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Plextor Launches M6e PCI-E SSD In United States, Initially A Newegg Exclusive

Subject: Storage | April 4, 2014 - 02:05 AM |
Tagged: plextor, PCIe SSD, pci-e ssd, M6e, M.2

Update: Plextor has provided MSRP pricing for all three drives (see table below). Further, the company expects Newegg prices to be at or possibly slightly below MSRP. The new pricing information certainly makes the drives more attractive than previous estimates.

Plextor showed off its M6e PCI-E SSD at CES earlier this year, and the drives will soon be available for purchase in the US. The M6e is a M.2 form factor SSD that uses a Marvell 88SS9183 controller and Toshiba Toggle NAND MLC flash to offer up to 512GB of speedy (and bootable!) storage.

Plextor M6e PCI-E SSD.png

The Plextor M6e drive comes as a bare M.2 drive or as a version paired with a M.2-to-PCI-E adapter card for desktop PCs without the newer M.2 connector on the motherboard itself. In either case, the M6e utilizes two PCI-E 2.0 lanes and avoids the SATA III 6Gbps storage bottleneck altogether. The drive has its own BIOS implementation and should not require users to install separate drivers. The SSD supports both legacy and UEFI BIOSes along with standard storage technology such as AHCI, NCQ, encryption (AES-256), TRIM, SMART, et al.

The drives come in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities. The M6e SSDs are rated with a 2,400,000 hour MTBF and come with a 5 year warranty. Both the 256GB and 512GB drives reportedly offer up 770 MB/s sequential reads, 105,000 4K random read IOPS, and 100,000 4K random write IOPS. The 512GB M6e SSD has the highest sequential write speeds at up to 625 MB/s with the 256GB model topping out at 580 MB/s. The 128GB version is a bit slower in sequential writes and random read/write IOPS due to fewer NAND chips and channels, but still manages to offer up to 770 MB/s reads, 335 MB/s writes, 96,000 4K random read IOPS, and 83,000 4K random write IOPS.

The table below lays out the speeds and estimated pricing of the drives at the available capacities according to Plextor. Fortunately, Tek Syndicate found that at least the 256GB drive performs very close to its rated speeds in their video review.

Plextor M6e Capacities 128GB 256GB 512GB
DRAM 256MB DDR3 512MB DDR3 1GB DDR3
Sequential Read* 770 MB/s 770 MB/s 770 MB/s
Sequential Write* 335 MB/s 580 MB/s 625 MB/s
Random Read IOPS* 96,000 105,000 105,000
Random Write IOPS* 83,000 100,000 100,000
Price MSRP $179.99 $299.99 $549.99

*All listed speeds are "up to n MB/s."

The drives will be available later this month at as-yet-unreleased MSRPs. The drives will initially be a Newegg exclusive in the US from April 7th to April 13th, after which it should make its way to other retailers. Note that the USD prices in the above chart are estimates based on pricing information scattered around the internet for the M6e drives. I have reached out to Plextor for comment and will update with official MSRP information as soon as possible.

Source: Plextor

Simon Hall Awarded $10K Raspberry Pi Quake III Bounty With His Open Source Graphics Driver Work

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 11:23 PM |
Tagged: videocore iv, Raspberry Pi, open source, graphics drivers, bcm2835

The Raspberry Pi recently passed its second anniversary, but until now the open source software friendly hardware has had to rely on closed source drivers for graphics processing on the SoC's VideoCore IV GPU.This has now changed thanks to work by Raspberry Pi hacker Simon Hall who has ported over the open source graphics stack from Broadcom's recently open sourced BCM21553 SoC for cell phones to the BCM2835 SoC that powers the Raspberry Pi. In doing so, Mr. Hall has claimed the Raspberry Pi Foundation's $10,000 bounty by using the newly ported open source graphics driver to run Quake III Arena at 1080p (minimum of 20 FPS according to contest rules).

Quake III Arena.png

The ported open source driver is not quite as optimized as the closed source version that the Pi currently uses (which allegedly runs Quake III twice as fast), but it is an encouraging start and the base from which the community can flesh out and optimize. The open source graphics driver is likely to be rolled into future OS releases, but for adventurous users that want the open source driver now, Simon Hall has provided step-by-step instructions for getting the driver and using it to run Quake III on the Raspberry Pi blog. Be warned, it is an involved and time consuming process at the moment.

I would like to say congratulations to Simon Hall for the bounty award and thank him for his work in porting the driver to the Raspberry Pi's SoC!

Hopefully this graphics stack breathes new life into the Raspberry Pi and the community takes up the development mantle to improve upon the codebase and pursue new opportunities that the open source nature enables such as a port of Android running on the Pi.

Read more about the Raspberry Pi at PC Perspective.

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

Athlon and Pentium Live On

Over the past year or so, we have taken a look at a few budget gaming builds here at PC Perspective. One of our objectives with these build guides was to show people that PC gaming can be cost competitive with console gaming, and at a much higher quality.

However, we haven't stopped pursuing our goal of the perfect inexpensive gaming PC, which is still capable of maxing out image quality settings on today's top games at 1080p.

Today we take a look at two new systems, featuring some parts which have been suggested to us after our previous articles.

  AMD System Intel System
Processor AMD Athlon X4 760K - $85 Intel Pentium G3220 - $65
Cores / Threads 4 / 4 2 / 2
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A55M-HD2 - $60 ASUS H81M-E - $60
Graphics MSI R9 270 Gaming - $180 MSI R9 270 Gaming - $180
System Memory Corsair 8GB DDR3-1600 (1x8GB) - $73 Corsair 8GB DDR3-1600 (1x8GB) - $73
Hard Drive Western Digital 1TB Caviar Green - $60 Western Digital 1TB Caviar Green - $60
Power Supply  Cooler Master GX 450W - $50 Cooler Master GX 450W - $50
Case Cooler Master N200 MicroATX - $50 Cooler Master N200 MicroATX - $50
Price $560 $540

(Editor's note: If you don't already have a copy of Windows, and don't plan on using Linux or SteamOS, you'll need an OEM copy of Windows 8.1 - currently selling for $98.)

These are low prices for a gaming computer, and feature some parts which many of you might not know a lot about. Let's take a deeper look at the two different platforms which we built upon.

The Platforms

IMG_9973.JPG

First up is the AMD Athlon X4 760K. While you may not have known the Athlon brand was still being used on current parts, they represent an interesting part of the market. On the FM2 socket, the 760K is essentially a high end Richland APU, with the graphics portion of the chip disabled.

What this means is that if you are going to pair your processor with a discrete GPU anyway, you can skip paying extra for the integrated GPU.

As for the motherboard, we went for an ultra inexpensive A55 option from Gigabyte, the GA-F2A55M-HD2. This board features the A55 chipset which launched with the Llano APUs in 2011. Because of this older chipset, the board does not feature USB 3.0 or SATA 6G capability, but since we are only concerned about gaming performance here, it makes a great bare bones option.

Continue reading our build guide for a gaming PC under $550!!!

A tale of two SSDs; Crucial and ADATA's twins

Subject: Storage | April 3, 2014 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: ssd, SP920, sata, Marvell, adata

Sticking with ADATA today, The Tech Report has also put together a review of the Premiere Pro SP920 which was eerily familiar to them.  The Marvell controller, Micron MLC NAND and DRAM cache all mirrored the Crucial M550 which they reviewed last month.  One difference they noted right off the start was support for third party utilities to read the SMART data, with which they had far more success than with Crucial's drive.  Their performance results were not surprising; the two drives performed the same which leaves price and support as the determining factor when purchasing one of these two twins, something that The Tech Report offers advice on in their conclusion.

top.jpg

"Adata's latest Premiere Pro SP920 SSD bears an uncanny resemblance to a big-name drive that was released recently. This isn't a straight copycat, though. Read on to see what makes the SP920 different."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

More Intel Inside Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: Braswell, Bay Trail, Intel, SoC, 14nm, idf

Intel's Atom has finally shaken the bad name that its progenitors have born as Bay Trail proves to be a great implementation of an SoC.  At IDF we received a tantalizing glimpse at the next generation of SoC from Intel, the 14nm Braswell chip though little was said of their ultra low powered Cherry Trail SoC for tablets.   Braswell is more than just a process shrink, Intel is working to increase their support of Chromebooks and Android by creating a 64-bit Android kernel that supports Android 4.4.  This seems to have paid off as Kirk Skaugen mentioned to The Inquirer that Intel chips will be present in 20 soon to be released models, up from 4 currently.

intelbroadwell.jpg

"INTEL HAS REVEALED PLANS to launch Braswell, a more powerful successor to the Bay Trail system on a chip (SoC) line used in low-cost devices like Chromebooks and budget PCs."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

ADATA Moves Quickly on New DDR4 Specification

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: adata, ddr4, xeon

ADATA has been rather busy lately, the release of the brand new Premiere Pro SSD family and now the launch of DDR4 modules for the next generation of Xeon processors.  These new DIMMs follow the current trend of energy efficiency in the server room by dropping the required voltage to 1.2V which can add up to quite a bit in a large server farm.  The specified speed of 2133MHz is attractive for a first gen server RDIMM though there does not seem to be much information available on the timings.

Taipei, Taiwan – April 3, 2014 - ADATA Technology, a leading manufacturer of high-performance DRAM modules and NAND Flash application products, has announced the launch of new DDR4 modules. Working in close cooperation with Intel, ADATA has successfully developed and launched DDR4 RDIMM (ECC Registered DIMM) that are fully compatible with the newly announced, next generation platform of Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product family.

Coming in densities of 4, 8 & 16 gigabytes, the new modules run at 1.2 volts, and at a frequency of 2133MHz. The higher clock frequencies, faster data transfer rates, and low voltage operation of DDR4 memory make it especially suited for use in the growing cloud server, storage and networking application fields.

adata.png

According to Jacky Yang, Product Manager at ADATA: “We are enthusiastic about the great potential of this new DDR4 specification, and we will move quickly to bring this new technology to our customers. Currently in development are DDR4 versions of ECC SO-DIMM, VLP RDIMM, & LRDIMM, so we look forward to providing the stability and reliability that ADATA is known for in a low voltage and high performance package.”

Source: ADATA

Podcast #294 - Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, podcast, Mantle, Glacer 240L, GDC 2014, frame rating, dx12, cooler master, BUILD 2014, BF4, amd, adata, 4k

PC Perspective Podcast #294 - 04/03/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating Mantle in BF4, DirectX 12, Sub-$700 4K Monitors 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:12:29
 
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:43:40 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Like MAME? Try MESS, and further - UME (systems list)
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

Build 2014: Microsoft Presents New Start Menu

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2014 - 09:53 PM |
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, start menu

Microsoft had numerous announcements during their Build 2014 opening keynote, which makes sense as they needed to fill the three hours that they assigned for it. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming changes to the Windows desktop experience. Two, albeit related, features were highlighted: the ability to run Modern Apps in a desktop window, and the corresponding return of the Start Menu.

I must say, the way that they grafted Start Screen tiles on the Start Menu is pretty slick. The Start Menu, since Windows Vista, has felt awkward with its split between recently used applications and common shortcuts in a breakout on the right with an expanded "All Programs" submenu handle on the bottom. It is functional, and it works perfectly fine, but something just felt weird about it. This looks a lot cleaner, in my opinion, especially since its width is variable according to how many applications are pinned.

Of course, my major complaint with Windows 8.x has nothing to do with the interface. There has not been any discussion around sideloading applications to get around Windows Store certification requirements. This is a major concern for browser vendors and should be one for many others, from hobbyists who might want to share their creations with one or two friends or family members, rather than everyone in an entire Windows Store region, or citizens of countries whose governments might pressure Microsoft to ban encryption or security applications.

That said, there is a session tomorrow called "Deploying and Managing Enterprise Apps", discussing changes app sideloading in Windows 8.1. Enterprise users are already allowed sideloading certificates from Microsoft. Maybe it will be expanded? I am not holding my breath.

Keep an eye out, because there should be a lot of news over the next couple of days.

Source: ZDNet

Cooler Master Introduces QuickFire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard For Gamers

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 09:49 PM |
Tagged: quickfire rapid, NKRO, mechanical keyboard, gaming, cooler master

Cooler Master has introduced a new mechanical keyboard to the QuickFire Rapid family. The upcoming QuckFire Rapid-i is a fully backlit mechanical keybard that offers up gaming-friendly features.

Cooler Master is keeping many of the detailed specifications under wraps, but we do know that it supports both PS/2 and USB, uses laser etched matte keycaps along with mechanical switches, and uses a 32-bit ARM processor to drive the various back-lighting profiles (a technology Cooler Master calls ActivLite).

Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard.jpg

The keyboard supports 1ms response times in USB mode along with NKRO (N Key Roll Over) which allows simultaneous pressing of multiple keys which can come in handy when using the keyboard for gaming. The ActivLite technology supports five key backlighting modes with an additional five brightness levels in each mode. Cooler Master demonstrates one mode on their website where the keys being pressed light up and slowly fade in a trailing lighting effect as you continue typing. The keyboard has on board memory capable of storing four saved lighting profiles (users can program the backlighting of individual keys).

Unfortunately, Cooler Master has not stated which mechanical switches it is using in this keyboard beyond saying that they are both "tactile" and "quiet." Considering its predecessor used Cherry MX switches, those are a good bet though.

If you are interested in Cooler Master's latest mechanical keyboard, keep an eye on the product page the company set up for further information as it gets closer to a physical launch date.

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Tagged:

Taking it all the way to 12!

Microsoft has been developing DirectX for around 20 years now.  Back in the 90s, the hardware and software scene for gaming was chaotic, at best.  We had wonderful things like “SoundBlaster compatibility” and 3rd party graphics APIs such as Glide, S3G, PowerSGL, RRedline, and ATICIF.  OpenGL was aimed more towards professional applications and it took John Carmack and iD, through GLQuake in 1996, to start the ball moving in that particular direction.  There was a distinct need to provide standards across audio and 3D graphics that would de-fragment the industry and developers.  DirectX was introduced with Windows 95, but the popularity of Direct3D did not really take off until DirectX 3.0 that was released in late 1996.

dx_history.jpg

DirectX has had some notable successes, and some notable let downs, over the years.  DX6 provided a much needed boost in 3D graphics, while DX8 introduced the world to programmable shading.  DX9 was the most long-lived version, thanks to it being the basis for the Xbox 360 console with its extended lifespan.  DX11 added in a bunch of features and made programming much simpler, all the while improving performance over DX10.  The low points?  DX10 was pretty dismal due to the performance penalty on hardware that supported some of the advanced rendering techniques.  DirectX 7 was around a little more than a year before giving way to DX8.  DX1 and DX2?  Yeah, those were very unpopular and problematic, due to the myriad changes in a modern operating system (Win95) as compared to the DOS based world that game devs were used to.

Some four years ago, if going by what NVIDIA has said, initial talks were initiated to start pursuing the development of DirectX 12.  DX11 was released in 2009 and has been an excellent foundation for PC games.  It is not perfect, though.  There is still a significant impact in potential performance due to a variety of factors, including a fairly inefficient hardware abstraction layer that relies more upon fast single threaded performance from a CPU rather than leveraging the power of a modern multi-core/multi-thread unit.  This has the result of limiting how many objects can be represented on screen as well as different operations that would bottleneck even the fastest CPU threads.

Click here to read the rest of the article!

As Irrational swims with the fishes, so can you

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: bioshock infinite, burial at sea, irrational

One hopes that by now you have managed to free the 40-some gigabytes of storage required to install Bioshock Infinite so that you can play the recently released second Episode of Burial at Sea.  Many have chose to wait to touch Episode 1 until the second instalment was released as Valve has developed a tendency to wait a bit between their releases.  If you have been too busy playing Goat Simulator and have not yet played through the release you can tease yourself with the trailer below.  If you have played it, Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN's recent Wot I Think is worth reading through as they give a well thought out look at Irrational's last product.

"You’ll hear no politics from me, though by God it’s tempting to correlate Burial At Sea Part 2′s status as a swansong for two BioShock universes with the recent, shock closure of Irrational. Whatever else there is to both tales, at least this concluding DLC for BioShock Infinite reverses the sense of decline we’ve seen since the original BioShock."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Erosion is inevitable, even in Redmond

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 06:11 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Build Conference, win 8.1

What was once called a Service Pack and is now referred to as 'Update 1' will be arriving soon for those few who currently run Windows 8.1.  The feature with the biggest potential to gain this OS market share is Enterprise mode with legacy support for IE11; allowing large corporations to chose Win 8.1 without having to redesign legacy applications and global intranets from scratch.  It's ability to run on 1GB of memory is also attractive to large industries who have no desire to upgrade the hardware on custom DOM machines nor legacy task specific servers.  The Inquirer also mentioned an intriguing feature referred to as a Start Menu and enhanced support for arcane peripherals such the keyboard and mouse.

images.jpg

"MICROSOFT PREVIEWED the long awaited return of the Start Menu in Windows 8.1 during a surprise announcement on Wednesday, alongside a major update for the software."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Canonical To Shut Down Ubuntu One Cloud Storage Service

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged:

Canonical has announced that it is shutting down its Ubuntu One cloud storage service. Users will no longer be able to upload files to the cloud storage or purchase music from the Ubuntu One store. The service, which included both free and paid storage tiers, personal music streaming, and paid music downloads, will be formally shut down on June 1, 2014.

Ubuntu One is a cloud storage service that came bundled with the Ubuntu operating system starting with 10.04. Though there were clients for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows, the service was primarily marketed to Ubuntu users and had the best client. Users could upload up to 5GB of personal files for free to the service, and a music streaming add-on allowed users to stream their uploaded music to other devices. Ubuntu One also offered up additional paid storage tiers and downloadable music in a paid store.

Ubuntu One.jpg

Canonical stated that the decision to shut down came from pressure from competing cloud storage providers that offer up more free storage and a desire to create a lean Canonical/Ubuntu that is focused on creating their idea of a convergent operating system that spans from mobile to desktops to servers. On the former, Canonical specifically stated that “if we offer a service, we want it to compete on a global scale, and for Ubuntu One to continue to do that would require more investment than we are willing to make.”

Ubuntu One will not be included in the upcoming Ubuntu 14.04 LTS operating system and the existing Ubuntu clients on older OS versions will be updated to reflect the shutdown. Users will not be able to add new files to the cloud service or purchase music from the store starting today.

Customers with active paid storage subscriptions will be issued refunds, and all users will have until July 31, 2014 to download their data. After July 31, all user data will be deleted, so if you have any important files stored there be sure to back them up as soon as possible.

Fortunately, it is not all bad news. Canonical will be open sourcing the Ubuntu One code. Note that the Ubuntu One Single Sign On and U1DB database services will continue to be maintained and are not part of the file services shutdown.

It is sad to see Ubuntu One being shuttered, but there are numerous (and better cross-platform) alternatives and I think the shutdown is ultimately the best course of action for a service that Canonical was not willing or able to fully invest attention and money into. Perhaps the open source community will find the code base useful for other projects.

Did you use the Ubuntu One cloud storage service?

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

BF4 Integrates FCAT Overlay Support

Back in September AMD publicly announced Mantle, a new lower level API meant to offer more performance for gamers and more control for developers fed up with the restrictions of DirectX. Without diving too much into the politics of the release, the fact that Battlefield 4 developer DICE was integrating Mantle into the Frostbite engine for Battlefield was a huge proof point for the technology. Even though the release was a bit later than AMD had promised us, coming at the end of January 2014, one of the biggest PC games on the market today had integrated a proprietary AMD API.

When I did my first performance preview of BF4 with Mantle on February 1st, the results were mixed but we had other issues to deal with. First and foremost, our primary graphics testing methodology, called Frame Rating, wasn't able to be integrated due to the change of API. Instead we were forced to use an in-game frame rate counter built by DICE which worked fine, but didn't give us the fine grain data we really wanted to put the platform to the test. It worked, but we wanted more. Today we are happy to announce we have full support for our Frame Rating and FCAT testing with BF4 running under Mantle.

A History of Frame Rating

In late 2012 and throughout 2013, testing graphics cards became a much more complicated beast. Terms like frame pacing, stutter, jitter and runts were not in the vocabulary of most enthusiasts but became an important part of the story just about one year ago. Though complicated to fully explain, the basics are pretty simple.

Rather than using software on the machine being tested to measure performance, our Frame Rating system uses a combination of local software and external capture hardware. On the local system with the hardware being evaluated we run a small piece of software called an overlay that draws small colored bars on the left hand side of the game screen that change successively with each frame rendered by the game. Using a secondary system, we capture the output from the graphics card directly, intercepting it from the display output, in real-time in an uncompressed form. With that video file captured, we then analyze it frame by frame, measuring the length of each of those colored bars, how long they are on the screen, how consistently they are displayed. This allows us to find the average frame rate but also to find how smoothly the frames are presented, if there are dropped frames and if there are jitter or stutter issues. 

screen1.jpg

Continue reading our first look at Frame Rating / FCAT Testing with Mantle in Battlefield 4!!

Faster MinnowBoard Max With Lower $99 Price Coming In June 2014

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 10:53 AM |
Tagged: minnowboard, linux, embedded, development, Bay Trail, atom e3825, atom e3815

MinnowBoard.org recently announced the MinnowBoard Max which is a new Intel-powered development board with improved specifications and a $100 lower price versus the original MinnowBoard. The MinnowBoard Max is an open source hardware and software development platform designed and built by CircuitCo with guidance from Intel. The MinnowBoard Max is intended to be used to develop new Bay Trail-powered products or as the brain of embedded equipment that interacts with custom I/O such as FGPAs and specialized sensors.

MinnowBoard Max.jpg

The MinnowBoard Max is slightly smaller than the original at 2.9” x 3.9” and features an improved Intel Atom processor. Rather than the single core Atom E640 at 1 GHz the original MinnowBoard used, the MinnowBoard Max uses one of two Bay Trail Atom E3800-series SoCs. The base $99 model uses a single core Atom E3815 clocked at 1.46GHz while the $129 model uses a dual core Atom E3825 clocked at 1.33 GHz. The SoC is paired with either 1GB or 2GB of system RAM on the $99 or $129 model respectively.

The MinnowBoard Max supports a wide range of I/O including:

  • 26-pin low speed expansion port
    • SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2 x UARTs (TTL-level), 8 x buffered GPIO (two supporting PWM), +5V, Ground
  • 60-pin high speed expansion port
    • 1 x PCI-E 2.0 (one lane), 1 x SATA 3Gbps, 1 x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO, JTAG, +5V, Ground
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x Micro SD
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Serial Debug (via separately sold cable)
  • 1 x Micro USB 2.0

The small form factor board supports Linux and Android operating systems with pending support for the Yocto Project (which helps developers create their own Linux distribution). Intel’s Bay Trail is not open source, but the company has reportedly provided open source drivers for the HD Graphics processor-integrated GPU.

The MinnowBoard Max starts at $99 and is slated to start shipping towards the end of June 2014. MinnowBoar.org will also be releasing the hardware design files under a Creative Commons license shortly after that launch point. More information can be found on the MinnowBoard Max FAQ.

The open source MinnowBoard Max looks to be a respectable upgrade over the original, and the lower price should help to make the x86 architecture more attractive to developers of embedded systems especially in the wake of the proliferation of ARM-powered alternatives.

NitroWare Reviews Seagate Business 4-Bay NAS (16TB)

Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 2, 2014 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, NAS

Seagate released a network-attached storage (NAS) device intended for businesses with "up to 50 employees", called the Seagate Business 4-Bay 16TB NAS. Dominic Sharoo of NitroWare reviewed one and, obviously/hopefully, gave his opinion in the process. In short, while he liked the connectivity options, he shies away from a recommendation without a price cut and a firmware update (its built-in software is not compatible with Windows 8).

seagate_nas_box_angle.jpg

As for what it did well, he was pleased by its relatively compact chassis, USB 3.0 support, and the inclusion of dual gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. It is configurable in RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, or "JBOD" (just a bunch of drives). He also liked that, in his testing, the unit did not seem to require drives from a specific vendor. If you buy the unit already loaded with drives, they are formatted in RAID 5. For a four-bay NAS, that seems like a good default. It also uses a standard laptop power supply, which should make finding a replacement (or a spare) easy.

While the device is a mixed bag, check out his review if you are interested.

Source: NitroWare
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA
Tagged: ssd, SP920, sata, Marvell, adata

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

ADATA has been in the storage market for a good while now. I like to think of them as the patient underdog. They don't necessarily come out with the shiny new controller or flash technology. Instead they tend to sit back and wait for a given set of hardware to mature and drop in price a bit. Once that happens, they figure out how to package the matured technology into a device of relatively low cost as compared to the competition. They have done so again today, with their new Premier Pro SP920 lineup:

DSC00644.JPG

As hinted at earlier, this line does not use the newest Marvell controller, but as Marvell controllers have been very capable SATA 6Gb/sec units for a long time now, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In addition, Marvell controllers have a track record of gaining significant performance margins as their firmware matures, which makes ADATA's later entrance more of a good thing.

Continue reading for the full scoop and performance benchmarks of all available capacities!!

GTC 2014: NVIDIA Launches Iray VCA Networked Rendering Appliance

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 1, 2014 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: VCA, nvidia, GTC 2014

NVIDIA launched a new visual computing appliance called the Iray VCA at the GPU Technology Conference last week. This new piece of enterprise hardware uses full GK 110 graphics cards to accelerate the company’s Iray renderer which is used to create photo realistic models in various design programs.

NVIDIA IRAY VCA.jpg

The Iray VCA specifically is a licensed appliance (hardware + software) that combines NVIDIA hardware and software. On the hardware side of things, the Iray VCA is powered by eight graphics cards, dual processors (unspecified but likely Intel Xeons based on usage in last year’s GRID VCA), 256GB of system RAM, and a 2TB SSD. Networking hardware includes two 10GbE NICs, two 1GbE NICs, and one Infiniband connection. In total, the Iray VCA features 20 CPU cores and 23,040 CUDA cores. The GPUs used are based on the full GK110 die and are paired with 12GB of memory each.

Even better, it is a scalable solution such that companies can add additional Iray VCAs to the network. The appliances reportedly transparently accelerate the Iray accelerated renders done on designer’s workstations. NVIDIA reports that an Iray VCA is approximately 60-times faster than a Quadro K5000-powered workstation. Further, according to NVIDIA, 19 Iray VCAs working together amounts to 1 PetaFLOP of compute performance which is enough to render photo realistic simulations using 1 billion rays with up to hundreds of thousands of bounces.

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The Iray VCA enables some rather impressive real time renders of 3D models with realistic physical properties and lighting. The models are light simulations that use ray tracing, global illumination and other techniques to show photo realistic models using up to billions of rays of light. NVIDIA is positioning the Iray VCA as an alternative to physical prototyping, allowing designers to put together virtual prototypes that can be iterated and changed at significantly less cost and time.

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Iray itself is NVIDIA’s GPU-accelerated photo realistic renderer. The Iray technology is used in a number of design software packages. The Iray VCA is meant to further accelerate that Iray renderer by throwing massive amounts of parallel processing hardware at the resource intensive problem over the network (the Iray VCAs can be installed at a data center or kept on site). Initially the Iray VCA will support 3ds Max, Catia, Bunkspeed, and Maya, but NVIDIA is working on supporting all Iray accelerated software with the VCA hardware.

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The virtual prototypes can be sliced and examined and can even be placed in real world environments by importing HDR photos. Jen-Hsun Huang demonstrated this by placing Honda’s vehicle model on the GTC stage (virtually).

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In fact, one of NVIDIA’s initial partners with the Iray VCA is Honda. Honda is currently beta testing a cluster of 25 Iray VCAs to refine styling designs for cars and their interiors based on initial artistic work. Honda Research and Development System Engineer Daisuke Ide was quoted by NVIDIA as stating that “Our TOPS tool, which uses NVIDIA Iray on our NVIDIA GPU cluster, enables us to evaluate our original design data as if it were real. This allows us to explore more designs so we can create better designs faster and more affordably.”

The Iray VCA (PDF) will be available this summer for $50,000. The sticker price includes the hardware, Iray license, and the first year of updates and maintenance. This is far from consumer technology, but it is interesting technology that may be used in the design process of your next car or other major purchase.

What do you think about the Iray VCA and NVIDIA's licensed hardware model?

A bright white tower from NZXT

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 1, 2014 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: water-cooling, nzxt, Mid-Tower Case, h440, fn v2

Lee had great things to say about the NZXT H440 when he reviewed this mid-sized white beast and for those seeking a second opinion, [H]ard|OCP is ready to provide.  They received the same model of case, which we are not allowed to call Stormtrooper White, testing the feasibility and performance of both single and dual 120 and 140mm self contained watercoolers.  The review will give you a good idea what you can expect to fit within this case, ensuring you don't end up purchasing a combination of components which simply will not fit inside the case. 

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"The NZXT H440 Mid Tower Case is a steel enclosure that is solidly built and not priced incredibly high. Its designers have focused on a very clean look inside and out without forgetting about all the actual needs and wants enthusiasts have when it comes to a new chassis. NZXT do not short you on quality fans to make sure you keep your cool either."

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

DX12; translated from marketing speak

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2014 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: dx12

Nothing beats speculating on a product that hasn't been released yet; often it ends up being more fun than the release.  Currently DX12 is providing great fodder for enthusiasts, especially when the comparison to Mantle is broached in conversation.  The Tech Report is looking to pass some ammunition on to online prognosticators by fleshing out the debate with some history and a review of what was announced and what has been stated since.  One of their biggest secondary sources of information is Matt Sandy's Blog, as a DX Developer he is a knowledgeable source about the new API, in as far as he is allowed to speak on it.  Check out the three page post here for a good resource of what we know for now.

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"We already covered the basics of DirectX 12 amid the GDC frenzy. Now that we've had time to study our notes from the show, we can delve into a little more detail about the new API's inception, the key ways in which it differs from DirectX 11, and what AMD and Nvidia think about it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk