One More Thing from Apple... the Apple Watch

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: apple, smartwatch, ios

After Apple announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Pay, they unveiled their smart watch project: the Apple Watch. Technically, they actually announced three families, the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition, with a combined total of 34 different models. They will launch early next year with a base price of $349. About half of the 34 models are a few millimeters smaller, 38mm vs 42mm, although both are unisex.

apple-watch-regular.jpg

Apple Watch

The main feature is its "Digital Crown". It is basically a mouse wheel which can be clicked as a Home button. This wheel can be adjusted to zoom in, adjust meters, and so forth (like a mouse wheel). Below the "Crown" is a Contacts button which, well, brings up your contacts. It has a touchscreen with force sensors, to differentiate between touch and press. The screen also provides haptic feedback for tactile sensations, which actually interests me (in terms of what developers learning what it can do if it is accessible).

apple-watch-sport.jpg

Apple Watch Sport

Each model charges with a magnetic attachment on the back, although battery life is not described. I would be surprised if it was anything less than a full, woken day, but it is possible that it will not stay awake as long as you are. We just do not know at this point. This is probably the best reason to wait for a review before purchasing, if you have any level of interest. That could easily be a deal breaker.

apple-watch-edition.jpg

Apple Watch Edition

The watches are all basically the same from a technological standpoint. Every model, besides the Apple Watch Sport, has a Sapphire-protected screen (the Sport uses "Ion-X glass" which we currently know nothing about). The bands are replaceable via a button latch on the back, allowing the strap to slide off of the face. The "Watch Edition" (that name...) is created from 18-karat gold. Specifically, "Each has a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold that our metallurgists have developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold". Yes Apple, because gold is a soft metal... but I digress.

The Apple Watch will arrive in early 2015 and will start at $349. It is currently not certified by the FCC, although I am sure that the major tech blogs will announce when that happens. It requires iPhone 5 (or later).

Source: Apple

It's a roundup in your ear

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2014 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: audio, roundup, earbuds

For those who prefer to leave their circumaural headsets at home and travel with earbuds, sooner or later they sustain enough damage that you need to shop for a new pair.  The least expensive model that is easily available is a decent choice but for those with specific requirements there is a round up over at The Inquirer of what they feel the best earbuds currently on the market are.  From those who like to listen to audio while swimming to those who want their earbuds to look fancy or even glow in time with the music, this round up has them all.

sony-swimming-walkman-headphones-nwz-w273-540x334.JPG

"RATHER ANNOYINGLY, we find ourselves in the market for some new earphones more often than we'd probably care to admit, whether it's because we left our last pair on the bus, stood on them, put them in the wash by mistake, or because we've managed to dodge all of the above but we've had them for years, and the audio quality has declined over time, something that shouldn't really happen, but it does."

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Audio Corner

Source: The Inquirer

Ignore Intel and Apple; check out what's new at HP

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2014 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: hp, memristor, the machine

Over at The Register is a look at a completely different conference involving HP's CTO and his companies upcoming projects.  The most interesting by far is the news about memristors, the new type of memory which uses changes in local resistance to store data at a much faster pace than current technology, which has become viable as of this year and is expected to hit the market by 2016 with the technology hitting its stride by 2018.  He also sees the current software-defined fad as being exactly that, a fad, and that advances in the performance and power usage of technology will quickly eclipse it as a viable solution, also pointing out the incredibly low adoption rate amongst enterprise.  Check out the full list of his announcements here.

martinfinkmemristorhp.jpg

"Martin Fink, the company's chief technology officer, presented HP's views at an investor conference last week and analyst haus Stifel Nicolaus' Aaron Rakers noted down what he said."

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Source: The Register

ASUS ZenBook UX305 Will Be Based on Core M (Broadwell)

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:49 AM |
Tagged: Intel, asus, core m, broadwell-y, Broadwell, 14nm, ultrabook

This will probably be the first of many notebooks announced that are based on Core M. These processors, which would otherwise be called Broadwell-Y, are the "flagship" CPUs to be created on Intel's 14nm, tri-gate fabrication process. The ASUS ZenBook UX305 is a 13-inch clamshell notebook with one of three displays: 1920x1200 IPS, 1920x1200 multi-touch IPS, or 3200x1800 multi-touch IPS. That is a lot of pixels to pack into such a small display.

asus-zenbook-ux305-twinhero.jpg

While the specific processor(s) are not listed, it will use Intel HD Graphics 5300 for its GPU. This is new with Broadwell, albeit their lowest tier. Then again, last generation's 5000 and 5100 were up in the 700-800 GFLOP range, which is fairly high (around medium quality settings for Battlefield 4 at 720p). Discrete graphics will not be an option. It will come with a choice between 4GB and 8GB of RAM. Customers can also choose between a 128GB SSD, or a 256GB SSD. It has a 45Wh battery.

Numerous connectivity options are available: 802.11 a, g, n, or ac; Bluetooth 4.0; three USB 3.0 ports; Micro HDMI (out); a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack; and a microSD card slot. It has a single, front-facing, 720p webcam.

In short, it is an Ultrabook. Pricing and availability are currently unannounced.

Source: ASUS

NVIDIA GM204 info is leaking

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 8, 2014 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: leak, nvidia, GM204, GTX 980, GTX 980M, GTX 970, GTX 970M

Please keep in mind that this information has been assembled via research done by WCCF Tech and Videocardz off of 3DMark entries of unreleased GPUs; we won't get the official numbers until the middle of this month.  That said, rumours and guesswork about new hardware are a favourite past time of our readers so here is the information we've seen so far about the upcoming GM204 chip from NVIDIA.  On the desktop side is the GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 which should both have 4GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit bus with GPU clock speeds ranging from 1127 to 1190 MHz.  The performance that was shown on 3DMark has the GTX 980 beating the 780 Ti and R9 290X and the GTX 970 performing similarly to the plain GTX 780 and falling behind the 290X.  SLI scaling looks rather attractive with a pair of GTX 980 coming within a hair of the performance of the R9 295X2.

NVIDIA-GeForce-GTX-980-and-GeForce-GTX-970-3DMark-Firestrike-Performance-635x599.png

On the mobile side things look bleak for AMD, the GTX 980M and GTX 970M surpass the current GTX 880M which in turn benchmarks far better than AMD's M290X chip.  Again the scaling in SLI systems will be impressive assuming that the leaks that you can see indepth here are accurate.  It won't be too much longer before we know one way or the other so you might want to keep your finger off of the Buy Button for a short while.

Source: WCCF Tech

MSI's overclocked R9 285 GAMING OC

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2014 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: video, tonga, radeon, r9 285, gcn. gcn 1.1, freesync, factory overclocked, amd, 285

MSI's Radeon R9 285 GAMING OC does not yet show up for sale but with it's factory overclock may arrive at a slightly higher price than the MSRP of $250.  The RAM remains at the default 5.5 GHz but the GPU has been bumped up 55MHz to 973MHz out of the box and could likely be pushed higher as MSI has included the usual suspects on this card, Twin Frozr IV Advanced and Military Class 4 components.  In [H]ard|OCP's testing the card was well matched by the GTX 760, the HD 285 won more than it lost, but not always and not by much.  Compared to the HD 280 not only did the new Tonga card usually provide better performance but the additional feature the GPU supports, of which FreeSync is only one, make the HD 285 the clear winner in that contest.  Check their full review for benchmarks.

Ryan reviewed Sapphire's model here.

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"AMD has launched the $249 AMD Radeon R9 285 video card. We dive into this somewhat confusing GPU. We compare it to the GeForce GTX 760 as well as an AMD Radeon R9 280. We'll discuss GCN differences in this new video card that may give it the edge with some feedback from AMD."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel's security on the silicon is starting to pay dividends

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2014 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: IBM, Intel, txt, mcafee

Intel have been diligently working on their Trusted Execution Technology to provide security on the actual silicon and with their purchaser of McAfee this technology has quickly improved over the past year.  IBM subsidiary Softlayer, who offer cloud storage, have announced that the will be implementing TXT along with the Intel Trusted Platform module to offer enhanced security on their servers.  This should make them attractive to government and law enforcement agencies which utilize clouds storage as well as businesses that need to keep their customers data secure.  They are not the first to consider TXT but are among the largest of vendors who are currently deploying servers that take advantage of the new security.  Check out more at The Register.

figure-2-component.png

"BIG BLUE IBM has announced that its Softlayer subsidiary will be the first cloud service to offer bare metal servers powered by Intel technology that provides monitoring and security down to the microchip level."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Intel Networking: XL710 Fortville 40 Gigabit Ethernet and VXLAN Acceleration

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Processors | September 8, 2014 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: xeon e5-2600 v3, xeon e5, Intel

So, to coincide with their E5-2600 v3 launch, Intel is discussing virtualized LANs and new, high-speed PCIe-based, networking adapters. Xeons are typically used in servers and their networking add-in boards will often shame what you see on a consumer machine. One of these boards supports up to two 40GbE connections, configurable to four 10GbE, for all the bandwidth.

intel-40gb-nic-01.png

The Intel XL710 is their new network controller, which I am told is being manufactured at 28nm. It is supposedly more power efficient, as well. In their example, a previous dual 10-gigabit controller will consume 5.2W of power while a single 40-gigabit will consume 3.3W. In terms of a network adapter, that is a significant reduction, which is very important in a data center due to the number of machines and the required air conditioning.

As for the virtualized networking part of the announcement, Intel is heavily promoting Software-defined networking (SDN). Intel mentioned two techniques to help increase usable bandwidth and decrease CPU utilization, which is important at 40 gigabits.

intel-40gb-nic-3.jpg

Receive Side Scaling disabled

The first is "generic segmentation offload" for VXLAN (VXLAN GSO) that allows the host of any given connection to chunk data more efficiently to send out over a virtual network.

intel-40gb-nic-2.jpg

Generic Segmentation Offload disabled

The second is TCP L4 Receive Side Scaling (RSS), which splits traffic between multiple receive queues (and can be managed by multiple CPU threads). I am not a network admin and I will not claim to know how existing platforms manage traffic at this level. Still, Intel seems to claim that this NIC and CPU platform will result in higher effective bandwidth and better multi-core CPU utilization (that I expect will lead to lower power consumption).

intel-40gb-nic-4.jpg

Both enabled

If it works as advertised, it could be a win for customers who buy into the Intel ecosystem.

Source: Intel

Toshiba Encore Mini Is Windows 8.1 for $119.99

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, tablet, cheap tablet, cheap computer, x86, Windows 8.1

While you should only get a cheap PC if you have a need for one, Toshiba is selling a $120 tablet with Windows 8.1 and a quadcore, Intel Atom processor. It also includes a single year of Office 365 Personal, which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, an 1TB of OneDrive storage (normally $69 or twelve installments of $7/mo).

toshiba-encore-mini.jpg

While RAM has not been announced, it contains 16GB of storage, expandable with a microSDXC card of up to 128 GB. It is based on a 7-inch, 1024x600 multi-touch display. Of course, 16GB of internal storage is about as low as you can have Windows 8.1 be installed within. In fact, it is the minimum requirements for 32-bit (64-bit requires 20 GB). You will not be fitting too many applications on your main drive.

The tablet also has a front-facing webcam and a back-facing 2 megapixel camera for photos and video.

The Toshiba Encore Mini is available now for an MSRP of $119.99.

Source: Toshiba

Intel Graphics Drivers Claim Significant Improvements

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | September 6, 2014 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: iris pro, iris, intel hd graphics, Intel

I was originally intending to test this with benchmarks but, after a little while, I realized that Ivy Bridge was not supported. This graphics driver starts and ends with Haswell. While I cannot verify their claims, Intel advertises up to 30% more performance in some OpenCL tasks and a 10% increase in games like Batman: Arkham City and Sleeping Dogs. They even claim double performance out of League of Legends at 1366x768.

inteltf2.jpg

Intel is giving gamers a "free lunch".

The driver also tunes Conservative Morphological Anti-Aliasing (CMAA). They claim it looks better than MLAA and FXAA, "without performance impact" (their whitepaper from March showed a ~1-to-1.5 millisecond cost on Intel HD 5000). Intel recommends disabling it after exiting games to prevent it from blurring other applications, and they automatically disable it in Windows, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Windows 8.1 Photo.

Adaptive Rendering Control was also added in this driver. This limits redrawing identical frames by comparing the ones it does draw with previously drawn ones, and adjusts the frame rate accordingly. This is most useful for games like Angry Birds, Minesweeper, and Bejeweled LIVE. It is disabled when not on battery power, or when the driver is set to "Maximum Performance".

The Intel Iris and HD graphics driver is available from Intel, for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, on many Haswell-based GPUs.

Source: Intel

Trade Windows for Linux on your HTPC without losing Netflix

Subject: General Tech | September 5, 2014 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: linux, wine, htpc, Netflix, ubuntu 14.04

As with all things Linux, nothing is impossible but that doesn't mean it will be easy but compared to many projects the steps at Linux.com to set up Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Deepin  to run Netflix are not overly onerous.  By following the steps in the article you can get Wine, Mono, msttcorefonts and Gecko installed and then continue on to install Netflix and in very little time you will be streaming videos.  There is another way for the more experimental and seasoned Linux user, with the latest beta or dev build of Chrome an updated libnss3 and a little tweaking of your browsers user agent string you can also launch the latest version of Netflix.  Enjoy your streaming.

netflix1.jpg

"This is Linux, though, so as always the adage ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ very much applies. With just a few quick steps, you can have a Netflix client on your desktop. This client does require the installation of the following extras:"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: Linux.com

Clearing up the confusion around ASUS' LGA2011-3 OC sockets

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2014 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: X99, Haswell-E, asus

KitGuru got in touch with Intel to confirm that the ASUS OC Socket present on their X99 boards will not in any way void the warranty on the processor.  What ASUS has done is activate several pins which were only intended to be used by Intel when verifying that a chip is functioning properly.  The pins will allow overclockers to bump the default voltage of Haswell-E processors from their default of 1.2V all the way to 2.1V – 2.2V.  Running a processor at those voltages without proper cooling will not only likely void your warranty but also fry the chip so as always, overclock at your own risk ... and pleasure.

box-socket.jpg

"Asustek Computer on Wednesday clarified the situation with its custom LGA2011-3 O.C. sockets as well as warranty that covers Intel Corp.’s processors. The mainboard maker denied that Intel’s warranty does not cover chips used with O.C. sockets and stated that the sockets are absolutely safe to use. A new statement by Intel confirms Asus’ claims"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: KitGuru

Podcast #316 - Haswell-E Review, New AMD FX Processors, Radeon R9 285 and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2014 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Haswell-E, 5960X, 5820K, amd, fx 8370, 8370e, 9590, r9 285, X99, western digital, my passport wireless, netgear, Matrox, r9 295x2

PC Perspective Podcast #316 - 09/04/2014

Join us this week as we discuss our Haswell-E Review, New AMD FX Processors, Radeon R9 285 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:32:43
 

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

AMD's Dropping the R9 295X2 Price to $999 USD

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 3, 2014 - 09:28 PM |
Tagged: amd, R9, r9 295x2, price cut

amd-r9-295x2-gigabyte.jpg

While not fully in effect yet, AMD is cutting $500 off of the R9 295X2 price tag to $999 USD. Currently, there are two models available on Newegg USA at the reduced price, and one at Amazon for $1200. We expect to see other SKUs reduce soon, as well. This puts the water-cooled R9 295X2 just below the cost of two air-cooled R9 290X graphics cards.

If you were interested in this card, now might be the time (if one of the reduced units are available).

Source: Newegg

MINIX Neo Z64 Is x86-64 and $129

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 3, 2014 - 07:23 PM |
Tagged: fanless, htpc, windows, Android

Because fanless and cheap PCs are awesome, MINIX is launching the Neo Z64. Priced at $129 USD, it will contain an Intel Atom Z3635F SoC with 2GB of DDR3L and 32GB of eMMC internal storage. The device will ship loaded with Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) but is compatible with Windows 8.1, if you have a license for it.

minix-neo-z64.jpg

Externally, the device features a microSD card slot (maximum size not specified), one 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, an IR receiver (with remote), and HDMI 1.4. Note that HDMI is the only audio outputs on this device, which could be tricky if you want to run it as something other than a home theater PC (if you do not have a USB sound card that is compatible with your chosen OS). Lastly, it also has 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless support.

This is still a significant price premium over some other devices, like a Roku, but could be useful for some. The lack of any SteamOS mention is a bit disconcerting, given that the free OS could be applied to turn the device into an In-Home Streaming target (or host of simple, Linux-compatible games, like Super Meat Boy). Hopefully, future products will consider Valve's home theater platform.

The MINIX Neo Z64 will be available in October for $129.

Source: FanlessTech

Matrox Creates Professional Graphics Cards with AMD GPUs

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 3, 2014 - 06:15 PM |
Tagged: Matrox, firepro, cape verde xt gl, cape verde xt, cape verde, amd

Matrox, along with S3, develop GPU ASICs for use with desktop add-in boards, alongside AMD and NVIDIA. Last year, they sold less than 7000 units in their quarter according to my math (rounding to 0.0% market share implies < 0.05% of total market, which was 7000 units that quarter). Today, Matrox Graphics Inc. announce that they will use an AMD GPU on their upcoming product line.

Matrox-AMD-Logos-Image.jpg

While they do not mention a specific processor, they note that "the selected AMD GPU" will be manufactured at a 28nm process with 1.5 billion transistors. It will support DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.4, and OpenCL 1.2. It will have a 128-bit memory bus.

Basically, it kind-of has to be Cape Verde XT (or XT GL) unless it is a new, unannounced GPU.

If it is Cape Verde XT, it would have about 1.0 to 1.2 TFLOPs of single precision performance (depending on the chosen clock rate). Whatever clock rate is chosen, the chip contains 640 shader processors. It was first released in February 2012 with the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition. Again, this is assuming that AMD will not release a GPU refresh for that category.

Matrox will provide their PowerDesk software to configure multiple monitors. It will work alongside AMD's professional graphics drivers. It is a sad that to see a GPU ASIC manufacturer throw in the towel, at least temporarily, but hopefully they can use AMD's technology to remain in the business with competitive products. Who knows: maybe they will make a return when future graphics APIs reduce the burden of driver and product development?

Source: Matrox

Blizzard's New Battle.net Launcher Feels Slick...

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2014 - 03:31 AM |
Tagged: blizzard, battle.net

There has been a new Battle.net launcher in the works for quite some time now, about thirteen months. Blizzard is finally rolling it out to users of StarCraft II. Loading up the game a couple of days ago, I was transitioned to the new system. I must say: it looks and feels pretty slick.

blizzard-battlenet-real01.jpg

First, the main pages have a glass-like blur atop a background image for its window chrome. It has a borderless window style with a simple, one-pixel frame. When focused, it lights up a little central region at the top, rather than an entire strip of it. Personally, I find that this looks a little bit better than even Steam's most recent update -- but that is just being picky. Blizzard definitely thought about how it would look, and it shows.

The games are currently limited to World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, and Hearthstone. This leaves the shop quite limited, except for a few in-game mounts, pets, and services attached to WoW. Beyond the store, the layout is definitely intuitive and clean, despite only playing StarCraft II. And who knows, it might encourage me to branch out a little bit (but probably not).

blizzard-battlenet-01.jpg

The app is also designed to function as a messenger client. When playing StarCraft II, I found it quite weird to have a chat and instant messenger client built into each of their games, which needed to be running for it to be useful. Obviously, it is much easier to have Battle.net run in the background 24/7 than, say, Diablo III or StarCraft II, so this should make their messenger application more useful. This is a fairly obvious statement. The part that feels weird is how it doesn't seem to integrate with any of the game's chatrooms. I would have expected that I could interact with the chat groups of Blizzard's various games, but that is not that case. It seems like I still need to launch into StarCraft II, or whatever, to go about doing that. This, as stated, feels weird... almost like they have not got around to it yet.

Blizzard's new Battle.net launcher is available for download basically the next time you launch StarCraft II.

Source: Blizzard

Steam Adds App Types: Film, TV, Video, Plugin, and Music

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2014 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: steam os, steam, htpc

In a recent Steam Beta update, Valve added a few new entries to its EAppType structure. Previously, the options were invalid, game, application, tool, demo, media, DLC, guide, driver, config, shortcut, and "depotonly". The recent update adds five new ones: film, TV series, video, plugin, and music.

Steam-eapp-additions.png

These additions could mean that Steam is intending to distribute film, TV, video, plugins, and music; alternatively, it could just allow users to integrate existing catalogs into the same interface. Of course, this is coming from someone with just about zero knowledge of Steam's internal structure. Someone who is more familiar with Steam might be able to say that I am stupid and this specific enum structure is only used the interface with the catalog or the store. I do not know.

What I am confident in saying is that Valve is serious about making Steam a full home theater PC platform. At LinuxCon, prior to the announcement of SteamOS, Gabe Newell discussed the family ownership (and sharing) of music and movie libraries right alongside his discussion of video games. Whether they want to deal with media company relations is a different story, however.

But let's not get too caught up in media for a second. What is a "plugin"?

This entry was what really caught my eye. Could Valve be designing a plugin architecture for the Steam client? Its built in web browser (or third-party browsers if Valve allows)? Or could it be a method of delivering user content for other apps on their system (similar to how DLC has its own type). If it is a Steam Client or SteamOS plugin, what would that even entail? I am definitely curious.

NVIDIA Announces GAME24: Global PC Gaming Event

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 2, 2014 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, game24, pc gaming

At 6PM PDT on September 18th, 2014, NVIDIA and partners will be hosting GAME24. The evemt will start at that time, all around the world, and finish 24 hours later. The three main event locations are Los Angeles, California, USA; London, England; and Shanghai, China. Four, smaller events will be held in Chicago, Illinois, USA; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Mission Viejo, California, USA; and Stockholm, Sweden. It will also be live streamed on the official website.

nvidia-game24-2014.png

Registration and attendance is free. If you will be in the area and want to join, sign up. Registration closes an hour before the event, but it is first-come-first-serve. Good luck. Have fun. Good game.

Source: NVIDIA

NETGEAR Announces Nighthawk X4 AC2350 Router

Subject: General Tech, Networking | September 2, 2014 - 08:31 AM |
Tagged: nighthawk x4, netgear, mu-mimo, 802.11ac

Today, NETGEAR has announced the Nighthawk X4 802.11ac router. It is dual-band, with up to 1733 Mbps of bandwidth (four channels of 433 Mbps) on 5.0 GHz and up to 600 Mbps (three channels of 200 Mbps) on 2.4 GHz. Compared to the Nighthawk X6, released earlier in the year, the X4 is design for fewer users who demand more performance.

netgear-nighthawkx4-01.jpg

The first thing that stood out for me was its processor...s. The router contains two of them. Its main CPU is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon-based (Update - Sept 2nd @ 5:20pm EDT: "Snapdragon-based" is unclear and misleading. It has "Snapdragon DNA with dual Krait cores". It is from their Qualcomm Internet Processors (IPQ) line, as mentioned in the following sentence.) ARM processor, clocked at 1.4 GHz. It is from their Qualcomm Internet Processors (IPQ) line, so it is not directly comparable to an SoC from their mobile line-up. NETGEAR also added a second, dualcore processor, clocked at 500 MHz, that is dedicated to deal with WiFi-related tasks as an "offload".

The reason why I found this interesting was that, not too many years ago, routers did not advertise their processor and RAM. There was once a niche who would create their own routers out of old PCs and an x86-compatible firmware (like OpenWRT). The push was to cheap routers with high bandwidth ratings. When I asked NETGEAR at what point did the industry decide to take the internal hardware seriously, their response was that about 73% of customers are repeat buyers. They upgraded their router because they were not happy with the performance that they were getting. Users have changed. HD video is going to numerous devices all over the home at the same time as games and downloads do their thing. The extra performance is necessary to keep the potential bandwidth in line with its usage.

netgear-nighthawkx4-02.png

One feature about this router that NETGEAR was promoting is Dynamic QoS. Using the extra processing power, mentioned in the two paragraphs above, the device identifies applications and allocates bandwidth accordingly. One example that they gave is YouTube versus Netflix. While both stream, Netflix will only grab what it needs while YouTube will load as quickly as possible to buffer ahead. If resources are tight, and Netflix is attempting to coexist with YouTube at any given time, the router will throttle the YouTube stream to provide it with at least enough bandwidth to stream, but not buffer, like, ten times faster than real time and choke out Netflix into a lower bit rate. If necessary, it will also prioritize the larger screen (TV) with the higher bit rate Netflix connection, where it will be more noticeable (than the smaller screen of a tablet, for instance).

And yes, QoS has been present in routers for more than a dog's age. They claim that it is typically a feature that users turn on, dislike, then turn right back off again. They believe that their new implementation will actually win you over.

netgear-nighthawkx4-03.jpg

The router will also feature two USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA connection. It will allow networked PC backup to an external hard drive and streaming media (photos, music, and videos) to TVs by DLNA.

The NETGEAR Nighthawk X4 AC2350 (R7500) is available now for $279.99.

Source: NETGEAR