CES 2015: Lenovo Thinks That You'll Love Stackable Accessories

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Mobile | January 4, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: CES, usb 3.0, think stack, stack, power bank, peripherals, Lenovo, hotspot, ces 2015

Today at the Consumer Electronics Show, Lenovo announced updates and new additions to its Think-branded products aimed at business customers. New ThinkPad PCs, ThinkVision displays, and stackable ThinkPad accessories are launching early this year. 

ThinkPad Stack

The ThinkPad Stack represents a set of independent stackable accessories for business users to pair with their notebook or tablet. The Stack pieces can be placed atop each other interchangeably using a magnetic interlock system and can pass both power and data through the stack in order to connect to power and/or a PC with fewer cables. At launch, there are four accessories: a Bluetooth speaker, portable power bank, wireless hotspot, and a 1TB USB 3.0 hard drive. You will be able to stack any combination of the four accessories together or remove a piece to take with you to a meeting.

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The portable hard drive connects over a micro USB 3.0 connection to support fast transfer speeds. The wireless access point is able to take either a RJ45 wired Ethernet or 3G/4G cellular connection (using a wireless dongle) and broadcast out a Wi-Fi connection to allow you to share the Internet connection with multiple devices. The Bluetooth speaker accessory is aimed at business users wanting a simple device that can be used for conference calls (it has two 2W speakers and a noise cancelling microphone along with 3.5mm auxiliary and micro-USB line inputs). Finally, the power bank has a 10,000 mAh battery capacity and can charge two devices at 5V 2.1A on one port and 1A on the other port. Note that the speaker and hotspot have their own batteries as well.

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The ThinkPad Stack accessories will be available in April with pricing as follows:

Stack Accessory Pricing Availability
ThinkPad Stack Bluetooth Speaker $89.99 April
ThinkPad Stack 10000mAh Power Bank $49.99 April
ThinkPad Wireless Access Point / 1TB Hard Drive Kit $199.99 April

As such, the entire stack of stacks will run you just under $340 USD. The full stack weighs 861 grams or about 1.9 pounds and measures 136mm x 76mm (5.35" x 2.99"). It is a neat concept that should complement Lenovo's PCs well.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2015: NVIDIA Tegra Press Conference Live Stream

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: video, tegra, press conference, nvidia, live stream, live, ces 2015, CES

Tonight at 8pm PT / 11pm ET NVIDIA will be hosting its annual press conference from CES 2015. While I fully expect the majority of the information to be on Tegra-related products, there is a chance they could slip in some GeForce products as well. I leave nothing past NVIDIA with a 2 hour window.

You can watch the live stream of the event right here and I am going to be live blogging from the event as well, pending Internet capability inside the conference room.

 

Live Blog NVIDIA CES 2015 Press Conference

 

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CES 2015: MSI Implements USB 3.1 and USB Type-C Connector

Subject: Motherboards, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c, usb 3.1, msi, ces 2015, CES

If you are like me, you probably thought the world of USB was going to be stable for a bit. Not so much as it turns out! MSI was showing off a couple of new products in its suite at CES 2015 that showcase new performance levels for USB as well as a much-needed new connector type.

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First up, USB 3.1, the upgrade that includes performance as high as single channel Thunderbolt, 10 Gbps. MSI will be shipping USB 3.1 on a new revision of the GT72 gaming notebook as well as on the X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard shipping in February or March. Each will feature two ports of USB 3.1 capable of some impressive speeds.

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These results are based on a RAID-0 implementation of a pair of Intel SSD 730 SSDs running on a prototype USB 3.1 capable controller that MSI didn't want us to show you. Seeing USB speeds reaching as high as 694 MB/s are impressive, exceeding that of the best USB 3.0 speeds we have seen at 470 MB/s. Considering we are looking at very early devices and software implementations, MSI's results on this board are fantastic.

Maybe more exciting than a speed boost to some USB users is implementation of the USB Type-C connector on the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard due in the same time frame.

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There are several advantages to this new connector for both users and OEMs. First, it is reversible meaning you can plug plug the connector in upside down and it will work (finally!). It is also small, able to fit on the slimmest phones and tablets. Both sides of the cable are going to be the same, so any device that can use a Type-C connector will be able to use most any cable.

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Power delivery also improves - 10 watts (5V at 2A), 60 watts (12V at 5A) and even up to 100 watts (20V at 5A)! And all of this power can be sent through that tiny Type-C connector as well leaving the possibility of charging your laptop through the same connector as your phone.

Expect both USB 3.1 as well as Type-C connectors to be a big shift in the middle of Q1.

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CES 2015: Storage Visions: Western Digital SATA Express SSD+HDD Spotted

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: CES, western digital, storage visions, ssd, SATA Express, hybrid, hdd, ces 2015

At the SATA-IO booth at Storage Visions, they have a functional demo of Western Digital prototype hybrid HDD/SSD's.

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These are not hybrid in the traditional sense, as the SSD portion (128GB JMicron based controller driving Toshiba flash in the case of these prototypes) is logically separated from the HDD portion (a standard 4TB Black in this case).

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Given that a SATA Express link can simultaneously pass a PCIe 2.0 x2 link in addition to a SATA 6Gbit/sec link, this one unit can link an SSD and an HDD simultaneously and independently. Above you see the standard SATA Express connector, and below is how those pins are connected at the drive itself:

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Note the additional pins at what is usually the black side of the connector.

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The rest of the connector is mostly a standard SATA connector that you are used to seeing.

At the demo, we saw a single 3.5" hybrid unit booting from the SSD portion and using the 4TB HDD for mass storage, all from the same device. The second demo had a separate boot drive and linked a pair of these prototype units in a dual RAID. Configured through Windows dynamic volumes, a RAID of the HDD's offered the increased performance you might expect from a pair of 4TB WD Blacks. The SSD portion of each unit was also RAIDed, and we saw their combined throughput as just over 1GB/sec. That was not much more than what a pair of RAIDed SATA 6Gb/sec SSDs would do, but realize this was being accomplished in addition to (and independently of) the HDD portions.

We were not allowed to start removing screws, but here's a look at the accessible portion of the logic board for this drive:

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There is a JMicron controller paired with a single package of Toshiba flash. Toshiba has shown they can contain 128GB in a single package, so no problems there.

We're not sure where this technology is headed as the recent trend has been towards sticking with the standard SATA link for mass storage and M.2 SSDs plugged directly into the added port we've been seeing in many recent motherboards. We'll keep an eye on this technology moving forward, but for now at least we have seen it in the flesh and fully functional.

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CES 2015: MSI GS30 Shadow Notebook with Discrete GPU Dock Station

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: shadow, msi, gs30, gpu, docking station, ces 2015, CES

Laptops with external graphics - we have been chasing this ghost for a long time everyone. We have seen them attempted through ExpressCard slots and more recently through Thunderbolt. MSI has a different plan with the GS30 Shadow - a physical PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot.

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The GS30 Shadow starts with a laptop - a 13.3-in 1080p design that is surprisingly slim and sleek. It includes a Core i7-4780HQ processor with Iris Pro 5200 graphics, 16GB of DDR3 memory, RAID-0 performance with a pair of M.2 slots and Gigabit networking. Battery life is likely pretty low on its own as there doesn't seem to be much space for a large battery.

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But what really makes the GS30 Shadow stand out is the docking station included. This is a base measuring about a foot long by 6 inches wide and tall. It connects to the laptop through a physical x16 PCIe 3.0 slot along the back of the machine and mechanically latches into place. There is a very old-style feeling to the connection - you pull a latch and use a physical lock button to keep it in place. But once installed, the GS30 sits on top of the docking station and is ready for use.

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The docking station ships with a 450 watt desktop style power supply and supports a full size, desktop-class dual-slot graphics card. Also included are a set of speakers embedded in the front, four USB 3.0 ports as well as audio input and output connections. You will also be able to install additional storage inside the docking station; it adds room for a 3.5-in hard drive.

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The GS30 Shadow with docking station will ship this month and has an MSRP set at $1999. If you value the laptop alone at $1400-1500 then you are paying a premium of around $500 for the docking station capability. This is another new device from MSI that we are eager to test and see if it stands up to real-world usage scenarios as well as it sounds like it might. Could we finally have a good option for mobility + gaming that works for gamers?

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CES 2015: MSI GT80 Titan SLI 18-in Gaming Notebook with Cherry MX Brown Keyboard

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: titan, sli, msi, GTX 980M, gt80, cherry mx brown, ces 2015, CES

Back in late October MSI announced the GT80 Titan gaming laptop that included an impressive array of features, the most interesting of which was the full-size Cherry MX Brown keyboard embedded in the chassis. Seriously.

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At CES this week we got hands on with the beast and I have to say I came away pretty impressed. Hardware powering the system includes an Intel Core i7-4980HQ processor, a pair of GTX 980M GPUs running in SLI, 24GB of DDR3 system memory, up to quad M.2 SSDs in RAID-0, Killer wired and wireless networking and more. All of that hardware sits under the top portion of the bottom of the notebook - the LED backlit Cherry MX Steel Series keyboard takes up the entire depth of the GT80 in the bottom portion.

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Despite its appearance, the GT80 Titan is similar in size to some of the other 17/18-in Alienware notebooks currently selling, but they obviously don't include a Cherry keyboard will full travel switches. MSI also claims that access to the system memory, M.2 storage, 2.5-in HDD location and optical drive through the top panel allows for reasonable upgrade options down the road. Even the two MXM modules for the GTX 980M cards can be changed through the bottom of the GT80. (Mobile GPU upgrades have always been problematic.)

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The GT80 Titan will be available next week and will start at $3299 with a $3499 option including the faster Intel processor. That is an incredibly high price for a gaming machine that is less "portable" than "transportable" but it would be hard to get more gaming horsepower in a smaller package anywhere else. We are looking forward to a review unit showing up shortly after our return! Stay tuned!

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CES 2015: MSI Announces GTX 970 Gaming 100ME - 100 millionth GeForce GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 970, gaming, ces 2015, CES, 100me

To celebrate the shipment of 100 million GeForce GPUs, MSI is launching a new revision of the GeForce GTX 970, the Gaming 100ME (millionth edition). The cooler is identical that used in the GTX 970 Gaming 4G but replaces the red color scheme of the MSI Gaming brand with a green very close to that of NVIDIA's.

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This will also ship with a "special gift" and will be a limited edition, much like the Golden Edition GTX 970 from earlier this year.

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MSI had some other minor updates to its GPU line including the GTX 970 4GD5T OC with a cool looking black and white color scheme and an 8GB version of the Radeon R9 290X.

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CES 2015: Acer Announces New 27-inch Gaming Monitors Including IPS G-SYNC

Subject: Displays | January 3, 2015 - 07:55 PM |
Tagged: monitor, ips, gaming, g-sync, ces 2015, CES, acer, 144hz

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Today Acer has announced two new gaming monitors with "world first" designs. First we have the XB270HU, which is the world’s first NVIDIA G-SYNC gaming monitor with an IPS panel. This is a big step for a category that has predominantly featured TN panels, though it was not stated what the response time of the IPS panel in use might be. We can expect 178° viewing angles and that nice IPS color accuracy, however. The XB270HU also features tilt, swivel, and height adjustment.

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IPS provides realistic color, wide viewing angles, and this sweet logo

Next is the Acer XG270HU (yes, this is a different model name), which Acer says is "the world's first gaming monitor with an edge-to-edge frameless display", which would allow for gapless multi-monitor setups. This one does not feature IPS, but it has the advantage of a 1 ms response time. Inputs will include HDMI 2.0, DVI, and DisplayPort 1.2. The other added feature of the XG270HU is Acer "EyeProtect technology", which "eliminates screen flicker through a stable supply of power", as well as proprietary non-glare and screen dimming features. Both XB270HU and XG270HU monitors have 27-inch displays with WQHD (2560 x 1440) resolution and 144Hz refresh rates.

These will available globally and begin shipping in March 2015.

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Source: Acer

CES 2015: ZOTAC Announces Updated ZBOX Mini-PC Lineup - CI321, EN860, and 2nd Gen pico

Subject: Systems | January 2, 2015 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox pico, zbox nano, zbox, SFF, mini-pc, EN860, E-Series, CI321, ces 2015, CES

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As processors continue to shrink and power consumption dwindles to tablet-like numbers with the newest notebook computers, the mini-PC segment just gets more interesting. While the tiniest of these (ZBOX pico, ECS LIVA) might not be suitable for any heavy desktop use, ZOTAC is trying to cater to all needs with their new lineup for CES this year.

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The ZBOX CI321 nano

First up is a new addition to the C-series mini-PC family, the ZBOX CI321 nano. This is powered by a dual-core Intel processor with dual Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and supports dual-channel memory. The CI321 nano is passively cooled for completely silent operation.

Next we have the next-generation ZBOX E-series gaming mini-PC:

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The ZBOX EN860

The EN860 system adds G-SYNC support, multi display support (via DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI), and support for 4K @ 60 Hz (though at what kind of framerates we will have to wait and see).

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A look at the back of the EN860

Finally we have the second edition of the tiny ZBOX pico, a mini-PC that resembles a small external hard drive:

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The current-gen ZBOX pico 

The new version of the pico is set to offer both AMD and Intel versions with dual-display support, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB 3.0.

No specifics on hardware components for these new ZBOX units just yet, but we'll keep you updated once the show begins and more details emerge.

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Source: ZOTAC

CES 2015: Samsung to Show New ATIV Book 9 - A Fanless Notebook with Intel Core M

Subject: Mobile | January 2, 2015 - 09:18 AM |
Tagged: CES, wqxga, ultrabook, Samsung, notebook, laptop, intel core m, ces 2015, 5Y10c

Samsung has announced their latest ATIV ultrabook ahead of CES, and it looks impressive. Boasting a sleek all-aluminum design and packing 2560x1600 on its 12.2" screen, the latest ATIV Book 9 is powered by the newest Intel Core M technology with a fanless design for silent computing.

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Beyond the Core M 5Y10c processor and Intel HD 5300 graphics, the Book 9 features a selectable 4GB or 8GB of memory, and either 128GB or 256GB of SSD storage. The notebook weighs in at just over 2 lbs (2.09, actually) and measures only 0.46 inches thick. The battery can provide up to 10.5 hours on a single charge according to Samsung, which would put it near the current-gen MacBook Air in that department (which honestly appears to be the direct inspiration for this notebook's design). Samsung hasn't skimped in the sound department, with a high-end Wolfson DAC for lossless audio playback.

You may have read Ryan's review of Broadwell-Y performance back in November, and the results for these new chips are impressive when considering the ultra-low power design. The processor in this Book 9 (the Core M 5Y10c) is targeting just 3.5W SDP (4.5W TDP) while providing up to 2.0 GHz with a 4MB cache. The extremely low power requirements from these 14nm parts will allow more fanless designs like this notebook going forward, though it will be interesting to see how performance scales under extended use without a fan.


Specs:

Display: 12.2” WQXGA (2560x1600), 350nit (max 700nit) LED
Processor: Intel® Core™ M 5Y10c
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 5300
Memory: 8GB (4GB also available)
Hard Disk: 256GB SSD (128GB also available)
Audio: PC-Fi (Wolfson WM5102 integrated)
Camera: 720p HD
Battery Life: Up to 10.5 hours
Dimensions: 11.19" x 8.37" x 0.46"
Weight: 2.09 pounds
Color: Imperial Black
I/O Ports: 2x USB 3.0, micro HDMI and SD, RJ45 (dongle), headphone/mic combo


Pricing: $1199.99 4GB RAM/128GB SSD, $1399.99 8GB RAM/256GB SSD.

Availability: Q1 2015 (listing already active on Amazon).