CES 2015: Intel Compute Stick Runs Windows for $149

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 12:56 AM |
Tagged: x86, Raspberry Pi, Intel, compute stick, chromecast, ces 2015, CES, atom

The Chromecast (and its open siblings) and the Raspberry Pi are interesting devices because they shrunk our concept of a compute device, which put them into new roles. Whether it is streaming media to your TV or controlling electronics on a high altitude balloon, you can use a full computer to do it. Full computers in new roles sound exactly like something Intel wants to research into lately.

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The Intel Compute Stick, aptly named, seems to fit somewhere between these two devices. It is an HDMI dongle enclosing an x86, quad-core, computer with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Intel eventually plans to have the device powered by the HDMI port, but it currently requires power over micro USB. Besides power, it also has a standard USB (Type A-Female) port and a micro SD card slot. It also has 802.11n wireless networking inside it. Being a full Windows device, you can stream media, browse the web, and use many other applications on it.

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The Intel Compute Stick with Windows will cost $149, which is significantly more than either a Chromecast or a Raspberry Pi. A Linux version, with 1GB of RAM (half of the Windows version) and 8GB of storage (a quarter of the Windows version), but at a significantly lower price of $89.

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Source: Intel

CES 2015: Dell XPS 13 Notebook is Slim, Sleek and Nearly Bezel-less

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: XPS 13, dell, ces 2015, CES, broadwell-u, Broadwell

Honestly, it takes something pretty special to get us excited about a laptop in today's market. Sure, the MSI GT80 Titan was able to do it but it required a full-travel Cherry MX Brown keyboard to do it! The new Dell XPS 13 was able to as well, but for a very different reason.

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This laptop takes up the physical space of a standard 11-in laptop but is able to showcase a 13-in screen with incredibly minuscule 5.7mm bezels. That screen will be available in both 3200x1800 (WQHD+) and 1920x1080 (with a matte finish) resolutions, the lower of which will have models starting at the $1299 price tag. The higher resolution screen options will reach as high as $1699 with SSD capacity of 512GB. The system is powered by Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors using the new Broadwell-U architecture so you are absolutely not sacrificing any performance for the sake of the form factor.

I still have to get my hands on several other notebooks that have upgraded chassis designs for Broadwell-U, but for now, the Dell XPS 13 is easily the most impressive candidate at CES.

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CES 2015: Dell Venue 8 7000 8-in Atom Tablet

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: z3580, video, venue 8 7000, Intel, dell, ces 2015, CES, atom

Dell's Venue 8 7000-series Android tablet has been previewed for some time with my first hands on coming at the Intel Developer Forum this past September. The specifications are pretty straight forward.

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  • Intel Atom Z3580 Quad-Core processor (Burst clock of 2.33 GHz)
  • 2GB of LP-DDR3
  • 16GB of on board storage (expandable to 64GB via SD)
  • 8.4-in 2560x1600 OLED screen
  • Up to 8 hours of battery life
  • Android 4.4.4
  • Intel RealSense 3D Camera

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But the appeal of the tablet is in the beauty of the design. The screen resolution makes images and text crisp and clear and the bezel is incredibly small, giving the appearance of an edge-to-edge screen design. It weighs less than 11 oz (305g) and is 6mm thick.

The Venue 8 7000 will be shipping today (and is already showing up for sale at some retailers) for $399. We are working with Dell to get a sample unit of this engineering showcase.

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CES 2015: Corsair officially launches Neutron XT

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, Neutron XT, corsair, ces 2015, CES

Remember that Corsair Neutron XT we looked at back in November?

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As a recap, it was a quad core Phison controller. The performance was decent, but not groundbreaking. We reviewed the Neutron XT much earlier than the official release, which happens to be right now.

I refer you back to the review linked above if you want the full performance scoop, but for now we can cover pricing, which was also just released:

  • 256GB: $150 ($0.59 / GB)
  • 512GB: $270 ($0.53 / GB)
  • 960GB: $540 ($0.56 / GB)

That pricing seems under whelming considering competing drives are performing better and selling at the same or lower cost/GB. We'll keep an eye on the actual selling price and report back once these hit the street.

Press blast after the break.

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Source: Corsair

CES 2015: Kingston Launches HyperX Predator PCIe SSD

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 08:08 AM |
Tagged: Marvell 88SS9293, ssd, Predator, pcie, M.2, kingston, hyperx, ces 2015, CES

This morning Kingston officially launched their HyperX Predator. This is an M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4 SSD using a Marvell 88SS9293 controller. We would normally paste their press photo here, but we were fortunate enough to get our own photo from one of the press events last night:

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I can see just how this design went down. Marketing guy tells design guy "make this look cool". Design guy epically succeeds by leaving the PCIe data lane differential pair traces unmasked. There's no doubt this is a PCIe 2.0 x4 SSD, as you can clearly pick out the four sets of traces. It's a subtle thing that makes the HHHL adapter board look just so much cooler.

The HyperX Predator will also be available in a bare M.2 2280 form factor, seen here in a new Broadwell NUC:

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The Marvell controller at use here is a native PCIe solution and should have no issue reaching 1.4 GB/sec reads and 1 GB/sec writes. Capacities will launch at 240 GB and 480GB, with a 960GB option coming mid 2015. We will publish a full performance review of this attractive new SSD just as soon as we get a sample in for testing.

Full press blast after the break.

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Source: Kingston

CES 2015: ioSafe Launches 1515+ Fireproof Waterproof NAS RAID

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 02:32 AM |
Tagged: synology, raid, NAS, iosafe, ces 2015, CES, 1515+

We've reviewed the awesome fireproof and waterproof ioSafe storage products in the past, first in combination with Synology NAS products. Then we later reviewed an ioSafe N2, which was basically a 2-bay Synology NAS *within* an ioSafe fireproof and waterproof enclosure. They didn't stop there, and have since expanded to 5-bay versions of the same. Today ioSafe launched an upgrade to one of those models - the ioSafe 1515+

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With 5 bays, the 1515+ is considerably taller than prior models.

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Here's what the inside looks like. A sealed waterproof enclosure sits behind a consumable fireproofing material, and inside that enclosure sits five 3.5" HDD's.

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The rear is fairly simple, but if you note the quad Gigabit Ethernet, you realize this is actually a NAS powerhouse. When linked to an appropriate business oriented server (Windows Server 2012, ESX Server, etc) with a quad Gigabit link, 450MB/sec can be achieved. Similar read speeds are possible even with the integrated hardware AES-256 encryption enabled, but write speeds will then be limited to just under 200 MB/sec. Additionally, multiple 1515+'s can be chained together to support up to a single 90TB array. I'll leave you with a cool photo of a NAS on fire, followed by the full press blast after the break.

ioSafe_1515_fire_water.jpg

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Source: ioSafe

CES 2015: Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro with Intel RealSense 3D

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: Realsense 3D, realsense, notebook, Intel, ces 2015, CES, acer

Intel's “Perceptual Computing” initiative, later branded Intel RealSense 3D, is beginning to be integrated with consumer electronics. For a while now, developers could pick up a Creative Labs-produced SDK with a camera, depth sensor, and dual microphones (in an array) for $99 USD. We will probably hear more about it tomorrow during Intel's CES 2015 Keynote at 7:30pm EST. Hopefully, they will also have some compelling software to go along with it.

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This is the previous model. For the new version, see the video below.

But this announcement is from Acer, which will launch a new Aspire V 17 Nitro notebook with a built-in Intel RealSense 3D camera. The company believes that the technology will be used for controlling games, or scanning your face and objects for 3D printing. I'm... not so sure about printing my face, but I could see facial recognition being an interesting feature of upcoming software, even if it is not good enough for secure authentication purposes.

The laptop itself will be built on a Haswell-based Core i7-4710HQ that is paired with a GeForce GTX 860M GPU (4GB GDDR5). It can be configured with up to 16GB of system memory, up to 256GB of SSD space, and up to a 1TB secondary hard drive. As the name suggests, the display is a 17-inch IPS panel, which is apparently not a touch-screen.

The Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro will be available this month, but no pricing information is available. The previous model is still on Acer's website for $1400 USD, without RealSense 3D.

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Source: Acer

CES 2015: Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion Motherboard Launches

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 08:06 PM |
Tagged: x99-soc champion, X99, gigabyte, ces 2015, CES

Gigabyte has been catering to extreme overclocking with several recent motherboard releases, the most recent of which is the new X99-SOC Champion. Gigabyte made some interesting decisions for this design that focus on increasing overclocking capability over just about everything else.

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First, you'll notice that the board features only 4 DIMM slots over the eight that are found on most other X99 boards. This lowers the amount of electrical noise, increases signal integrity and trace length can be reduced, all in an effort to increase stable memory clock rates. Gigabyte was proud to show off that they were able to reach DDR4 memory speeds of over 4100 MHz using some Corsair memory! SMT mounted DIMM slots also help with this.

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The CPU socket is also different in that it has 2083 pins on it rather than the standard 2011 pins that the socket uses. These added pins increase the amount of power available to the processor, which is useful for extreme LN2 overclocking. Interestingly, Gigabyte has put a dip switch on the board that enables and disables those pins should you wish to disable them for safety or other reasons.

Pricing is still up in the air though the Gigabyte X99-SOC Force currently sells for $349 so I would expect the Champion to be above that. Availability starts this month.

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CES 2015: Gigabyte Brix Broadwell is exactly what you think it is

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 07:35 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, ces 2015, CES, Broadwell, brix s, brix

Along with the launch of Intel's 5th Generation Core processor, codenamed Broadwell, Gigabyte announced a set of updated Brix and Brix s SFF systems using the new platform. The rest of the hardware remains mostly unchanged and the barebones "build your own" status is maintained. The "s" model supports a 2.5-in hard drive while the base models will support M.2 only.

brix-1.jpg

Gigabyte plans Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 models based on Broadwell and the Core i7 model will include NFC capability on the top of the unit. Pricing and availability to come!

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CES 2015: Gigabyte GTX 980 WaterForce 3-Way SLI Monster Spotted

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: waterforce, GTX 980, gigabyte, ces 2015, CES, 3-way sli

Back in November Gigabyte asked for all your money in exchange for a set of three GeForce GTX 980 cards each running in a circuit of self-contained water cooling. After finally seeing the GTX 980 WaterForce in person I can tell you that it's big, it's expensive and it's damned impressive looking.

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With a price tag of $2999, there is a significant mark up over buying just a set of three retail GTX 980 cards, but this design is unique. Each GPU is individually cooled via a 120mm radiator and fan that is mounted inside of a chassis that rests on top of your PC case. On the front you'll find a temperature, fan speed and pump speed indicator along with some knobs and buttons to adjust settings and targets.

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Oh, and it ships inside of a suitcase that you can reuse for later travel. Ha! Think we can convince Gigabyte to send us one for testing?

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CES 2015: Samsung Releases SSD T1 Portable USB 3.0 SSD

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: CES, usb 3.0, UASP, T1, SSD T1, ssd, Samsung, ces 2015

Today Samsung announced a new portable SSD - the SSD T1:

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These are essentially 850 EVO's in very small portable packaging. They support USB 3.0 speeds as well as UASP, so random IO performance should be very respectable. We have not tested it ourselves, but something on the order of 8,000 4k random IOPS should be achievable.

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Claimed speeds are up to 450 MB/sec, likely limited by the 5Gb/sec USB 3.0 interface being used. 256 bit hardware-based AES is also included, with the drive unlockable by the use of a small software app that is embedded on the drive. The included cable is impressively thin considering it is a full USB 3.0 spec cable. The release states the lowest capacity 250GB model will sell for $180. Based on other data we have, the 500GB and 1TB capacities should sell for ~$350 and $650, respectively. We will review the T1 just as soon as we get back from CES later this week.

Press blast after the break.

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Source: Samsung

CES 2015: We Just Spotted the ASUS PG27AQ 4K 60 Hz IPS G-Sync Monitor

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: pg27aq, ips, gsync, g-sync, ces 2015, CES, asus, 60hz, 4k

Sure, the ASUS press conference hasn't started yet, but we did find a new monitor on display in the lobby. The ASUS PG27AQ is a 27-in monitor with a 4K resolution and a 60 Hz refresh rate. Even better is that this is an IPS panel and utilizes NVIDIA G-Sync technology. That's right, a real-life IPS G-Sync monitor!

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I don't have many other details yet but I was told that pricing is not set and availability would be in the "second half of 2015." The physical construction is identical to that of the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q. Unfortunately ASUS was only playing back a 4K video on the system, no real-world G-Sync testing quite yet. The ASUS press event starts in just about 45 minutes so stay tuned!

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So, who's interested?

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CES 2015: Intel Launches Broadwell-U (15W and 28W)

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: iris graphics 6100, iris, Intel, hd graphics 6000, hd graphics 5500, ces 2015, CES, broadwell-u, Broadwell

When Intel launched Broadwell-Y in November, branded Core M by that point, they had a 4.5W processor that was just a little slower than a 15W Haswell Ultrabook CPU. This is quite a bit of power efficiency, although these numbers are maximum draw and might not be exactly proportional to average power under load.

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At CES, Intel has launched Broadwell-U, which takes this efficiency and scales it up to 15W and 28W SKUs. The idea is that the extra thermal headroom will scale up for extra CPU and GPU performance. These are all BGA-attached components, which means that these processors need to be physically soldered to the motherboards -- they are destined for OEMs.

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As an example of Broadwell-U's increased performance, the Core M 5Y70 has a base frequency of 1.1 GHz that can boost to 2.6 GHz; the top-end Broadwell-U has a base clock of 3.1 GHz and boosts to 3.4 GHz. From Core i3 up to Core i7, regardless of TDP, each of these processors are dual-core with HyperThreading (4 threads total). There is also a single Pentium and two Celeron SKUs, which are dual-core without HyperThreading (2 threads total).

intel-broadwell-chart02.png

Its GPU receives a large boost as well, particularly with the 28W SKUs receiving Iris Graphics 6100, although Iris Pro Graphics (6200 and 6300) do not yet make an appearance. If we had access to the number of execution units and we assumed the same instruction-per-clock count as Iris Graphics 5100, we would be able to calculate a theoretical FLOP figure, but that is information that we do not have. It would make sense if it were 48 execution units, twice Core M and consistent with the official die shot that Intel doesn't actually identify by product number. This would give it about 845 GFLOPs of performance, or about an OEM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 (the retail GTX 460 cards were about 4% faster than the OEM ones).

It is also within 2% of Haswell's Iris 5100 theoretical GFLOPs, albeit with a 15% drop in clock rate.

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From a features standpoint, the GPU is a definite step-up. It has “Enhanced” hardware support for VP8, VP9, and h.265 (HEVC) video and 4K UltraHD output, wired or by Intel WiDi. Broadwell's iGPU was designed with DirectX 12 in mind and supports OpenCL 2.0 -- leaving NVIDIA behind in that regard, since AMD added that API in last month's Omega driver.

Intel is slightly behind in OpenGL support however, claiming 4.3 compatibility while AMD is at 4.4 and NVIDIA is at 4.5. This could mean that these GPUs do not (unless a future driver changes this) support “Efficient Multiple Object Binding”, “Sparse Texture Extension”, or “Direct State Access”. Then again, they could support these features as extensions or something, because it is OpenGL and extensions are its thing, but you know -- they're obviously missing some part of the spec, somewhere.

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This leaves Broadwell-H and Broadwell-K, high performance BGA and socketed LGA respectively, to launch later in the year. These products will have significantly higher TDPs and stronger performance, at the expense of battery life (a non-issue for the desktop-bound -K parts) and heat.

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CES 2015: SanDisk updates affordable SSD Plus, expands Ultra II SSD to mSATA

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: ces 2015, CES, Ultra II, SSD Plus, ssd, sandisk, msata

SanDisk has launched a few items of note this morning. There is a combination USB 3.0 / OTG capable flash drive, but the truly big news is a few updates to existing product lines.

First is an mSATA form factor of their existing and very popular Ultra II SSD. This is expected to perform similarly to its 2.5" SATA brother, but in the smaller form factor needed for some laptops, tablets, and so equipped desktop motherboards.

The other and perhaps most significant launch is the 'SSD Plus'. This is a sequel to SanDisk's original desktop SSD product, and is aimed squarely at the budget consumer that wants an SSD but doesn't necessarily need the best performing product.

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The SSD Plus is SanDisk's attempt to beat the competing SSD prices right out of the gate, with launch MSRP's at $70 for 120GB ($0.58/GB) and $110 for 240GB ($0.46/GB). Those are among the lowest launch MSRP's we've seen to date, and that's not taking into account the sales that typically take place in the months after a given SSD launches.

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We are going to be reviewing these as soon as we get them in. They are not meant to be super fast, but we doubt they would be what would be considered slow. So long as they are decent performers, that's a very good launch price.

Full press blast after the break.

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Source: SanDisk

CES 2015: MSI Z97I Gaming ACK Mini-ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 03:24 AM |
Tagged: z97i gaming ack, z97, video, msi, M.2, ces 2015, CES

We have definitely seen our share of Z97 motherboards using the Mini-ITX form factor by now, but the new MSI Z97I Gaming ACK offers a couple of unique twists worth noting. First, the board features both wireless and wired Killer Networking components, has four SATA 6 Gb/s ports and a total of six USB 3.0 ports. Click BIOS, OC Genie and Command Center are all MSI specific features found on the ACK.

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The most interesting feature though is the rear-mounted M.2 port that allows the user to install a full 10 Gb/s M.2 storage device on the back side of the motherboard! Obviously you will have to be sure that the stand offs on your case will allow the spacing required for an M.2 device, but MSI doesn't think it will be a problem for most cases. It's a very interesting way to integrate more hardware on a design that is incredibly space limited. (Note: you'll have to watch the video to see the rear mounted M.2 port.)

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CES 2015: MSI AG240 4K Edition Gaming All-in-One

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 03:01 AM |
Tagged: msi, ces 2015, CES, all-in-one, AIO, ag240, 4k

Our review of the MSI AG270 Gaming AIO was pretty eye opening; I really didn't expect to find that kind of gaming capability inside an all-in-one chassis. Building on that success, MSI is preparing for a March release of the AG240 4K Edition, which as the name suggests, includes a 24-in 4K IPS monitor.

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Other hardware specifications include a 4th Generation Haswell processor, a yet-to-be-named GTX 900-series mobility GPU from NVIDIA and up to 3x mSATA SSDs running in RAID-0 (MSI sure loves its SuperRAID). The 4K screen itself definitely looked nice though I am curious about the choice to only include a single GPU in a system with that many pixels. You can still play your games at 1080p though should GPU horsepower be a concern.

I'm sure we'll have a review sample sometime this quarter, so stay tuned!

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CES 2015: Storage Visions Sightings Part 1: HGST He8, DriveSavers, and SanDisk

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 10:34 PM |
Tagged: CES, storage visions, ssd, sandisk, hgst, He8, DriveSavers, ces 2015

Many of the storage announcements this year are under embargo until tomorrow or later in the week. Fortunately there was plenty of things on display out in the open - meaning fair game for me to photograph and present to you in this quick photo walkthrough.

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The HGST Ultrastar He8 was on display. This is a 7-platter Helium filled HDD. The lower density atmosphere enables more platters and higher spin speeds without producing too much heat for the drive to handle.

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The added platters also enable a very large capacity of 8TB, all while consuming less power than most other available non-He HDD's, which is attractive for enterprise usage where racks upon racks are filled with these drives.

The display model we saw here was covered with plexiglass, but the DriveSavers folks had one completely open in all of its glory:

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Seeing the head pack out of a drive is rare, as you're supposed to only get to that point in a clean room environment (unless you don't want your data back, that is). DriveSavers told us the challenge to recovery from an He HDD is getting the Helium back into the housing prior to closing it back up after a failed component replacement. Here's a closer look at that head pack. Note the small logic die built into the ribbon - this component needs to be mounted as close as possible to the heads to minimize interference and signal loss from the very high frequency signal coming from the read heads:

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DriveSavers also has recently announced data recovery capability and partnership with SanDisk. There is a separate announcement we will be covering later in the week, but since we're talking about SanDisk, here is a look at the non-embargoed products we were allowed to show for now:

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From left: UltraDIMM, FusionIO Atomic, Optimus Max, Optimus MAX (opened), Optimus ECO. More interesting here is that SanDisk is able to pack 4TB into the Optimus form factor. They accomplish this by a unique folding PCB design shown below in unfolded form:

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That's it for this update, more to follow shortly.

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CES 2015: NVIDIA Tegra Press Conference Live Stream

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: video, tegra, press conference, nvidia, live stream, live, ces 2015, CES

Tonight at 8pm PT / 11pm ET NVIDIA will be hosting its annual press conference from CES 2015. While I fully expect the majority of the information to be on Tegra-related products, there is a chance they could slip in some GeForce products as well. I leave nothing past NVIDIA with a 2 hour window.

You can watch the live stream of the event right here and I am going to be live blogging from the event as well, pending Internet capability inside the conference room.

 

Live Blog NVIDIA CES 2015 Press Conference

 

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CES 2015: MSI Implements USB 3.1 and USB Type-C Connector

Subject: Motherboards, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c, usb 3.1, msi, ces 2015, CES

If you are like me, you probably thought the world of USB was going to be stable for a bit. Not so much as it turns out! MSI was showing off a couple of new products in its suite at CES 2015 that showcase new performance levels for USB as well as a much-needed new connector type.

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First up, USB 3.1, the upgrade that includes performance as high as single channel Thunderbolt, 10 Gbps. MSI will be shipping USB 3.1 on a new revision of the GT72 gaming notebook as well as on the X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard shipping in February or March. Each will feature two ports of USB 3.1 capable of some impressive speeds.

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These results are based on a RAID-0 implementation of a pair of Intel SSD 730 SSDs running on a prototype USB 3.1 capable controller that MSI didn't want us to show you. Seeing USB speeds reaching as high as 694 MB/s are impressive, exceeding that of the best USB 3.0 speeds we have seen at 470 MB/s. Considering we are looking at very early devices and software implementations, MSI's results on this board are fantastic.

Maybe more exciting than a speed boost to some USB users is implementation of the USB Type-C connector on the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard due in the same time frame.

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There are several advantages to this new connector for both users and OEMs. First, it is reversible meaning you can plug plug the connector in upside down and it will work (finally!). It is also small, able to fit on the slimmest phones and tablets. Both sides of the cable are going to be the same, so any device that can use a Type-C connector will be able to use most any cable.

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Power delivery also improves - 10 watts (5V at 2A), 60 watts (12V at 5A) and even up to 100 watts (20V at 5A)! And all of this power can be sent through that tiny Type-C connector as well leaving the possibility of charging your laptop through the same connector as your phone.

Expect both USB 3.1 as well as Type-C connectors to be a big shift in the middle of Q1.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Storage Visions: Western Digital SATA Express SSD+HDD Spotted

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: CES, western digital, storage visions, ssd, SATA Express, hybrid, hdd, ces 2015

At the SATA-IO booth at Storage Visions, they have a functional demo of Western Digital prototype hybrid HDD/SSD's.

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These are not hybrid in the traditional sense, as the SSD portion (128GB JMicron based controller driving Toshiba flash in the case of these prototypes) is logically separated from the HDD portion (a standard 4TB Black in this case).

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Given that a SATA Express link can simultaneously pass a PCIe 2.0 x2 link in addition to a SATA 6Gbit/sec link, this one unit can link an SSD and an HDD simultaneously and independently. Above you see the standard SATA Express connector, and below is how those pins are connected at the drive itself:

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Note the additional pins at what is usually the black side of the connector.

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The rest of the connector is mostly a standard SATA connector that you are used to seeing.

At the demo, we saw a single 3.5" hybrid unit booting from the SSD portion and using the 4TB HDD for mass storage, all from the same device. The second demo had a separate boot drive and linked a pair of these prototype units in a dual RAID. Configured through Windows dynamic volumes, a RAID of the HDD's offered the increased performance you might expect from a pair of 4TB WD Blacks. The SSD portion of each unit was also RAIDed, and we saw their combined throughput as just over 1GB/sec. That was not much more than what a pair of RAIDed SATA 6Gb/sec SSDs would do, but realize this was being accomplished in addition to (and independently of) the HDD portions.

We were not allowed to start removing screws, but here's a look at the accessible portion of the logic board for this drive:

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There is a JMicron controller paired with a single package of Toshiba flash. Toshiba has shown they can contain 128GB in a single package, so no problems there.

We're not sure where this technology is headed as the recent trend has been towards sticking with the standard SATA link for mass storage and M.2 SSDs plugged directly into the added port we've been seeing in many recent motherboards. We'll keep an eye on this technology moving forward, but for now at least we have seen it in the flesh and fully functional.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!