Computex 2013: First official Windows 8.1 preview

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 03:29 AM |
Tagged: computex, Windows 8.1, windows blue

Jensen Harris, member of the Windows User Experience (UX) team at Microsoft, performed a video walk-through of the new Windows interface. Of course, as I always say when discussing Windows 8, the real problems will arise with the Windows Store and certification requirements; interface problems annoy, censorship problems harm.

But, disclaimer aside, the interface of Windows 8.1 seems much more useable.

First and foremost is the Lock Screen. People enjoy digital photo frames and a locked tablet certainly looks more classy than any other that I have seen. It will collage photos together, stored locally and shared from a phone or Skydrive over wireless, with a thin font date and time. Combined with a decent resolution IPS display, that could be an interesting way to encourage users to leave their device on its charger. Not to mention, the frame would continually synchronize with Skydrive and thus receive new photos without end-user interaction; it is useful, for instance, for the family of an elderly person who wants to keep in touch but actively rejects technology.

The All Apps screen lists all applications installed on screen. This allows users to take a little weight off of the Start Screen and, instead of using it as a launcher, use the All Apps screen as a launcher and use the Start Screen as a nexus of important information. If you wish to use the Start Screen as a launcher, similar to pinned icons for Windows 7, you will have more choice in icon size to either fit more apps or give tiles with relevant information more space.

Screen splitting was pretty horrendous in Windows 8. An application could either be in full screen, be a sidebar app, or take up the room not taken by a sidebar app. If you have multiple monitors, bringing up the Start Screen would shuffle everything around pretty much ensuring that you do not have more than a couple of apps focused at any given time. Windows 8.1 allows you to split apps directly down the middle and, if you have a large display, allow you to fit three or four applications on screen at once.

Unfortunately, and I contacted Paul Thurrott last week to confirm I was up to date, there does not seem to be any multiple monitor enhancements in Windows 8.1. If you have want to punch through your second display because of applications from the Windows Store, keep using the desktop.

Or, if you wish to try it out for yourself, Windows 8.1 will be available for public preview on June 26th.

Source: Microsoft

Computex 2013: Thunderbolt 2 with 4K support

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 5, 2013 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: computex, thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2, Light Peak

We received Thunderbolt, on the PC at least, a year ago. While not yet ubiquitous, we will be receiving an update to the interface sooner than you would expect. The main advantages of Thunderbolt is the ridiculous bandwidth and ability to daisy-chain with displays. Thunderbolt 2 looks to advance both of those features.

intel-thunderbolt-00.png

intel-thunderbolt-01.png

Thunderbolt is based around a PCI Express signal for data and DisplayPort for video, both combined down a single cable. The cable, in fact, is compatible with Mini DisplayPort adapters and devices if used exclusively for video. The upgrade to Thunderbolt 2 advances the video standard to DisplayPort 1.2; as a result, Thunderbolt 2 devices will be capable of driving a 4K monitor (supposedly with sound) without requiring multiple cables to be connected.

In terms of strict bandwidth, Thunderbolt 2 will provide double the data rate of the original Thunderbolt. Instead of 10Gbps, new devices will be able to transfer at 20Gbps. This is especially useful for video content creators looking to manage, in real time, 4K or 120Hz data transferring between cameras and video gear. Struggling with large video capture bandwidth is something we know about...

As expected, there is not really any talk about specific prices yet (I would expect that depends on implementation) but you should look forward to it landing either really late this year or early next year. As for the original Thunderbolt? Well, the new standard is backwards compatible but there is concern whether new devices would be fairly crippled without the new standard.

Source: Intel

Computex 2013: Gigabyte Shows Off GA-990FXA-UD7 AM3+ Motherboard That Hints At 5GHz AMD FX Processor

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | June 5, 2013 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, ga-990fx-ud7, computex 2013, computex, amd fx, amd, am3+

Gigabyte is showing off quite a few motherboards at Computex 2013. One of the most interesting motherboards on display is the GA-990FX-UD7 for AMD AM3+ desktop processors. This is a high-end motherboard for enthusiasts and is packed with features.

The GA-990FX-UD7 features an 8+2 power phase, AM3+ CPU socket, four DDR3 DIMM slots, six PCI-E 2.0 x16 (physical) slots, one legacy PCI slot, and eight SATA 3 6Gbps ports. It has a black and glossy orange color scheme with large finned heatsinks around the CPU socket and over the southbridge. The board uses a Realtek ALC889 chipset for onboard audio that supports Dolby Home Theater and has a 108dB SNR rating. Further, the GA-990FX-UD7 supports 4-way SLI or CrossFire, Gigabyte's UEFI DualBIOS, and 3X power which allows faster battery charging for supported USB-connected mobile devices.

Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7 AM3Plus Motherboard.jpg

The Gigabyte GA-990FX-UD7 at Computex 2013 as spotted by Sweclockers (Click for larger image).

Rear IO includes a single coaxial S/PDIF and six analog audio outputs, four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA+USB combo ports, and a RJ45 LAN jack.

Interestingly, Gigabyte's Computex display mentions that the new AM3+ motherboard is compatible with AMD's 5GHz AM3+ processor, which lends credibility to previous rumors of a Piledriver-based eight core “Centurion” AMD FX processor clocked at 5GHz with a 220W TDP. That chip was rumored for a summer 2013 release in limited quantities, and it looks like enthusiasts might be able to get their hands on that chip later this year after all!

Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7 AM3Plus Motherboard Specifications.jpg

Although AMD is not talking, Sweclockers has managed to put together a list of preliminary specifications for the codenamed Centurion processor. Rumors have it that the Centurion chip will be officially named the AMD FX-9000, and that it is a 4-module, 8-core part with a 4.8 GHz base clock and 5.0 GHz turbo clockspeed. It has a total of 8MB L2 cache, and 8MB of L3. Further, this 220W TDP part will support a maximum of DDR3-1866 (officially, before overclocking) and is build on AMD's 32nm SOI HKMG manufacturing process. You will need a beefy air cooler at the minimum to keep this chip happy, but otherwise it should be a fun chip for enthusiasts to tinker with!

Source: Sweclockers

Computex 2013: Sony Unveils New Haswell-Powered VAIO Duo 13 Tablet and VAIO Pro 11" and 13" Ultrabooks

Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 5, 2013 - 09:53 AM |
Tagged: vaio pro, vaio duo 13, vaio, tablet, sony, computex 2013, computex

Tablets and ultrabooks are proving popular devices at Computex, and Sony recently joined the release party with three new Haswell-powered VAIO notebooks. The VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 are thin and light laptops while the VAIO Duo 13 is the company's first Haswell-powered convertible tablet (slider style).

All three new mobile devices share Full HD 1920 x 1080 Bravia Triluminos touchscreen displays, ClearAudio+ sound, Haswell processors, and respectable battery life.

Sony VAIO Duo 13 Slider Tablet.jpg

The VAIO Duo 13 is a 13" notebook that can be converted into a slate tablet by sliding the screen forward and having it lay on top of the keyboard. The keyboard is back-lit and sits above a tiny trackpad that is much wider than it is tall. Other features include a stylus, 8MP camera with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software called CamScanner, and a claimed 15 hour battery life according to Sony and as tested by MobileMark 2007.

Internal specifications match those of the VAIO Pro series, with a dual core 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD, and a beefy 6,320 mAh battery.
Aside from the small trackpad, this looks like a solid device that matches Intel's "It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it” mantra. At the very least, it looks like a worthy (and improved) successor to the company's existing VAIO Duo 11 convertible tablet.

The VAIO Duo 13 will be available for purchase in Carbon Black or Carbon White later this month for $1,399.

Sony has also announced two new thin-and-light ultraportable VAIO Pro notebooks. As the product names suggest, they are 11” and 13” ultrabooks.

The VAIO Pro 11 weighs in at an ultra-light 1.92 pounds (0.87kg) and offers up a 1920 x 1080 display, backlight keyboard, trackpad (again, rather tiny), and decent internals.
Specifically, the base model Pro 11 notebook is powered by an Intel 4th Generation Core i5-4200U (dual core at 1.6GHz) processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. For a bit more, you can upgrade to a Core i7-4500U and a 256GB SSD. The base model has an MSRP of $1,150.00 USD.

Sony VIAO Pro Ultrabook.jpg

Sony's VAIO Pro 13 steps up to a larger 13” display (albeit still 1080p). The larger form factor is still only 2.33 pounds (1.06kg), however which is nice to see. The base model contains a Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB PCIe SSD. Users can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, however. The MSRP for the base model is $1,250.00 USD.

For only $100 over the base VAIO Pro 11, you can get a larger screen and faster storage drive which is pretty good. Judging by the reviews,  such as this one by The Verge, the Pro 13 is the one to get as the Pro 11 is almost too small with a hard-to-read screen and cramped keyboard. On the other hand, if you need portability however, it is hard to beat the Haswell-powered Pro 11.

Both the VAIO Pro 11 and VAIO Pro 13 will be available later this month for $1,150 and $1,250 respectively.

What do you think about Sony's new offerings? Any Duo 11 users out there wishing for a larger form factor?

Source: Sony

Fractal Design Launches ARC XL and ARC Mini R2

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 5, 2013 - 07:47 AM |
Tagged: XL-ATX, fractal design, computex 2013, computex, case, arc xl, arc mini r2

Fractal Design is using Computex 2013 to launch two new cases, called the ARC XL and ARC Mini R2. As their names suggest, the ARC XL is a massive brushed aluminum case capable of supporting motherboards up to XL-ATX in size while the ARC Mini R2 is a Micro ATX case that is compatible with Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboards.

Fractal Design ARC XL

The ARC XL chassis measures 232 x 572 x 552mm and weighs 13.8kg. The full tower case features a texturized aluminum exterior with a clear side window and top-mounted IO panel. The front of the case holds a large mesh grill with white Fractal Design logo. Above the front intake are four 5.25" drive bays. The front IO panel is mounted on the top of the case and includes two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, audio in/out jacks, and power/reset buttons.

Fractal Design ARC XL.jpg

Internally, the ARC XL chassis supports motherboards up to XL-ATX in size, up to eight 3.5" hard drives, and space for two 2.5" solid state drives behind the motherboard tray. In total, the case supports seven 140mm fan positions. Fractal design includes three Silent Series R2 case fans with the chassis. Dust filters in the front, top, and bottom fan vents. Water cooling enthusiasts will be pleased to know that they can install 360mm radiators on top and 240mm radiators in the front of the case (with the hard drive cages removed). Other features include 9 PCI expansion slots, space for a bottom mounted PSU, integrated 3-fan 3-speed fan controller, and space for cable routing behind the motherboard tray.

Fractal Design ARC XL_back.jpg

Fractal Design's ARC XL case will be available in July or early August with an MSRP of $129.95 USD (119.95 EURO).

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2

The ARC Mini R2 is a miniature version of the ARC XL suitable for smaller systems using Micro ATX or Mini ITX motherboards and either water or air cooling.

The Mini R2 has a large mesh grill on the front panel as well as two optical drive bays. The front IO includes two USB 3.0 ports, audio in/out, power and reset buttons, and the fan controller switch. The case measures 210 x 405 x 484mm and weighs 9kg.

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2.jpg

Internally, the ARC Mini R2 supports Micro ATX or Mini ITX motherboards, up to six 3.5" hard drives, two 2.5" SSDs (behind motherboard tray), and 4 PCI expansion slots. Graphics cards up to 260mm are supported with the hard drive cage installed, or 400mm with it removed. There is space for cable routing behind the motherboard and water cooling grommets on the back of the case to support external radiators.

Cooling is handled by three bundled Silent Series R2 fans controlled by an included fan controller. The case can support a total of seven fans, including:

  • Front: 2 x 120mm (1 included)
  • Rear: 1 x 120mm (1 included)
  • Top: 1 x 120mm plus 2 x 140mm (1 included)
  • Bottom: 1 x 120mm

Watercooling support includes the ability to mount a thin 360mm radiator on top as well as a 240mm radiator over the front intake (with the optical drive and hard drive bays removed respectively). Fractal Design includes removable dust filters over the front, top, and bottom vents.

Fractal Design ARC Mini R2_open.jpg

The Micro ATX ARC Mini R2 will be available for $89.95 (79.95 EURO) in August or early September.

In all, they look like decent cases, though I would have loved to see some additional color options on the ARC Mini R2! (heh).

Manufacturer: Intel

An new era for computing? Or, just a bit of catching up?

Early Tuesday, at 2am for viewers in eastern North America, Intel performed their Computex 2013 keynote to officially kick off Haswell. Unlike ASUS from the night prior, Intel did not announce a barrage of new products; the purpose is to promote future technologies and the new products of their OEM and ODM partners. In all, there was a pretty wide variety of discussed topics.

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Intel carried on with the computational era analogy: the 80's was dominated by mainframes; the 90's were predominantly client-server; and the 2000's brought the internet to the forefront. While true, they did not explicitly mention how each era never actually died but rather just bled through: we still use mainframes, especially with cloud infrastructure; we still use client-server; and just about no-one would argue that the internet has been displaced, despite its struggle against semi-native apps.

Intel believes that we are currently in the two-in-one era, which they probably mean "multiple-in-one" due to devices such as the ASUS Transformer Book Trio. They created a tagline, almost a mantra, illustrating their vision:

"It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it."

But before elaborating, they wanted to discuss their position in the mobile market. They believe they are becoming a major player in the mobile market with key design wins and outperforming some incumbent system on a chips (SoCs). The upcoming Silvermont architecture pines to be fill in the gaps below Haswell, driving smartphones and tablets and stretching upward to include entry-level notebooks and all-in-one PCs. The architecture promises to scale between offering three-fold more performance than its past generation, or a fifth of the power for equivalent performance.

intel-computex-02.jpg

Ryan discussed Silvermont last month, be sure to give his thoughts a browse for more depth.

Also, click to read on after the break for my thoughts on the Intel keynote.

Computex 2013: Cooler Master NotePal U2 Plus Available Now

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2013 - 02:48 AM |
Tagged: computex, notepal u2 plus, mobile, laptop cooler, laptop, cooler master, computex 2013

Cooler Master has released a new notebook cooler called the NotePal U2 Plus that is the latest model in the NotePal U-series. This cooler supports up to 17" laptops and allows you to move the two included fans for optimal cooling (ie, actually put the fans over the vents).

Other features of the NotePal U2 Plus include raised feet that lift up your laptop at a slight angle to make long typing or gaming sessions more comfortable, according to Cooler Master. The cooler feet also aid in cable management by allowing you to loop your long cords around the included hooks. Finally, the NotePal U2 Plus can attach to your laptop and be carried with along using an elastic strap and the cooler feet to hold your notebook in place.

Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus.jpg

The new Cooler Master notebook cooler is available now with an MSRP of $29.99.

Computex 2013: MSI Launches New Gaming and Overclock Series Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | June 5, 2013 - 02:17 AM |
Tagged: Z87-GD65 GAMING, uefi, overclocking, msi, haswell, computex 2013, computex

MSI announced new Z87 motherboards today, ready to accept Intel's new 4 Generation Core "Haswell" processors. The new Z87 boards are broken up into the company's "GAMING" series and a new "Overclock" series. Both boards use Military Class IV components that are MIL-STD-810G rated.

The MSI Z87-GD65-GAMING is the company's latest motherboard aimed at PC gamers. It incorporates a Killer NIC and the company's Audio Boost technology. It also supports MSI technology such as V-Check points (to get voltage readings with multi meter), Super RAID, Multi-BIOS II, and Go2BIOS.

MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING.jpg

On its face, the Z87-GD65-GAMING features an Intel LGA 1150 CPU socket, four DDR3 DIMM slots, eight SATA 6Gbps ports, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and four PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots. Rear IO includes a PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, coaxial and optical S/PDIF audio outputs, one DVI port, one VGA port, one HDMI output, one Kill NIC-backed Gigabit LAN port, and six analog audio jacks.

The MSI Z87-GD65-GAMING motherboard is currently selling for around $189 at various online retailers. It has earned a Computex 2013 Best Choice Gold award as well as a positive review from PC Perspective's resident motherboard guru Morry Teitelman. You can find our full review of the gaming motherboard here.

MSI also announced three new motherboards under its Overclock series. These boards are intended for PC enthusiasts who like to tinker with hardware and push their chips (CPU and GPU) as far as possible. The new boards include the Z87 MPOWER, Z87 MPOWER MAX, and Z87 XPOWER.

Click BIOS 4.jpg

The Overclock series motherboards also use Military Class components. They also feature MSI's latest Click BIOS 4 UEFI and Control Center software that allows monitory, tuning, and remote controlling of your PC. The MSI Overclock boards also have a tool that allows for automatic overclocking called OC Genie 4 that reportedly operates in two stages. The Z87 MPOWER has a 32-phase digital power system, supports DDR3-3000 memory, and supports 4-way SLI or Crossfire. The MPOWER MAX and XPOWER motherboards are OC (Overclock) Certified and supports MSI's Extreme Tuning Utility for overclocking within Windows.

Rear port layout is similar to the Z87-GD65-Gaming motherboard, except that the new MPOWER boards add a removable Intel Wi-Fi + Bluetooth card that adds 802.11g/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Intel WiDi (Wireless Display) technology. The highest-end Z87 MPOWER, the XPOWER board, also has additional USB 3.0 ports on the back panel.

You can find more information on the Z87 MPOWER motherboards on this MSI product page.

Also read: MSI Launches 17" GS70 Gaming Notebook @ PC Perspective.

Source: MSI

Computex 2013: MiTAC Announces High Density 7-Star ARMv8-Powered Server

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 4, 2013 - 11:44 PM |
Tagged: computex 2013, computex, X-Gene, mitac, ARMv8, appliedmicro, 7-star, 64-bit

During Computex, MiTAC announced a new high density "7-Star" ARMv8 server. Aimed at the enterprise market, the 7-Star platform is a 4U server that holds up to 18 compute cards. Each compute card contains an eight-core ARMv8-based X-Gene processor from AppliedMicro, two DDR3 DIMM slots, and space for two 2.5"/3.5" internal storage drives (SSD or HDD). The compute cards use a 10G SFP+ and a single Gigabit Ethernet port for networking purposes.

MiTAC 7-Star Shown Off At Computex.jpg

Of course, the interesting bit about the 7-Star is that it is one of the first server to use processors based on ARM's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture. MiTAC worked with ARM and AppliedMicro on the project, and it should be available later this year. It is currently being shown off at the ARM Holdings demo suite in Taipei, Taiwan. I'm intested to see how well these 64-bit ARM servers do, especially with new low power chips from Intel and AMD on the way!

Read more about ARMv8 at PC Perspective.

The full press release is below:

Source: MiTAC

Corsair Adding Gold Vengeance Pro DDR3 Modules To Lineup

Subject: Memory | June 4, 2013 - 10:15 PM |
Tagged: vengeance pro, ddr3, corsair, computex 2013, computex

PC Perspective motherboard reviewer Morry Teitelman posted a review of Corsair's latest Vengeance Pro DDR3 modules yesterday, and the memory did well enough in his testing to earn a PC Perspective Editor's Choice award. The 16GB DDR3-1866MHz Vengeance Pro DIMMS he reviewed are available now for $144. 8GB Vengeance Pro 1866MHz kits are around $80, and 32GB DDR3-1866  memory kits are $295. There are also other SKUs with even higher clockspeeds for bit more money. On the other hand, going with the 1600MHz kits that are available will save you about $20 versus 1866MHz if you will be using these in a systerm where you don't plan to overclock much (if at all). 

In addition to the blue, red, and silver colored Vengeance Pro kits mentioned in our review, Corsair is also making an additional gold colored SKU available. Note that the underlying memory hardware is not changing, just the aesthetics. The gold version was just added into the mix today, so while current reviews may not note a black and gold module option, one is coming.

Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3 4 DIMMS.png

The new black and gold Vengeance Pro DDR3 DIMMs.

Therefore, if you were waiting for the Vengeance Pro to go on sale, but wishing that it better matched your gold-laden ECS or ASUS Gryphon motherboard, it might be worth holding off until the gold SKU hits the market (which should be very soon).

Also in Corsair news, the company teased an 8GB Vengeance Pro DDR3 memory kit clocked at an impressive 3200MHz (CAS11, 11-14-14-36 timings) at Computex for Haswell-based machines, but it is unclear exactly when this particular 2x4GB kit will be available.

The full press release is available below for reference.

Also read:

Source: Corsair