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What Micron's Upcoming 3D NAND Means for SSD Capacity, Performance, and Cost

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB

You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.

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Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:

  • 256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block

  • 384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block

To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.

With that explained, the significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.

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A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.

Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech that was so good at controlling leakage, on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons, enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands.

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A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.

One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.

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Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.

One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.

ASRock Launches New Mini ITX Motherboard For AMD APUs

Subject: Motherboards | February 14, 2016 - 05:02 AM |
Tagged: mini ITX, FM2+, ddr3, asrock, A88X

ASRock's new A88M-ITX/ac is a tiny new motherboard sporting the FM2+ socket and A88X chipset for AMD APUs. This new board has an interesting design with two DDR3 memory slots set along the top of the board. The FM2+ socket and 5-phase VRM is placed in the center with the chipset and dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi module sitting between the socket and a single PCI-E x16 slot along the bottom edge. Six SATA 6Gbps ports are nestled in the lower right corner. Power input includes a 24-pin ATX and 8-pin CPU which should help any overclocking should this be for a SFF gaming box.

ASRock A88M-ITXac.jpg

Rear I/O on the A88M-ITX/ac includes:

  • 1 x PS/2
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x Video outputs
    • 1 x DVI
    • 1 x HDMI 1.4a
    • 1 x VGA
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x GbE (Realtek 8111GR)
  • 3 x Analog Audio (Realtek ALC887 and ELNA audio caps)

This board is clad in black and silver except for the FCH which is copper. While the absence of HDMI 2.0 will be a turn off for those looking for a HTPC to drive a 4K big screen, it could still make for a small budget gaming build. It is nice to see more small form factor options for AMD builds!

Unfortunately, ASRock is not yet talking pricing or availability.

What would you use this Mini ITX AMD motherboard for?

Source: ASRock

PSA: Get An Additional 2GB of Free Google Drive Storage by Securing Your Account

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2016 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: google drive, google, cloud storage

In honor of Safer Internet Day, Google is offering up 2GB of additional Google Drive storage space for free to users that run a security checkup on their accounts through this Google tool.

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Google will ask you to go through several steps to secure your Google account and verify your information. You will need to confirm your account recovery information and connected devices. The tool will also show you what applications and services have access to your Google account (for me it was only Chrome and Target's Cartwheel app). Further, it will ask you to set up 2-factor authentication and confirm that you still want to leave the listed app passwords active (app passwords are randomly generated passwords used in apps that do not support 2-factor authentication, such as Thunderbird).

After stepping through the security checklist, you will find an addtional 2GB of storage space in your Drive account. Note that native Google Docs do not count against your space, but uploaded copies of things like Excel spreadsheets and Word documents kept in those formats do. Get the free space while it's still being offered!

Also, I hope that you have already locked in your OneDrive storage space as well!

Source: Google

Qualcomm Announces X16 Modem Featuring Gigabit LTE

Subject: Mobile | February 12, 2016 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: X16 modem, qualcomm, mu-mimo, modem, LTE, Gigabit LTE, FinFET, Carrier Aggregation, 14nm

Qualcomm’s new X16 LTE Modem is the industry's first Gigabit LTE chipset to be announced, achieving speeds of up to 1 Gbps using 4x Carrier Aggregation. The X16 succeeds the recently announced X12 modem, improving on the X12's 3x Carrier Aggregation and moving from LTE CAT 12 to CAT 16 on the downlink, while retaining CAT 13 on the uplink.

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"In order to make a Gigabit Class LTE modem a reality, Qualcomm added a suite of enhancements – built on a foundation of commercially-proven Carrier Aggregation technology. The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem employs sophisticated digital signal processing to pack more bits per transmission with 256-QAM, receives data on four antennas through 4x4 MIMO, and supports for up to 4x Carrier Aggregation — all of which come together to achieve unprecedented download speeds."

Gigabit speeds are only possible if multiple data streams are connected to the device simultaneously, and with the new X16 modem such aggregation is performed using LTE-U and LAA.

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(Image via EE Times)

What does all of this mean? Aggregation is a term you'll see a lot as we progress into the next generation of cellular data technology, and with the X16 Qualcomm is emphasizing carrier over link aggregation. Essentially Carrier Aggregation works by combining the carrier LTE data signal (licensed, high transmit power) with a shorter-range, shared spectrum (unlicensed, low transmit power) LTE signal. When the signals are combined at the device (i.e. your smartphone), significantly better throughput is possible with this larger (aggregated) data ‘pipe’.

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Qualcomm lists the four main options for unlicensed LTE deployment as follows:

  • LTE-U: Based on 3GPP Rel. 12, LTE-U targets early mobile operators deployments in USA, Korea and India, with coexistence tests defined by LTE-U forum
  • LAA: Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) targets deployments in Europe, Japan, & beyond.
  • LWA: Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LWA (LTE - Wi-Fi link aggregation) targets deployments where the operators already has carrier Wi-Fi deployments.
  • MulteFire: Broadens the LTE ecosystem to new deployment opportunities by operating solely in unlicensed spectrum without a licensed anchor channel

The X16 is also Qualcomm’s first modem to be built on 14nm FinFet process, which Qualcomm says is highly scalable and will enable the company to evolve the modem product line “to address an even wider range of product, all the way down to power-efficient connectivity for IoT devices.”

Qualcomm has already begun sampling the X16, and expects the first commercial products in the second half of 2016.

Source: Qualcomm

Just another ATX on the wall

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 12, 2016 - 03:06 PM |
Tagged: thermaltake, Core P5 Wall-Mounted ATX Chassis

Thermaltake have come up with a unique take on an enclosure, the Core P5 Wall-Mounted ATX chassis.  It is a case designed to be mounted on a wall and to show off all of your components thanks to a clear acrylic front panel.  You can see there is quite a bit of space for components inside which can present a challenge if you are trying for a particular aesthetic but with some creativity you should be able to fill it attractively.  It is an open air design which you should consider when deciding where to mount the case and it also offers benefits when you consider cooling.  Check out the full review over at [H]ard|OCP.

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"The main element that Thermaltake wants you to be able to accomplish with it new Core P5 Chassis, is for you to be able to show off your awesome PC system configuration that you have spent weeks working on so that it is near-perfect. While the P5 checks off more feature boxes than that, it surely does a good job of showing off your rig."

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Fancy new Intel powered routers from Wind River

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2016 - 12:28 PM |
Tagged: Intel, wind river, telecoms

The next dream of telecoms providers is network function virtualization, the ability to virtualize customers hardware instead of shipping them a device.  The example given to the The Register were DVRs, instead of shipping a cablebox with recording capability to the customer the DVR would be virtualized on the telcos internal infrastructure.   You could sign up for a DVR VM, point your smart TV at the appropriate IP address and plug in a USB disk for local storage.

The problem has been the hardware available to the telco, the routers simply did not have the power to provide a consistent internet or cable connection, let alone add virtual devices to their systems.  At the upcoming MWC, Wind River will be showing off Titanium Servers for virtualizing customer premises equipment, with enough processing power and VM optimizations that these types of services could be supported.

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"Intel is starting to deliver on its vision of x86-powered modem/routers in the home , as its Wind River subsidiary releases a server dedicated to delivery of functions to virtual customer premises equipment (CPE)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Meet Cerberus: Crowdfunded Micro-ATX Case Made in USA

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 12, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: small form-factor, SFF, NCASE M1, Kimera Industries, enclosure, crowdfunding, Cerberus, case

Micro-ATX offers a compelling option for smaller system builds without the limitations inherent with the mini-ITX form-factor, and a new company aims to offer one of the smallest micro-ATX enclosures possible while still supporting full-size components. That company is Kimera Industries, a newcomer (founded in 2014) that will be turning to Indiegogo to fund the Cerberus mATX enclosure, to be built right here in the United States.

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Known previously as Project Nova, the Cerberus is reminiscent of the NCASE M1, a crowdfunded mini-ITX design that is ridiculously small even for mITX. In addition to supporting the larger mATX form-factor motherboard, the Cerberus is constructed from steel (rather than the M1's aluminum), and boasts an extremely compact size for an enclosure that can easily house a dual-GPU gaming setup.

“At just 18.2L, Cerberus is smaller than nearly all mATX (and many mITX) cases in industry today, yet supports flagship graphics and high-end PC components, making it a potent enclosure for hardware enthusiasts that want a compact and portable computer without compromises on performance.”

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A look at the interior with a complete system installed shows just how much can be crammed into this small space, just as with the NCASE M1. The inclusion of a hinged bracket for a liquid cooler (or other components) is a nice touch that should aid in system building with the Cerberus.

So, just how small is the Cerberus? A look at the full specs (available here) reveals dimensions of 320 mm height, 170 mm width, and 364 mm depth (12.60 x 6.69 x 14.33 inches). The enlosure, made from 20 gauge steel internally with 18 gauge steel panels on the outside, weighs in at 11.68 lbs.

Here’s a list of the features of the Cerberus enclosure from Kimera:

  • Size: At just 18.2L, Cerberus is smaller than some of the most popular mITX cases on the market, from Fractal Design’s Node 304, or BitFenix’s Prodigy. When compared to most mATX cases, Cerberus typically bests the competition by 10L or more - a whopping 40%+ volume reduction.
  • Quality: Made entirely of powder coated steel, and assembled in the United States, Cerberus is built to last for the long haul, with thoughtful features such as user-replaceable parts, durable metal hardware, and all-steel panel clips and pins.
  • Design: Cerberus embraces a minimalist, refined aesthetic, with a luxurious matte finish and industrial design that embraces clean edges and understated features over bright lights and garish plastic accents.
  • Customizability: With multiple colors on offer, additional colors available as stretch goals, and the option to add an optional metal handle and/or plexiglass window, Cerberus is engineered to be customized to enthusiasts’ exact preferences.
  • Flexibility: From SFX and ATX PSU support, to the hinged side bracket, to the innovative Infinite Vent system, Cerberus retains some of the most diverse hardware support in industry, and can comfortably contain systems as simple as HTPCs and as sophisticated as water-cooled, multi-GPU gaming powerhouses.
  • Craftsmanship: Through a unique partnership with Sliger Designs, every Cerberus is built by trained and talented engineers on Sliger’s production floor, located in Sparks, Nevada, USA. By manufacturing enclosures domestically, instead of through nondescript factories in China or Taiwan, Kimera Industries is able to maintain strict quality controls, communicate constantly with engineers on the floor, and greatly expedite production and shipment of units to backers - all while supporting local workers, businesses, and communities.

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The Cerberus is also available in white, shown with optional handle

The Indiegogo campaign launches March 1st, and additional information can be found at the Kimera Industries site.

Just Delivered: Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged:

Fabled to be "coming soon" since the launch of the AMD R9 Fury X back in June, today we finally got our hands on our first DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter.

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Coming from Accell, the aptly named DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter is a fairly self explanatory product. This adapter sits inline between your DisplayPort video card and HDMI TV in order to convert between the two interfaces. Previously, the only available adapters supported up to HDMI 1.4a, which only allowed for 30Hz connectivity at 4K.

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Users looking to connect their 4K TV to a PC had their GPU options severely limited to exclude  all current AMD video cards and NVIDIA video cards below the GTX 950.

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A quick test with the Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter with the AMD R9 Nano alongside our trusty Wasabi Mango UHD420 display proved that this adapter did indeed bring full 4K support at 60Hz and 4:4:4 color via HDMI on the Nano. This helps the R9 Nano become more useful in compact, HTPC builds.

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Here we can see 4:4:4 subsampling working as intended

We also went ahead and tried this adapter with a GTX 780 Ti and found the same results. We were able to drive our 42" 4K TV at full refresh rate and color space.

It appears this adapter might not be fully retail available yet, but Accell has it listed on its online store for $37.99 shipping now. For users who have been looking for a way to get the most out of their older GPU (or a Fiji-based AMD part) and a 4K display, this seems like a no brainer.

Source: Accell

The new QHQ ASUS Zenbook UX305CA

Subject: Mobile | February 11, 2016 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, asus zenbook, ux305ca, qhd

At 13.3" in size it still seems odd to use a 3200x1800 display, but that is why scaling is important; especially for aged eyes.  The model of UX305CA that The Inquirer reviewed is running on a Skylake based Core M3-6Y30 clocked at 900MHz, 8B RAM and a 128GB SSD with other models available for those that wish upgraded components.  The Inquirer ran into a few small issues with the OS and you cannot expect the laptop to handle demanding tasks but for browsing and productivity it had no issues.  As well, the battery lasted over 9 hours during usage, not bad for a device weighing 1.2kg (2.65lbs).

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"From the ports to processor to the operating system, this refresh has been subject to a rather diverse mix of changes, the biggest being the addition of a QHD+ resolution screen, despite the price staying level with the original FHD model."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

 

Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #386 - Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: vr edition, video, UMC, ue4, podcast, phanteks, nvidia, logitech, GTX 980 Ti, g810, evga, enthoo evolv itx, asrtock, arm, amd, 28HPCU

PC Perspective Podcast #386 - 02/10/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition 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!

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

Program length: 1:30:34

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:36:45 This week’s podcast is brought to you by Casper. Use code PCPER at checkout for $50 towards your order!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: ASUS

A unique combo of size and resolution

We see all kinds of monitors at PC Perspective; honestly it's probably too many. It's rare when a form factor or combination of features really feels unique, but today's review of the ASUS PB328Q is exactly that. Have we seen 2560x1440 displays? Countless. More than a few VA panels have graced our test benches. And 30-32 inch monitors were the biggest rage in screen technology as far back as 2007. A refresh rate of 75Hz is no longer as novel a feature as it used to be either.

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The ASUS PB328Q combines all of that into a package that stands out from other professional, low cost monitor options. The largest 2560x1440 monitor that I have used previously is 27-inches, and the 5-in difference between that and what the PB328Q offers is an immediately obvious change. The question is though, does the size and resolution combination, along with the panel technology, combine to a form a product that is good for productivity, gaming, both, or neither? With a price of just $539 on Amazon, many users might be interested in the answer.​

Here are the specifications for the ASUS PB328Q display.

  ASUS PB328Q Specifications
Screen Size 32 inch
Screen Mode WQHD
Response Time 4ms
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Backlight Technology LED
Panel Technology VA (vertical alignment)
Tilt Angle -5 to +20 degrees
Adjustable Height Yes
Video
Maximum Resolution 2560x1440
Standard Refresh Rate 75 Hz
Color Supported 1073.1M (10-bit) with 12-bit Look-up Table
Contrast Ratio 100,000,000:1 (ASCR)
Brightness 300 nits
Tearing Prevention Technology None
Audio
Speakers 3W x 2 Stereo RMS
Interfaces/Ports
DisplayPort Yes
HDMI Yes
DVI Yes
3.5mm Audio Output Yes
Physical Characteristics
Color Black
Miscellaneous
Package Contents Dual-link DVI cable
VGA cable
Audio cable
Power cord
DisplayPort cable
USB 3.0 cable
HDMI cable

For those new to VA panel technology, is helps to have some background before we start testing the PB328Q. Vertical alignment panels are very good at blocking the backlight coming through the screen to the user's eyes, making them excellent at producing strong blacks and high contrast ratios when compared to other LCD technology. VA also results in vastly improved color reproduction and viewing angles, falling above TN and (usually) below IPS screens in that area.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS PB328Q Monitor!!

EVGA Releases GeForce GTX 980 Ti VR Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 10, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive vr, Oculus, evga, 980 Ti

You might wonder what makes a graphics card “designed for VR,” but this is actually quite interesting. Rather than plugging your headset into the back of your desktop, EVGA includes a 5.25” bay that provides 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x HDMI 2.0 connection. The use case is that some users will want to easily connect and disconnect their VR devices, which, knowing a few indie VR developers, seems to be a part of their workflow. The same may be true of gamers, but I'm not sure.

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While the bay allows for everything, including the HDMI plug via an on-card port, to be connected internally, you will need a spare USB 3.0 header on your motherboard to hook it up. It would have been interesting to see whether EVGA could have attached a USB 3.0 controller on the add-in board, but that might have been impossible (or unpractical) given that the PCIe connector would need to be shared with the GPU (not to mention the complexity of also adding a USB 3.0 controller to the board). Also, I expect motherboards should have at least one. If not, you can find USB 3.0 add-in cards with internal headers.

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The card comes in two sub-versions, one with the NVIDIA-style blower cooler, and the other with EVGA's ACX 2.0+ cooler. I tend to prefer exposed fan GPUs because they're easier to blow air into after a few years, but you might have other methods to control dust.

Both are currently available for $699.99 on Newegg.com, while Amazon only lists the ACX2.0+ cooler version, and that's out of stock. It is also $699.99, though, so that should be what to expect.

Source: EVGA

Speaking of Windows Updates... Here's What's Inside Them

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has been pushing for updates to just happen. They want users to receive each of them, because then it's harder for malware authors to take advantage of known vulnerabilities and it's also easier for Microsoft to update Windows (because it would have fewer permutations of patch levels). These updates would arrive with the useless name “Cumulative update for Windows 10 (some version)” and no further information, besides a list of changed files without any context.

windowsupdate.png

Now with slightly less blindness...

Microsoft now has a page that lists the general improvements as a bullet-point list. It's not an extensive list of changes, and most of them are related to security and privacy, but that is to be expected now that Windows has moved to a build paradigm. They are broken down by build level, though, which lets you see everything that happened to 10240 since it launched separate from the list of everything that happened to 10586 since it was published.

This is positive. Microsoft should have done this for a while, and I hope they continue indefinitely.

Source: Microsoft

The BayTrail powered lASUSTOR AS5002T 2-Bay NAS

Subject: Systems, Storage | February 10, 2016 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: asustor, AS5002T, NAS, htpc, baytrail

Being in the market for a Plex server and running low on patience and spare hardware I have been sniffing around NAS servers, which is why you are now reading about the ASUSTOR AS5002T.  Missing Remote just picked this NAS up for review, powered by a dual core Celeron J1800 clocked at 2.4GHz instead of an ARM processor.  The reason that matters is the inclusion of Intel HD Graphics onboard for real time encoding when streaming to remote devices.  On the other hand it is not the most modern of processors and the AS5002T also showed some peculiarity with drive sizes.  The processor is not going to be able to push 4k over some interfaces but HDMI 1.4a, IR control capability and broad support for the usual selection of HTPC programs does make this NAS a good fit for many.  Read the full review to get a better idea of the capabilities of the ASUSTOR AS5002T.

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"The ASUSTOR AS5002T is the first Intel based network attached storage (NAS) device tested at Missing Remote. So, I was very curious to see how its dual-core 2.4GHz Celeron J1800 would stack up against the strong showing we’ve seen from ARM Cortex-A15 based systems recently."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Microsoft Adds Third Ring to Insider Program

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The Windows 10 preview program had two settings: Fast and Slow. A third one has been added, called Release Preview, although it sounds a bit different from the other two. According to the blog post, which is supposed to be about a new build of Windows 10 Mobile, Release Preview will grant early access to updates on the current branch of Windows 10. They also call it “updates” instead of “builds”. Fast and Slow, as they have existed, provide builds for the next branch of Windows 10 at the time.

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When the public was on July release, Insider provided builds that ended up in the November update. When Windows 10 1511 was released, Insiders received builds on the “Redstone” branch, to be released at some point in the future. That is, apparently, not how Release Preview ring will work. They will receive 1511 updates early. They might receive the final Redstone-one build before general availability, but that is just speculation.

This might take some pressure off of Slow, which, during the Threshold-two timeframe, only received a single build, 10565, outside of the final 10586 one that was released to the public. Slow ended up being little more than a release candidate ring for the upcoming branch. If they push that to Release Preview, for the build that the public will see, then Slow might receive a few more steps on the upcoming branch, especially now that Fast are receiving more frequent updates. After all, users who are only interested in one or two builds per branch will probably be satisfied with pre-release updates and the final build early (again, if they release the final builds early on Release Preview, which is speculation).

Or Microsoft might just want a few more testers for Windows Update patches. Who knows?

Source: Microsoft

Fragging Frogs Virtual LAN party #12; Saturday March 5 10:00AM ET until the last Frog falls

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs

That's right folks, it is time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN with fun and prizes for all.  For those of you who have not participated in any of the last 11 this is a perfect time to get to know a great group of gamers over the day and maybe even tempt you to participate in the regular gaming sessions.

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The rules for joining and being eligible to win prizes are as follows:

  • You must be a registered member at the PCPer forums (register here)
  • You must have a minimum of 5 forum posts prior to the start of VLAN
  • You must post to this thread stating your intention to attend the VLAN event
  • You must meet the eligibility requirements (if any) of the individual sponsors below
  • Your shipping address must be in the Continental United States or Canada
  • Lastly, you must participate in the VLAN event by playing games with us and having fun!!

It would be appreciated if you reply to this thread to confirm attendance, it also contains valuable information on our Teamspeak server rules and connection details as well as links to the threads that let you share your Steam, Origin and other accounts with other Fragging Frogs. 

This thread here contains the information you need on patches and mods for the games we will be playing and gives you an idea of the standard assortment of games we play.  Feel free to suggest others as well.

There will be prizes and giveaways but remember that the main point of VLAN #12 is to have fun and get fragging!

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Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: PCPer Forums

Havok Shuts Down Project Anarchy

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: Havok, project anarchy, game engine

Annnnnnd now we have one less game engine in the industry.

We posted yesterday about Amazon launching their Lumberyard engine, which is a fork of CryEngine that monetizes by strongly tying itself to Amazon Web Services. Later that day, I found out that Havok shut down their Project Anarchy engine, which was free for mobile development on iOS, Android, and Tizen. It had interesting technology for its supported platforms, when extend down to OpenGL ES 2.0, that combined Havok's middleware into an editor with component-based objects. While this setup is how Unity and Unreal Engine are structured, it's an artist-friendly method. Want something to interact with gravity and collision? Drag a Havok Rigid Body Physics component on it and save.

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That could not be a more blatant parody of Bubs if it tried, which it probably is.

I did not really know too much about the engine, but it was originally released back in 2013. They held a game development challenge in early 2014. The Project Anarchy Mobile Game Development Challenge had a $100,000 top prize, which was won by Cosmonautica from Chasing Carrots. The other two winners were a train simulator and a puzzle matching game.

Source: Havok

Have some happy news for a change; aerogel made from recycled paper

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: aerogel, nifty

With the depressing news about security holes below the fold it seemed appropriate to post something positive before you get depressed about PDFs, fonts and other such things.  This morning Slashdot posted just such a story, researchers have managed to turn recycled paper into an aerogel.  Aerogels are a relatively new substance, usually created with silica, metals or polymers and are incredibly light, amazing insulators and often have other arcane usages.  Recycled paper might not seem a likely substance to form an insulator, however the polymer resin coated cellulose aerogel still retains that common property.  It is also capable of absorbing up to 90 times its dry weight in spilled oil while completely excluding water, and to allow for the recovery of 99% of that oil for use again. 

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"A team of scientists have successfully turned paper waste into aerogel. Aerogels are used in insulation, and they are usually made out of polymers and silica. But a research team at the National University of Singapore managed to make the highly sought-after product using recycled paper ..."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot
Manufacturer: Phanteks

Introduction and First Impressions

The Enthoo EVOLV ITX it is not a new enclosure, but this striking color scheme - black with a glossy red interior - is. We'll take a thorough look at this mini-ITX enclosure in this review, and see how well it performs enclosing a gaming build.

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The EVOLV series from Phanteks includes ATX, micro-ATX, and this mini-ITX versions; with all three sharing a common design language, though some of the features naturally differ. With this smallest design Phanteks decided to retain enough size to permit the use of standard components, with room for ATX power supplies, full length graphics cards, and liquid CPU cooling with up to a 280 mm radiator.

The EVOLV ATX was my first experience with a Phanteks enclosure, and I was impressed with the build quality and thoughtful design touches. There is a different approach to building with mini-ITX that introduces new elements, including the ability of a system to remain cool and quiet with components in much tighter quarters.

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Continue reading our review of the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX case!!

Oculus Ready PC Pre-orders Announced, Include Rift Bundle

Subject: Systems | February 10, 2016 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: VR, rift, preorder, Oculus, gaming pc

Oculus has announced an upcoming pre-order date for 'Oculus Ready PCs' from mainstream manufacturers, and these will be bundled with the Rift VR headset (and everything that comes with it).

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(Image credit: Oculus)

“Today we’re excited to introduce the first Oculus Ready PCs from ASUS, Alienware, and Dell! These PCs have been battle tested and certified by Oculus to deliver an incredible Rift experience. We’re also thrilled to announce that starting February 16 at 8am Pacific Time, you can pre-order Oculus Ready PC and Rift bundles from Best Buy, Amazon, and theMicrosoft Store, starting at $1499 USD for a limited time only.

All bundles include an Oculus-certified PC and everything that comes with Rift – the headset, sensor, remote, an Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack, and Lucky’s Tale!

Pre-orders for Oculus Ready and Rift bundles will ship in limited quantities to select countries and regions from retail partners starting in April.”

So what kind of gaming system are you getting for $1499? Of the ‘Oculus Ready’ PCs, the baseline specs across the board are an Intel Core i5-6400 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 GPU, along with 8 GB of system memory. This is in keeping with Oculus’ published specifications from last summer: “The recommended PC specification is an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM."

Including the Rift VR bundle makes the price tag sound a lot nicer for what is otherwise a pretty basic gaming setup, as Rift costs $599 on its own. Still, is it worth $900 for a Core i5/GTX 970 gaming system? Factoring in a Windows license and all parts it's not a terrible value proposition, though most early adopters of this VR tech will likely not be starting completely from scratch.

A quick check on Amazon for the first system bundle listed shows “Currently Unavailable”, as pre-orders begin February 16 at 8:00am PST. You’ll be waiting even longer to have product in hand as the actual release date is April 23.

Source: Oculus