Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano; are you a fan of fanless mini PCs?

Subject: Systems | November 13, 2014 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox ci540 nano, fanless, haswell, i5-4210Y

The Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano is a bit more powerful than your average Bay Trail based mini-PC, it sports a Haswell based dual core i5-4210Y which runs between 1.5-1.9GHz and has Intel's HD4200 onboard.  This won't play AC:Unity but comes close to matching a NUC containing a Core i5-4250U, you give up a bit of horsepower for completely silent operation and for media it sports enough power to watch your favourite videos.  As you look at Silent PC Reviews' article you can see the honeycomb patterned knockouts on the casing to allow heat to dissipate and to let in liquid if you don't put some thought into where you are going to place the ZBOX.  It does have Bluetooth and there is an unofficial optional IR receiver that can be used to make it easy to place this tiny computer in a safe place.

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"The Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano gives up a little CPU/GPU horsepower to deliver a completely fanless, silent and full-featured mini-PC experience."

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Update for November: Android 5.0, "Green Box", GRID Gaming Service

Subject: Systems, Mobile | November 13, 2014 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, grid, geforce grid

Today, NVIDIA has announced the November update for their SHIELD Tablet, which is really about three announcements that are rolled up together.

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As expected, the SHIELD Tablet is getting a roll-up to Android 5.0 Lollipop and its new, “Material Design” style guide. NVIDIA's took the opportunity to refresh the SHIELD HUB (my shift key must think that this is an MSI announcement by now...) in the same design specification. While interesting, the two other announcements probably beat it out, especially the GRID streaming service (and how it relates to the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4).

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But before we get to GRID, let's talk “The Green Box”. In May, NVIDIA sent us a green crowbar to mark the availability of Half-Life 2 and Portal on the NVIDIA SHIELD. These were full, native ports of the PC title to ARM and Android that is exclusive to the NVIDIA SHIELD. With the November update, Half-Life 2: Episode One has also been ported to the platform. The three games, Portal, Half-Life 2, and Episode One, are also packaged in “The Green Box” bundle, which will be included free-of-charge with the SHIELD Tablet 32GB. Note that, while the games are included with the tablet, they require a controller to play, which is not included.

Now we talk about GRID.

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Netflix is a popular service where people can watch a variety of movies from their rolling catalog. It will not replace ownership of certain, intrinsically valuable titles, but there is probably options for anyone who wants to consume some form of entertainment. GRID is a similar service for video games, and it is not the first. We took a look at a preview of OnLive in 2010, connecting to a server about 2400 miles away, which is over twice the maximum intended range, and found the experience somewhat positive for games except Unreal Tournament 3 at that relatively extreme latency. Another company, GaiKai, was purchased by Sony and rebranded as PlayStation Now. It will serve up a selection of games from the PS3 catalog. Again, content on these services can be pulled at any time, but if you are just looking for the entertainment value, something else will probably be there to scratch your itch.

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The interesting part that I have been teasing throughout this entire post is the performance of NVIDIA GRID. PlayStation Now is rated at 192 GFLOPs, which is the theoretical GPU compute throughput of the PS3's RSX chip. GRID, on the other hand, is rated for 2448 GFLOPs (~2.5 TFLOPs). This is higher than the PlayStation 4, and almost twice the GPU performance of the Xbox One. On the PC side, it is roughly equivalent to the GeForce GTX 760 Ti.

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This compute rating has a hidden story, too. Back in 2011, Epic Games demoed “Samaritan” in Unreal Engine 3. This was the bar that Epic Games set for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to mark a new console generation. When Unreal Engine 4 was unveiled at the end of E3 2012, it was embodied in the Elemental Demo, which also ran at (you guessed it) 2.5 TFLOPs. At the PlayStation 4 (1.9 TFLOPs) announcement, the demo was scaled back with reduced particles and lighting complexity. It was not shown at either Xbox One (1.3 TFLOPs) announcement at all.

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What all of that means is simple: NVIDIA GRID is the only fixed hardware platform (that I am aware of) to meet Epic's vision of a next-gen gaming system. I say fixed, of course, because the PC can over-double it per card, with some games scaling to four discrete GPUs. This also says nothing about the CPU performance, system memory, or video memory, but it has the GPU in the right place for a next gen platform.

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The NVIDIA GRID preview will launch in November for North America, with East Coast and West Coast servers. It will expand in December for Western Europe, and in “Q2” for Asia Pacific. The service will be free for SHIELD users until June 30th, 2015. The Android 5.0 Update for the SHIELD Tablet will be available on November 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Newly Refreshed Cirrus7 Nimbus Looks Cool (Pun Intended)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 11, 2014 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: haswell-t, haswell, fanless

This one is more for our European readers, because this company operates out of Germany, but the Cirrus7 Nimbus is an interestingly designed, fanless system. Its fin shape is said to be assembled out of laser-cut layers of aluminum that sandwiches in the I/O plate at the rear. FanlessTech has noted that the systems are now available with Haswell processors, up to a Core i7 based on Haswell-T. Their storage options now also include the Samsung 850 Pro, up to 1TB.

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Image Credit: Cirrus7 via FanlessTech

The customization options are actually pretty decent. I find that a lack of meaningful upgrades to be a problem with modern PC builders, however this one does not apply. Eight CPUs are offered, ranging from a Celeron up to a 45W Haswell-T; RAM comes in 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB; up to three drives can be installed, up to one mSATA and up to two SATA; Intel Wireless N or AC is available; external DVD or BluRay burners are an option; and one of seven OSes can be installed, including two versions of Linux (Ubuntu 14.04 or Ubuntu 14.10). If you get all of the bells and whistles, you are probably up to about 3,000 USD, but you cannot expect two terabytes of Samsung 850 Pro SSDs to be cheap. It seems reasonable enough, especially for the EU. The big limiter is the lack of a discrete GPU unless you are using this device for something like audio recording, which an Intel HD 4600 can easily handle.

The Cirrus7 Nimbus is available now at their website.

Source: Cirrus7

Raspberry Pi Gets an A+ for Education

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education

The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.

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I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.

Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.

The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.

Building a new PC for the holidays?

Subject: Systems | October 29, 2014 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: system build

The Tech Report have updated their system build recommendations for the latter part of 2014, with changes to their system components as well as a reluctant recommendation for Win 8.1 as Win7 is scheduled for EOL in the New Year.   The Core i7-5960X did not make it as the  i7-5930K reaches similar performance for just over half the price which also means that DDR4 has appeared for the first time, specifically the Crucial 16GB and 32GB DDR4-2133 kits.  There is a lot of choice right now when it comes to GPUs; four under $150, five under $250 and four ranging from ~$300 to $630 ensuring that you can find one in your price range.  Check out the full array of choices in their update.

Make sure to check out the recent updates on our Hardware Leaderboard as well.

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"Join us for another System Guide update, this time with just about all the tools you need to build a holiday PC early. We've got Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 900-series graphics cards, one of AMD's recently discounted A-series APUs, and much more."

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Viva la LIVA, your USB powered system

Subject: Systems | October 20, 2014 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: LIVA, silvermont

Yes, you read that right; this system can be powered by a USB power source, as long as it can provide a minimum of 2.1 amps.  It runs Windows 8.1 on a Silvermont generation Atom, with 64GB of local storage and 2GB of RAM and it is amazingly small, instead of showing you the exterior you can see the size of the board in comparison to the Atom and the VGA port.  It has a UEFI BIOS, certainly pared down in comparison to a high end motherboard but with more than enough options for what this device needs to do.  Check out the MadShrimps review here and be ready for another review to appear on our front page.

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"The mini PC kit ECS has offered is shipped in a DIY format, and incorporates a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. The footprint of the product allows us to carry it anywhere and it can be even powered by an USB powerbank, if it can deliver at least 2.1 A"

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Source: MadShrimps

Apple Announces New Mac Minis with Haswell. What?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, mac mini, mac, Intel, haswell, apple

I was not planning to report on Apple's announcement but, well, this just struck me as odd.

So Apple has relaunched the Mac Mini with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, after two years of waiting. It is the same height as the Intel NUC, but it also almost twice the length and twice the width (Apple's 20cm x 20cm versus the NUC's ~11cm x 11cm when the case is included). So, after waiting through the entire Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?

((Note: The editorial originally said "two-year-old architecture". I thought that Haswell launched about six months earlier than it did. The mistake was corrected.))

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I wonder if, following the iTunes U2 deal, this device will come bundled with Limp Bizkit's "Nookie"...

The price has been reduced to $499, which is a welcome $100 price reduction especially for PC developers who want a Mac to test cross-platform applications on. It also has Thunderbolt 2. These are welcome additions. I just have two, related questions: why today and why Haswell?

The new Mac Mini started shipping yesterday. 15-watt Broadwell-U is expected to launch at CES in January with 28W parts anticipated a few months later, for the following quarter.

Source: Apple

MSI Upgrades 27” All-in-One Gaming PC’s with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900M

Subject: Systems | October 16, 2014 - 04:18 PM |
Tagged: all-in-one, msi, gtx 900m, AG270 2QC, AG270 2QE

Who says All-in-One PCs can't be high end machines?  MSI just updated their 27" lineup with some rather impressive components.  One definite benefit to these machines is the matte display, which has been updated with a new feature called Anti-Flicker which reduces the amount of blue light generated by the display.   The base model is $1800 so you are paying a premium for the form factor but you do get an impressive looking and fully functional system for that price.

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City of Industry, Calif. – October 22, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp announces the availability of their lineup of 27-inch All-in-One gaming computers featuring NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900M graphics cards. MSI’s lineup of gaming AIOs are powered by Intel Core i7 processors, up to 16 GB DDR3L memory, Killer E2200 Game Networking, and MSI’s Super RAID technology.

MSI’s upgraded gaming AIOs feature NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900M GPUs, the world’s fastest and most powerful mobile gaming graphics card. NVIDIAs latest GPU packs the power of a high-end performance graphics card into the silhouette of a mobile unit through a Maxwell architecture that delivers up to 35% increase in 3DMark11 performance.

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“Gamers crave performance and our new lineup of 27-inch gaming AIOs will leave them breathless,” says Andy Tung, CEO of MSI Pan America. “The outstanding combination of state-of-the-art components, including NVIDIA’s latest GPU, deliver the most immersive gaming experience available and is guaranteed to outperform any other unit on the market.”

MSI complements the GPU with other cutting-edge components, including Intel Core i7 processor and Super RAID technology for ultra-fast storage speed with dual mSATA SSD’s in RAID 0, Killer E2200 Game Networking for lighting fast and lag-free connectivity, and dual Yamaha speakers and amplifier for an incredible sound experience. Yamaha speakers feature a built-in full-range monomer and an independent subwoofer to create a 2-way speaker system that pumps out intense explosions, clear footsteps and piercing screams.

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To ensure a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience, even in prolonged battle sessions, MSI equipped the AIOs with an anti-glare matte display with Anti-Flicker technology. MSI’s proprietary Anti-Flicker technology generates 75% less blue light by stabilizing the electrical current on the display, thus preventing flickering and decreasing eye fatigue.

Source: MSI

Lenovo Introduces New Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 Tablet PCs

Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 9, 2014 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, yoga tablet, Windows 8.1, windows, Thinkpad, lenovo yoga, Lenovo, haswell, Broadwell

At a press event in London (watch the livestream), Lenovo showed off two new convertible PCs – the Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 – aimed at the consumer and business markets respectively that each incorporate evolutionary improvements over their predecessors. The Windows 8.1 PCs will be available at the end of October.

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The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is the company's new flagship multi-mode system, and features build quality and internal processing power enhancements over the Yoga 2 Pro while being 17% thinner (0.5") and 14% lighter (2.62 lbs). Lenovo attributes the size and weight reductions to its new watchband hinge which is uses 800 pieces of aluminum and steel to achieve a thin yet flexible hinge with six focus points that resembles a metal watchband. Additionally, Lenovo has updated the display to a 13.3" multi-touch panel with (QHD+) 3200x1800 resolution. Other external features include JBL stereo speakers, a 720p webcam, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 and DC-input port, one micro HDMI output, and one audio combo jack.

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Lenovo's new hand-constructed watchband-style hinge with six focus points.

Internally, Lenovo is using the Intel Core M-70 (Broadwell) processor, up to 8GB of DDR3L memory, and a 256GB SSD. Lenovo claims up to 9 hours of battery life, depending on usage. The PC will be available in Clementine Orange, Platinum Silver, or Champagne Gold.

Lenovo also announced the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14. While it does not have the kinds of form factor and hinge design improvements as the Yoga 3 Pro, it does maintain the useful Lift 'n Lock keyboard and feature welcome internal upgrades. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 measures 13.3" x 9.4" x 0.82" and weighs 4.1 pounds. The magnesium alloy frame holds a 14" 1920x1080 IPS display with 10-point multi-touch, a 720p webcam, dual microphones with noise cancelation, stereo speakers, a backlit Lift 'n Lock keyboard (which, when in tablet mode, raises the frame flush with the keys which lock in place), full keyboard, trackpad, and trackpoint nub.

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This PC is noticeably bulkier and heavier than the Yoga 3 Pro, but it trades bulk for processing power, storage, and external I/O. Externally, the PC has one full HDMI video out (which is preferable to having to remember a micro HDMI adapter on the road or to meetings), two USB 3.0 ports, one combo USB 2.0/DC power/OneLink docking connector, one SD card slot, and one audio combo jack. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 is powered by an Intel Core i5 (Haswell) processor, NVIDIA GeForce 840M GPU, either 4GB or 8GB of DDR3L memory, and 1TB hard drive paired with 16GB flash for caching purposes. It comes with Windows 8.1 and "all day" battery life of up to eight hours.

In all, it has some useful updates over last year's model which we reviewed here.

Pricing and Availability:

The Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 will be available at the end of October from Lenovo.com or Best Buy. The Yoga 3 Pro has an MSRP of $1,349 while the ThinkPad Yoga 14 starts at $1,149.

Both systems continue the Yoga family forward, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Broadwell-powered Yoga 3 Pro performs in particular. I do wish the Lift 'n Lock keyboard technology had trickled down to the consumer models even understanding it would add additional weight and thickness. Obviously, Lenovo felt the tradeoff was not worth it though.

Source: Lenovo

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Splits Into Two Companies

Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 6, 2014 - 07:27 PM |
Tagged: restructure, layoffs, hp inc, hp, hewlett-packard enterprise

HP's restructure initiative has been ongoing for years, leading to tens of thousands of layoffs. This occurred in several phases, with low-margin businesses grouped alongside highly profitable ones. Originally, HP considered spinning off PC devices but later paired it with its highly profitable printing products.

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Today, HP announced plans to split into two companies: HP Inc., the aforementioned PC and printing division, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which will handle servers, networking, and other infrastructure as well as enterprise software and services. Shareholders will receive stock in both companies in an "intended to be tax-free" transaction. Obviously, that may vary by jurisdiction.

The reasons are fairly straight-forward. Print and PC are not heavily growing markets, especially not compared to their enterprise division. These two companies are roughly equal in size, so separating them highlights each side's strengths and weaknesses, and allows new investors to bet on one without giving money to the other. While Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is expected to be the higher-growth company, HP Inc. is expected to get into 3D printing as a consumer service. It will also inherit the logo, likely because it is something that consumers still identify with.

Current CEO, Meg Whitman, will be CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Chair of HP Inc.

The "transaction" for shareholders is expected by the end of FY15. It will also align with the loss of 5000 jobs, resulting in 55,000 layoffs since Whitman joined the company. I have yet to hear anything about where these cuts will occur.

Source: HP

ZOTAC Injects Palm-Sized ZBOX nano XS with Double Dose of Performance

Subject: Systems | October 1, 2014 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: zotac, SFF, nano xs, MI521, Core i3 4030U

ZOTAC is releasing the new MI521 nano XS model using the Haswell Core i3 4030U with HD4400 graphics with support for mSATA SSDs and two DDR3 slots capable of handling up to 16GB of RAM.  The two models listed below are the same, in one case you do not have to supply your own RAM and SSD, the other comes with only the processor inside.  The branding is skewed more towards the multimedia capabilities but these could also function quite well for office work, with support for 4K workspaces and perhaps a little entertainment once you've polished off that Word doc.

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HONG KONG – Oct. 1, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards and mini-PCs, today injects the palm-sized ZBOX nano XS chassis with a double dose of performance from a 4th Generation Intel Core i3 processor. The new ZOTAC ZBOX MI521 nano XS series delivers a dual-core punch and expansive connectivity in an extra small size for an excellent mini-PC experience.

“ZOTAC is a pioneer when it comes to packing as much performance as possible into the smallest form factor possible. Our latest ZBOX MI521 nano XS series takes that same formula and gives it more performance and connectivity to create a mini-PC that’s perfect for office productivity or multimedia tasks,” said Tony Wong, CEO, ZOTAC International.

New to the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series is a very efficient and capable Intel Core i3 4030U dual-core processor with Intel HD Graphics 4400. The new processor enables dual display capabilities on the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series with standard HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs for maximum work productivity.

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A suite of Intel technologies including Clear Video HD, InTru 3D and Quick Sync Video transforms the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series into the perfect HTPC for high quality HD video playback, including CPU-intensive Hi10P formats. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi technologies round out the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series features to provide compatibility with popular input devices and high-speed network connectivity to wireless home networks.

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Source: Zotac

HP Releases Cheaaaaaap PCs and Windows Tablets

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 30, 2014 - 04:15 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer

Before I get into the devices, the $149 HP Stream 8 tablet and certain models of the HP Stream 13 laptop (the ones with an optional 4G modem) includes "free 4G for life" for customers in the USA. Reading in the fine print, the device company apparently signed a deal with T-Mobile for 200MB/mo of 4G service. Of course, 200MB will barely cover the Windows Update regimen of certain months, but you have WiFi for that. It is free, and free is good. I can guess that T-Mobile is crossing their fingers that dripping a drop of water on the tongues of the thirsty will convince them to go to the fountain.

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If it works? Great. That is just about the most honest way that I have ever seen a telecom company attract new customers.

Back to these devices. Oh right, they're cheap. They are so cheap, they barely have any technical specifications. The $199.99 HP Stream 11 laptop has an 11-inch display. The $229.99 HP Stream 13 laptop has a 13-inch display and can be configured with an optional 4G modem. Both are passively cooled (more fanless PCs...) and run on a dual-core processor. Both provide a year of Office 365 Personal subscriptions. Both are available in blueish-purple or pinkish-purple.

The two tablets (7-inch Stream 7 and 8-inch Stream 8) are a similar story. They run an x86 processor with full Windows 8.1 and a year's subscription to Office 365. Somehow, the tablets are based on Intel quad-core CPUs (rather than the laptop's passively cooled dual-cores) despite being cheaper. Then again, they could be completely different architectures.

While HP is interested in, you know, selling product, I expect that Microsoft's generous licensing terms (see also the Toshiba alternative we reported earlier) is an attempt to push their cloud services. They know that cheaper device categories cannot bare as much royalties as a fully-featured laptop, and not having a presence at those prices is conceding it to Google -- and conceding that to Google is really giving up on cloud services for those customers. The simple solution? Don't forfeit those markets, just monetize with your own cloud service. I doubt that it will harm their higher-end devices.

The four devices (Stream 7 - $99, Stream 8 -$149, Stream 11 - $199, Stream 13 - $229) are coming soon.

Source: HP

Europeans: Atlast! Has Haswell-based Fanless NUCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 06:41 PM |
Tagged: fanless, nuc, haswell

The Akasa Newton X is a fanless case for the NUC form factor that was announced in May and released a couple of months ago. Now, we are beginning to see system builders (albeit in Europe) integrate it in some higher-end devices. This one, from Atlast! Solutions, is built around the Intel Core i5-4250U, up to 1.5TB of SSD storage (512GB Crucial M550 mSATA + 1TB 840 EVO SATA), and up to 16GB of RAM. It can also be configured with up to two-antenna Wireless AC.

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The Core i5-4250U is a dual-core (four threads) processor that is rated for 15W TDP. Its on-chip GPU is the Intel HD Graphics 5000 with a peak, theoretical compute throughput of 704 GFLOPS. This makes it a little under three-times the graphics performance of an Xbox 360. In terms of PC games, you are looking at Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on low at 1024x768 (or basically whatever your home server can do if used as a stream-to target).

Prices currently start at £449.00 for 4GB of RAM and 60GB of mSATA SSD, including VAT.

Thanks to FanlessTech for covering this story.

Check out results of The Tech Report's hardware survey

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: survey, components

The Tech Report have compiled the data from their survey of readers machines and the data is now posted in this article.  You can see how your build compares to the major trends that they observed, from the number and type of monitors that you use to the amount of RAM you have installed.  The most interesting page covers the odd facts which were revealed such as the overwhelming predominance of ATX boards and cases that are being used despite the fact that 75% of respondents having only a single card installed in their systems.  It is also interesting to note a mere 10% of those responding use more than one GPU.  Check out the findings here.

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"Typical PC enthusiasts may spend more on their PCs than you might think—and by the looks of it, their taste for high-end hardware isn't just limited to core components. Those are two of the main takeaways from the TR Hardware Survey 2014, in which we invited readers to answer 26 questions about their PCs. Around 4,000 of you participated over a period of about a week and a half, and the results paint an enlightening picture of current trends in the hobbyist PC realm. "

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MSI KingBox MS-9A66 for Their Industrious... Fans

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 27, 2014 - 02:16 AM |
Tagged: msi, kingbox, ms-9a66, fanless, industry, ruggedized

This is not usually a category of computer that we report on, but MSI has just released a fanless, embedded desktop for industrial applications. Silent PCs seem to be talked about more and more frequently, and I am not sure how much of it is industry trends (as opposed to me just paying more attention). Their focus on this design is performance while remaining rugged and, as mentioned a few times, fanless.

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Note that it supports CPUs with a maximum of 35W TDP. This leaves room for MSI to include up to a Core i7-4785T in the device, but we do not know if this is actually offered. It has four expansion bays, one PCIe x16 and three regular PCI slots. It does not have an ISA slot, though. I am sure this will be disappointing to some enterprises, and Josh. He probably still has a graphics card for it. You might think I would be joking. I am, but sadly I also am not.

For power, the device can accept anywhere from 9 to 36V DC. Basically, it seems to be based on laptop components with expansion slots for add-in boards. You can also purchase a fan "module" for it if, for one reason or another, it is still the best PC for the job even if it wasn't fanless.

Pricing and specific availability are not provided, but it is apparently released.

Source: MSI

Samsung Stops Selling Laptops and Chromebooks in Europe

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 24, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, Chromebook, laptop

This does not apply to our North American readers, although it is good for them to know. To our European fans: Samsung has pulled out of the laptop market, for devices running either Windows or ChromeOS, in your region. The company is not commenting on how many jobs will be lost as a result of this decision. Samsung is not halting operations in any other region and this decision "is not necessarily reflective of conditions in other markets".

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Parallels are drawn with Sony and its VAIO division, but this is significantly different. Sony sold its PC business to Japanese Industrial Partners who, in July, relaunched the brand in Japan. Samsung has not sold any division although there is rumors of upcoming restructuring. While Samsung will retain their brand and continue to develop products for the other regions, pulling away is always concerning for customers. It really could be a geographic anomaly, like Xbox was in Japan, or it could be a warning tremor. We simply do not know.

Source: PC Advisor

Tranquil MonoOne Is a Fanless All-in-One

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 23, 2014 - 08:34 PM |
Tagged: transquil, monoone, all-in-one, fanless

This announcement does not have too much information to go on, but Tranquil PC is launching their MonoOne all-in-one PC at the end of the month. It will be fanless and milled out of solid aluminum. This solid chunk of metal helps keep the device cool. It is a large mass of metal with fins cut out of it for extra surface area.

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Specifications are not listed. We do not even know the screen resolution, processor, drive, I/O ports, or RAM. Current speculation is that it will use a low power Core-level CPU. It looks like it has a removable metal stand and a VESA mount for the wall. In fact, it looks like the stand is attached by the bottom two wall-mount points but I cannot see for sure.

The MonoOne launches at the end of September.

Source: Tranquil

ECS "Design Your Own LIVA" Competition Is Almost Over!

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 18, 2014 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: LIVA, ECS, case mods, case mod contest

ECS USA is holding a competition for North American users to design mods for the LIVA mini PC kit. The contest consists of three phases and round one, whose winners will advance to the second phase, ends on September 30th. If you want to enter in the contest, you will need to submit your first phase entry before then to be eligible for the second phase. Check out Morry's post for a second opinion.

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What are the phases?

Round 1 (Ends September 30th): You will need to publish the "soft copy" of your design draft to Facebook. This will consist of six illustrations: Front, Rear, Left Side, Right Side, Top, and 45-degree 3D illustration. See the image below for an example. The top ten participants, based on Facebook likes, will be provided with a white LIVA mini PC kit to modify in Round 2.

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Round 2 (Ends October 31st): The winners of Round 1 will, using the provided LIVA kits and your design draft, implement their customizations. Photographs of these modified cases will be sent to ECS (I assume by Facebook) for a team of judges to rank them first, second, third, or runner-up.

Round 3 (November 7th): Sit back, relax, and wait for the judges to select winners. The Champion will receive $1000 USD for their trouble, second place will get $500 USD, and third will get $300 USD. The honorable mentions will get various swags.

The contest is open to residents of the USA and Canada. Do it fast! It's less than two weeks and, as I understand it, the later you enter, the less time you will have to accumulate Facebook likes.

Source: ECS

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Is Selling Out?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM |
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft

Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.

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Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.

I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?

Source: Microsoft

ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

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From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google