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Author:
Manufacturer: Various

It's more than just a branding issue

As a part of my look at the first wave of AMD FreeSync monitors hitting the market, I wrote an analysis of how the competing technologies of FreeSync and G-Sync differ from one another. It was a complex topic that I tried to state in as succinct a fashion as possible given the time constraints and that the article subject was on FreeSync specifically. I'm going to include a portion of that discussion here, to recap:

First, we need to look inside the VRR window, the zone in which the monitor and AMD claims that variable refresh should be working without tears and without stutter. On the LG 34UM67 for example, that range is 48-75 Hz, so frame rates between 48 FPS and 75 FPS should be smooth. Next we want to look above the window, or at frame rates above the 75 Hz maximum refresh rate of the window. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we need to look below the window, at frame rates under the minimum rated variable refresh target, in this example it would be 48 FPS.

AMD FreeSync offers more flexibility for the gamer than G-Sync around this VRR window. For both above and below the variable refresh area, AMD allows gamers to continue to select a VSync enabled or disabled setting. That setting will be handled as you are used to it today when your game frame rate extends outside the VRR window. So, for our 34UM67 monitor example, if your game is capable of rendering at a frame rate of 85 FPS then you will either see tearing on your screen (if you have VSync disabled) or you will get a static frame rate of 75 FPS, matching the top refresh rate of the panel itself. If your game is rendering at 40 FPS, lower than the minimum VRR window, then you will again see the result of tearing (with VSync off) or the potential for stutter and hitching (with VSync on).

But what happens with this FreeSync monitor and theoretical G-Sync monitor below the window? AMD’s implementation means that you get the option of disabling or enabling VSync.  For the 34UM67 as soon as your game frame rate drops under 48 FPS you will either see tearing on your screen or you will begin to see hints of stutter and judder as the typical (and previously mentioned) VSync concerns again crop their head up. At lower frame rates (below the window) these artifacts will actually impact your gaming experience much more dramatically than at higher frame rates (above the window).

G-Sync treats this “below the window” scenario very differently. Rather than reverting to VSync on or off, the module in the G-Sync display is responsible for auto-refreshing the screen if the frame rate dips below the minimum refresh of the panel that would otherwise be affected by flicker. So, in a 30-144 Hz G-Sync monitor, we have measured that when the frame rate actually gets to 29 FPS, the display is actually refreshing at 58 Hz, each frame being “drawn” one extra instance to avoid flicker of the pixels but still maintains a tear free and stutter free animation. If the frame rate dips to 25 FPS, then the screen draws at 50 Hz. If the frame rate drops to something more extreme like 14 FPS, we actually see the module quadruple drawing the frame, taking the refresh rate back to 56 Hz. It’s a clever trick that keeps the VRR goals and prevents a degradation of the gaming experience. But, this method requires a local frame buffer and requires logic on the display controller to work. Hence, the current implementation in a G-Sync module.

As you can see, the topic is complicated. So Allyn and I (and an aging analog oscilloscope) decided to take it upon ourselves to try and understand and teach the implementation differences with the help of some science. The video below is where the heart of this story is focused, though I have some visual aids embedded after it.

Still not clear on what this means for frame rates and refresh rates on current FreeSync and G-Sync monitors? Maybe this will help.

Continue reading our story dissecting NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Futuremark

Our first DX12 Performance Results

Late last week, Microsoft approached me to see if I would be interested in working with them and with Futuremark on the release of the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test. Of course I jumped at the chance, with DirectX 12 being one of the hottest discussion topics among gamers, PC enthusiasts and developers in recent history. Microsoft set us up with the latest iteration of 3DMark and the latest DX12-ready drivers from AMD, NVIDIA and Intel. From there, off we went.

First we need to discuss exactly what the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test is (and also what it is not). The feature test will be a part of the next revision of 3DMark, which will likely ship in time with the full Windows 10 release. Futuremark claims that it is the "world's first independent" test that allows you to compare the performance of three different APIs: DX12, DX11 and even Mantle.

It was almost one year ago that Microsoft officially unveiled the plans for DirectX 12: a move to a more efficient API that can better utilize the CPU and platform capabilities of future, and most importantly current, systems. Josh wrote up a solid editorial on what we believe DX12 means for the future of gaming, and in particular for PC gaming, that you should check out if you want more background on the direction DX12 has set.

3dmark-api-overhead-screenshot.jpg

One of DX12 keys for becoming more efficient is the ability for developers to get closer to the metal, which is a phrase to indicate that game and engine coders can access more power of the system (CPU and GPU) without having to have its hand held by the API itself. The most direct benefit of this, as we saw with AMD's Mantle implementation over the past couple of years, is improved quantity of draw calls that a given hardware system can utilize in a game engine.

Continue reading our overview of the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test with early DX12 Performance Results!!

HUGE Contest and Giveaway - Put a little Green in your PC!

Subject: Editorial | March 31, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: video, pcper, hwc, hardware canucks, giveaway, contest

One of our favorite holidays is creeping up on us: St. Patrick's Day! What's better than an open excuses to skip work and down some beers? How about getting a boat load of free PC hardware as well?!?

That's right, PC Perspective and Hardware Canucks have teamed up with sponsors NVIDIA, EVGA, ASUS, Crucial and Phanteks to bring our readers and YouTube subscribers a a mega-epic prize pack you are going to have to see to believe!

Here is the total list:

  • Grand Prize
    • ASUS ROG Swift G-Sync Monitor
    • EVGA GTX 980 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Maximus VII Hero
    • ASUS Strix Claw Mouse
    • ASUS Strix Tactic Pro KB
    • ASUS Strix Pro Headset
    • Crucial MX200 1TB SSD
    • Phanteks Enthoo Luxe Case
    • Phanteks PH-TC14S
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140MP
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140SP
  • 2nd Prize
    • EVGA GTX 960 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Maximus VII Hero
    • ASUS Gladius Mouse
    • Crucial BX100 1TB SSD
    • Phanteks PH-TC12LS
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140MP
  • 3rd Prize
    • EVGA GTX 960 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Gladius Mouse

We are hosting this contest on our YouTube channels, so here are the rules for entry:

  1. Subscribe to PCPer's YouTube channel
  2. Leave a comment on PCPer's contest video
  3. Subscribe to Hardware Canucks' YouTube channel
  4. Leave a comment on Hardware Canucks' contest video

Sorry, this is open only to US and Canada users; the cost and complexity of international shipping is just to drastic for this much hardware.

You have until March 30th to enter and we'll announce the winner on March 31st.

Good luck!!

PCPer Live! Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway!

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | March 27, 2015 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: video, sdd, live, Intel, giveaway, contest

Earlier this month we spotted a new and potentially very exciting SSD while looking through some PAX East coverage around the web. It appears to be a PCI Express based Intel SSD, likely based on the same technology as the P3700-series of NVMe drives released last June. And today, if you take a look at this Intel promotional landing page you'll see a timer and countdown that ends on April 2nd.

Sounds like something must be up, huh?

Well, in totally unrelated news, PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together for a live stream to discuss "SSD related topics" on April 2nd.

pcperlive.png

Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway

12pm PT / 3pm ET - April 2nd

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

Joining us for the live event will be Intel's Bryn Pilney and Kei Kobayashi, making a follow up appearance after jumping on stage with us at Quakecon 2014. During the event we'll discuss some of the history of Intel's move into the SSD market, how consumers benefit from Intel development and technology and a certain new product that will be making an appearnce on that same day.

And of course, what's a live stream event without some hardware to give away?!? Here's what we have on the docket for those that attend:

  • 2 x Intel 180GB 530 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 480GB 730 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel Unreleased SSDs (??)

ssd730.jpg

Huge thanks to Intel for supporting our viewers and readers with hardware to giveaway!

The event will take place Thursday, April 2nd at 3pm ET / 12pm PT at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience, asking questions for me and Intel to answer live. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

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If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from Intel?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 3pm ET / 12pm PT and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: LG

A monitor for those that like it long

It takes a lot to really impress someone that sits in front of dual 2560x1600 30-in IPS screens all day, but the LG 34UM95 did just that. With a 34-in diagonal 3440x1440 resolution panel forming a 21:9 aspect ratio, built on LG IPS technology for flawless viewing angles, this monitor creates a work and gaming experience that is basically unmatched in today's market. Whether you need to open up a half-dozen Excel or Word documents, keep an eye on your Twitter feed while looking at 12 browsers or run games at near Eyefinity/Surround levels without bezels, the LG 34UM95 is a perfect option.

Originally priced north of $1200, the 34UM95 and many in LG's 21:9 lineup have dropped in price considerably, giving them more avenues into users' homes. There are obvious gaming advantages to the 34-in display compared to a pair of 1920x1080 panels (no bezel, 20% more pixels) but if you have a pair of 2560x1440 screens you are going to be giving up a bit. Some games might not handle 21:9 resolutions well either, just as we continue to see Eyefinity/Surround unsupported occasionally.

Productivity users will immediately see an improvement, both for those us inundated with spreadsheets, web pages and text documents as well as the more creative types with Adobe Premiere timelines. I know that Ken would definitely have approved us keeping this monitor here at the office for his use.

Check out the video above for more thoughts on the LG 34UM95!

Rumor: Intel Is Now Powering Both Surface and Surface Pro

Subject: Processors, Mobile | March 25, 2015 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: Intel, core m, atom, surface, Surface 2, Windows 8.1, windows 10

The stack of Microsoft tablet devices had high-end Intel Core processors hovering over ARM SoCs, the two separated by a simple “Pro” label (and Windows 8.x versus Windows RT). While the Pro line has been kept reasonably up to date, the lower tier has been stagnant for a while. That is apparently going to change. WinBeta believes that a new, non-Pro Surface will be announced soon, at or before BUILD 2015. Unlike previous Surface models, it will be powered by an x86 processor from Intel, either an Atom or a Core M.

microsoft-surface2.jpg

This also means it will run Windows 8.1.

The article claims, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that Windows RT is dead. No. But still, the device should be eligible for a Windows 10 upgrade when it launches, unlike the RT-based Surfaces. Whether that is a surprise depends on the direction you view it from. I would find it silly for Microsoft to release a new Surface device, months before an OS update, but design it to be incompatible with it. On the other hand, it would be the first non-Pro Surface to do so. Either way, it was reported.

The “Surface 3”, whatever it will be called, is expected to be a fanless design. VR-Zone expects that it will be similar to the 10.6-inch, 1080p form factor of the Surface 2, but that seems to be their speculation. That is about all that we know thus far.

Source: WinBeta
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Storage Solutions

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

OCZ has been on a fairly steady release track since their aquisition by Toshiba. Having previously pared down their product lines, taking a minimalist approach, the other half of that cycle has taken place with releases like the OCZ AMD Radeon R7. Today we see another addition to OCZ's lineup, in the form of a newer Vector - the Vector 180 Series:

ocz_vector180_image1.jpg

Today we will run all three available capacities (240GB, 480GB, and 960GB) through our standard round of testing. I've thrown in an R7 as a point of comparison, as well as a hand full of the competition.

Specifications:

OCZ Vector 180 slides - 7.jpg

Here are the specs from OCZ's slide presentation, included here as it gives a good spec comparison across OCZ's SATA product range.

Packaging:

DSC09886.JPG

Standard packaging here. 3.5" adapter bracket and Acronis 2013 cloning software product key included.

Continue reading our review of the new OCZ Vector 180 SSD!!

Saved so much using Linux you can afford a Titan X?

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 27, 2015 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: gtx titan x, linux, nvidia

Perhaps somewhere out there is a Linux user who wants a TITAN X and if there is they will like the results of Phoronix's testing.  The card works perfectly straight out of the box with the latest 346.47 driver as well as the 349.12 Beta; if you want to use Nouveau then don't buy this card.  The TITAN did not win any awards for power efficiency but for OpenCL tests, synthetic OpenGL benchmarks and Unigine on Linux it walked away a clear winner.  Phoronix, and many others, hope that AMD is working on an updated Linux driver to accompany the new 300 series of cards we will see soon to help them be more competitive on open source systems.

If you are sick of TITAN X reviews by now, just skip to their 22 GPU performance roundup of Metro Redux.

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"Last week NVIDIA unveiled the GeForce GTX TITAN X during their annual GPU Tech Conference. Of course, all of the major reviews at launch were under Windows and thus largely focused on the Direct3D performance. Now that our review sample arrived this week, I've spent the past few days hitting the TITAN X hard under Linux with various OpenGL and OpenCL workloads compared to other NVIDIA and AMD hardware on the binary Linux drivers."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: Phoronix

It seems Microsoft is not abandoning the Surface Pro series

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2015 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

While the ARM based Surface model seemed likely to disappear there are many hints that the Surface Pro models powered by x86 processors are going nowhere and that even Windows RT will stick around.  More evidence came today from The Register who read through a Microsoft post and highlighted several updates to the UEFI in the Surface Pro 3 aimed at Enterprise users.  Some of the updates are minor but very useful, you can now set the boot device for the device in the UEFI instead of needing to physically push a button during boot.  One security feature which is key to the adoption of this device in the Enterprise is as being able to control what devices are functional on the Surface and with this update you can disable various connections as well as the USB ports.  The final feature, being able to make changes to the UEFI remotely has been enabled but the tool needed to do so is not yet available.

The device originally seemed doomed to failure but Microsoft has found a market for their tablet and we will be seeing new models soon.

Surface-Pro-3.jpg

"As explained in a blog post by Redmond's JC Hornbeck, the latest update to the Surface Pro 3's Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) adds new features for enterprise customers but only minor improvements for consumers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

MSI Unveils First AMD AM3+ Motherboard With USB 3.1

Subject: Motherboards | March 25, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, usb, msi, amd, am3+, 10Gbps

Last week, MSI launched a slew of new USB 3.1 equipped motherboards. Today, the company is releasing more details on one of the AMD-based products: the MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition. This upcoming motherboard is geared towards gamers using AMD FX (AM3+) processors and supports multi-GPU setups (both SLI and CrossFire). The 970A SLI Krait Edition has a black and white color scheme with rich expansion options and large aluminum heatsinks over the VRMs and northbridge.

MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition Motherboard.png

The AM3+ processor socket sits to the left of four DDR3 memory slots. Six expansion slots take up the majority of the lower half of the board and include two PCI-E x16, two PCI-E x1, and two PCI slots. Six SATA ports occupy the bottom-right corner with four at 90-degree angles. MSI is using its latest “Military Class 4” capacitors and other hardware along with gold audio traces connecting the rear IO audio jacks to the onboard sound chip.

Speaking of rear IO, you will find the following ports on the 970A SLI Krait Edition.

  • 2 x PS/2
  • 6 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.1
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 6 x Analog Audio

The main feature that MSI is pushing with this new board is the addition of two USB 3.1 (Type A) ports to the AMD platform. This is the first AM3+ motherboard to support the faster standard – up to 10 Gbps using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller – while also being backwards compatible with older USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices.

MSI has not yet released pricing or availability, but expect it to launch soon for less than $100.

Josh's Thoughts

Few specifications have been released about this board so far, as well as no timetable for the launch.  It is a finished product and should be out "soon" as Tim mentioned.

There are a few things we can gather from the photo of the board.  The audio solution is not nearly as robust as we saw with the 970 Gaming motherboard.  I doubt it will have the headphone amplification, and the filtering is going to be less due to fewer caps used.  The audio is still physically isolated on the PCB, but it has not received the same focus as what we saw on 970 Gaming.

It looks like it is a full 8+2 power phase implementation, as it is taking up more space on the board than the 6+2 unit on the 970 Gaming did.  This should allow for a greater selection of CPUs to be used, as well as potentially greater overclocking ability.  It does not feature a separate SATA controller, so all 6 SATA ports on the board are handled by the SB950.  There are no external e-SATA ports, which really is not a big deal as those are rarely used.

This looks to be a nice addition to the fading AM3+ market.  For those holding onto their AMD builds and wish to upgrade, this looks to be an inexpensive option with next generation connectivity.  MSI looks to have paid the licensing fee necessary to support SLI, plus they utilize the same AMD 970 chipset on the 970 Gaming that is not supposed to be able to split the 1 x 16X PEG connection to 2 x 8X slots.  Some interesting design and chippery are required to that.

Source: MSI
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Specifications

The perfect laptop; it is every manufacturer’s goal. Obviously no one has gotten there yet (or we would have all stopped writing reviews of them). At CES this past January, we got our first glimpse of a new flagship Ultrabook from Dell: the XPS 13. It got immediate attention for some of the physical characteristics it included, like an ultra-thin bezel and a 13-in screen in the body of a typical 11-in laptop, all while being built in a sleek thin and light design. It’s not a gaming machine, despite what you might remember from the XPS line, but the Intel Core-series Broadwell-U processor keeps performance speedy in standard computing tasks.

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As a frequent traveler that tends to err on the side of thin and light designs, as opposed to high performance notebooks with discrete graphics, the Dell XPS 13 is immediately compelling on a personal level as well. I have long been known as a fan of what Lenovo builds for this space, trusting my work machine requirements to the ThinkPad line for years and year. Dell’s new XPS 13 is a strong contender to take away that top spot for me and perhaps force me down the path of an upgrade of my own. So, you might consider this review as my personal thesis on the viability of said change.

The Dell XPS 13 Specifications

First, make sure as you hunt around the web for information on the XPS 13 that you are focusing on the new 2015 model. Much like we see from Apple, Dell reuses model names and that can cause confusion unless you know what specifications to look for or exactly what sub-model you need. Trust me, the new XPS 13 is much better than anything that existed before.

Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 13 Notebook!

Acer's Latest 15.6" Chromebook Powered By Core i5 (Broadwell-U) Processor

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 01:34 AM |
Tagged: core i5, Chromebook, chrome os, broadwell-u, acer

Acer is adding an updated Chromebook to its education-focused C910 lineup. The new Acer C910-54M1 ups the hardware ante by incorporating a Broadwell-U based Intel Core i5 processor which will make this the fastest Chromebook on the market (for what that's worth). 

This new C910 remains aimed at schools and businesses with a sturdy frame, large (for a Chromebook) 15.6" (up to) 1080p display, and eight hours of battery life. Below the display sits an island style keyboard and a large trackpad. Except for the arrow keys, Acer was able to use "regular" sized keys and did not shrink the shift or backspace keys which can be annoying. A webcam and two large upward facing speakers are also present on the C910.

Acer C910 Broadwell-U Core i5 Powered Chrome OS Chromebook.jpg

External I/O includes:

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x SD card reader

The port selection is about what one would expect from a Chromebook, but the inclusion of USB 3.0 is welcome for accessing external storage.

Internally, the C910 Chromebook is powered by a dual core (four threads with Hyper-Threading) Broadwell-U Core i5 5200U processor clocked at 2.2GHz base and up to 2.7GHz Turbo Boost with a 15W TDP and 3MB cache. This particular processor includes Intel HD Graphics 5500 clocked at up to 900 MHz. Other hardware includes 4GB DDR3 memory and a 32GB SSD. Wireless hardware includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. 

Acer's new Chromebook is big and powerful, but will the increased hardware provide a noticeably better Chrome OS experience? Intel (naturally) seems to think so with its push to get Core i3 processors into Chromebooks last year. The Broadwell-U Core i5 should be just as fast (maybe even a bit faster with smoother UX and graphics) while sipping power. The alleged eight hours of battery life is impressive as well considering. The downside, because of course there always is one, is pricing. The C910-54M1 will be available in April with a 1080p display for $500. 

At that price point, it is squarely in budget Windows notebook territory as well as high end convertible (e.g. Bay Trail) tablet territory. It will be interesting to see how it ends up doing compared to the other options which each have their own trade offs.

Are you interested in a Chromebook with a Core i5 processor?

Source: Maximum PC

Intel / Micron Announce 3D NAND Production with Industry's Highest Density: >10TB on a 2.5" SSD

Subject: Storage | March 26, 2015 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: storage, ssd, planar, nand, micron, M.2, Intel, imft, floating-gate, 3d nand

Intel and Micron are jointly announcing new 3D NAND technology that will radically increase solid-storage capacity going forward. The companies have indicated that moving to this technology will allow for the type of rapid increases in capacity that are consistent with Moore’s Law.

IMFT_Slide_1.png

The way Intel and Micron are approaching 3D NAND is very different from existing 3D technologies from Samsung and now Toshiba. The implementation of floating-gate technology and “unique design choices” has produced startling densities of 256 Gb MLC, and a whopping 384 Gb with TLC. The choice to base this new 3D NAND on floating-gate technology allows development with a well-known entity, and benefits from the knowledge base that Intel and Micron have working with this technology on planar NAND over their long partnership.

What does this mean for consumers? This new 3D NAND enables greater than 10TB capacity on a standard 2.5” SSD, and 3.5TB on M.2 form-factor drives. These capacities are possible with the industry’s highest density 3D NAND, as the >3.5TB M.2 capacity can be achieved with just 5 packages of 16 stacked dies with 384 Gb TLC.

vnand crop.png

A 3D NAND cross section from Allyn's Samsung 850 Pro review

While such high density might suggest reliance on ever-shrinking process technology (and the inherent loss of durability thus associated) Intel is likely using a larger process for this NAND. Though they would not comment on this, Intel could be using something roughly equivalent to 50nm flash with this new 3D NAND. In the past die shrinks have been used to increase capacity per die (and yields) such as IMFT's move to 20nm back in 2011, but with the ability to achieve greater capacity vertically using 3D cell technology a smaller process is not necessary to achieve greater density. Additionally, working with a larger process would allow for better endurance as, for example, 50nm MLC was on the order of 10,000 program/erase cycles. Samsung similarly moved to a larger process with with their initial 3D NAND, moving from their existing 20nm technology back to 30nm with 3D production.

IMFT_Slide_2.png

This announcement is also interesting considering Toshiba has just entered this space as well having announced 48-layer 128 Gb density 3D NAND, and like Samsung, they are moving away from floating-gate and using their own charge-trap implementation they are calling BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling). However with this Intel/Micron announcement the emphasis is on the ability to offer a 3x increase in capacity using the venerable floating-gate technology from planar NAND, which gives Intel / Micron an attractive position in the market - depending on price/performance of course. And while these very large capacity drives seem destined to be expensive at first, the cost structure is likely to be similar to current NAND. All of this remains to be seen, but this is indeed promising news for the future of flash storage as it will now scale up to (and beyond) spinning media capacity - unless 3D tech is implemented in hard drive production, that is.

IMFT_Slide_3.png

So when will Intel and Micron’s new technology enter the consumer market? It could be later this year as Intel and Micron have already begun sampling the new NAND to manufacturers. Manufacturing has started in Singapore, plus ground has also been broken at the IMFT fab in Utah to support production here in the United States.

Source: Intel

Logitech MX Master Mouse Announced

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2015 - 07:03 AM |
Tagged: mx master, mx, mouse, logitech

In the universe of computer mice, Logitech is one of the best known manufacturers. This one, the Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse, is not part of their “G Series”. At a price of $99.99 USD, or $119.99 CAD, it is their most expensive offering in that class.

logitech-mx-master-top.jpg

The MX Master is a five button, right handed mouse. While that is not particularly exciting, one interesting feature is the horizontal scrolling tumbler on the thumb rest. The wheel on top scrolls up and down, while the one on the side can scroll left and right (or be reconfigured with Logitech's software). It is also a laser mouse that is capable of tracking on many types of surfaces, including thicker sheets of glass. It can be paired to three separate devices at once, either by Bluetooth or Logitech's proprietary receiver. Its rechargeable battery lasts about 40 days of 6 hour per day usage. Four minutes of charging yields about six hours of usage, and you can apparently even use the mouse while tethered.

The Logitech MX Master will be available in April for $99.99 USD.

Source: Logitech

Windows Apps Still Smell Like Windows RT

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2015 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, winRT, windows rt

Even though I am really liking the Windows 10 operating system from a technical standpoint, I did not mind Windows 8.x, as software, either. My concern was its promotion of the Windows Store for the exact same reasons that I dislike the iOS App Store. Simply put, for your application to even exist, Microsoft (or Apple) needs to certify you as a developer, which they can revoke at any time, and they need to green light your creations.

windows-10.png

This has a few benefits, especially for Microsoft. First and foremost, it gives them a killswitch for malicious software and their developers. Second, it gives them as much control over the platform as they want. If devices start flowing away from x86 to other instruction sets, like we almost saw a few years ago, then Windows can pick up and go with much less friction than the corner they painted themselves into with Win32.

This also means that developers need to play ball, even for terms that Microsoft is forced to apply because of pressure for specific governments. LGBT groups should be particularly concerned as other platforms are already banning apps that are designed for their members. Others could be concerned about encryption and adult art, even in Western nations. If Microsoft, or someone with authority over them, doesn't want your content to exist: it's gone (unless it can run in a web browser).

On the plus side, I don't see the rule where third-party browser engines are banned anymore. When Windows 8 launched, all browsers needed to be little more than a reskin of Internet Explorer.

Beyond censorship, if Microsoft does not offer a side-loading mechanism for consumers, you also might need to give Microsoft a cut of your sales. You don't even seem to be able to give your app to specific people. If you want to propose to your significant other via a clever app, there does not seem to be a method to share it outside of the Windows Store unless you set up their device as a Window developer ahead of time.

Why do I say all this today? Because Microsoft has branded Universal Apps as Windows apps, and their strategy seems to be completely unchanged in these key areas. What kept me from updating to Windows 8 was not its user interface. It was the same thing that brought me to develop in Web technologies and volunteer for Mozilla.

It was the developer certification and lack of side-loading for modern apps.

I get it. Microsoft is tired of being bullied with crap about how it is insecure and a pain for the general public. At the very least, they need a way for users to opt out, though. What they are doing with Windows 10 is very nice, and I would like to see it as my main operating system, but I need to prioritize alternative platforms if this one is heading in a very dark direction.

Win32 might be a legacy API, but the ability to write what I want should not be.

Source: Thurrott.com

Psst, hey buddy I got some nice Android apps for you cheap! They just fell off the back of a truck ya know.

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2015 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: Android, security

If you are running a device with Android 4.3 or earlier you should avoid third-party app stores; arguably all users should but there are times when Google Play does not offer what you need.  A security problem with the way that APK files are authenticated during install can allow a seemingly harmless app to be modified, either at the source or while being transmitted, leading to the installation of an app that may not be entirely honest about what it does.  Palo Alto Network's testing shows versions 4.4+ do not suffer from this particular problem nor do the vetted apps at the Google Play store.  It is unlikely you will encounter this problem unless you usually install things from places like Creepy Ice Cream Van Discount Apps and Malware,  but you should be aware of the existence of this issue.  More at The Inquirer.

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"A FRESH VULNERABILITY CALLED Android Installer Hijacking is making itself known as a threat to almost half of all Android users."

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Source: The Inquirer
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Following the same pattern that Samsung led with the 840 Pro and 840 EVO, history has repeated itself with the 850 Pro and 850 EVO. With the 850 EVO launching late last year and being quite successful, it was only a matter of time before Samsung expanded past the 2.5" form factor for this popular SSD. Today is that day:

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Today we will be looking at the MSATA and M.2 form factors. To clarify, the M.2 units are still using a SATA controller and connection, and must therefore be installed in a system capable of linking SATA lanes to its M.2 port. As both products are SATA, the DRAM cache based RAPID mode included with their Magician value added software is also available for these models. We won't be using RAPID for this review, but we did take a look at it in a prior article.

Given that 850 EVOs use VNAND - a vastly different technology than the planar NAND used in the 840 EVO, we suspect it is not subject to the same flash cell drift related issues (hopefully to be corrected soon) in the 840 EVO. Only time will tell for sure on that front, but we have not see any of those issues present in 850 EVO models since their launch.

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Cross sectional view of Samsung's 32-layer VNAND. Photo by TechInsights.

Samsung sampled us the M.2 SATA in 120GB and 500GB, and the MSATA in 120GB and 1TB. Since both are SATA-based, these are only physical packaging differences. The die counts are the same as the 2.5" desktop counterparts. While the pair of 120GB models should be essentially identical, we'll throw both in with the results to validate the slight differences in stated specs below.

Continue reading our review of these new Samsung 850 EVOs!!

Learn a bit more about Knights Landing

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2015 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, silvermont, knights landing, Intel

Today a bit more information about Intel's upcoming Knights Landing platform appeared at The Register.  The 60 core and 240 thread figure is quoted once again though now we know there is over 8 billion transistors on the chip, which does not include the 16 GB of near memory also present on the package.  The processor will support six memory channel, three each in two memory controllers on the die, with a total of 384 GB of far memory.  The terms near and far are new, representing onboard and external memory respectively.  There is a lot more information you can dig into by following the link on The Register to this long article posted at The Platform.

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"Intel has set some rumours to rest, giving a media and analyst briefing outlining details of its coming 60-plus core Knights Landing Xeon Phi chip."

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Source: The Register

Renegade X Beta 4 Released with Trailer

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2015 - 08:59 PM |
Tagged: renegade x, UE3, udk, unreal engine 3

If you are looking for a game to play, Totem Arts has released their fourth public beta for Renegade X. You have probably heard of the game by now but, if not, it is a third-person shooter that is in the style of Command & Conquer: Renegade. Each team has a base that provides weapons, vehicles, and upgrades in exchange for credits. Players then use this superiority to destroy each others bases (and each other directly of course).

The game is powered by Unreal Engine 3 through the UDK program. From what I can tell, they are using the February 2014 build, which is a little over a year old but relatively up-to-date technologically. Epic Games added most DirectX 11 functionality back in the March 2011 UDK beta release. It looks quite good too.

And it's free (not free-to-play). Check it out.

Source: Totem Arts

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview Build 10049

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 10049

Less than two weeks after releasing the last preview build, 10041, Microsoft has pushed an update for users in the “Fast” ring. We have been asking for more rapid releases and we are beginning to get them. I spent quite a bit of Monday downloading, installing, and rebooting to install Build 10049. Now that I have used it for a bit, I can give my opinion.

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Before we get to what's new, I would like to get into what is fixed (and broken). First, apparently Visual Studio 2015 has some issues, particularly with deploying to external devices. On the other hand, my usage of Visual Studio 2013 seems fine and stable. Second, a bug is preventing Hyper-V from being enabled for users who want to create a virtual machine. If you upgrade to 10049 from a previous build, where Hyper-V has been activated, then “everything works fine” when you update.

One of the listed bugs for Build 10041 (the previous build) was that Windows Update would tell you to restart to complete updates even if nothing was installed, and that the messages could be “ignored safely”. I never had that happen in 10041, but have seen it this afternoon in 10049. No big deal.

As for fixed? When I upgraded to 10041, StarCraft II stopped working and apparently the bug extended to Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, League of Legends, and others. This has been fixed in 10049. I can play StarCraft II without problems. Yay! Also, many sections of the new Settings app crashed when I attempted to open them. This nuisance has been bugging me since one of the earlier builds from last year. It has mostly been fixed now. The only hiccup is “Apps & features”, which sometimes (but not always) crashes after the loading bar completes.

The main “feature” of this build is the introduction of Project Spartan. Now this is interesting. The browser itself feels a lot more smooth. I have been suspecting that Microsoft would include a DirectX 12 rendering path for Project Spartan, which would better explain the move to their “Edge” fork of Trident, but I have been unable to benchmark it. I have been trying to push sites with a lot of small draw calls, but it seems to be within the performance of a normal browser. One WebGL benchmark saw an increase of about 17% going between Internet Explorer 11 with Edge disabled and Project Spartan, but that is probably just more efficient rendering and JavaScript engines. So... nothing yet.

Apparently Cortana has been given some non-descript update. They might be referring to its integration with Spartan, which I have yet to test, but it is still unable to, for instance, set a timer or launch Photoshop.

It took me two installs to get it actually on my system, but it seems to be very stable for a pre-release operating system with a bunch of unfinished APIs and drivers. Looking good (but I'm still scared of Windows Dev Certification)!

Source: Microsoft