Windows 8 Reaches RTM Status, Almost Immediately Leaked

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 4, 2012 - 06:29 AM |
Tagged: windows 8 rtm, windows 8, video, start screen, microsoft, Metro

Preface: If you prefer a video version, you can check out a video walkthrough of Windows 8 RTM with commentary. For those that want a written preview, I have attempted to break the article up into sizeable chunks. The first part is the introduction and "what's new" regarding getting it set up versus our guide for installing the Consumer Preview. The following sections are for showing off desktop applications and metro/Windows 8 Style UI apps. Finally, a short conclusion and general impressions section as well as some questions for you to answer should you want to join the discussion. Once again, I've gone with a more informal voice for the preview as there is a lot of opinion in here, this is by no means a full review!

Please note that unless otherwise stated, these opinions are my own, and not PC Perspective's. I am interested in hearing your opinions on the RTM build as well, and you can participate in the comments below without registration (though you get some nice benefits–like an avatar and ability to edit posts–if you decide to).

Windows 8 RTM has leaked to the Internet, here's what's new and what I think of it

Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system is well on its way for the final public release on October 26, 2012—in fact OEMs are starting to get their hands on the code, and it is officially in Release To Manufacturing (RTM) status. While Microsoft TechNet subscribers will be able to download the Windows 8 RTM build on August 15, 2012, it has already been leaked to the Internet as is available on various file-sharing websites.

Win8RTM_Start_Screen.jpg

To be more specific, the leaked build is a volume license version of Windows 8 Enterprise (N) RTM. It is further an “N” edition, which means that it is aimed at the European market and has Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center stripped out. The "N" editions are the result of an EU case relating to alleged anti-competitive actions. From that leaked build, people have managed to create a bootable ISO version for clean installs where there is no existing OS on the machine as well as a zipped folder that can be used for upgrade installations.

Needless to say, the news that the RTM had leaked piqued my interest, so I set out to get my hands on it (and report my findings). I managed to find a non-bootable image called "MICROSOFT.WINDOWS.8.ENTERPRISE-N.RTM.X64.VOLUME.ENGLISH.NON_BOOT_DVD-SAMOVARWZT" (wow that's a long file name) that seemed to check out as being legitimate. I then took that 6.05 GB folder and used the files to do a clean install from a Windows 7 x64 virtual machine I had around for testing just this sort of thing.

Win8RTM_04.jpg

Unlike our previous Windows 8 Consumer Preview installation guide, this RTM build does not require a key to be entered in order to complete the install. As a volume license version, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to activate (I have not tested if the Windows 7 -rearm trick works to extend that yet). Other than the key issue, the clean install procedure is the same as the steps we covered previously. Aesthetically, Microsoft has changed to a purple background and the beta fish logo at boot-up (when the installer restarts the system) is gone. It is replaced by a small light-blue Windows 8 logo.

Win8RTM_10_Windows 8 Logo Screen.jpg

Once the installer has finished, it will restart the computer and, upon boot will present a nice graphical OS selection list which appears to be a new addition to the RTM build. After choose Windows 8, you enter the Windows setup wizard which guides you through setting computer options and configuring your user account.

Nice GUI bootloader OS Selection screen (new to RTM).jpg

The setup process in Windows 8 RTM appears to be identical to that of the Consumer Preview version that I installed a couple of months ago (how time has flown!). Below is an animated .gif of the setup screens, which appears to be the same as the Consumer Preview except using a slightly different background color.

After that finished though, I was pleasantly surprised with what came next. After asking for some sort of tutorial ever since the Developer Preview, Microsoft has finally provided one–sort of. Basically, after setup finishes, the screen goes dark and then an animation pops up that briefly shows you how to access the Windows 8 Charms bar by moving your mouse to any corner of the screen. Then it dumps you out to the desktop.

Not exactly what I was hoping for, especially considering I was only able to find out how to actually close a Metro "Windows 8 style UI" application without going to the task manager from a forum post of all things. Needless to say, some of the mouse gestures are not obvious, and I do consider myself to be at least somewhat technically savvy. Therefore, I can only imagine how lost some people might be when presented with Windows 8. When I had the Developer and Consumer Preview(s) installed on my Dell XT convertible tablet, the touch and gesture stuff was easier to discover but it is still not apparent. I was really hoping for a tutorial similar to what Microsoft did for Windows XP that introduces the interface and all the new features on the first setup (and accessible later if needed).

Still, it is a step in the right direction, and the tutorial at least points out one of the new mouse/touch navigation features. Here's hoping that MS adds more to that start-up tutorial by the time final code is out and it is for sale. Below is an animated .gif image of the brief tutorial. Note that the actual tutorial has some fading transitions between scenes. The last two images are two clips from a constantly changing background color as the OS loads the desktop and Windows 8 Start Screen for the first time. It cycles through all the colors available to choose from in the Personalize setting during account creation.

Once Windows has finished setting up your user account, you will be presented with the Windows 8 Start Screen for the first time. In my case, it was an array of "Metro" Windows 8 Style UI live tiles on a dark blue background with my name and photo in the top-right-corner. You can see what my Start Screen looks like in the image below. Yours will look similar but the photos and location information will be different. So you'll have the same stock apps, but the information on the tiles will not be the same. The information in question will be pulled from the Microsoft/Windows Live account that you signed into during the initial setup process.

Start_Screen_First_Boot.jpg

Continue reading to see the new "Metro" apps, desktop UI, and my final thoughts

A New Dawn of a new era: NVIDIA tech demo reboot.

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 25, 2012 - 08:55 PM |
Tagged: A New Dawn, video, nvidia, kepler

NVIDIA has released a demo for their latest GPUs which might be a little familiar for long-time PC gamers. A New Dawn is a remake of their Dawn demo for the GeForce FX line of graphics processors -- now with less fake Subsurface Scattering.

What better way to gratify your purchases than scantily clad demihumans?

It has been just months shy of a decade ago when NVIDIA revealed Dawn to attendees of the 2002 Game Developer’s Conference. Dawn, titled after both lead character as well as setting, was set to promote NVIDIA’s GeForce FX line of graphics processors.

Less lensflare than a dance-pop video.

Every day I'm fluttering -- ROFL.

A New Dawn demonstrates the progression between early-stage DirectX 9 through current DirectX 11.1 hardware. Dawn has been remodeled and reskinned with actual subsurface scattering to liven up her skin; fine-grained hair with blur shaders to prevent aliasing; and certainly no extra clothing. Her environment is modeled and tessellated -- a step up from the box she used to reside in.

A New Dawn is available for download from NVIDIA’s website if your system meets the minimum specifications -- which, if you have a Kepler GPU, is quite forgiving for a system that a Kepler GPU would make sense to be in.

Source: NVIDIA

Live Video Recap: AMD Llano Blindfolded PC Build

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 23, 2012 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: video, llano, blindfolded, APU, amd

Well, we did it!  Today I successfully built an AMD A-series APU based computer while blindfolded LIVE.  At the start of the event I went over the various components used for the build including the AMD A8-3800 APU, MSI A75 motherboard, Corsair 550D case and 650 watt power supply and more.  After showing it all, I wrapped a scarf around my head and went to work.  

There were quite a few more hurdles than I expected including spreading the thermal paste correctly, screwing the motherboard into the case and finding the pins for the front panel power button.  I was surprised at how easily I was able to install the APU, memory and heatsink, but that likely comes with years of practice and experience with the hardware.  

In all, it took me 1 hour and 18 minutes to get to a Windows screen using a pre-installed OS on a Western Digital 1TB hard drive.  That was MUCH longer than I had originally thought it would take, so I have been humbled by those DIY PC users that build their own on without sight a regular basis!  

If you missed the live event we hosted at http://pcper.com/live you can find the replay hosted right here below.  Enjoy watching me completely make a fool of myself!

Update: The winner of the blindfolded system was selected, congrats goes to Darren who gets the task of rebuilding this rig!  :D

Live Review Recap: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 22, 2012 - 11:43 PM |
Tagged: amd, radeon, HD 7970, hd 7970 ghz edition, 7970, 7970 ghz edition, video, live review

A PC Perspective Live Review Recap is a recorded version of a previously live streamed event from http://pcper.com/live.  If you couldn't make the original air time, or simply want to re-watch, the on-demand version is provided below!

On the day of the release of AMD's latest flagship graphics card, the Radeon HD 7970 3GB GHz Edition, Evan Groenke (Desktop Graphics Product Manager) stopped by the PC Perspective offices to sit with us and talk about the new GPU.  In the live event we went over the company's stance and mindset with the release, the new boost capability that the card integrates, performance from our review and even some questions and answers with some giveaways.

I really want to thank AMD and Evan for stopping by and chatting with us and our readers.  Be sure you keep checking back at http://pcper.com/live for more live events you can be a part of!

Author:
Manufacturer: Corsair

A case for quiet and for performance

In recent years, some of my favorite cases have come from Corsair - a statement that not too long ago I would have never thought I'd be making.  Since the company's rapid expansion into nearly all things enthusiast computing, the Corsair Obsidian line of chassis have helped move along a pretty stagnant industry and foster innovation and change. 

Today we are going to be looking at the new Corsair Obsidian 550D, a case that claims to master both noise reduction and sound isolation as well as offering flexibility for some intense cooling capability. 

Check out our video review below!

Overall we found the 550D to be a great case for the money and the ability to run it in both a quiet and a cooling mode will allow users to swap components and PC designs without having to buy another case at the same time.

The Corsair Obsidian 550D is available at Newegg.com for $139!

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You can catch more images after the break!

E3 12: Unreal Engine 4 -- What you (and we) missed at GDC.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | June 8, 2012 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: video, unreal engine 4, E3 12, E3

Epic has released as much of their GDC demo as they are able to in an effort to end E3 2012 with a bang. They have included a second video to walk through the engine for developers to enjoy. We will explain to the masses why it is awesome.

Before we go any further -- the video you have been waiting months to see.

Be prepared for a particle-filled generation.

As was the case with Intel’s sand-to-CPU video -- the demo is pleasing but the supplementary info is the prize.

Epic released a 10 minute developer walkthrough to highlight the most important features of Unreal Engine 4. You can see it below and read on to see what that all means.

Yes, Unrealscript did not make it to Unreal Engine 4.

The first major feature of the engine is real-time dynamic global illumination and glossy specular reflection. Traditional video game graphics only considers the first bounce of light from a source -- if that bounce does not reach the player camera then it does not exist. Global illumination allows objects to be lit not just by light sources but also by light bouncing from neighboring objects.

It has been very popular to calculate how light interacts with objects ahead of time for the last generation as well as a portion of the generation prior to that. With those methods you are able to soften the shadows cast by light and make the scene feel much more naturally lit. The problem arises when anything in the scene moves or changes as obviously happens in a video game.

Unreal Engine 4 has the ability to calculate Global Illumination in real time. Dynamic lights such as muzzle flashes or flames are able to not just illuminate the area around them but also induce that area around it to light each other.

Also, static sources such as moonlight shining in the window against the floor can bounce from the floor and slightly lighten the walls with a bluish tint without being calculated ahead of time. Developers can try lighting effects without waiting for sometimes hours to see the results. This also means that what would have been once a pre-computed lit scene with nothing moving can now be destroyed and still remain properly lit. And now the moon can even move if the designer wants.

UE4-1-1.jpg

Specular material on the gold statue

UE4-1-2.jpg

Diffuse material on the gold statue, notice how the floor lighting from the statue desaturates and changes.

In this scene we see how light can reflect against a statue and influence the objects around it. A specular material has a much smoother and more mirror-like surface than a diffuse material which tends to scatter light in all directions. If you were to shine a laser against a mirror the beam would bounce and you would not see it unless you were in the reflected path whereas if you shine the laser against the wall you would see a dot regardless of how you look at it. This is because the wall, like a projector screen, is like trillions of microscopic mirrors all pointed in different directions which each take a tiny fraction of the light and sends it in a different direction.

In Unreal Engine 4, this effect means that a shiny surface will not only glare if you look at it but also light the objects around it differently than a diffuse surface. You can see that effect against the floor.

Read on after the break to continue with the discussion of Unreal Engine 4 features.

MSI Unveils Ultra Portable Laptop and Windows 8 Tablet

Subject: Mobile | June 7, 2012 - 11:22 PM |
Tagged: x460dx, video, ultraportable, tablet, slider s20, notebook, msi, laptop, computex

MSI has been extremely busy at this year’s Computex trade show by releasing tons of new hardware. The company today officially announced two new Ultra series laptops that are less than 1” thick and made to be ultraportable and stylish.

The MSI X460DX is a 14” thin and light notebook with metal alloy chassis, Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GT630M graphics card, HDMI, Bluettoth, and USB 3.0 technology. It also supports the company’s Turbo Battery+ technology and a hotkey to turn off idle hardware. The computer sports a stylized trackpad, chiclet keyboard, and metal accents.

MSI X460DX.png

The MSI X460DX weighs in at 2kg and is less than an inch thick. No word yet on pricing or availability.

The other MSI Ultra series notebook is the Slider 20. The 11.6” device is constructed of plastic with brushed metal textures, weighs in at 1.3kg and is stated to be “less than 2 centimeters thin.” The interesting bit about the MSI Slider S20 is the touchscreen, however. The 11.6” screen (which has a resolution of 1366x768) can lay flat over the keyboard in slate mode or slide back and tilt upwards. In laptop mode, the chiclet keyboard is exposed. The computer will run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system. Powering the ultrabook is an Intel Chief River based Core i3 CULV processor, Intel IGP for graphics, and accelerometer. On the outside it features an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, audio output, and webcam.

MSI Slider S20.png

The MSI Slider S20 is certainly an interesting form factor, and I suspect it will be sturdier than other convertible tablets that utilize a single hinge in the center to connect the display and keyboard. Engadget managed to get their hands on the device. They reported that although the Slider S20’s keyboard is a bit cramped and even a little too flexible, the screen hinge felt sturdy and the device felt rather lightweight. Beyond that, MSI isn't talking detailed specifications.

MSI S20_Windows 8.png

 

Word around the Internet is that the S20 will be sold for under $1,000 USD which is pretty good (depending on just how far under it is). I’m certainly interested in seeing what this Windows 8 tablet can do.

Source: MSI
Subject: Storage

ioSafe: Introduction and Internals

Introduction:

Cloud storage is all the talk these days, and our own Tim Verry has been hard at work detailing as much of it as he can keep up with. While all of us at PCPer currently use cloud based solutions for many of the day-to-day goings on, it's not for everyone, and it tends to not be for very large chunks of data, either. Sometimes local storage is just the way to go – especially when you want to be the one in absolute control of the reliability and integrity of your data.

The general rule for proper backups is to have your local copy, a local backup (RAID is *not* a backup), and an additional off-site backup to cover things like theft, fires or floods. So lets say you simply have too much sensitive data for your internet connection to support bulk transferring to an off-side / cloud storage location. Perhaps the cloud storage for that much space is simply cost prohibitive, or your data is sensitive enough that – despite encryption – you don't want it leaving your network and/or premesis? Perhaps you're just stubborn and want only one backup of your data? I think I might have the answer you've been looking for – behold the ioSafe SoloPRO:

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What is this thing, you may ask? On the inside it's one of the available 1, 2, 3, or even 4TB 3.5" hard drives. On the outside it's a very durable and solid steel enclosure. The hard drive is wrapped in a thermally conductive yet water resistant 'HydroSafe' foil that enables water resistance rated at a 10 ft depth for 3 days with no data loss. The bonus, however, is not the water resistance - that featuer is present primarily to battle the side effects of something much more drastic - the ioSafe is fire-proof. That feature comes from what sits between the steel casing and the shrink wrapped hard drive - something ioSafe calls a DataCast (pictured below):

Internals:

I'm going to break from my normal warranty voiding and show a photo from this past Storage Visions conference at the Consumer Electonics Show, where an ioSafe was already cracked open for our viewing pleasure:

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Read on for the full review!

Computex: MSI Showing Off Five G-series Gaming Notebooks

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 7, 2012 - 09:36 AM |
Tagged: video, trinity, msi, mobile, laptops, Ivy Bridge, Intel, gaming notebook, gaming, computex, amd

MSI has been busy at this year’s Computex trade show. In addition to the company’s graphics cards and motherboard displays, MSI is showing off four new G Series gaming notebooks. Three of them are running Intel Ivy Bridge processors while the fourth machine is powered by a top-end AMD Trinity APU. Included in the new G series is the GT70, GT60, GE70, GE60, and GX60. The only AMD system is the GX60. Let’s take a look at that one first.

MSI GX60

The GX60 has a similar exterior build as the other G Series notebooks, but has vastly different internals and does not appear to have the same audio technology as the Intel-based notebooks. The desktop replacement class (read: heavy and not so great battery life heh) laptop features an AMD A10-4600M APU, AMD A70M chipset, and AMD Radeon 7970M graphics card. Other features include MSI’s “SuperRAID” storage with up to two SSDs in RAID and a mechanical hard drive, Steelseries keyboard, and a Killer E2200 gaming network card. Another interesting feature is the system’s ability to output to up to three displays with AMD Eyefinity technology. The system was able to pull a respectable 30 frames per second on the Unigine Heave benchmark and will have an MSRP of around 1,000 British Pounds (~$1,557.70 USD). According to eTeknix, the AMD Trinity-based notebook will be available soon.

The Intel Ivy Bridge based systems get a bit more love than the AMD Trinity system with SuperRAID support, up to 32GB of RAM, MSI Audio Boost (powered by Dynaudio or THX TruStudiio Pro depending on model), gold-plated audio connectors, Turbo Drive Engine and NVIDIA discrete graphics. The Intel and AMD G series laptops all get 1080p displays and custom backlit keyboards built by SteelSeries. The AMD system may well have MSI Audio Boost, gold plated connectors, and the like but MSI did not seem to tout them on the GX60 like they did for the Intel ones. The GX60 does at least get the SteelSeries keyboard and SuperRAID tech. Anyway, onto the Intel gaming rigs.

MSI GT70 and GT60

The MSI GT 70 is the largest and fastest gaming notebook at the MSI booth with a 17” 1080p display, quad core Core i7 processor, SuperRAID storage, THX certified Dynaudio sound, Turbo Drive Engine, Killer E2200 NIC, and a NVIDIA GTX 680M mobile GPU with GDDR5 RAM. The GT70 utilizes MSI’s SuperRAID to the fullest with two SSDs and a mechanical hard drive for up to 700MB/s read speeds. The system further features a backlit keyboard from SteelSeries that has five LED pattern modes (Normal, Gaming, Wave, Breathing, and Dual Color) and various selectable colors to choose from. The GT70 was pulling about 45 frames-per-second on the Unigine Heaven benchmark and P20,000 on 3DMark Vantage. Consumers should expect it to be available for around 2,500 British Pounds (~$3,894.25 USD).

MSI_GT70_Gaming Notebook.jpg

The MSI GT70 gaming notebook

The GT60 is a smaller version of the GT70 with 15.6” chassis, slightly slower Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor at 2.9GHz, and only a GTX 670M graphics card. It features the same MSI technology as its bigger brother, the GT70, but may not have the exact SuperRAID setup. Otherwise it has Dynaudio, 1080p display, the backlit SteelSeries keyboard, and lots of other goodies. No price info on this one to report, unfortunately.

MSI GE70 and GE60

The two MSI GE branded gaming laptops are the budget versions of the GT70 and GT60. They feature slower IVY Bridge processors, a downgrade in the Intel chipset to H76M, and a GPU downgrade to a NVIDIA GT650M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The displays are still 1080p, but they do not have Dynaudio (only THX TruStudio Pro), and the SteelSeries keyboards are not backlit. Of the two, the GE70 has a slightly faster Intel processor. They do both feature Turbo Drive Engine technology and likely SuperRAID though the setups are likely limited versus the bigger GT70’s chassis. Again, no word on how much these will cost or when they will be shipping.

All the notebooks have a nice black finish to them and the SteelSeries keyboard looks pretty nice. I’m interested in the AMD GX60 myself as I find Trinity neat. The Intel-based systems are definitely power houses though, especially the GT70 and although I don’t expect battery life to be anywhere near great these would be a good choice for gamers that demand the portability of a laptop platform.

Update: the press release does clarify that the GT70 and GE70 have 17.3” 1080p screens while the GT60 and GE60 have 15.6” 1080p screens. It also lists USB 3.0 compatibility on the Intel-based notebooks along with a built-in 720p 30fps webcam for video conferencing.

Below you can find a video by eTeknix that goes into more detail on the MSI gaming notebooks. You can further find the official MSI press release here.

Source: MSI

Computex: Sapphire Shows Off Passively Cooled Radeon 7770 GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 7, 2012 - 02:40 AM |
Tagged: video, sapphire, radeon 7770, passive cooling, graphics card, gpu, computex

Not to be left out of the Computex news, graphics card manufacturer Sapphire Technology unveiled a passively cooled AMD Radeon 7770 graphics card running at reference clock speeds. Following the release of the company’s factory overclocked Vapor-X 7770, the new Sapphire HD 7770 Ultimate 1GB card is the first to sport a passive cooler – other vendors are going in the opposite direction by using custom (active) coolers to push up reference clockspeeds for factory overclocked cards.

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Source: AnandTech

What makes the sapphire card neat is that the company did not have to underclock the GPU or memory in order to make a passive cooler feasible. With this card, you will get a silent GPU with the same specs and speeds as the reference 7770 we recently reviewed. The card looks to take up about two PCI expansion slots and utilizes a horizontal stack of vertically aligned (if that makes sense?) aluminum fins connected to the GPU via four heatpipes. Because of the cooler, the card is about 25% longer than a reference card, so keep that in mind if you are considering this for a HTPC build using a tiny case.

Beyond the cooler, which is arguably the most important aspect of the card, the Saphhire 7770 Ultimate 1GB is nearly identical to AMD’s reference design. The only major change is that Sapphire had to move the GDDR5 memory chips to the opposite (top, when installed in the case) side of the PCB in order to accommodate the cooler. With that said, the video outputs on the graphics card are a small improvement over the reference design with an additional DVI port (thanks to not needing a full fan grill in the second PCI slot) bringing the total to two DVI ports, one full size HDMI, and one full size DisplayPort. Otherwise, the GPU is stock, running at 1GHz while the 1GB of GDDR5 memory is likely running at 1125 MHz (stock speeds). The Cape Verde-based graphics card contains 640 stream processors, 1.5 billion transistors, 1.28 Teraflops of compute performance, and a Texture fill rate of 40 giga-transfers per second (GT/s). The full specifications of the 7770 GPU core can be found in our review.

The MSRP of reference AMD HD 7770 cards is $159 but expect the Sapphire card to come in a bit above that number thanks to the custom cooler. You can find more photos of the passively cooled Sapphire GPU over at AnandTech who managed to snag some good shots of the card at the company’s Computex booth.

In case you missed it, our video review of the HD 7770 card is embedded below in which we show off the (7770 and 7750) card also show off several custom 7770 designs from MSI, XFX, and others. It should bring you up to speed on what the 7770 is and where it stands in terms of performance with other cards from AMD and NVIDIA.

Source: AnandTech