ASUS Shows Off Silent PC With AMD Trinity APU

Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 2, 2012 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: trinity, silent pc, passive cooling, asus, APU, amd

AMD officially launched its desktop Trinity APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) today, and along with the new processors are a number of new socket FM2 motherboards to support them. One of the cooler motherboard and Trinity APU pairings was shown off today in a completely silent PC by ASUS and AMD in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, Japan.

The silent system is nested inside a Streacom FC5 chassis that does double duty as a case and heatsink for the AMD APU. Inside the system is an unidentified power supply, two DDR3 DIMMS, Corsair Force SSD, ASUS F2A85-M PRO motherboard, and – of course – the AMD A10-5700K APU that we recently reviewed.

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The APU is covered by an aluminum and copper block that is then connected to the metal case via four heatpipes. Then, the outside of the case has a finned design to provide more cooling surface area (but likely just to make it look cooler, heh).

This passively cooled system would make for a really nice home theater PC case, and the GPU prowess of the Trinity APU is well suited to such a task. You can find more photos of the fan-less Trinity system over at FanlessTech.

What do you think of Trinity, and will you be using it in your next build?

Read more about HTPCs and Trinity APUs at PC Perspective!

Source: FanlessTech

Minecraft Creator Takes a Notch Out of Microsoft

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 29, 2012 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: Windows Store, windows 8, censorship

And by the way -- Windows Store will censor apps. More on that later.

So around the same time as my future of Windows editorial became published PC Mag published a related piece: Notch from Mojang outrages over certification for Windows Store. Mojang voiced his concerns for the platform and its attempts to “ruin the PC as an open platform.”

I have, and continue to, claim that Microsoft appears to want to close the Windows platform in a near-future revision of the platform. Once there is enough software available through Windows Update and Windows Store it seems highly likely that Microsoft will remove all other ways on to your device -- as they have done with Windows RT. The concept of a cross-device, controlled, and secure platform is just too tempting.

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Loyal, but not stupid.

But backwards compatibility is not the only concern with going metro. Everything must be certified.

Indeed - as of the latest July 2012 certification requirements for Windows Store - Microsoft will predictably be censoring applications just as they do with the Xbox. Section 5.8 and 6.2 of the aforementioned certification requirements clearly state: applications must not contain excess or gratuitous profanity and applications must also not contain adult content. Of course this is aimed squarely at the various niches of adult graphic novels (correction: I apparently meant visual novels, not graphic novels - but I'm sure those would not be let on the Windows Store either) and similarly themed interactive content and the message is clear: get out and stay out.

I can think of a couple of countries where that will not fly.

To be fair Microsoft has addressed the issue in the very same section with the following clause:

We understand that in some cases, apps provide a gateway to retail content, user generated content, or web based content. We classify those apps as either Storefront apps, whose primary function is to aggregate and sell third party media or apps, or Streaming apps, whose primary function is to aggregate and stream web-based images, music, video or other media content. In some cases, it may be acceptable for a Storefront or Streaming app to include some content that might otherwise be prohibited in a single purpose app.

The clause functionally means: “Yeah we know web browsers cannot prevent themselves from surfing to the wrong side of the internet’s metaphorical tracks. This is not an excuse to ban them.” It also does not limit the censorship that Microsoft is clearly imposing.

And frankly the issue is not even with adult content; the issue is with the certification itself. We are at a point where Microsoft seems to want us to accept and migrate to their closed platform where everything is certified.

But what if future certification seriously limits or disables 3rd party modifications to software like attempted with Games for Windows Live? What if Microsoft decides to charge developers tens of thousands of dollars just to certify a patch? These are all serious issues to think about.

While you are thinking - consider a plan to simply ditch the Windows platform altogether and go with an open platform we can actually trust.

Source: PC Mag

Maingear Launches New Alpha 24 Super Stock All In One PC

Subject: Systems | September 26, 2012 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: synergy, maingear, Ivy Bridge, gtx 680, cablecard, AIO

Custom PC manufacturer Maingear took the wraps off of its latest all in one computer today, and it features some impressive specifications for an AiO system. As the release of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system approaches, Maingear is gearing up support by introducing a system with desktop specifications and a large 24” touchscreen display with the new Alpha 24 Super Stock.

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On the outside, the matte black Alpha 24 all in one has a prominent 24” glossy touchscreen display running at 1920x1080 resolution. Above the screen is a webcam. There are ports along the left side of the bezel and ventilation slits for the HSF on the back.

What makes the Alpha 24 interesting is all the hardware that the company has managed to pack inside the monitor-sized form factor. Internally, you will find a mini-ITX motherboard with Intel Core i7 3770K Ivy Bridge processor, and up to 16GB of DDR3 laptop RAM, 256GB Crucial M4 mSATA SSD, 3TB mechanical hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 graphics card (GTX 650 and GTX 670 GPUs are also options). The Alpha 24 also features 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, with an optional Bigfoot Killer Wireless add-on card. Not bad at all for an all in one system!

Maingear is further pushing the multimedia and home theater PC aspects of the Alpha 24. An internal DVD or Blu-ray optical drive can be added, for example. Also interesting is the inclusion of an optional CableCARD tuner that will allow the Alpha 24 to tune into encrypted cable TV stations and act as a DVR using software like Windows Media Center. Unforunately, details on the specific tuner they are offering were not given in the press release. The Alpha 24 can also act as a monitor for external video sources connected over HDMI, such as a game console or another computer. 

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Maingear did not skimp on the I/O either for the claimed “no compromises” Alpha 24. Internal expansion slots include two mini PCI-E and one PCI-E x16 slot (for the GPU). External connectivity options include three USB 2.0 ports, a SD card reader, mic in/audio out jacks, and space for a single slim optical disc drive along the right edge of the display. Ports along the left edge of the display include the graphics card's video outputs – 1x DVI, 1x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort – two S-Video connectors, power jack, Gigabit LAN, HDMI output, two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, optical audio output, and analog audio jack. The back of the Alpha 24 hosts a VGA and HDMI input along with antenna connectors.

Also, the internals are user serviceable and things like the GPU can easily be upgraded, according to the company – allowing for future upgrading to keep the system relevant. Maingear CEO Wallace Santos stated the following in the company's press release.

“In this day and age, there shouldn’t be a reason anyone would need to compromise for an all-in-one performance PC. Other all-in-one PC solutions pale in comparison to the ALPHA 24 and can be summed up with just a few words: 1080p gaming set to Ultra, maxed anti-aliasing and tessellation.”

Currently, the Alpha 24 has an MSRP starting at $1,349 for the base model. It will ship with Windows 7 x64, however it should be available pre-loaded with Windows 8 later next month following the Windows 8 release.

All in all, the Maingear Alpha 24 looks like a decent computer for the price, though you are paying a bit of a premium for the all in one form factor versus going with a traditional desktop – and building a PC yourself by following the PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard. So long as the reviews come back stating that build quality is good, it is definitely an interesting machine if you are limited to OEM options and don’t want a tower sitting under your desk – the CableCARD tuner option is also a nice touch.

You can find more photos of the Alpha 24 over at the Maingear website.

What do you think about this system, enough future upgrade-ability to sway you away from a traditional tower PC?

Source: Maingear

What good is your HTPC if you don't know what's on?

Subject: Systems | September 21, 2012 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: htpc, hdtv, guide

Missing Remote posted something a little different but perfect for their niche, a compendium of links to shared calendars in which you can find the broadcast times of every show on a wide variety of channels.  The links are either shared Google calendars or ICS links which are compatible with most calendar applications.  Never miss a TV show again, even if your guide is on the fritz or you are setting up a recording remotely.

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"Missing Remote is proud to have many writers that are avid television watchers. When we were looking around for a list of shows and their start dates we found just those--list after list, so we have done the hard work for you and compiled these lists into shareable Google calendar with internet view or you can download and use it. Make sure you subscribe or come back, as we will be updating these all season. If you are like us and prefer to schedule only when it shows up on the guide, you will be watching this list daily when you can add your new shows up to 14 days in advance. We have made HTML links to look at the Google Calendar links and you can subscribe through that link, or ICS which is read by many of the popular desktop calendar applications, and you can subscribe to them through there"

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

HTPC

Build a micro ATX Llano system for less than $300

Subject: Systems | September 17, 2012 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: micro ATX, llano, htpc, gigabyte, GA-A55M-DS2, amd, a8-3870K

If you are on a tight budget and can't afford the cost of a Llano based notebook, or simply just don't want a mobile PC then Legit Reviews can help you out with their new system build guide.  For just under $300, shipping included, they will show you how to set up an A8-3870K based system on Gigabyte's GA-A55M-DS2 motherboard, 4GB DDR3-1333 and an OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB SATA II SSD along with an optical drive and a micro ATX case.   It won't win any overclocking awards but it has enough outputs to make a decent HTPC system and will handle light gaming duties thanks to the integrated graphics on the A8-3870K

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"Are you looking to build a budget PC, but have a limited budget to work with? We have had a number of readers and businesses that we consult with looking for new systems that will save power and be faster than the systems they currently have. When we started to look into low cost Do-It-Yourself (DIY) systems we found that you could easily build an AMD Llano system for less than $300. And when we say under $300 we mean with shipping included! You would think that for under $300 we would have to cut corners and use knock off brands, but that is not the case here. We are using the top of the line AMD A8-3870K APU and an OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) into this system. The one corner that we did cut is..."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Intel Dives in to Oil!

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2012 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: mineral oil, Intel

Intel has been dunking servers in oil for the last year and found the practice to be both safe and effective. Ironically it has been almost a year since we played around with mineral oil cooling – and when we did – we did not want to upgrade or fix anything. Intel agrees.

Intel inside, slick mess outside.

Often cooling a computer with a radiant that is not air focuses on cooling a handful of specific components and leaving the rest exposed to air. Gigabyte in their recent live presentation showed how the company reduced waste heat on the motherboard as it delivers power to the CPU as the latter likely receives more cooling than the former. With mineral oil you are able to more efficiently cool the entire system by immersing it in a better coolant than air.

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This still makes Ken wake up in a cold sweat… is what we convince ourselves.

After a full year of testing servers, Intel has decided that oil immersion cooling should be utilized by more server hosts to cut costs over traditional air conditioning. In their test they used heat sinks which were designed for air and dunked them pretty much unmodified into the mineral oil dielectric. Apart from the mess of it – Intel engineers always carried cleaning cloths just in case – Intel seems to only sing praise for results of their study.

Of course Intel could not help but promote their upcoming Phi platform which you may know as the ancestor of Larabee.

Now the real question is whether Intel just wanted to shamelessly plug themselves – or whether they are looking so closely at alternative cooling solutions as a result of their upcoming Phi platform. Will we eventually see heat dissipation concerns rear their heads with the new platform? Could Intel either be sitting on or throttling Phi because they are waiting for a new heat dissipation paradigm?

Could be interesting.

Western Digital Hybrid Hard Drives: 5mm 500GB Sampling

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | September 10, 2012 - 05:50 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd caching, ssd, Hard Drive

Western Digital has been sampling 5mm-thin 2.5” hard drives designed for Ultrabooks. They have currently announced partnerships with Acer and ASUS to include these drives in future ultrathin laptops. Western Digital has currently only listed capacities of 500GB for the spindle portion of the drive but no word how much MLC flash will be included to cache most used files. The product will be discussed during the company’s investor day on the 13th of this month.

At this stage SSDs are pretty much the missing link to a fast and responsive computer.

Prices have dropped to under one dollar per gigabyte ($1/GB) a few months ago with some models reaching 70c/GB – and those are the good ones too. The massive drop in price is still about an order of magnitude more expensive than spindle hard drives and consumers are using whatever space they can get. Several solutions exist to balance the speed of SSDs with the storage effectiveness of HDDs.

One solution is to include both in a single drive and keep the most used data in the SSD cache. Western Digital has just released samples of 5mm-thin hybrid hard drives for OEMs to put in extremely thin laptops.

I wonder if they're feeling chip-er...

Users who purchase laptops often have the mistaken assumption that a faster processor directly leads to increased response. That is certainly the case when comparing an Intel Atom to an i5 – but an i3 will probably spend just as much time idle and awaiting instructions from the hard drive as an i5 would.

Western Digital has not broken the SSD market despite their long success with spindle storage. It makes sense that Western Digital will push into the market with the starting point from which they are most comfortable. Western Digital has been shipping SSDs for over two-and-a-half years at this point but never really gained any traction.

It looks like Western Digital is realizing that they need to mix SSDs with what they know best and do something innovative to get a unique hook in the market – buying just a little more time.

The drive which has been announced today will contain a storage capacity of 500GB with an undisclosed amount of MLC NAND flash memory caching the most used data. The hook to differentiate themselves from other hybrid hard drives is its size: 5mm compared to the more common 9.5mm.

The Ultrabook market could be a lucrative wave to ride for the time being and give them even more capital to invest future SSDs. Hopefully they will not wait for solid state storage to creep up on them twice. Fool you once…

Western Digital is expected to discuss and showcase this product more at their Western Digital Investor Day on this Thursday, September 13th, 2012.

ASUS Debuts "Powered by ASUS" Systems Through Award-winning System Integrators

Subject: Systems | September 5, 2012 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: asus

ASUS has just launched a new prorgam with popular system builders like Puget Systems and CyberPower to give enthusiasts the ability to order a system built around ASUS parts, not just for the branding but also for the theoretical compatibility between the components.  Since ASUS makes such a wide variety of components these systems will include motherboards, graphics cards and sound cards on the interior as well as gaming headsets, monitors and even routers will all be sold as a package by these boutique outlets.  You can also expect to see some savings on these parts compared to retail as well as the customizations you would expect from high end system builders.  The PR is below and you can head straight to the new Powered By ASUS site here.

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Fremont, California (September 5, 2012) - Working closely with its custom system integration partners, ASUS today formally launched its Powered by ASUS (PBA) program in North America. Powered by ASUS brings consumers familiar with the performance, design and reliability of ASUS components together with trusted system integrators. This program creates a new category of build-to-order PCs offering unique configurations that are stability tested and performance optimized with class leading ASUS components.

Timothy Lin, Director of Product Management at ASUS summed up the reasoning behind the new program by explaining “There are a lot of hardware enthusiasts and ASUS fans out there that do not build their own PCs, but want additional performance and features typically not available in off-the-shelf systems. Recognizing this opportunity we worked closely with the system integrators in developing the Powered by ASUS program. This unique program offers consumers the ability to custom configure a system utilizing a wide variety of high-quality ASUS components.”

System integrators that participate in the Powered by ASUS program offer custom configurations utilizing multiple ASUS components. The expansive list of available ASUS components includes motherboards, graphics cards, sound cards, optical disc drives, headsets, wireless routers, USB wireless adapters and monitors. ASUS encourages system integrators to utilize various hardware combinations based on their customers’ needs. This program highlights not only the benefits of using multiple ASUS components together in one system, but also the capabilities and expertise of each authorized system builder.

Strong Support From Partners
North American custom system integrators expressed strong support for the Powered by ASUS program:

“ASUS has created a unique program that showcases their commitment to the industry by offering consumers more choices. Combining the ASUS brand promise with its wide range of products, the Powered by ASUS program can change the way consumers seek custom PCs. We applaud ASUS for moving the industry forward!” – Tim Chen, General Manager, iBUYPOWER

“We are honored to be a launch partner of the Powered by ASUS program. It allows us to offer configurations that are focused on design and innovation that make sense and provide lasting performance. It represents an important milestone in custom PCs and should encourage more consumer considerations.” – Eric Cheung, CEO, CyberPower

“ASUS motherboards have been our default choices for many years thanks to their superb engineering and rock solid reliability. The Powered by ASUS program takes our commitment to building cutting-edge PCs one step further by allowing consumers to experience more ASUS product innovations. We are excited to be a launch partner of PBA.” – Kelt Reeves, President, Falcon Northwest

“Our hand crafted systems would not be top shelf without ASUS motherboards found behind the rest of our carefully selected hardware. Even before our inception we've recognized the commitment ASUS has made to the industry to provide truly innovative, stable and performance dominant hardware. It is an honor to be a launch partner with the Powered by ASUS program, and we applaud ASUS for seeking to share an ecosystem of innovative products through its customer experience driven partners. – Adrian Hunter, CEO, Geekbox Computers

Launch Partners
To celebrate the launch of Powered by ASUS, during the month of September customers that purchase qualifying systems from authorized system builders will receive a complimentary, award-winning Xonar DSX sound card built into their system - a $59.99 USD value.

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To learn more about Powered by ASUS, go to http://pba.asus.com. System configurations and ASUS components available are subject to change at any time.

Source: ASUS

Has Microsoft Given the PC to Xboxers on a Silver Platter?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2012 - 02:20 AM |
Tagged: consolitis, windows 8

Microsoft has announced that 40 Xbox Live games will ship for Windows 8 PC, laptops, and tablets on its October 26th launch date. Microsoft also continues to misunderstand why Games for Windows Live failed in the first place.

Xbox has all but become the quasi-official branding for Microsoft’s gaming initiatives.

Microsoft suffered a substantial black-eye from their Games for Windows Live initiative. While the service does not live up to its anti-hype it does illustrate how Microsoft lost their PC gaming audience: gamers who do not choose a console do not want a console. PC gamers might wish for a cheaper experience due to the lack of license fees; they might prefer the mouse and keyboard; or they might wish to play games for longer than a console lifecycle.

If they pass up your console platform – hand delivering it on a silver platter will still be a decline gesture.

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Shattered Windows.

This time it seems more like Microsoft has given up trying to appease PC gamers. Rather than trying to satisfy the needs of the PC gaming audience (Seriously! It’s not that hard.) Microsoft would prefer to hand the PC gaming market to the console crowd and hope that they find some value to the platform.

This move seems just as risky to me as simply keeping PC gamers satisfied. The console model is designed around squirreling away as many license fees as you can possibly hide to appear less costly than the PC alternative – without actually being cheaper of course since otherwise who would pay the extra middleman? There is a lot of risk in transitioning to a new platform and they are betting their PC stronghold in the intersection between Apple fans and people who lock themselves in against PC gaming.

Or maybe the platter is served by Gabe Newell… dressed with a Tux.

Arctic's stylish new Trinity powered HTPC

Subject: Systems | August 31, 2012 - 02:56 PM |
Tagged: trinity, SFF, htpc, Arctic MC101, amd, a10-4600m

There is a lot to like about the Arctic MC101 HTPC, from the brushed aluminium exterior to the Trinity based quad core A10-4600M and HD7660M graphics core that comes with the A10.  Bjorn3D thought it was rather strange that the system ships without a remote control but thankfully it does have an IR sensor so a Windows Media Centre type remote will work perfectly.  Connectivity is quite good, USB 3.0, combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, a headphone jack and a 4-in-1 memory card reader, along the front and sides.  The back panel has even more, TV antenna, an audio out port, a line-in jack, SPDIF audio out, 4 USB 2.0 ports, two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI-out and an ethernet port.  At ~$750 it will set you back a bit to purchase and after reading Bjorn3D's review you may be willing to spend it.

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"Arctic’s latest home entertainment system user an AMD A10-4600M APU, bringing a powerful combination of CPU and GPU in a tiny little box. Packed with WiFi, TV Tuner, 8GB RAM, and 1TB of storage, the MC101 brings us plenty of power for our media needs and is also able to deliver decent gaming performance."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Bjorn3D

If you have to go back to school, do it with a new system

Subject: Systems | August 28, 2012 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: system build

The Tech Report has recently updated their systems guide and reminded many people about the upcoming beginning of the school year, except for those who've already started.  While that might not be what you want to think about, considering building a new PC is certainly worth some thought.  They've expanded their systems to include the "Dorm PC 2.0", a sub-$600 Mini-ITX system with a Core i3-2120 and an MSI Radeon HD 7770 which should not only stream your video but also let you get some late night gaming in as well.  Check out all their system builds and don't forget to check out the Hardware Leaderboard here on PC Perspective which was just updated last week.

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Not the Dorm 2.0 system

"We've updated our famous system guide to account for some of the latest hardware releases, including Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 660 Ti. In the spirit of the back-to-school season, we've also added the Dorm PC 2.0, a sub-$700 Mini-ITX system that has enough brawn to handle the latest games."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Intel's take on the all-in-one PC

Subject: Systems | August 13, 2012 - 05:13 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mini-itx, Intel, DH61AG, all-in-one

Intel's thin Mini-ITX is the same length and width as a regular mini-ITX board at 6.7" x 6.7" but it sports a thinner port cluster and horizontally stacked SO-DIMM memory slots to allow it to slip into a smaller place, perfect for an all-in-one build.  That is why when you look at the system you will be hard pressed to see the case, as the motherboard is built right into the monitor.  Unlike some other all-in-one systems, this one is user serviceable and to an extent is also upgradeable.  If you are wondering how it performs then all you have to do is check out The Tech Report and all will be revealed.

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"Today, we're going to be spending some quality time with an all-in-one PC based on Intel's Thin Mini-ITX standard. The individual parts are all available at retail, and the resulting machine is slim, slick, and surprisingly straightforward to put together."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

PC Perspective Hardware Workshop 2012 @ Quakecon 2012 in Dallas, TX

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Memory, Systems, Storage, Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 9, 2012 - 10:30 PM |
Tagged: video, workshop, streaming, quakecon, prizes, live, giveaways

It is that time of year again: another installment of the PC Perspective Hardware Workshop!  Once again we will be presenting on the main stage at Quakecon 2012 being held in Dallas, TX August 2-5th.  

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Main Stage - Quakecon 2012

Saturday, August 4th, 2pm CT

Our thanks go out to the organizers of Quakecon for allowing us and our partners to put together a show that we are proud of every year.  We love giving back to the community of enthusiasts and gamers that drive us to do what we do!  Get ready for 2 hours of prizes, games and raffles and the chances are pretty good that you'll take something out with you - really, they are pretty good!

Our thanks for this year's workshop logo goes to John Pastor!!

Our primary partners at the event are those that threw in for our ability to host the workshop at Quakecon and for the hundreds of shirts we have ready to toss out!  Our thanks to NVIDIA, MSI Computer and Corsair!!

 

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Live Streaming

If you can't make it to the workshop - don't worry!  You can still watch the workshop live on our page right here as we stream it over one of several online services.  Just remember this URL: http://pcper.com/workshop and you will find your way!

Case Mod Competition

Along with the Hardware Workshop, PC Perspective is working with Modders Inc on the annual case mod contest!  There are two categories for the competition: "Scratch Built" and "In the Box" that will allow those that build their computer enclosures from the ground up to compete separately from those that heavily modify their existing cases and systems.

For more details, be sure to check out the on going thread at the Modders Inc Forums!

Prize List (will continue to grow!)

Continue reading to see the list of prizes for the workshop!!!

Source: PCPer

Put your HTPC to work

Subject: Systems | August 9, 2012 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: htpc, amd, nvidia, cyberlink, arcsoft, transcoding, Intel

If you have built yourself an HTPC then you have also built yourself a machine which is relatively good at transcoding video if you get the right software.  Not only can you watch movies, you can edit or manipulate your own movies.  The Tech Report delves into the current state of both hardware and software transcoding tools in their recent article.  They check out the performance of Cyberlink's MediaEspresso, ArcSoft MediaConverter and Handbrake on an Intel based system using the native GPU on the chip as well as tossing in AMD and NVIDIA GPUs to see how it changes the performance.

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"The market is rife with hardware video transcoders and software that can take advantage of them. However, making sense of that jungle of disparate offerings can be tough. We've tried to make sense of it all, comparing the latest transcoding logic from AMD, Nvidia, and Intel in three major video conversion applications."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

ZOTAC announces ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M

Subject: Systems | August 8, 2012 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox id84, SFF, htpc, gt 520M, atom d2550

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Two new ZOTAC ZBOXes were announced today, both with an Atom D2550 and an NVIDIA GT 520M 512MB inside.  The ID84 Plus ships with memory and a hard drive already installed, the non-Plus version is at a lower cost as you must provide your own DDR3 and 2.5" drive, either hard or solid depending on your preference.

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As you can see below, the reason that ZOTAC specifies VESA compliant mounting holes is so that you can attach your ZBOX directly to the back of a monitor.  With the right OS you can get support for a touchscreen, making your own all in one PC with very little in the way of wiring or peripherals.  For external storage and other devices, you will be glad to know that there are a pair of USB 3.0 ports to allow you to quickly move large files back and forth between the ZBOX and your external storage solution.

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No word on pricing

HONG KONG – Aug. 8, 2012 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and channel manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today delivers a new ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics processing. The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics incorporates class-leading features and stunning visuals to form a perfect home theater PC.

“We’re pleased to inject the power of NVIDIA GeForce graphics to our award-winning ZOTAC ZBOX for users that demand energy-efficiency with a graphics kick,” said Carsten Berger, marketing director, ZOTAC International. “The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics delivers phenomenal high-definition video playback capabilities to make it the perfect home theater PC as well.”

The new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics is available as a barebones or with memory and hard drive preinstalled. Operating systems such as Windows 7 (x86 and x64) and OpenELEC are fully compatible with the new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics to transform the system into an everyday casual use PC or outstanding home theater PC capable of high-definition video playback.

It’s time to play with the new ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics.
General details

  • ZOTAC Delivers New ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M Graphics Processing
  • ZOTAC ZBOX with NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M
  • Intel Atom™ D2550 (1.86 GHz, dual-core)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M w/512MB DDR3
  • DVI & HDMI outputs
  • ZOTAC ZBOX ID84 Plus
    • 2GB DDR3
    • 320GB 5400RPM HDD
  • ZOTAC ZBOX nano ID84
    • 2 x 204-pin DDR3-1066 SO-DIMM slot
    • Support 2.5-inch SATA HDD
  • 2 x SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports
  • 4 x High-Speed USB 2.0 ports (2 on back panel, 1 on front, 1 on top)
  • Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi & Bluetooth 3.0 technologies
  • Bundled MCE-compatible remote w/ USB IR receiver
  • Bundled VESA75/100 mount
  • Bundled MCE-compatible remote w/ USB IR receiver

Source: ZOTAC

Dango Durango -- Next-Gen Xbox developer kit in the wild.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | July 31, 2012 - 08:35 PM |
Tagged:

Eurogamer and Digital Foundry believe that a next-generation Xbox developer kit somehow got into the hands of an internet user looking to fence it for $10,000. If the rumors are true, a few interesting features are included in the kit: an Intel CPU and an NVIDIA graphics processor.

A little PC perspective on console gaming news…

If the source and people who corroborate it are telling the truth: somehow Microsoft lost control of a single developer’s kit for their upcoming Xbox platform. Much like their Cupertino frenemies who lost an iPhone 4 in a bar which was taken and sold for $5000 to a tech blog, the current owner of the Durango devkit is looking for a buyer for a mere $10000. It is unlikely he found it on a bar stool.

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One further level of irony, the Xbox 360 alpha devkit were repurposed Apple Mac Pros.

Image source: DaE as per its own in-image caption.

Alpha developer kits will change substantially externally but often do give clues to what to expect internally.

The first Xbox 360 software demonstrations were performed on slightly altered Apple Mac Pros. At that time, Apple was built on a foundation of PowerPC by IBM while the original Xbox ran Intel hardware. As it turned out, the Xbox 360 was based on the PowerPC architecture.

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Huh, looks like a PC.

The leaked developer kit for the next Xbox is said to be running X86 hardware and an NVIDIA graphics processor. 8GB of RAM is said to be present on the leaked kit albeit that only suggests that the next Xbox will have less than 8GB of RAM. With as cheap as RAM is these days -- a great concern for PC gamers would be that Microsoft would load the console to the brim with memory and remove the main technical advantage of our platform. Our PCs will still have that advantage once our gamers stop being scared of 64-bit compatibility issues. As a side note, those specifications are fairly identical to the equally nebulous specs rumored for Valve’s Steam Box demo kit.

The big story is the return to x86 and NVIDIA.

AMD is not fully ruled out of the equation if they manage to provide Microsoft with a bid they cannot refuse. Of course practically speaking AMD only has an iceball’s chance in Hell of have a CPU presence in the upcoming Xbox – upgraded from snowball. More likely than not Intel will pick up the torch that IBM kept warm for them with their superior manufacturing.

PC gamers might want to pay close attention from this point on…

Contrast the switch for Xbox from PowerPC to X86 with the recent commentary from Gabe Newell and Rob Pardo of Blizzard. As Mike Capps has allured to – prior to the launch of Unreal Tournament 3 – Epic is concerned about the console mindset coming to the PC. It is entirely possible that Microsoft could be positioning the Xbox platform closer to the PC. Perhaps there are plans for cross-compatibility in exchange for closing the platform around certification and licensing fees?

Moving the Xbox platform closer to the PC in hardware specifications could renew their attempts to close the platform as has failed with their Games for Windows Live initiative. What makes the PC platform great is the lack of oversight about what can be created for it and the ridiculous time span for compatibility for what has been produced for it.

It might be no coincidence that the two companies who are complaining about Windows 8 are the two companies who design their games to be sold and supported for decades after launch.

And if the worst does happen, PC gaming has been a stable platform despite repetitive claims of its death – but could the user base be stable enough to handle a shift to Linux? I doubt that most would even understand the implications of proprietary platforms on art to even consider it. What about Adobe and the other software and hardware tool companies who have yet to even consider Linux as a viable platform?

The dark tunnel might have just gotten longer.

Source: Eurogamer

GPU: Finally getting recognition from Windows.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | July 27, 2012 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, winRT, gpgpu

Paul Thurrott of Windows Supersite reports that Windows 8 is finally taking hardware acceleration seriously and will utilize the GPU across all applications. This hardware acceleration should make Windows 8 perform better and consume less power than if the setup were running Windows 7. With Microsoft finally willing to adopt modern hardware for performance and battery life I wonder when they will start using the GPU to accelerate tasks like file encryption.

It is painful when you have the right tool for the job but must use the wrong one.

Windows has, in fact, used graphics acceleration for quite some time albeit in fairly mundane and obvious ways. Windows Vista and Windows 7 brought forth the Windows Aero Glass look and feel. Aero was heavily reliant on Shader Model 2.0 GPU computing to the point that much of it would not run on anything less.

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Washington State is not that far away from Oregon.

Microsoft is focusing their hardware acceleration efforts for Windows 8 on what they call mainstream graphics. 2D graphics and animation were traditionally CPU-based with a couple of applications such as Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, and eventually Chrome allowing the otherwise idle GPU to lend a helping hand. As such, Microsoft is talking up Direct2D and DirectWrite usage all throughout Windows 8 on a wide variety of hardware.

The driving force that neither Microsoft nor Paul Thurrott seems to directly acknowledge is battery life. Graphics Processors are considered power-hogs until just recently for almost anyone who assembles a higher-end gaming computer.  Despite this, the GPU is actually more efficient at certain tasks than a CPU -- this is especially true when you consider the GPUs which will go into WinRT devices. The GPU will help the experience be more responsive and smooth but also consume less battery power. I guess Microsoft is finally believes that the time is right to bother using what you already have.

There are many more tasks which can be GPU accelerated than just graphics -- be it 3D or the new emphasis on 2D acceleration. Hopefully after Microsoft dips in their toe they will take the GPU more seriously as an all-around parallel task processor. Maybe now that they are implementing the GPU for all applications they can consider using it for all applications -- in all applications.

A snazzy alumnium box from Wesena to hide your HTPC

Subject: Systems | July 17, 2012 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: htpc, HTPC case, Wesena ITX5

Good looking, functional HTPC cases tend to be expensive, especially if they are designed to blend in with other stereo or TV components.  Wesena found a way to deliver a good looking ITX sized HTPC enclosure for under $100 with their new ITX7.  Part of the price drop is the removal of an optical drive bay, which makes a great deal of sense when you are trying to cut the cost and size of a box.  The aluminium exterior with a brushed black finish is quite attractive and the system that Missing Remote fit inside the case included a Core i5-2400S, 4GB DDR3 and an SSD and HDD.  They also verified the fit of two TV Tuner cards, the Ceton InfiniTV 4 and  AVerMedia M780 as well as a GT430 and HD5550 though you won't be fitting a passively cooled GTX680 in here.  Check this case out if you have been suffering sticker shock from other HTPC case manufacturers.

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"Boasting clean lines, the right look, and solid construction for Mini-ITX based systems the Wesena ITX5 all-aluminum enclosure offers capabilities very similar to the ITX7; by removing optical drive support in a slightly lower cost ($80) package. Building a name for quality takes time and attention to feedback, so it was fantastic to examine the generational differences between the two small form-factor (SFF) home theater PC (HTPC) chassis from Wesena. As a refinement on the previous iteration we hope to see the niggles around fit-and-finish addressed."

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Some internal Windows 8 dates were sort-of released.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 4, 2012 - 05:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 8

Expect Windows 8 to RTM between July 12th and July 21st.Of course the one date missing is the actual general availability release date which is still expected for the October timeframe. Certain developers have received builds early to help prepare their apps for RTM.

Windows 8 almost entirely relies on its Metro initiative.

The success or failure of the Windows 8 app marketplace will be the deciding factor in the future of the Windows platform. Whichever markets see success with Windows 8 will likely be the focus of future versions of the operating system. If it is all-around unsuccessful then you can probably expect Microsoft to go into a fit of anxiety and do something even more drastic for the future -- if Windows would even have one.

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You know the theory about broken Windows…

Paul Thurrott on his Supersite for Windows reported on a Building Windows 8 blog post from Steven Sinofsky. As long time viewers of this site might remember: we have experienced three public releases of Windows 8 to help developers make Metro style apps. Microsoft has also stated that a few high profile developers have received Windows RT tablets to help ensure compatibility on the new platform.

It turns out that they have also received several extra builds. Developers close to Microsoft have just received their 8th build -- if you include the three public ones -- to help developers prepare their applications for RTM sometime between July 12th and July 21st.

At least developers will have a few months to put some polish on their applications before the actual Windows 8 release still expected sometime in October.

Surprise! Overclocking your machine does make it less stable according to Microsoft

Subject: Systems | July 3, 2012 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, overclocking

If you've ever wondered if it was worth hitting that 'Report to Microsoft' button after you experienced a BSoD then perhaps this paper from Microsoft Research will enlighten you. After studying reports from 1 million machines that suffered CPU or memory problems, Microsoft broke down all of the data into both failure types and machine types so that they can contrast the results of overclocking laptops and desktops from both major CPU vendors as well as breaking the desktops into ones assembled by a major vendor and ones assembled either by the owner or by a small business. 

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The basic results are easy to sum up laptops are less likely to crash than desktops, CPU errors are more likely than memory errors and underclocking will indeed make your system less prone to crashes.  You are also less likely to see crashes on machines purchased from a major vendor than one assembled yourself or by a small business.  Of course the whitebox versus brand name ratings cannot differentiate between someone who just built a PC for the first time and one assembled by a veteran so it is possible that that rating is a little skewed.

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As for overclocking, you can see that the results are split between Vendor A and Vendor B as opposed to being labelled Intel and AMD but most readers will be able to make an intelligent guess as to which is which.  TACT represents Total Accumulated CPU Time, which does not have to be contiguous and could represent quite a few weeks of ownership if the computer in question is only run for a few hours a day and then shut off.  Whether this time was accumulated quickly or spaced out, it shows that overclocking either vendors chips will have a significant impact on the stability of your system.  Again, there is no division into experienced overclockers and neophytes nor between those who overclock manually or with software or hardware included with the motherboard they chose.  Even still the impact on stability is very large regardless of vendor and if you crash once you can be almost guaranteed to crash a second and third time.  The table only focuses on the first three crashes as by the time that third crash occurs it is obvious they will continue until something is changed.   Check out the abstract here or just head straight to the bottom of that page for the full PDF of results.

"Researchers working at Microsoft have analyzed the crash data sent back to Redmond from over a million PCs. You might think that research data on PC component failure rates would be abundant given how long these devices have been in-market and the sophisticated data analytics applied to the server market — but you’d be wrong. According to the authors, this study is one of the first to focus on consumer systems rather than datacenter deployments."

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Source: Microsoft