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Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 4, 2013 - 02:59 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: computex 2013, computex, nvidia, msi, kepler, Intel, haswell, gtx 700M, gs70, gaming notebook
A couple of weeks ago, MSI revealed the GX70 and GX60 gaming notebooks powered by AMD's latest Richland APUs and 8970M (and 7970M) discrete graphics cards. Today, the company added the GS70 notebook to its lineup, and it is the opposite in terms of underlying technology. Specifically, the GS70 is a 17" gaming notebook with an Intel Haswell processor and a NVIDIA GTX765M. The portable gaming machine is 22mm thick and weighs in at less than 5.7 pounds (2.6kg), which is a noticeably weight reduction versus the Richland-powered models.
Expert Reviews UK goes hands-on with a prototype of the MSI GS70 at Computex 2013.
The GS70 comes clad in glossy black and is constructed of aluminum. External features include a large 17" (likely TN) display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, a SteelSeries-engineered multicolor backlit keyboard, and a large trackpad. Connectivity options include:
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
- 3 x audio jacks (with surround sound support)
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x mini DisplayPort
Internal specifications include a not-yet-named Intel 4th Generation Core "Haswell" CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a NVIDIA GTX 765M. The discrete GPU is based on NVIDIA's Kepler architecture and features 768 CUDA cores clocked at 850 MHz and up to 2GB of graphics memory clocked at 1 GHz on a 128-bit bus. The system also uses a Killer NIC networking card and MSI's own SuperRAID technology that pairs two solid state drives in a RAID configuration for pure performance. The system should be able to play all modern PC games, though some details will need to be turned down. Multi-display output is supported for up to three external displays as well.
Unfortunately, MSI has not yet announced pricing or availability for this notebook. I would expect it to (paradoxically, despite the naming conventions) cost more than the existing GX70 (due to the newer, and faster, technology used) which starts at $1,399.99 MSRP. Keep an eye out for reviews later this year if you are interested in a mobile gaming PC, as this one looks interesting. Until then, Expert Reviews UK has some initial impressions and additional photos in this article.
Subject: Systems | June 4, 2013 - 01:27 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Xeon Phi, tianhe-2, supercomputer, Ivy Bridge, HPC, China
A powerful new supercomputer constructed by Chinese company Inspur is currently in testing at the National University of Defense Technology. Called the Tianhe-2, the new supercomputer has 16,000 compute nodes and approximately 54 Petaflops of peak theoretical compute performance.
Destined for the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China, the open HPC platform will be used for education and research projects. The Tianhe-2 is composed of 125 racks with 128 compute nodes in each rack.
The compute nodes are broken down into two types: CPM and APU modules. One of each node type makes up a single compute board. The CPM module hosts four Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 128GB system memory, and a single Intel Xeon Phi accelerator card with 8GB of its own memory. Each APU module adds five Xeon Phi cards to every compute board. The compute boards (a CPM module + a APU module) contain two NICs that connect the various compute boards with Inspur's custom THExpress2 high bandwidth interconnects. Finally, the Tianhe-2 supercomputer will have access to 12.4 Petabytes of storage that is shared across all of the compute boards.
In all, the Tianhe-2 is powered by 32,000 Intel Ivy Bridge processors, 1.024 Petabytes of system memory (not counting Phi dedicated memory--which would make the total 1.404 PB), and 48,000 Intel Xeon Phi MIC (Many Integrated Cores) cards. That is a total of 3,120,000 processor cores (though keep in mind that number is primarily made up of the relatively simple individual Phi cores as there are 57 cores to each Phi card).
Inspur claims up to 3.432 TFlops of peak compute performance per compute node (which, for simplicity they break down as one node is 2 Ivy Bridge chips, 64GB memory, and 3 Xeon Phi cards although the two compute modules that make up a node are not physically laid out that way) for a total theoretical potential compute power of 54,912 TFlops (or 54.912 Petaflops) across the entire supercomputer. In the latest Linpack benchmark run, researchers saw up to 63% efficiency in attaining peak performance -- 30.65 PFlops out of 49.19 PFlops peak/theoretical performance -- when only using 14,336 nodes with 50GB RAM each. Further testing and optimization should improve that number, and when all nodes are brought online the real world performance will naturally be higher than the current benchmarks. With that said, the Tianhe-2 is already besting Cray's TITAN, which is promising (though I hope Cray comes back next year and takes the crown again, heh).
In order to keep all of this hardware cool, Inspur is planning a custom liquid cooling system using chilled water. The Tianhe-2 will draw up to 17.6 MW of power under load. Once the liquid cooling system is implemented the supercomputer will draw 24MW while under load.
This is an impressive system, and an interesting take on a supercomputer architecture considering the rise in popularity of heterogeneous architectures that pair massive numbers of CPUs with graphics processing units (GPUs).
The Tianhe-2 supercomputer will be reconstructed at its permanent home at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzhou, China once the testing phase is finished. It will be one of the top supercomputers in the world once it is fully online! HPC Wire has a nice article with slides an further details on the upcoming processing powerhouse that is worth a read if you are into this sort of HPC stuff.
Also read: Cray unveils the TITAN supercomputer.
Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 05:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, u21m, Intel, haswell, gigabyte, convertible tablet, computex 2013, computex
Gigabyte launched its U21M convertible tablet at Computex this week. The Windows 8 PC is an 11.6” convertible notebook that is 20mm thick and weights approximately 3.28 pounds (or 3.06 lbs without HDD). It is powered by an Intel Haswell CPU with HD4000 processor graphics and it runs the full x86-64 version of Windows 8.
The notebook features a black and slate gray colored chassis that has a brushed metal texture over the top of the keyboard deck and display bezel. Design wise, it is reminiscent of Dell's Latitude XT series with more curves. The U21M uses a similar center 180-degree hinge that allows the display to be rotated around and then laid flat against the keyboard to enable tablet mode. There are no face function buttons on the display bezel aside from the Windows key, however.
Gigabyte has made ample use of the 11.6” form factor by designing a keyboard that stretches from one side of the system to the other. The six-row keyboard looks to be well laid out with good spacing between the keys and no real key placement oddities. key travel may be an issue though as the keys are close to the metal, as it were. Below the keyboard is a large touchpad with hardware mouse buttons.
The display itself is an 11.6” capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. There does not appear to be digitizer/stylus support on the U21M, however. Above the touchscreen is a 1.3MP webcam. It also features two 1.5W speakers.
External IO options include:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
- 2 x Audio
- 1 x SD
- 1 x SIM card slot
Internally, the U21M does not disappoint, with an Intel Haswell CPU, up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, and either a 128GB or 256GB mSATA SSD plus an optional mechanical hard drive up to 1TB. There is no discrete GPU, however. The system will rely on the Haswell CPU's processor graphics, though Gigabyte has not announced specific chips so the iGPU used is unknown. Wireless connectivity options include 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + LE, and a built-in 3.5G radio. The system uses a respectable 7.4V, 40Wh Lithium-Polymer battery.
Gigabyte has not yet released pricing or availability dates, but you can find all the specifications along with additional photos on this product page.
My thought on this system is that it might be a good upgrade once my Dell Latitude XT finally dies on me (heh). It should definitely be faster and get much better battery life than my current convertible tablet, that's for sure! I'll be on the lookout for reviews, but what do you think about the U21M so far? If only it came in blue...
Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 08:50 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: vivopc, vivomouse, htpc, computex 2013, computex, asus
ASUS unleashed a barrage of product announcments at its opening keynote at Computex 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan earlier today. Two of the products shown off in slide form at the event were the HTPC-oriented VivoPC and VivoMouse. After the event, ASUS posted a press release that went into a bit more detail on the two devices. However, while the company has provided specifications and a tentative Q3 2013 release date, it has not yet announced pricing information.
The ASUS VivoPC is a small form factor HTPC clad in an angular brushed aluminum textured chassis. It measures 190 x 190 x 36.2mm and is large enough to accomodate a single 3.5" or 2.5" hard drive. The hard drive and memory can be easily replaced and the PC serviced by lifting up the (lockable, via a switch on the back) lid. It will come equipped with an as-yet-unnamed Intel processor with integrated processor graphics (likely Haswell, since ASUS did not mention a SKU or series and Intel has not had its keynote yet), DDR3 memory, and an 802.11ac wireless radio. It is unclear whether or not ASUS intends to sell both barebones and fully-configured SKUs, but as mentioned previously at leas the memory and HDD or SSD can be purchased seperately.
Rear IO options include:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x RJ45 LAN
- 1 x S/PDIF
- 2 x Audio jacks
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x Power button
- 1 x top cover lock switch
ASUS' preferred input method is, of course, their own recently-announced VivoMouse accessory, which is a large remote-control sized mouse with a large circular touchpad. The mouse has a 1200 DPI sensor and the touchpad supports 3-point multi-touch. It operates over the 2.4GHz RF frequency band, which is nice to see as it eliminates the need for an IR sensor and line of sight to the VivoPC box. The ASUS VivoMouse measures 135 x 78 x 25.5mm.
Personally, I think that I would rather have a WMC remote (such as the remote with qwerty keyboard and mini-trackpad on one side and media controls on the other that was Allyn's hardware pick on the podcast awhile back) with hardware buttons, but I have to admit that the VivoMouse at least looks stylish and people that also run Windows apps on their HTPCs might find having a large multi-touch touchpad useful.
Pricing has not yet been announced, but ASUS has stated that users should expect both the VivoPC and VivoMouse accessory to be available sometime in Q3 2013.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Computex 2013 coverage!
Computex 2013: ASUS Keynote -- Transformer Pad Infinity, FonePad Note, MEMO Pad HD7, VivoPC, Router RT-AC68U, Transformer Book Trio
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 08:20 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, asus
ASUS wants to kick off Computex with a barrage of product announcements. Seriously, there were 6 products announced in the span of 20 minutes with no two product from the same category. Devices range from tablets and convertibles to routers and mice.
The company started off with the new Transformer Pad Infinity. This updates their line of separable hybrid laptop/tablets with NVIDIA Tegra 4.
- NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC
- 2560x1600 10.1-inch display
- USB 3.0, Bluetooth, 4K out via HDMI
- 6MP (I think, could be 16MP) rear, 1.2 MP front cameras
Up next was the FonePad Note. A page from Samsung's playbook, both in name and in functionality, the FonePad is a 6" phone with a stylus pen. Coming off our recent Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 story, this device will also be powered by an Intel Atom Z2560 SoC. These could be the start of many high-profile design wins for Intel.
- Intel Atom Z2560 SoC
- 2GB RAM
- 6" 1080p SuperIPS+ display, thin border
- 8MP rear, 1.2MP front cameras
- Front-facing stereo speakers
- Stylus Pen
And then we get the MEMO Pad HD7. This 7-inch 1280x800 HD tablet is designed to be cheap. It will be available for $149 in 16GB capacity for America, and a smaller $129 8GB version for emerging markets.
- ARM Cortex A7 quad-core SoC
- 7-inch 1280x800 HD IPS display (10-point multitouch)
- 5MP rear, 1.2MP front cameras
- Bluetooth, GPS, stereo speakers
- (starting at?) 16GB ($149) USA, 8GB ($129) emerging markets
We briefly leave mobile devices to head towards a desktop computer. The VivoPC is designed to be easily upgraded, "Just lift the lid and replace the harddrive and memory". This is being positioned as a home theater PC running Windows 8. We currently have no further specifications.
- It's got a lid?
And of course, with the discussion of an 802.11ac device we clearly need to move on to routers. The ASUS Router RT-AC68U, while a slight bit literal of a name, is supposedly the first dual-band 802.11ac Router. I am not exactly sure what the second band would be, but I am only the messenger. Regardless, this router is apparently capable of performance up to 1.9 Gigabits per second.
And then we cannot have all of these HTPC devices without an input method, can we? Enter the ASUS VivoMouse. This device allows you to more comfortably control your PC from your couch, as far as I can tell.
Last, but with a bang, ASUS announced the Transformer Book Trio. As you can guess, the Trio name comes from its three form factors being wrapped up into a single product: it's a notebook, a tablet, and a desktop PC. Do not worry, I will not make an iPhone announcement keynote joke; that one has already been well overplayed.
The trick is that the Trio is actually two fully functional computers with one running Android and the other Window 8. Both devices are powered by an x86 Intel-based processor, however: the main PC runs a Core i7-4500U processor and the tablet runs an Atom Z2580.
A main selling feature is that, when base is separated from screen, both devices are simultaneously useable. If you attach the base to an external monitor it will function like a desktop PC.
- Intel Core i7-4500U (base), Intel Atom Z2580 (tablet)
- Full HD multitouch IPS display
- Windows 8 (base), Android Jelly Bean (screen)
- 1TB HDD (base), 64GB flash (screen)
- Fully compatible with Google Play and Windows Stores
Well, that's it. We will probably have a bit more analysis coming up soon. But, for now, I need to get off of Taipei time.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | June 2, 2013 - 11:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: quadro k1000m, origin pc, nvidia, kepler, Intel, haswell, gtx 700M, gaming, eon17-s, eon15-s
Origin PC has announced that it will be integrating Haswell CPUs and GTX700M GPUs into its line of gaming notebooks and desktops. Specifically, Origin PC will add Haswell CPUs to its Genesis, Millennium, and Chronos desktop PCs. Origin PC is also outfitting its EON gaming laptops with both Haswell CPU and GTX700M GPU upgrades. And to sweeten the pot (if only slightly), Origin is bundling a voucher for Grid 2 with each Haswell-equipped Origin PC order.
Both the EON15-S and EON17-S gaming laptops feature Intel Haswell processors, NVIDIA GTX700M or Quadro K1000M mobile graphics cards, and up to five storage drives when the optical drive is removed. The laptops are even able to have an independent RAID of two mSATA SSDs and two hard drives or SSDs along with a non-RAID storage drive in the optical bay—that's a lot of storage for a laptop!
The laptops come with customizable display lids available in red, black, silver, or a custom air brush as well as back-lit keyboards and touchpads. As the SKU names suggest, the EON15-S has a 15.6” display while the EON17-S has a 13.3” display. Origin PC is further offering factory overclocking for the Haswell processors and GTX700M graphics cards. The company claims up to a 20-times power reduction during idle thanks to the more power-efficient hardware.
Unfortunately, all this new tech comes at a premium, and the EON15-S and EON17-S gaming notebooks start at $1,722 and $1,784 respectively. As far as the desktops go, there is also a slight bump in price depending on the Haswell chip you select during the customization process. Upgrading to an Intel Core i7-4770K on the GENESIS desktop costs an extra $193, for example.
You can find more information on the Origin PC website.
Subject: Systems | May 31, 2013 - 11:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, mini-itx
Building a mini-ITX system that is small enough to be attached to the back of a monitor or hidden with your stereo components takes a bit more thought than assembling a full ATX system. It is not just about the size of the components you are purchasing, heat dissipation is much more important in a small system especially if it will be located somewhere that does not have great air circulation. TechSpot has put together a guide for those thinking of building such a system, using the Akasa Euler Case as the housing and powered with a Core i5-3470T. As you can see from the picture below, the final system is smaller than an HD7970.
"The idea behind the Thin Mini-ITX form factor, besides the obvious which is to create seriously compact computers, is also to allow for DIY all-in-ones (think of little PCs you can attach to the back of your monitor). Having that said, we don't fully intend to go the all-in-one route in this article, but are aiming to build a powerful Thin Mini-ITX system that can be used in the office or at home as a media PC.
This is what our finished system should look like: extremely compact, powerful, and near silent operation, as in no-moving-parts silent. For less than $700 including a 256GB SSD, we believe you'll love what the final product will look like."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Sapphire Edge HD4 @ Bjorn3D
- Streacom F7C EVO HTPC Chassis @ eTeknix
- Fractal Design Node 605 Silent HTPC Case Review @ Legit Reviews
- Leawo Total Media Converter Ultimate @ Benchmark Reviews
- Samsung BD-F7500 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Analogix Semiconductor SlimPort Cable (HDMI Adapter) @ Tweaktown
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | May 29, 2013 - 11:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows blue, Windows 8.1, windows, microsoft
Personally, I really cannot care too much about the user experience quirks inherent to Windows modernization; the wedge slowly being shoved between the user and their machine is far too concerning. No matter how they modify the interface, restricting what users and developers can install and create on their machine is a deal breaker. But, after that obligatory preface reminding people not to get wound up in UX hiccups and be complacent to the big issues, Windows Blue will certainly address many of those UX hiccups.
As we reported, last month, boot-to-desktop and the Start Button were planned for inclusion with Windows 8.1. Then, the sources were relentless to emphasize: "Until it ships, anything can change."
Images courtesy, Paul Thurrott.
Mary Jo Foley gathered quite a few details since then. Firstly, the option (as in, disabled by default) to boot directly to desktop will be there; from the sounds of it, it looks like it will be disabled by default but not exclusive to Enterprise SKUs. This is somewhat promising, as it would be slightly less likely for Microsoft to kill support for the desktop (and, by extension, x86 applications) if they feel pressure to punctuate it. Still, assuming because "it makes sense" is a bad way to conduct business.
Also available (albeit, enabled by default) is the Start Button, seen in higher quality above. This will be, as far as we know, enabled by default. Its functionality will be to bring up the Start Screen or, alternatively, a new All Apps screen visible at ZDNet. Now this has me interested: while I actually like the Start Screen, a list of apps should provide functionality much closer to the Start Menu than Microsoft was previously comfortable with. Previously, the Start Screen attempted to make the desktop applications feel less comfortable than modern apps; this interface appears like it would feel more comfortable to the desktop. While probably still jarring, it looks to make finding desktop applications easier and quickly gets out of the way of your desktop experience.
According to Paul Thurrott, for those who wish to personalize the Start Screen, you will have the option to share your desktop wallpaper with the it. For tasteful backgrounds, like the one above, I can see this being of good use.
Just please, do not grief someone with a background full of fake tiles.
As a final note, there is still no word about multiple monitor support for "Modern Apps". If you have tried to use them in the past, you know what I am talking about: basically only one at a time, it will jump between monitors if you bring up the Start Screen, and so forth.
Subject: Systems | May 28, 2013 - 10:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF case, SFF, passive cooling, nimbus, heastink, fanless, cpu cooler, cirrus7
German PC manufacturer Cirrus7 has launched a new small form factor (SFF) PC called the Nimbus that uses slices of aluminum that do double duty as both a case and a passive CPU cooler (heatsink).
The Nimbus PC features an Intel DQ77KB motherboard and low-power Intel processor along with configurable DDR3 and mSATA storage options. The base model will come with 4GB of DDR3 and a 60GB mSATA SSD. CPU options include the Intel G1610T, G2020T, Core i3-3220T, i3-3470T, i5-3570T, and i7-3770T. From there you can add up to two 7mm 2.5” hard drives (or SSDs) and increase the amount of RAM (for a higher price, of course).
The Intel DQ77KB board supports vPro and KVM over IP on systems with the Core i5 or higher processor. It has the following external IO options:
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x Intel Gigabit LAN
- 2 x Audio jacks (green jack is dual purpose, mini-TOSLink compatible)
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
The SFF PC comes preloaded with either Ubuntu 13.04, Ubuntu 12.04, or Windows 8 (depending on your choice at checkout).
Check out more photos of the Nimbus at FanlessTech.
In order to keep the hardware cool, Cirrus7 has opted for an all-aluminum enclosure that is built around and over the motherboard in a fin-spacer-fin pattern. Each aluminum fin is 12mm high and the height of the system can be varied by adding or reducing the number of fins used. For example, using all fins allows Cirrus7 to support higher TDPs like the Core i7 3770T. Alternatively, if you are just using an i3-3220T, you could get by with a smaller (and lighter) case/heatsink. Notably, judging by the hands-on photos over at FanlessTech, the Nimbus does not use a copper CPU block which may have reduce the heatsink's effectiveness. That, or maybe Cirrus7 expects that they have slapped enough aluminum fins on the system that it doesn't matter much (heh). Also note that the case is not completely sealed, so although it is passively cooled, it is definitely not water or dust proof. Beyond that though, the case looks nice and the system would make a nice silent backup server, router, or HTPC!
The Nimbus will be available towards the end of June in Germany and Europe, with worldwide shipping available upon request. The system starts at €499 for the base model which is approximately $640 USD (before shipping). That price includes the case, processor, motherboard, RAM, and mSATA drive. Cirrus 7 has stated that Haswell-based models of the Nimbus will be available at some point, but are not expected until around the end of 2013 at the earliest.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | May 27, 2013 - 07:08 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, ps4, consolitis, consoles
So, as Wired editorial states it: hardcore console gamers don't want much, just the impossible. They want a "super-powered box" tethered to their TV; they want the blockbuster epics and innovative indie titles; they want it to "just work" for what they do. The author, Chris Kohler, wrote his column to demonstrate how this is, and has for quite some time been, highly unprofitable.
I think the bigger problem is that the console manufacturers want the impossible.
Console manufacturers have one goal: get their platform in your house and require their hand be in the pocket of everything you do with it. They need to make an attractive device for that to be true, so they give it enough power to legitimately impress the potential buyer and price it low enough to catch the purchasing impulse. Chances are this involves selling the box under cost at launch and for quite some time after.
But, if all of this juicy control locks the user into overspending in the long run, then it is worth it...
But Microsoft should be thankful that I cost them money to be acquired as a customer.
Well, looking at the Wired article, not only are console gamers ultimately overspending: it is still not enough! Consoles truly benefit no-one! The console manufacturers are not doing any more than maybe breaking even, at some point, eventually, down the line, they hope. Microsoft and Sony throw obnoxious amounts of money against one another in research, development, and marketing. Redundant technologies are formed to pit against their counterparts with billions spent in marketing to try to prove why either choice is better.
All of this money is spent to corral users into a more expensive experience where they can pocket the excess.
Going back to the editorial's claims: with all of this money bleeding out, Microsoft wants to appeal more broadly and compensate the loss with more cash flowing in. Sure, Microsoft has wanted a foothold in the living room for decades at this point, but the Xbox Division bounces between profitability and huge losses; thus, they want to be an entertainment hub if just for the cash alone.
But think back to the start, these troubles are not because it is impossible to satisfy hardcore gamers. These troubles are because Microsoft and Sony cannot generate revenue from their acquired control quicker than they can bleed capital away trying to acquire that control, or at least generate it more than just barely fast enough.
The other solution, which I have felt for quite some time is the real answer (hence why I am a PC gamer), has a large group of companies create an industry body who governs an open standard. Each company can make a substantial profit by focusing on a single chunk of the platform -- selling graphics processors, maintaining a marketplace, or what-have-you -- by leveraging the success of every other chunk.
This model does work, and it is the basis for one of humanity's most successful technology products: the internet.
As a side note: this is also why PC gaming was so successful... Microsoft, developers, Steam/GoG/other marketplaces, and hardware vendors were another version of this... albeit Microsoft had the ability to override them and go in whatever direction they wanted. They didn't, until Windows RT.
And the internet might even be the solution. The web browser is capable, today, of providing amazing gaming experiences and it does not even require a plugin. It is getting more powerful, even faster than the rate at which underlying hardware has evolved.
To end on an ironic note, that makes a web browser more capable of offline play than our current understanding of the Xbox One (and Sony has said nothing either way, for that matter).
I guess the takeaway message is: love the web browser, it "just works".
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | May 23, 2013 - 10:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, unreal engine, ps4, playstation 4, epic games
Unreal Engine 4 was presented at the PlayStation 4 announcement conference through a new Elemental Demo. We noted how the quality seemed to have dropped in the eight months following E3 while the demo was being ported to the console hardware. The most noticeable differences were in the severely reduced particle counts and the non-existent fine lighting details; of course, Epic pumped the contrast in the PS4 version which masked the lack of complexity as if it were a stylistic choice.
Still, the demo was clearly weakened. The immediate reaction was to assume that Epic Games simply did not have enough time to optimize the demo for the hardware. That is true to some extent, but there are theoretical limits on how much performance you can push out of hardware at 100% perfect utilization.
Now that we know both the PS4 and, recently, the Xbox One: it is time to dissect more carefully.
A recent LinkedIn post from EA Executive VP and CTO, Rajat Taneja, claims that the Xbox One and PS4 are a generation ahead of highest-end PC on the market. While there are many ways to interpret that statement, in terms of raw performance that statement is not valid.
As of our current knowledge, the PlayStation 4 contains an eight core AMD "Jaguar" CPU with an AMD GPU containing 18 GCN compute units, consisting of a total of 1152 shader units. Without knowing driving frequencies, this chip should be slightly faster than the Xbox One's 768 shader units within 12 GCN compute units. The PS4 claims their system has a total theoretical 2 teraFLOPs of performance and the Xbox One would almost definitely be slightly behind that.
Back in 2011, the Samaritan Demo was created by Epic Games to persuade console manufacturers. This demo was how Epic considered the next generation of consoles to perform. They said, back in 2011, that this demo would theoretically require 2.5 teraFLOPs of performance for 30FPS at true 1080p; ultimately their demo ran on the PC with a single GTX 680, approximately 3.09 teraFLOPs.
This required performance, (again) approximately 2.5 teraFLOPs, is higher than what is theoretically possible for the consoles, which is less than 2 teraFLOPs. The PC may have more overhead than consoles, but the PS4 and Xbox One would be too slow even with zero overhead.
Now, of course, this does not account for reducing quality where it will be the least noticeable and other cheats. Developers are able to reduce particle counts and texture resolutions in barely-noticeable places; they are also able to render below 1080p or even below 720p, as was the norm for our current console generation, to save performance for more important things. Perhaps developers might even use different algorithms which achieve the same, or better, quality for less computation at the expense of more sensitivity to RAM, bandwidth, or what-have-you.
But, in the end, Epic Games did not get the ~2.5 teraFLOPs they originally hoped for when they created the Samaritan Demo. This likely explains, at least in part, why the Elemental Demo looked a little sad at Sony's press conference: it was a little FLOP.
Update, 5/24/2013: Mark Rein of Epic Games responds to the statement made by Rajat Taneja of EA. While we do not know his opinion on consoles... we know his opinion on EA's opinion:
— Mark Rein (@MarkRein) May 23, 2013
Subject: Systems | May 22, 2013 - 12:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Richland, msi, gx70, gx60, gaming notebook, gaming, APU, amd
MSI announced two new gaming notebooks powered by AMD's latest Richland APUs today called the GX70 and GX60. Both gaming notebooks use AMD A10-5750M processors, a discrete AMD graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and a 750GB (7200 RPM) hard drive. Other shared specifications include a Killer E2200 NIC, Blu-ray drive, THX certified speakers, a headphone amp, and a large 9-cell battery.
The GX70 is the largest of the two gaming notebooks at 8.6 pounds and packing a 17.3” display. The GX70 uses the A10-5750M APU and a Radeon 8970M discrete mobile GPU to deliver gaming performance to the 1080p display. The system is also capable of outputting to multiple displays over HDMI and supports AMD's Eyefinity 3D technology. On the outside, the MSI GX70 features a 17.3” 1920 x 1080p display with an anti-reflective coating as well as a SteelSeries gaming keyboard.
Meanwhile, the MSI GX60 is a 15-inch notebook that weighs 7.7 pounds. This gaming notebook uses an AMD A10-5750M APU and a Radeon 7970M mobile discrete GPU. Further, the GX60 has a 15.6” 1080p anti-reflective display and SteelSeries gaming keyboard.
MSI claims that the new AMD Richland APUs will give its gaming notebooks much better battery life. The new GX70 and GX60 will have up to 40% better graphical performance compared to previous generations thanks to the new APUs and discrete cards. According to MSI VP of Sales Andy Tung, “the GX70 and GX60 deliver the ultimate sensory experience for both professional and amateur gamers.” More information on the new gaming notebooks can be found on this MSI press release.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | May 21, 2013 - 09:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox
Almost exactly three months have passed since Sony announced the Playstation 4 and just three weeks remain until E3. Ahead of the event, Microsoft unveiled their new Xbox console: The Xbox One. Being so close to E3, they are saving the majority of games until that time. For now, it is the box itself as well as its non-gaming functionality.
First and foremost, the raw specifications:
- AMD APU (5 billion transistors, 8 core, on-die eSRAM)
- 8GB RAM
- 500GB Storage, Bluray reader
- USB 3.0, 802.11n, HDMI out, HDMI in
The hardware is a definite win for AMD. The Xbox One is based upon an APU which is quite comparable to what the PS4 will offer. Unlike previous generations, there will not be too much differentiation based on available performance; I would not expect to see much of a fork in terms of splitscreen and other performance-sensitive features.
A new version of the Kinect sensor will also be present with all units which developers can depend upon. Technically speaking, the camera is higher resolution and more wide-angle; up to six skeletons can be tracked with joints able to rotate rather than just hinge. Microsoft is finally also permitting developers to use the Kinect along with a standard controller to, as they imagine, allow a user to raise their controller to block with a shield. That is the hope, but near the launch of the original Kinect, Microsoft filed a patent to allow sign language recognition: has not happened yet. Who knows whether the device will be successfully integrated into gaming applications.
Of course Microsoft is known most for system software, and the Xbox runs three lightweight operating environments. In Windows 8, you have the Modern interface which runs WinRT applications and you have the desktop app which is x86 compatible.
The Xbox One borrows more than a little from this model.
The home screen, which I am tempted to call the Start Screen, for the console has a very familiar tiled interface. They are not identical to Windows but they are definitely consistent. This interface allows for access to Internet Explorer and an assortment of apps. These apps can be pinned to the side of the screen, identical to Windows 8 modern app. I am expecting there to be "a lot of crossover" (to say the least) between this and the Windows Store; I would not be surprised if it is basically the same API. This works both when viewing entertainment content as well as within a game.
These three operating systems run at the same time. The main operating system is basically a Hyper-V environment which runs the two other operating systems simultaneously in sort-of virtual machines. These operating systems can be layered with low latency, since all you are doing is compositing them in a different order.
Lastly, they made reference to Xbox Live, go figure. Microsoft is seriously increasing their server capacity and expects developers to utilize Azure infrastructure to offload "latency-insensitive" computation for games. While Microsoft promises that you can play games offline, this obviously does not apply to features (or whole games) which rely upon the back-end infrastructure.
And yes, I know you will all beat up on me if I do not mention the SimCity debacle. Maxis claimed that much of the game requires an online connection due to the complicated server requirements; after a crack allowed offline functionality, it was clear that the game mostly operates fine on a local client. How much will the Xbox Live cloud service offload? Who knows, but that is at least their official word.
Now to tie up some loose ends. The Xbox One will not be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games although that is no surprise. Also, Microsoft says they are allowing users to resell and lend games. That said, games will be installed and not require the disc, from what I have heard. Apart from the concerns about how much you can run on a single 500GB drive, once the game is installed rumor has it that if you load it elsewhere (the rumor is even more unclear about whether "elsewhere" counts accounts or machines) you will need to pay a fee to Microsoft. In other words? Basically not a used game.
Well, that has it. You can be sure we will add more as information comes forth. Comment away!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems, Mobile | May 14, 2013 - 07:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: haswell, nec
While we are not sure when it will be released or whether it will be available for North America, we have found a Haswell laptop. Actually, NEC will release two products in this lineup: a high end 1080p unit and a lower end 1366x768 model. Unfortuantely, the article is in Japanese.
IPS displays have really wide viewing angles, even top and bottom.
NEC is known for their higher-end monitors; most people equate the Dell Ultrasharp panels with professional photo and video production, but their top end offers are ofter a tier below the best from companies like NEC and Eizo. The laptops we are discussing today both contain touch-enabled IPS panels with apparently double the contrast ratio of what NEC considers standard. While these may or may not be the tip-top NEC offerings, they should at least be putting in decent screens.
Obviously the headliner for us is the introduction of Haswell. While we do not know exactly which product NEC decided to embed, we do know that they are relying upon it for their graphics performance. With the aforementioned higher-end displays, it seems likely that NEC is intending this device for the professional market. A price-tag of 190000 yen (just under $1900 USD) for the lower end and 200000 yen (just under $2000 USD) for the higher end further suggests this is their target demographic.
Clearly a Japanese model.
The professional market does not exactly have huge requirements for graphics performance, but to explicitly see NEC trust Intel for their GPU performance is an interesting twist. Intel HD 4000 has been nibbling, to say the least, on the discrete GPU marketshare in laptops. I would expect this laptop would contain one of the BGA-based parts, which are soldered onto the motherboard, for the added graphics performance.
As a final note, the higher-end model will also contain a draft 802.11ac antenna. It is expected that network performance could be up to 867 megabits as a result.
Of course I could not get away without publishing the raw specifications:
LL850/MS (Price: 200000 yen):
- Fourth-generation Intel Core processor with onboard video
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 1TB HDD w/ 32GB SSD caching
- BDXL (100-128GB BluRay disc) drive
- IEEE 802.11ac WiFi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0
- SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, 2x2W stereo Yamaha speakers
- 1080p IPS display with touch support
- Office Home and Business 2013 preinstalled?
LL750/MS (Price: 190000 yen):
- Fourth-generation Intel Core processor with onboard video
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 1TB HDD (no SSD cache)
- (Optical disc support not mentioned)
- IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0
- SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, 2x2W stereo Yamaha speakers
- 1366x768 (IPS?) touch-enabled display
Subject: Systems | May 9, 2013 - 04:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Sometimes it is much easier to buy a complete gaming system than to build one yourself for a variety of reasons, perhaps one good reason would be a two year warranty so you won't have to worry about spending your quality time with a recalcitrant PC. The Alienware X51 sports some nice components for the price tag such as a Core i7-3770 @ 3.4GHz, 8GB DDR3, a 2TB SATA III Hard Drive, and Blu-ray. Perhaps the only possible letdown is the GeForce GTX 660 1.5GB, but consider the price and the form factor before you dismiss the system. Also worth noting, it ships with Win7 64bit, not Win8.
1. Start here at Dell Home direct store
2. Configure as per needs (optional), click Review & Buy button at the top
3. Add to cart
4. Apply coupon code: BHW1L0MX0D?MCX in shopping cart and proceed to final checkout/payment
Subject: Systems | May 8, 2013 - 07:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, zotac, zbox id88, zbox id89
HONG KONG – May 8, 2013 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and leading manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today supercharges the ZBOX mini-PC with desktop Intel Core i5 and i3 processors for outstanding performance that can match and outpace larger full-size desktop PCs. The new 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors ushers in a new era of performance to the mini-PC form factor.
“Users demanded the same performance as larger desktop PCs from our ZBOX but the small size made it virtually impossible to deliver the same performance as desktop PCs. After many months of engineering and fine tuning, we came up with a solution that enables us to install desktop LGA1155 socket Intel Core i5 and i3 processors without sacrificing size, noise or power consumption that will make our end users very happy,” says Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International.
Users have two choices of processor with the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors. Casual users seeking great performance for everyday computing can opt for the dual-core Intel Core i3 3220T-equipped ZBOX ID88 series while more demanding users can step up to the Intel Core i5 3470T-equipped ZBOX ID89 series.
The Intel Core i5 3470T processor adds Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology to intelligently increase clock speeds of individual processor cores up to 3.6 GHz depending on computing demands of the operating system and applications. Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d) enhances virtualization capabilities on the Intel Core i5 3470T for superior performance for virtualization uses.
Intel HD Graphics 2500 graphics processing transforms the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors into powerhouse HTPCs with Intel Quick Sync Video technology for lightning fast video conversions, Intel InTru 3D technology for stunning and smooth Blu-ray 3D playback with advanced audio technologies, and Intel Clear Video HD technology for hardware-accelerated high-definition video playback.
It’s time to play with the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors.
ZBOX ID88 series
Intel Core i3 3220T (dual-core, 2.8 GHz)
ZBOX ID89 series
Intel Core i5 3470T (dual-core, 2.9 GHz, up to 3.6 GHz Turbo)
Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology
PLUS models available with preinstalled memory and hard drive
HDMI & DVI-I outputs
802.11n Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0 w dual external WiFi antennas
Dual Gigabit Ethernet
High-amperage USB charging capable (yellow ports)
Bundled MCE-compatible remote w USB IR receiver
Bundled VESA75100 mount
Subject: Systems | May 6, 2013 - 08:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Lenovo, IdeaCentre B540, win8, all in one
Lenovo's IdeaCentre B540 is an all in one PC, built into a 23" 1080p touchscreen that should make using Win8 a little more user friendly. The specs are not up to gaming, the Core i3-3220 @ 3.3GHz only has Intel HD2500 graphics but with 6GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD it should serve well as a light workstation or home PC. TechReviewSource does mention a higher end model containing a Core i5 CPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU but with the heat constraints of this type of form factor you are still going to have troubles playing the newest FPSes. Check out their preview here.
"The stylish design of the Lenovo IdeaCentre B540 is one that catches our eye in tandem with its budget price tag. The 23-inch 1080p touch screen works well with Windows 8 and looks great for multimedia viewing. Performance is good, especially for the price, but it does make a slight compromise with a Core i3 CPU."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- The Tech Report's April 2013 System Guide
- Dell XPS 18 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Dell XPS One 27 Review: affordable large screen all-in-one @ Hardware.info
- Acer Aspire A5600U-UB13 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Gateway DX4870-UB17 Review @ TechReviewSource
- BUYPOWER Revolt SFF Desktop Gaming PC @ Tweaktown
- Raspberry Pi Review @ Tech-Reviews.co.uk
- PC Specialist Vanquish X200 Gaming Rig @ eTeknix
Subject: Systems | April 24, 2013 - 10:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sapphire, htpc, edge VS8
Sapphire continues to improve their Edge mini-PCs, the VS8 sports an quad core A8-4555M @ 1.6GHz with HD 7600G, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB 2.5-inch SATA hard drive, not the most powerful GPU on the planet but more than enough for an HTPC. The entire system is 19.7x18.2x3.1cm, about the size of a 5.25" drive and has both WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity. For outputs you can choose between Mini Display Port and HDMI for video and optical and line out for audio as well as a line in if you need that connectivity. TechSpot really liked this machine but they would like to see a more expensive model with an SSD inside to really make the system snappy.
"While full-sized desktop computers are still around, tablets and smartphones have proven that technology has come far enough to essentially cram a fully capable computer into a space that is suitable for your pants pocket, a purse, or a small backpack. This idea of shrinking hardware hasn’t been overlooked by manufacturers as several now feature space-saving designs based on mobile hardware.
Such is the case with Sapphire’s new Edge VS8 mini-PC powered by AMD’s A8 APU. The system is hardly any larger than an external optical drive, while still packing 4GB of DDR3 memory, Radeon HD 7600G graphics, a 500GB SATA HDD, built-in support for Bluetooth 3.0 as well as 802.11 b/g/n wireless and a bevy of rear I/O connections."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ASRock VisionX HTOC 321B Ivy Bridge mini-PC @ techPowerUp
- CompuLab Intense PC System Review: Fanless Ivy Bridge @ AnandTech
- Pivos XIOS DS Media Player @ Bjorn3D
- Pivos Xios DS Media Player Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Pivos XIOS DS Media Box @ Funky Kit
- Roku 3 Review @ TechReviewSource
- WD TV Play Review @ TechReviewSource
- Belkin @TV Plus review: TV always, everywhere @ Hardware.info
- Pivos Technology XIOS DS Media Play Smart TV Companion Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 22, 2013 - 10:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Kickstarter, oculus rift, Virtuix Omni
Even if you no-one watches you game, this device would probably be difficult to store in a closet.
Team Fortress 2 is a fun game and one of the first with support for the Oculus Rift VR headset. But why stop there? The Omni is an omnidirectional treadmill which allows users to move within the device and have that motion translate into computer input. This means that running, strafing, and apparently jumping in your containing vessel will control a videogame character.
How the heck they expect to Scout double-jump? Beats me.
The company is currently in preparation for a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. Under the assumption that no trickery is going on, this could be a leap forward for VR.
Perhaps a small-business arcade might like to get a few gaming PCs set up? To me, it sounds like an interesting novelty previously reserved for theme parks and traveling mall demonstrations. If it works as planned, it might even be a better technology.
Still no word on price or predicted availability, but I expect that will come soon.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | April 20, 2013 - 11:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, start button, Metro
The latest rumors, based on registry digging and off-the-record testimony, claims that Windows 8.1 will including the option of booting directly into the desktop. A bold claim such as this requires some due diligence. Comically, the attempts to confirm this rumor has unearthed another: the start button, but not necessarily the start menu, could return. On the record, Microsoft also wants to be more open to customer feedback. Despite these recent insights into the future of Windows, all's quiet with the worst aspect of modernization.
Mary Jo Foley, contributor to ZDNet and very reliable bullcrap filter for Microsoft rumors, learned from a reliable source that the Start Button might have a place in the modern Windows. Quite the catch while fishing to validate a different rumor; she was originally investigating whether Microsoft would consider allowing users to boot direct to desktop via recently unearthed registry keys. Allegedly both are being planned for at least some SKUs of Windows 8.1, namely the Professional and Enterprise editions.
But, as usual for Microsoft, the source emphasized, "Until it ships, anything can change." No-one was clear about the Start Button from a functional standpoint: would it be bound to display the Start Screen? Would it be something more?
Personally, I liked the modern Windows interface. Sure, it is messed up on the modern-side when it comes to multiple monitor support, but that can easily be fixed. As you will note, I am still actively boycotting everything beyond Windows 7 and this news will not change my mind. We are bickering over interface elements when the real concern is the deprecation of user control. Outside of the desktop: the only applications you can use are from the Windows Store or Windows Update; the only websites you can browse are ones which Internet Explorer can render; and the only administrator is Microsoft.
Imagine if Microsoft is told by a government that its citizens are not allowed encryption applications.
The Windows Store is clearly modeled by, and about as messed up as, the Xbox Marketplace. Even if your application gets certified, would Microsoft eventually determine that certification fees should be the burden of the developer? That is how it is on the Xbox with each patch demanding a price tag of about $40,000 after the first-one-free promotion. That would be pretty hard to swallow for an open-source application or a cute game that a teenage woman makes for her significant other as a Valentine's gift.
Microsoft's current Chief Financial Officer, Peter Klein, stated in his third quarter earnings release that Windows Blue, "Further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback." Despite how abrupt this change would seem, the recent twitchy nature should not come as a surprise; Microsoft has had a tendency to completely change course on products for quite some time now. Mary Jo mentioned how Microsoft changed course on UAC but even that is a bad example; a better one is how Microsoft changed from its initial assertions that Windows 8 Developer Preview would not be shaped by customer feedback.
A lot has changed between Developer Preview and RTM.
Then again, we can hope that Microsoft associates this pain with love for the desktop. I would be comfortable with the modern Windows if we were given a guarantee that desktop x86 applications would forever be supported. I might even reconsider using and developing applications if they allow loading uncertified metro-style applications and commit to never removing that functionality.
I can get used to a new method of accessing my applications. I can never get used to a middle-man who only says "no". If Microsoft is all ears, I hope we make this point loud and clear.