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Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems | September 27, 2013 - 02:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SteamOS, Steam Controller, reverse-consolitis
Steam Controller is the third, and final, announcement in the Steam Hardware event. Sure, the peripheral looks weird. It looks very weird. The first thing(s?) you will notice, and likely the driving influence for the iconography, is... or are... the touch pads which replace the expected thumbsticks. The second thing you will notice is the "high resolution" (no specific resolution or dimension was provided) touchscreen.
The most defining aspect of the controllers, as previously stated, is its pair of trackpads. This input method might actually stand the chance of precise controls while maintaining comfort for a couch. To start, I will quote Valve:
In addition, games like first-person shooters that are designed around precise aiming within a large visual field now benefit from the trackpads’ high resolution and absolute position control.
The emphasis was placed by me.
Last year, almost to the date, I published an editorial, "Is the Gamepad Really Designed for Gaming?" In it, I analyzed console controllers from an engineering standpoint. I blamed velocity-based joystick control for the need to enable auto-aim on console titles. Quoting myself, which feels a little weird to be entirely honest:
Analog sticks are a velocity-oriented control scheme where the mouse is a relative position-oriented control scheme. When you move a joystick around you do not move the pointer to a target rather you make it travel at some speed in the direction of the target. With a mouse you just need to move it the required distance and stop. It is easier to develop a sensitivity to how far you need to pull a mouse to travel to the target than a sensitivity to how long to hold a joystick in a given direction to reach a target. Joysticks are heavily reliant on our mental clocks and eye coordination.
Each trackpad can also be clicked, like the thumbsticks of current controllers just probably more comfortably, to provide extra functionality. From a User Experience (UX) standpoint, I can envision a first-person shooter which emulates a (velocity-based) joystick when the right trackpad is pressed (assuming it is very light to press and comfortably to rub your thumb against while pressing) but switches to position-based when touched but not pressed.
The implication is quick rotation when firing from the hip, but positionally-based targeting when precision is required. Maybe other methods will come up too? I find the technology particularly exciting because Valve, clearly, designed it with the understanding of position-based versus velocity-based control. This challenge you rarely hear discussed.
The touchscreen is also a large clickable surface. The controller recognizes touch input and overlays the contents of the screen atop the user's screen but it will not commit the action until the touchpad is pressed. This is designed so the gamer will not need to look at their controller to see what action they are performing.
Personally, I hope this is developer-accessible. Some games, as the WiiU suggests, can benefit from hiding information.
Haptic feedback also ties into the trackpads. Their intent is to provide sensations to the thumbs and compensate for loss of mechanical sensation with thumbsticks. Since they are in there, Valve decided to offer a large, programmable, data channel to very precisely control the effect.
They specifically mention the ability to accept audio waveforms to function as speakers "as a parlour trick".
The devices will be beta tested, via the Steam Machine quest, but without wireless or touchscreen support. Instead of a touchscreen, the controller will contain a four-quadrant grid of buttons mapped to commands.
Thus wraps up the three-pronged announcement. Valve directs interested users to their Steam Universe group for further discussion.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 26, 2013 - 05:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Rock, Paper, Firefox OS, APC
Update: (9/28/2013) APC responded to my email and confirmed all models support up to 32GB microSD cards (so, microSD or microSDHC).
Firefox OS is an operating system which boots into a web standards rendering engine. All applications and user interface elements are essentially web sites, often hosted by the device but could obviously have online components as the creator desires, web standards making it easier to port and manage code.
Hardware designers are continuing to adopt the platform.
APC, an initiative of VIA Technologies, got our attention over a year ago when they launched their smaller-than-a-banana Android desktop. It was an interesting design which came out at roughly the same time as the Raspberry Pi. I cannot tell whether that boost or harmed consumer interest.
Either way, the APC has announced two successors: The APC Paper and the APC Rock. Both devices dropped Android (side note: the $50 APC 8750 based on Android 2.3 is apparently still available) replacing it, instead, with Firefox OS. Both devices are in the Neo-ITX form factor although that should not matter too much, for Paper, as it includes a case.
Paper covers Rock, get it?
The raw specifications are as follows:
- SoC: VIA ARM Cortex-A9 @ 800 MHz
- GPU: Built in 2D/3D up to 720p
- Memory: 512MB DDR3
- Storage: 4GB NAND Flash
Expandable Storage: microSD (maximum 32GB)
- Update: APC confirmed all models support up to 32GB, which is microSDHC
- I/O: HDMI, VGA (Rock-only), 2x USB 2.0, MicroUSB, 3.5mm Headphone/Mic
This build of Firefox OS contains mouse and keyboard support. If you wish to install your own operating system, while you are on your own, the kernel and bootloader are available on the APC website and the hardware is unlocked. They also provide access to the ARM debug headers for the real developer types.
If you are one of these developer types, would you consider fixing a known issue? APC will donate free devices to users who submit fixes for specially tagged bugs on their Github repo. Think of it like investing time fixing a product which, if you would have bought it, probably would have crushed the bug anyway.
It would have been nice to see a bump in processor performance and graphics functionality, and perhaps more than 512 MB of RAM, although it should be sufficient for light web browsing. As a developer of GPU-intensive web applications, which I expect to have an article on soon, I am not sure how much that colors my view of these devices. Then again, we are also talking about devices in the Roku price-point, so (apart from sticking with 720p... come on now) I may not have a valid complaint.
Both devices are available now, in limited quantities, through the manufacturer website. The Paper carries a price tag of $99 USD while the Rock is slightly cheaper at $79 USD.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 25, 2013 - 02:16 PM | Scott Michaud
If you were hoping to purchase a Valve-stamped device then you will be disappointed.
Valve, as it becomes increasingly clear, does not want to limit SteamOS to specific hardware. With the tag line, "Finally, a multiple choice answer", Valve wants consumers to purchase from OEMs or create the devices themselves.
Valve will make 300 of their own boxes and deliver them to selected beta testers, for free, after an "eligibility quest" ending October 25th. No specifications have been announced for these devices except that they are high performance, upgradable, and open. Even if you do not get one of these boxes, completing the quest will earn you a Steam badge so, that is something, right?
The most important announcement, hidden in the FAQ, is that game streaming will be available during the Beta test. I could assume, from this, that it will be available at launch. This allows users to access "the 3,000 games on Steam" whether running natively or networked to your gaming computer. Also in the FAQ, SteamOS will have mouse and keyboard support although it clearly is designed for gamepad input, too.
The longer this goes, the more correct I feel about Valve picking up the slack left behind by Microsoft. These boxes look at consoles from the model of "Media Center Extenders" except with Steam and other streaming partners being the Media Center server instead of actual Windows Media Center. Sure, I expect them to be more powerful than Roku boxes and many even more powerful than the Xbox One and PS4, but they are looking to follow that market segment.
I do not see these devices even trying to compete with PC market share.
You can purchase your own Steam Machine from a number of OEMs in 2014. The beta contest closes October 25th and those devices will be shipped between now at the end of the year. For details on the "eligibility quest", check out Steam's page.
Make sure to come back on Friday for the last of three announcements. Also, if you're around in 45 minutes (after publish), check out AMD's Hawaii GPU announcement live stream.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 23, 2013 - 02:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, SteamOS, Steam Box, big picture mode
SteamOS is the first announcement, of three, in Valve's attempt to install a PC into your living room. The operating system is unsurprisingly built from Linux and optimized for the living room. Still no announcement of hardware although the second part is less than 48 hours away. The key features of SteamOS will also be ported to the Steam client on Windows, OSX, and Linux. Are you seeing... the big picture?
The four main features are: in-home streaming, media services, family sharing, and family options.
In-home streaming allows users to, by leaving their Steam client running on their PC or Mac, use their network to transmit video and controller input to SteamOS. The concept is very similar to OnLive and Gaikai. Latency is barely an issue, however, as the server is located on your local network. As the user owns the server, also known as their home computer, there is less concern of the service removing the title from their library. Graphics performance would be dictated by that high-end PC, and not the gaming consoles.
As a side note: Gabe Newell, last year at CES, mentioned plans by NVIDIA to allow virtualized GPUs with Maxwell (AMD is probably working on a similar feature, too). Combined with in-home streaming, this means that two or more Steam boxes could play games from the same desktop even while someone else uses it.
SteamOS will have music, movie, and TV functionality. Very little details on this one but I would assume Netflix is a possibility. The Steam distribution platform can physically handle video and audio streaming, especially with their updates a couple of years ago, but their silence about content deals leads me to assume they are talking about third-party services... for now, at least. We do know, from LinuxCon, that Gabe Newell is a firm believer in one library of content regardless of device.
We have already discussed Steam Family Sharing, but this is obviously aimed at Steam Box. One library for all content includes games.
Lastly, Steam will be updated for family control options. Individual users can be restricted or hidden from certain titles in other users' libraries. This helps keep them at-or-above parity with the gaming consoles for concerned parents.
Valve also believes in user control.
Steam is not a one-way content broadcast channel, it’s a collaborative many-to-many entertainment platform, in which each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else. With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation.
SteamOS will be free, forever, to everyone. Both users and system builders (including OEMs) can download the operating system and install it on their machines. No release date, yet, but it will be available soon... Valve Time?
The second announcement will occur at 1PM EDT this Wednesday, September 25, 2013. According to their iconography, we can now assume SteamOS will be the circle. The next announcement is circle in square brackets: SteamOS in a box? If you come on over to find out (please do! : D), stick around an extra couple of hours (minus the time it takes to write the article) for our AMD Hawaii Live Stream at 3PM EDT also on September 25th.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2013 - 09:15 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Steam Box, LinuxCon, Gabe Newell
Valve Software, as demonstrated a couple of days ago, still believe in Linux as the future of gaming platforms. Gabe Newell discussed this situation at LinuxCon, this morning, which was streamed live over the internet (and I transcribed after the teaser break at the bottom of the article). Someone decided to rip the stream, not the best quality but good enough, and put it on Youtube. I found it and embed it below. Enjoy!
Gabe Newell highlights, from the seventh minute straight through to the end, why proprietary platforms look successful and how they (sooner-or-later) fail by their own design. Simply put, you can control what is on it. Software you do not like, or even their updates, can be stuck in certification or even excluded from the platform entirely. You can limit malicious software, at least to some extent, or even competing products.
Ultimately, however, you limit yourself by not feeding in to the competition of the crowd.
If you wanted to get your cartridge made you bought it, you know, FOB in Tokyo. If you had a competitive product, miraculously, your ROMs didn't show up until, you know, 3 months after the platform holder's product had entered market and stuff like that. And that was really where the dominant models for what was happening in gaming ((came from)).
But, not too surprisingly, open systems were advancing faster than the proprietary systems had. There used to be these completely de novo graphics solutions for gaming consoles and they've all been replaced by PC-derived hardware. The openness of the PC as a hardware standard meant that the rate of innovation was way faster. So even though, you would think, that the console guys would have a huge incentive to invest in it, they were unable to be competitive.
Microsoft attempts to exert control over their platform with modern Windows which is met by a year-over-year regression in PC sales; at the same time, PC gaming is the industry hotbed of innovation and it is booming as a result. In a time of declining sales in PC hardware, Steam saw a 76% growth (unclear but it sounds like revenue) from last year.
Valve really believes the industry will shift toward a model with little divide between creator and consumer. The community has been "an order of magnitude" more productive than the actual staff of Team Fortress 2.
Does Valve want to compete with that?
This will only happen with open platforms. Even the consoles, with systems sold under parts and labor costs to exert control, have learned to embrace the indie developer. The next gen consoles market indie developers, prior to launch, seemingly more than the industry behemoths and that includes their own titles. They open their platforms a little bit but it might still not be enough to hold off the slow and steady advance of PC gaming be it through Windows, Linux, or even web standards.
Speaking of which, Linux and web standards are oft criticized because they are fragmented. Gabe Newell, intentionally or unintentionally, claimed proprietary platforms are more fragmented. Open platforms have multiple bodies push and pull the blob but it all tends to flow in the same direction. Proprietary platforms have lean bodies with control over where they can go, just many of them. You have a dominant and a few competing platforms for each sector: phones and tablets, consoles, desktops, and so forth.
He noted each has a web browser and, because the web is an open standard, is the most unified experience across devices of multiple sectors. Open fragmentation is small compared to the gaps between proprietary silos across sectors. ((As a side note: Windows RT is also designed to be one platform for all platforms but, as we have been saying for a while, you would prefer an open alternative to all RT all the time... and, according to the second and third paragraphs of this editorial, it will probably suffer from all of the same problems inherent to proprietary platforms anyway.))
Everybody just sort of automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of wherever they are. There may be pluses or minuses of their specific environment but nobody says, "Oh I'm in an airplane now, I'm going to use a completely different method of accessing data across a network". We think that should be more broadly true as well. That you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as being things which require a completely different way for users to interact or acquire assets or developers to program or deliver to those targets.
Obviously if that is the direction you are going in, Linux is the most obvious basis for that and none of the proprietary, closed platforms are going to be able to provide that form of grand unification between mobile, living room, and desktop.
Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities that we see for bringing Linux into the living room and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile.
Well, we will certainly be looking forward to next week.
Personally, for almost two years I found it weird how Google, Valve, and Apple (if the longstanding rumors were true) were each pushing for wearable computing, Steam Box/Apple TV/Google TV, and content distribution at the same time. I would not be surprised, in the slightest, for Valve to add media functionality to Steam and Big Picture and secure a spot in the iTunes and Play Store market.
As for how wearables fit in? I could never quite figure that out but it always felt suspicious.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 11, 2013 - 03:43 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: w540, Thinkpad, quadro, optimus, mobile workstation, Lenovo, haswell
Lenovo announced several business-oriented ThinkPad notebooks today, including a new 15" mobile workstation called the ThinkPad W540. This new ISV-certified workstation employs Lenovo's claimed "user inspired design," high resolution screen, Intel Haswell processor, and longer battery life.
The ThinkPad W540 measures 27mm and weighs 5.45 pounds. It features a 15.5" IPS display with a resolution of 2880 x 1620 and Precision back-lit keyboard with number pad. The screen can be automatically calibrated using the integrated X-Rite color calibrator, according to the press release. IO ports include Thunderbolt, VGA, and USB among others.
Lenovo has packed the W540 with a quad core Intel i7 processor, up to 32GB of RAM, an NVIDIA Quadro GPU (with Optimus support), and up to 2TB of hard drive storage in optional RAID configurations. The notebook comes with a Wi-Fi radio and can also be configured with a 4G LTE cellular radio.
Lenovo has not yet announced pricing, but the mobile workstation will be available in November.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | September 10, 2013 - 12:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, never settle forever, never settle, Saints Row IV
A month after the launch of the choose your own adventures, "Never Settle Forever", we get another entry for the gold tier: Saint's Row IV.
Yet another territory they claim.
Two Radeon cards, the HD 7950 and the HD 7970 (with or without GHz edition), qualify for this tier in AMD's promotion. Desktop PCs built with a Radeon HD 8900 installed also count toward this promotion. When you go for the gold, so to speak, you can choose three of the following (now) eleven games to enjoy your new hardware with:
- Saint's Row IV
- Tomb Raider
- Hitman: Absolution
- Sleeping Dogs
- Far Cry 3
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- DiRT 3
- DiRT: Showdown
- Sniper Elite V2
AMD prepared a statement about their partnership with Saint's Row IV publisher, Deep Silver:
“AMD and Deep Silver have a long and successful history of collaboration across their many excellent games, and Saints Row IV is another example of their outstanding development talent. We are very proud to have their partnership in the AMD Gaming Evolved program and Never Settle Forever bundle,” said Ritche Corpus, director of developer relations and alliances team, Graphics Business Unit, AMD. “As a result, PC gamers with AMD Radeon™ graphics cards can fire up their copy of Saints Row IV knowing that they are receiving the best possible experience. And as the exclusive hardware partner for Saints Row IV, the AMD Gaming Evolved program continues to demonstrate its relentless commitment to ensuring the world’s most exciting games are exclusively optimized for AMD Radeon™ hardware.”
AMD is not finished with Never Settle and claims more will arrive in the coming months. I would expect the switch to choose-your-bundle gives the company slightly more freedom to add extra titles without ballooning costs or removing popular entries. I hope we will see titles available in other tiers, except for the HD 7990 which should keep its 8 game promotion, along with more gold entries.
Either way, we will keep you updated as we hear more.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 9, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Xeon Phi, workstation, quadro, micron, LSI, k6000, Ivy Bridge-EP, firepro, dell
Along with the release of new mobile workstations, Dell announced three new desktop workstations. Specifically, Dell is launching the T3610, T5610, and T7610 PC workstations under its Precision series. The new systems reside in redesigned cases with improved cable management, removable power supplies (tool-less, removable by sliding out from rear panel), and in the case of the T7610 removable hard drives. All of the new Precision workstations have been outfitted with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge-EP based Xeon processors, ECC memory, workstation-class graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA, Xeon Phi accelerator card options, LSI hardware RAID controllers, and updated software solutions from Intel and Dell.
The new Precision workstations side-by-side. From left to right: T3610, T5610, and T7610.
Dell's Precision T3610 is a the mid-tower system of the group powered by single socket Xeon E5-2600 v2 hardware that further supports up to 128GB DDR3 ECC memory, two graphics cards, three 3.5” hard drives, and four 2.5” SSDs.
The Precision T3610, a new single socket, mid-range workstation.
The Precision T5610 ups the ante to a dual socket IVB-EP processor system that can be configured with up to 128GB DDR3 ECC memory, two AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quadro (e.g. Quadro K5000) graphics cards, a Tesla K20C accelerator card, three 3.5” hard drives, and four 2.5” solid state drives.
Finally, the T7610 workstation supports dual Intel Ivy Bridge-EP Xeon E5-2600 v2 series processors (up to 24 cores per system), up to 512GB DDR3 ECC memory, three graphics cards (including two NVIDIA Quadro K6000 cards), four 3.5” hard drives, and eight 2.5” SSDs.
Dell's Precision T5610 dual socket workstation.
The new Precision workstations can also be configured with an Intel Xeon Phi 3120A accelerator card in lieu of a Tesla card. The choice will mainly depend on the applications being used and the development resources and expertise available. Both options are designed to accelerate highly parallel workloads in applications that have been compiled to support them. Further, users can add an LSI hardware RAID card with 1GB of onboard memory to the systems. Dell further offers a Micron P320h PCI-E SSD that, while not bootable, offers up 350GB of high performance storage that excels at high sequential reads and writes.
On the software front, Dell is including the Dell Precision Performance Optimizer and the Intel Cache Acceleration Software. The former automatically configures and optimizes the workstation for specific applications based on profiles that are reportedly regularly updated. The other bit of software works to optimize systems that use both hard drives and SSDs with the SSDs as a cache for the mechanical storage. The Intel Cache Acceleration Software configures the caching algorithms to favor caching very large files on the solid state storage. It is a different approach to consumer caching strategies, but one that works well with businesses that use these workstations to process large data sets.
The Dell Precision T7610 workstation.
The Dell workstations are aimed at businesses doing scientific analysis, professional engineering, and complex 3D modeling. The T7610 in particular is aimed at the oil and gas industry for use in simulations and modeling as companies search for new oil deposits.
All three systems will be available for purchase worldwide beginning September 12th. Some of the options, such as 512GB of ECC and the NVIDIA Quadro K6000 on the T7610 will not be available until next month, however. The T3610 has a starting price of $1,099 while the T5610 and T7610 have starting prices of $2,729 and $3,059 respectively.
What are your thoughts on Dell's new mid-tower workstations?
Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 9, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, quadro, precision series, optimus, mobile workstation, m6800, m4800, haswell, firepro, enduro, dell
Today, Dell announced new mobile workstation systems in 15” and 17” notebook form factors. The Dell Precision M4800 and Precision M6800 are 15” and 17” laptops constructed of magnesium alloy and anodized aluminum cases, pack some impressive portable computing power, and will be available later this week.
The Dell Precision M6800 and M4800. Photo courtesy of Dell Inc.
Both the Dell M4800 and M6800 are ISV certified, MIL-STD-810G tested, and support FIPS fingerprint readers, self encrypting hard drives, and TPM security chips. The workstations are updates to the existing M4700 and M6700 systems and can be configured with Intel Haswell i5 or i7 (including i7 Extreme Edition) processors, AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quadro GPUs, up to 32GB of DDR3 1600MHz (or 16GB DDR3 at 1866MHz), multiple storage drives, Waves MaxxAudio, and WiGig wireless dock support that allows up to 5 external displays. Users can attach a 9-cell 97Wh slice battery in addition to the 9-cell 97Wh system battery to get extended battery life. Users can add dedicated graphics cards to the systems from AMD (FirePro) or NVIDIA (Quadro), which support Enduro and Optimus technologies respectively. The technology allows the system to turn off the dedicated cards and use the Intel processor graphics when the extra horsepower is not needed to conserve battery life. The M4800 and M6800 workstations each come with 3 year warranties.
The Dell Precision M4800 is a mobile workstation weighing 6.35 pounds. It features a backlit keyboard, trackpad, and high resolution 15.6” QHD+ IGZO display with a resolution of 3200 x 1800. The notebook can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 “Haswell” Extreme Edition processor, an AMD FirePro M5100 Mobility Pro or NVIDIA Quadro K2100M graphics card, 32GB of DDR3 1600 MHz memory, and 2.5 TB of internal storage (two 1TB plus one 500GB drive) in RAID 0, 1, or 5 modes.
The 15” Dell Precision M4800 workstation will be available on September 12th starting at $1,249.
Stepping up to the larger 17” Precision M6800, users can configure the system with a Haswell Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition CPU, NVIDIA Quadro K5100M with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, 32GB of DDR3 1600 MHz system memory, 3.5TB of storage space in RAID 0, 1, or 5, and a 17” 1080p LED-backlit 10-point multi-touch display. This notebook weighs 7.86 pounds.
The M6800 will be available in black or phoenix red with a starting MSRP of $1,599 on September 12th.
Business customers needing portable computing power have some interesting new options with the two new Dell workstations, which pack some powerful hardware into a laptop form factor. Sure, they are not the lightest or thinnest machines, but you won't find i7 processors, 32GBs of memory, Quadro graphics, and 2+TB of storage in an ultrabook.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 5, 2013 - 10:25 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: yoga 2 pro, thinkpad yoga, thinkpad tablet, Lenovo, ifa 2013
One of the major themes of Lenovo's IFA product releases is the push into multi-mode computing which amounts to convertible PCs such as its Yoga series with 360-degree hinges. Two of the new multi-mode computers are the consumer focused Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and the ThinkPad Yoga for business users. Both devices will be available later this year.
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is a 13” convertible ultrabook measuring 12.99” x 8.66” x 0.61” and weighing 3.06 pounds. The system is an update to the original Yoga, and maintains the dual hinge design that allows the display to fold all the way back into tablet mode.
The Yoga 2 Pro has a QHD+ touchscreen display with a resolution of 3200 x 1800 and 350 nit brightness. Other external features include a backlit AccuType keyboard, trackpad, stereo speakers, and a 720p webcam. There are several IO ports situated around the sides of the notebook including one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, one combo mic/headphone audio jack, one SD card slot, and one micro HDMI video output.
The convertible ultrabook is configured with an Intel Haswell Core i7 ULT processor, 8GB of DDR3L memory, a 512GB SSD, and a battery rated at 6 hours of 1080p video playback with the display at 150 nits brightness. It also comes equipped with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios. The Yoga 2 Pro will come pre-installed with Windows 8.1 Pro. Users can control the Yoga 2 using the touchscreen, keyboard and trackpad, voice, or motion controls. Lenovo further includes software that will automatically list Windows applications on the Start Screen depending on the mode the “multi-mode” computer is in (tablet, laptop, tent, ect).
The Yoga 2 Pro will be available in October for $1099.99 (starting MSRP).
Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
Beyond the Yoga 2 Pro, Lenovo is introducing the Yoga form factor to the business market with the new ThinkPad Yoga. The system is smaller than the Yoga 2 Pro but a bit thicker and heavier. It does make several trade-offs versus the consumer Yoga 2 Pro to integrate business-friendly features such as digitizer support. Interestingly, the two systems are priced similarly, and the starting MSRP on the ThinkPad Yoga is lower than the Yoga 2 Pro.
The upcoming ThinkPad Yoga is a 12.5” notebook with a magnesium alloy chassis that is 0.74” thick and weighs 3.48 with everything installed. Users can choose between an HD display covered by Corning Gorilla Glass or a 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen display with support for an optional Wacom digitizer pen. Unfortunately, there is no QHD+ option on this business-class multi-mode PC. Other features include a backlit keyboard, five button glass trackpad, stereo speakers, a 720p webcam, and “all day battery life.” Specifically, the ThinkPad Yoga is rated at 5.3 hours with an Intel Haswell i7 or 8.3 hours with an Intel Haswell i3 processor. IO on the ThinkPad Yoga includes a single audio jack (mic+headphone), SD card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, a mini HDMI video output, and a DC-in OneLink dock adapter port.
The other interesting feature that is exclusive to the ThinkPad version of the Yoga is a keyboard that uses what Lenovo calls a “lift and lock” system to secure the keyboard while the system is in tablet mode. When the display is rotated all of the way back into tablet mode, rubber bumpers and the frame around the keyboard lift up. The keyboard frame lifts up to be flush with the top of the keys. Meanwhile, the keys themselves lock into place such that they cannot be pressed down. This is a useful feature as it creates a stable base and removes the worry that keys would accidentally be pressed during a key presentation (even if the existing Yoga already ignores key presses, having a hardware lock in place gives some piece of mind).
Internally, the ThinkPad Yoga can be configured with up to an Intel Haswell Core i7 processor, 8GB of DDR3L memory, a 1TB hard drive plus 256GB SSD, large battery, and Wi-Fi, and NFC radios. The OneLink dock will allow users further expansion options by adding Gigabit Ethernet, USB ports, and additional display outputs.
The ThinkPad Yoga will be available in November starting at $949. You can find photos of the new PC at the IFA show in Berlin over at Engadget.
Which would you choose, the Yoga 2 Pro with high resolution display or the ThinkPad Yoga with Wacom digitizer and locking keyboard?
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 4, 2013 - 12:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zenbook, ifa 2013, asus
How about some Ultrabooks? We got Ultrabooks. Thin, light, and metal brushed with their characteristic circular pattern. They are proud of that design, proud enough to cover it, the top of the lid, with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it from scratches and gouges. It feels a little absurd to say, but covering metal in glass for increased durability seems to make sense and could help your premium laptop look new for longer.
These 13.3-inch laptops come in two resolutions: 1920x1080 Full HD is the lower offering, with 2560x1440 for higher-end tastes. Both monitors are IPS-based with 10-point multi-touch capabilities.
The raw specifications for the UX301 are:
- Intel Core i5-4200U or i7-4500U or i7-4558U
- 4GB or 8GB DDR3L
- Intel HD 5100 Graphics
- SATA 3 SSD (up to 512GB RAID0)
- 13.3-inch 2560 x 1440 WQHD or 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS multitouch
- 802.11ac (dual-band), Bluetooth 4.0
- Mini DisplayPort, Micro-HDMI 1.4
- 2x USB3.0, 3.5mm headphone/mic, SD card reader
- Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro
For the UX302:
- Intel Core i5-4200U or i7-4500U
- 4GB DDR3L
- Intel HD 4400 or NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M (2GB)
- Up to a 750GB HDD with 16 GB SSD cache
- 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS multitouch
- 802.11ac (dual-band), Bluetooth 4.0
- Mini Displayport, HDMI 1.4
- 3x USB 3.0, 3.5mm headphone/mic, SD card reader
- Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro
The UX301 seems to be the more-premium device with obviously higher specs, at least for options, despite being almost 2mm thinner (15.5mm vs 17.2 for the UX302) and a quarter of a pound lighter (1.38kg vs 1.5 kg for the UX302). Both models are listed as a 50W battery, which I assume means 50Wh since watts are not a unit of electrical storage, but I am not entirely sure.
No information about pricing and availability has been released.
Subject: General Tech, Displays, Systems | August 31, 2013 - 03:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: LG, AIO, 21:9
HDTVs have an aspect ratio, the proportion between width and height, of 16:9. This, more noticeably rectangular, format was seen as a suitable compromise between 4:3 tradition and the many widths of theatrical releases. Computers, high resolution since the 90s (give-or-take) to fit more stuff on screen, first adopted many HD innovations.
Widescreen, however, was firmly resisted. Internet video was not popular or even known to the general public. Vista, with its sidebar optimizations, was expected to make 16:10 tolerable. 16:9 was too wide to even be considered an effective option for documents and websites.
I must say: I don't know how I'd live without Sidebar making my monitor feel wastefully narrow and...
Now that the public is comfortable with 16:9, because at some point it ceased to be scary for display manufacturers, some are experimenting with even wider niches. 2560x1080 has about a third more width than a "FullHD" panel to add another side-by-side-by-side document to edit or snapped website to refer to. At this point, if people want to buy it, do it.
LG, at IFA 2013, unveiled their V960 all-in-one (AIO) desktop. This computer is housed inside a 29" 21:9 (technically 64:27, but those numbers are big and scary) IPS display. Despite lacking a touchscreen, and despite OSX screenshots for its also announced plain monitors in its promo image, the AIO comes with Windows 8 pre-installed. It houses a mobile GeForce GT 640M GPU and... well that is about all we know of its internals.
The company believes that you might use some screen width for picture-in-picture TV browsing. LG is not too clear on what functionality will be available to the V960. Other monitors in the line contain a TV tuner, but they never specified whether the AIO would have a tuner or just an HDMI input. Also unclear, whether video inputs are accessible to the computer for DVR functionality or whether it is delivered straight to the display.
The LG V960 was on display at IFA 2013. No pricing and availability information has been announced by LG.
Subject: Systems | August 28, 2013 - 04:02 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: system build
It's that time again, with students headed back to school and looking for electronic devices to accompany them. The Tech Report just updated their System Build Guides for not only the high end gaming builds but also an mATX system that will fit in a dorm room as well as some tablets and laptops. With an i5-4670K, HD 7950 Boost and a Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB SSD you will indeed be the envy of the dorm for about $1300 so you will still have money left over for beverages and pot noodles.
Don't forget to keep an eye on our PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard as well.
"The back-to-school season is upon us, and we've updated our system guide for the occasion. In addition to refreshing our usual builds, we've added a dorm-worthy microATX config and revamped our mobile recommendations."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- HP Envy 700-030qe Review @ TechReviewSource
- CyberPowerPC Gamer Xtreme 5200 Desktop @ AnandTech
- Fierce PC Prodigy GT 'Hulk' Overclocked Mini Gaming PC @ Kitguru
- A First Meet With the Table PC: Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27" All-in-One @ TechSpot
- HABEY BIS-6922 Fanless Ivy Bridge Industrial PC Review @ AnandTech
- HCW PC Build Guide - Summer 2013
- Dino PC T-Rex 7990 System @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 23, 2013 - 02:45 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SweetLabs., Pokki, Lenovo
Hate the "Modern" Windows UI? There's an app... store... for that...?
Several solutions exist to reintroduce the classic Windows interface into Windows 8. Not surprisingly, OEMs consider developing or including some option with their devices as a selling point. Perhaps even less surprising, this solution is considered bloatware by some and tries to suggest apps for you.
As Ars Technica reports, at least the software tries to be helpful, almost spiting its nature as a pre-installed third party app store. Pokki, the software developed by SweetLabs, includes shortcuts to the Windows Control Panel and other functions expected of a Start Menu.
It also, from its promotional image, above, feels like it will confuse novice users. The recommendations are prominent and docked against what should be system functionality. The layout is not particularly dishonest but, in my opinion, is too opaque about its intent to sell you applications.
SweetLabs previously struck a deal with Acer to include Pokki and Zynga titles on their laptops.
Lenovo intends to include this software in a variety of products. IdeaPad laptops, IdeaCentre desktops, and ThinkPad laptops were all announced.
... no relation to the sweet snack, Pocky... I think?
Maybe a little inspiration?
Of course many users might prefer this software to the default Windows experience. Even on Windows 7, I found myself purchasing and installing DisplayFusion to customize taskbar functionality. I also use BlueStacks, for example, which has its own marketplace and recommended applications.
This software could be good for users.
Mostly I hope consumers, from the out-of-box experience with their new devices, have control and understanding over the situation. Typical bundleware gives that a bad name. I am looking at you, antivirus trials.
Subject: Systems | August 9, 2013 - 05:17 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: q6600, i7-4770k, upgrade
Haswell has not been recieved with screams of joy from enthusiasts as we appreciate the power savings but are honestly more interested in MOAR POWER! As an upgrade from Ivy Bridge there are only a few benefits but what about updating from an old Q6600 on an X38 motherboard? That is what Legit Reviews just did, moving to a Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H and i7-4770K and as an upgrade it is more than impressive; everything from gaming to the productivity of the system skyrocketed as you can see below. If you are still running a Q6600 on your main rig it looks like saving your pennies would be a very good idea.
more impressive benchmarks if you follow the link
"We all love doing computer upgrades, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves if a full system upgrade is worth it or necessary. There are times that you may only gain a small percentage of a performance boost, where there are other times that you gain significant increases. Today I am going to compare my original Intel Kentsfield CPU and X38 motherboard to a shiny new Haswell CPU and Z87 motherboard."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Brix Mini PC Review: Gigabyte's Take On Small Form Factor Computing @ Techspot
- TechSpot PC Buying Guide: Mid-2013 Update
- Shuttle SH87R6 review: potent Haswell mini PC @ Hardware.info
- Building a Small Form Factor Gaming PC @ TechSpot
- HP Envy 5530 e-All-in-One Review @ TechReviewSource
- Hi-Tech PC for Gamer Revenge review: clever gaming PC with GTX 780 @ Hardware.info
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | August 9, 2013 - 01:34 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, asus cube, google, google tv, htpc
With the release of the Google Chromecast streaming USB stick it seems apropos to revisit Google's other foray into the HTPC business, Google TV. Specifically it is the ASUS Cube up for review at Bjorn3D which will be offered as an example. At less than 5" a side it is a tiny device with HDMI input and output, an pair of USB 2.0 connectors, an ethernet port and a connector for an IR sensor for the remote. It does have wireless connectivity to help keep down on the clutter if you install it somewhere noticeable. Inside you will find a 1.2 GHz Marvell Armada 1500 chip, 1GB of RAM and 2GB of user accessible storage. There are a variety of apps to help you find streams to watch and is certainly easier to set up than a full HTPC. At $125 is is more expensive than the Chromecast but it is also more powerful, see how in the review.
"Asus Cube is the device that features latest Google TV OS that want to be part of your living room entertainment setup. With a good design, an unique remote, and $139 price tag, can it push Google TV further where others may have failed? Let’s find out."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Ebode VLHD30 Full HDMI Wireless Audio/Video Sender System Review @ Madshrimps
- Hauppauge HD PVR2 Gaming Edition Plus @ Kitguru
- Streacom ST-FC8B EVO Mini ITX Case @ NikKTech
- Zotac Zbox Nano Plus: A mini with more @ Hardware.info
- Intel NUC DCCP847DYE @ eTeknix
- Gigabyte Brix review: compact mini PC @ Hardware.info
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Mobile | August 6, 2013 - 04:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Surface RT, microsoft
It has been a month, to the day, since I picked on Windows RT for being more locked down than a Nintendo console. Devices, including Microsoft's own Surface RT, did not allow USB to Ethernet dongles for wired internet access. Compared to the Wii, that is quite pathetic.
Certain users have been able to use adapters until apparently, according to Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft helped ensure they are broke as intended. They are also demanding hardware manufacturers, who otherwise could support the operating system, to withhold drivers from their customers.
If you were one of those people who managed to get an Ethernet dongle working with your ARM-based Surface RT, you've probably since discovered that it no longer works.
I did not see any confirmation of Microsoft disabling any drivers so, bare in mind, I might have just misunderstood the above quote. Apparently, though, the issue arises from Connected Standby conflicts with those dongles.
But that does not mean Microsoft will continue to prevent Ethernet dongles.
According to the same article from Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is quietly working on a fix for the issue. They are currently working, along with hardware manufacturers, on creating devices which can support the instant-on, instant-off feature. The cynic in me, of course, wonders if Microsoft will be first to market with the, albeit rumored, corrected peripheral.
Personally, I feel that a consumer who purchases one of your devices should be allowed to install hardware understanding the tradeoff. It would not be too difficult to pop up a warning, "Your USB device is not compatible with Connected Standby; the feature will resume when your accessory is removed".
Just another advantage for truly personal PCs.
Subject: Systems | August 5, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, msi, Intel, embedded, atom d2550
MSI recently launched the MS-9A29, which is a fanless small form factor (SFF) embedded PC. The new PC measures 196mm x 136mm x 43mm and weighs 1.2 kg. The MS-9A29 is encased in a small black chassis that is covered in fins to aid in passive cooling with the front and back banels hosting various IO ports.
Front IO includes four USB 2.0 ports and four COM ports. The back panel holds two RJ45 GbE jacks driven by two Intel 82583V NICs, one line out audio jack (Realtek ALC887 HD codec), two USB 2.0 ports, a single HDMI port, and one VGA port. Finally, the case provides two openings for antenna passthroughs.
Internally, the MSI MS-9A29 features an Intel Atom D2550 processor (dual core at 1.8GHz, 10W TDP), Intel GMA 3650 GPU (400MHz), a single DDR3 SO-DIMM slot (4GB maximum), and Intel NM10 Express chipset. The motherboard can be accessed by a removeable bottom panel on the case. The system supports one SATA drive, one mSATA drive, and two Mini-PCI-E cards. One mini-PCI-E slot can be used for a 3G SIM card adapter.
The SFF MSI MS-9A29 can be mounted to the back of monitors or on a wall. It supports Windows 7 and Windows XP and can output video to two simultaneous displays. It is aimed at kiosks, signage, POS, and industrial machines.
More information can be found on the MS-9A29 product page. However, the company has not yet released pricing or availability (expect it to be on the pricier side though as it is aimed at business/industrial users).
Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 3, 2013 - 04:13 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, open source hardware, open source, minnowboard, Intel, embedded system, atom
The Intel Open Source Technology Group along with CircuitCo recently launched a new small form factor bare-bones system based on open source hardware and running open source software. The Minnowboard includes a 4.2” x 4.2” motherboard, passively-cooled processor, rich IO, UEFI BIOS, and the Angstrom Linux operating system.
The Minnowboard is powered by a single core Intel Atom E640 processor clocked at 1GHz. It is a 32-bit CPU with HyperThreading and VT-x virtualization support. Other hardware includes an integrated Intel GMA 600 GPU, 1GB of DDR2 memory, and 4MB of flash memory used for motherboard firmware. Storage can be added by plugging a SSD or HDD into the single SATA II 3Gbps port.
The Minnowboard has following IO options:
- 1 x micro SD
- 1 x SATA II 3Gbps
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x micro USB
- 1 x mini USB (serial connection)
- 1 x RJ45 jack (Gigabit Ethernet)
- 2 x 3.5mm audio jacks (line in and line out)
- 1 x HDMI
The Minnowboard also has a GPIO header with 8 buffered GPIO pins, 2 GPIO LEDs, and 4 GPIO switches. As such, the system can be expanded by adding extra open source modules called “Lures.” The board is aimed at developers and embedded system manufacturers. The Minnowboard can be used as the bare system or can be integrated into a case or larger device.
The Minnowboard costs $199 and is available for purchase now from Digi-Key, Farnell (UK), Mouser, and Newark.
Obviously, the Minnowboard is nowhere near as cheap as the $35 Raspberry Pi, but it is running x86 hardware which may make it worth it to some users.
If you are interested, you can learn more about the hardware and get involved with the Minnowboard project over at Minnowboard.org.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 2, 2013 - 11:48 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, ps4
Toys "R" Us received attention by listing launch dates for both next generation consoles on their retail website. The Xbox One is rumored to launch on November 29th, which is Black Friday for North Americans, and the PlayStation 4 on December 13th. The two console manufacturers refused to confirm these dates.
Then, something odd happened: a Toys "R" Us spokesperson allegedly contacted BT Games to assert their listing was provided by vendors of Microsoft and Sony.
You know, a giraffe has a long and easily accessible neck.
Most of the time, I cringe at placeholder information on store product pages. WiiU titles, prior to launch, were tagged with a list price of $99 at multiple sites; I have seen Unreal Tournament 2007 listed with a January 5th 2007 release date... and kept this incorrect date for, as I remember, about 6 months after it passed.
How many expected release dates have you seen for Duke Nukem Forever?
Even with the source, I cannot wrap my head around two Friday console launches. Tuesdays and Sundays have been more typical, I assume due to existing distribution for movies and games, which boggles me about why both would, independently, choose Friday.
I will remain skeptical until official word, or a leaked promotional image, confirms or denies this. My real point, I guess, is how retailers seem to have a policy of made-up placeholder dates and prices. Frankly, I tend to feel better citing an anonymous source.