ASRock Launches New Braswell-Based "Beebox" Fanless PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 26, 2015 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc, Intel, fanless, Cherry Trail, Braswell, asrock

Earlier this month, ASRock showed off a tiny fanless computer it is calling the Beebox. Powered by an Intel Braswell SoC, the new small form factor Beebox offers up a decent selection of I/O ports and general desktop performance while sipping power. The Beebox is approximately the size of Intel's NUC measuring 118.5mm x 110mm x 46mm x  (4.67" x 4.33" x 1.81" -- WxDxH) and will come in three color options: black, gold, and white.

ASRock Beebox Fanless Braswell NUC PC_Cherry Trail.png

This compact PC has a fairly extensive set of ports on tap. The front panel includes a headphone jack, infrared port, one standard USB 3.0 port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port which supports 5V/3A charging. The rear panel hosts the power jack, two HDMI outputs, one DisplayPort output, two USB 3.0 ports, a Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. Not bad for a small form factor PC.

ASRock will be offering the Beebox in three configuration options including a barebones kit, a version with 32 GB internal storage, 2 GB of RAM, and Windows 10, and a Beebox SKU with 128 GB of internal storage and 4 GB of RAM (and no OS pre-installed). Each of the SKUs are powered by the same Intel Celeron N3000 Braswell SoC. From there, users can add a single 2.5" SATA drive and a Mini PCI-E card (although this slot is occupied by the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless module). The system uses two DDR3L SO-DIMMs and supports a maximum of 8 GB DDR3L at 1600 MHz.

The aspect that made the Beebox stand out to me was the inclusion of the Braswell-based Celeron N3000 processor. This 4W 14nm part features two Airmont CPU cores clocked at 1.04 GHz base and 2.08 GHz turbo paired with 2MB L2 cache and a Gen 8 Intel GPU clocked at up to 600 MHz. This is a desktop variant of the Cherry Trail chips being used in tablets, but it is the lowest TDP Braswell chip currently at a mere 4 watts. ASRock likely went with this chip to ensure they could passively cool it and still keep temperatures in check. As FanlessTech notes, the chassis ASRock is using leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to heat dissipation compared to other fanless cases on the market.

We will have to wait for reviews to see how well the Beebox and its Braswell processor perform, but so long as ASRock is able to keep thermals in check, the little PC should offer acceptable performance for general desktop tasks (browsing the internet, checking email, watching streaming videos, etc). Cherry Trail (and keep in mind Braswell is a higher power chip based on the same architectures) is promising noticeable improvements to graphics and at least slight improvements to CPU performance. According to ASRock, the Beebox is going to be priced aggressively at "very low" price points which should make it a good compromise between older Bay Trail-D systems and newer (and more expensive) Broadwell and Haswell systems.

The Beebox is slated for late June availability, with exact pricing to be announced at that time.

Source: Ars Technica

Just Delivered: Lenovo Lavie-Z Lightweight Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 22, 2015 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, i7-5500U, Broadwell

After seeing it at CES this January, one our most anticipated products became the Lenovo Lavie-Z laptop. Born out of a partnership between NEC and Lenovo, the Lavie-Z promises to be the world's lightest laptop.


Our old-school postage scale doesn't have the accuracy to reach the 1.87lb that Lenovo clocks the Lavie-Z in at

Even after using the machine breiefly at CES, it is difficult to put into words what picking up a sub-2lb laptop is really like. Even after using the machine off and on today, it still feels like it's not a real machine. Lenovo and NEC have been able to accomplish this weight shedding through the use of a Lithium-Magnisum composite for the external housing of the machine, which seems durable, yet is incredibly light.



This may be a lightweight machine, but the specifications aren't compromised over other ultrabooks. The Lavie-Z is only listed in one configuration on Lenovo's site currently, but it's a high end one. A Broadwell Intel i7-5500U dual core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2560x1440 IGZO display, 256GB SATA M.2 Samsung SSD, and Intel 802.11AC wireless make up this machine. At $1500 for this configuration, there doesn't seem to be much of a markup over other i7-equipped ultrabooks.

We'll of course put the Lavie-Z through our normal paces including performance and battery life, and we certainly hope they live up to the striking first impressions of this laptop.

Stay tuned for our full review in the coming weeks!

Oculus Rift "Full Rift Experience" Specifications Released

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Displays, Systems | May 15, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus vr, nvidia, amd, geforce, radeon, Intel, core i5

Today, Oculus has published a list of what they believe should drive their VR headset. The Oculus Rift will obviously run on lower hardware. Their minimum specifications, published last month and focused on the Development Kit 2, did not even list a specific CPU or GPU -- just a DVI-D or HDMI output. They then went on to say that you really should use a graphics card that can handle your game at 1080p with at least 75 fps.


The current list is a little different:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 (or higher)
  • Intel Core i5-4590 (or higher)
  • 8GB RAM (or higher)
  • A compatible HDMI 1.3 output
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Windows 7 SP1 (or newer).

I am guessing that, unlike the previous list, Oculus has a more clear vision for a development target. They were a little unclear about whether this refers to the consumer version or the current needs of developers. In either case, it would likely serve as a guide for what they believe developers should target when the consumer version launches.

This post also coincides with the release of the Oculus PC SDK 0.6.0. This version pushes distortion rendering to the Oculus Server process, rather than the application. It also allows multiple canvases to be sent to the SDK, which means developers can render text and other noticeable content at full resolution, but scale back in places that the user is less likely to notice. They can also be updated at different frequencies, such as sleeping the HUD redraw unless a value changes.

The Oculus PC SDK (0.6.0) is now available at the Oculus Developer Center.

Source: Oculus

Podcast #349 - Death of Media Center, i7 NUC, Fractal Define S and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2015 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, supermicro, X99, Intel, amd, corsair, H100i GTX, H80i GT, fractal, define s, akracing, nvidia, shield, grid, epson, xeon e7 v3

PC Perspective Podcast #349 - 05/14/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Death of Media Center, i7 NUC, Fractal Define S 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: - 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!!


Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Intel

Some familiar scenery

If you thought that Intel was going to slow down on its iteration in the SFF (small form factor) system design, you were sadly mistaken. It was February when Intel first sent us a NUC based on Broadwell, an iterative upgrade over a couple of generations for this very small platform, 4" x 4", that showed proved to be interesting from a technology stand point but didn't shift expectations of the puck-sized PC business.


Today we are looking at yet another NUC, also using a Broadwell processor, though this time the CPU is running quite a bit faster, with Intel Iris 6100 graphics and a noticeably higher TDP. The Core i7-5557U is still a dual-core / HyperThreaded processor but it increases base and Turbo clocks by wide margins, offering as much as 35% better CPU performance and mainstream gaming performance boosts in the same range. This doesn't mean the NUC 5i7RYH will overtake your custom built desktop but it does make it a lot more palatable for everyday PC users.

Oh, and we have an NVMe PCI Express SSD inside this beast as well. (Waaaaaa??)

Continue reading our review of the Intel NUC5i7RYH SFF System with Broadwell and Iris!!

Intel Announces Xeon E7 v3 Processors Based on Haswell-EX

Subject: Processors | May 7, 2015 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: Intel, xeon, xeon e7 v3, xeon e7

On May 5th, Intel officially announced their new E7 v3 lineup of Xeon processors. This replaces the Xeon E7 v2 processors, which were based on Ivy Bridge-EX, with the newer Haswell-EX architecture. Interestingly, WCCFTech has Broadwell-EX listed next, even though the desktop is expected to mostly skip Broadwell and jump to Skylake in high-performance roles.


The largest model is the E7-8890 v3, which contains eighteen cores fed by a total of 45MB in L3 cache. Despite the high core count, the E7-8890 v3 has its base frequency set at 2.5 GHz to yield a TDP of 165W. The E7-8891 v3 (165W) and the E7-8893 v3 (140W) drop the core count to ten and four, but raise the base frequency to 2.8 GHz and 3.2 GHz, respectively. The E7-8880L v3 is a low power version, relatively speaking, which will also contains eighteen cores that are clocked at 2.0 GHz. This drops its TDP to 115W while still maintaining 45 MB of L3 cache.


Image Credit: WCCFTech

The product stack trickles down from there, but not much further. Just twelve processors are listed in the Xeon E7 segment, which Intel points out in the WCCFTech slides is a significant reduction in SKUs. This suggests that they believe their previous line was too many options for enterprise customers. When dealing with prices in the range of $1,223 - $7,174 USD for bulk orders, it makes sense to offer a little choice to slightly up-sell potential buyers, but too many choices can defeat that purpose. Also, it was a bit humorous to see such an engineering-focused company highlight a reduction of SKUs with a bubble point like it was a technological feature. Not bad, actually quite good as I mentioned above, just a bit funny.

The Xeon E7 v3 is listed as now available, with SKUs ranging from $1223 - $7174 USD.

Source: Intel

Podcast #348 - DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fiji, hbm, microsoft, build 2015, DirectX 12, Intel, SSD 750, freesync, gsync, Oculus, rift

PC Perspective Podcast #348 - 05/07/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways 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: - 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!!

GIGABYTE Enables 5th Gen Intel Core CPU Support for 9 Series Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | April 30, 2015 - 10:32 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Intel, Broadwell, h97, z97, bios, cpu, processor

GIGABYTE has announced support for the upcoming LGA 1150 variants of Intel's 5th-generation Core (Broadwell) processors for all existing 9-series motherboards via BIOS update.


The full press release appears below:

City of Industry, California, April 30th, 2015 – GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd., a leading manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards is proud to announce their entire line-up of Z97 and H97 motherboards now support the soon-to-launch 5th Generation Intel® Core™ processors.

GIGABYTE engineers have tested and validated all GIGABYTE 9 series motherboards including Z97 and H97 chipset-based motherboards to ensure optimal performance for 5th Generation Intel® Core™ processors. Users wanting to take advantage of all the features of 5th Gen Intel® Core™ processors have to offer at launch, simply need to download the latest UEFI BIOS from the GIGABYTE website.

To get the latest UEFI BIOS for your motherboard, please visit the GIGABYTE website:

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Don't be afraid of PCIe or NVMe

In very early April, Intel put a shot across the bow of the storage world with the release of the SSD 750 Series of storage devices. Using the PCI Express bus but taking advantage of the new NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) protocol, it drastically upgrades the capabilities of storage within modern PC platforms. In Allyn's review, for example, we saw read data transfer rates cross into the 2.6 GB/s range in sequential workloads and write rates over 1.2 GB/s sequentially. Even more impressive is the random I/O performance where the SSD 750 is literally 2x the speed of previous PCIe SSD options.


A couple of weeks later we posted a story looking into the compatibility of the SSD 750 with different motherboards and chipsets. We found that booting from the SSD 750 Series products is indeed going to require specific motherboards and platforms simply due to the "new-ness" of the NVMe protocol. Officially, Intel is only going to support Z97 and X99 chipsets today but obviously you can expect all future chipsets to have proper NVMe integration. We did find a couple of outliers that allowed for bootability with the SSD 750, but I wouldn't count on it.

Assuming you have a Z97/X99 motherboard that properly supports NVMe drives, of which ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte seem to be on top of, what are the steps and processes necessary to get your system up and running on the Intel SSD 750? As it turns out, it's incredibly simple.

Step 1

Make sure you have enabled NVMe in the latest BIOS/UEFI. The screenshot below shows our ASUS X99-Deluxe motherboard used during testing and that it is properly recognizing the device. There was no specific option to ENABLED NVMe here though we have seen instances where that is required.

Continue reading our overview of installing Windows on the Intel SSD 750 Series!!

Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM Releases Cortex-A72 for Licensing

On February 3rd, ARM announced a slew of new designs, including the Cortex A72.  Few details were shared with us, but what we learned was that it could potentially redefine power and performance in the ARM ecosystem.  Ryan was invited to London to participate in a deep dive of what ARM has done to improve its position against market behemoth Intel in the very competitive mobile space.  Intel has a leg up on process technology with their 14nm Tri-Gate process, but they are continuing to work hard in making their x86 based processors more power efficient, while still maintaining good performance.  There are certain drawbacks to using an ISA that is focused on high performance computing rather than being designed from scratch to provide good performance with excellent energy efficiency.


ARM has been on a pretty good roll with their Cortex A9, A7, A15, A17, A53, and A57 parts over the past several years.  These designs have been utilized in a multitude of products and scenarios, with configurations that have scaled up to 16 cores.  While each iteration has improved upon the previous, ARM is facing the specter of Intel’s latest generation, highly efficient x86 SOCs based on the 2nd gen 14nm Tri-Gate process.  Several things have fallen into place for ARM to help them stay competitive, but we also cannot ignore the experience and design hours that have led to this product.

(Editor's Note: During my time with ARM last week it became very apparent that it is not standing still, not satisfied with its current status. With competition from Intel, Qualcomm and others ramping up over the next 12 months in both mobile and server markets, ARM will more than ever be depedent on the evolution of core design and GPU design to maintain advantages in performance and efficiency. As Josh will go into more detail here, the Cortex-A72 appears to be an incredibly impressive design and all indications and conversations I have had with others, outside of ARM, believe that it will be an incredibly successful product.)


Cortex A72: Highest Performance ARM Cortex

ARM has been ubiquitous for mobile applications since it first started selling licenses for their products in the 90s.  They were found everywhere it seemed, but most people wouldn’t recognize the name ARM because these chips were fabricated and sold by licensees under their own names.  Guys like Ti, Qualcomm, Apple, DEC and others all licensed and adopted ARM technology in one form or the other.


ARM’s importance grew dramatically with the introduction of increased complexity cellphones and smartphones.  They also gained attention through multimedia devices such as the Microsoft Zune.  What was once a fairly niche company with low performance, low power offerings became the 800 pound gorilla in the mobile market.  Billions of chips are sold yearly based on ARM technology.  To stay in that position ARM has worked aggressively on continually providing excellent power characteristics for their parts, but now they are really focusing on overall performance and capabilities to address, not only the smartphone market, but also the higher performance computing and server spaces that they want a significant presence in.

Click here to read the rest of the ARM Cortex-A72 Introduction.