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Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Lexar is Micron’s brand covering SD Cards, microSD Cards, USB flash drives, and card readers. Their card readers are known for being able to push high in the various speed grades, typically allowing transfers (for capable SD cards) much faster than what a typical built-in laptop or PC SD card reader is capable of. Today we will take a look at the Lexar ‘Professional Workflow’ line of flash memory connectivity options from Lexar.

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This is essentially a four-bay hub device that can accept various card readers or other types of devices (a USB flash storage device as opposed to just a reader, for example). The available readers range from SD to CF to Professional Grade CFast cards capable of over 500 MB/sec.

We will be looking at the following items today:

  • Professional Workflow HR2
    • Four-bay Thunderbolt™ 2/USB 3.0 reader and storage drive hub
  • Professional Workflow UR1
    • Three-slot microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-I USB 3.0 reader
  • Professional Workflow SR1
    • SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-I USB 3.0 reader
  • Professional Workflow CFR1
    • CompactFlash® USB 3.0 reader
  • Professional Workflow DD256
    • 256GB USB 3.0 Storage Drive

Note that since we were sampled these items, Lexar has begun shipping a newer version of the SR1. The SR2 is a SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II USB 3.0 reader. Since we had no UHS-II SD cards available to test, this difference would not impact any of our testing speed results. There is also an HR1 model which has only USB 3.0 support and no Thunderbolt, coming in at a significantly lower cost when compared with the HR2 (more on that later).

Continue reading for our review of all of the above!

A new type of switch on the Matias Tactile Pro

Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: input, matias, tactile pro 4

The Matias Tactile Pro is made by a mysterious entity called The Keyboard Company but is branded as Matias.  It uses their own type of switches which they mention are ALPS inspired and MadShrimps found them to be almost as loud as a typewriter but without the ringing noise present in their previous switches.  This is a working keyboard as opposed to a gaming keyboard, worth looking at if you spend a lot of time typing or if you have a close office neighbour you want to drive insane.

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"The Keyboard Company has just started to bring in the Matias Tactile Pro and has lots of stock for potential enthusiast buyers. The newer v4 version is featuring re-engineered Matias Click switches compared to v3 and are meant to eliminate the ringing sound of the previous Fukka."

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Source: Mad Shrimps

Faster than fast ring; Windows 10 RTM spotted?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, rtm, build 10176

Windows Insider members are currently on 10162, the third release in four days.  This new release offers you a chance to download an ISO to test a completely fresh install although you can install it as an in place update as well.  The new version also allows you to buy WiFi from the Microsoft Store as well, you may start to see WiFi networks in the USA and perhaps North America wide which you will be able to connect to after buying time and perhaps data from the Microsoft Store. 

We've also heard rumours via Slashdot that build 10176 will be the RTM version which may be sent out as soon as Thursday.  This implies that there will not be many changes to the new OS between now and the release date, as providing differing versions to the manufacturers and current customers would not be a good business decision.  As well, if purchasers of new hardware will form a very negative opinion if they have to go through a long series of updates simply to be able to use their new machine.  Ready or not, Windows 10 is just about ready to go.

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"Mark Wilson reports that the first RTM candidate for Windows 10 has been spotted: build 10176. Leaks and sources have suggested the company intends to finalize the operating system later this week, perhaps as early as July 9th. This would give Microsoft almost three weeks to distribute it to retailers and devicemakers before the July 29th launch date."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: PC Perspective
Tagged: quad-core, gpu, gaming, cpu

Introduction and Test Hardware

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The PC gaming world has become divided by two distinct types of games: those that were designed and programmed specifically for the PC, and console ports. Unfortunately for PC gamers it seems that far too many titles are simply ported over (or at least optimized for consoles first) these days, and while PC users can usually enjoy higher detail levels and unlocked frame rates there is now the issue of processor core-count to consider. This may seem artificial, but in recent months quite a few games have been released that require at least a quad-core CPU to even run (without modifying the game).

One possible explanation for this is current console hardware: PS4 and Xbox One systems are based on multi-core AMD APUs (the 8-core AMD "Jaguar"). While a quad-core (or higher) processor might not be techincally required to run current games on PCs, the fact that these exist on consoles might help to explain quad-core CPU as a minimum spec. This trend could simply be the result of current x86 console hardware, as developement of console versions of games is often prioritized (and porting has become common for development of PC versions of games). So it is that popular dual-core processors like the $69 Intel Pentium Anniversary Edition (G3258) are suddenly less viable for a future-proofed gaming build. While hacking these games might make dual-core CPUs work, and might be the only way to get such a game to even load as the CPU is checked at launch, this is obviously far from ideal.

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Is this much CPU really necessary?

Rather than rail against this quad-core trend and question its necessity, I decided instead to see just how much of a difference the processor alone might make with some game benchmarks. This quickly escalated into more and more system configurations as I accumulated parts, eventually arriving at 36 different configurations at various price points. Yeah, I said 36. (Remember that Budget Gaming Shootout article from last year? It's bigger than that!) Some of the charts that follow are really long (you've been warned), and there’s a lot of information to parse here. I wanted this to be as fair as possible, so there is a theme to the component selection. I started with three processors each (low, mid, and high price) from AMD and Intel, and then three graphics cards (again, low, mid, and high price) from AMD and NVIDIA.

Here’s the component rundown with current pricing*:

Processors tested:

Graphics cards tested:

  • AMD Radeon R7 260X (ASUS 2GB OC) - $137.24
  • AMD Radeon R9 280 (Sapphire Dual-X) - $169.99
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X (MSI Lightning) - $399
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti (OEM) - $149.99
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 (OEM) - $235
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (ASUS STRIX) - $519

*These prices were current as of  6/29/15, and of course fluctuate.

Continue reading our Quad-Core Gaming Roundup: How Much CPU Do You Really Need?

Checking out the new Kindle Paperwhite

Subject: Mobile | July 2, 2015 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: amazon, kindle paperwhite

The insides of the third generation Kindle Paperwhite match the Voyage, a Freescale i.MX6 SoloLite 1GHz chip, as do the outsides with a new 300ppi screen.  Connectivity has been expanded to Wi-Fi as well as an available 3G model and there is also a brand new font called Bookerly.  If you are in need of an eReader and are not in Canada so that you can get the Tegra 4 powered Kobo Arc 7, you should head over to Techgage and see if the new improve Paperwhite is the solution you should chose.

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"Amazon has just revealed its third-gen Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, and while it doesn’t offer a substantial upgrade over the previous model, it does iterate on what was already a fantastic device. With a 300 ppi screen and brand-new Bookerly font at-the-ready, there’s not much to dislike with this e-reader."

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Mobile

Source: Techgage

You can fit a lot of coolers in the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ATX

Subject: Cases and Cooling | July 3, 2015 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: Enthoo EVOLV, atx, phanteks

If you were impressed by the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV case that Sebastian recently reviewed but use a cooler a bit larger than the Corsair H105 and were wondering if the case was big enough for you, [H]ard|OCP has your back.  They've confirmed that smaller coolers such as the Antec KÜHLER H2O 620 and 920, Corsair Hydro H50, Corsair Hydro H75, Corsair Hydro H80, Corsair Hydro H90, Silverstone TD03 and NZXT Kraken X40 all fit in the top as well as the standard locations.  Large coolers including the Corsair Hydro H100 and Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme also fit easily in the top and even extra large 360mm triple fan radiators can be installed with the removal of the small plate at the top of the PSU cover and the rear facing hard drive rack.  Hopefully this case hits the market soon as it is proving to be a good solution for the serious enthusiast.

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"Today we review the new computer case from Phanteks, the Enthoo EVOLV Mid Tower Chassis. It brings with it full aluminum construction and promises features such as quick release side panels, top mount radiator brackets, a new data drive mounting system, and lots of pretty LEDs in four different colors."

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CASES & COOLING

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Asus Launches New Mini ITX Motherboards With Braswell-Based Intel Celeron Processors

Subject: Motherboards | July 4, 2015 - 10:52 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, fanless, Braswell, Airmont, asus

Asus has introduced two new small form factor motherboards featuring soldered Intel “Braswell”-based Celeron processors. The Asus N3150I-C and N3050I-C are Mini ITX form factor boards with decent connectivity and lower power draw with the processor options topping out at 6 watts.

Asus Braswell-Based Celeron Mini ITX Motherboards N3150i-c and N3050i-c.jpg

The two SFF motherboards are essentially the same, with the main difference being the bundled processor (see below). The boards have 24+4 pin ATX power inputs, two full-size DDR3 memory slots, two SATA 6 Gbps ports, a single PCI-E 2.0 x4 slot (open ended), and one mini PCI-E connector. The Intel processors on both boards are passively cooled by a large rectangular gold-colored aluminum heatsink.

The rear of the board includes the following I/O ports.

  • 2 x PS/2
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x RS232
  • 3 x Audio outputs

The N3150I-C board uses an Intel Celeron N3150 while the N3050I-C uses an Intel Celeron N3050. Both chips are 14nm and based on the newer Airmont architecture. These “Braswell” chips have incremental improvements in CPU performance and more significant graphics performance boosts with the inclusion of up to 16 execution units.

Specifically, the N3150 is a quad core chip clocked at 1.6 GHz base to 2.08 GHz burst with Intel HD Graphics (12 EUs up to 640 MHz) and a 6W TDP. On the other hand, the Celeron N3050 is a dual core chip – also with a 6W TDP – clocked at 1.6 GHz base and 2.16 GHz burst paired with Intel HD Graphics (12 EUs) clocked at up to 600 MHz.

These new boards could be used as the base for a NAS box, home media server, or a router and wireless AP by using those PCI-E and mPCI-E slots. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, however.

Source: Asus

Stories of Mel; a Portal 2 mod of decent length and better pricing

Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2015 - 03:49 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Portal 2, Stories of Mel

Stories of Mel is a Portal 2 mod which takes place between the two games, with a length that sounds similar to the original game.  There is new music, voice acting and even a redesigned Portal gun all available for free for owners of Portal 2 on Steam.  The embedded video below gives you a sense of the ambience you can expect from the game without giving away many hints as to the content.  If you already have the Portal games then head over to Steam to pick up the mod, which installs as a separate game and if you don't then you owe it to yourself to pay the ~$30 to pick up both games.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has links for Steam as well as the projects homepage if you want to show your thanks.

"Mel brings a new protagonist with a new companion sphere, boasting over 300 new voiced lines, an hour of original music, and 22 levels that its creators say may take anywhere from four to twelve hours to complete depending on how well you think with portals. It looks quite pretty. And it’s entirely free (if you own Portal 2, natch), available direct through Steam."

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