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IOGear's Kaliber Gaming Mechlite,

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2016 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: input, Kailh, Kaliber Gaming Mechlite, IOGear, mechanical keyboard

IOGear have joined the mechanical keyboard market with the Kaliber Gaming Mechlite, opting for Kailh Blue switches as opposed to the Cherry MX switches which have dominated the market.  The plain black look will appeal to some, for others the blue LED backlighting with adjustable light levels will be more attractive.  The lighting is controlled via a switch as opposed to software, something which may lessen the attractiveness of the board to potential buyers, as will the lack of a bundled wrist rest.  Currently it sells for $70 on Amazon, relatively competitive for a backlit mechanical keyboard.  Neoseeker has published their impressions of the keyboard if it piques your interest.

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"The Kaliber Gaming Mechlite has a blue LED backlight with adjustable brightness levels in 7 different patterns. It has 5 programmable macro keys supporting up to 32 characters each, anti-ghosting keys with full N-key rollover, a Windows key lockout, laser cut keys and braided USB connector cable."

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Source: Neoseeker

An easier way to make flexible FETs

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2016 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: flexible transistors, quantum dots

Flexible transistors have been made in the lab before but the process to deposit semiconductors on a flexible substrate required a vacuum to evaporate all but the desired portions of the layers laid on that substrate.  This new technique utilizes the same materials for insulators and semiconductors but the process uses inks and a photoresist mask to ensure the correct placement of a layer of conductive silver nanocrystals for the gate.   Over top opf the later of silver a layer of aluminium-oxide is added as the insulator, then cadmium-selenide quantum dots for the semiconductor channel and then another layer of silver nanocrystals and indium nanocrystals for the drain.  This is baked as you would normally treat transistors to dope the semiconductor channel and you end up with working FETs on a flexible substrate.  Check out more details on the process at Nanotechweb.

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"A high-quality, flexible transistor, made entirely from colloidal nanocrystals, has been developed by a team in the US. By sequentially depositing their components in the form of nanocrystal "inks," the researchers could make transistors using standard industrial methods, without the need for high-temperature, high-vacuum specialist equipment."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Sony plans PlayStation NEO with massive APU hardware upgrade

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | April 19, 2016 - 11:21 AM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, Playstation, neo, giant bomb, APU, amd

Based on a new report coming from Giant Bomb, Sony is set to release a new console this year with upgraded processing power and a focus on 4K capabilities, code named NEO. We have been hearing for several weeks that both Microsoft and Sony were planning partial generation upgrades but it appears that details for Sony's update have started leaking out in greater detail, if you believe the reports.

Giant Bomb isn't known for tossing around speculation and tends to only report details it can safely confirm. Austin Walker says "multiple sources have confirmed for us details of the project, which is internally referred to as the NEO." 

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The current PlayStation 4 APU
Image source: iFixIt.com

There are plenty of interesting details in the story, including Sony's determination to not split the user base with multiple consoles by forcing developers to have a mode for the "base" PS4 and one for NEO. But most interesting to us is the possible hardware upgrade.

The NEO will feature a higher clock speed than the original PS4, an improved GPU, and higher bandwidth on the memory. The documents we've received note that the HDD in the NEO is the same as that in the original PlayStation 4, but it's not clear if that means in terms of capacity or connection speed.

...

Games running in NEO mode will be able to use the hardware upgrades (and an additional 512 MiB in the memory budget) to offer increased and more stable frame rate and higher visual fidelity, at least when those games run at 1080p on HDTVs. The NEO will also support 4K image output, but games themselves are not required to be 4K native.

Giant Bomb even has details on the architectural changes.

  Shipping PS4 PS4 "NEO"
CPU 8 Jaguar Cores @ 1.6 GHz 8 Jaguar Cores @ 2.1 GHz
GPU AMD GCN, 18 CUs @ 800 MHz AMD GCN+, 36 CUs @ 911 MHz
Stream Processors 1152 SPs ~ HD 7870 equiv. 2304 SPs ~ R9 390 equiv.
Memory 8GB GDDR5 @ 176 GB/s 8GB GDDR5 @ 218 GB/s

(We actually did a full video teardown of the PS4 on launch day!)

If the Compute Unit count is right from the GB report, then the PS4 NEO system will have 2,304 stream processors running at 911 MHz, giving it performance nearing that of a consumer Radeon R9 390 graphics card. The R9 390 has 2,560 SPs running at around 1.0 GHz, so while the NEO would be slower, it would be a substantial upgrade over the current PS4 hardware and the Xbox One. Memory bandwidth on NEO is still much lower than a desktop add-in card (218 GB/s vs 384 GB/s).

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Could Sony's NEO platform rival the R9 390?

If the NEO hardware is based on Grenada / Hawaii GPU design, there are some interesting questions to ask. With the push into 4K that we expect with the upgraded PlayStation, it would be painful if the GPU didn't natively support HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60 Hz). With the modularity of current semi-custom APU designs it is likely that AMD could swap out the display controller on NEO with one that can support HDMI 2.0 even though no consumer shipping graphics cards in the 300-series does so. 

It is also POSSIBLE that NEO is based on the upcoming AMD Polaris GPU architecture, which supports HDR and HDMI 2.0 natively. That would be a much more impressive feat for both Sony and AMD, as we have yet to see Polaris released in any consumer GPU. Couple that with the variables of 14/16nm FinFET process production and you have a complicated production pipe that would need significant monitoring. It would potentially lower cost on the build side and lower power consumption for the NEO device, but I would be surprised if Sony wanted to take a chance on the first generation of tech from AMD / Samsung / Global Foundries.

However, if you look at recent rumors swirling about the June announcement of the Radeon R9 480 using the Polaris architecture, it is said to have 2,304 stream processors, perfectly matching the NEO specs above.

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New features of the AMD Polaris architecture due this summer

There is a lot Sony and game developers could do with roughly twice the GPU compute capability on a console like NEO. This could make the PlayStation VR a much more comparable platform to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive though the necessity to work with the original PS4 platform might hinder the upgrade path. 

The other obvious use is to upgrade the image quality and/or rendering resolution of current games and games in development or just to improve the frame rate, an area that many current generation consoles seem to have been slipping on

In the documents we’ve received, Sony offers suggestions for reaching 4K/UltraHD resolutions for NEO mode game builds, but they're also giving developers a degree of freedom with how to approach this. 4K TV owners should expect the NEO to upscale games to fit the format, but one place Sony is unwilling to bend is on frame rate. Throughout the documents, Sony repeatedly reminds developers that the frame rate of games in NEO Mode must meet or exceed the frame rate of the game on the original PS4 system.

There is still plenty to read in the Giant Bomb report, and I suggest you head over and do so. If you thought the summer was going to be interesting solely because of new GPU releases from AMD and NVIDIA, it appears that Sony and Microsoft have their own agenda as well.

Source: Giant Bomb

Report: NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPU Cooler Pictured

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 19, 2016 - 11:08 AM |
Tagged: rumor, report, nvidia, leak, GTX 1080, graphics card, gpu, geforce

Another reported photo of an upcoming GTX 1080 graphics card has appeared online, this time via a post on Baidu.

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(Image credit: VR-Zone, via Baidu)

The image is typically low-resolution and features the slightly soft focus we've come to expect from alleged leaks. This doesn't mean it's not legitimate, and this isn't the first time we have seen this design. This image also appears to only be the cooler, without an actual graphics card board underneath.

We have reported on the upcoming GPU rumored to be named "GTX 1080" in the recent past, and while no official announcement has been made it seems safe to assume that a successor to the current 900-series GPUs is forthcoming.

Source: VR-Zone

Western Digital Reworks Enterprise Lineup, Launches 8TB Gold Datacenter HDD

Subject: Storage | April 19, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: Xe, western digital, wdc, WD, se, RE, Media Cache, hgst, HelioSeal, gold, 8TB

Western Digital rolled out their Se / Re / Xe branding back in mid-2013. Since that time, a lot has changed in the rapidly evolving enterprise storage industry. SSDs are encroaching into more of the data center rack space out there, and the need for small capacity 10k and 15k RPM drives is dropping substantially in favor of more power efficient (in power and capacity per dollar), larger spinning disks.

With these winds of change comes today’s announcement from Western Digital:

WD_Datacenter_PRN_graphic.jpg

The new Gold lineup appears to be a merging of old and new product lines. The 6TB and below Re series are essentially being absorbed under the new Gold label, but 6TB will no longer be the top capacity offered to WD enterprise customers. A new 8TB capacity will be offered in the form of a HelioSeal drive. The 8TB model will share more parts with the HGST He8 than WD’s previously released 8TB Red, including HGST’s Media Cache architecture, which should yield a nice boost to sustained random write performance over drives lacking this technology.

The press release does not state this, but I suspect WD will be phasing out their Se and Xe product lines over the coming months in favor of Helium-filled drives of the 5400 (Red) and 7200 (Gold) RPM variety. Fewer lines to manage should help them tighten things up a bit and reduce costs even further over time.

We’ll be reviewing the new 8TB Gold just as soon as samples arrive for testing, so stay tuned!

Full press blast appears after the break.

Zalman's Z9 Neo White, ready to go out of the box

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 18, 2016 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: zalman, neo, Z9 Neo

Neo is a popular appellation for computer hardware, from PSUs to motherboards and today another case from Zalman.  The Z9 Neo is a mid-tower case which can hold heatsinks under 200mm tall and GPUs of up to 420mm, perfect for the majority of builds.  The PSU mounts at the bottom and there is a dust filter to protect it, unfortunately one which slides to the rear, making it somewhat difficult to get at.  The case comes with five 120mm fans included, a nice bonus for those looking to be ready to run as soon as possible. Benchmark Reviews also determined it to be friendly for watercooling if that happens to be your preference.

Zalman-Z9-Neo-White-Computer-Case-Front-Door-Open.jpg

"Unlike it’s predecessors in the Z-series line, the Z9 Neo comes with a full length front panel door. Now if your old school, as I am, you probably shutter at the mere mention of a computer case having a door. But over the years, especially with the rise in digital mediums and digital distribution, I find myself using 5.25″ drives less and less."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

 

The FiercePC Imperial Stormer; shoots close to the mark but misses

Subject: Systems | April 18, 2016 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: watercooling, FiercePC, Core i7 6700K, GTX 970, carbide 400c

The components chosen for this prebuilt system are an odd mix, the 6700K is paired with a  GTX 970, though the rest of the components make sense, with 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD and a 2TB HDD.  These are all installed in a Corsair 400C and the CPU is cooled with an Alphacool NexXos XP3 Light water block, NexXos ST3 radiator; it is the only component which is watercooled.  Kitguru found the enclosure to be impressively quiet and the performance matched their expectations but they also felt that both the GPU and SSD should have been upgraded.

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"The FiercePC Imperial Stormer is a gaming PC that squeezes a custom-built water-cooling loop and some very nifty lighting effects into a rather svelte Corsair Chassis. This enables a mighty 4.7GHz overclock for the Intel Core i7-6700K, which coupled with a GeForce GTX 970 – delivers some very good performance results."

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Source: KitGuru
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

27 notebooks can't be wrong

A month or so back, I had a friend come to me asking for advice on which gaming notebook he should purchase. He had specific needs that were tailored to a portable gaming machine: he wanted to have a single machine for home and mobile use, he wanted to be able to game while traveling and he had a pretty reasonable budget. As the "guy that runs the gaming hardware website" I was expected to have an answer...immediately. But I didn't. As it turns out, dissecting and digesting the gaming notebook field is pretty complex.

I sent a note to MSI, offering to build a video and a short story around its products if they sent me one of each of line of gaming notebooks they sold. Honestly, I didn't expect them to be able to pull it together, but just a couple of weeks later, a handful of large boxes arrived and we were staring at a set of six powerful gaming notebooks to analyze. 

  GE62 Apache Pro-014 GS40 Phantom-001 GS60 Ghost Pro-002 GS72 Stealth Pro 4K-202 GT72S Dominator Pro G-220 GT80S Titan SLI-002
MSRP $1299 $1599 $1699 $2149 $2599 $3399
Screen 15.6-in 1080p 14-in 1080p 15.6-in 1080p 17.3-in 4K 17.3-in 1080p G-Sync 18.4-in 1080p
CPU Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6820HK Core i7-6820HK
GPU GTX 960M 2GB GTX 970M 3GB GTX 970M 6GB GTX 970M 3GB GTX 980M 8GB GTX 980M 8GB SLI
RAM 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB 32GB 24GB
Storage 128GB M.2 SATA
1TB HDD
128GB PCIE SSD
1TB HDD
128GB PCIE SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIE SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIE RAID SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIE RAID SSD
1TB HDD
Optical DVD Super-multi None None None Blu-ray Burner Blu-ray Burner
Display Output HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
Connectivity USB 3.1 Type-C
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 2.0 x 1
Super Port
USB 3.0 x 2
Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 3.1 x 2
USB 3.0 x 2 
Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 x 6
Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 x 5
Dimensions 15.07-in x 10.23-in x 1.06-in 13.58-in x 9.65-in x 0.87-in 15.35-in x 10.47-in x 0.78-in 16.47-in x 11.39-in x 0.78-in 16.85-in x 11.57-in x 1.89-in 17.95-in x 13.02-in x 1.93-in
Weight 5.29 pounds 3.75 pounds 4.2 pounds 5.7 pounds 8.4 pounds 9.9 pounds

MSI sent this collection along as it appears to match closely with entire range of available options in its own gaming notebook line, without actually sending us ALL 27 OF THE AVAILABLE SKUs! Yes, twenty-seven.

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MSI GS40 Phantom

In the video below, I'll walk through the discussion of each of the series of notebooks that MSI offers for gamers, what the prevailing characteristics are for each and what kind of consumer should be most interested in it. I also discuss the specifics of each of the models we received for the project as well as getting into the performance deltas between them.

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MSI GS72 Stealth Pro 4K

  • MSI GE Series
    • $1099-$1499
    • The entry level of gaming notebooks, available in both 15.6 and 17.3-in 1080p screens, limited to GTX 970M or GTX 960M GPUs. You still get 16GB of memory, SSDs in MOST systems, Killer Networking hardware, Steel Series keyboards and weights range from 5.29 to 5.95 pounds.
  • MSI GS Series
    • $1499-2149
    • Varies in screen size from 14-in to 17.3-in but the focus here is on slimmer designs. Both 1080p and 4K screens are available, though you are still maxing out at a GTX 970M graphics solution. 16GB of RAM, NVMe PCIe SSDs are standard, with available models as thin as 0.78-inches and as light as 3.75 pounds.
  • MSI GT72 Series
    • $1599-3499
    • These focus on performance per dollar, getting maximum single GPU performance in the chassis. They all have 17-in screens with available G-Sync integration, and GPUs from the GTX 970M to the GTX 980 (full). 16-32GB of memory, all using SSDs, optical drives, Thunderbolt, six USB 3.0 ports but GT72 systems are bigger and heavier to compensate for all this.
  • MSI GT80 Series
    • $2799-4799
    • These are for the crazy enthusiasts only, all of which include SLI configurations or GTX 970M, 980M or 980. An 18.3-in 1080p screen is the only option for your display, but you get 16-64GB of memory, RAID enabled SSD configurations, Blu-ray burners, Thunderbolt, five USB 3.0 ports and a friggin Cherry Brown mechanical keyboard!

msiperf3.png

After going through this project, here are a few recommendations I would have for users looking to pick up an MSI gaming notebook.

  • Best Gaming Value
    • GT72 Dominator G-831 - This combines the larger form factor with a GTX 970M GPU, 17.3-in 1080p screen, 16GB of memory, 128GB SSD and priced at $1599. I think this is a good balance of cost and GPU horsepower.
  • Looking for a Slimmer Design
    • GS70 Stealth Pro-006 - For $1699 you lose the optical drive from the above GT72, but get a lighter and thinner design. You have the same technical horsepower, GTX 970M, Core i7 processor, etc., but the integrated fans will likely be noticeably louder to expel the heat from the more narrow chassis.
  • If you need more performance
    • GT72 Dominator Pro G-034 - With a jump from the $1599 GT72 above to $2099, this model gets you a GTX 980M and a 256GB SSD. Based on the performance metrics I ran, that should net you another 40-50% of GPU horsepower.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these machines and I'll do my best to answer them!

HP's Z1, a user upgradeable All-in-One workstation

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2016 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: hp, z1, workstation, AIO

The newly announced HP Z1 all-in-one workstation is smaller than its predecessors but hides quite powerful capabilities inside.  You can choose between a Skylake or Xeon E3 chip from Intel, 32 or 64GB of RAM and you can add in a pair of HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe SDDs to complement the installed HDDs.  The screen is 4k, but of a slightly smaller size than previous models at 23.6" which may deter some previous owners from upgrading, support for NVIDIA's new Maxwell chips may change that opinion.  For peripherals, there are a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, Type-C form factor for those of you whom this is of prime importance.  As you can see from the picture at The Inquirer, these AIO's are designed to be user serviceable and you can upgrade most of the components after you have purchased the machine.

hp-z1-3g-front-540x334.jpeg

"HP INC has unveiled its third-generation Z1 workstation, having given it a boost with more memory, more storage and the latest Intel processors. "

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Source: The Inquirer

Sony's Optical Disc Archive Storage Reaches 3.3 TB

Subject: Storage | April 18, 2016 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: storage, sony, optical disc archive, optical disc, ODA, hard drives, backup, Archival

Sony has developed a higher-capacity version of their Optical Disc Archive (ODA), which now allows up to 3.3 TB of archival storage with the promise of 100-year retention.

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Sony ODS-D280U (Image credit: Sony via Computer Base)

Of course the viability of such a system in the next century is unknown, and a working cartridge (which is similar to the multi-CD systems found in cars a few years ago) would be needed to access the data. The idea is certainly interesting considering the potential for failure with traditional hard drives, though hard drives are relatively inexpensive and offer more utility, unlike the write-once Sony ODA cartridges.

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Cartridge exploded view (Image credit: Sony via Computer Base)

For those seeking pure read-only archival storage, the higher capacity of the second-generation Sony ODA at least brings it closer to parity with current hard drive storage.

NZXT Announces Partnership with human-I-T for Earth Day Recycling Program

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: recycling, nzxt, human-I-T, Earth Day, e-waste

To celebrate Earth Day (April 22) NZXT is partnering with human-I-T to help users recycle their unwanted technology, with the working items being donated to those in need. And as a thank you, NZXT is providing discounts for purchases made on their website for those who participate.

recycle-items.jpg

“This Earth Day, we're partnering with Human I-T to turn your inoperative laptops, desktops, smartphones and other devices into powerful and free educational tools. Not only does it reduce E-waste, it also helps close the digital divide by enabling vocational training for millions of people in need.”

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The page is up on NZXT’s website, and the process looks painless with a free label provided for your shipment of approved devices.

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The program begins on Earth Day, but NZXT plans to continue this program into the future.

Source: NZXT

Almost disposable gaming peripherals? Cooler Master's Devastator II mouse and keyboard combo

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2016 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: input, cooler master, Devastator II, gaming mouse, gaming keyboard

If you tend to be hard on your mice and keyboards it seems a waste to invest in a $100 device which will end up dead or at least severely injured within a few months.  Cooler Master has come up with a package that just might appeal to you, the $30 Devastator II keyboard and mouse combo.  The mouse has an optical sensor with 1000, 1600 and 2000 DPI levels and six buttons, including the sensitivity adjustment button.  The keyboard is backlit and the  "mem-chanical" switches Cooler Master uses are Cherry MX compatible so you can swap keycaps if you are so inclined.  Drop by Hardware Canucks for a closer look.

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"Cooler Master's Devastator II keyboard and mouse combo claims to do the impossible: provide a capable gaming-grade keyboard and mouse in a package that retails for just $30."

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Knights Landing apparently knows Ninjitsu

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2016 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: knights landing, Intel, CentOS

That's right, if you already hired a rock start ninja programmer, soon you will be able to give them the hardware they want as well.  Intel's new Knights Landing HPC Phi devices will sell under the unfortunate name of Ninja Development Platform and can be pre-ordered for just under $5000USD for the 72 core desktop model and upwards of $20,000 for a four node racked device.  According to the sources that The Register spoke with they will run using CentOS 7.2 and customers will be able to choose the amount and type of  memory and local storage they desire.  We do not have exact shipping dates yet, but we should see this 14nm silicon soon.

"Intel's fulfilling its 2015 promise to let developers get their hands on a Knights Landing developer platform before the 14 nm HPC silicon reaches general availability."

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Source: The Register

QuickTime For Windows Apparently Won't Be Updated...

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2016 - 02:37 AM |
Tagged: apple, quicktime, Adobe

So TrendMicro has published a blog post that lists two unpatched vulnerabilities that affect QuickTime for Windows. Worse? They announced that Apple will no longer provide security updates for that software, either. These exploits will continue to exist until you uninstall the software (unless Apple has an abrupt change of heart). Basically, uninstall the software.

OSX users are unaffected. QuickTime is still supported on that platform.

apple-2016-quicktime-dead.png

For most users? This shouldn't be a big deal. There really isn't anything that the free QuickTime Player does which cannot be accomplished with VLC. Then again, I'd expect that many of those users (who would also be reading our website) have already moved on.

QuickTime Pro and Adobe users will likely be more affected by this. The formats and utilities that Apple provided are very useful in professional applications. For instance, QuickTime is one of the only reliable video formats (unless something came up that I was unaware of -- correct me if I'm wrong) that had an alpha channel for transparency. This allows you to share translucent footage between applications without resorting to some frame-by-frame solution, like a PNG sequence. It is also required to handle QuickTime footage in Adobe Premiere, if you need to collaborate with a Mac user or you have QuickTime-centric hardware.

This is mighty annoying of Apple, but that's a downside of relying upon proprietary software.

Source: TrendMicro

NVIDIA Releases 364.96 Hotfix Driver

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 14, 2016 - 06:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

The GeForce 364.xx line of graphics drivers hasn't been smooth for NVIDIA. Granted, they tried to merge Vulkan support into their main branch at the same time as several new games, including DirectX 12 ones, launched. It was probably a very difficult period for NVIDIA, but WHQL-certified drivers should be better than this.

nvidia-2015-bandaid.png

Regardless, they're trying, and today they released GeForce Hot Fix Driver 364.96. Some of the early reactions mock NVIDIA for adding “Support for DOOM Open Beta” as the only listed feature of a “hotfix” driver, but I don't see it. It's entirely possible that the current drivers have a known issue with DOOM Open Beta and, thus, they require a hotfix. It's not necessarily “just a profile,” and “profiles” isn't exactly what a hardware vendor does to support a new title.

But anyway, Manuel Guzman, one of the faces for NVIDIA Customer Care, also says that this driver includes fixes for FPS drops in Dark Souls 3. According to some forum-goers, despite its numbering, it also does not contain the Vulkan updates from 364.91. This is probably a good thing, because it would be a bit silly to merge developer-branch features into a customer driver that only intends to solve problems before an official driver can be certified. I mean, that's like patching a flat tire, then drilling a hole in one of the good ones to mess around with it, too.

The GeForce 364.96 Hotfix Drivers are available at NVIDIA's website. If you're having problems, then it might be your solution. Otherwise? Wait until NVIDIA has an official release (or you start getting said problems).

DigitalFoundry Dissects Quantum Break (and I rant)

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 14, 2016 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, uwp, DirectX 12, dx12

At the PC Gaming Conference from last year's E3 Expo, Microsoft announced that they were looking to bring more first-party titles to Windows. They used to be one of the better PC gaming publishers, back in the Mechwarrior 4 and earlier Flight Simulator days, but they got distracted as Xbox 360 rose and Windows Vista fell.

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Again, part of that is because they attempted to push users to Windows Vista and Games for Windows Live, holding back troubled titles like Halo 2: Vista and technologies like DirectX 10 from Windows XP, which drove users to Valve's then-small Steam platform. Epic Games was also a canary in the coalmine at that time, warning users that Microsoft was considering certification for Games for Windows Live, which threatened mod support “because Microsoft's afraid of what you might put into it”.

It's sometimes easy to conform history to fit a specific viewpoint, but it does sound... familiar.

Anyway, we're glad that Microsoft is bringing first-party content to the PC, and they are perfectly within their rights to structure it however they please. We are also within our rights to point out its flaws and ask for them to be corrected. Turns out that Quantum Break, like Gears of War before it, has some severe performance issues. Let's be clear, these will likely be fixed, and I'm glad that Microsoft didn't artificially delay the PC version to give the console an exclusive window. Also, had they delayed the PC version until it was fixed, we wouldn't have known whether it needed the time.

Still, the game apparently has issues with a 50 FPS top-end cap, on top of pacing-based stutters. One concern that I have is, because DigitalFoundry is a European publication, perhaps the 50Hz issue might be caused by their port being based on a PAL version of the game??? Despite suggesting it, I would be shocked if that were the case, but I'm just trying to figure out why anyone would create a ceiling at that specific interval. They are also seeing NVIDIA's graphics drivers frequently crash, which probably means that some areas of their DirectX 12 support are not quite what the game expects. Again, that is solvable by drivers.

It's been a shaky start for both DirectX 12 and the Windows 10 UWP platform. We'll need to keep waiting and see what happens going forward. I hope this doesn't discourage Microsoft too much, but also that they robustly fix the problems we're discussing.

Android N Developer Preview 2 Includes Vulkan

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, google, android n, Android

We knew it was coming. Google was a partner of Vulkan since it launched, but support was coming at some point after the desktop launch. We expected that it would be soon, but now we know that the new graphics API is in Android N Developer Preview 2. Other platforms, like apparently the Samsung Galaxy S7, are able to ship Vulkan drivers, but it is “a part of the platform” in this Android N pre-release.

khronos-2016-vulkanlogo2.png

Vulkan is particularly useful for mobile because those devices tend to have many cores, but relatively slow cores, which drive a decently fast GPU. Whether the benefits end up being higher performance or just better battery life (as the CPU can downclock more and more often) depends on the application, but it can be useful for 3D applications, and eventually even 2D ones, like future Qt applications with many elements, or even web browsers (when drawing complex sites).

It's good that Google is supporting Vulkan, especially after their ban of OpenCL drivers from Nexus devices. We want a single GPU compute interface across as many platforms as possible. While Vulkan isn't as complete as OpenCL, lacking some features such as unified memory, it should be more useful than OpenGL ES compute shaders.

Android N Developer Preview 2 launched (again, as a preview) yesterday.

Source: Google

IDF Shenzhen: Intel Demos 3D XPoint Optane File Copy at 2 GB/s

Subject: Storage | April 14, 2016 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: Optane, NVMe, Intel, idf

At IDF Shenzhen, Intel talked more about 3D XPoint (spoken cross-point). Initially launched in July of last year, 3D XPoint is essentially a form of phase change memory which has speeds closer to that of DRAM.

XPoint.png

It can be addressed at the byte level, unlike flash which transfers in pages (~8KB) and erases in blocks (~6MB). There have been a few demos since the initial launch, and this morning there was another:

Optane demo.png

It is great to see XPoint / Optane technology being demonstrated again, but as far as demos go, this was not the best / fairest example that Intel could have put together. First of all, the 'NAND SSD' they are using is a Thunderbolt 3 connected external, which was clearly bottlenecked badly somewhere else in the chain (when was the last time you saw a 6 Gbit SATA SSD limited to only 283 MB/s?). Also, using SATA for the NAND example while using PCIe x4 NVMe for the Optane example seems a bit extreme to me.

The Optane side of the demo is seen going 1.94 GB/s. That is an impressive figure for sure, but it is important to note that a faster Intel 'NAND SSD' product has already been shipping for over a year:

DSC00947.JPG

Yes, the P3700 (reviewed by us here), can reach the speeds seen in this demo, as evidenced by this ATTO run on one of our 1.6TB samples:

Intel DC3700 800GB - atto-4 (driver)--.png

Looking at the P3700 specs, we can see that the 2TB model performs even better and would likely beat the Optane SSD used in today's demo:

P3700 spec.png

Further, in the IDF 2015 demo (where they launched the Optane brand), Intel showed off Optane's random IO performance:

P1020333-.JPG

This demo showed 464,300 4K random IOPS, and if you do the math, that works out to 1.9 GB/s *worth of random IO*, which is far more impressive than sequentials that basically match that of the current generation NVMe product of the same form factor and interface.

I'm still happy to see these demos happen, as it means we are absolutely going to see 3D XPoint in our hands sooner than later. That said, I'd also like to see demos that better demonstrate the strengths of the technology, because if today's demo was comparing apples to apples, it would have shown a P3700 matching the speed of Optane, which does not make the previously stated 1000x speed improvement nearly as obvious as it should be presented.

A 14" Monster; Eurocom's new gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: i7-6700HQ, BGA, gaming laptop, GTX 970M

If there wasn't a market for gaming laptops then we would not see so many companies offering them for sale, nor frequently updating their lineups.  These devices certainly are not for everyone and with the release of products like MSI's Shadow and Razer's Core which allow you to hook your laptop up to an external GPU there is going to be a change in the market.  For now, companies like Eurocom are updating their lineups which brings us to Techgage's review of the Monster 4 14" gaming laptop.  The screen, as reviewed, is 1080p and while the laptop does have HDMI and mini-DisplayPort it lacks the TB3 connector to utilize external GPUs so you will be dependent on the i7-6700HQ and GTX 970M

Check out the full review of this $1500 gaming laptop here if you are interested.

Eurocom-Monster-4-Gaming-Notebook-680x571.jpg

"Building a gaming desktop can be tough, but building a gaming notebook can be even harder. While most vendors limit your options, Eurocom goes out of its way to provide the most customization possible. As we find out in this review, the company’s offerings are diverse, and based on our findings with the Monster 4, a notebook with professional looks can still be a beast inside."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

 

Source: Techgage

Podcast #395 - AMD Driver Quality, New Intel and Micron SSDs, Corsair's SPEC-ALPHA and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 14, 2016 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: video, TMX, Thrustmaster, podcast, omega, micron, Lian-Li, Intel, game ready, crimson, catalyst, bx300, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #395 - 04/14/2016

Join us this week as we discuss AMD Driver Quality, New Intel and Micron SSDs, Corsair's SPEC-ALPHA and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

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