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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

AM3+ Keeps Chugging Along

Consumers cannot say that MSI has not attempted to keep the AM3+ market interesting with a handful of new products based upon that socket.  Throughout this past year MSI has released three different products addressing multiple price points and featuresets.  The 970 Gaming was the first, the 970 KRAIT introduced USB 3.1 to the socket, and the latest 990FXA-Gaming board provides the most feature rich implementation of the socket plus USB 3.1.

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AMD certainly has not done the platform any real favors as of late in terms of new CPUs and architectures to inhabit that particular socket.  The last refresh we had was around a year ago with the release of the FX-8370 and 8370e.  These are still based on the Piledriver based Vishera core that was introduced three years ago.  Unlike the GPU market, the CPU market has certainly not seen the leaps and bounds in overall performance that we had enjoyed in years past.

MSI has taken the now geriatric 990FX (based upon the 890FX chipset released in 2010- I think AMD might have gotten their money out of this particular chipset iteration) and implemented it in a new design that embraces many of the top end features that are desired by enthusiasts.  AMD still has a solid following and their products are very competitive from a price/performance standpoint (check out Ryan’s price/perf graphs from his latest Intel CPU review).

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The packing material is pretty basic. Just cardboard and no foam. Still, fits nicely and is quite snug.

The idea behind the 990FXA-Gaming is to provide a very feature-rich product that appeals to gamers and enthusiasts.  The key is to provide those features at a price point that will not scare away the budget enthusiasts.  Just as MSI has done with the 970 Gaming, there were decisions made to keep costs down.  We will get into these tradeoffs shortly.

Click here to continue reading the MSI 990FXA Gaming Review!

IFA 2015: Lenovo Introduces YOGA Tablet Series 3 Featuring Tab 3 Pro 10

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: YOGA Tab 3, yoga, x5-Z8500, Tab 3 Pro, pico projector, Lenovo, IFA 2015, Dolby Atmos

Lenovo’s newest Yoga tablets have arrived boasting some serious entertainment cred. The main event is the YOGA Tab 3 Pro 10, a 10.1” Android device with a 2560x1600 display, built-in 70-inch projector, and Dolby Atmos digital surround (!).

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It makes sense that Lenovo would have tailored their Android-powered Yoga 3 tablets for entertainment as tablets are often used for content consumption at home or on the go. But I wouldn’t have imagined Dolby Atmos (the new surround tech that adds vertical sounds to the mix) to find its way into a tablet, let alone one that will retail for $499. And let’s not forget about what Lenovo is calling a world first, that 70-inch rotating projector!

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While there was no listed resolution for the projector I don’t think it’s full HD

What about the rest of the tablet? It’s powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8500 quad-core processor, a 14 nm Cherry Trail part that features Intel HD graphics (up to 600 MHz) with 12 Execution Units which should help contend with the large 2560x1600 display resolution for GPU-intensive applications.

  • 10.1-inch 2560x1600 IPS display
  • Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) x5-Z8500
  • 2GB LPDDR3 memory
  • 16 GB or 32 GB onboard storage
  • MicroSD slot (up to 128 GB)
  • Rotating 70” Pico Projector, 50 nits, Digital Focus, Gesture Control
  • 4x front-facing speakers, Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound
  • Rear camera: 13 MP Auto Focus, Front camera: 5MP Auto Focus
  • 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth® 4.0, Optional 4G LTE (select countries)
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop

What kind of battery life can we expect? Thanks to a massive 10200 mAh battery the Yoga Pro 3 10” should last up to 18 hours, according to Lenovo. Pricing starts at $499 for the Wi-Fi version and $599 for the LTE model.

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Rounding out the lineup are the non-pro YOGA Tab 3 8-inch and 10.1-inch models. These versions retain the Dolby Atmos audio and will be offered in LTE versions, but have considerably lower specs (identical for both other than battery):

  • 8-inch 1280x800 IPS display
  • Qualcomm Quad-Core 1.3GHz (APQ8009)
  • 1 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot (up to 128 GB)
  • 8MP AF Rotatable camera
  • 2x front-facing large-chamber speakers
  • Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound
  • Lenovo AnyPen Technology
  • Bluetooth 4.0, Optional 4G LTE (select countries)
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop

Batteries are 6200 mAh for the 8-inch providing up to 20 hours, and 8400 mAh providing up to 18 hours for the 10.1-inch version. The 8-inch version will start at $169 for Wi-Fi only and $199 for LTE, and the 10-inch version will be $199 for Wi-Fi only and $249 for LTE.

Availability for the new YOGA Tab series was not immediately available and will be updated when announced.

Source: Lenovo

IFA 2015: ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum Announced

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 2, 2015 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: ROG, Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum, matrix, IFA 2015, GTX 980 Ti, DirectCU II, asus

The GTX 980 Ti has received the Matrix treatment from ASUS, and the ROG GTX 980Ti Platinum graphics card features a DirectCU II cooler with the new plasma copper color scheme.

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In addition to the claimed 25% cooling advantage from the DirectCU II cooler, which also promises "3X less noise than reference cards", the Matrix Platinum is constructed with Super Alloy Power II components for maximum stability. An interesting addition is something called Memory Defroster, which ASUS explains:

"Memory Defroster is an ASUS-exclusive technology that takes overclocking to extremes – it defrosts the Matrix card's memory during subzero overclocking to ensure sustained stability."

The overbuilt ROG Matrix cards are meant to be overclocked of course, and the GTX 980Ti Platinum offers convenience features such as a one-click "Safe Mode" to restore the card's BIOS to default settings, and a color-coded load indicator that "lets users check GPU load levels at a glance".

The Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum also comes with a one‑year XSplit Gamecaster premium license, which is a $99 value. So what is the total cost of this card? That hasn't been announced just yet, and availability is also TBA.

Source: ASUS
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

To the Max?

Much of the PC enthusiast internet, including our comments section, has been abuzz with “Asynchronous Shader” discussion. Normally, I would explain what it is and then outline the issues that surround it, but I would like to swap that order this time. Basically, the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark utilizes Asynchronous Shaders in DirectX 12, but they disable it (by Vendor ID) for NVIDIA hardware. They say that this is because, while the driver reports compatibility, “attempting to use it was an unmitigated disaster in terms of performance and conformance”.

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AMD's Robert Hallock claims that NVIDIA GPUs, including Maxwell, cannot support the feature in hardware at all, while all AMD GCN graphics cards do. NVIDIA has yet to respond to our requests for an official statement, although we haven't poked every one of our contacts yet. We will certainly update and/or follow up if we hear from them. For now though, we have no idea whether this is a hardware or software issue. Either way, it seems more than just politics.

So what is it?

Simply put, Asynchronous Shaders allows a graphics driver to cram workloads in portions of the GPU that are idle, but not otherwise available. For instance, if a graphics task is hammering the ROPs, the driver would be able to toss an independent physics or post-processing task into the shader units alongside it. Kollock from Oxide Games used the analogy of HyperThreading, which allows two CPU threads to be executed on the same core at the same time, as long as it has the capacity for it.

Kollock also notes that compute is becoming more important in the graphics pipeline, and it is possible to completely bypass graphics altogether. The fixed-function bits may never go away, but it's possible that at least some engines will completely bypass it -- maybe even their engine, several years down the road.

I wonder who would pursue something so silly, whether for a product or even just research.

But, like always, you will not get an infinite amount of performance by reducing your waste. You are always bound by the theoretical limits of your components, and you cannot optimize past that (except for obviously changing the workload itself). The interesting part is: you can measure that. You can absolutely observe how long a GPU is idle, and represent it as a percentage of a time-span (typically a frame).

And, of course, game developers profile GPUs from time to time...

According to Kollock, he has heard of some console developers getting up to 30% increases in performance using Asynchronous Shaders. Again, this is on console hardware and so this amount may increase or decrease on the PC. In an informal chat with a developer at Epic Games, so massive grain of salt is required, his late night ballpark “totally speculative” guesstimate is that, on the Xbox One, the GPU could theoretically accept a maximum ~10-25% more work in Unreal Engine 4, depending on the scene. He also said that memory bandwidth gets in the way, which Asynchronous Shaders would be fighting against. It is something that they are interested in and investigating, though.

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This is where I speculate on drivers. When Mantle was announced, I looked at its features and said “wow, this is everything that a high-end game developer wants, and a graphics developer absolutely does not”. From the OpenCL-like multiple GPU model taking much of the QA out of SLI and CrossFire, to the memory and resource binding management, this should make graphics drivers so much easier.

It might not be free, though. Graphics drivers might still have a bunch of games to play to make sure that work is stuffed through the GPU as tightly packed as possible. We might continue to see “Game Ready” drivers in the coming years, even though much of that burden has been shifted to the game developers. On the other hand, maybe these APIs will level the whole playing field and let all players focus on chip design and efficient injestion of shader code. As always, painfully always, time will tell.

IFA 2015: ASUS Introduces ROG G752 Gaming Notebook with 4K and Skylake

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, ROG, Republic of Gamers, notebooks, laptops, IFA 2015, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, G752, asus, 4k

ASUS has announced the newest addition to their Republic of Gamers (ROG) gaming laptop lineup, the G752. What's new? ASUS offers these bullet points:

  • All-new chassis with new design theme
  • New plasma copper, armor titanium and lava red color
  • Intel Skylake platform
  • NVIDIA graphics up to a GTX 980M 8GB
  • Optional 4K display
  • Thunderbolt 3.0 technology
  • Gaming keyboard with anti-ghosting 30-key rollover with 2.5mm long-travel keys

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The high-end model is the ROG G752VY, which boasts these specs:

  • 17.3” AG FHD IPS LED backlit display (1920x1080) with G-SYNC / 17.3” AG UHD IPS LED backlit display (3840x2160) with G-SYNC
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ / i7-6820HK Processor (TBD)
  • Mobile Intel CM236 Chipset
  • DDR4 2133 MHz memory up to 64 GB
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 4 GB / 8 GB GDDR5
  • 2.5” SATA 2TB 5400 RPM HDD/1TB 7200 RPM HDD/1TB SSHD, PCIEX4 M.2 NVME 512 GB / 256 GB / 128 GB SSD
  • DVD Super-Multi / Blu-ray combo / Blu-ray writer
  • Built-in HD camera and array mic
  • (WxDxH) 428 mm X 334 mm X 23~53 mm, 4.38 Kg (with 8-cell battery)

With the option of a 4K display and some serious specs the G752VY covers the bases for a desktop-replacement gaming powerhouse, topping the list of new laptops.

Sitting below the G752VY is the G752VT (yes this is a different laptop, though you could easily mistake the “T” for the other model name’s “Y”), and this 17.3” laptop differs in GPU selection with the GTX 970M and is only offered with a FHD 1920x1080 IPS display. Rounding out the lineup is the G752VL which has the GeForce GTX 965M GPU, and is otherwise virtually identical.

These new gaming laptops will be available in Q4, and pricing starts at $1499.

Source: ASUS

IFA 2015: ASUS Reveals RT-AC5300U Router: 8 Antenna Beast

Subject: Networking | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: RT-AC5300U, router, mu-mimo, IFA 2015, dual band, asus, 802.11ac

This is a seriously imposing-looking router, and the specs are just as huge.

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Here are some highlights from ASUS:

  • AC5300 speeds
  • Tri-band wireless up to 1000 Mbit/s on 2.4 GHz and up to 2167 Mbit/s on each 5 GHz band
  • Up to 5333 Mbit/s combined on the 5GHz band
  • NitroQAM technology for low-latency gaming and 4K/UHD streaming
  • Eight external antennas in a 4x4 config
  • Ultra-wide area coverage
  • Award-winning ASUS AiProtection Network Security Services

5333 Mbps on the 5 GHz band alone? So how does the RT-AC5300U router provide so much bandwidth? It’s powered by a staggering array of radios! Looking at the chipset specs we that it’s comprised of BCM4709 + BCM4366 (2.4 GHz) + 2x BCM4366 (5 GHz), with 256MB DDR3 memory and 128MB of flash. And we can’t forget the 8 external dual-band antennas! Yes, eight. Truly, this is a beast (though it looks like an overturned spider).

Pricing and exact availability were not revealed, but ASUS says it will be coming in Q4 2015.

Source: ASUS

ASUS Announces ROG GX700 Gaming Notebook that's Water Cooled

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: ROG, notebook, ifa, gx700, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, asus

IFA is turning out to be an odd place full of weird announcements focused on PC gaming and enthusiasts rather than just mobile phones and electronics. ASUS has gone in the completely opposite direction today, announcing not just a series of gaming notebooks but a new series that is water cooled. I'm not making that up.

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That is the new ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) GX700 series of gaming notebooks, coming in the 4th quarter of 2015. Looking for a price? You won't find it here but you will find a lot of interesting technology. This is what ASUS claims about the GX700:

  • All-new flagship gaming laptop
  • 4K 17-inch display
  • Water-cooling system with pump/radiator
  • Mobile K-series CPU with overclocking
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics (TBD)

A 4K screen in a 17-inch form factor is going to...have exceptionally small pixels. Clearly this is going to need quite a bit of Windows-based text and format scaling to make sure the desktop experience is usable. ASUS is using the new K-series Skylake processor that is unlocked and allows for overclocking in the same way you do so in the desktop market.

Oh, and what's this? An unannounced mobile GeForce GTX GPU? I doubt this is anything more than a currently shipping Maxwell GPU with some additional horsepower behind it, possibly more closely matching performance of the desktop GTX 980 Ti.

And of course, let's talk about the water cooling system. I asked for more details but ASUS wasn't budging. Clearly if you market this as a notebook there has to be portability to the device so expect that large portion that is front in center in the above picture to detach with quick connections to the notebook housing. That large external base will likely hold the pump, radiator, reservoir and even some docking functions like display connections, USB, etc. With water cooling and an unlocked Skylake processor you should expect some impressive overclocking capability considering the form factor!

I would assume that if you disconnect the machine to take on the road without the water cooling base the hardware would run at slower speeds with normal in-case fans as we see with other designs on the market today.

This sound amazing, crazy and kind of senseless, but I need to try it right away. Expect to pay top dollar for something like this especially considering the component cost of the screen, CPU, GPU, etc. not to mention the specific engineering for the new housing and design. I'll keep my eyes out for more information on the ASUS ROG GX700!

Source: ASUS

IFA 2015: Acer Aspire V Notebook Series Gets Skylake and Advanced Wi-Fi

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 06:00 AM |
Tagged: V Nitro, Skylake, NVMe, nvidia, notebook, mu-mimo, laptop, IFA 2015, geforce, aspire V, acer

Acer’s updated V Nitro notebook series has been announced, and the notebooks have received the newest Intel mobile processors and have been fully updated with the latest connectivity some advanced wireless tech.

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The Aspire V 13

"The refreshed Aspire V Nitro Series notebooks and Aspire V 13 support the latest USB 3.1 Type-C port, while 'Black Edition' Aspire V Nitro models support Thunderbolt 3, which brings Thunderbolt to USB Type-C at speeds up to 40Gbps. All models include Qualcomm VIVE 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Qualcomm MU | EFX MU-MIMO technology."

MU-MIMO devices are just starting to hit the market and the tech promises to eliminate bottlenecks when multiple devices are in use on the same network – with compatible adapters/routers, that is.

Aspire V15 Nitro VN7-592_08.jpg

The Aspire V 15 Nitro

What kind of hardware will be offered? Here’s a brief overview:

  • 6th Gen Intel Core processors
  • Up to 32GB DDR4 system memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce graphics
  • (SATA) SSD/SSHD/HDD storage options
  • Touchscreen option added for the 15-inch model

Additionally, the “Black Edition” models offer a 4K 100% Adobe RGB display option, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M up to 4GB, NVMe SSDs, and something called “AeroBlade” thermal exhaust, which Acer said has “the world’s thinnest metallic blades of just 0.1mm thin, which are stronger and quieter”.

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The Aspire V 17 Nitro

Pricing will start at $599 for the V Nitro 13, $999 for the V Nitro 15, and $1099 for the V Nitro 17. All versions will be available in the U.S. in October.

Source: Acer

IFA 2015: Acer Predator Z35 and XB1 G-SYNC Gaming Monitors

Subject: Displays | September 2, 2015 - 06:00 AM |
Tagged: Predator Z35, IFA 2015, gaming monitor, g-sync, curved, acer, 2560x1080, 21:9

Acer has announced a pair of gaming monitors, beginning with their first curved NVIDIA G-SYNC monitor, the Predator Z35.

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This 21:9 UltraWide display features a 2560x1080 resolution and supports overclocking for up to 200 Hz refresh. The Predator Z35 certainly looks the part, with angular styling and a dramatically curved (2000R curvature) screen that promises to help provide immersive gameplay.

Next up is the Predator XB1 Series, which consists of both 27-inch and 28-inch models.

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All monitors in the Predator XB1 Series feature NVIDIA G-SYNC technology, with resolution the differentiating factor between the two 27-inch models.

From Acer:

The 27-inch models (XB271HK / XB271HU) feature a ZeroFrame edge-to-edge design with 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) or WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS panels that support 100% of the sRGB color gamut, while the XB271HU supports NVIDIA ULMB and refresh rates of up to 144Hz. The 28-inch model (XB281HK) features a 4K UHD panel that has a fast GTG (gray to gray) response time of 1ms, rendering fast-moving actions or dramatic transitions smoothly without smearing or ghosting. 

Pricing for the Predator Z35 will be $1199, with XB1 starting at $799. The Z35 will be available in the U.S. in December, while the XB1 will be available in November.

Source: Acer

IFA 2015: Lenovo Introduces New ideapad Notebook Lineup

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, notebooks, Lenovo, laptops, Intel Skylake, Intel Braswell, IFA 2015, ideapad 500S, ideapad 300S, ideapad 100S, Ideapad, gtx, APU, amd

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Lenovo has unveiled their reinvented their ideapad (now all lowercase) lineup at IFA 2015 in Berlin, and the new laptops feature updated processors including Intel Braswell and Skylake, as well as some discrete AMD and NVIDIA GPU options.

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At the entry-level price-point we find the ideapad 100S which does not contain one of the new Intel chips, instead running an Intel Atom Z3735F CPU and priced accordingly at just $189 for the 11.6” version and $259 for the 14” model. While low-end specs (2GB RAM, 32GB/64GB eMMC storage, 1366x768 screen) aren’t going to blow anyone away, these at least provide a Windows 10 alternative to a Chromebook at about the same cost, and to add some style Lenovo is offering the laptop in four colors: blue, red, white, and silver.

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Moving up to the 300S we find a 14” laptop (offered in red, black, or white) with Intel Pentium Braswell processors up to the quad-core N3700, and the option of a FHD 1920x1080 display. Memory and storage options will range up to 8GB DDR3L and up to either 256GB SSD or 1TB HDD/SSHD. At 0.86" thick the 300S weighs 2.9 lbs, and prices will start at $479.

A lower-cost ideapad 300, without the “S” and with more basic styling, will be available in sizes ranging from 14” to 17” and prices starting between $399 and $549 for their respective models. A major distinction will be the inclusion of both Braswell and Intel 6th Gen Skylake CPUs, as well at the option of a discrete AMD GPU (R5 330M). 

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Last we have the ideapad 500S, available in 13.3”, 14”, and 15.6” versions. With Intel 6th Gen processors up to Core i7 like the 300S, these also offer optional NVIDIA GPUs (GTX 920M for the 13.3", 940M for the 14"+) and up to FHD screen resolution. Memory and storage options range up to 8GB DDR3L and up to either 256GB SSD or 1TB HDD/SSHD, and the 500S is a bit thinner and lighter than the 300S, with the 13.3” version 0.76” thick and 3.4 lbs, moving up to 0.81” and 4.6 lbs with the 15.6” version.

A non-S version of the ideapad 500 will also be available, and this will be the sole AMD CPU representative with the option of an all-AMD solution powered by up to the A10-7300 APU, or a combination of R7 350M graphics along with 6th Gen Intel Core processors. 14” and 15” models will be available starting at $399 for the APU model and $499 with an Intel CPU.

All of the new laptops ship with Windows 10 as Microsoft’s newest OS arrived just in time for the back-to-school season.

Source: Lenovo

IFA 2015: Lenovo Announces ThinkPad Yoga 260 and 460 2-in-1 Laptops

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: YOGA 460, YOGA 260, ultrabook, thinkpad yoga, skylake-u, Lenovo, laptop, IFA 2015, 2-in-1

The newest versions of the ThinkPad Yoga are here, and these updated models feature the latest Intel 6th Gen Core (Skylake-U) mobile processors while retaining the trademark 360-degree hinge.

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First up we have the ThinkPad Yoga 260, the 12.5-inch variant. This is the original form-factor from the ThinkPad Yoga S1, and while screen size and resolution options haven’t changed virtually everything else about this new laptop has.

The Yoga 260 makes use of the newest Intel CPUs from Core i3 to i7, and unlike that first TP Yoga S1 this uses DIMMs which creates the possibility of upgrading after purchase – but that probably won’t be necessary as the configuration options allow for a very powerful system:

  • 12.5-inch multi-touch display with 1366x768 or 1920x1080 resolution
  • Intel Core i3-6100U, i5-6200U, i5-6300U, i7-6500U, i7-6600U processors
  • Up to 16 GB DDR4 DIMM
  • Up to 512 GB SSD
  • Integrated Intel Graphics
  • 720p HD Webcam
  • WiGig, Bluetooth® 4.1, WiFi Combo Card, SCR, LTE-A
  • 2x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, OneLink+ and microSD ports
  • Battery life up to 10 hours
  • Windows 10 / Windows 7

The ThinkPad Yoga 260 starts at 2.9 lbs and will be offered in both black and silver finishes. We will update with pricing/availability when available.

Next there is the 14-inch version, the ThinkPad Yoga 460.

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The specs for the larger version of the new ThinkPad Yoga are a little more business-oriented than the 260 with an anti-glare screen option, DDR3L memory, and standard HDD storage available, and the 460 also adds a discrete GPU option:

  • 14-inch multi-touch display with 1920x1080 (glossy or anti-glare) or 2560x1440 (glossy) resolution
  • Up to 6th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors
  • Up to 8 GB DDR3L
  • Up to 1TB HDD, 256 GB SSD
  • Integrated Intel Graphics or NVIDIA GeForce 940M 2GB
  • 720p HD Webcam
  • WiGig, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi Combo Card, 802.11ac WLAN, WWAN Connectors
  • 3x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, OneLink+, 4-in-1 Media Card Slot
  • Battery life up to 10 hours
  • Windows 10

ThinkPad_Yoga_460_1.png

The Yoga 460 is constructed from a carbon fiber material and starts at 3.9 lbs, and will also be offered with either a black or silver finish. We’ll update with pricing/availability information for this one as well when it's announced.

Source: Lenovo
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

That is a lotta SKUs!

The slow, gradual release of information about Intel's Skylake-based product portfolio continues forward. We have already tested and benchmarked the desktop variant flagship Core i7-6700K processor and also have a better understanding of the microarchitectural changes the new design brings forth. But today Intel's 6th Generation Core processors get a major reveal, with all the mobile and desktop CPU variants from 4.5 watts up to 91 watts, getting detailed specifications. Not only that, but it also marks the first day that vendors can announce and begin selling Skylake-based notebooks and systems!

All indications are that vendors like Dell, Lenovo and ASUS are still some weeks away from having any product available, but expect to see your feeds and favorite tech sites flooded with new product announcements. And of course with a new Apple event coming up soon...there should be Skylake in the new MacBooks this month.

Since I have already talked about the architecture and the performance changes from Haswell/Broadwell to Skylake in our 6700K story, today's release is just a bucket of specifications and information surround 46 different 6th Generation Skylake processors.

Intel's 6th Generation Core Processors

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At Intel's Developer Forum in August, the media learned quite a bit about the new 6th Generation Core processor family including Intel's stance on how Skylake changes the mobile landscape.

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Skylake is being broken up into 4 different line of Intel processors: S-series for desktop DIY users, H-series for mobile gaming machines, U-series for your everyday Ultrabooks and all-in-ones, Y-series for tablets and 2-in-1 detachables. (Side note: Intel does not reference an "Ultrabook" anymore. Huh.)

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As you would expect, Intel has some impressive gains to claim with the new 6th Generation processor. However, it is important to put them in context. All of the claims above, including 2.5x performance, 30x graphics improvement and 3x longer battery life, are comparing Skylake-based products to CPUs from 5 years ago. Specifically, Intel is comparing the new Core i5-6200U (a 15 watt part) against the Core i5-520UM (an 18 watt part) from mid-2010.

Continue reading our overview of the 46 new Intel Skylake 6th Generation Core processors!!

ASUS Announces H170, B150, H110 and Q170 Motherboard Series

Subject: Motherboards | September 1, 2015 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, motherboard, LGA 1151, Intel Q170, Intel H170, Intel H110, Intel B150, asus

ASUS has announced a number of new motherboards today, all of which feature new Intel chipsets for LGA 1151 processors.

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We've seen quite a few Z170 motherboards show up on the market in the past month, and now prepare for the onslaught of the alphabet soup of variations. In addition to Z170 you will now be seeing H170, B150, H110, and Q170 (and who knows what else might manifest itself?). Fortunately, ASUS has announced boards with all of these new chipsets so you can find one precisely tuned to your build's needs - since we don't all need overclocking or multi-GPU support after all.

The boards will be segmented into a couple of classes, Signature and Pro Gaming. As ASUS describes:

  • ASUS Signature: H170, B150, H110 and Q170 chipsets in ATX, mATX and mITX, with 5X Protection II, USB Type-C, and LED-illuminated audio
  • ASUS Pro Gaming: High-value H170 and B150 boards with gaming-optimized audio and networking, USB 3.1 and M.2 connectivity, and smart DIY features

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Taking a look at the Signature series first, the H170-PRO, H170M-PLUS, and Q170M-C motherboards all require DDR4 memory, each supporting up to 64 GB 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM with 4 DIMM slots. The H170I-PLUS D3, on the other hand, makes use of the existing DDR3 standard for a less expensive upgrade path to Skylake, which natively supports both DDR3L (1.35V) and DDR4.

All four boards have Realtek ALC887 audio, and both “PLUS” boards offer Intel NICs with the Q170M-C sporting Intel vPro Gigabit LAN.

Moving down to the B150-PRO D3, B150M-PLUS D3, H110M-PLUS D3, and H110I-PLUS D3 we find a series of lower-cost boards that all make use of DDR3 memory, the same Realtek ALC887 audio, and Realtek Gigabit LAN. Both Intel B150 based boards also feature USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C along with standard USB 3.0 ports.

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Finally, we have the Pro Gaming tier, with the H170 PRO GAMING and B150 PRO GAMING D3. As you might have guessed the PRO GAMING D3 uses DDR3 memory, while the H170 version uses the new DDR4 standard. Both motherboards feature Intel NICs, Realtek ALC1150 audio, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A and Type-C.

Specifics on pricing and exact availability have not been disclosed, but the boards will be available “soon”.

Source: ASUS

Need to fake a signature? Perhaps you should try ThermalTake's new Posiedon keyboard

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2015 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: input, thermaltake, Poseidon Z Forged

At $100 the ThermalTake eSPORTs Poseidon Z Forged keyboard is a little less than most LED bearing mechanical keyboards.  It has 10 programmable keys, five to a side, which caused Techgage some consternation. but they did get used to the placement of the Enter key eventually.  The model they tested used Blue switches, Brown are also available if that happens to be your preference. The onboard DAC amplifier for S/PDIF headphones makes the keyboard an even better value compared to the competition, Techgage like how it performed but wonder if another lower cost version could be offered without the DAC.  Check out the full review here.

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"Thermaltake was once known only for its chassis and cooling products, but over the years, the company’s branched out tremendously. Through its Tt eSPORTS brand, it caters to those who take their gaming seriously. On the test bench today is a perfect example of a “serious” gaming peripheral: the Poseidon Z Forged keyboard."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Techgage

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.9

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2015 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, unreal engine, ue4.9, ue4, epic games, dx12

For an engine that was released in late-March, 2014, Epic has been updating it frequently. Unreal Engine 4.9 is, as the number suggests, the tenth release (including 4.0) in just 17 months, which is less than two months per release on average. Each release is fairly sizable, too. This one has about 232 pages of release notes, plus a page and a half of credits, and includes changes for basically every system that I can think of.

The two most interesting features, for me, are Area Shadows and Full Scene Particle Collision.

Area Shadows simulates lights that are physically big and relatively close. At the edges of a shadow, the object that casts the shadow are blocking part of the light. Wherever that shadow falls will be partially lit by the fraction of the light that can see it. As that shadow position gets further back from the shadow caster, it gets larger.

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On paper, you can calculate this by drawing rays from either edge of each shadow-casting light to either edge of each shadow-casting object, continued to the objects that receive the shadows. If both sides of the light can see the receiver? No shadows. If both sides of the light cannot see the receiver? That light is blocked, which is a shadow. If some percent of a uniform light can see the receiver, then it will be shadowed by 100% minus that percentage. This is costly to do, unless neither the light nor any of the affected objects move. In that case, you can just store the result, which is how “static lighting” works.

Another interesting feature is Full Scene Particle Collision with Distance Fields. While GPU-computed particles, which is required for extremely high particle counts, collide already, distance fields allow them to collide with objects off screen. Since the user will likely be able to move the camera, this will allow for longer simulations as the user cannot cause it to glitch out by, well, playing the game. It requires SM 5.0 though, which limits it to higher end GPUs.

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This is also the first release to support DirectX 12. That said, when I used a preview build, I noticed a net-negative performance with my 9000 draw call (which is a lot) map on my GeForce GTX 670. Epic calls it “experimental” for a reason, and I expect that a lot of work must be done to deliver tasks from an existing engine to the new, queue-based system. I will try it again just in case something changed from the preview builds. I mean, I know something did -- it had a different command line parameter before.

UPDATE (Sept 1st, 10pm ET): An interesting question was raised in the comments that we feel could be a good aside for the news post.

Anonymous asked: I don't have any experience with game engines. I am curious as to how much of a change there is for the game developer with the switch from DX11 to DX12. It seems like the engine would hide the underlying graphics APIs. If you are using one of these engines, do you actually have to work directly with DX, OpenGL, or whatever the game engine is based on? With moving to DX12 or Vulcan, how much is this going to change the actual game engine API?

Modern, cross-platform game engines are basically an API and a set of tools atop it.

For instance, I could want the current time in seconds to a very high precision. As an engine developer, I would make a function -- let's call it "GetTimeSeconds()". If the engine is running on Windows, this would likely be ((PerformanceCounter - Initial) / PerformanceFrequency) where PerformanceCounter is grabbed from QueryPerformanceCounter() and PerformanceFrequency is grabbed from QueryPerformanceFrequency(). If the engine is running on Web standards, this would be window.performance.now() * 1000, because it is provided in milliseconds.

Regardless of where GetTimeSeconds() pulls its data from, the engine's tools and the rest of its API would use GetTimeSeconds() -- unless the developer is low on performance or development time and made a block of platform-dependent junk in the middle of everything else.

The same is true for rendering. The engines should abstract all the graphics API stuff unless you need to do something specific. There is usually even a translation for the shader code, be it an intermediate language (or visual/flowchart representation) that's transpiled into HLSL and GLSL, or written in HLSL and transpiled into GLSL (eventually SPIR-V?).

One issue is that DX12 and Vulkan are very different from DX11 and OpenGL. Fundamentally. The latter says "here's the GPU, bind all the attributes you need and call draw" while the former says "make little command messages and put it in the appropriate pipe".

Now, for people who license an engine like Unity and Unreal, they probably won't need to touch that stuff. They'll just make objects and place them in the level using the engine developer's tools, and occasionally call various parts of the engine API that they need.

Devs with a larger budget might want to dive in and tweak stuff themselves, though.

Unreal Engine 4.9 is now available. It is free to use until your revenue falls under royalty clauses.

Source: Epic Games

New Thinkpads, choose AMD or even Intel RealSense 3D on your next business machine

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2015 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, Thinkpad E Series, Realsense 3D, windows 10

The new 14" and 15.6" Lenovo ThinkPad E Series were revealed recently and The Inquirer got a sneak peek at it.  They offer a choice of Intel and AMD models, somewhat good news for the much beleaguered processor company, along with up to 16GB of RAM and an SSD.  The most interesting upgrade is the Intel RealSense 3D camera on some models, which you may remember Ryan testing on the Dell Venue 8, which should make conference calls more interesting as well as letting you measure your room.  They also announced updated M and B and E line of laptops as well as the S series desktops, read more about it at The Inquirer.

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"The E Series laptops come with a host of features "ideal for business users", Lenovo said, including fingerprint scanning security and up to nine hours of battery life."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Seagate Pushes in to 8TB Territory with New Enterprise HDD Models

Subject: Storage | September 1, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, hdd, Enterprise NAS, Enterprise Capacity 3.5, 8TB

Just when we were starting to get comfortable with the thought of 6TB hard drives, Seagate goes and announces their lineup of 8TB HDDs:

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Now before you get too excited about throwing one of these into your desktop, realize that these models are meant for enterprise and larger NAS environments:

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As you can see from the above chart, Seagate will be moving to 8TB maximum capacities on their 'Enterprise NAS' and 'Enterprise Capacity 3.5' models, which are meant for larger storage deployments.

Home and small business users opting to go with Seagate for their storage will remain limited to 4TB per drive for the time being.

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For those curious about Kinetic, this is Seagate's push to connect arrays of drives via standard Ethernet, which would allow specialized storage applications to speak directly to the raw storage via standard network gear. Kinetic HDDs are currently limited to 4TB, with 8TB planned this coming January.

Seagate's full press blast appears after the break.

Source: Seagate

Western Digital Updates My Cloud OS3, Refreshes My Cloud Mirror

Subject: Storage | September 1, 2015 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, OS3, My Cloud Mirror

A little over a year ago, we took a look at the Western Digital My Cloud Mirror. This was a simple network connected storage device that came with a suite of software and mobile apps to give remote access to the data stored at home.

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Today Western Digital announced a refresh to the My Cloud Mirror. Available for pre-order today and in stores at the end of this month, the new Mirror is essentially just a speed boosted version of the original version (which was no slouch really). Something the added speed may help with is the functionality being added to WD's My Cloud OS software:

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The new 'OS3' version adds some requested features, such as using the My Cloud as a hub for syncing across multiple systems (similar to Dropbox, but with your own storage being used instead of their servers).

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Another requested feature was the ability to backup and/or offload pictures and videos from mobile devices. This can be done only when connected to WiFi or over cellular data if the user has the GB/month to spare on their data plan.

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Another interesting feature is My Cloud Albums. This feature lets you invite your friends/family to share *their* photos / videos from an event. You send them a link and they can then upload their content directly to your My Cloud via their mobile browser or via the My Cloud app (if they have it installed). This sounds like a great idea for collecting photos taken at group events like birthday parties or weddings.

My Cloud OS3 is slated for a 21 September release. We will take a look another look at its features once released.

Western Digital's full press blast appears after the break.

NVIDIA Releases 355.82 WHQL Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 31, 2015 - 07:19 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers, geforce, drivers

Unlike last week's 355.80 Hotfix, today's driver is fully certified by both NVIDIA and Microsoft (WHQL). According to users on GeForce Forums, this driver includes the hotfix changes, although I am still seeing a few users complain about memory issues under SLI. The general consensus seems to be that a number of bugs were fixed, and that driver quality is steadily increasing. This is also a “Game Ready” driver for Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

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NVIDIA's GeForce Game Ready 355.82 WHQL Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain drivers (inhale, exhale, inhale) are now available for download at their website. Note that Windows 10 drivers are separate from Windows 7 and Windows 8.x ones, so be sure to not take shortcuts when filling out the “select your driver” form. That, or just use GeForce Experience.

Source: NVIDIA

Crono Labs C1 Computer Case Hits Indiegogo: DIY AIO

Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 31, 2015 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: matx case, Indiegogo, enclosures, crowdfunding, Crono Labs, cases, C1 Computer Case

Crono Labs of Galway, Ireland is a startup that hopes to “declutter your desk” with their C1 Computer Case, a unique enclosure that allows you to mount a VESA compliant monitor to the case itself, creating your own all-in-one system.

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The C1 is a slim micro-ATX enclosure with support for standard ATX power supplies and graphics cards up to 10.5”, and it sits on a stand that looks like that of a standard monitor.

Here’s a list of compatible components from Crono Labs:

  • mATX or ITX motherboard
  • ATX PSU
  • Two 3.5″ drives
  • Two 2.5″ drives
  • GPU’s up to 10.5″
  • Low profile CPU coolers
  • Four 120mm fans
  • Water Cooling: 1X 120mm cooler and 1X 240mm cooler can be used, at the same time. Water coolers will not fit if an mATX motherboard is used

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The Indiegogo page is now up, and with a modest goal of $2000 they hope to create their initial prototypes before moving to the next phase of funding for production. It’s an interesting concept, and it looks like they have thought this design through with some nice touches:

  • A short VGA, HDMI and branching power cable come with the case for reduced cable clutter. Less mess, less stress.
  • Rotated motherboard points the IO ports downwards for tidier cables. The motherboard is also raised up into the case to allow cables to go beneath it.
  • Carry handle makes transporting the case easy, from desk to desk or room to room.
  • The case has a very small footprint, leaving you with a much more pleasing work area, for all that important stuff you do.

The idea of creating a portable all-in-one type system is appealing for the space-constrained or for LAN gaming, and the ability to use full-sized components would allow for a more powerful, and lower cost, build. What do you think of this design?

Source: Indiegogo