The Status of Windows Phone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 31, 2016 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: BUILD, build 2016, microsoft, windows 10, windows phone

If you watched the opening keynote of Microsoft's Build conference, then you probably didn't see much Windows Phone (unless you were looking at your own). The Verge talked to Terry Myerson about this, and Microsoft confirmed that they are leading with non-Windows, 4-inch devices, and they want to “generate developer interest” on those platforms for this year.

PC World interpreted this conversation to say that Windows Phone is put on hold.

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That might be a little hasty, though. Microsoft is still building Windows 10 for Mobile. In fact, since Microsoft updated “Windows OneCore” and jumped build to 14xxx-level build numbers with Windows 10 build 14251, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 PC are kept in lockstep. As far as I know, that is still the plan, and Windows Insiders should continue to receive these on compatible devices.

That said, Microsoft has basically admitted that Windows Phone would just be a distraction for developers this year. At the very least, they don't believe that the platform will be ready for them until next year's Build conference, which means that consumers will probably be even further down than that because there would be no applications for them. Yes, Windows Phone could be slowly shimmying out of the spotlight, but it could also be delayed until they make a good impression, and have the PC, Xbox, Hololens, and other ecosystems secure to lift it up.

Source: The Verge

Microsoft's Phil Spencer Discusses UWP Concerns at Build

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 30, 2016 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, uwp, microsoft, build 2016, BUILD

When a platform vendor puts up restrictions, it can be scary, and with good cause. Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the successor of WinRT, which, in the Windows 8 era, forced web browsers to be reskins of Internet Explorer, forced developers to get both their software and themselves certified before publishing, and so forth. They still allowed the traditional, more open, Win32 API, but locked them into “the Desktop App”.

Naturally, UWP carries similar concerns, which some developers (like Tim Sweeney of Epic Games) voiced publicly. It's more permissive, but in a brittle way. We don't want Microsoft, or someone like a government who has authority over them, to flip a switch and prevent individuals from developing software, ban content that some stakeholder finds offensive (like art with LGBT characters in Russia, the Middle East, or even North America), or ban entire categories of software like encryption suites or third-party web browsers.

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This is where we get to today's announcement.

Microsoft's Phil Spencer, essentially responding to Tim Sweeney's concerns, and the PC gaming community at large, announced changes to UWP to make it more open. I haven't had too much time to think about it, and some necessary details don't translate well to a keynote segment, but we'll relay what we know. First, they plan to open up VSync off, FreeSync, and G-Sync in May. I find this kind-of odd, since Windows 10 will not receive its significant update (“Anniversary Update”) until July, I'm not sure how they would deliver this. It seems a little big for a simple Windows Update patch. I mean, they have yet to even push new versions of their Edge web browser outside of Windows 10 builds.

The second change is more interesting. Microsoft announced, albeit without dedicating a solid release date or window, to allow modding and overlays in UWP applications. This means that software will be able to, somehow, enter into UWP's process, and users will be encouraged to, somehow, access the file system of UWP applications. Currently, you need to jump through severe hoops to access the contents of Windows Store applications.

They still did not address the issue of side-loading and developing software without a certificate. Granted, you can do both of those things in Windows 10, but in a way that seems like it could be easily removed in a future build, if UWP has enough momentum and whoever runs Microsoft at the time decides to. Remember, this would not be an insidious choice by malicious people. UWP is alluring to Microsoft because it could change the “Windows gets viruses” stigma that is associated with PCs. The problem is that it can be abused, or even unintentionally harm creators and potential users.

On the other hand, they are correcting some major issues. I'm just voicing concerns.

Source: Microsoft

Meet the new Intel Skulltrail NUC; Changing the Game

Subject: Shows and Expos | March 16, 2016 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: skulltrail, Skull Canyon, nuc, Intel, GDC

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No we are not talking about the motherboard from 2008 which was going to compete with AMD's QuadFX platform and worked out just as well.  We are talking about a brand new Skull Canyon NUC powered by an i7-6770HQ with Iris Pro 580 graphics and up to 32GB of DDR4-2133.  The NUC NUC6i7KYK will also be the first system we have seen with a fully capable USB Type-C port, it will offer Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity; not simultaneously but the flexibility is nothing less than impressive.  It will also sport a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs so you can still send video while using the Type C port for data transfer.  The port will also support external graphics card enclosures if you plan on using this as a gaming machine as well.

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The internal storage subsystem is equally impressive, dual M.2 slots will give you great performance, the SD card slot not so much but still a handy feature.  Connectivity is supplied by Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (802.11 ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 and an infrared sensor will let you use your favourite remote control if you set up the Skulltrail NUC as a media server.  All of these features are in a device less than 0.7 litres in size, with your choice of two covers and support for your own if you desire to personalize your system.  The price is not unreasonable, the MSRP for a barebones system is $650, one with 16GB memory, 256GB SSD and Windows 10 should retail for about $1000.  You can expect to see these for sale on NewEgg in April to ship in May.

All this and more can be found on Intel's news room, and you can click here for the full system specs.

Source: Intel

MWC 16: Imagination Technologies Ray Tracing Accelerator

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 23, 2016 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: raytracing, ray tracing, PowerVR, mwc 16, MWC, Imagination Technologies

For the last couple of years, Imagination Technologies has been pushing hardware-accelerated ray tracing. One of the major problems in computer graphics is knowing what geometry and material corresponds to a specific pixel on the screen. Several methods exists, although typical GPUs crush a 3D scene into the virtual camera's 2D space and do a point-in-triangle test on it. Once they know where in the triangle the pixel is, if it is in the triangle, it can be colored by a pixel shader.

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Another method is casting light rays into the scene, and assigning a color based on the material that it lands on. This is ray tracing, and it has a few advantages. First, it is much easier to handle reflections, transparency, shadows, and other effects where information is required beyond what the affected geometry and its material provides. There are usually ways around this, without resorting to ray tracing, but they each have their own trade-offs. Second, it can be more efficient for certain data sets. Rasterization, since it's based around a “where in a triangle is this point” algorithm, needs geometry to be made up of polygons.

It also has the appeal of being what the real world sort-of does (assuming we don't need to model Gaussian beams). That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though.

At Mobile World Congress, Imagination Technologies once again showed off their ray tracing hardware, embodied in the PowerVR GR6500 GPU. This graphics processor has dedicated circuitry to calculate rays, and they use it in a couple of different ways. They presented several demos that modified Unity 5 to take advantage of their ray tracing hardware. One particularly interesting one was their quick, seven second video that added ray traced reflections atop an otherwise rasterized scene. It was a little too smooth, creating reflections that were too glossy, but that could probably be downplayed in the material ((Update: Feb 24th @ 5pm Car paint is actually that glossy. It's a different issue). Back when I was working on a GPU-accelerated software renderer, before Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12, I was hoping to use OpenCL-based ray traced highlights on idle GPUs, if I didn't have any other purposes for it. Now though, those can be exposed to graphics APIs directly, so they might not be so idle.

The downside of dedicated ray tracing hardware is that, well, the die area could have been used for something else. Extra shaders, for compute, vertex, and material effects, might be more useful in the real world... or maybe not. Add in the fact that fixed-function circuitry already exists for rasterization, and it makes you balance gain for cost.

It could be cool, but it has its trade-offs, like anything else.

MWC 16: LG G5 Hands-on. Performance and Modularity

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 22, 2016 - 05:09 AM |
Tagged: video, snapdragon 820, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 2016, MWC, LG, G5

The new LG G5 flagship smartphone offers a unique combination of form factor, performance and modularity that no previous smartphone design has had. But will you want to buy in?

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I had a feeling that the Snapdragon 820 SoC from Qualcomm would make an impression at Mobile World Congress this year and it appears the company has improved on the previous flagship processor quite a bit. Both Samsung and LG have implemented it into the 2016 models, including the new G5, offering up a combination of performance and power efficiency that is dramatically better than the 810 that was hindered by heat and process technology concerns.

Along with the new processor, the G5 includes 4GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage with micro SD expansion, a 2,800 mAh battery and Android 6.0 out of the box. The display is 5.3-in and uses LG IPS technology with a 2560x1440 resolution, resulting in an impressive 554 PPI. LG has updated the USB connection to Type-C, a move that Samsung brushed off as unnecessary at this time.

The phones design is pretty standard and will look very familiar to anyone that has handled a G4 or similar flagship smartphone in recent months. It was bigger in the hand than the iPhone 6s but considering the panel size differences, it was more compact than expected.

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Modularity is the truly unique addition to the G5 though. The battery is replaceable by sliding out a bottom portion of the phone, released with a tab on the left side. This allows LG to maintain the metal body construction but still offer flexibility for power users that are used to having extra batteries in their bag. This mechanism also means LG can offer add-on modules for the phone.

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The first two available will be the LG Cam Plus and the LG Hi-Fi Plus. The Cam Plus gives the phone a camera grip as well as dedicated buttons for the shutter, video recording and zoom. Including an extra 1,200 mAh of battery is a nice touch too. The Hi-Fi Plus module has a DAC and headphone amplifier enbeded in it and can also be used connected to a PC through the USB Type-C connection; a nice touch.

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I was overall pretty impressed with what LG had to offer with the G5. Whether or not the modular design gains any traction will have to be seen; I have concerns over the public's desire to carry around modules or affect the form factor of their phones so dramatically.

MWC 16: HTC Vive Launches in April for $799 USD

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 08:27 PM |
Tagged: MWC, mwc 16, valve, htc, vive, Oculus

Valve and HTC announced that the Vive consumer edition will be available in April for $799 USD, with pre-orders beginning on February 29th. Leave it to Valve to launch a product on a date that doesn't always exist. The system comes with the headset, two VR controllers, and two sensors. The unit will have “full commercial availability” when it launches in April, but that means little if it sells out instantly. There's no way to predict that.

The announcement blog post drops a subtle jab at Oculus. “Vive will be delivered as a complete kit” seems to refer to the Oculus Touch controllers being delayed (and thus not in the hands of every user). This also makes me think about the price. The HTC Vive costs $200 more than the Oculus Rift. That said, it also has the touch controllers, which could shrink that gap. It also does not come with a standard gamepad, like Oculus does, although that's just wasted money if you already have one.

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Unlike the Oculus, which has its own SDK, the Vive is powered by SteamVR. Most engines and middleware that support one seem to support both, so I'm not sure if this will matter. It could end up blocking content in an HD-DVD vs BluRay fashion. Hopefully Valve/HTC and Oculus/Facebook, or every software vendor on an individual basis, works through these interoperability concerns and create an open platform. Settling on a standard tends to commoditize industries, but that will eventually happen to VR at some point anyway. Hopefully, if it doesn't happen sooner, cross-compatibility at least happens then.

MWC 16: Epic Games Unveils ProtoStar Demo on Galaxy S7

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 21, 2016 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, epic games, unreal engine 4, vulkan, galaxy s7, MWC, mwc 16

Mobile World Congress starts with a big bang... ... ... :3

Okay, not really; it starts with the formation of a star, which happens on a continual basis across the universe. I won't let facts get in the way of a pun, though.

As for the demo, it is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and runs on a Samsung Galaxy S7 with the Vulkan API. The setting seems to be some sort of futuristic laboratory that combines objects until it builds up into a star. It is bright and vibrant, with many particles, full-scene anti-aliasing, reflections, and other visual effects. The exact resolution when running on the phone was never stated, but the YouTube video was running at 1080p30, and the on-stage demo looked fairly high resolution, too.

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Epic Games lists the features they added to mobile builds of Unreal Engine 4 for this demo:

  • Dynamic planar reflections
  • “Full” GPU particle support, which includes vector fields.
  • Temporal Anti-Alising, which blends neighboring frames to smooth jaggies in motion.
  • ASTC texture compression (created by ARM and AMD for OpenGL and OpenGL ES)
  • Full scene dynamic cascaded shadows
  • Chromatic aberration
  • Dynamic light refraction
  • Filmic tonemapping curve, which scales frames rendered in HDR to a presentable light range
  • Improved static reflections
  • High-quality depth of field
  • Vulkan API for thousands of onscreen, independent objects.

The company has not stated which version of Unreal Engine 4 will receive these updates. I doubt that it will land in 4.11, which is planned for March, but they tend to release a full dot-version every one to three months. They also have early previews for those who wish to try it early, some compiled leading up to launch, and others that need to be built from GitHub.

Source: Epic Games

Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.

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Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.

Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.

Source: Epic Games

CES 2016: Dell UltraSharp U3017Q 4K OLED Pro Display

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2016 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, dell, ultrasharp, oled

For the longest time, display technology was stagnant. Professional monitors were 1440p, IPS panels (or 2560x1600 for 16:10 models) and high-90% Adobe RGB color, which is useful for both video and print gamuts. Consumer monitors were based on TN technology that could maybe cover the smaller sRGB color space, which covers video. Mobile devices, due to their small size, relatively high viewing angle requirements, and eventually high PPI, started introducing higher-end technologies to consumers. G-Sync, and later FreeSync, continued to differentiate high-end panels. Still, apart from the shift to 4K 60Hz, professional panels didn't go through an astonishing upgrade.

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Image Credit: Engadget

OLED was always on the horizon though, and are now being integrated into consumer, and professional, monitors. The Dell UltraSharp U3017Q is one such display, with a 30-inch size and 4K resolution. It completely covers Adobe RGB and 97.8% of DCI-P3. DCI-P3 is not a superset of Adobe RGB, it's just a bit more shifted into the reds, and it is designed for digital cinema projects. Because it's not blocking white light, it can get deeper blacks and more saturated colors.

For accessories, it has a USB Type-C connector that can provide 100W of power, as well as high-speed data and apparently video.

Its pricing and availability is where we get to its downside. It will ship March 31st, which is great news for the new technology, but it will cost $4,999, which is not so amazing. That said, if companies get their hands on it, it might eventually trickle into the prosumer and consumer space, like the 4K IGZO panels did a couple of years ago.

What do our readers think?

Did it launch too early? Or does this make you interested when the price drops? Or, alternatively, are you planning on dropping a huge chunk of cash as soon as they'll take it?

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: Engadget

CES 2016: EVGA is making a gaming case

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: prototype, gaming case, evga, CES 2016, CES

While we have already posted our story and given you a video breakdown of the upcoming EVGA SC 17 gaming notebook, the company had another revolutionary product on display at its suite that I think our readers are going to enjoy seeing. I bring to you, the EVGA Gaming Case:

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As we dive through this, keep in mind that EVGA claims this is an early prototype but that it should have product on the market by end of Q2 2016. 

The case is HUGE, like, bigger that you might imagine just from looking at the pictures. The first feature that stands out is that EVGA intends for the orientation of the case to have the window facing the gamer, rotating it from a standard case direction by 90 degrees. That puts your components and lighting and all the work you put into it on full display, which is great, but it also means you'll need more space on your desk or on your floor in one dimension.

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The current build is all plastic, but EVGA's CEO Andrew Han told me it would be all metal when it shipped, an impressive feat for sure. The internals are not rotated at all but EVGA was able to keep a clean look from the "new front" by including a swinging door on the back where the display connections and USB ports, etc. come out, hiding them from view.

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Power supplies are hidden by the mirror finish bottom section that currently holds an easy to use, if overly simplified, intake/exhaust fan speed controller. The power button is also on the bottom right of the case, a result of the new orientation that EVGA plans for. The company will offer different versions of the case, ranging from $79 to $299 depending on features, the most expensive of which will upgrade that fan controller to a full LCD touch screen that can also display and interact with EVGA's Precision X software. Very cool!

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A full window faces the user, bigger than any case I have had experience with. An illuminated EVGA logo sits on the right hiding water cooling gear you might have installed. The internals have more than enough room for basically any and all hardware, as you could guess from the size of the thing. There are zero optical drive bays - sorry Josh - but the back has space for eight 3.5-in drives and six 2.5-in drives. 

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It's too early for me to make a final statement, but the case is surely ambitious. If they can pull it off, EVGA might just create the ultimate enthusiast PC case without going completely insane on pricing. With targets of $79 on the low end, but keeping the same metal construction and layout, and $299 on the high end, this unnamed case will stay on my radar in 2016.

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

Source: EVGA

CES 2016: AMD Announces Wraith Cooler

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 05:38 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, amd, cpu cooler, air cooler

AMD seems to be starting off 2016 right. This is the year that they intend to switch to the Zen microarchitecture, and hopefully reclaim a profitable CPU market-share. While that's later in the year, they showed off a new stock cooler that will be bundled with upcoming processors. We don't have a press release or announcement for it, but they did publish a video to their Red Team fan community and they discussed it with attendees of the show.

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The new cooler, called the Wraith, is significantly larger than their previous stock heatsink. It is rated at 125W, up from the previous offering's 95W. This dissipation wattage might allow some overclocking room, depending on the chosen TDP at launch, while providing lower noise at stock voltage and frequency. The fan is now constant speed, so it shouldn't whine under load. It might have also allowed them to tune the fan for its RPM, too.

Speaking of lower noise, the aforementioned video shows a dramatic reduction in that area. We're force to trust their recording and frequency-distribution graph. If accurate, the noise appears to be much lower and the energy is spread out over many frequencies.

No clue when it will launch, though.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: AMD

CES 2016: Windows 10 PC-Exclusive Data Plans

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft is partnering with Transatel to provide cellular data services for Windows 10 PCs and tablets, but not phones. It will launch in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but could be rolled out to other regions over time. This will not be a contract service. Everything will be pre-paid, with short-term plans (think “XGB for the next 30 days for Y upfront”) available for a discount before a trip or something.

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One downside is that compatible PCs will require a SIM card slot, which a Microsoft-branded SIM card will be inserted into. The write-up at Thurrott.com doesn't discuss external adapters, like the USB cellular modems that carriers offer and were popular until tethering became mainstream. A few unlocked LTE, USB modems can be found online, which you'd think would be compatible, but I'm not up on many of the details. I'm not a mobile enthusiast.

Despite the source being a Microsoft corporate VP, speaking on the record, it has not been officially announced by the company yet. Details, like when it will be available, have not been released.

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Source: Thurrott.com

CES 2016: Seasonic prepares flagship Prime series of PSUs

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, seasonic, prime, power supply

In a meeting with Seasonic at CES this week, the company revealed plans for a completely new series of power supplies coming this spring. The new Seasonic Prime series will come in both Platinum and Titanium editions, with wattage ranges of 650 watts to 1000 watts on the former and 550 watt to 1200 watts on the latter. These power supplies will now be ahead of the X-Series in the brand hierarchy. 

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Seasonic is well known in the industry for top quality products and is one of the key manufacturers for other PSU brands that you know and love. They want to build a new flagship brand of their own though, going with an impressively svelte design and include enough features and capabilities to stand out in a crowded market. 

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Both Platinum and Titanium designs will include a totally new hybrid fan control design that allows for a zero fan speed design up to 45% of system load on the higher wattage units. Zero PCB cabling minimizes the chances for individual failure and is aided by the completely modular design. Though the unit is analog rather than digital, Seasonic promises to maintain a 0.5% nominal tolerance on the load regulation on the 12V line. Also, all of the Seasonic Prime power supplies will come with a full 10-year (!!) warranty.

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Looking for a fanless design? Seasonic will have you covered with the Titanium Fanless units at both 400 watt and 550 watt variants.

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Expect the newest Seasonic power supplies to hit stores in April!

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Source: Seasonic

CES 2016: New Intel Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 03:45 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Intel, compute stick

Intel has announced two new Compute Sticks with a handful of available SKUs.

On the high end, in terms of Compute Sticks at least, two products are available. At the low end of the two, a Core m3 processor will be present, and Windows 10 will be pre-installed for $399. The high-end variant will have a faster Core m5 processor, but no pre-installed OS for $499. It seems odd that a choice in SoC will be tied to the OS, but I'm guessing the Intel doesn't want to have too many SKUs for a potentially low-volume product.

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Regardless of the above choice, both Core M-level Compute Sticks, above, have 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 3x USB ports. They also have Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless connectivity.

Beyond the above two products, a low end, Intel Atom-based Compute Stick is available. Just one SKU will be available, though. It has the same Intel Atom x5-Z8300 that was present on the Zotac PC Stick. It also has 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, HDMI, and 2x USB ports. It has Wireless AC, but Bluetooth 4.0 (instead of the Core M version's 4.1). It will be available for $159.

Release dates are not announced, but the Atom-based Compute Sticks are in production, and the Core M-based one will enter production next month.

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Source: Intel (pdf)

CES 2016: Zotac Skylake ZBOX and PC Stick

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:06 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, zotac, zbox

Zotac is one of the most memorable manufacturers of mini PCs. We have been highlighting their tiny creations since at least 2011, which was as far back as our site's Zotac tag went. At the time, we appreciated them as media center PCs, but interest seems to have picked up substantially since then. They are also appreciated in the fanless community, because silent and tiny devices are even more novel.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

They had several products at CES, which span the gamut of uniqueness. Some are fanless, others are in a PC stick form factor, and other ZBOXes are there, too. Liliputing went through a few different models, and gave a pretty detailed discussion of the PC Stick, the ZBOX Pico (T3 and T4), and the ZBOX C series. Be sure to check the site out for a more elaborate look.

The fanless model had a pretty interesting upgrade, though. With a Core i5-6300U, it has a lot of performance for something like an audio recording PC, especially if it's maxed out with 16 GB of RAM. The Intel HD 520 is a bit light otherwise though, but it could play most new games at low settings (~720p). On the other hand, it has two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, as well as a few regular USB 3.0 ports.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

The PC stick is definitely low powered, though. It has an Intel Atom x5-Z8300, which could really do without the “Z” in the model name. It has 2GB of RAM, which should be sufficient for those applications, and 32GB of on-device storage, which is better than many other offerings. It even has a MicroSD card slot on top of the internal storage.

Pricing and availability are not yet provided.

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Source: Liliputing

CES 2016: New Cooler Master Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 11:02 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, cooler master, mechanical keyboard, RGB LED

Back in September, we mentioned that the CoolerMaster QuickFire XTi was launched worldwide. They have now launched three more keyboards. Two of them have Cherry MX switches and RGB LEDs, while the third uses a supposedly high-quality membrane switch.

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According to The Tech Report at the show, Cooler Master has apparently used their own LED solution, rather than just purchase Cherry MX RGB switches directly. They also say that they needed to change the housing to fit those. The MasterKeys Pro L and S are fairly minimalist keyboards. I assume L stands for long, and S stands for short, because the S is the tenkeyless version of the L (which means it is cut off to the right of the arrow keys).

The Devastator II has switches that Cooler Master calls “Mem-chanical.” They apparently created high-end membrane switches that are supposed to feel like tactile mechanical ones. I guess this means that they were trying to emulate the Cherry MX Brown force curve. This doesn't say what quality the keyboard will end up being, that said, one of the most precise keyboards I've had (according to my straight-edge test) was a Microsoft Media keyboard from the early 2000s.

The Devastator II also has an ambidextrous mouse. Not sure about pricing and availability, though. The Tech Report claims $30, which is right around what the original Devastator costs today.

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CES 2016: Polaroid Phones Actually Sound Interesting

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 10:15 PM |
Tagged: southern telecom, polaroid, CES 2016, CES

Of course, the Polaroid name is a trademark used under license for these phones. According to FoneArena, Southern Telecom is the underlying manufacturer, who I don't know much about. These sorts of arrangements happen frequently, such as when Funai licenses RCA and Magnavox to sell consumer electronics in department stores. It's basically an endorsement, with maybe some cross-promotion.

polaroid-2016-phone-snap.jpg

Image Credit: GSMArena

There were two types of phones at CES. I wasn't there personally, and I don't think anyone at PC Perspective saw these, so I'm not sure how they were announced at the show. Each image were product renders, so I'm guessing they weren't at a booth. Regardless, the specs are listed and they seem really good for the price.

The low-end version is called the “Polaroid Snap,” which is also the name of a previously released digital camera with an instant printer. The phone is based on a 720p, IPS panel in one of three sizes: 5-inch, 5.5-inch, or 6-inch. It has a quad-core processor of some sort with either 1GB or 2GB of RAM. They ship with Android 5.1.1, but some (not all) sources claim it will be upgraded to Android 6.0. Both front (5MP) and rear (13MP) cameras have LED flashes. The 1GB version has 8GB onboard storage (eugh!) but the 2GB one has 16GB of storage. Small, but that's all for $130 - $180 USD.

polaroid-2016-phone-power.jpg

Image Credit: GSMArena

Then we get to the Polaroid Power.

As you can guess, this is the more powerful version. It has a 6-inch, 1080p, IPS panel, which is backed by an eight-core, 64-bit processor. It has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which makes it much more interesting. The front (now 8MP) camera seems to have lost its flash, but the rear (13MP) one still has one. Again, it ships with Android 5.1.1 but definitely can be upgraded to Android 6.0. All of that hits a $250 price point.

All phones have a 3000 mAh battery, but they come with an 8000 mAh external booster.

As someone who rarely uses smartphones, this could be a decent offering for the price. In general, the mid-range smartphone ecosystem is getting quite competitive, as we've said on our year-end podcast. There is room for high-end devices to keep their mark, but at least there's a better gradient between cheap, “feature” phones and impressive, high-end devices.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: FoneArena

CES 2016: Hello Moto

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 09:01 PM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, CES 2016, CES

A little over a year ago, Lenovo purchased Motorola from Google for $2.91 billion USD. They did not acquire the vast majority of the patents, and they did not purchase Motorola Research. It was assumed that Lenovo wanted the Motorola brand and their connections with global cell carriers. Your hardware means very little without a network provider to sell, support, and connect it with their infrastructure.

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Today, Motorola / Lenovo announced that the Motorola brand will be deprecated. They will still operate within Lenovo as their own division, but the consumer-facing brand will be Lenovo, and it will run their entire mobile effort. The company will continue to make nods to Motorola, however. The stylized “M” logo will remain an identifiable trademark, and their line of high-end devices will be given the “Moto” name.

This doesn't feel like an admission of failure on Lenovo's part. I have the impression that they are trying to assimilate Motorola into their organization, but that makes me wonder what they wanted in the first place. They can use the connections and the workforce that they acquired, which is highly valuable, and they can use the brand in subtle ways (as they are). Really, I'm just confused whether Lenovo changed their mind about the Motorola brand, or if this was expected from the start.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: CNet

CES 2016: Razer Stargazer Webcam Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, razer, razer stargazer, webcam, Intel RealSense

Razer has announced the Stargazer webcam with a few tricks up its sleeve. Each of these has a downside or catch though, so be sure to read my commentary.

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The first advanced feature is the sensor. It supports 1080p output, which is common these days, but it can be driven at 60 FPS when dropped to 720p. For video streamers, who usually shrink their webcam to a fraction of the screen anyway, this bump in refresh rate will match that game or desktop capture. 720p is more resolution than a corner of a 1080p broadcast, so you're throwing out pixels anyway. The problem would be streamers who have a full-screen webcam shot. This is common for educational or discussion-based podcasts, which would likely need to choose between 720p60 or 1080p30. I don't think it's possible for any webcam to output both resolutions at the same time, so you'd need to release and renew the device when you switch, which isn't feasible. That said, I'm not sure if there was a major, technical reason for Razer not just shipping 1080p60. There might be.

The second feature the webcam's inclusion of Intel RealSense. This is their technology for gesture recognition, 3d scanning, and background removal. Having the camera automatically key out the background on webcam video is interesting, and probably quite accurate given that it knows 3D positional data. The ability to 3D scan would also be interesting for game and mod developers. The catch? It apparently requires a sixth-generation Core processor (Skylake). This entirely removes AMD and DDR3-era Intel processors from the equation, including the high-end Core i7-4790k. It also requires Windows 10. Note that Razer lists these requirements for the webcam in general, including the Skylake processor, but it might only apply to RealSense features. It also might apply to everything, though.

If these limitations, including the very high system requirements, don't apply to you, then look for the Razer Stargazer in Q2. It will apparently cost about $200 USD.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: Razer

CES 2016: Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Bundle

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: square enix, nvidia, CES 2016, CES

NVIDIA has just announced a new game bundle. If you purchase an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, GTX 980 desktop or mobile, GTX 980 Ti, GTX 980M, or GTX 970M, then you will receive a free copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider. As always, make sure the retailer is selling the participating card. If the product has a download code, it will be specially marked. NVIDIA will not upgrade non-participating stock to the bundle.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider will go live on January 29th. It was originally released in November as an Xbox One timed exclusive. It will also arrive on the PlayStation 4, but not until “holiday,” which is probably around Q4 (or maybe late Q3).

If you purchase the bundle, then you graphics card will obviously be powerful enough to run the game. At a minimum, you will require a GeForce GTX 650 (2GB) or an AMD HD 7770 (2GB). The CPU needs are light too, requiring just a Sandy Bridge Core i3 (Intel Core i3-2100) or AMD's equivalent. Probably the only concern would be the minimum of 6GB system RAM, which also requires a 64-bit operating system. Now that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have been deprecated, 32-bit gaming will be increasingly rare for “AAA” titles. That said, we've been ramping up to 64-bit for the last decade. one of the first games that supported x86-64 was Unreal Tournament 2004.

The Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA bundle starts today.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: NVIDIA