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Manufacturer: NVIDIA

The GM204 Architecture

James Clerk Maxwell's equations are the foundation of our society's knowledge about optics and electrical circuits. It is a fitting tribute from NVIDIA to include Maxwell as a code name for a GPU architecture and NVIDIA hopes that features, performance, and efficiency that they have built into the GM204 GPU would be something Maxwell himself would be impressed by. Without giving away the surprise conclusion here in the lead, I can tell you that I have never seen a GPU perform as well as we have seen this week, all while changing the power efficiency discussion in as dramatic a fashion.

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To be fair though, this isn't our first experience with the Maxwell architecture. With the release of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti and its GM107 GPU, NVIDIA put the industry on watch and let us all ponder if they could possibly bring such a design to a high end, enthusiast class market. The GTX 750 Ti brought a significantly lower power design to a market that desperately needed it, and we were even able to showcase that with some off-the-shelf PC upgrades, without the need for any kind of external power.

That was GM107 though; today's release is the GM204, indicating that not only are we seeing the larger cousin of the GTX 750 Ti but we also have at least some moderate GPU architecture and feature changes from the first run of Maxwell. The GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 are going to be taking on the best of the best products from the GeForce lineup as well as the AMD Radeon family of cards, with aggressive pricing and performance levels to match. And, for those that understand the technology at a fundamental level, you will likely be surprised by how much power it requires to achieve these goals. Toss in support for things like a new AA method, Dynamic Super Resolution, and even improved SLI performance and you can see why doing it all on the same process technology is impressive.

The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 Architecture

The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 graphics processor was built from the ground up with an emphasis on power efficiency. As it was stated many times during the technical sessions we attended last week, the architecture team learned quite a bit while developing the Kepler-based Tegra K1 SoC and much of that filtered its way into the larger, much more powerful product you see today. This product is fast and efficient, but it was all done while working on the same TSMC 28nm process technology used on the Kepler GTX 680 and even AMD's Radeon R9 series of products.

GeForce_GTX_980_Block_Diagram_FINAL.png

The fundamental structure of GM204 is setup like the GM107 product shipped as the GTX 750 Ti. There is an array of GPCs (Graphics Processing Clustsers), each comprised of multiple SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors, also called SMMs for this Maxwell derivative) and external memory controllers. The GM204 chip (the full implementation of which is found on the GTX 980), consists of 4 GPCs, 16 SMMs and four 64-bit memory controllers.

Continue reading our review of the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 GM204 Graphics Cards!!

Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspecitve
Tagged: tlc, Samsung, bug, 840 evo, 840

Investigating the issue

Over the past week or two, there have been growing rumblings from owners of Samsung 840 and 840 EVO SSDs. A few reports scattered across internet forums gradually snowballed into lengthy threads as more and more people took a longer look at their own TLC-based Samsung SSD's performance. I've spent the past week following these threads, and the past few days evaluating this issue on the 840 and 840 EVO samples we have here at PC Perspective. This post is meant to inform you of our current 'best guess' as to just what is happening with these drives, and just what you should do about it.

The issue at hand is an apparent slow down in the reading of 'stale' data on TLC-based Samsung SSDs. Allow me to demonstrate:

840 EVO 512 test hdtach-2-.png

You might have seen what looks like similar issues before, but after much research and testing, I can say with some confidence that this is a completely different and unique issue. The old X25-M bug was the result of random writes to the drive over time, but the above result is from a drive that only ever saw a single large file write to a clean drive. The above drive was the very same 500GB 840 EVO sample used in our prior review. It did just fine in that review, and at afterwards I needed a quick temporary place to put a HDD image file and just happened to grab that EVO. The file was written to the drive in December of 2013, and if it wasn't already apparent from the above HDTach pass, it was 442GB in size. This brings on some questions:

  • If random writes (i.e. flash fragmentation) are not causing the slow down, then what is?
  • How long does it take for this slow down to manifest after a file is written?

Read on for the full scoop!

AMD R9 390X Is Rumored Liquid Cooled

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling | September 15, 2014 - 02:50 PM |
Tagged: amd, R9, r9 390x, liquid cooler, liquid cooling, liquid cooling system, asetek

Less than a year after the launch of AMD's R9 290X, we are beginning to hear rumors of a follow-up. What is being called the R9 390X, because if it is called anything else, then that was a very short-lived branding scheme, might be liquid cooled. This would be the first single-processor, reference graphics card to have an integrated water cooler. That said, the public evidence is not as firm as I would normally like.

amd-r9-390x-leak.jpg

Image Credit: Baidu Forums

According to Tom's Hardware, Asetek is working on a liquid-cooled design for "an undisclosed OEM". The product is expected to ship during the first half of 2015 and the press release claims that it will "continue Asetek's success in the growing liquid cooling market". Technically, this could be a collaboration with an AIB partner, not necessarily a GPU developer. That said, the leaked photograph looks like a reference card.

We don't really know anything more than this. I would expect that it will be a refresh based on Hawaii, but that is pure speculation. I have no evidence to support that.

Personally, I would hope that a standalone air-cooled model would be available. While I have no experience with liquid cooling, it seems like a bit extra of a burden that not all purchasers of a top-of-the-line single GPU add-in board would want to bare. Specifically, placing the radiator if their case even supports it. That said, having a high-performing reference card will probably make the initial benchmarks look extra impressive, which could be a win in itself.

More NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Leaked Details

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 15, 2014 - 05:02 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, GTX 980

Details and photographs of the GeForce GTX 980 are leaking on various forums and websites. Based on the Maxwell architecture, it is supposed to be faster and more efficient than Kepler while being manufactured on an identical, 28nm fab process. While we were uncertain before, it now looks like the GTX 980 will be its formal name, as seen in leaked photographs, below.

NVIDIA-GeForce-GTX-980-Front-Picture.jpg

Image Credit: Videocardz

As expected, the cooler is a continuation of NVIDIA's reference cooler, as seen on recent high-end graphics cards (such as the GeForce Titan). Again, this is not a surprise. The interesting part is that it is rated for about 250W whereas Maxwell is rumored to draw 180W. While the reference card has two six-pin PCIe power connectors, I am curious to see if the excess cooling will lead to interesting overclocks. That is not even mentioning what the AIB partners can do.

NVIDIA-GeForce-GTX-980-Back-Picture.jpg

Image Credit: Videocardz

Beyond its over-engineering for Maxwell's TDP, it also includes a back plate.

nvidia-gtx-980-display-connectors.jpg

Image Credit: Chip Hell via Videocards

Its display connectors have been hotly anticipated. As you can see above, the GTX 980 has five outputs: three DisplayPort, one HDMI, and one DVI. Which version of HDMI? Which version of DisplayPort? No clue at the moment. There has been some speculation regarding HDMI 2.0, and the DisplayPort 1.3 standard was just released to the public today, but I would be pleasantly surprised if even one of these made it in.

Check out Videocardz for a little bit more.

Source: Videocardz

Three Display Component Vendors Support AMD FreeSync

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | September 18, 2014 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: amd, freesync, DisplayPort, adaptive sync

MStar, Novatek, and Realtek, three vendors of scaler units for use in displays, have announced support for AMD's FreeSync. Specifically, for the Q1'15 line of monitors, these partners will provide scaler chips that use DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync and, when paired with a compatible AMD GPU, will support FreeSync.

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The press release claims that these scalar chips will either support 1080p and 1440p monitors that are up to 144Hz, or drive 4K displays that are up to 60Hz. While this is promising, at least compared to the selection at G-Sync's launch a year earlier, it does not mean that this variety of monitors will be available -- just that internal components will be available for interested display vendors. Also, it means that there are probably interested display vendors.

AMD and partners "intend to reveal" displays via a "media review program" in Q1. This is a little later than what we expected from Richard Huddy's "next month" statements, but it is possible that "Sampling" and "Media Review Program" are two different events. Even if it is "late", this is the sort of thing that is forgivable to me (missing a few months while relying on a standards body and several, independent companies).

Source: AMD
Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction: A Crowded Market

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The case market is not only saturated at every conceivable price point, but there is enough of a builder’s DNA in their enclosure selection that making recommendations in this area can be a galvanizing undertaking. The enclosure with less usefulness can have perceived deficiencies mitigated by style, and vice versa. For some, style is the most important attribute. But functionality alone, when unnecessary elements are stripped away, can be attractive as well. Here we have a bit of both.

Fractal Design is a Swedish company specializing in computer enclosures, though much like Corsair (which started life as a memory company) they have diversified their product offerings with a line power supplies and all-in-one liquid CPU coolers, as well as case fans and accessories. The company cites Scandinavian design as the influence behind their aesthetic, with the minimalist approach of 'less is more'. With the “Core” series Fractal Design has just what that nomenclature indicates. An entry-level offering that still provides the essentials for a solid build. 

With the Core 3300 ATX case the basics are all represented, and it seems that nothing has been included for artistic reasons alone. The Core 3300 does not have a side window, and inside you won't see convenience features like toolless drive bays. Ultimately it’s a rather nondescript matte black case that’s mostly steel, but there are touches that help it stand out in this particular segment of a crowded market.

Continue reading our look at the Fractal Design Core 3300 case!!

Raptr's Top PC Games of August 2014

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2014 - 11:11 AM |
Tagged: wow, smite, raptr, pc gaming, lol, DOTA 2, Counter-Strike

The PC gaming utility, Raptr, keeps track of per-game play time across each of their of their tracked titles. Because it is not locked to Valve, Blizzard, Riot Games, Mojang, and so forth, it compares games that are from different publishers and distribution platforms as long as the software is running. Around once each month, the company shares their findings and gives brief explanations for notable results. Again, these are not sales or download figures. This ranking is decided by the number of hours played.

raptr-most-august-2014.png

Note: Diablo III is erroneously listed as losing a rank.
In July, Minecraft was #5 and Diablo III was #6

First, League of Legends continued its reign as most played PC game; in fact, it widened its lead to over one-fifth of all recorded game time (20.55%). This increase was mostly attributed to the game's 4.15 update. Second place, with a significantly less 7.62%, is World of Warcraft. Raptr believes it passed DOTA 2 for two reasons: WoW gained players from their Mists of Pandaria 50%-off promotion and DOTA 2 deflated a little bit after the swell from The International tournament.

Counter-Strike: GO held steady in fourth place and Smith Smite (Update 09/17/2014: Corrected typo), a free-to-play MOBA from Hi-Rez Studios, jumped five places to fifth place.

Source: Raptr

NVIDIA Game24 Is Coming in Three Days—And Promises to be a Star-Studded Event!

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2014 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, game24

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If you are in Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Mission Viejo (Ca.), Indianapolis, Shanghai or Stockholm you might want to see if you can get into GAME24, a 24-hour event celebrating PC gamers that kicks off on Thursday September 18th at 6PM PDT.  If you can't make it in person it will be broadcast live on the internet at www.GAME24.nvidia.com.

Highlights include:

  • New products announcements from NVIDIA and game publishers
  • A DOTA 2 Invitational tournament featuring professional teams including Evil Geniuses, Cloud 9, Team Tinker, and Alliance competing for a share of $15,000 in prizes.
  • Mod24, the world’s first 24-hour livestreamed modding completion will also be held.
  • Renowned modders Team Mongoose, BSMODS, and Team Kill Ninja will be at NVIDIA HQ in Santa Clara, California doing the onsite build.  Viewers of the live stream will be the judges and three lucky winners will take home these one of a kind builds.
  • Two world records will be broken!

Special guests will include

  • Jay (no Silent Bob though)
  • cos-play queen Chloe Dykstra
  • (ex)MythBuster Grant Imahara
  • Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter.
  • also appearing will be Tiffany Smith, Zach Selwyn, Alison Haislip, Alex Albrecht, Kristin Adams, Chris Gore and Blair Butler.

More information about GAME24 and details on the many local events taking place on September 18 can be found at:  www.GAME24.nvidia.com.

 

Source: NVIDIA

Acer's two new XBO series gaming displays; G-SYNC on both, 4k on one

Subject: Displays | September 18, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: Acer XB270H, XB280HK, 4k, g-sync

The Acer XB280HK is a 28" 4K G-SYNC display which will launch next month at expected price of US$799 or $849.99CDN.  The XB270H is a 27" 1080p display also with G-SYNC support and is currently available at $599USD or $649CDN.  As both are rated with a 1ms response time it is likely these are backlit TN panels but with the recent advances in TN panels the viewing angles should be much better than the original generation.

XB_sku_main.png

SAN JOSE, Calif., Sept. 18, 2014 – Acer America is bringing its new XBO series gaming displays featuring NVIDIA G-SYNC technology to gaming enthusiasts in North America. This cutting-edge line delivers significant performance advantages that infuse gaming with incredibly smooth, realistic and responsive visuals, elevating game play to a new level of stunning realism.

The two XBO series display models for North America include the Acer XB280HK boasting a 28-inch 4K2K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) display with a @60Hz refresh rate and the Acer XB270H with a 27-inch screen and a maximum Full HD 1080p @ 144Hz resolution. Both models provide a quick 1ms response time, further enhancing in-game performance. They also feature revolutionary NVIDIA G-SYNC technology, comfortable ergonomics and excellent connectivity.

“We’re excited to bring these first-rate gaming displays to gamers in the United States and Canada,” said Ronald Lau, Acer America business manager. “The incredibly sharp and smooth images provided by NVIDIA G-SYNC technology are sure to thrill the most avid gamers. Combined with Acer’s highly flexibly ergonomic stand, non-glare ComfyView panel and low dimming technology, users are assured long hours of both comfortable and visually stunning game play.”  

NVIDIA G-SYNC: Picture-Perfect Visuals
NVIDIA G-SYNC technology ensures that every frame rendered by the GPU is perfectly portrayed by synchronizing the monitor’s refresh rates to the GPU in a GeForce GTX-powered PC. This breakthrough technology eliminates screen tearing and minimizes display stutter and input lag to deliver a smooth, fast and breathtaking gaming experience on the hottest PC gaming titles. Scenes appear instantly, objects look visually sharp, and gameplay is more responsive to provide faster reaction times, giving gamers a competitive edge.

“NVIDIA G-SYNC technology dramatically improves the way gamers see their games, by delivering images that are fast, sharp and stutter-free,” said Tom Petersen, distinguished engineer at NVIDIA. “This is the way games were meant to be played, and gamers will absolutely love these new Acer XBO monitors.”

Comfortable Ergonomics
By making gaming as comfortable as possible, the XBO series monitors help extend game time with three Acer innovations. Acer flicker-less technology reduces eye strain via a stable power supply that eliminates screen flicker. Its low dimming technology provides users the ability to adjust brightness down to 15 percent in low-light environments and Acer ComfyView non-glare screen reduces reflection for clearer viewing, a significant benefit for gamers.

A flexible, multi-function ErgoStand extends a wide range of options for maximum comfort and viewing perspectives. For finding the best angle, the screen tilts from -5 to -35 degrees and the height can be raised by up to 5.9 inches. In addition, the base rotates 120 degrees from left to right for easy screen sharing during game play and collaboration with others. Plus, the screen pivots from horizontal to vertical to accommodate two entirely different gaming scenarios.

Both new XBO series monitors deliver wide viewing angles up to 170 degrees horizontal and up to 160 degrees vertical. The Acer XB280HK delivers 1.07 billion colors and the Acer XB270HL provides 16.7 million colors, while both offer a native contrast ratio of 1000:1, a 300 nits brightness and a 72 percent NTSC color saturation, a combination that delivers exceptionally vibrant, detailed and high-quality imagery.

Superb Connectivity
The displays come with DisplayPort as well as high-speed USB 3.0 ports (1 up, 4 down) that are located on the side and down of screen for easily connecting a mouse, keyboard, gaming headset, joystick and other peripherals. One of the USB ports is equipped for battery charging.  

Eco-Friendly Design
EPEAT Gold registered, the highest level of EPEAT registration available, the displays meet all of EPEAT’s required criteria and at least 75 percent of EPEAT’s optional criteria. They’re also mercury-free and LED-backlit, which reduces energy costs by consuming less power than standard CCFL-backlit displays. ENERGY STAR 6.0 and TCO 6.0 qualified, they adhere to strict environmental, performance and ergonomic design standards.

Pricing and Availability
The Acer XB270H is available now at leading online retailers in the United States and Canada with a MSRP of US$599 and $649.99 CAD. The Acer XB280HK will be available next month at leading online retailers in the United States and Canada with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of US$799 and $849.99 CAD.

Acer displays are backed by professional, high-quality technical support and a three-year warranty. Acer’s online community at community.acer.com provides customers discussion forums, answers to frequently asked questions and the opportunity to share ideas for new and enhanced services and products.

Source: Acer
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

It seems a lot of folks have been incorporating Silicon Motion's SM2246EN controller into their product lines. We first reviewed the Angelbird SSD wrk, but only in a 512GB capacity. We then reviewed a pair of Corsair Force LX's (256GB and 512GB). ADATA has joined the club with their new Premier SP610 product line, and today we are going to take a look at all available capacities of this new model:

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It's fortunate that ADATA was able to sample us a full capacity spread, as this will let us evaluate all shipping SSD capacites that exist for the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller.

Continue reading as we evaluate the ADATA Premier SP610!

Podcast #318 - GTX 980 and R9 390X Rumors, Storage News from IDF, ADATA SP610 SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2014 - 10:59 AM |
Tagged: windows 9, video, TSV, supernova, raptr, r9 390x, podcast, p3700, nvidia, Intel, idf, GTX 980, evga, ECS, ddr4, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #318 - 09/18/2014

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 980 and R9 390X Rumors, Storage News from IDF, ADATA SP610 SSDs and more!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fancy a pair of Windows 9 videos?

Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2014 - 09:25 AM |
Tagged: windows 9, microsoft, leak

The Register has linked to two videos which purportedly capture Windows 9, or at least Build 9834, in action and revealing some not so new tricks.  The first shows a feature which will be new to anyone who has never used Linux but will be old hat to anyone who has, multiple desktops.  This feature will let you have separate switchable desktops which you can run different programs on, it is not a tool to create virtual machines on the fly but is handy if you need a full desktop for development and one for ... entertainment.  The second video shows off the Start Menu, tiles and the much improved placement of the power off button.

"New videos of a "Windows 9" variant have emerged, and to this hack's eyes they look to have brought Windows up to speed with tricks that various desktop flavours of Unix have had for a decade or more."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Intex Cloud Fx Is a $35 Firefox OS Phone (not for USA)

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx

If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.

Intex-Cloud-FX-2.jpg

I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.

Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.

Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.

Source: Ars Technica

VESA Releases DisplayPort 1.3 Standard

Subject: General Tech, Displays | September 15, 2014 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: displayport 1.3, freesync, 5k, vesa, dockport

It is official, DisplayPort 1.3 has finished VESA approval and should be hitting the streets in the near future.  Freesync support came with 1.2a which is why it was not mentioned, however DockPort has been enhanced with the higher 8.1 Gbps link rate for each of the four lanes present which means you can support a 4k monitor using two of those lanes, leaving the other two available for USB, audio or even power.

This also means that 4k and even 5k monitors can function over a single DisplayPort 1.3 cable without any compression and with the use of VESA's Coordinated Video Timing you can have a pair of 4k monitors function in multi-monitor mode ... assuming you have the graphical horsepower to run 7680 x 2160.  It is rather impressive to see this jump to 32.4 Gbps combined link rate that can deliver 25.92 Gbps of uncompressed video data.

dp2.jpg

Newark, CA (15 September 2014) The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) announced the release of the DisplayPort 1.3 audio / video (A/V) standard. An update to the widely used DisplayPort 1.2a standard, this latest version increases the maximum link bandwidth to 32.4 Gbps, with each of four lanes running at a link rate of 8.1 Gbps/lane a 50% increase from the previous version of the DisplayPort standard. Allowing for transport overhead, DisplayPort's 32.4 Gbps combined link rate delivers 25.92 Gbps of uncompressed video data.

The increased bandwidth enables higher resolution monitors, including recently announced 5K monitors (with pixel resolutions of 5120 x 2880) using a single DisplayPort cable without the use of compression. It will also enable higher resolutions when driving multiple monitors through a single connection using DisplayPort's Multi-Stream feature, such as the use of two 4K UHD monitors, each with a pixel resolution of 3840 x 2160, when using VESA Coordinated Video Timing.

DisplayPort 1.3 continues to support video conversion to VGA, DVI and HDMI. DisplayPort 1.3 adds support for HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 with CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), which enhances DisplayPort's utility for television applications, including 4K video with copy protection. The new standard adds support for the 4:2:0 pixel structure, a video format commonly used on consumer digital television interfaces, which enables support for future 8K x 4K displays.

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DisplayPort 1.3 also enhances DisplayPort's value for multi-function interfaces that combine data transport, A/V transport and other capabilities on a single cable. It further refines protocols that enable DisplayPort to share a single cable with other data types. With its higher 8.1 Gbps per-lane link rate, DisplayPort 1.3 can support a single UHD monitor with 60Hz refresh and 24-bit color over two lanes, while assigning the remaining two lanes to increase capacity for alternate data types, such as SuperSpeed USB data, as allowed in DockPort. DisplayPort is the A/V transport standard used by DockPort, Thunderbolt and other wired and wireless multi-function interface standards.

While becoming a mainstream video standard, DisplayPort continues to be at the cutting edge of A/V transport, said VESA Board of Directors Chair Alan Kobayashi, Fellow & Executive R&D Management for DisplayPort Group at MegaChips Technology America. These new enhancements to DisplayPort will facilitate both higher resolution displays, as well as easier integration of DisplayPort into multi-protocol data transports, which will satisfy consumer's desire for simplicity and ease-of-use.

The DisplayPort standard is offered to VESA members without any license fee. For more information about DisplayPort, please visit http://www.displayport.org or connect with us on YouTube.

Source: VESA

Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android

Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.

microsoft-mobile-keyboard-universal.jpg

Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.

Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.

...

So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.

There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).

Source: Microsoft

Can a heavily overclocked ASUS STRIX GTX 750 Ti OC beat an R9 270?

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 18, 2014 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: DirectCU II, asus, STRIX GTX 750 Ti OC, factory overclocked

The ASUS STRIX GTX 750 Ti OC sports the custom DirectCU II cooling system which not only improves the temperatures on the card but also reduces the noise produced by the fans.  It comes out of the box with an overclocked  GPU base clock 1124MHz and a boost clock of 1202MHz, with the 2GB of VRAM set to the stock speed of 5.4GHz; [H]ard|OCP managed to increase that to an impressive 1219/1297MHz and 6.0GHz even for the VRAM without increasing voltages.  Unfortunately even with that overclock it lagged behind the Sapphire Radeon R9 270 Dual-X which happens to be about the same price at $170.

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"Rounding out our look at ASUS' new STRIX technology we have another STRIX capable video card on our test bench today, this time based on the GTX 750 Ti GPU. We will take the ASUS STRIX GTX 750 Ti OC Edition and test it against an AMD Radeon R9 270 and AMD Radeon R9 265 to see what reigns supreme under $200."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Engadget and Ars Technica Reviews Moto 360

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch

When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.

motorola-360.jpg

Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.

Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.

Source: Engadget

Stanford & Berkeley Announce Tiny, Signal-Powered Radios

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: radio-on-a-chip, iot, internet of things

Tiny and passively-powered radios would make for some interesting applications. One major issue is that you cannot shrink an antenna down infinitely; its size is dependent upon the wavelength of EM radiation that it is trying to detect. Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley have announced "ant-sized" radio-on-a-chip devices, fabricated at 65nm, which are powered by the signal that they gather.

stanford-antenna.jpg

The catch is that, because their antenna is on the order of a few millimeters, it is tuned for ~60 GHz. There are reasons why you do not see too many devices operate at this frequency. First, processing that signal with transistors is basically a non-starter, so they apparently designed a standard integrated circuit for the task.

The other problem is that 60 GHz is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and, with its high frequency, is very difficult to transmit over long ranges. The 57-64 GHz region, in particular, is a range which oxygen resonates at. While it is possible to brute-force a powerful signal through a sensitive antenna, that defeats the above purpose. Of course, the researchers have been honest about this. Right in their IEEE abstract, they claim a current, measured range of 50cm. In their Stanford press release, they state that this is designed to be part of a network with units every meter (or so). Current bandwidth is a little over 12 megabit.

Simply put, this will not become your new WiFi hotspot. However, for small and connected devices that are in close proximity, this could provide an interesting communication method for when size, cost, and power efficiency trump speed and range.

Source: Stanford

Microsoft Announces Wired Xbox One Controller for Windows

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, xbone, xbox one, controller, gamepad

A few months ago, Microsoft released 32- and 64-bit drivers for their Xbox One controller on Windows 7 and Windows 8. This was for wireless controllers attached by micro-USB to a PC. Now, Microsoft announced a new controller for Windows: the same controller, only bundled with the required cable. In fact, it can still connect wirelessly... to an Xbox One, not a PC.

xbox-one-controller-pc.jpg

The bundle will cost $59.95 (MSRP) and be available starting in November. As far as I can tell, the PC cannot update the Xbox One Controller's firmware; for that, you apparently need an Xbox One handy. It is possible that Microsoft will implement this, or already has and no-one is talking about it, but you might want to hold off until we know for a fact. One update adjusts analog stick sensitivity; this could be important, especially if you have multiple controllers at different patch levels. Yes, some PC games allow local multiplayer.

Developer's View on DirectX 12 Alongside Maxwell Launch

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2014 - 09:06 AM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, nvidia, microsoft, maxwell, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft and NVIDIA has decided to release some information about DirectX 12 (and DirectX 11.3) alongside the launch of the Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards. Mostly, they announced that Microsoft teamed up with Epic Games to bring DirectX 12 to Unreal Engine 4. They currently have two demos, Elemental and Infiltrator, that are up and running with DirectX 12.

epic-ue4-infiltrator.jpg

Moreover, they have provided a form for developers who are interested in "early access" to apply for it. They continually discuss it in terms of Unreal Engine 4, but they do not explicitly say that other developers cannot apply. UE4 subscribers will get access to the Elemental demo in DX12, but it does not look like Infiltrator will be available.

DirectX 12 is expected to target games for Holiday 2015.

Source: Microsoft