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."

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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.

MR_case14.jpg

"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

One spectacle to rule them all ... universal 3D glasses

Subject: Systems | June 25, 2012 - 06:14 PM |
Tagged: active shutter, 3d display, 3d glasses

XPAND’s YOUniversal Electronic 3D Eyewear is intended to be compatible with all IR and RF standards for 3D displays, allowing you to get multiple glasses for a group that wants to experience 3D or so that you can pick up a 3D display without worrying about glasses.  Of course, the trick with this is that you need to provide proper performance with all models of TV, which these glasses did until they encountered Missing Remotes' Samsung plasma screen.  While they did recognize the signal they fell out of sync far too often for comfort, but that might be fixed in a future update.  If you need a spare pair of 3D glasses that will work with your active shutter 3D TV and in movie theatres which use XPAND 3D, then these are not a bad choice thanks to their flexibility.

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"We last visited the topic of universal active 3D glasses technology with our XPAND X103 review. With the introduction of the Full HD 3D Glasses standard in 2012 stereoscopic 3D products, the display and eyewear industry have matured away from the mish-mash of proprietary communication mechanisms. Standard-compliant products can utilize radio frequency (RF) and/or infrared (IR) for the communication link between displays and glasses. In theory, any vendor’s glasses complying with the standard will work with any standard-compliant display (so long as each product has the same logo, e.g. “Full HD 3D RF” or “Full HD 3D IR”)."

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Systems

 

Live Video Recap: AMD Llano Blindfolded PC Build

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 23, 2012 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: video, llano, blindfolded, APU, amd

Well, we did it!  Today I successfully built an AMD A-series APU based computer while blindfolded LIVE.  At the start of the event I went over the various components used for the build including the AMD A8-3800 APU, MSI A75 motherboard, Corsair 550D case and 650 watt power supply and more.  After showing it all, I wrapped a scarf around my head and went to work.  

There were quite a few more hurdles than I expected including spreading the thermal paste correctly, screwing the motherboard into the case and finding the pins for the front panel power button.  I was surprised at how easily I was able to install the APU, memory and heatsink, but that likely comes with years of practice and experience with the hardware.  

In all, it took me 1 hour and 18 minutes to get to a Windows screen using a pre-installed OS on a Western Digital 1TB hard drive.  That was MUCH longer than I had originally thought it would take, so I have been humbled by those DIY PC users that build their own on without sight a regular basis!  

If you missed the live event we hosted at http://pcper.com/live you can find the replay hosted right here below.  Enjoy watching me completely make a fool of myself!

Update: The winner of the blindfolded system was selected, congrats goes to Darren who gets the task of rebuilding this rig!  :D

Microsoft Surface announced -- twice. ARM, x86: your choice.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | June 18, 2012 - 09:27 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, windows 8, tablet, microsoft

Steve Ballmer led the enigmatic announcement of “Surface”, a Microsoft branded consumer tablet. The tablet will contain a 10.6” display and run either Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro depending on whether you choose the NVIDIA-powered ARM variant or the higher-end Intel x86-based sibling. The device’s cover will contain a built-in Bluetooth keyboard and multi-touch trackpad.

Microsoft generated a lot of hype around their latest announcement.

In the end what we received the entirety of what was expected -- except the product looks compelling.

The Surface, borrowing the brand from their business-oriented smart table products, is a series of consumer tablets with a 10.6” 16x9 form factor. Would you like a full Windows 8 Pro experience on an Intel device or would you prefer a thinner and lighter Windows RT device powered by an NVIDIA ARM processor? Let us weight the Pro and cons.

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So would this be like -- an Ultra…clipboard? Ooo -- Ultraclippy, that has brand power.

Early reports testify that the device feels well built. The announcement made somewhat of a big deal that the tablet has a magnesium chassis and a Gorilla Glass 2 screen. You will cover the screen of the device with a small Bluetooth keyboard which will be available in a few colors. With the tablet resting on its included kickstand and its keyboard cover flowing out from beneath it -- the Surface looks very similar to a laptop.

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So -- magnesium chassis. This should be fun to thermite.

The Intel variant will feature a larger battery although extra battery life is not an immediate guarantee. The Pro device will allow for MicroSDXC cards, USB 3.0, and mini DisplayPort output. Both devices feature 2x2 MIMO antennae for their WIFI connectivity which could provide a fair chunk of bandwidth for streaming media.

Pricing and availability are currently unannounced except that they will be comparable to what is available. The ARM device will be available in 32 and 64GB models with the x86 Pro-class device available in 64 and 128GB.

Source: Microsoft

WWDC 12: Apple announces new MacBooks, high res screen

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2012 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: WWDC 12, apple, macbook pro

Apple has upgraded their MacBook line to Intel Ivy Bridge and includes USB 3.0 support. The MacBook Airs will be supported by Intel HD Graphics 4000 where the new MacBook Pro will be powered by NVIDIA’s Kepler-based GeForce GT 650M. This GPU will be used to power a 2880x1800 (220ppi) resolution screen -- which I will absolutely not feed into the “retina display” marketing term.

Apple has announced new hardware at the start of their World Wide Developers Conference this morning.

As Intel begins to flood the PC marketplace with their latest and greatest Ivy Bridge mobile processors it stands to reason that Apple would not want to be left out. Apple will update their entire laptop lineup to the new CPUs as well as add some Kepler to their MacBook Pro line. The biggest deal is the high resolution 2880x1800 displays which should make text look very smooth and crisp.

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Not pictured, 27” IPS display… because 60” HDTV makes it seem more impressive.

The MacBook Air will not have the option of discrete graphics. The 11-inch model will have a screen resolution of 1366x768 where the 13-inch model will contain a 1440x900 screen. Both USB3.0 and Thunderbolt will be supported on each of the MacBook Airs as well as each of the MacBook Pros. SSD technology is also prominently mentioned and was expected.

The new MacBook line ships today. The new lineup of MacBook Airs has starting prices of between $999 and $1499 and the high-resolution MacBook Pro starts at $2199.

Source: Apple

Lovely low cost Llano build will handle most users needs

Subject: Systems | June 8, 2012 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: A4-3400, amd, llano, gigabyte, ga-55m-ds2

AMD is still a great choice for someone wanting a general use system that will not cost them much.  Hardware Heaven demonstrates this in their latest computer build, based around the $66 Llano A4-3400 and the $50 Gigabyte GA-A55M-DS2 which is a microATX board and means this system can be quite small in size.  To ensure that this PC can handle some light gaming they put in the passively cooled Sapphire HD7750 Ultimate and to house the system they chose Antec's Three Hundred Two enclosure.  Altogether you end up with an inexpensive PC which can handle just about any basic task you throw at it.

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"Recently AMD set us the challenge of building a low cost APU system to see if it would be possible to build a decent media/productivity/gaming PC on a minimal budget. It's something different to a review which is always a nice change so we set about looking at what could be done when pretty much every component has to cost £60 or less."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

 

Alienware Getting Latest NVIDIA Kepler Cards to Continue Delivering Maximum Performance for Gamer

Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 5, 2012 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: alienware, dell, gtx 680m, GTX 690, Ivy Bridge, aurora, m17x, m18x

Alienware has also contributed to the lack of GTX690s and GTX680M chips by filling their latest gaming PCs and laptops with NVIDIA's new Kepler chips.  Paired with an Ivy Bridge processor the new M17x and M18x along with the Aurora desktop will offer incredible performance for anyone willing to pay the price.  Both laptops will support 3D though only the M18x offers you the choice of dual GTX 680Ms in SLI. 

A little over a month ago, we announced the first wave of major hardware upgrades for our Alienware line of laptops based on the newest Intel Ivy Bridge processors and also NVIDIA GeForce 6-series cards. Since then, NVIDIA has certainly kept busy as they continue to introduce more members of the next-generation Kepler family such as the GTX 690, GTX 670, and most recently, the GTX 680M.

By the time you read this, NVIDIA will have finally revealed the details of their GTX 680M from Computex 2012 in Taipei, Taiwan. The GTX 680M is based on the GK104 Kepler architecture and features similar silicon to its beefy desktop version, the GTX 680. NVIDIA calls this card the ‘fastest, most advanced gaming notebook GPU ever built’ and we have little reason to argue otherwise.

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On the flip side of that power-packed coin, customers who order a system with the GTX 680M will also see greater improvements to power efficiency utilizing NVIDIA’s Optimus technology which enables long battery life by automatically switching on the dedicated GPU only when necessary. All in all, the GTX 680M paves the way for superior next-gen mobile gaming performance and makes the most of the additional technologies below that can only be found on GeForce GPUs:

  • Adaptive V-sync – newly developed technology for a smoother gameplay experience
  • Advanced AA modes – for crisper images, including NVIDIA FXAA and new TXAA
  • PhysX support – for accelerated in-game physics
  • NVIDIA 3D Vision 2 technology – for bigger, brighter, more comfortable 3D gaming
  • 3DTV Play software – for connecting notebooks to 3DTVs for the most immersive gaming experience to be had in a living room
  • NVIDIA SLI technology – for up to double the gaming performance. Two GeForce GTX 680M GPUs in SLI mode represent the fastest notebook graphics solution available anywhere
  • CUDA technology support – for high-performance GPU computing applications

We are particularly proud to be a launch partner with NVIDIA for the GTX 680M. The Alienware M17x will be available with the GeForce GTX 680M 2GB DDR5 GPU along with the option for the NVIDIA 3D Vision technology. The Alienware M18x will also be available with the GeForce GTX 680M GPU in single or dual-card SLI configurations before the end of the month.

The Alienware M17x and M18x aren’t the only two products getting the Kepler kick, and they certainly won’t be the last. Before the end of the month, we will have configuration options to allow users to equip their custom built Aurora with the newly released GeForce GTX 690.

Based on many of the initial reviews of the GTX 690 as can be seen Anandtech and Hot Hardware, most people have drawn one consistent conclusion; the GTX 690 is easily the most powerful single-card GPU they have ever tested. With that level of graphical power and performance, we have been working with NVIDIA to offer the GTX 690 in our Alienware Aurora R4 desktops in order to equip our ultimate gaming machines with even more processing power.

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The GeForce GTX690 is certainly a fantastic and ridiculously powerful pairing for the Alienware Aurora. The GTX 690 brings all the performance of a dual GTX 680 SLI setup while drawing less power and outputting less noise – all while staying within the same thermal levels. Considering that the Aurora uses a mini-ITX board, the GTX 690 allows for users to enjoy the pinnacle of dual-card performance without having to deal with PCI-e slot spacing, drastic thermal levels, or slim dual card watercooled GPU blocks.

Again, expect the GTX 680M on the M17x/M18x and GTX 690 to be available for the Alienware Aurora R4 worldwide before the end of the month on Alienware.com or also Dell.com.

Source: Alienware

MAINGEAR Unveils Pulse 11 Ultraportable Gaming Notebook

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | June 3, 2012 - 03:21 AM |
Tagged:

US-based boutique computer vendor MAINGEAR today announced (no public facing press release was available at time of writing) a new ultraportable notebook that comes packed with hardware to play the latest games on the go. The notebook in question is the Pulse 11, and as the name implies it is an 11” laptop with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge and NVIDIA Kepler hardware. Weighing in at 3.97 lbs (~1.8 kg) and packing a 6-cell lithium ion battery, the custom gaming notebook has a mostly plastic chassis, full keyboard minus the numpad, large trackpad under the space bar, and a 11.6” LED-backlit display with 1366x768 resolution (16:9).

Pulse 11 hero stylized.jpg

Despite the plastic chassis, it manages to look nice on the inside as well as the laptop lid–which features a textured pattern and centered MAINGEAR logo. The photo below shows the keyboard and trackpad while the photo above shows off the top of the notebook.

pulse11-hero.png

External IO includes a Gigabit LAN port, VGA output, HDMI output, mic and headphone out ports, two USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the notebook, an SD card reader on the front, and a DC power jack, one USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock on the right side. There are no ports on the rear of the laptop as that area is taken up by the large Li-ion battery.

pulse11-leftside.png

The internals of the gaming notebook are the most notable features, however. The Pulse 11 features an Intel Core i7 or i5 Ivy Bridge processor up to a Core i7 3612QM (35W TDP) as well as a NVIDIA GT 650M graphics card with 2GB of GDDR3 memory. Even better is that this notebook supports NVIDIA Optimus technology, which means that it can shut down the dedicated GPU while not gaming to save battery power. Other internals include up to 16GB of dual channel DDR3 1600MHz memory, and either one 600GB SSD or 750GB SATA hybrid hard drive (a mechanical hard drive with large flash memory cache).

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The Pulse 11 comes further equipped with an 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth card (internal) and a 9-in-1 multimedia card reader. For audio, the notebook features two speakers that are rated for THX TruStudio Pro sound. The gaming notebook runs the Windows 7 Home, Pro, or Ultimate x64 operating system, and can be optionally upgraded to Windows 8 Pro for $15 USD.

Pulse 11 right stylized.jpg

The gaming notebook starts at $999 USD for the base model and goes up from there. It should further be available for purchase starting today (or very soon afterward).

MAINGEAR has stated that its Pulse 11 gaming laptop is “made for gamers looking for a powerful ultraportable that delivers the best of mobile entertainment in its size as well as “the MAINGEAR Pulse 11 was designed to meet the needs of gamers, students, on-the-go digital warriors, and anyone looking for power in the smallest package possible.”

More photos of the Pulse 11 are available below:

Source: MAINGEAR

Microsoft prepares Skype to be preinstalled on Windows 7 PCs They also ignore the latest version of Skype

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 31, 2012 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: skype, OEM, bloatware, crapware

Just after their $99 Signature service has been announced, Microsoft has provided OEMs with a version of Skype to be pre-installed on Windows 7 PCs. I wonder if they will take it off again if you pay them?

Just… give me a minute…

So Microsoft hates bloatware unless it is theirs. OEM partners have been paid by software vendors to provide demos of products integrated and pre-installed for the end-user. Commonly you will see a few game demos, the Kindle software, an antivirus trial, and Skype. Earlier in the month Microsoft created a service at their retail outlets to scrub computers clean of the bloat for $99.

And now that they own Skype they desire for OEMs to integrate it with Windows 7…

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Here’s my dotted line for your Signature.

More humorous is that they will integrate Skype 5.8 rather than the newer Skype 5.9. Granted, it is unsurprising that a company would be slightly behind in versions particularly since the latest dot-release is less than two months old. Skype has been known to be slightly less desirable as you increase in version number and as such makes me crack a smirk either way. The latest release in particular has allegedly been the cause of minor glitches in recent podcasts with TWiT studios recommending rolling back to 5.8.

If anything this makes me slightly curious about Windows 8.

Source: ZDNet

Time to swap your remote for Pulse-Eight's wireless keyboard?

Subject: Systems | May 30, 2012 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: htpc, motorola, Pulse-Eight, Motorola NYXboard Hybrid, wireless keyboard

Pulse-Eight's Motorola NYXboard Hybrid Wireless Keyboard and IR Remote is a double sided device, with a minimalist keyboard on one side and a more traditional TV remote control on the other.  It is perfect for those with an HTPC or set top box which allows web browsing and other features that a standard remote just can't fully control.  An internal switch ensures that only the buttons on the side of the device which are currently on the top are active to make usage a lot more convenient.  At 144 x 48 x 21mm (5.7" x 1.9" x 0.8") it is too small to have a full standard keyboard but thanks to numerous key chords you get a lot of functionality out of this tiny device.  Check with Missing Remote to see if this is the remote missing from your life.

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"Not long ago it was easy to lean primarily on a traditional remote control – universal, of course -- relegating the keyboard and mouse to the audio & video (A/V) cabinet, closet, or other locale of last resort –dragging it out just for occasional maintenance or troubleshooting. However, as over-the-top (OTT) content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and YouTube have become more pervasive, the traditional remote can no longer provide enough functionality as we transition to a search, browse and consume environment."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

 

Dell uses ARM-based "Copper" servers to accelerate ecosystem

Subject: Processors, Systems | May 29, 2012 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: server, dell, copper, arm

Dell announced today that is going to help enable the world of the ARM-based server ecosystem by enabling key hyperscale customers to access and develop on Dell's own "Copper" ARM servers.

Dell today announced it is responding to the demands of our customers for continued innovation in support of hyperscale environments, and enabling the ecosystem for ARM-based servers. The ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, marked by increasing customer interest in testing and developing applications, and Dell believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers.

Dell is recognized as an industry leader in both the x86 architecture and the hyperscale server market segments. Dell began testing ARM server technology internally in 2010 in response to increasing customer demands for density and power efficiency, and worked closely with select Dell Data Center Solutions (DCS) hyperscale customers to understand their interest level and expectations for ARM-based servers. Today's announcement is a natural extension of Dell's server leadership and the company's continued focus on delivering next generation technology innovation.

While these servers are still not publicly available, Dell is fostering the development of software and verification processes by seeding these unique servers to a select few groups.  PC Perspective is NOT one of them.

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Each of these 3U rack mount machines includes 48 independent servers, each based around a 1.6 GHz quad-core Marvell Armada XP SoC.  Each of the sleds (pictured below) holds four discrete server nodes, each capable of as much as 8GB of memory on a single DDR3 UDIMM.  Each node can access one 2.5-in HDD bay and one Gigabit Ethernet connection.

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Click for a larger view

Even though we are still very early into the life cycle of ARM architectures in the server room, Dell claims that these systems are built perfectly for web front-ends and Hadoop environments:

Customers have expressed great interest in understanding ARM-based server advantages and how they may apply to their hyperscale environments. Dell believes ARM infrastructures demonstrate promise for web front-end and Hadoop environments, where advantages in performance per dollar and performance per watt are critical. The ARM server ecosystem is still developing, and largely available in open-source, non-production versions, and the current focus is on supporting development of that ecosystem. Dell has designed its programs to support today's market realities by providing lightweight, high-performance seed units and easy remote access to development clusters.

There is little doubt that Intel will feel and address this competition in the coming years.

Source: Marketwatch

How consoles would have gouged Diablo 3 over $44 million

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 29, 2012 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: diablo iii, consoles, blizzard

Matt Ployhar of Intel has posted on their Software Blogs about how much money in royalties would be given to Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo if Diablo 3 were published on a console platform. Activision-Blizzard along with a couple of other publishers recently pocket the difference -- but unlike the consoles it is not an actual cost so the publishers can, and many do, lower their prices to the $50 point at launch. It really shows how expensive the seemingly cheaper console platforms really are.

So who would make a device for $805 to sell it for $499 after billions in research, development, and marketing?

Sony does and they get that money back from you in good time -- subtly.

The perception of consoles being a cheaper gaming platform than the PC is just a perception. Over the lifespan of the platform you can pay less for a better experience with a somewhat larger upfront cost on the PC. You are paying a premium with the consoles to experience exclusive titles that are only exclusive because you allowed the platform to charge you to pay the publisher to make it exclusive. Imagine how that cost grows if you own multiple consoles?

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But I find good value in paying extra so that others cannot play too.

Matt Ployhar of the Intel Software Blogs does a very rough calculation of how much Blizzard would have paid Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo had their game been on a console platform. With 6.3 million units of Diablo 3 sold in the last two weeks and a typical royalty rate of $7-10 per game sale for console platforms the platform owner would take $44-63 million away from Blizzard.

This means that you would have been paying the platform owner $44-63 million to have Diablo 3 be placed on a platform which will be unsupported probably long before you finish with your game.

Blizzard has been selling Diablo 2 since the Nintendo 64 era. Consoles are paid to be disposable, the PC is not.

Source: Intel Blog

Dell Reimagines the All-in-One Computer for Consumers

Subject: Systems | May 29, 2012 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: all-in-one, XPS One 27, xps, Ivy Bridge, Inspiron One 23, Inspiron One 20, inspiron, dell

The quick breakdown of Dell's new lineup is ...

The XPS One 27 all in one PC starts at price of $1,399  has a high end Ivy Bridge i5 or i7 with an optional GT640M, an impressive 27" 2560x1440 display, up to 16GB of DDR3 and ships with up to a 2TB HDD with an optional 32GB SSD for Intel SRT.

The Inspiron One 23 is $749 and will mostly contain mid-range i5s and i3s (an i7 is an option), an optional Radeon HD7650A, a 23" 1080p monitor, up to 8GB of RAM and up to a 2TB HDD, no SSD option on this one though.

Lastly the Inspiron One 20 has a low cost of $529 and will get you running with a SandyBride based Pentium G620T or an Ivy Bridge i3-2120T, the 20" 1600x900 will be powered by Intel's onboard graphics, 6GB of DDR3 and up to a 1TB HDD. 

Read on for the full details

 

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Dell is reimagining the all-in-one computer, with a new portfolio of solutions for consumers who desire beautifully designed systems for multimedia creation and entertainment. The new computers include the XPS One 27, Dell’s largest ever all-in-one and part of the premium XPS performance family, and the Inspiron One 23 and Inspiron One 20 all-in-one computers for families. The three desktop computers are slim and stylish and reflect Dell’s design aesthetic that places a premium on unique materials, form factors and experiences.

XPS One 27: Powerful Simplicity, Powerful Creativity
The XPS One 27 delivers a big-screen experience – from the diagonal to the resolution – with one of the most vibrant displays Dell has offered. The XPS One 27 is 27-inches of stunning 2560x1440 Full Quad HD clarity and color. The wide format 16:9 WLED display makes digital work, movies, games and photos appear crisp, colors vivid. It delivers optional high-performance graphics from NVIDIA and entertainment features such as Waves MaxxAudio 4 and Infinity-branded speakers, an optional slot load Blu-ray disc drive, and optional internal TV tuner, making it an entertainment and multimedia powerhouse.

The gorgeous design extends beyond the all-in-one PC’s vibrant display. The combination of a slim, space-saving metallic silver color housing, “clutter-free” one-cord design, and wireless keyboard and mouse, ensures the XPS One 27 is a beautiful addition from any angle to any room.

On the inside, Dell packs 3rd Generation Intel Quad Core processors with Intel Turbo Boost Technology, balancing quad core processing with efficient power use – even while running multiple programs at once. With an optional mSATA SSD drive and Intel Smart Response Technology, and four USB 3.0 ports, the XPS One 27 delivers a noticeable speed boost on start-up, resume and data transfer.

Inspiron One 23 and Inspiron One 20: Big Value, Minimal Space
Featuring a simple, single cord set-up, the new space-saving Inspiron all-in-one computers make life easy and deliver powerful entertainment for the whole family. The latest Intel processors and optional powerful discrete graphics allow parents and kids to stay connected to each other and to enjoy the things they love, such as music, movies and casual gaming.

A result of direct customer feedback, the Inspiron One 23 now features a new sleek pedestal stand that supports a Full HD 1080p WLED 23-inch display. With an optional Blu-ray disc drive and optional internal TV tuner, as well as ample storage for music, movies and photos, the Inspiron One 23 is an attractive addition to the family living room.

The Inspiron One 20 delivers everyday connectivity and computing in a clean and simple design, making it a smart investment at a competitive price. The all-in-one PC provides a clutter-free work area with full desktop-equivalent performance, allowing customers to stay organized and efficient and keep up with family and friends.

“As part of the reimagining of our entire XPS and Inspiron portfolio, we are likewise reimagining our all-in-ones as stunning systems that are the centerpiece of any room. They deliver a captivating user experience that will inspire our customers to create their best work and consume all the content they love,” said Sam Burd, vice president and general manager of product development for Dell. “The XPS One 27, Inspiron One 23 and Inspiron One 20 deliver phenomenal value and offer our customers compelling choices that meet their unique needs.”

Pricing and Availability: The XPS One 27 (starting at $1,399), Inspiron One 23 (starting at $749) and Inspiron One 20 (starting at $529) all-in-one computers are available today in select countries in Asia and will be available in the United States and additional countries in the coming weeks.

Click for the full list of specs ...

Source: Dell

Spend Memorial Day speccing out a new system

Subject: Systems | May 28, 2012 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: DIY, econobox, sweet spot, double stuff

The Tech Report have updated their Systems Guide just in time for the holiday in the US, so you should have plenty of time to peruse their recommendations today.  From an i3-2120 powered Econobox priced just under $600 to over $1500 Editor's Choice system with a GTX670, i5-3570K and Samsung 830 SSD there is a system for just about everyone.  Read straight through to the end for suggestions for monitors, keyboards and more.

You can contrast their picks with our own Hardware Leaderboard here.

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"We've freshened up our system guide with new-and-improved builds featuring Ivy Bridge CPUs, 28-nm graphics processors, and cheaper-than-ever solid-state drives. Come and see what we've put together."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems