consumption of an idle optical disk drive - Required Link Power Management - More efficient power management - Queued Trim Command - Allows TRIM to operate without impacting normal operation - Hardware Control Features Wikipedia states that Intel's X79 chipset will support up to 4 SATA 3Gb/s ports and 6 SATA 6Gb/s ports but Tom's Hardware is now saying that the X79 chipset will have 4 SATA 3Gb/s ports and 2 SATA 6Gb/s ports. 5. SSDs and SSD Toolbox - Intel's SSD toolbox had to be pulled when first introduced when incompatibilities with Windows 7 were discovered. 7. AMD Bulldozer - The AMD site does not list the FX-4100 as of October 12, 2011. Add to that the fact that I could only find three of the four models sans the 4100 at Newegg. I did find it in stock at PC Superstore. It has been spotted on some European retailers Web sites. The FX-8150 was already sold-out on the day of launch, but more are on the way :-) by boat :-(. 8. Intel DX79SI and DX79TO motherboards first to support Sandy Bridge-E. X79 motherboards from othe manufacturers have been announced. 10. Windows 8 - I wanted to see a makeover of the Windows UI, specifically a replacement for the Start Menu and said so in this article. But an interface that looked more like a tablet than a PC wasn't what I had envisioned. I don't want my PC to look and behave like a tablet. If others agree with me, Microsoft is going to have a tough time selling Windows 8. Besides, I just can't see hundreds of people huddled in cubicles waving their hands in front of their monitors as if to invoke a Djinn to spring forth from of the monitor. I have downloaded a copy of the pre-beta (which is a smart move by Microsoft), but I haven't installed it. A confidentiality clause keeps me from writing about what I see. What I have seen so far has encouraged me to avoid Windows 8 altogether which is a sad statement for a technology nut and Tech Writer to admit. The disappointing news that the Intel X79 chipset will support neither Thunderbolt nor USB 3.0 means that you may want to wait a little bit longer before making that big PC purchase. Of course motherboards with USB 3.0 are available now accomplished with 3rd party chips. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a weak economy is a good time to buy a new PC if you can get a great price.

seanferd
seanferd

Until I actually hear more about Windows 8 core architecture, and less about what the UI looks like, I can barely contain my lack of interest. If MS is finally addressing deep-down built-in architectural problems, fantastic! If not, it's just more of the same. People will get it when they buy new computers, like always, and use it because they aren't up to shopping alternatives. Maybe some will try to escape to 7 like they ran from Vista back to XP, or choose a different vendor for their OS, but it will be 99% business as usual. Wow, though. I had no idea all those hardware standards were slated to come out so close together.

bboyd
bboyd

SATA 3.0, my current setup has a 3.0 controller, a sata 3.0 drive and cable, poops out at less than 1.0 speeds, firmware issues and un-optimized drivers lead me to move the drive to a SATA 2.0 port. The drive issues on the 3.0 port eventually lead to it loosing connectivity. Bite that hard and I'm not likely to buy that brand again. USB 3.0, no flaws or excitement. still not worth using a USB drive over my NAS on gigabit copper. Maybe thunderbolt will change my measuring stick, I'm guessing that other device options that TB open up are the real reason to get TB ports. SSD's I'm in wait mode the few I've used didn't gain me anything above the RAID 0 setup I put OS on, they felt snappy for a while but they seem to be a picky choice and the cheap one degraded fast. The Intel trim function works as advertised by they cost more. I'm still demanding more and more CPU/Graphics/Memory with CAD and simulation so I'm using any capability that comes, It does seem to have slowed with the introduction of Smart phones and tablets.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

Simple little answer in just three letters. RFI Imagine the interference if a phone center, say had 100 users all using around 5 devices that must be connected to one and only one hub, and then had to connect to several servers, and around 10 or so printers, scanners, and so forth. Now, multiply that by about 10 times more. Behold, GIGO!

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

An Android phone can do that without any physical connection. However, the size of the keyboard and the screen for I/O is a real killer.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

Your enemy is the Speed of Light bus speeds are limited by the path length. The signal needs to be able to travel all the way across the machine and back, plus the time it takes for processing the signal. The easiest solution for this is to shorten the path lengths. That means a smaller motherboard, and shorter cables. Faster speed hard drives will also be needed. It's really a very complicated problem, but the basic limitation is still that pesky speed of light. There are a lot of speed up tricks being used, such as pre-fetching data, but the real show stopper is still the light speed limits. Using a standard speed of 3*10^8 for the speed of light, and figuring a 2.5 GHZ machine, I get a 12 CM path length. As the signal needs to travel all the way down the bus and back, that means that the maximum motherboard/system size is really just 6 CM. About 2 1/2 inches. I know, we all have 'faster' computers than that, but the truth is that those speed demon machines spend 95% of their time waiting. That's why my 5GHZ Alienware doesn't seem to run any faster in doing simple memory intensive tasks than my old K6-350 did 12 years ago. (That was my CAD station back in the day. The Alineware isn't really any faster as a CAD station. It does do a lot more intensive and attractive graphics, though.) So, even though it's an order of magnitude faster, it still isn't faster for many tasks.

bboyd
bboyd

But that didn't sell well. I'd like the OS on a PCIe card slot. Firm coded with a write toggle dip switch. or make the card so it only upgrades/writes when booted into a utility that only functions as an upgrade path. Tired of ghosted disks.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

To get what you want, abandon Windows and the Intel/AMD world. ARM or an even simpler processor architecture is what you need. Physics dictates that the power used by a chip is a function of the number of gates, the voltage of the gates, the operating current of the gates and the switching speed of those gates. To reduce the wattage, you can reduce the voltage (currently around 1.5 V in efficiency based processors), decrease the gate current, or reduce the gate switching speed. Reducing the voltage below 1.5 V results in rapid increases in error rates. Reducing current is a function mainly of the path length. Path lengths are already optimized to keep switching current at the minimum level attainable. That leaves switching speed as the only large gain possible to increase efficiency in silicon chips. current high speed chips run at less than 10 GHZ. Running them higher literally melts the chip. To get speeds of over 2 GHZ, very aggressive cooling strategies are needed. At around 6 to 7 GHZ, we are reaching the limits of water or oil based cooling. So, to get the higher efficiencies you want, you need to run a much slower processor. That is what cell phones do. You will probably not be running any current State-of-the-Art games on it. You may not be able to do more than a limited set of activities. But that is where you will be. Tablets and cell phones give you that and have the kind of power levels you are talking about. Oh, and the screen size must be kept very small and resolution must be limited too. On a tablet, the screen and the sound system have a significant power draw too. You are probably looking at a cell phone sized device.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

Hello Ron. Please download the PDF version to see the "availability dates" in a nice, neat table format. I may do additional hardware articles in the future but I can't promise anything now. Since high-end graphics cards are not typical staples of an IT professional's gear I don't know how appropriate that topic would be for TechRepublic. I agree that bleeding edge graphics is an interesting subject to follow. "Tech to look for" is a good way to put the status of Windows 8. It's too big to ignore and too immature to get excited or depressed about at this early date. Thank you for the comments and for sharing this article with your friends.

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

... for a 6 or 8 core processor. I really wonder if the reason that the FX-8150s are selling so fast is so that the "Average Joe" can brag about it. And then there are those of us with "latest and greatest syndrome". :-) I am a terrible multitasker and gave up trying years ago.

xangpow
xangpow

I remember a few years ago I was talking with some friends and I was telling them about a computer I was planning on building with all the "latest and greatest" of parts. One guy seem less than interested and told me that just because I hadd all that great stuff the programs of then didnt use the full capasity of all those "cool parts". I thought about it and told him that he was indeed right but if we where to venture into the automobile world we see cars and trucks with "cool parts" that make them stronger and faster. Yet, government laws prevent them from going, in most cases, over 70 mph. So why make such cars or trucks? Why? Bragging rights. Just like automotive junkies gather with thier friends to boast about how fast or how strong thier car or truck is, us computer junkies like to gather with our friends and boast that our computer has XX RAM or has XX proccesor speed.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

If Microsoft gets their wish, then you won't even have the option of back porting Windows 7 onto your new Windows 8 computer. That is the 'feature' that has the Linux world so much in an uproar right now. Plus, the new 'Metro' system will mean that the new software won't run on XP, Vista or Win7, EVER. I would look for the new 'safer' boot systems to be implemented in the worst ways possible. (That is about par for the course on new technology.)

Alan Norton
Alan Norton

I agree. That is why Windows 8 was last on the list. We can hope that "yet to be announced" are the features that will make Windows 8 a winner at home and in the workplace.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

The memory check takes more than 30 seconds, even in Linux. True, it runs in the background, but to get it smaller, you will need a computer with smaller memory. What I see is needing more and more memory. Of course, if you are willing to live with memory corruption and system crashes, you can always turn off the memory checks. Linux does allow that.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

Don't worry about it. The scientists have investigated the performance of people who 'multitask'. The results, They really don't. You can do one thing well, or 3 or more things poorly. Humans don't have brains designed for 'Multitasking'. There are problems that do better with multitasking, but most commercial programs are written sequentially. There are really not very many programming languages for real multitasking. There are even fewer programmers who understand the mathematical operations for multitasking. Letting you computer run different programs in the background on different processor cores is probably the best you can do for it in the next five years or so. Linus Torvalds (of Linux) said once that after eight cores, the single command kernel system has a serious fall off in performance. Tests have shown the same thing true for Windows and big Unix systems. The 64 way systems out there use the processors to divide the work up between different users, or different parts of the whole table. Graphics is probably the area where most people can actually use more than say 4 cores. But, the graphics processors out there often use 8 or more 'simple' processors. So your 4 way computer may already be a 12 way really. Meanwhile, Intel and AMD and probably Arm will continue to try to find reasons for us to buy chips with more and more cores. Since there are only modest gains possible in silicon chips, adding more cores is what they can do. Physics determines what the limits of the material are. We reached that with silicon years ago. The next big speed jumps will happen when they finally get the carbon chips rolling.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

So far, the 'winner' feature for Windows 8 is that it will make your computer look like a cell phone. Of course, at this point, Windows 8 is still vaporware. By the time they delete half of the feature set (standard for new OS introductions by every one, it seems) and we get to see what really works, the shipping Windows 8 might bear only a resemblance in name to what we are being told to expect right now. It may be just me, but I think it's Windows Millennium time again.