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Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2013 - 04:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: wwdc 13, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, apple
Sometimes our "Perspective" is needed on Apple announcements because some big points just do not get covered by the usual sources. Other times, portions of the story can be relevant to our readers. This is one of those days where both are true. Either side should review our thoughts and analysis of Apple's recent ultrabook and, especially, their upcoming desktop offerings.
The MacBook Air has been, predictably, upgraded Intel's Haswell processors. Battery life is the first obvious benefit of the CPU, and that has been well reported. The 11-inch MacBook Air gains an extra four hours of battery life, usable for up to 9 hours between charges. The extra space on the 13-inch MacBook Air allows it to last 12 hours between charges.
Less discussed, both MacBook Airs will contain Intel's Iris iGPU more commonly known as Intel HD 5000. You cannot get Intel HD 5000 graphics without selecting a BGA socket component which you would install by soldering it in place. While there are several better solutions from competing GPU vendors, Apple will have one of the first shipping implementations of Haswell's canonical graphics processor. Iris is said to have double the performance of previous generation Ivy Bridge graphics for a fraction of its power consumption.
Also included in the MacBook Air is an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi network adapter and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple is not typically known to introduce new standards and often lags severely behind what is available on the PC unless they had a hand in trademarking it, USB 3.0 being the obvious and recent example.
The specifications will be somewhat customizable, the user is able to select between: an i5 and an i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128, 256, or 512GB SSD. It has shipped the day it was announced with base prices ranging between $999 for an entry-level 11-inch and $1099 for an entry-level 13-inch.
But now we move on to the dying industry, desktop PCs, where all innovation has died unless it is to graft a touch interface to anything and everything.
"Can't innovate any more, my ass", grunts Phil Schiller, on the keynote stage.
Whether you like it, or think "innovation" is the best word, it's a legitimate new design some will want.
While the new Mac Pro is not a system that I would be interested in purchasing, for issues I will outline soon, these devices are what some users really want. I have been a very strong proponent of OEM devices as they highlight the benefit of the PC industry: choice. You can purchase a device, like the new Mac Pro, from a vendor; alternatively, you can purchase the components individually to assemble yourself and save a lot of money; otherwise, you can hire a small business computer store or technician.
We need more companies, like Apple, to try new devices and paradigms for workstations and other high-performance devices. While it is less ideal for Apple to be the ones coming up with these redesigns, Apple's platform encourages applications to be vendor-specific (only run on a Mac), it can still benefit the PC industry by demonstrating that life and demand still exists; trying something new could reap large benefits. Not everyone wants to have a full ATX case with discrete components but still want workstation performance, and that is okay.
Now when it comes to actual specifications, the typical coverage glossed over what could be easily approximated by a trip to Wikipedia and Google. Sure, some may have been in a rush within the auditorium, but still.
The specifications are:
- Intel Xeon E5-2600 V2-class CPU, Ivy Bridge-E, 12 cores max (suggests single-socket)
- 4-channel DDR3 ECC RAM, apparently 4 DIMMS which suggests 4x16GB (Max).
Dual FirePro GPUs, 4096 total shaders with 2x6GB GDDR5.
- Pretty clearly based on FirePro W9000
- Seems to be slightly underclocked, losing about 0.5 Teraflop per GPU.
- PCIe SSD
- Thunderbolt 2, USB3.0, and WiFi ac (+ a/b/g/n??), Bluetooth 4.0
Now the downside is that basically anything you wish to add to the Mac Pro needs to be done through Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 4.0, or USB 3.0. When you purchase an all-in-one custom design, you forfeit your ability to reach in and modify the components. There is also no mention of pricing, and for a computer with this shoplist you should expect to pay a substantial invoice even without "The Apple Tax", but that is not the point of purchasing a high-end workstation. Apple certainly put in as close to the best-of-the-best as they could.
Now could people stop claiming the PC is dead and work towards sustaining it? I know people love stories of jarring industry shifts, but this is ridiculous.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 08:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, E3 13, E3
So heading up to E3, Microsoft decided to drop their DRM bombshell so it would get buried over the next couple of days. In terms of permissiveness, the Xbox One is not nearly as bad as feared; of course, it is still terrible in certain ways.
Microsoft will allow games to be played offline on the Xbox One... for 24 hours. If your internet connection has been offline for longer than that period (unclear whether the timer starts when internet goes out or from last update) then your system will be locked to live TV and disc-based movies. Games and apps, even ones which should have no online functionality, will cease to function until you reconnect with Xbox servers.
This also means that if the Xbox servers have an outage lasting between 24 hours and "taken offline forever", all gaming and apparently apps will cease to function on the Xbox One.
It's like if Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury
But at least they will allow some level of used-game transfer... if the publisher agrees. Check out this statement from Microsoft Studios:
In our role as a game publisher, Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this. In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.
So this will be an interesting experiment: how will revenue and profitability be affected for game publishers who deny used game sales? I honestly expect that used game sales actually promote the purchasing of more games and that initiatives to limit used game transfers will reduce user engagement. Of course Microsoft is now taking all of the flak from Sony, who may or may not be considering the same practice, but I am sure at least Microsoft is hoping that everyone will forget this when shiny new trailers erase the collective gamer memory.
In return, however, Microsoft is being fairly permissive when it comes to how many users can be licensed on a single disk. Up to ten family members are allowed access to your collective library.
And, after all, it should not be a surprise that a console game disappears when Microsoft shuts down their servers: consoles were always designed to be disposable. I have been proclaiming that for quite some time. The difference is now, people cannot really deny it.
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 | Tim Verry
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.
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'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?
Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 4, 2013 - 11:44 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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:
Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 4, 2013 - 05:40 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Kabini, Intel, haswell, gigabyte, computex 2013, computex, brix, amd
Earlier this year, Gigabyte showed off a new small form factor (SFF) mini PC called the Brix during its New Idea Tech Tour. Those initial models came equipped with Intel Ivy Bridge processors, two SO-DIMM slots (a maximum of 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory), one mSATA slot, and one mPCI-E connector for storage and wireless networking respectively. The Brix hardware is housed in an aluminum chassis that doubles as a heatsink. However, since the Brix's debut, both Intel and AMD have come out with new more power efficient processors. In light of this, Gigabyte is not only showing off the original Brix PC at Computex 2013, but a new SKU called the GB-XM1 that comes equipped with your choice of Intel Haswell or AMD Kabini processors.
The new 4.5 x 4.2 x 1.2" Gigabyte Brix XM1 PC supports mSATA, mPCI-E, dual display outputs, USB 3.0, and is VESA mountable. The Haswell variant's processor options range from a Core i3-4010U to a Core i7-4500U. On the AMD side of things, the GB-XM1 is available with options ranging from the E1-2100 to the A4-5000. All of the AMD "Kabini" chips are outfitted with 12 Radeon cores, but they differ from there. The highest-end chip, the A4-5000, is a quad core with 2MB of L2 cache while the lower tier chips are dual cores with only 1MB of L2 cache. The following chart outlines all of the Haswell and Kabini CPU choices.
|GB-XM1 (Haswell)||GB-XM1 (Kabini)|
For more information on Kabini, check out our review of the AMD A4-5000 Kabini processor. If you need a refresher on Intel's Haswell architecture, you can also find a review of the Core i7-4770K here.
Gigabyte has not released pricing or availability information on the GB-XM1, but expect the Kabini models to be noticeably cheaper than the Haswell counterparts. Thankfully, it is not all bad news for Kabini users, as the Radeon cores help the low power processor accomplish 3D and media playback tasks, as noted in Josh's review.
For those interested in the mini Brix PC as a media center box or low-power desktop PC, Engadget reports that Gigabyte is also experimenting with specialized Brix SKUs, including a wireless charging pad for mobile devices and another Brix with a Pico projector. These accessories are merely prototypes at this point and may not go into mass production.
I'm glad to see Gigabyte moving forward with its Brix lineup to provide a useful alternative to Intel's NUC.
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 4, 2013 - 04:36 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: z87, ROG, Maximus VI Formula, maximus vi, Intel, haswell, gaming, g30, crosschill, computex 2013, computex, asus
During an ASUS ROG press conference at Computex 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan, ASUS launched a number of new bits of hardware aimed at PC gamers and overclocking enthusiasts. In addition to the mini ITX Maximus VI Impact launch, ASUS showed off the ASUS Maximus VI Formula motherboard, OC Panel accessory, and ROG G30 desktop. The available details on each piece of hardware is as follows:
ASUS Maximus VI Formula Motherboard
While ASUS hinted at several of its Z87 motherboards last month by allowing us to post teaser photos ahead of the launch, until today enthusiasts have not seen the latest "Formula" motherboard. However, now that the board is official, you can see the new Z87 motherboard in high resolution photos below!
The board comes in red and black colors, and surprisingly, comes equipped with ASUS' thermal armor accessory which includes a plastic shroud for the front of the motherboard and a SECC back-plate with thermal pads to aid in cooling and supporting the motherboard (even with heavy CPU HSFs). In addition to the thermal armor, the board has finned heatsinks on the PCH and VRM hardware. The VRM heatsink in particular uses the company's CrossChill technology which allows user to integrate the VRM heatsink into their water cooling loop or leave it as air-cooled. The board also features a diagnostic display and start/reset buttons.
The ASUS Maximus VI Formula features a LGA 1150 CPU socket, four dual channel DDR3 DIMM slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots and a total of 10 SATA 3 6Gbps ports.
The rear IO panel includes a mPCI-E Combo II card that supports 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless radios along with a M.2 NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) SSD slot at the top. Other IO includes:
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports (one used for BIOS flashing)
- 6 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x HDMI video outputs
- 1 x S/PDIF connector
- 1 x RJ45 Gigabit LAN
- 6 x analog audio jacks
Overclocking technology includes ASUS' Extreme Engine DIGI+ III power delivery that incorporates 60A BlackWing chokes, (90% efficient) NexFET MOSFETs, and 10K Black Metallic capacitors.
Finally, ASUS has also added a SupremeFX chipset for quality onboard audio. This audio chip is capable of 120dB SNR, a headphone amplifier for 600 ohm cans, EMI shielding, and quality OpAMPs.
ASUS OC Panel Overclocking Accessory
The ASUS OC Panel is a hardware accessory for the company's ROG Maximus VI Extreme motherboard. It allows you to adjust the BCLK and other settings related to overclocking your processor in real time. It also provides CPU temperature feedback on the top of the LED display.
According to the press release, overclockers Andre Yang and Shamino managed to push a system with a Maximus VI Extreme motherboard, 32GB RAM, and a Core-i7 Haswell processor to 7GHz CPU and 4200MHz clockspeed using liquid nitrogen cooling. It looks like a cool accessory that will allow you to easily adjust the overclocking settings without rebooting into the UEFI BIOS. Pricing and availability have not been announced, but expect it soon.
ASUS ROG G30 Gaming Desktop
The ROG TYTAN G30 desktop PC features a stylized case with red LEDs and a front door with ROG and ASUS logos. Internals include an Intel Core i7 4770K "Haswell" processor and a NVIDIA GTX 780 graphics card. Even better, ASUS is using liquid cooling for the CPU, and offers a 1-button overclock of all four CPU cores to 4.1GHz. The PC also integrates ASUS' SonicMaster and AudioWizard technology which reportedly enhances in-game audio.
Again, pricing and availability for the haswell gaming PC are still unknown.
What do you think of ASUS' recent ROG product announcements? Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Computex 2013 news throughout the week!
- ASUS Maximus VI Impact ROG Mini-ITX Motherboard @ PC Perspective
- ASUS Z87 Motherboard Lineup Preview @ PC Perspective
- ASUS "We Transform" Press Conference: Mobile devices, tablets, VivoPC, and more! @ PC Perspective
- ASUS VivoPC and VivoMouse Details @ PC Perspective
- ASUS Working On GTX 770 Poseidon With Hybrid Air/Water Cooler @ PC Perspective
- ASUS G750 Gaming Notebook With Haswell and GTX 700M Hardware @ PC Perspective
Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 4, 2013 - 01:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: asus, g750, gaming notebook, haswell, gtx 700M, nvidia, Intel, computex, computex 2013
With the launch of new processors and mobile graphics cards, many vendors are announcing gaming systems at the Computex 2013 trade show. One such product which was announced a couple of hours ago is the ASUS G750 17" gaming notebook. This portable powerhouse utilizes Intel's 4th Generation Core "Haswell" chips as well as NVIDIA's GTX 700M mobile GPU series in a sleek aluminum chassis to offer up decent gaming and compute performance on the go.
Much like MSI's GS70, the ASUS G750 is monster of a laptop at 17". The aluminum chassis has a brushed metal texture and the large display lifts up and exends forward towards the keyboard slightly to angle the display without stressing the hinge (presumably). The backlit keyboard is full QWERTY with a number pad to the right and isolated arrow keys. A large touchpad occupies the area under the keyboard and has multi-touch support and hardware mouse buttons. The chassis itself has a highly angular design that does its best not to look boxy despite the large form factor. The most eye catching feature is actually on the back, however, where the two large stylized Battlestar Galactica-esque vents reside.
External connectivity options include a Kensington lock, two USB 3.0 ports, and a DVD multi drive on the left side of the G750. The right side of the gaming notebook hosts the power jack, and VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs as well as two USB 3.0 and two 3.5mm audio jacks. The headphone jack doubles as a S/PDIF output and also features a built-in headphone amplifier. ASUS Sonic Master audio and AudioWizard software offers 5 genre audio equalization modes.
As mentioned above, the system will use Core i7 Intel Haswell CPUs and the new NVIDIA GTX 700M graphics cards, which you can read about here. The exact CPU and GPU you get will depend on your configuration choices at checkout, though expect at least the GTX765M to be available.
ASUS has not yet announced pricing or availability for the G750. You can find the full release linked below.
Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 10:59 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: computex 2013, computex, nvidia, msi, kepler, Intel, haswell, gtx 700M, gs70, gaming notebook
A couple of weeks ago, MSI revealed the GX70 and GX60 gaming notebooks powered by AMD's latest Richland APUs and 8970M (and 7970M) discrete graphics cards. Today, the company added the GS70 notebook to its lineup, and it is the opposite in terms of underlying technology. Specifically, the GS70 is a 17" gaming notebook with an Intel Haswell processor and a NVIDIA GTX765M. The portable gaming machine is 22mm thick and weighs in at less than 5.7 pounds (2.6kg), which is a noticeably weight reduction versus the Richland-powered models.
Expert Reviews UK goes hands-on with a prototype of the MSI GS70 at Computex 2013.
The GS70 comes clad in glossy black and is constructed of aluminum. External features include a large 17" (likely TN) display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, a SteelSeries-engineered multicolor backlit keyboard, and a large trackpad. Connectivity options include:
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
- 3 x audio jacks (with surround sound support)
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x mini DisplayPort
Internal specifications include a not-yet-named Intel 4th Generation Core "Haswell" CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a NVIDIA GTX 765M. The discrete GPU is based on NVIDIA's Kepler architecture and features 768 CUDA cores clocked at 850 MHz and up to 2GB of graphics memory clocked at 1 GHz on a 128-bit bus. The system also uses a Killer NIC networking card and MSI's own SuperRAID technology that pairs two solid state drives in a RAID configuration for pure performance. The system should be able to play all modern PC games, though some details will need to be turned down. Multi-display output is supported for up to three external displays as well.
Unfortunately, MSI has not yet announced pricing or availability for this notebook. I would expect it to (paradoxically, despite the naming conventions) cost more than the existing GX70 (due to the newer, and faster, technology used) which starts at $1,399.99 MSRP. Keep an eye out for reviews later this year if you are interested in a mobile gaming PC, as this one looks interesting. Until then, Expert Reviews UK has some initial impressions and additional photos in this article.
Subject: Systems | June 3, 2013 - 09:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Xeon Phi, tianhe-2, supercomputer, Ivy Bridge, HPC, China
A powerful new supercomputer constructed by Chinese company Inspur is currently in testing at the National University of Defense Technology. Called the Tianhe-2, the new supercomputer has 16,000 compute nodes and approximately 54 Petaflops of peak theoretical compute performance.
Destined for the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China, the open HPC platform will be used for education and research projects. The Tianhe-2 is composed of 125 racks with 128 compute nodes in each rack.
The compute nodes are broken down into two types: CPM and APU modules. One of each node type makes up a single compute board. The CPM module hosts four Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 128GB system memory, and a single Intel Xeon Phi accelerator card with 8GB of its own memory. Each APU module adds five Xeon Phi cards to every compute board. The compute boards (a CPM module + a APU module) contain two NICs that connect the various compute boards with Inspur's custom THExpress2 high bandwidth interconnects. Finally, the Tianhe-2 supercomputer will have access to 12.4 Petabytes of storage that is shared across all of the compute boards.
In all, the Tianhe-2 is powered by 32,000 Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 1.024 Petabytes of system memory (not counting Phi dedicated memory--which would make the total 1.404 PB), and 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi MIC (Many Integrated Cores) cards. That is a total of 3,120,000 processor cores (though keep in mind that number is primarily made up of the relatively simple individual Phi cores as there are 57 cores to each Phi card).
Inspur claims up to 3.432 TFlops of peak compute performance per compute node (which, for simplicity they break down as one node is 2 Ivy Bridge chips, 64GB memory, and 3 Xeon Phi cards although the two compute modules that make up a node are not physically laid out that way) for a total theoretical potential compute power of 54,912 TFlops (or 54.912 Petaflops) across the entire supercomputer. In the latest Linpack benchmark run, researchers saw up to 63% efficiency in attaining peak performance -- 30.65 PFlops out of 49.19 PFlops peak/theoretical performance -- when only using 14,336 nodes with 50GB RAM each. Further testing and optimization should improve that number, and when all nodes are brought online the real world performance will naturally be higher than the current benchmarks. With that said, the Tianhe-2 is already besting Cray's TITAN, which is promising (though I hope Cray comes back next year and takes the crown again, heh).
In order to keep all of this hardware cool, Inspur is planning a custom liquid cooling system using chilled water. The Tianhe-2 will draw up to 17.6 MW of power under load. Once the liquid cooling system is implemented the supercomputer will draw 24MW while under load.
This is an impressive system, and an interesting take on a supercomputer architecture considering the rise in popularity of heterogeneous architectures that pair massive numbers of CPUs with graphics processing units (GPUs).
The Tianhe-2 supercomputer will be reconstructed at its permanent home at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China once the testing phase is finished. It will be one of the top supercomputers in the world once it is fully online! HPC Wire has a nice article with slides an further details on the upcoming processing powerhouse that is worth a read if you are into this sort of HPC stuff.
Also read: Cray unveils the TITAN supercomputer.
Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 01:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, u21m, Intel, haswell, gigabyte, convertible tablet, computex 2013, computex
Gigabyte launched its U21M convertible tablet at Computex this week. The Windows 8 PC is an 11.6” convertible notebook that is 20mm thick and weights approximately 3.28 pounds (or 3.06 lbs without HDD). It is powered by an Intel Haswell CPU with HD4000 processor graphics and it runs the full x86-64 version of Windows 8.
The notebook features a black and slate gray colored chassis that has a brushed metal texture over the top of the keyboard deck and display bezel. Design wise, it is reminiscent of Dell's Latitude XT series with more curves. The U21M uses a similar center 180-degree hinge that allows the display to be rotated around and then laid flat against the keyboard to enable tablet mode. There are no face function buttons on the display bezel aside from the Windows key, however.
Gigabyte has made ample use of the 11.6” form factor by designing a keyboard that stretches from one side of the system to the other. The six-row keyboard looks to be well laid out with good spacing between the keys and no real key placement oddities. key travel may be an issue though as the keys are close to the metal, as it were. Below the keyboard is a large touchpad with hardware mouse buttons.
The display itself is an 11.6” capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. There does not appear to be digitizer/stylus support on the U21M, however. Above the touchscreen is a 1.3MP webcam. It also features two 1.5W speakers.
External IO options include:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
- 2 x Audio
- 1 x SD
- 1 x SIM card slot
Internally, the U21M does not disappoint, with an Intel Haswell CPU, up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, and either a 128GB or 256GB mSATA SSD plus an optional mechanical hard drive up to 1TB. There is no discrete GPU, however. The system will rely on the Haswell CPU's processor graphics, though Gigabyte has not announced specific chips so the iGPU used is unknown. Wireless connectivity options include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + LE, and a built-in 3.5G radio. The system uses a respectable 7.4V, 40Wh Lithium-Polymer battery.
Gigabyte has not yet released pricing or availability dates, but you can find all the specifications along with additional photos on this product page.
My thought on this system is that it might be a good upgrade once my Dell Latitude XT finally dies on me (heh). It should definitely be faster and get much better battery life than my current convertible tablet, that's for sure! I'll be on the lookout for reviews, but what do you think about the U21M so far? If only it came in blue...
Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 04:50 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vivopc, vivomouse, htpc, computex 2013, computex, asus
ASUS unleashed a barrage of product announcments at its opening keynote at Computex 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan earlier today. Two of the products shown off in slide form at the event were the HTPC-oriented VivoPC and VivoMouse. After the event, ASUS posted a press release that went into a bit more detail on the two devices. However, while the company has provided specifications and a tentative Q3 2013 release date, it has not yet announced pricing information.
The ASUS VivoPC is a small form factor HTPC clad in an angular brushed aluminum textured chassis. It measures 190 x 190 x 36.2mm and is large enough to accomodate a single 3.5" or 2.5" hard drive. The hard drive and memory can be easily replaced and the PC serviced by lifting up the (lockable, via a switch on the back) lid. It will come equipped with an as-yet-unnamed Intel processor with integrated processor graphics (likely Haswell, since ASUS did not mention a SKU or series and Intel has not had its keynote yet), DDR3 memory, and an 802.11ac wireless radio. It is unclear whether or not ASUS intends to sell both barebones and fully-configured SKUs, but as mentioned previously at leas the memory and HDD or SSD can be purchased seperately.
Rear IO options include:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x RJ45 LAN
- 1 x S/PDIF
- 2 x Audio jacks
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x Power button
- 1 x top cover lock switch
ASUS' preferred input method is, of course, their own recently-announced VivoMouse accessory, which is a large remote-control sized mouse with a large circular touchpad. The mouse has a 1200 DPI sensor and the touchpad supports 3-point multi-touch. It operates over the 2.4GHz RF frequency band, which is nice to see as it eliminates the need for an IR sensor and line of sight to the VivoPC box. The ASUS VivoMouse measures 135 x 78 x 25.5mm.
Personally, I think that I would rather have a WMC remote (such as the remote with qwerty keyboard and mini-trackpad on one side and media controls on the other that was Allyn's hardware pick on the podcast awhile back) with hardware buttons, but I have to admit that the VivoMouse at least looks stylish and people that also run Windows apps on their HTPCs might find having a large multi-touch touchpad useful.
Pricing has not yet been announced, but ASUS has stated that users should expect both the VivoPC and VivoMouse accessory to be available sometime in Q3 2013.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Computex 2013 coverage!
Computex 2013: ASUS Keynote -- Transformer Pad Infinity, FonePad Note, MEMO Pad HD7, VivoPC, Router RT-AC68U, Transformer Book Trio
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 04:20 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, asus
ASUS wants to kick off Computex with a barrage of product announcements. Seriously, there were 6 products announced in the span of 20 minutes with no two product from the same category. Devices range from tablets and convertibles to routers and mice.
The company started off with the new Transformer Pad Infinity. This updates their line of separable hybrid laptop/tablets with NVIDIA Tegra 4.
- NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC
- 2560x1600 10.1-inch display
- USB 3.0, Bluetooth, 4K out via HDMI
- 6MP (I think, could be 16MP) rear, 1.2 MP front cameras
Up next was the FonePad Note. A page from Samsung's playbook, both in name and in functionality, the FonePad is a 6" phone with a stylus pen. Coming off our recent Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 story, this device will also be powered by an Intel Atom Z2560 SoC. These could be the start of many high-profile design wins for Intel.
- Intel Atom Z2560 SoC
- 2GB RAM
- 6" 1080p SuperIPS+ display, thin border
- 8MP rear, 1.2MP front cameras
- Front-facing stereo speakers
- Stylus Pen
And then we get the MEMO Pad HD7. This 7-inch 1280x800 HD tablet is designed to be cheap. It will be available for $149 in 16GB capacity for America, and a smaller $129 8GB version for emerging markets.
- ARM Cortex A7 quad-core SoC
- 7-inch 1280x800 HD IPS display (10-point multitouch)
- 5MP rear, 1.2MP front cameras
- Bluetooth, GPS, stereo speakers
- (starting at?) 16GB ($149) USA, 8GB ($129) emerging markets
We briefly leave mobile devices to head towards a desktop computer. The VivoPC is designed to be easily upgraded, "Just lift the lid and replace the harddrive and memory". This is being positioned as a home theater PC running Windows 8. We currently have no further specifications.
- It's got a lid?
And of course, with the discussion of an 802.11ac device we clearly need to move on to routers. The ASUS Router RT-AC68U, while a slight bit literal of a name, is supposedly the first dual-band 802.11ac Router. I am not exactly sure what the second band would be, but I am only the messenger. Regardless, this router is apparently capable of performance up to 1.9 Gigabits per second.
And then we cannot have all of these HTPC devices without an input method, can we? Enter the ASUS VivoMouse. This device allows you to more comfortably control your PC from your couch, as far as I can tell.
Last, but with a bang, ASUS announced the Transformer Book Trio. As you can guess, the Trio name comes from its three form factors being wrapped up into a single product: it's a notebook, a tablet, and a desktop PC. Do not worry, I will not make an iPhone announcement keynote joke; that one has already been well overplayed.
The trick is that the Trio is actually two fully functional computers with one running Android and the other Window 8. Both devices are powered by an x86 Intel-based processor, however: the main PC runs a Core i7-4500U processor and the tablet runs an Atom Z2580.
A main selling feature is that, when base is separated from screen, both devices are simultaneously useable. If you attach the base to an external monitor it will function like a desktop PC.
- Intel Core i7-4500U (base), Intel Atom Z2580 (tablet)
- Full HD multitouch IPS display
- Windows 8 (base), Android Jelly Bean (screen)
- 1TB HDD (base), 64GB flash (screen)
- Fully compatible with Google Play and Windows Stores
Well, that's it. We will probably have a bit more analysis coming up soon. But, for now, I need to get off of Taipei time.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 2, 2013 - 07:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: quadro k1000m, origin pc, nvidia, kepler, Intel, haswell, gtx 700M, gaming, eon17-s, eon15-s
Origin PC has announced that it will be integrating Haswell CPUs and GTX700M GPUs into its line of gaming notebooks and desktops. Specifically, Origin PC will add Haswell CPUs to its Genesis, Millennium, and Chronos desktop PCs. Origin PC is also outfitting its EON gaming laptops with both Haswell CPU and GTX700M GPU upgrades. And to sweeten the pot (if only slightly), Origin is bundling a voucher for Grid 2 with each Haswell-equipped Origin PC order.
Both the EON15-S and EON17-S gaming laptops feature Intel Haswell processors, NVIDIA GTX700M or Quadro K1000M mobile graphics cards, and up to five storage drives when the optical drive is removed. The laptops are even able to have an independent RAID of two mSATA SSDs and two hard drives or SSDs along with a non-RAID storage drive in the optical bay—that's a lot of storage for a laptop!
The laptops come with customizable display lids available in red, black, silver, or a custom air brush as well as back-lit keyboards and touchpads. As the SKU names suggest, the EON15-S has a 15.6” display while the EON17-S has a 13.3” display. Origin PC is further offering factory overclocking for the Haswell processors and GTX700M graphics cards. The company claims up to a 20-times power reduction during idle thanks to the more power-efficient hardware.
Unfortunately, all this new tech comes at a premium, and the EON15-S and EON17-S gaming notebooks start at $1,722 and $1,784 respectively. As far as the desktops go, there is also a slight bump in price depending on the Haswell chip you select during the customization process. Upgrading to an Intel Core i7-4770K on the GENESIS desktop costs an extra $193, for example.
You can find more information on the Origin PC website.
Subject: Systems | May 31, 2013 - 07:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, mini-itx
Building a mini-ITX system that is small enough to be attached to the back of a monitor or hidden with your stereo components takes a bit more thought than assembling a full ATX system. It is not just about the size of the components you are purchasing, heat dissipation is much more important in a small system especially if it will be located somewhere that does not have great air circulation. TechSpot has put together a guide for those thinking of building such a system, using the Akasa Euler Case as the housing and powered with a Core i5-3470T. As you can see from the picture below, the final system is smaller than an HD7970.
"The idea behind the Thin Mini-ITX form factor, besides the obvious which is to create seriously compact computers, is also to allow for DIY all-in-ones (think of little PCs you can attach to the back of your monitor). Having that said, we don't fully intend to go the all-in-one route in this article, but are aiming to build a powerful Thin Mini-ITX system that can be used in the office or at home as a media PC.
This is what our finished system should look like: extremely compact, powerful, and near silent operation, as in no-moving-parts silent. For less than $700 including a 256GB SSD, we believe you'll love what the final product will look like."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Sapphire Edge HD4 @ Bjorn3D
- Streacom F7C EVO HTPC Chassis @ eTeknix
- Fractal Design Node 605 Silent HTPC Case Review @ Legit Reviews
- Leawo Total Media Converter Ultimate @ Benchmark Reviews
- Samsung BD-F7500 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Analogix Semiconductor SlimPort Cable (HDMI Adapter) @ Tweaktown
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | May 29, 2013 - 07:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows blue, Windows 8.1, windows, microsoft
Personally, I really cannot care too much about the user experience quirks inherent to Windows modernization; the wedge slowly being shoved between the user and their machine is far too concerning. No matter how they modify the interface, restricting what users and developers can install and create on their machine is a deal breaker. But, after that obligatory preface reminding people not to get wound up in UX hiccups and be complacent to the big issues, Windows Blue will certainly address many of those UX hiccups.
As we reported, last month, boot-to-desktop and the Start Button were planned for inclusion with Windows 8.1. Then, the sources were relentless to emphasize: "Until it ships, anything can change."
Images courtesy, Paul Thurrott.
Mary Jo Foley gathered quite a few details since then. Firstly, the option (as in, disabled by default) to boot directly to desktop will be there; from the sounds of it, it looks like it will be disabled by default but not exclusive to Enterprise SKUs. This is somewhat promising, as it would be slightly less likely for Microsoft to kill support for the desktop (and, by extension, x86 applications) if they feel pressure to punctuate it. Still, assuming because "it makes sense" is a bad way to conduct business.
Also available (albeit, enabled by default) is the Start Button, seen in higher quality above. This will be, as far as we know, enabled by default. Its functionality will be to bring up the Start Screen or, alternatively, a new All Apps screen visible at ZDNet. Now this has me interested: while I actually like the Start Screen, a list of apps should provide functionality much closer to the Start Menu than Microsoft was previously comfortable with. Previously, the Start Screen attempted to make the desktop applications feel less comfortable than modern apps; this interface appears like it would feel more comfortable to the desktop. While probably still jarring, it looks to make finding desktop applications easier and quickly gets out of the way of your desktop experience.
According to Paul Thurrott, for those who wish to personalize the Start Screen, you will have the option to share your desktop wallpaper with the it. For tasteful backgrounds, like the one above, I can see this being of good use.
Just please, do not grief someone with a background full of fake tiles.
As a final note, there is still no word about multiple monitor support for "Modern Apps". If you have tried to use them in the past, you know what I am talking about: basically only one at a time, it will jump between monitors if you bring up the Start Screen, and so forth.
Subject: Systems | May 28, 2013 - 06:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF case, SFF, passive cooling, nimbus, heastink, fanless, cpu cooler, cirrus7
German PC manufacturer Cirrus7 has launched a new small form factor (SFF) PC called the Nimbus that uses slices of aluminum that do double duty as both a case and a passive CPU cooler (heatsink).
The Nimbus PC features an Intel DQ77KB motherboard and low-power Intel processor along with configurable DDR3 and mSATA storage options. The base model will come with 4GB of DDR3 and a 60GB mSATA SSD. CPU options include the Intel G1610T, G2020T, Core i3-3220T, i3-3470T, i5-3570T, and i7-3770T. From there you can add up to two 7mm 2.5” hard drives (or SSDs) and increase the amount of RAM (for a higher price, of course).
The Intel DQ77KB board supports vPro and KVM over IP on systems with the Core i5 or higher processor. It has the following external IO options:
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x Intel Gigabit LAN
- 2 x Audio jacks (green jack is dual purpose, mini-TOSLink compatible)
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
The SFF PC comes preloaded with either Ubuntu 13.04, Ubuntu 12.04, or Windows 8 (depending on your choice at checkout).
Check out more photos of the Nimbus at FanlessTech.
In order to keep the hardware cool, Cirrus7 has opted for an all-aluminum enclosure that is built around and over the motherboard in a fin-spacer-fin pattern. Each aluminum fin is 12mm high and the height of the system can be varied by adding or reducing the number of fins used. For example, using all fins allows Cirrus7 to support higher TDPs like the Core i7 3770T. Alternatively, if you are just using an i3-3220T, you could get by with a smaller (and lighter) case/heatsink. Notably, judging by the hands-on photos over at FanlessTech, the Nimbus does not use a copper CPU block which may have reduce the heatsink's effectiveness. That, or maybe Cirrus7 expects that they have slapped enough aluminum fins on the system that it doesn't matter much (heh). Also note that the case is not completely sealed, so although it is passively cooled, it is definitely not water or dust proof. Beyond that though, the case looks nice and the system would make a nice silent backup server, router, or HTPC!
The Nimbus will be available towards the end of June in Germany and Europe, with worldwide shipping available upon request. The system starts at €499 for the base model which is approximately $640 USD (before shipping). That price includes the case, processor, motherboard, RAM, and mSATA drive. Cirrus 7 has stated that Haswell-based models of the Nimbus will be available at some point, but are not expected until around the end of 2013 at the earliest.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | May 27, 2013 - 03:08 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, ps4, consolitis, consoles
So, as Wired editorial states it: hardcore console gamers don't want much, just the impossible. They want a "super-powered box" tethered to their TV; they want the blockbuster epics and innovative indie titles; they want it to "just work" for what they do. The author, Chris Kohler, wrote his column to demonstrate how this is, and has for quite some time been, highly unprofitable.
I think the bigger problem is that the console manufacturers want the impossible.
Console manufacturers have one goal: get their platform in your house and require their hand be in the pocket of everything you do with it. They need to make an attractive device for that to be true, so they give it enough power to legitimately impress the potential buyer and price it low enough to catch the purchasing impulse. Chances are this involves selling the box under cost at launch and for quite some time after.
But, if all of this juicy control locks the user into overspending in the long run, then it is worth it...
But Microsoft should be thankful that I cost them money to be acquired as a customer.
Well, looking at the Wired article, not only are console gamers ultimately overspending: it is still not enough! Consoles truly benefit no-one! The console manufacturers are not doing any more than maybe breaking even, at some point, eventually, down the line, they hope. Microsoft and Sony throw obnoxious amounts of money against one another in research, development, and marketing. Redundant technologies are formed to pit against their counterparts with billions spent in marketing to try to prove why either choice is better.
All of this money is spent to corral users into a more expensive experience where they can pocket the excess.
Going back to the editorial's claims: with all of this money bleeding out, Microsoft wants to appeal more broadly and compensate the loss with more cash flowing in. Sure, Microsoft has wanted a foothold in the living room for decades at this point, but the Xbox Division bounces between profitability and huge losses; thus, they want to be an entertainment hub if just for the cash alone.
But think back to the start, these troubles are not because it is impossible to satisfy hardcore gamers. These troubles are because Microsoft and Sony cannot generate revenue from their acquired control quicker than they can bleed capital away trying to acquire that control, or at least generate it more than just barely fast enough.
The other solution, which I have felt for quite some time is the real answer (hence why I am a PC gamer), has a large group of companies create an industry body who governs an open standard. Each company can make a substantial profit by focusing on a single chunk of the platform -- selling graphics processors, maintaining a marketplace, or what-have-you -- by leveraging the success of every other chunk.
This model does work, and it is the basis for one of humanity's most successful technology products: the internet.
As a side note: this is also why PC gaming was so successful... Microsoft, developers, Steam/GoG/other marketplaces, and hardware vendors were another version of this... albeit Microsoft had the ability to override them and go in whatever direction they wanted. They didn't, until Windows RT.
And the internet might even be the solution. The web browser is capable, today, of providing amazing gaming experiences and it does not even require a plugin. It is getting more powerful, even faster than the rate at which underlying hardware has evolved.
To end on an ironic note, that makes a web browser more capable of offline play than our current understanding of the Xbox One (and Sony has said nothing either way, for that matter).
I guess the takeaway message is: love the web browser, it "just works".
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | May 23, 2013 - 06:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, unreal engine, ps4, playstation 4, epic games
Unreal Engine 4 was presented at the PlayStation 4 announcement conference through a new Elemental Demo. We noted how the quality seemed to have dropped in the eight months following E3 while the demo was being ported to the console hardware. The most noticeable differences were in the severely reduced particle counts and the non-existent fine lighting details; of course, Epic pumped the contrast in the PS4 version which masked the lack of complexity as if it were a stylistic choice.
Still, the demo was clearly weakened. The immediate reaction was to assume that Epic Games simply did not have enough time to optimize the demo for the hardware. That is true to some extent, but there are theoretical limits on how much performance you can push out of hardware at 100% perfect utilization.
Now that we know both the PS4 and, recently, the Xbox One: it is time to dissect more carefully.
A recent LinkedIn post from EA Executive VP and CTO, Rajat Taneja, claims that the Xbox One and PS4 are a generation ahead of highest-end PC on the market. While there are many ways to interpret that statement, in terms of raw performance that statement is not valid.
As of our current knowledge, the PlayStation 4 contains an eight core AMD "Jaguar" CPU with an AMD GPU containing 18 GCN compute units, consisting of a total of 1152 shader units. Without knowing driving frequencies, this chip should be slightly faster than the Xbox One's 768 shader units within 12 GCN compute units. The PS4 claims their system has a total theoretical 2 teraFLOPs of performance and the Xbox One would almost definitely be slightly behind that.
Back in 2011, the Samaritan Demo was created by Epic Games to persuade console manufacturers. This demo was how Epic considered the next generation of consoles to perform. They said, back in 2011, that this demo would theoretically require 2.5 teraFLOPs of performance for 30FPS at true 1080p; ultimately their demo ran on the PC with a single GTX 680, approximately 3.09 teraFLOPs.
This required performance, (again) approximately 2.5 teraFLOPs, is higher than what is theoretically possible for the consoles, which is less than 2 teraFLOPs. The PC may have more overhead than consoles, but the PS4 and Xbox One would be too slow even with zero overhead.
Now, of course, this does not account for reducing quality where it will be the least noticeable and other cheats. Developers are able to reduce particle counts and texture resolutions in barely-noticeable places; they are also able to render below 1080p or even below 720p, as was the norm for our current console generation, to save performance for more important things. Perhaps developers might even use different algorithms which achieve the same, or better, quality for less computation at the expense of more sensitivity to RAM, bandwidth, or what-have-you.
But, in the end, Epic Games did not get the ~2.5 teraFLOPs they originally hoped for when they created the Samaritan Demo. This likely explains, at least in part, why the Elemental Demo looked a little sad at Sony's press conference: it was a little FLOP.
Update, 5/24/2013: Mark Rein of Epic Games responds to the statement made by Rajat Taneja of EA. While we do not know his opinion on consoles... we know his opinion on EA's opinion:
— Mark Rein (@MarkRein) May 23, 2013
Subject: Systems | May 21, 2013 - 08:21 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Richland, msi, gx70, gx60, gaming notebook, gaming, APU, amd
MSI announced two new gaming notebooks powered by AMD's latest Richland APUs today called the GX70 and GX60. Both gaming notebooks use AMD A10-5750M processors, a discrete AMD graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and a 750GB (7200 RPM) hard drive. Other shared specifications include a Killer E2200 NIC, Blu-ray drive, THX certified speakers, a headphone amp, and a large 9-cell battery.
The GX70 is the largest of the two gaming notebooks at 8.6 pounds and packing a 17.3” display. The GX70 uses the A10-5750M APU and a Radeon 8970M discrete mobile GPU to deliver gaming performance to the 1080p display. The system is also capable of outputting to multiple displays over HDMI and supports AMD's Eyefinity 3D technology. On the outside, the MSI GX70 features a 17.3” 1920 x 1080p display with an anti-reflective coating as well as a SteelSeries gaming keyboard.
Meanwhile, the MSI GX60 is a 15-inch notebook that weighs 7.7 pounds. This gaming notebook uses an AMD A10-5750M APU and a Radeon 7970M mobile discrete GPU. Further, the GX60 has a 15.6” 1080p anti-reflective display and SteelSeries gaming keyboard.
MSI claims that the new AMD Richland APUs will give its gaming notebooks much better battery life. The new GX70 and GX60 will have up to 40% better graphical performance compared to previous generations thanks to the new APUs and discrete cards. According to MSI VP of Sales Andy Tung, “the GX70 and GX60 deliver the ultimate sensory experience for both professional and amateur gamers.” More information on the new gaming notebooks can be found on this MSI press release.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | May 21, 2013 - 05:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox
Almost exactly three months have passed since Sony announced the Playstation 4 and just three weeks remain until E3. Ahead of the event, Microsoft unveiled their new Xbox console: The Xbox One. Being so close to E3, they are saving the majority of games until that time. For now, it is the box itself as well as its non-gaming functionality.
First and foremost, the raw specifications:
- AMD APU (5 billion transistors, 8 core, on-die eSRAM)
- 8GB RAM
- 500GB Storage, Bluray reader
- USB 3.0, 802.11n, HDMI out, HDMI in
The hardware is a definite win for AMD. The Xbox One is based upon an APU which is quite comparable to what the PS4 will offer. Unlike previous generations, there will not be too much differentiation based on available performance; I would not expect to see much of a fork in terms of splitscreen and other performance-sensitive features.
A new version of the Kinect sensor will also be present with all units which developers can depend upon. Technically speaking, the camera is higher resolution and more wide-angle; up to six skeletons can be tracked with joints able to rotate rather than just hinge. Microsoft is finally also permitting developers to use the Kinect along with a standard controller to, as they imagine, allow a user to raise their controller to block with a shield. That is the hope, but near the launch of the original Kinect, Microsoft filed a patent to allow sign language recognition: has not happened yet. Who knows whether the device will be successfully integrated into gaming applications.
Of course Microsoft is known most for system software, and the Xbox runs three lightweight operating environments. In Windows 8, you have the Modern interface which runs WinRT applications and you have the desktop app which is x86 compatible.
The Xbox One borrows more than a little from this model.
The home screen, which I am tempted to call the Start Screen, for the console has a very familiar tiled interface. They are not identical to Windows but they are definitely consistent. This interface allows for access to Internet Explorer and an assortment of apps. These apps can be pinned to the side of the screen, identical to Windows 8 modern app. I am expecting there to be "a lot of crossover" (to say the least) between this and the Windows Store; I would not be surprised if it is basically the same API. This works both when viewing entertainment content as well as within a game.
These three operating systems run at the same time. The main operating system is basically a Hyper-V environment which runs the two other operating systems simultaneously in sort-of virtual machines. These operating systems can be layered with low latency, since all you are doing is compositing them in a different order.
Lastly, they made reference to Xbox Live, go figure. Microsoft is seriously increasing their server capacity and expects developers to utilize Azure infrastructure to offload "latency-insensitive" computation for games. While Microsoft promises that you can play games offline, this obviously does not apply to features (or whole games) which rely upon the back-end infrastructure.
And yes, I know you will all beat up on me if I do not mention the SimCity debacle. Maxis claimed that much of the game requires an online connection due to the complicated server requirements; after a crack allowed offline functionality, it was clear that the game mostly operates fine on a local client. How much will the Xbox Live cloud service offload? Who knows, but that is at least their official word.
Now to tie up some loose ends. The Xbox One will not be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games although that is no surprise. Also, Microsoft says they are allowing users to resell and lend games. That said, games will be installed and not require the disc, from what I have heard. Apart from the concerns about how much you can run on a single 500GB drive, once the game is installed rumor has it that if you load it elsewhere (the rumor is even more unclear about whether "elsewhere" counts accounts or machines) you will need to pay a fee to Microsoft. In other words? Basically not a used game.
Well, that has it. You can be sure we will add more as information comes forth. Comment away!