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.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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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).

LG Announces 34UM67 UltraWide Gaming Monitor with AMD FreeSync

Subject: Displays | December 31, 2014 - 10:29 AM |
Tagged: LG, 34um67, ultrawide, 21:9, CES, ces 2015, freesync, adaptive sync

Let the variable refresh rate monitor battle begin! This week LG has announced a gaming-specific 21:9 aspect ratio monitor that features support for AMD's FreeSync variable refresh rate technology. LG joins Samsung as monitor vendors that have officially thrown in hats with the AMD-backed and VESA standard Adaptive Sync technology rather than NVIDIA's G-Sync (or maybe in addition to). 

The new 34UM67 is a flat, 34-in 21:9 aspect ratio display; a style that is becoming increasing popular among enthusiast and gamers as they offer expanding views in some games without the need to use multiple monitors in a Eyefinity or Surround configuration. LG has not announced the resolution yet but I assume that since they aren't bragging about it openly, that we are looking at a 2560x1080 screen rather than 3440x1440. Still, coupling that resolution with support for a variable refresh technology should provide an impressive gaming experience. 

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Here is what the official press release has to say about the new LG 34UM67 being shown next week at CES:

LG's UltraWide Gaming Monitor (34UM67) is the company's first 21:9 monitor specifically developed for graphics-intensive gaming. AMD's FreeSync technology eliminates the screen tearing that occurs when the monitor and graphics card are out of sync. Furthermore FreeSync technology guarantees the smoothest and most seamless gaming experience, generating fluid motion without any loss of frame rate.

"AMD FreeSync technology is an innovative monitor technology, based on free and open industry standards, to eliminate the tearing and stuttering that has plagued PC gaming for 30 years," said Roy Taylor, corporate vice president of ISV/IHV Partner Group, AMD. "We are pleased that LG Electronics stands with us with truly exciting  AMD FreeSync-ready displays like the LG UltraWide Gaming Monitor."

The 34UM67 also has an exceptional UltraWide field of view (FOV), allowing gamers to gain the upper hand by revealing hidden spaces that were invisible on regular 16:9 monitors. The monitor's Black Stabilizer illuminates dark scenes and helps to clearly define the deep black areas where objects and enemies could be hidden. The Dynamic Action Sync mode minimizes input lag, enhancing users' real time gaming experience. Many popular games such as Battlefield 4, World of Warcraft and ArcheAge currently support 21:9 resolution with more games expected to support this resolution in the future.

Support for 21:9 resolutions is still spotty in most PC titles and can result in the same kind of FOV scaling issues we see with Eyefinity. More games are including direct support for these monitors and hopefully 2015 will see a focus on that with each game release. 

I still have a lot of questions about AMD's FreeSync technology and how it will stand up to the effectiveness of NVIDIA G-Sync, but I am eager to see it first hand. CES will provide the first opportunity for us but we will obviously need extended time with panels in our offices to make a final decision.

Source: PRNewsWire

Steam Controller Is Changing?

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Dev Days, Steam Controller, CES 2014, CES

Valve has always been a company based on experimentation and it looks like the Steam Controller is not the lighthouse which guides SteamOS through the fog. Just a week after presenting the prototype at CES, a 3D mockup of a new one makes not-insignificant changes. Gone is the touchscreen and the first revealed button placement. Frankly, just about the only things untouched on the front face are the twin touchpads and the palm grips.

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Image Credit: Leszek Godlewski (Twitter)

To fully understand the breadth of the changes, the announcement image is included below. There is basically no discussion about the back so that aspect might be untouched.

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The changes were apparently made to assist compatibility with games ported from more traditional input schemes. Looking at the original prototype, there was no obvious mapping from a Sony or Microsoft-based controller to those buttons spread out for both the left and right thumbs to access. The new setup is the typical four face buttons on the right and four more buttons on the left as a surrogate directional pad. If they continue to iterate down this path I hope that the directional pad is more effective than most from the last two generations. It looks like the four directions are separated from one another which does not inspire confidence.

There are two stories which entangle on this one. The first is that Valve is willing to perform rapid iteration until they achieve what they consider a maximum. That is the method to quickest success especially since it allows cross-pollination between designs.

The second is that it also makes the public a little bit nervous.

Source: VR-Zone

Zotac Shows Off Spherical ZBOX 01520 SFF PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 12, 2014 - 03:08 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox 01520, zbox, SFF, CES 2014, CES

Zotac unveiled a number of products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas including several small form factor (SFF) PCs. In addition to the ZBOX Steam Machine, Zotac showed off a ZBOX 01520 computer in a spherical form factor. The ZBOX 01520 comes in bare-bones and PLUS SKUs, similar to the other, existing, Zotac ZBOX computers.

On the outside, the new PC is a small black orb with straight edges on the back and bottom to support it. Inside, Zotac has fitted a tiny motherboard, an Intel Core i3-4010U dual core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB), a spot for a single 2.5" hard drive. The motherboard further includes one mSATA slot for a solid state drive and wireless radios for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

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Greek tech site Tech Blog managed to snap photos of the new Zotac PC.

Rear IO on the ZBOX 01520 orb includes four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI video output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a single 4-1 card reader slot.

The bare-bones kit includes the motherboard, CPU, and case while the PLUS version adds 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard drive. Users can add their own mSATA drive for increased performance.

Beyond the basics, details are scarce on the new Zotac PC. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more details on the SFF PC as it becomes available.

Are you interested in the spherical ZBOX 01520?

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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Source: TechBlog