Zotac Launches Three New ZBOX Mini PCs At CeBIT 2012

Subject: Systems | March 9, 2012 - 11:15 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, PC, hardware

In a recent press release, Zotac unveiled three new ZBox small form factor computers, including one PC that features a blu-ray optical drive. Specifically, the new models include the ZBOX ID82, ZBOX Nano ID61, and the ZBOX Blu-ray AD05. In addition, the company offers "plus" versions of the three ZBOX computers that add 2GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive to the hardware package. Carsten Berger, marketing director for ZOTAC stated that the company is constantly pushing the small form factor envelope and the latest Intel Core i3 Sandy Bridge processors "enables us to give demanding users the performance edge they need."

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The ZBOX Nano ID61

The ZBOX ID61 is the smallest of the three PCs and is the latest in their Nano form factor. It is powered by a dual core Intel Celeron 867 processor, a single DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and an integrated multimedia card reader. Connections include HDMI, Displayport, 2 USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, 1 eSATA port, Bluetooth 3.0, and a built in IR receiver. The ID61 plus further features 2 GB of DDR3 1333 MHz laptop RAM and a 320 GB SATA III (6Gbps) hard drive.

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The ZBOX ID82

The ID82 represents the latest ZBOX PC, and while it is a big bulkier than the Nano series, it packs a lot more punch with an Intel Sandy Bridge Core i3-2330. The new Intel CPU is a dual core 2.2 GHz processor which further includes Hyper-Threading tech for a total of four virtual cores. Further, the PC has two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, DVI-I, and Bluetooth 3.0. The ZBOX ID82 Plus includes 2 GB of DDR3 RAM and a 320 GB laptop hard drive.

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The ZBOX Blu-ray AD05

Finally, the ZBOX Blu-ray AD05 is a small form factor PC that moves to AMD for their processor and GPU with the AMD E-450 APU with integrated Radeon 6320 GPU. The extra hardware horsepower provides the "oomph" needed to support smooth blu-ray playback. The mini PC holds a 4x Blu-ray reader that doubles as a 8x DVD +/- writer. It includes support for two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots and an 2.5" SATA II hard drive. Connections include HDMI, DVI, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, and one combo USB 2.0/eSATA port. The ZBOX Blu-ray AD05 Plus version further includes 2 GB of memory and a 320 GB hard drive.

All three of the mini ZOTAC ZBOX PCs (wow, that's a lot of caps) also feature Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and a bundled Media Center remote and USB IR receiver. No matter the model, the user is still responsible for providing an OS as one does not come bundled. Unfortunately, there is no word on pricing or availability.

Source: Zotac

PC Gaming Alliance Announces Record PC Game Sales in 2011

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2012 - 10:30 PM |
Tagged: sales, record, pcga, PC, gaming

In two surprising bits of news, the PC gaming alliance is not only still alive and kicking, but their recent report indicates that the PC games industry saw record sales numbers in 2011. The consortium reported that worldwide PC game sales hit $18.6 billion last year, a year over year increased of 15%. The initial numbers definitely seem to suggest that PC gaming is nowhere near dead.

The PCGA states that the rise in sales is due to increases in the Chinese PC games market and the rise in popularity of Free-to-Play games like TF2, Star Trek: Online, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft (which has a free component), and many others. The integration of some of the most popular Free to Play games into Valve's Steam store certainly didn't hurt either!

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Further, the release of several big hit titles including Battlefield 3, Skyrim, Saints Row: The Third, and Portal 2, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (my pick for PC Per Game of the Year) all contributed to the record sales numbers on the PC. According to the article, Asian publisher Tencent launched League of Legends and is now bringing in 11 million players (though it's likely that not all of those players are active and/or spend money on the service) and will be surpassing Activision as the company making the most money off of PC games.  Zynga, the company behind many of the annoying time sinks popular Facebook games, continued to rake in a boatload of money with 2011 revenue of $1.1 billion.

Not only did the PC gaming alliance report these positive numbers for 2011, but they predict that the PC games industry will continue to grow.  As digital distribution systems catch on and broadband connections continue to improve and spread into new areas (though Verizon and AT&T aren't helping matters by stopping further roll outs of FIOS and Uverse), the PCGA predicts that the industry will grow to $25.5 billion, which would be a 37% rise in four years.  If the growth rate continues in Asian markets and publishers continue to back down from DRM in favor of producing more titles that people want to buy, their predicted growth is certainly achievable.  More information on the PCGA report can be found here along with the full press release here(PDF).

Source: IGN

Mass Effect 3 is Coming, Pre-Order Now and Get Battlefield 3 (PC) Free

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2012 - 11:08 PM |
Tagged: PC, mass effect 3, gaming, game, ea, bf3, battlefield 3

Update: Apparently EA has decided to pull the deal because it was too good of an idea :(. 

The final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy is almost upon us, and for those itching to get a taste of Mass Effect 3 can now go and download the Mass Effect 3 demo for the PC via EA's Origin service. The demo delivers about an hour (they claim two hours, but I finished it in about an hour and I was purposefully taking it slow to take in the scenery and such) of Shephard battling against a (spoilers ahead) Reaper invasion.

Personally, from playing the demo I'm not convinced that it is going to live up to the hype, and it seems to be rather "dumbed down" compared to the first one. With that said, it was not terrible and I will likely pick it up if only to finish out the story.  The story itself hits hard in the demo and I am excited for that aspect of the Mass Effect sequel, for example.  If you have not already done so, check out the demo that's out now.

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Anyway, if you do enjoy the demo and are getting pumped for the release this March, EA is currently running a rather good deal on Origin for those willing to Pre-Order Mass Effect 3 from the Origin store. According to EA, users who place a pre-order for Mass Effect 3 through the Origin store for any platform (including digital download, boxed PC copy, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) before March 5, 2012 will receive a free digital PC edition of Battlefield 3 for free.  The codes for BF3 will be emailed to customers when they become available.

As always, there are some caveats:

  • The offer is only valid for those in US and Canada.
  • You must pre-order through Origin and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
  • You are not eligible for the free copy if you already own Battlefield 3 on Origin.
  • The Battlefield 3 codes will be emailed no later than March 8, 2012.

That last one is a big one (for me anyway).  Considering Battlefield 3 is already released, why can't those that pre-order ME3 get instant access to it?  I was all for the deal at first as I have not yet purchased BF3 and if I could get it for free by pre-ordering a game I was likely to buy anyway it sounded like a sweet deal.  Unfortunately, not being able to jump into BF3 to hold me over until Mass Effect 3 launched makes it less awesome.  After all, once Mass Effect 3 releases, I'm not going to want to play Battlefield 3 anymore!  Considering Battlefield 3 will likely still be approximately $60 on Origin in a few months, getting it free is still a good deal, but it's less of a impulse purchase knowing I might not get the Battlefield 3 code until after I have Mass Effect 3 downloaded.

It's there if you want it though, so go download the Mass Effect 3 demo and let us know what you think of it!

Source: EA

Microsoft Integrating Kinect Sensor Into Laptop Computers

Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2012 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: portable, PC, microsoft, laptop, kinect

At CES 2012, Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a Kinect sensor and SDK (software development kit) for Windows.  In that same vien, the company is now exploring the idea of integrating a Kinect sensor directly into laptop computers.

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Not the actual prototype.  Just a mock up I concocted.

The crew over at The Daily managed to get their hands on two such prototype laptops with integrated Kinect sensors.  They state tha the two machines resemble Asus laptops that are running Windows 8; however, upon closer inspection, the laptops have removed the typical 1.3 megapixel webcam that is common in today's notebooks and have instead placed a Kinect sensor bar at the top of the display instead.  They claim that a source within Microsoft has confirmed that the two laptops are indeed official prototypes.

Unfortunately, there aren't many details beyond that.  Whether Microsoft will forge ahead with this idea and license out the Kinect technology to laptop makers or if the prototypes will go into some bunker somewhere and never see the light of day still remains a mystery.  Currently at $250 (to end users, OEMs could likely cut a much better deal), it is not likely that we will see a proliferation of Kinect sensors into all manner of displays for notebooks, TVs, and desktops.  If Microsoft could get the cost of the technology down far enough that manufacturers could justify adding it, it could definitely catch on.  In the end, I don't think we'll be seeing Kinect powered computers any time soon, but in the future when the hardware is cheaper and there are Kinect for Windows applications readily available, it could happen.  Would you like to see Kinect in your laptop (insert Xzibit meme here) or desktop monitor, and if so what would you like to do with it?

Source: The Daily

AMD Countering Ultrabooks With Ultrathin Notebooks

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 12, 2012 - 03:21 PM |
Tagged: CES, ultrathin, trinity, piledriver, PC, notebook, low power, amd, 17 watt

Intel is the driving force behind the Ultrabook platform, a category of thin and light notebooks that are ideally less than $1,000 USD and deliver solid mobile performance and battery life. AMD is still playing catch up in CPU performance; however, they have been moderately successful with their Llano APU parts due to the better integrated GPU versus Intel's graphics processor. With Trinity, the successor to Llano, AMD is claiming up to 25% faster CPU performance and a 50% increase in graphics processor performance, and all while sipping half the power of current Llano chips.

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The 17 watt TDP Trinity die.

It seems that AMD has seen the Ultrabook boom that Intel is experiencing and wants a piece of the action. Thanks to the Trinity performance improvements and power sipping TDPs, AMD is confident that it can design and market thin and light notebooks of their own. They plan to market their notebooks as "Ultrathins." Exact hardware specifications of the Ultrathins are not known. We do know that they will be powered by dual and quad core 17 watt TDP versions of the AMD Trinity APU, which you can read more about here. The company is planning for its Ultrathins to start at $500 USD, a few hundred less than the lowest cost Ultrabooks from Intel. Beyond that, we can only speculate. Fortunately, we may not have to wait long for more information as AMD plans to reveal more information about their Ultrathin strategy next month at their financial analyst meeting, according to Ars.

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A Trinity powered laptop at CES

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft Releasing Kinect for Windows And SDK On February 1st, 2012

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 08:18 AM |
Tagged: xbox, windows, voice, software, PC, microsoft, kinect, gestures

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that on February 1st, the new Kinect sensor for Windows would become available for purchase. In addition to the new Kinect for Windows sensor hardware, Microsoft is releasing an official SDk or Software Development Kit. Having the SDK installed on a Windows operating system will be required in order to use Kinect software applications. Currently, there are no (Microsoft official) consumer applications using Kinect; however, official hardware and an official SDK will surely spur software development.

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Microsoft is confident that the launch of the SDK and specially tuned hardware will spur development of software. According to MSNBC, the company is working with over 200 companies to develop software applications for Windows using Kinect. Microsoft's partners include Toyota, Mattel, American Express, and United Health Group. These corporate partners seem to indicate that initial Kinect applications will be designed for consumers to use in a business setting, say on a sales floor of car dealerships, at hospitals, or point of sale devices (maybe American Express is planning a "card swipe" application where holding the card up to the Kinect can be used to purchase items. Software for consumers to use at home is also likely in the pipeline and users will see them in the future.

Due to the Microsoft Kinect for Windows sensor not being subsidized by Xbox 360 games and accessories, the PC version is $100 more than the Xbox 360 version, and will retail for $250 USD. Amazon currently has the device (for pre-order) here for a whole penny less at $249.99.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: MSNBC

Battlefield 3 Sells 5 Million Copies

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 01:15 AM |
Tagged: PC, gaming, fps, ea, bf3, battlefield 3

As many readers of the site will know, the PC Perspective guys have been a “bit” interested in EA’s latest multiplayer first person shooter (FPS) Battlefield 3. Ryan for one has been “testing” Battlefield 3 extensively since the game’s release as he admitted on the latest TWICH podcast.

According to EA, the PC Per staff are not the only ones to enjoy the game (despite some game issues; I’m looking at you Origin) as Battlefield 3 has sold a whopping 5 million copies. It seems as though Battlefield 3 has emerged from the battle against stability issues to win the war and be a successful release. Battlefield 3’s sales have also impressed Electronic Arts who claimed the 5 million copies have surpassed their “best expectations.” Unfortunately, they have yet to release the numbers (that I want to see) concerning the percentage of sales of the PC versus the consoles.

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Another bit of positive BF3 news is that almost 99 % of the game stability issues have been fixed. M ore information on the game issues can be found here. Until next time, feel free to hit up the PCPER BF3 platoon and play with some fun people!

Source: Ars Technica

HP Reverses Plans to Spin Off Personal Systems Group

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2011 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: psg, PC, hp, business

A few months ago, there was talk coming from Hewlett-Packard regarding their Personal Systems Group, which is the OEM/PC Manufacturing aspect of the company. Management talked and seemed to decide that they would pull and IBM and sell off their PC division to become a services company. This plan was pushed by the (now) former CEO Leo Apotheker who came from a services background. The company stopped rolling out WebOS devices including the HP Touchpad, and was further considering getting rid of the whole PC division.

A surprising "whoops" emanated from HP today as the new CEO Meg Whitman reversed the previous plans to spin off the PC or Personal Systems Group division. According to Ars Technica, HP’s PSG isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The site quoted the new HP CEO in stating “it’s clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers, and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees.” She believes keeping the Personal Systems Group makes HP stronger.

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Not only is HP keeping the OEM aspects of the company alive, they are planning on expanding their current lineup in the mobile space with, and you guessed it, an ultrabook of all things! While this is likely much to the chagrin of our own Jeremy Hellstrom who would rather have 2 X79 motherboards duct taped together than an ultrabook, consumers and fans of a certain other fruit flavored slim form factor computer will likely appreciate some more competition in the ultrabook space to bring down prices a bit.

HP’s Executive Vice President over the PSG, Todd Bradley, has been quoted by several sites in a conference call yesterday as saying an HP Ultrabook is coming very soon. 

"We’re very focused on having a suite in that ultramobile space. And you’ll see that very soon."

-via Maximum PC

What do you think of this move? Does HP need a lesson in moderation in a time when they are either all on or all off on decisions (that are further flip flopping back and forth), or will jumping into the Ultrabook game be a good thing for the company?

Source: Ars Technica

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC System Requirements Revealed

Subject: General Tech | October 25, 2011 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, PC, gaming

Although most of you are busy blasting away at Battlefield 3, there are likely quite a few that are also interested in the RPG genre, and in that vein Kotaku has recently gotten their hands on and released the minimum and recommended system requirements for the upcoming Elder Scrolls: Skyrim PC game.  Keep in mind when looking at the recommended system requirements, that they are for running the game at "High" graphics settings and not "Ultra" which will require more powerful specifications.

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Source: Gameinformer

The minimum system requirements for Skyrim are as follows:

CPU (Processor) Dual Core @ 2.0 GHz
GPU (Graphics Card) DirectX 9c compatible w/ 512MB RAM
RAM (System Memory) 2GB
OS (Operating System) Windows XP, Vista, or 7 (32 or 64 bit)

 

Those are fairly tame, and most computers around today should be able to at least run the game, with some concessions.  The recommended system requirements bump things up a bit for those that prefer shinier graphics in their RPGs.

CPU (Processor) Quad Core Intel or AMD
GPU (Graphics Card) DirectX 9 compatible w/ 1GB RAM
  AMD 4890 or Nvidia GTX 260 or higher
RAM (System Memory) 4GB
Sound Card DirectX compatible
OS (Operating System) Windows XP or 7

 

Interestingly (though not surprisingly to some), Windows Vista doesn't make the list for recommended specs, which may or may not be a mistake.  As you can see, even the recommended specifications aren't too high, at least compared to other (more demanding) new releases this year.  Is your PC ready for Skyrim?

Source: Kotaku

Battlefield 3 Will Be Standard Definition Without Hard Drive Install

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2011 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: xbox, PC, gaming, ea, dice, bf3, battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is nearing its October 25th release date and information about each platform's release is starting to pour in.  One notable piece of information concerns the optional hard drive install for the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3.  We reported earlier that the FPS would come on two DVDs for the Xbox 360, and a BF3 producer had been quoted in stating that the DVDs could be installed to the system to enable "optional high resolution textures."  At the time, I had assumed that the optional install would merely boost the (already) HD (high definition) image; however, according to Shack News the game will be only standard definition without the hard drive installation.

The PC will always have HD resolutions available, assuming your rig can handle it.

Executive producer Partick Bach explains that Battlefield 3 is based around a streaming texture engine where the terrain, textures, and content are all streamed in, and is a new way of doing things on the console (though not the gaming industry as a whole).  Unfortunately, it looks like the concern many gamers had in regards to the Xbox 360's DVD drive not being able to stream high quality textures fast enough have been realized.  Both the PC and the Playstation 3 on the other hand, are able to stream the necessary HD textures from the hard drive (PC) and Blu-Ray disc (PS3).

Mr. Bach further explains that because there are so many Xbox 360s with either no hard drives or (nearly useless) 4 GB drives, the company had to develop the Xbox version such that even a system with no hard drive could at least play the game, even at the expense of image quality.  "You could call it a 'standard-def' version for the 360 if you don't have a hard-drive."  What is still unclear is what exactly he means by standard definition.  Whether that means the game will be limited to a 480p resolution without the optional hard drive installation or high definition (720p+) resolutions with relatively lower resolution textures is not certain (though likely the later rather than the former, if I had to guess).

What this means for Xbox 360 gamers, in the end, is that the game will be quite a bit more expensive than previously thought if they want the full experience after factoring in the cost of an (outrageously priced) Microsoft hard drive.  Are you planning on buying the Xbox version?

Source: Shack News