Podcast #397 - AMD Radeon Pro Duo, NZXT Manta, AMD's new deal with China, and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2016 - 05:50 PM |
Tagged: video, radeon pro duo, podcast, nzxt, nvidia, Manta, GTX 1080, GT 710, GP104, amd, Alpha 12

PC Perspective Podcast #397 - 04/28/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Radeon Pro Duo, NZXT Manta, AMD's new deal with China, 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

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

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

Up close and personal with GP100

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2016 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GP100, pascal

The Tech Report takes you on a walk through NVIDIA's HPC products to show you just what is interesting about the Tesla P100 HPC which Jen-Hsun Huang introduced us to.  The background gives you an idea of how much has changed from their first forays into HPC to this new 16nm process, 610mm² chip with 56 SMs.  If you missed out on the presentation or wanted some more information about how they pulled off FP16 on natively FP32 hardware or how the cache of this chip was set up then click on over and read it for yourself.

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"Nvidia's GP100 "Pascal" GPU launched on the Tesla P100 HPC accelerator a couple weeks ago. Join us as we take an in-depth look at what we know about this next-generation graphics processor so far, and what it might mean for the consumer GeForces of the future."

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Microsoft Floods Features into Insider Preview Build 14328

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2016 - 08:26 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

After the release of Windows 10 version 1511, Microsoft took a few months to refactor and otherwise update the deep-down chunks of their OS. After that was all settled, they started merging features from their many teams. For the last two builds, the amount of changes ramped way up, not all of which were announced at Build conference.

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These features have been merged without much bug-crushing, though. Microsoft knows this, and then talk about a “Bug Bash” event happening sometime this week. To get a feel for the state of this build's quality, though, you can check out WinBeta attempting to show off the new features. Note that some of the issues they were experiencing were actually in the known issues list, namely the crash attempting to pin Settings options, but the list is quite long.

A couple of new changes are interesting and surprising. First, long-time, multi-monitor users will like that the clock is now on all taskbars, not just the primary monitor. They acknowledge that this was driven by the gaming community, although they don't explicitly state that it's because our applications run in fullscreen mode so frequently (covering the main monitor clock). I don't exactly know why this slipped past the user experience people for so long, at least since the multi-monitor enhancements in Windows 8, but it did. It should be publicly available in July.

They will also allow desktop icons to have mini symbols (badges) attached to them. This could tell you how many unseen emails you have, whether your alarm is active, and probably many other features when it's in a publicly-accessible API. It's concerning that it's UWP-only, though. It shows that Microsoft wants to deprecate Win32 for new features, without migrating them into UWP containers, which further suggests that Microsoft intends to deprecate Win32 altogether. This is very concerning for several reasons, but I'm not going to reiterate them in this post.

The other cool feature, though, is a new interface to select between multiple sound cards. In my scenario, I have two main sound devices. When I listen to my headphones, I plug them into a USB sound card (technically a Blue Yeti). When I want to use speakers, I flip over to motherboard audio and turn on my sound system. This means that I need to go deep into the Sound preferences in the Control Panel, and it also means that some applications don't cleanly switch over (even locking up entirely). With this a front-and-center input menu of Windows 10, it should pressure developers to test whether their software can accept a sound device change on the fly, and fix accordingly.

So yeah -- those are the three features that spoke most to me. Again, the lack of innovation in native Win32 APIs is concerning. It reminds me of when browser vendors declared that certain new APIs would be artificially held back from non-secure HTTP contexts. In some cases, it makes sense -- an unsecure Web app accessing your webcam is a sign that they don't care about your privacy -- but it also means that software developers need to give up some level of their anonymity to acquire a certificate to access those features (unless offline sites are classified as secure in the user's browser, which Google Chrome does and others might too). Tangent aside, it feels like Microsoft is trying to apply the same level of pressure to push people away from bare Win32. That makes sense, they want to promote new platforms, but it also usually comes before the old one gets the guillotine.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft announces Inky, no word on Blinky, Pinky nor Clyde

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2016 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

If you are in the Windows Insider program you will have a chance to check out the new build 14328 of Windows 10, which reveals many of the new features which will arrive in the so called Anniversary edition.  Once again they have chosen to change the Start menu, something which has always been well received by users, though perhaps this time it will not be so bad as the idea of a customizable Rail which always displays the power button and icons the user selects may be useful. 

They have also added Ink Workspace, aka Inky, which will make using a stylus in Windows 10 much easier, for those with touchscreens or tablets and a desire to draw or write by hand.  There are also quite a few things which sound less welcome, such as default save folders which vary from app to app and some odd behaviour from Cortana.  Read more about the new features over at The Inquirer.

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"Microsoft has released Windows 10 build 14328 to "Windows Insider" previewers. The build is available for both PC and mobile, and is described by VP Gabe Aul as a "MAJOR build, packed with lots of new features and improvements"."

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Source: The Register

Fnatic Gear RUSH G1, keys aglow all Cherry Red

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2016 - 10:40 PM |
Tagged: input, fnatic gear, Rush G1, cherry mx red

The Fnatic Rush G1 features Cherry MX Red switches, with red backlighting that you can manually switch between three levels of brightness, a breathing mode and an off position for the old folks like myself.  For those who dislike the feel of a naked desk against your wrists  the inclusion of a wrist rest is a nice addition to the package.  The bundled Fnatic Rush Settings Software is somewhat limited compared to the competition, the five profiles are limited to ten macros apiece, if you need more than that you would have to use the Fn+Function key to switch between profiles on the fly which is not much help in the heat of a match.  Benchmark Reviews like more about this keyboard than they disliked, read through the review to see if you are in agreement.

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"The London-based company Fnatic currently offers four products: the Rush keyboard, the Flick mouse, and two types of mouse pad. Today Benchmark Reviews will look at the Fnatic Rush G1 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard equipped with Cherry MX Red switches."

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The RasPi gets better looking, or at least the camera does

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2016 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: IMX219, Raspberry Pi

The camera kit for the Raspberry Pi has just received an update, both the IR and visible light modules will now ship with an 8MP sensor, a nice jump from the current 5MP module.  Even better for a system designed specifically for low cost solutions is the news that the price will remain unchanged and the new camera will cost you the same as the previous.  The Inquirer reports that one of the main reasons for the change is that the OmniVision OV5647 sensor previously used can no longer be sourced.  If you use your Raspberry Pi for applications requiring a camera, you should look at your current projects to see if the jump in resolution provide by the IMX219 sensor will benefit you.

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"Fortunately, we'd already struck up conversation with Sony's image sensor division, and in the nick of time we're able to announce the immediate availability of visible light and infrared cameras based on the Sony IMX219 8MP sensor at the same low price of $25.""

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Source: The Inquirer

Mirror's Edge Catalyst System Requirements Revealed

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2016 - 11:31 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming

Before I begin, I should note that the release date for Mirror's Edge: Catalyst has been pushed back two weeks. It will now launch on June 7th in North America, and June 9th in Europe. DICE claims that the reason for this delay is to work on “Social Play,” which allows users to create their own time trial events, and to integrate feedback that they will receive from the Closed Beta. The beta starts the day after that reason was announced... so it can't logically be the whole truth.

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Anywho, the specifications.

First, Mirror's Edge Catalyst requires at least four “logical” cores. They list the minimum as the Intel Core i3-3250 or the AMD FX-6350. A dual-core, HyperThreaded processor should work, but it would need to be as fast as the i3-3250. EA does offer refunds through Origin, however, so, if you're interested but not quite sure, you could just try it and see.

Second, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and the Radeon R9 270x are listed as the minimum GPUs, with the GeForce GTX 970 and the Radeon R9 280x (3GB) recommended. Especially on AMD's side, there really isn't a whole lot of difference between these parts. The R9 270x has 2.5 TeraFLOPs of performance, and the R9 280x has 3.5 TeraFLOPs. Over on NVIDIA's side, the GTX 650 Ti has about 1.5 TeraFLOPs of compute, while the GTX 970 goes up to 3.5 TeraFLOPs. They seem to be targeting about twice-the-PS4 for their benchmark of high-end performance, but it looks like they aren't willing to scale back too far to be smooth. This could be caused by one of three issues:

  • The gameplay requires a fairly high and consistent framerate
  • They didn't put a lot of effort in downscaling and/or
  • It can go lower and/or higher, but DICE/EA just doesn't want to officially support it

Third, despite being an open-world title, the game isn't too tough on hard drive space. It only requires about 25GB of space, which is about half of a typical, large title these days. That said, the art style also doesn't really require too many textures. Basically everything is colored by its lighting engine, because the environment is supposed to give a sterile feel.

Fourth, and more interesting, the game requires a heck of a lot of RAM. At a bare minimum, it requires 6GB of memory, which also means that it will not run on a 32-bit operating system. Their recommended RAM goes way up from there, requesting 16GB for that level of experience. Yes, RAM usage doesn't really correlate with assets, but that is almost the entire install size of the game, which (again) is 25GB. That's a lot, but it will hopefully cut down on the load times that people have been complaining about in the console pre-release builds. To be clear, I don't mind and it could be a very good thing, but it's definitely a noteworthy amount.

If you're interested, check out the various streams and videos that should be popping up. The full game arrives on the first full week of June.

Source: EA

SEGA Lets Console Games Get a Mod Community... on PC

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2016 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming

I joke of course, because Unreal Tournament 3 had the option to cook mods for the PlayStation 3. Modding console games isn't a mainstream practice, though, especially since the hardware vendors tend to be afraid of what users will put into their systems. Third-party content is pushed into the realm of hacked consoles or emulators.

In this case, SEGA, over a decade after they made their last console, has decided to allow Steam Workshop with their SEGA Mega Drive Classics Hub (which corresponds to the SEGA Genesis for North Americans). The purpose of this is “allowing you to share modified versions of your favourite retro SEGA titles”. Sonic the Hedgehog is featured prominently in the promotional video, but will not be available at launch. The list is fairly long, however, and includes games like Ecco the Dolphin, Vectorman, Golden Axe, and so forth.

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I am a big fan of long-term support, especially for user-created content. Video games are an excellent way for people to express themselves, be it with ridiculous and cruel Sonic levels, or with something more abstract. Regardless of their reasons, I'm glad that SEGA is giving a part of their platform to their fans (and society as a whole).

What do you mean the battery is immune to capacity degradation? Someone shoot that researcher!

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2016 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: happy mistake, battery, nanowires

A very happy accident occurred during Mya Le Thai's doctoral thesis research, which will greatly upset replacement battery suppliers everywhere.  Lithium-ion batteries slowly lose the ability to charge fully and to hold that charge as they are used and recharged multiple times.  There are several reasons why this occurs and her team of researchers were trying to find a way to avoid some of those reasons by using nanowires to store and transfer electrons.  This method has not been very successful in the past as nanowires are very brittle and would degrade over time in the same way other solutions did.  However, in what The Inquirer refers to as an accident, the team discovered that coating gold nanowires in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel resolved that problem, their test battery has now been recharged over 200,000 times in the space of three months, with no measurable loss of total capacity or power delivery.  Hopefully this technology does not end up patented and sitting on a shelf unused to ensure we still need to continually replace the batteries we use.

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"RESEARCHERS AT the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally - yes, accidentally - discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fastest switch in the west, Corsair and Cherry reveal the Cherry MX Speed switch

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2016 - 09:14 PM |
Tagged: RapidFire, K70 RGB, K70, K65 RGB, corsair, Cherry MX Speed, cherry

Corsair announced three new keyboards, the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE, K65 RGB RAPIDFIRE and K70 RAPIDFIRE all of which use Cherry's new MX Speed switches which have an actuation distance of 1.2 millimeters and and activation force of 45 cN(centinewtons, or 45.887229584 gram force). 

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All three keyboards have a brushed aluminium shell, the two RGB models are capable of producing almost any colour on the spectrum with the remaining model featuring red backlighting.  All three are compatible with CUE LINK, you can synchronize the LEDs of your Corsair keyboard, mouse and headset to compliment each other and perhaps as a distraction tactic during LAN parties.  100% Anti-ghosting and full key rollover over USB mean even in the heat of battle your death will not be caused by a keypress not registering.  Touch typists should also enjoy benefits when using the new keyboards, a light touch is all that is required for the keyboard to register a character, though the tiny amount of travel required may take some getting used to.  Many will be please to note that these keyboards do ship with a wrist rest.

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They are available as of today, MSRPs are $169.99 for the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE, $139.99 for the K65 RGB RAPIDFIRE and $129.99 for the K70 RAPIDFIRE.

Click to read the PRs, but do it lightly and quickly.

Source: Corsair

There are stranger things than a Flappy Bird that vapes

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2016 - 07:56 PM |
Tagged: mod

Sure whoever modded their eVic-VTC Mini Box Mod e-cigarette to play Flappy Bird is in the headlines now, but what about the fact that DOOM has been run on both an ATM and a Canon printer?  There is also the mad genius who managed to get Windows 95 running on a Nintendo 3DS for reasons best left unexplored.  Someone even went so far as to install Windows XP on an Android Wear watch, simultaneously useless and amazing at the same time.  Top 10 lists are a bit overdone but this one at The Inquirer might cheer you up a bit after all the sad news today. 

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"This got The INQUIRER team talking, and we soon found ourselves reminiscing about our favourite 'things made to run on things they shouldn't run on' stories. Yeah, we know, we're an exciting bunch."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #396 - MSI Gaming Notebooks, Intel Layoffs, the PlayStation Neo and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2016 - 05:37 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, msi, Intel, Playstation, ps4, neo, ps4k, phanteks, idf, Optane, XPoint, western digital, nvidia, GTX 1080

PC Perspective Podcast #396 - 04/21/2016

Join us this week as we discuss MSI Gaming Notebooks, Intel Layoffs, the PlayStation Neo 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

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

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

Delving into DirectX 12 performance

Subject: General Tech | April 20, 2016 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: hitman 2016, gaming, dx12, asynchronous compute, ashes of the singularity

DX12 is very new and with these two games utilizing it, Hitman 2016 and Ashes of the Singularity, it is difficult to get a good sample of results to see exactly what the new API will offer.  [H]ard|OCP have been working with both of these games to determine the performance differences between DX11 and DX12 and to find where the bottlenecks, if any, are.  With Ashes they tried limiting the CPU, one set of tests at 1.2GHz and the second at 4.5GHz which showed how well DX12 lived up to the touted benefits of reduced CPU usage.  They also tested with older GPUs on a 4.5GHz CPU to see if the new API does indeed help out older GPUs.  They also delve somewhat into the confusion surrounding AMD's Asynchronous ace in the hole.

For Hitman they contrasted various GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA while leaving the CPU alone for the testing.  This review emphasizes the performance delta between DX11 and DX12 on the same GPUs, and unfortunately also addresses some stability issues which DX12 has brought with it.  Read through the review to see what results they gathered so far but do not consider this the final word since both NVIDIA and AMD's GPUs could barely manage 10 minutes of DX12 gaming before completely locking up.

We still have a lot more investigation to perform before we can define the strengths and weaknesses of DX12.

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"Hitman (2016) supports the new DirectX 12 API. We will take this game and find out if DX12 is faster than DX11 and what it may offer in this game and if it allows a better gameplay experience. We will also compare Himan performance between several video cards to find what is playable and how AMD vs. NV GPUs compare."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Best of luck in your new life; farewell to Jonney Shih

Subject: General Tech | April 20, 2016 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: jonney shih, asus

There are some fairly solid rumours that Jonney Shih, Chairman of ASUS, will be stepping down soon, with ASUS co-founder Ted Hsu likely to take the reigns.  He has been chair of ASUS for 23 years and has overseen some very large changes in the industry.  He is widely know for the ASUS Eee PC Project, which has changed the mobile computing world from larger notebooks to the netbooks and ultraportables which have become ubiquitous.  His presentations have always been both informative and entertaining, hopefully his retirement is not immediate and we will still see him around for a few years yet.

We at PC Perspective would rate his performance as head of ASUS as 9.99 out of 10.

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"Asustek Computer will have co-founder Ted Hsu, currently vice chairman for ODM Pegatron, return to become chief strategy officer, triggering speculation that Asustek chairman Jonney Shih is going to retire and let Hsu succeed him."

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Source: DigiTimes

Summer Games Done Quick 2016 Schedule Published

Subject: General Tech | April 20, 2016 - 12:55 AM |
Tagged: gdq, pc gaming

It's still a few months out, but the schedule for Summer Games Done Quick 2016 has been posted to their official website. SGDQ 2016 is almost a solid week of speedruns, starting on Sunday, July 3rd at noon and ending some time after the midnight between Saturday, July 9th and Sunday, July 10th. Games Done Quick, itself, is a charity event, which generated over a million dollars of donations in four out of its last five occurences. It occurs about twice each year, plus an extra one for special events (such as the 2011 earthquake in Japan and TwitchCon 2015).

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They usually have a fair amount of PC titles in their mix. While the schedule doesn't state the chosen platform, Elder Scrolls II, III, and V will be run back-to-back-to-back, followed by Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. That all takes place after a block of Quake, Hexen, System Shock, Deus Ex, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Serious Sam, and other titles. Curiously, Super Mario 64 is missing, except for a 50-star run of Super Mario 64 DS, which is usually their big event. They will have a TAS block, though, which uses a computer to submit controller input at a much higher precision than a human would be capable of, leading to interesting glitches, like injecting an IRC client into Pokémon.

It's a fun spectacle, and it's for a good cause. SGDQ 2016 will benefit Doctors Without Borders.

IOGear's Kaliber Gaming Mechlite,

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2016 - 05:54 PM |
Tagged: input, Kailh, Kaliber Gaming Mechlite, IOGear, mechanical keyboard

IOGear have joined the mechanical keyboard market with the Kaliber Gaming Mechlite, opting for Kailh Blue switches as opposed to the Cherry MX switches which have dominated the market.  The plain black look will appeal to some, for others the blue LED backlighting with adjustable light levels will be more attractive.  The lighting is controlled via a switch as opposed to software, something which may lessen the attractiveness of the board to potential buyers, as will the lack of a bundled wrist rest.  Currently it sells for $70 on Amazon, relatively competitive for a backlit mechanical keyboard.  Neoseeker has published their impressions of the keyboard if it piques your interest.

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"The Kaliber Gaming Mechlite has a blue LED backlight with adjustable brightness levels in 7 different patterns. It has 5 programmable macro keys supporting up to 32 characters each, anti-ghosting keys with full N-key rollover, a Windows key lockout, laser cut keys and braided USB connector cable."

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Source: Neoseeker

An easier way to make flexible FETs

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2016 - 04:30 PM |
Tagged: flexible transistors, quantum dots

Flexible transistors have been made in the lab before but the process to deposit semiconductors on a flexible substrate required a vacuum to evaporate all but the desired portions of the layers laid on that substrate.  This new technique utilizes the same materials for insulators and semiconductors but the process uses inks and a photoresist mask to ensure the correct placement of a layer of conductive silver nanocrystals for the gate.   Over top opf the later of silver a layer of aluminium-oxide is added as the insulator, then cadmium-selenide quantum dots for the semiconductor channel and then another layer of silver nanocrystals and indium nanocrystals for the drain.  This is baked as you would normally treat transistors to dope the semiconductor channel and you end up with working FETs on a flexible substrate.  Check out more details on the process at Nanotechweb.

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"A high-quality, flexible transistor, made entirely from colloidal nanocrystals, has been developed by a team in the US. By sequentially depositing their components in the form of nanocrystal "inks," the researchers could make transistors using standard industrial methods, without the need for high-temperature, high-vacuum specialist equipment."

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Source: Nanotechweb

HP's Z1, a user upgradeable All-in-One workstation

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2016 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: hp, z1, workstation, AIO

The newly announced HP Z1 all-in-one workstation is smaller than its predecessors but hides quite powerful capabilities inside.  You can choose between a Skylake or Xeon E3 chip from Intel, 32 or 64GB of RAM and you can add in a pair of HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe SDDs to complement the installed HDDs.  The screen is 4k, but of a slightly smaller size than previous models at 23.6" which may deter some previous owners from upgrading, support for NVIDIA's new Maxwell chips may change that opinion.  For peripherals, there are a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, Type-C form factor for those of you whom this is of prime importance.  As you can see from the picture at The Inquirer, these AIO's are designed to be user serviceable and you can upgrade most of the components after you have purchased the machine.

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"HP INC has unveiled its third-generation Z1 workstation, having given it a boost with more memory, more storage and the latest Intel processors. "

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Source: The Inquirer

NZXT Announces Partnership with human-I-T for Earth Day Recycling Program

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2016 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: recycling, nzxt, human-I-T, Earth Day, e-waste

To celebrate Earth Day (April 22) NZXT is partnering with human-I-T to help users recycle their unwanted technology, with the working items being donated to those in need. And as a thank you, NZXT is providing discounts for purchases made on their website for those who participate.

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“This Earth Day, we're partnering with Human I-T to turn your inoperative laptops, desktops, smartphones and other devices into powerful and free educational tools. Not only does it reduce E-waste, it also helps close the digital divide by enabling vocational training for millions of people in need.”

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The page is up on NZXT’s website, and the process looks painless with a free label provided for your shipment of approved devices.

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The program begins on Earth Day, but NZXT plans to continue this program into the future.

Source: NZXT

Almost disposable gaming peripherals? Cooler Master's Devastator II mouse and keyboard combo

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2016 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: input, cooler master, Devastator II, gaming mouse, gaming keyboard

If you tend to be hard on your mice and keyboards it seems a waste to invest in a $100 device which will end up dead or at least severely injured within a few months.  Cooler Master has come up with a package that just might appeal to you, the $30 Devastator II keyboard and mouse combo.  The mouse has an optical sensor with 1000, 1600 and 2000 DPI levels and six buttons, including the sensitivity adjustment button.  The keyboard is backlit and the  "mem-chanical" switches Cooler Master uses are Cherry MX compatible so you can swap keycaps if you are so inclined.  Drop by Hardware Canucks for a closer look.

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"Cooler Master's Devastator II keyboard and mouse combo claims to do the impossible: provide a capable gaming-grade keyboard and mouse in a package that retails for just $30."

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