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Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 12, 2012 - 10:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows rt, windows 8, microsoft
Our regular viewers know that I am not too fond of Microsoft’s recent vision; I will get that out of the way right at the start. I am a major proponent of open platforms for uncensored art with perpetual support and Windows 8 shows all the signs of Microsoft turning its back on that ideology.
And Steven Sinofsky, the one who allegedly came up with that vision, is no longer with Microsoft: effective immediately.
Not much in the line of reasoning is known about why Steven Sinofsky parted ways with his long-term career as head of Windows division. He had a clear and concise vision for his products and it was evident both in Windows 7 and in Windows RT.
Rumors exist that his fellow executives were not on pleasant terms with him. All Things D claims to have sources which suggest that his colleagues were unhappy with his conduct in terms of collaboration.
But that is all hearsay.
What it means for Microsoft is that the face that set sail is no longer at the helm. Microsoft could revert back to their twitchy attempts to appease everyone and abandon their vision. On the other hand it is entirely possible that the company could continue off on the last bearing set by Sinofsky.
No-one knows, but I stand behind my previous assertions that the PC industry will get messy in the next few years as things boil over at Microsoft.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | November 10, 2012 - 04:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: piracy, kinect
We do not like straying from our usual topics into the music, movie, and console gaming industries although I will make an exception for this. It has a computer hardware angle, I assure you.
So I came across an article this morning regarding a patent which Microsoft filed about a year and a half ago. This patent describes a process where a device can monitor the number of people viewing a copyrighted work and permit “remedial action” should that number increase beyond some arbitrary level. In other words, the technology would prevent or adjust the price of consuming content based on the number of people in your private residence.
Hey if you want to bring your significant other over -- that’ll cost you!
Hey did I tell you about this awesome DRM we're working on? Huge success.
It routinely frustrates me when people side with the content industry because they know that one-or-so unapologetic pirating acquaintance who they feel is ripping off the whole system. The problem is that all evidence which I have seen to suggest whether or not a pirate has actual damages actually shows sales increases or is wholly based on junior high school-level statistical errors.
The content industry does not demand for you to pay them for their content: they demand that you pay them for their content under specific conditions. There were no less than two services present at CES 2011 which allowed users to input a movie title to find out where it is legally available. If it was in Vudu, Hulu+, Netflix, in Theatres, which theatre, what show-times, as a DVD or BluRay on Amazon, on TV soon, and so forth.
Everyone I discussed those services with, thus far, were amazed with how useful that would be.
I then ask them: Why is it so hard to give them money that we need services to instruct people how to legally license content?
What if the person watching the content at a friend’s house ends up purchasing it? They are attempting to open up extra streams of revenue by controlling the system more aggressively. When the system gets too convoluted for users to abide by they blame that loss in revenue on piracy.
You could imagine this occurring for video games as well: what if a publisher decides that split-screen gaming is a premium service to be licensed on a per-controller basis? The content industry is attempting to focus their licensing arrangements as granularly as possible. This is bad for you, it is often bad for them, and it is terrible for society.
Do not assume that a copyright holder will act sensibly. It is not about cheap people. It is often not even about revenue despite whether they believe it is or not. Just look at Ubisoft’s DRM “success”. An exodus of 90% of your customers should never be called a success and yet they genuinely believed it was.
Subject: Systems | November 7, 2012 - 05:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zotac, zbox ad06, zbox, SFF, htpc, barebones, APU, amd
Zotac has updated its small form factor ZBOX AD06 PC with a new AMD Accelerated Processing Unit that features a faster GPU portion and a dual core Zacate CPU that Zotac claims offers up to a 10% boost in performance versus the previous ZBOX.
On the outside, the ZBOX AD06 is approximately the size of a Mini-ITX motherboard, comes with a bundled VESA75/100 mount (to attach it to the back of your monitor), and features a number of ports. Internally, the ZBOX AD06 features an AMD E2-1800 APU with two CPU cores at 1.7GHz and a Radeon HD 7340 GPU. The “Plus” version bundles in 2GB of DDR3 memory and a 320GB hard drive, otherwise it is very much a bare-bones system that allows you to add your own storage.
External ports and connectivity options include:
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1 x SD card reader
- 2 x analog audio jacks
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
- 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
The Zotac AD06 also features a bundled media center remote that will work with Windows Media Center or XBMC. And thanks to the more powerful APU, it should work well as a low-cost home theater PC. Unfortuantely, there is no word on pricing or when the AD06 or AD06 Plus will be available for purchase.
You can find the full press release below.
Subject: Systems | November 6, 2012 - 03:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: wmc, htpc, echo windows media extender, ceton
The Ceton Echo is not a competitor to Roku or other streaming devices which hook you up to Netfix and other online sources, instead it competes against the XBox as a way to utilize Windows Media Center without having a PC as well as retrieving online sources. If you do have a PC, especially one with a TV Tuner then the Ceton Echo becomes even more powerful as you can use it to handle DVR duties as well as to stream content from your PC. Missing Remote just got this device in and will be testing it over the next few days to find out just how useful this device is; it will be available to the general public at the end of November.
"The XBOX 360 has ruled the Windows Media Center (WMC) extender market since it killed off third-party completion with the release of Windows Vista, but for many the brutish gaming console’s size, appetite for electricity, and unpleasant noise levels made it unwelcome in the A/V stack. With a lithe chassis, miserly power consumption, and a modern system-on-a-chip (SOC) offering the potential for proper HD file support the Ceton Echo could be just the thing to breathe fresh life into Microsoft’s aging platform. Our sample just arrived so it has not been run through the wringer yet, but since the hardware is set and pre-orders starting it is worth taking a look to getting a basic understanding of what the Echo has to offer. Check back later for our full review when the software is finalized."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Satellite TV Going Bonkers? Blame Your DECT Phone! @ TechARP
- Arctic MC101 review: HTPC in media player format @ Hardware.info
- Pulse-Eight Internal HDMI CEC Adapter Review @ MissingRemote
- LG Google TV @ AnandTech
- Pivos XIOS DS Media Player Review @ MissingRemote
- Asrock VisionX 321B @ Legion Hardware
- Mini-ITX Gaming HTPC: building the ultimate powerhouse @ XSReviews
Subject: Systems | November 6, 2012 - 01:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: system build
Even if The Tech Report's Systems Guide is in direct competition with our own Hardware Leaderboard, it is always nice to have a second opinion especially if you need some advice on Mobile Sidekicks. Their builds include the Econobox at roughly $600, the Sweet Spot at $1,000, the Editors Choice at $1,500, and the Double Stuff Workstation at $3,000 for those who need the ultimate machine. There are also alternative components offered for each of these builds so take a look through their recommendations and see if it inspires you.
"We've refreshed our famous system guide to account for AMD's new A- and FX-series processors, the latest GPU releases, and of course, the arrival of Windows 8."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Lenovo ThinkCentre M92z All-In-One Desktop PC @ SPCR
- Zotac ZBOX nano XS AD11 PLUS @ techPowerUp
- Calxeda ECX-1000 Benchmarks vs. Intel Atom, TI OMAP4 @ Phoronix
- DigitalStorm Bolt Gaming System Review: It's Little But It's Fierce @ AnandTech
- ASUS ET2220 review: 22-inch all-in-one with Windows 8 @ Hardware.info
- Calxeda EnergyCore ECX-1000 ARM Server @ Phoronix
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 26, 2012 - 02:46 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: windows 8, video, system build, live
Today at 3pm EDT we are going to be doing a live stream of a system build and Windows 8 installation on our PC Perspective Live! page. Won't you come and join us?
UPDATE: Did you miss the event? Well then, we have you covered with the replay of the two and a half hour stream right here!
Sorry, no, I won't be doing it blindfolded this time...
If you are looking to learn how to build a PC, how the Windows 8 setup goes along with initial Windows 8 experiences, or just want to hang out during a lazy Friday, click on the link above or on the flashing radio tower to the left and join us!!
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | October 23, 2012 - 02:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: taichi, asus
ASUS has just officially announced their new TAICHI mobile computer which they are branding as both an Ultrabook and a Tablet. What differentiates this device is that it contains two 1080p touchscreens on either side of the laptop lid. When the lid is closed it is a tablet, when the lid is open it is a standard Ultrabook with a monitor facing away from the user.
The real difficulty is explaining use cases for potential buyers. Having done some high school teaching in the past the first usage which comes to mind is creating surveys and quizzes without a projector. Since a simple bar chart tends to have larger details it should be quite visible even on an 11.6” display. If you are teacher who tends to do a lot of “clicker” demonstrations it might be particularly useful as you would be able to modify the question on your screen and show the answer on the reverse.
In terms of a regular laptop it has quite a few nice features: Core i5 or i7 processor, an actual Intel HD 4000 GPU, USB3.0 for practically full-speed external drives, and a 128 or 256GB SSD. It is expected to have 5 hours of battery life when browsing the internet wirelessly. I am satisfied with 4GB of RAM but frankly these days it would be good to get a little more.
Prices start at $1,299 and go up to $1,599 for the i7 with a 256GB SSD. Availability starts November.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 19, 2012 - 05:14 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, saumsung, Ivy Bridge, Intel, clover trail, atom, ativ 700t, ativ 500t
Samsung is the latest company to announce its fleet of dock-able tablet computers running the full version of Windows 8. Launched under the ATIV Smart PC brand, the company is offering up two models depending on the amount of computing horsepower you need to get work done. Specifically, Samsung is launching the Series 5 ATIV Smart PC 500T and the Series 7 ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T. Both models will be available for purchase on October 26th for $749.99 and $1,199.99 respectively.
Samsung Series 5 Slate: ATIV Smart PC 500T
The Samsung Series 5, also known as the ATIV Smart PC 500T is a 11.6” tablet powered by Intel’s recently released Clover Trail-based Atom processor platform. It measures 11.6” x 7.2” x 0.38” and weighs 1.65 pounds.The tablet features a LED-backlit touchscreen display with a resolution of 1366x768. A 2.0 megapixel camera and dual 0.8W speakers are also included. The tablet itself can further be paired with a keyboard dock that has a full qwerty keyboard and touchpad.
Internal specifications include an Intel Atom Z2760 processor (running at 1.5 GHz and featuring dual cores with 256 KB each), 2GB of DDR2L memory, and a 64 GB solid state drive. Radios and networking gear includes 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. [The specifications sheet further claims Gigabit LAN support but there does not appear to be any Ethernet jacks on the tablet so I’m assuming it’s solely marketing to say that it supports connecting to a Gigabit LAN (over Wi-Fi)...] The 500T is powered by a two cell, 30 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery.
The external IO ports include a micro HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port, a combination headphone/mic jack, a microSD card slot, and a docking connector.
The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T will come pre-loaded with the 32-bit version of Windows 8. The tablet itself is $649.99 and with the keyboard dock, it will be $749.99.
Samsung Series 7: ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T
If you need more computing power, Samsung is offering up its newest Series 7 slate, the ATIV 700T. This tablet is slightly thicker than the 500T at 11.6” x 7.2” x 0.5”. It is also a bit heavier at 1.89 pounds versus 1.65 pounds with the 500T. That tradeoff in size nets you significantly better hardware, however. It features a LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1920x1080. It further includes the same 1.6W (2 x 0.8W) stereo speakers, but adds a second 8MP rear camera in addition to the 2MP front facing webcam.
Internally, the 700T is packing an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5-3317U processor. This chip is a dual core part with HyperThreading for a total of four threads along with 3 MB of L3 cache. The 700T features 4 GB of DDR3 at 1600MHz and a 128GB solid state drive. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi also comes standard. The 700T also has a larger 4 cell Li-Po battery (rated at 49 Wh) to power the faster Intel processor.
External IO includes one micro HDMI, one USB 3.0, a combination headphone/mic jack, docking connector, and a micro SD card slot.
The Series 7 ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T comes bundled with a dock as standard and it has a starting price of $1,199.99. It will come pre-loaded with the 64-bit version of Windows 8.
Read more about Windows 8 convertible tablets at PC Perspective.
Subject: Systems | October 15, 2012 - 08:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ALUSA Atom Desktop, linux
While the Atom processor does not have a good reputation here at PC Perspective as far as its ability to provide enough power for most peoples usage, Phoronix might have a different take on a tiny Atom powered computer. After all, Linux has a reputation of needing less system resources than a Windows box, so perhaps the benefits of a tiny 190 x 135 x 25 mm system outweigh any possible performance issues on a customized Ubuntu installation, called ALUSA 12.04 OS. You may not be surprised to find out that while the system did boot properly out of the box and all the hardware was properly supported, the lack of power especially the maximum resolution limit of 1366x768 was enough to turn Phoronix off of this device. There is a newer model they hope to test in the future.
"For the past several weeks I have been testing out the ALUSA Atom Desktop with Linux. As implied by the name it's an Intel Atom powered desktop/nettop computer, but this Atom system comes out of Portugal from a small Linux-focused start-up company."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Giada i53 Mini PC @ Tweaktown
- Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 review: finally a good touch-screen PC @ Hardware.info
- PC Specialist Vanquish 670XM Gaming System @ Kitguru
- Asus Z9 PE-D8 WS / Dual Xeon E5 2687W / 64GB Kingston DDR3 @ Kitguru
- Intel's Haswell Architecture Analyzed: Building a New PC and a New Intel @ AnandTech
- Lenovo ThinkCentre M92 USFF review: Professional mini-system @ hardware.info
- Lenovo IdeaCentre A7 All-in-One Review: Starting to Get The Balance Right @ AnandTech
- Toshiba LX835-D3230 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Dell OptiPlex 9010 All-in-One Review: Dell's All-in-One Goes Enterprise @ AnandTech
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems | October 9, 2012 - 06:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, logitech
Earlier in the year I was in a discussion with a friend of mine about mechanical keyboards. His friend was certain that he owned a mechanical gaming keyboard and so I asked him which one. I stopped him the second he said, “Logitech”. They make several high quality keyboards but not one of them mechanical.
That will soon change when they introduce their mechanical G710+ gaming keyboard to the market.
The Scarecrow went to the Wizard of Oz to ask for a brain.
Logitech asked to remove their membrane-domes. Heels weren't the only things which clicked.
The G710+ keyboard contains Cherry MX Brown switches along with a full set of media keys, a handful of macro keys, and a number pad. While the brown switches tend to be fairly quiet on their own Logitech has also included damping O-rings under each keycap to make it even more silent than most large mechanical keyboard competitors.
The G710+ is also a white LED backlit keyboard with the option to customize brightness such that your movement keys are lit differently than the rest. This is designed to be a visual cue to lead your fingers back to the movement keys in a dark room.
Macro functionality on the G-keys can be programmed using Logitech drivers in the Lua scripting language. This driver is available for Windows Vista through Windows 8 - sorry to the Windows XP holdouts of the world.
The G710+ is expected to retail for $149.99 in the U.S. (and Canada I believe) this month with Europe expected to ship in December.
Xi3, a company owned by ISYS Technologies Inc, has turned to popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter for its latest project. Xi3 is aiming to raise $250,000 by October 28 to produce two new modular computers: the X3A and X7A. Both units measure 4.27" x 3.65" x 3.65" and are slated for release in early 2013.
The X3A Xi3 is a power efficient business and general computing machine. It will pack a dual core processor running at 1.65GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and 32GB of solid state storage. That storage can further be upgraded to up to 1TB. Rear I/O of the X3A includes two USB 3.0 ports, four eSATA ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and one Gigabit Ethernet jack. Xi3 expects the base level model to retail for under $500 and use a mere 18 Watts of power.
The X7A on the other hand is meant to be a workhorse and gaming machine. Specs include a quad core processor running at up to 3.2GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, up to 1TB of solid state storage, and a GPU with at least 384 shaders. This machine will support triple monitor configurations and will use around 40 Watts. Rear I/O includes four USB 3.0, four USB 2.0, four eSATA, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. This machine will allegedly be capable of playing the latest games, including Crysis 2. It has an expected shipping date of early 2013 and with prices starting at $1,000.
Personally, I like the blue colored model.
At time of writing, Xi3 has raised $24,613 from 55 backers – and has 24 days left to reach its goal. I'm interested to see whether or not Xi3 will actually be able to pull off a gaming machine in that small of a form factor. You can find more information about the X3A and X7A modular computers on Kickstarter..
Subject: Systems | October 2, 2012 - 07:38 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: maingear, kepler, Ivy Bridge, gtx 680m, gaming laptop
Maingear is a company that seemingly ascribes to the “go big or go home” motto, and nowhere is that sentiment made clearer than its latest gaming notebook: the Nomad 17.
Perhaps, the term “notebook” is a bit of an understatement here. The Nomad 17 is a 16.85” x 11.34” x 2.17” gaming notebook that packs the latest and greatest mobile technology into a package that is sure to give your back a workout should you attempt to use this beast as your daily driver (as someone that has attempted such a feat, I can attest to that heh). The Nomad 17 starts at $1,599 and goes up from there, but you do get a lot of hardware for the money.
An Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3840QM is the highest end CPU you can add, and it is also loaded out with either a NVIDIA GTX 675M or the GTX 680M graphics card and Optimus graphics switching technology. In addition, the Nomad can be configured with either two 512GB SSDs or two 750GB mechanical hard drives in a RAID O or RAID 1 array. The gaming laptop also does not skimp on RAM, allowing up to 32GB of DDR3 running at 1600MHz.
On the outside, you are getting a backlit keyboard, multitouch touchpad, and large 17” LED backlit display with matte anti-glare coating and a resolution of 1920x1080. On the audio front, it supports the THX TruStudio Pro audio codec and sports two speakers and a subwoofer by DynAudio. Connectivity options include a SD card reader, 6x Blu-ray burner/8x DVD writer optical drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. External IO ports include one HDMI, one DVI, three USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, one Firewire, one optical audio out (S/PDIF), one Gigabit Ethernet/RJ45 port, and one RJ-11 port (of all things). Also, it features analog audio outputs, eSATA, and a VGA output.
The Nomad 17 with come pre-loaded with the 64-bit versions of either the Windows 7 Home, Premium, or Ultimate operating system.
But, the big reveal for gamers wanting to show off their gaming hardware is this: the Nomad 17 will be available in one of six custom, hand painted designs using glossy automotive paint.
The Nomad 17 is available now, and starts at $1,599. When decked out with the Core i7-3840QM, 4GB GTX 680M, 32GB system RAM, and two 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs (in RAID 0) mentioned above, the system total came out to $3,802. At that price, serious gamers only need apply, but is still an awesome piece of gaming technology nonetheless. Maingear has definitely packed the 17” laptop to the max with hardware.
You can find more photos of the Nomad 17 over at the Maingear website.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 2, 2012 - 04:44 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, silent pc, passive cooling, asus, APU, amd
AMD officially launched its desktop Trinity APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) today, and along with the new processors are a number of new socket FM2 motherboards to support them. One of the cooler motherboard and Trinity APU pairings was shown off today in a completely silent PC by ASUS and AMD in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, Japan.
The silent system is nested inside a Streacom FC5 chassis that does double duty as a case and heatsink for the AMD APU. Inside the system is an unidentified power supply, two DDR3 DIMMS, Corsair Force SSD, ASUS F2A85-M PRO motherboard, and – of course – the AMD A10-5700K APU that we recently reviewed.
The APU is covered by an aluminum and copper block that is then connected to the metal case via four heatpipes. Then, the outside of the case has a finned design to provide more cooling surface area (but likely just to make it look cooler, heh).
This passively cooled system would make for a really nice home theater PC case, and the GPU prowess of the Trinity APU is well suited to such a task. You can find more photos of the fan-less Trinity system over at FanlessTech.
What do you think of Trinity, and will you be using it in your next build?
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 29, 2012 - 11:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows Store, windows 8, censorship
And by the way -- Windows Store will censor apps. More on that later.
So around the same time as my future of Windows editorial became published PC Mag published a related piece: Notch from Mojang outrages over certification for Windows Store. Mojang voiced his concerns for the platform and its attempts to “ruin the PC as an open platform.”
I have, and continue to, claim that Microsoft appears to want to close the Windows platform in a near-future revision of the platform. Once there is enough software available through Windows Update and Windows Store it seems highly likely that Microsoft will remove all other ways on to your device -- as they have done with Windows RT. The concept of a cross-device, controlled, and secure platform is just too tempting.
Loyal, but not stupid.
But backwards compatibility is not the only concern with going metro. Everything must be certified.
Indeed - as of the latest July 2012 certification requirements for Windows Store - Microsoft will predictably be censoring applications just as they do with the Xbox. Section 5.8 and 6.2 of the aforementioned certification requirements clearly state: applications must not contain excess or gratuitous profanity and applications must also not contain adult content. Of course this is aimed squarely at the various niches of adult
graphic novels (correction: I apparently meant visual novels, not graphic novels - but I'm sure those would not be let on the Windows Store either) and similarly themed interactive content and the message is clear: get out and stay out.
I can think of a couple of countries where that will not fly.
To be fair Microsoft has addressed the issue in the very same section with the following clause:
We understand that in some cases, apps provide a gateway to retail content, user generated content, or web based content. We classify those apps as either Storefront apps, whose primary function is to aggregate and sell third party media or apps, or Streaming apps, whose primary function is to aggregate and stream web-based images, music, video or other media content. In some cases, it may be acceptable for a Storefront or Streaming app to include some content that might otherwise be prohibited in a single purpose app.
The clause functionally means: “Yeah we know web browsers cannot prevent themselves from surfing to the wrong side of the internet’s metaphorical tracks. This is not an excuse to ban them.” It also does not limit the censorship that Microsoft is clearly imposing.
And frankly the issue is not even with adult content; the issue is with the certification itself. We are at a point where Microsoft seems to want us to accept and migrate to their closed platform where everything is certified.
But what if future certification seriously limits or disables 3rd party modifications to software like attempted with Games for Windows Live? What if Microsoft decides to charge developers tens of thousands of dollars just to certify a patch? These are all serious issues to think about.
While you are thinking - consider a plan to simply ditch the Windows platform altogether and go with an open platform we can actually trust.
Subject: Systems | September 26, 2012 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: synergy, maingear, Ivy Bridge, gtx 680, cablecard, AIO
Custom PC manufacturer Maingear took the wraps off of its latest all in one computer today, and it features some impressive specifications for an AiO system. As the release of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system approaches, Maingear is gearing up support by introducing a system with desktop specifications and a large 24” touchscreen display with the new Alpha 24 Super Stock.
On the outside, the matte black Alpha 24 all in one has a prominent 24” glossy touchscreen display running at 1920x1080 resolution. Above the screen is a webcam. There are ports along the left side of the bezel and ventilation slits for the HSF on the back.
What makes the Alpha 24 interesting is all the hardware that the company has managed to pack inside the monitor-sized form factor. Internally, you will find a mini-ITX motherboard with Intel Core i7 3770K Ivy Bridge processor, and up to 16GB of DDR3 laptop RAM, 256GB Crucial M4 mSATA SSD, 3TB mechanical hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 graphics card (GTX 650 and GTX 670 GPUs are also options). The Alpha 24 also features 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, with an optional Bigfoot Killer Wireless add-on card. Not bad at all for an all in one system!
Maingear is further pushing the multimedia and home theater PC aspects of the Alpha 24. An internal DVD or Blu-ray optical drive can be added, for example. Also interesting is the inclusion of an optional CableCARD tuner that will allow the Alpha 24 to tune into encrypted cable TV stations and act as a DVR using software like Windows Media Center. Unforunately, details on the specific tuner they are offering were not given in the press release. The Alpha 24 can also act as a monitor for external video sources connected over HDMI, such as a game console or another computer.
Maingear did not skimp on the I/O either for the claimed “no compromises” Alpha 24. Internal expansion slots include two mini PCI-E and one PCI-E x16 slot (for the GPU). External connectivity options include three USB 2.0 ports, a SD card reader, mic in/audio out jacks, and space for a single slim optical disc drive along the right edge of the display. Ports along the left edge of the display include the graphics card's video outputs – 1x DVI, 1x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort – two S-Video connectors, power jack, Gigabit LAN, HDMI output, two USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, optical audio output, and analog audio jack. The back of the Alpha 24 hosts a VGA and HDMI input along with antenna connectors.
Also, the internals are user serviceable and things like the GPU can easily be upgraded, according to the company – allowing for future upgrading to keep the system relevant. Maingear CEO Wallace Santos stated the following in the company's press release.
“In this day and age, there shouldn’t be a reason anyone would need to compromise for an all-in-one performance PC. Other all-in-one PC solutions pale in comparison to the ALPHA 24 and can be summed up with just a few words: 1080p gaming set to Ultra, maxed anti-aliasing and tessellation.”
Currently, the Alpha 24 has an MSRP starting at $1,349 for the base model. It will ship with Windows 7 x64, however it should be available pre-loaded with Windows 8 later next month following the Windows 8 release.
All in all, the Maingear Alpha 24 looks like a decent computer for the price, though you are paying a bit of a premium for the all in one form factor versus going with a traditional desktop – and building a PC yourself by following the PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard. So long as the reviews come back stating that build quality is good, it is definitely an interesting machine if you are limited to OEM options and don’t want a tower sitting under your desk – the CableCARD tuner option is also a nice touch.
You can find more photos of the Alpha 24 over at the Maingear website.
What do you think about this system, enough future upgrade-ability to sway you away from a traditional tower PC?
Subject: Systems | September 21, 2012 - 03:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, hdtv, guide
Missing Remote posted something a little different but perfect for their niche, a compendium of links to shared calendars in which you can find the broadcast times of every show on a wide variety of channels. The links are either shared Google calendars or ICS links which are compatible with most calendar applications. Never miss a TV show again, even if your guide is on the fritz or you are setting up a recording remotely.
"Missing Remote is proud to have many writers that are avid television watchers. When we were looking around for a list of shows and their start dates we found just those--list after list, so we have done the hard work for you and compiled these lists into shareable Google calendar with internet view or you can download and use it. Make sure you subscribe or come back, as we will be updating these all season. If you are like us and prefer to schedule only when it shows up on the guide, you will be watching this list daily when you can add your new shows up to 14 days in advance. We have made HTML links to look at the Google Calendar links and you can subscribe through that link, or ICS which is read by many of the popular desktop calendar applications, and you can subscribe to them through there"
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- 12 micro-ATX round-up: compact chassis @ Hardware.info
- How to Access Region-Locked Online Content From Anywhere @ Techspot
- Pivos XIOS DS Media Play! Network Media Player Review @ NikKTech
- Mi Casa Verde Vera Home Automation Controller - VeraLite Review @MissingRemote
Subject: Systems | September 17, 2012 - 01:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: micro ATX, llano, htpc, gigabyte, GA-A55M-DS2, amd, a8-3870K
If you are on a tight budget and can't afford the cost of a Llano based notebook, or simply just don't want a mobile PC then Legit Reviews can help you out with their new system build guide. For just under $300, shipping included, they will show you how to set up an A8-3870K based system on Gigabyte's GA-A55M-DS2 motherboard, 4GB DDR3-1333 and an OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB SATA II SSD along with an optical drive and a micro ATX case. It won't win any overclocking awards but it has enough outputs to make a decent HTPC system and will handle light gaming duties thanks to the integrated graphics on the A8-3870K
"Are you looking to build a budget PC, but have a limited budget to work with? We have had a number of readers and businesses that we consult with looking for new systems that will save power and be faster than the systems they currently have. When we started to look into low cost Do-It-Yourself (DIY) systems we found that you could easily build an AMD Llano system for less than $300. And when we say under $300 we mean with shipping included! You would think that for under $300 we would have to cut corners and use knock off brands, but that is not the case here. We are using the top of the line AMD A8-3870K APU and an OCZ Vertex Plus R2 60GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) into this system. The one corner that we did cut is..."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Giada Mini PC i35G Review @ Madshrimps
- Midrange System Buyer's Guide @ AnandTech
- DinoPC Predator Extreme 3570K OC @ Kitguru
- Building the 2012 AnandTech SMB / SOHO NAS Testbed @ AnandTech
- HP Pavilion 23-1000z Review @ TechReviewSource
- Vizio CA27-A1 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Lenovo IdeaCentre K430 Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2012 - 09:34 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mineral oil, Intel
Intel has been dunking servers in oil for the last year and found the practice to be both safe and effective. Ironically it has been almost a year since we played around with mineral oil cooling – and when we did – we did not want to upgrade or fix anything. Intel agrees.
Intel inside, slick mess outside.
Often cooling a computer with a radiant that is not air focuses on cooling a handful of specific components and leaving the rest exposed to air. Gigabyte in their recent live presentation showed how the company reduced waste heat on the motherboard as it delivers power to the CPU as the latter likely receives more cooling than the former. With mineral oil you are able to more efficiently cool the entire system by immersing it in a better coolant than air.
This still makes Ken wake up in a cold sweat… is what we convince ourselves.
After a full year of testing servers, Intel has decided that oil immersion cooling should be utilized by more server hosts to cut costs over traditional air conditioning. In their test they used heat sinks which were designed for air and dunked them pretty much unmodified into the mineral oil dielectric. Apart from the mess of it – Intel engineers always carried cleaning cloths just in case – Intel seems to only sing praise for results of their study.
Of course Intel could not help but promote their upcoming Phi platform which you may know as the ancestor of Larabee.
Now the real question is whether Intel just wanted to shamelessly plug themselves – or whether they are looking so closely at alternative cooling solutions as a result of their upcoming Phi platform. Will we eventually see heat dissipation concerns rear their heads with the new platform? Could Intel either be sitting on or throttling Phi because they are waiting for a new heat dissipation paradigm?
Could be interesting.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | September 10, 2012 - 05:50 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd caching, ssd, Hard Drive
Western Digital has been sampling 5mm-thin 2.5” hard drives designed for Ultrabooks. They have currently announced partnerships with Acer and ASUS to include these drives in future ultrathin laptops. Western Digital has currently only listed capacities of 500GB for the spindle portion of the drive but no word how much MLC flash will be included to cache most used files. The product will be discussed during the company’s investor day on the 13th of this month.
At this stage SSDs are pretty much the missing link to a fast and responsive computer.
Prices have dropped to under one dollar per gigabyte ($1/GB) a few months ago with some models reaching 70c/GB – and those are the good ones too. The massive drop in price is still about an order of magnitude more expensive than spindle hard drives and consumers are using whatever space they can get. Several solutions exist to balance the speed of SSDs with the storage effectiveness of HDDs.
One solution is to include both in a single drive and keep the most used data in the SSD cache. Western Digital has just released samples of 5mm-thin hybrid hard drives for OEMs to put in extremely thin laptops.
I wonder if they're feeling chip-er...
Users who purchase laptops often have the mistaken assumption that a faster processor directly leads to increased response. That is certainly the case when comparing an Intel Atom to an i5 – but an i3 will probably spend just as much time idle and awaiting instructions from the hard drive as an i5 would.
Western Digital has not broken the SSD market despite their long success with spindle storage. It makes sense that Western Digital will push into the market with the starting point from which they are most comfortable. Western Digital has been shipping SSDs for over two-and-a-half years at this point but never really gained any traction.
It looks like Western Digital is realizing that they need to mix SSDs with what they know best and do something innovative to get a unique hook in the market – buying just a little more time.
The drive which has been announced today will contain a storage capacity of 500GB with an undisclosed amount of MLC NAND flash memory caching the most used data. The hook to differentiate themselves from other hybrid hard drives is its size: 5mm compared to the more common 9.5mm.
The Ultrabook market could be a lucrative wave to ride for the time being and give them even more capital to invest future SSDs. Hopefully they will not wait for solid state storage to creep up on them twice. Fool you once…
Western Digital is expected to discuss and showcase this product more at their Western Digital Investor Day on this Thursday, September 13th, 2012.
Subject: Systems | September 5, 2012 - 06:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
ASUS has just launched a new prorgam with popular system builders like Puget Systems and CyberPower to give enthusiasts the ability to order a system built around ASUS parts, not just for the branding but also for the theoretical compatibility between the components. Since ASUS makes such a wide variety of components these systems will include motherboards, graphics cards and sound cards on the interior as well as gaming headsets, monitors and even routers will all be sold as a package by these boutique outlets. You can also expect to see some savings on these parts compared to retail as well as the customizations you would expect from high end system builders. The PR is below and you can head straight to the new Powered By ASUS site here.
Fremont, California (September 5, 2012) - Working closely with its custom system integration partners, ASUS today formally launched its Powered by ASUS (PBA) program in North America. Powered by ASUS brings consumers familiar with the performance, design and reliability of ASUS components together with trusted system integrators. This program creates a new category of build-to-order PCs offering unique configurations that are stability tested and performance optimized with class leading ASUS components.
Timothy Lin, Director of Product Management at ASUS summed up the reasoning behind the new program by explaining “There are a lot of hardware enthusiasts and ASUS fans out there that do not build their own PCs, but want additional performance and features typically not available in off-the-shelf systems. Recognizing this opportunity we worked closely with the system integrators in developing the Powered by ASUS program. This unique program offers consumers the ability to custom configure a system utilizing a wide variety of high-quality ASUS components.”
System integrators that participate in the Powered by ASUS program offer custom configurations utilizing multiple ASUS components. The expansive list of available ASUS components includes motherboards, graphics cards, sound cards, optical disc drives, headsets, wireless routers, USB wireless adapters and monitors. ASUS encourages system integrators to utilize various hardware combinations based on their customers’ needs. This program highlights not only the benefits of using multiple ASUS components together in one system, but also the capabilities and expertise of each authorized system builder.
Strong Support From Partners
North American custom system integrators expressed strong support for the Powered by ASUS program:
“ASUS has created a unique program that showcases their commitment to the industry by offering consumers more choices. Combining the ASUS brand promise with its wide range of products, the Powered by ASUS program can change the way consumers seek custom PCs. We applaud ASUS for moving the industry forward!” – Tim Chen, General Manager, iBUYPOWER
“We are honored to be a launch partner of the Powered by ASUS program. It allows us to offer configurations that are focused on design and innovation that make sense and provide lasting performance. It represents an important milestone in custom PCs and should encourage more consumer considerations.” – Eric Cheung, CEO, CyberPower
“ASUS motherboards have been our default choices for many years thanks to their superb engineering and rock solid reliability. The Powered by ASUS program takes our commitment to building cutting-edge PCs one step further by allowing consumers to experience more ASUS product innovations. We are excited to be a launch partner of PBA.” – Kelt Reeves, President, Falcon Northwest
“Our hand crafted systems would not be top shelf without ASUS motherboards found behind the rest of our carefully selected hardware. Even before our inception we've recognized the commitment ASUS has made to the industry to provide truly innovative, stable and performance dominant hardware. It is an honor to be a launch partner with the Powered by ASUS program, and we applaud ASUS for seeking to share an ecosystem of innovative products through its customer experience driven partners. – Adrian Hunter, CEO, Geekbox Computers
To celebrate the launch of Powered by ASUS, during the month of September customers that purchase qualifying systems from authorized system builders will receive a complimentary, award-winning Xonar DSX sound card built into their system - a $59.99 USD value.
To learn more about Powered by ASUS, go to http://pba.asus.com. System configurations and ASUS components available are subject to change at any time.