Sony Sells VAIO to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 6, 2014 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: sony vaio, sony

Oh look, something that was not purchased by Lenovo.

Sony has decided to sell its VAIO brand to Japanese Industrial Partners (JIP). Sony has been developing computers under thO brand since the mid 90's. While never a top-five player in the industry, they had a significant presence in stores and in the possession of people I bumped into on a day-to-day basis. The division was apparently in the red. It currently employs 1,000 people, of which 250-300 are expected to be hired with this deal.

sony-Vaio.svg_.png

Whether the rest will be laid off or reshuffled within Sony remains to be seen.

As for Sony, they hope to focus on smartphones and tablets. They had a significant presence at last month's CES where they brought multiple Xperia models. VAIO also had its share of the attention though, so I guess that really does not mean much.

The acquisition is expected to complete near the end of July.

Source: The Verge

ZOTAC Combines 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640

Subject: Systems | February 5, 2014 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: htpc, zotac, ZBOX ID45, gt 640

HONG KONG – Feb. 5, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today combines the power of 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 processing with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics to create the ultimate 4K ready HTPC. The new ZBOX ID45 series delivers the perfect synergy of energy-efficiency and high-quality video processing in a compact form factor.

“ZOTAC has always married the capabilities of energy-efficient Intel processors with incredible NVIDIA GeForce graphics since the first ZBOX shipped with NVIDIA ION,” said Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International. “The latest ZBOX ID45 series pushes that synergy even further with greater performance while maintaining excellent energy-efficiency.”

ZBOX ID45-17.jpg

The NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics enhances the video playback capabilities of the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series with high-quality HD processing and 4K video decode capabilities for a superior HTPC experience. An Intel Core i3 3227U processor delivers outstanding CPU performance with dual processor cores and Intel HyperThreading technology for unmatched multitasking responsiveness and quick video transcoding capabilities.

Dual Gigabit Ethernet enables excellent wired networking capabilities for redundant connectivity or to transform the ZBOX ID45 series into a high-performance network router. Wireless 802.11ac networking technology delivers a wireless experience that’s comparable to wired Ethernet on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series.

The ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series ships as a barebones and as a PLUS version with 4GB DDR3 and 500GB hard drive preinstalled. Users can install a variety of operating systems on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series including Windows 7, 8 and OpenELEC.

General details

  • ZOTAC Combines 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640
  • New ZBOX ID45 series Intel Core i3 3227U 1.9 GHz, dual-core, 3MB L2 cache
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB DDR3
  • PLUS models available with 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD
  • HDMI, DVI-I and VGA (with included adapter) outputs 4K video decoding
  • High quality HD video processing
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0 w/ external WiFi antenna
  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet Bundled
  • VESA75/100 mount

ZBOX ID45-PLUS-14.jpg

Source: Zotac

The ASUS Chromebox Will Be Available in March

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 4, 2014 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: Chromebox, asus

Often, people purchase a device with the intent of running a web browser on it. I understand the appeal of Joshtekk.com and we can all relate to the desire for it to have a dedicated machine. Google, through Chrome OS, targets this market with a line of laptops dedicated to web browsing. They are effective against virulent infections, a useful feature for casual Joshtekk encounters, with its limited native applications and simple recovery process.

The ASUS Chromebox will try to be your Joshtekk desktop.

ASUS-Chromebox-hero.jpg

ASUS is, by no means, first to this market. Samsung had a couple of Chromebox models almost two years ago. That said, the ASUS Chromebox will start at $179 USD (which is much cheaper than Samsung's $329 offering). The base model will contain an Intel Celeron 2955U processor (the aforementioned Samsung packed a Celeron B840), which is not a high-performance processor, but may suffice for your web browsing needs. If not, an Intel Core i3 model has also been announced but I do not have pricing to relay about that one. A Core i7-4600U version may or may not surface, as well. Its graphics will support options up to an Intel HD 4400.

One feature that is unexpected is its video outputs. The ASUS Chromebox supports both HDMI and DisplayPort connections for dual monitors and 4K. Given that this is a 5-inch by 5-inch (and fanless) design, with access to Netflix and other streaming services, it could make a good replacement for a "smart TV".

The ASUS Chromebox will be available in March starting at $179 USD. This price comes with 100GB of Google Drive space, free for 2 years. Also free: a VESA mount kit to, I believe, attach the Chromebox to the back of an HDTV.

If interested, read on for the press release.

Source: ASUS

GIGABYTE BRIX Has AMD Discrete Graphics (R9 M275X)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 28, 2014 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte brix, gigabyte, amd

If you feel a little déjà vu while reading this, it is because this system is identical to the MAINGEAR SPARK. Both devices are powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU backed with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X mobile discrete GPU. They even use the same case with the same color scheme. The only difference that I could find is the MAINGEAR logo on the front versus the GIGABYTE logo on the top. I think we could safely say that both devices are made at the same place. I expect that GIGABYTE was the OEM for MAINGEAR's Steam Machine.

gigabyte-brix-gaming_hero.jpg

Check out Tim's post about the SPARK.

Check out GIGABYTE's product page for the BRIX Gaming.

When Tim published his post about the SPARK for CES, back on January 6th, little was known about the R9 M275X (beyond its 2GB of GDDR5). That is still the case. AMD has not said anything further about the mobile GPU. The press release from GIGABYTE claims that it will support DirectX 11.1 (which implies it will not support DirectX 11.2) and OpenGL 4.1 (which implies a lack of support for OpenGL 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4). GIGABYTE also claims that it will support "the latest OpenCL 1.1 standard" (which implies lack of support for OpenCL 1.2).

I seriously doubt that this is true.

gigabyte-brix-gaming_back.jpg

I cannot see AMD regressing that heavily on API compatibility. OpenGL 4.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 6000M (laptop) series. OpenCL 1.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 7000M (laptop) line. One of the main features of OpenCL 1.2 is the ability share resources with DirectX 11 (OpenCL 1.1 shares with DirectX 10). In fact, I cannot find a single chip that AMD produced which supports OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL 1.1 and fails to support OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2.

I would not trust GIGABYTE's press release when it comes to the R9 M275X.

Still nothing on pricing and availability for the GIGABYTE BRIX Gaming. Its product code will be the "GB-BXA8G-8890", which totally rolls off the tongue, so we have that going for us. It is a very interesting device. I wonder if we will see it, and other BRIX entries, find their way into the catalogs of other system builders.

Source: GIGABYTE

Shuttle updates their Barebone system for Haswell

Subject: Systems | January 27, 2014 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: shuttle, XPC Barebone, SZ87R6

Shuttle has updated their XPC Barebone system with Haswell parts.  At 332x261x198mm (13x10.2x7.8") it is not the smallest chassis on the market but is small enough to fit in most spaces and with a style that would not look out of place among stereo components.  It ships with a Z87 motherboard and a 500W PSU as well as a custom CPU cooler but you get to pick and choose which components you will be putting in this machine, it is a Barebone system after all.  MadShrimps put a full system together using this as the base and were impressed by the cooling performance and overall look of the system.

intro.png

"Shuttle has refreshed its latest XPC Barebone with a new configuration featuring the Z87 chipset, for allowing installation of the Intel Haswell processors and also features plenty of connectivity options. Thanks to the 500W power supply, we should not have a lot of issues when choosing a high performance video card, two 3.5’’ drives and a CPU with a rated TDP up to 95W."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

 

Source: MadShrimps

IBM Sells x86 Server Market to Lenovo

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 25, 2014 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, IBM, x86, servers

Lenovo will take (or purchase) the x86 torch away from IBM in the high-end server and mainframe market, too. The deal is worth $2.3 billion of which $2 billion will be cash, the remains will be paid to IBM in stock. IBM walked away from talks with Lenovo last year in a deal that was believed to be similar to this one.

Lenovo, famously, took over IBM's PC business in 2005.

lenovo-do.png

... which is increasingly not IBM.

x86-based servers have been profitable, even for IBM. This is yet another example of a large company with a desire to increase their margins at the expense of overall profits. This is similar to the situation with HP when they considered getting out of consumer devices. Laptops and desktops were still profitable but not as much as, say, an ink cartridge. Sometimes leaving money on the table tells a better story and that is okay. Someone will take it.

Lenovo will also become an authorized reseller of IBM cloud computing and storage solutions (plus some of their software). IBM will continue to operate their server and mainframe businesses based on their own architectures (such as Power and Z/Architecture).

Approximately 7,500 of IBM's current employees will be hired by Lenovo as a part of this agreement. Unfortunately, I do not know how many current employees are affected. 7,500 could be the vast majority of that workforce or only a small fraction of it. Hopefully this deal will not mean too many layoffs, if any at all.

Source: Ars Technica

SteamOS Beta Non-UEFI Support & Other Untested Features

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 22, 2014 - 01:27 AM |
Tagged: valve, SteamOS

When Valve launched SteamOS, it was definitely a beta product. Its installer prompted Ryan to make a troubleshooting video on our Youtube channel. It also apparently required a computer equipped with a UEFI which only became common about two or three years ago. It is also very difficult to install as a dual-boot configuration which complicates its coexistence with Windows (because Microsoft will certainly not support it from their end).

steam-os.png

Thankfully, most or all of these issues are being addressed in the latest beta SteamOS ISO... at your own risk. They are very careful to highlight that this beta has not been properly tested. Given that their initial release could nuke a random hard drive full of data, I would take that warning seriously.

These changes come from the project, "Ye Old SteamOSe". I am not sure that it solves the USB overwrite issue that we experienced (unless it was already fixed at some point) but I would expect that custom partitions and dual-boot would be impossible if that bug still existed. The highlighted features, according to the announcement's comments, are:

  • Non-EFI support
  • DVD install support
  • Custom partitions in Expert mode (cannot resize NTFS partitions).
  • Dual-boot in Expert mode.

If you would like to give SteamOS installation another shot, on a machine that you feel comfortable testing software with, then check out the Steam Universe thread.

HP: Save Your PC & $150 USD with Windows 7?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 21, 2014 - 03:39 AM |
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 7, hp

Windows 7 is not available to purchase at retail, officially, but system builders are still allowed to integrate it into their PCs until at least October. At the same time, Windows XP is nearing its end of life of April 8th (the day of its last security update). A third coincidence, modern Windows could easily be compared to modern art because it is made by someone who tells you what is legitimate and, when you actually attempt to admire it, makes no sense unless the designer explains everything.

HP took these three points as an opportunity.

hp-win7-promo.jpg

If you purchase from a set of select new desktop or laptops, HP will ship it with Windows 7 installed by default. On top of needing to physically choose Windows 8.1, the default Windows 7 install also comes with a $150 USD discount. The models are spread between Pavilion and Envy desktops and laptops.

I believe this is a very smart move for HP. You may soon have a mass of customers looking to replace expired devices and they may want the closest analogy to what they are used to. They will still have Windows 8-based options but they want to capitalize on anyone looking for something else.

Personally, trolling aside, I actually do not mind the interface of Windows 8.1. My only complaint is the reliance upon Windows Store and its potential future problems especially if it becomes the only way to install software. Could you imagine if someone like the NSA forced Microsoft to not certify encryption apps (or worse, tamper with them)? One of a million problems that mandatory certification, and the interest groups who abuse it, brings.

Source: HP

Corsair Quantifies the Benefits of Overclocking

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Memory, Systems | January 20, 2014 - 02:40 AM |
Tagged: corsair, overclocking

I rarely overclock anything and this is for three main reasons. The first is that I have had an unreasonably bad time with computer parts failing on their own. I did not want to tempt fate. The second was that I focused on optimizing the operating system and its running services. This was mostly important during the Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows Vista eras. The third is that I did not find overclocking valuable enough for the performance you regained.

A game that is too hefty to run is probably not an overclock away from working.

intelupgrade.jpg

Thankfully this never took off...

Today, overclocking is easier and safer than ever with parts that basically do it automatically and back off, on their own, if thermals are too aggressive. Several components are also much less locked down than they have been. (Has anyone, to this day, hacked the locked Barton cores?) It should not be too hard to find a SKU which encourages the enthusiast to tweak some knobs.

But how much of an increase will you see? Corsair has been blogging about using their components (along with an Intel processor, Gigabyte motherboard, and eVGA graphics card because they obviously do not make those) to overclock. The cool part is they break down performance gains in terms of raising the frequencies for just the CPU, just the GPU, just the RAM, or all of the above together. This breakdown shows how each of the three categories contribute to the whole. While none of the overclocks are dramatic, Corsair is probably proud of the 5% jump in Cinebench OpenGL performance just by overclocking the RAM from 1600 MHz to 1866 MHz without touching the CPU or GPU.

It is definitely worth a look.

Source: Corsair

Zotac Shows Off Spherical ZBOX 01520 SFF PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 12, 2014 - 03:08 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox 01520, zbox, SFF, CES 2014, CES

Zotac unveiled a number of products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas including several small form factor (SFF) PCs. In addition to the ZBOX Steam Machine, Zotac showed off a ZBOX 01520 computer in a spherical form factor. The ZBOX 01520 comes in bare-bones and PLUS SKUs, similar to the other, existing, Zotac ZBOX computers.

On the outside, the new PC is a small black orb with straight edges on the back and bottom to support it. Inside, Zotac has fitted a tiny motherboard, an Intel Core i3-4010U dual core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB), a spot for a single 2.5" hard drive. The motherboard further includes one mSATA slot for a solid state drive and wireless radios for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Zotac-ZBOX-01520.jpg

Greek tech site Tech Blog managed to snap photos of the new Zotac PC.

Rear IO on the ZBOX 01520 orb includes four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI video output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a single 4-1 card reader slot.

The bare-bones kit includes the motherboard, CPU, and case while the PLUS version adds 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard drive. Users can add their own mSATA drive for increased performance.

Beyond the basics, details are scarce on the new Zotac PC. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more details on the SFF PC as it becomes available.

Are you interested in the spherical ZBOX 01520?

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: TechBlog

Boutique PC Vendor Xidax Now Accepting Bitcoin Payments

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 9, 2014 - 03:10 AM |
Tagged: xidax, gaming pc, bitcoin

Xidax Performance PC, a new boutique PC vendor founded in early 2013 has announced that it is now accepting Bitcoin for payment of its custom-built gaming computers. Reportedly in response to customer demand, Xidax has added bitcoin to its payment options, which are available upon configuring a PC on the website.

Xidax.jpg

Xidax Executive Operations Officer Zack Shutt has stated the following in a press release:

“We will do whatever it takes to make custom PC buying easier and give Xidax customers more options,” said Shutt. “We’re intrigued by the growing bitcoin phenomenon and we are happy to provide bitcoin users an easy, secure way to order a custom built PC.”

The bitcoins are handled through a bitcoin payment processor where it can then be converted back to USD (as Xidax is a US-based company). It is interesting to see a PC vendor accepting Bitcoin as it is now possible to purchase an entire, custom built, PC from a major company using funds gathered from mining on a PC (albeit alt-coins converted to BTC or a stockpile of BTC from when GPU mining was still effective). More options are nice, and bitcoin does offer a secure way to pay free of high fees from the likes of Paypal and credit card processors.

What do you think about Xidax accepting bitcoin? Will it add more credibility and/or usefulness to the digital cryptocurrency?

Read more about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining @ PC Perspective.

Source: Xidax

Digital Storm Releases the Bolt II: Steam Machine!

Subject: Systems | January 7, 2014 - 05:08 AM |
Tagged: CES, steam os, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, small form factor, dual boot, Digital Storm, CES 2014, Bolt 2

Today Digital Storm has announced the Bolt 2 small form factor computer.  This little number is marketed as a “Steam machine”, and for very good reasons.  This particular number packs in quite a punch in a very small space.

b201.jpg

The custom designed case has a very effective and logical layout.  It really is quite small, but it is very strong and robust.  It can handle a micro-ITX board, multiple drives, and a dual slot graphics card.  The system I saw was decked out with a GTX 780 Ti along with the Intel i7 4770K.  It includes Digital Storm’s proprietary lighting and cooling module which of course controls the lighting… and cooling fan speed for the system.

Cooling is primarily based on the Corsair H100i dual fan unit.  This portion takes air from one side/top of the case (depending on orientation) and then vents it through the rest of the chassis.  The graphics card takes air from the other side of the case and routes it out the back.  This cooling solution allows a fair amount of overclocking to be attempted by the end user, but it does have limitations as compared to a larger system with more airflow.

b202.jpg

The design utilizes a 700 watt power supply, which is pretty impressive considering the space constraints that Digital Storm has to deal with.  A lot of work with partners has allowed them to include this very small unit with a pair of 30 mm fans at either end.  One would expect such fans to produce a LOT of noise.  This is happily not the case.  The design is good enough, and efficient enough, that at higher loads (including overclocking) it stays very quiet.

The system is very accessible, far more than most would expect.  Anyone that has worked on an older small form factor case will testify as to how annoying and contorted setting up hardware (or swapping it out) can be.  Digital Storm again took their time with the design to make sure that installation and the changing of components is as simple as possible.  A person armed with a screwdriver can get to any major component in a few seconds.  Swapping out the video card would take the amount of time of removing four screws, unplugging the power, and making sure not to rip out the PCI-E 16X ribbon connecting the card to the board.

b203.jpg

Prices for the unit start at $1500 and go above $2500, depending on component choices.  When Valve finalizes the Steam OS and has it ready for prime time, Digital Storm will be including the Steam controller with the build.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2014: CyberPowerPC Steam Machine Series Coming In 2H 2014

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 6, 2014 - 11:53 PM |
Tagged: steambox, steam os, Steam Machine, Cyberpower, CES 2014, CES

Today, CyberPowerPC announced its series of SteamOS-powered Steam Machines. Set to be available in the second half of this year, the Steam Machine series will come in several customizable models ranging in price from $499 to $699.

All models share a custom Steam Machine gaming case, a 500GB 7200RPM mechanical hard drive, 8GB of DDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz, Valve's Steam OS, and a bundled Steam Controller. From there, the systems differ by processor, graphics, and networking hardware.

CYBERPOWERPC Steam Machine.JPG

On the low end, the $499 CyberPowerPC Steambox is powered by a dual core AMD A6-6400K Richland APU clocked at 3.9GHz, a Radeon R9 270 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and a Mini-ITX motherboard with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support.

Stepping up to the $699 mark gets you Intel and NVIDIA hardware in the form of a dual core/quad threaded Intel Core i3-4330 CPU clocked at 3.5GHz and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The networking is also upgraded to 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

CyberPowerPC Steam Machine Specification List.png

The chassis is a white case with black front panel and green LEDs. A Valve logo is on the top of the case. It certainly has a gaming console look that should sit well in your entertainment center. The front of the case has three USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks. Personally, I look at the case and am reminded of classic cartridge-loading game consoles due to the cutout/depressed gray accent.

As always, stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information as it becomes available!

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: CyberPower

CES 2014: Gigabyte's New SFF BRIX Pro Comes With Iris Pro 5200 Graphics

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 6, 2014 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: SFF, iris pro, Intel, gigabyte, CES 2014, CES, brix pro, brix

Gigabyte is showing off a new small form factor BRIX-series PC at CES this week. This new BRIX Pro computer offers up desktop-level performance in a tiny form factor (approximately 4.2” width x 4.5” length x 2” height).

The BRIX Pro is available as a DIY kit that comes with a black or red chassis, choice of either Intel i7 4770R or Intel i5 4570R processor, mini PCI-E Wi-Fi card, and power adapter/cable. In addition to the CPU performance offered by the Haswell processor, the big news here is that the BRIX Pro ships with the processor-integrated Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200. This GPU is the high-end model that comes with 64MB of eDRAM. Considering how rare the Iris Pro GPU with embedded DRAM has been in desktop PCs, having it available in the BRIX platform is good news for enthusiasts!

Gigabyte BRIX Pro with Intel Iris 5200 Graphics.png.png

Gigabyte claims that the BRIX Pro is capable of 3D gaming and is compatible with content creation/production applications. Additionally, it can output 4K resolutions over HDMI thanks to the Iris Pro 5200 GPU (at least the desktop and video, most gaming is out at 4K).

From there, users can add their own memory, mSATA SSD, and 2.5” SATA III drive. There is a mPCIe slot as well, but it is used by the 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.0 card.

Gigabyte BRIX Pro Internals.png

Photo courtesy Allyn Malventano (PC Perspective).

External IO on the BRIX Pro includes two USB 3.0 ports and a combination analog headphone/digital S/PDIF jack on the front. On the back of the SFF PC, users have two USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet jack, one Mini DisplayPort output, one HDMI video output, a DC power input, and a Kensington lock.

Gigabyte has not revealed pricing or availability information, but it should be coming out sooner rather than later in 2014. When it does become available, there will be two models: the GB-BXi7-4770R and the GB-BXi5-4570R.

Gigabyte BRIX Pro SFF PC.png

Photo courtesy Allyn Malventano (PC Perspective).

The BRIX Pro looks to be a powerhouse for its size, though I am curious about the noise levels produced by the cooling fan needed to keep the high end processor cool. Overall though, the BRIX Pro looks to be a nice addition to the compact BRIX PC lineup, and I am looking forward to reviews of it. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information as it becomes available. 

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Gigabyte

CES 2014: Maingear Launches Tiny APU-Powered "Spark" Steambox PC

Subject: Systems | January 6, 2014 - 09:30 PM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, SteamOS, steambox, SFF, maingear, CES 2014, CES

Not content to let Digital Storm have all the fun with SteamOS, MAINGEAR has launched a small form factor SPARK Steambox PC! Clad in the traditional red and black colors of Maingear, the Spark is a stylish gaming system powered by an AMD APU that is about the size of an Intel NUC. Maingear is offering the system with Valve's Linux-based SteamOS as well as Microsoft's Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating systems. 

MG-Spark-hero.png

The Steambox PC measures 4.5" x 4.23" x 2.34" and weighs 0.98 pounds. The system has a vivid red and black design with large mesh vents on the sides and rear panel. IO includes two USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks on the front as well as one HDMI, one Mini DisplayPort, one Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports on the rear IO panel. The design is striking and likely to appeal to gamers though it may clash with your other A/V equipment in the entertainment center (which really comes down to personal tastes).

MG-Spark-ports.png

Despite the small size, Maingear has managed to pack a respectable amount of PC hardware into the Spark. The SFF Steambox is powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU (four threads) clocked at 2.1GHz base and 3.1GHz turbo along with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and up to 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory (two SO-DIMMs). Storage includes a single SATA III 6Gbps port (with room in the case for a single 2.5" drive) and one mSATA slot that supports SSDs up to 256GB. The Spark does support Gigabit Ethernet, but it also comes with a pre-installed Mini-PCIe card that provides 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz bands) and Bluetooth 4.0. Users will be able to customize the RAM and storage options, but the other specifications are not user-configurable.

MG-Spark-specs.png

The Maingear Spark will be available for purchase in late Q1 2014 for an as-yet-undisclosed price. For what it's worth, Maingear has stated that the tiny Spark gaming PC will an "affordable PC solution."

Personally, depending on price, I am interested in this steam machine as I rather like the aesthetics and the internal hardware should be sufficient for basic gameplay on the hardware itself and game streaming from my main desktop when that feature becomes available.

What do you think about Maingear's miniscule APU-powered Steam Machine?

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Maingear

CES 2014: Digital Storm Bolt II SFF Steam Machine

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: SteamOS, Digital Storm, CES 2014, CES

Another big expectation coming into CES, this year, was the announcement of Steam Machines. We have already seen a few announcements but most of those were just teasers of what is to come at the event. Unlike our fears with G-Sync, many of the products we have seen differ from one-another and attack specific niches. One attaches to the back of your TV while another is a pretty beefy system with a console price-tag.

Digital-Storm-Bolt-II.jpg

This one is another small form factor (SFF) machine that includes both SteamOS and Windows to access both libraries. The Digital Storm Bolt II goes after the high end with a factory-overclocked CPU and easily accessible (their claim, I cannot form an opinion without using it) graphics card, storage, optical drive, and cooling system. They do stress the cooling capabilities of their SFF design so it would seem that was their development priority.

I am somewhat confused about the default dual-install, however. Everything special about SteamOS will be ported to the Steam Client so the main advantage of leaving Windows would be to access Linux-exclusive games. That does not seem like much of a market at least for the moment. I expect that, unless Microsoft completely blows away their own foot, anything that comes out for SteamOS will also be released on Windows. I would expect this feature to come much further down the line. It is certainly not a bad thing, however, apart from a little recovered harddrive space.

Apparently the device will be available soon, this month, with an $1899 MSRP.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

(ZDNet) Windows 7 End-of-Life Dates

Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 8, 2013 - 11:14 PM |
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 7

Users of Windows 7, current and planned, have a few dates to remember. First, as of October 30th, Microsoft has stopped selling retail (boxed) packages of that operating system. Second, OEMs can continue to sell systems with Windows 7 preloaded for a year after that date (October 30th, 2014). Third, the operating system will receive typical updates until January 13th, 2015. Fourth, security fixes will be provided until January 14th, 2020. Oddly, Microsoft's website disagrees with Mary Jo Foley's timeline; I expect it might just be out of date.

Windows XP is creeping towards the oblivion as April slowly arrives. The 8th of that month marks the end of security updates and other forms of utter chaos for machines with a vibrant green Start button. With Microsoft essentially turning a blind eye to unpatched exploits, it will become progressively more unsafe to use XP except in well controlled (virtualized, firewalled, etc.) instances.

Windows8TheEndLogo.png

But, according to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft will not sell them a retail copy of the Windows 7 any more (as of October 30th, 2013). The official Windows Product Lifecycle guide, however, still lists this date as "To be determined". Either Microsoft is very slow (updating their warning website after the date passes) or it was a much softer deadline than the editorial claims. Most of the Amazon product pages are for third party resellers, except for Windows 7 Pro Full, so it might just be clearing stock. Who knows.

OEMs will have a much easier time, however. Microsoft will continue allowing them to sell Windows 7 with new PCs for another year, until October 30th 2014. Again, this date is unlisted from the Windows Product Lifecycle guide.

It will all need to come to an end at some point though. Windows XP lost mainstream support back in April 14th, 2009; the same will come of Windows 7 in a little over a year: January 13th, 2015. That said, beyond new versions of Internet Explorer, Windows 7 has not been receiving too many updates as it stands. With DirectX now considered a core feature of Windows, the last couple of revisions are exclusive to the latest release. We still have Firefox and Chrome when they pull IE from our cold dead hands. I feel weird writing this...

The most devastating date, which XP users are about to face, is the end of extended support. Come January 14th, 2020, Microsoft will not longer provide security updates. Users of Windows 7 will need to be extra cautious and only deploy it in well controlled environments.

Like for me, if Microsoft continues going down the Windows Store path, a VM on a Linux machine.

Source: ZDNet

PiixL Jetpack Mounts To Your TV

Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 7, 2013 - 04:04 AM |
Tagged: SteamOS, PiixL Jetpack

This is what an open ecosystem does best.

piixl-jetpack-outside.jpg

The Jetpack, by British PC developer Piixl, is a computer that can attach to the back of a TV. If your TV stands on its own, the Jetpack clings to the television's unused wall mount point. If you were intending to mount your TV on the wall, the PC can reside between the two. These are the user needs that can only be addressed by allowing organizations (large companies, small businesses, hobbyist groups, and individuals) to explore in the niches either to "scratch their own itch"or differentiate their product.

The computer is branded mostly for SteamOS but can also be installed with a full version of Windows or Linux (which you can then install a Steam Client on). It is looking more and more like Valve is successful in herding OEMs.

piixl-jetpack-inside.jpg

The internals of this computer are quite interesting. It looks like they are attaching a 2-wide videocard 90-degrees to a mini-ITX motherboard with the other components spaced out around those two parts. Their official media claims that they will support any GPU (I assume they are not considering ones with extra- thick coolers) which should make future upgrades easy.

I may never purchase a Steam machine but I am excited that they exist. The purpose for the PC ecosystem is that every user with any need can find or create a solution. That is why general purpose computation devices exist: perform whatever information storage or manipulation the user desires. I do not have many of the needs that these boxes satisfy... but some people do and there should be systems available for them.

The Verge claims that the Jetpack will be available in January. I can sense a theme for CES 2014.

Source: PiixL

MSI Announces a 3K Gaming and a 3K Workstation Notebook

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | December 5, 2013 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: WQHD+, msi, 3K

High resolution displays are very nice to have especially when you are looking at text and symbols (or edges of 3D geometry). WQHD+ is one of the resolutions classified under the 3K moniker with dimensions of 2880 x 1620. It has slightly more pixels than 1440p.

MSI - 3K.jpg

MSI has launched two notebooks with a 15.6" display in this resolution: one gaming and one workstation. Both laptops are remarkably similar except for a few key differences.

Both laptops include:

  • Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU (2.4 GHz w/ 3.4 GHz Turbo)
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 15.6" 2880x1620 (16:9) display
  • 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
  • Killer E2200 networking (yes, the workstation too)
  • Killer N1202 a/b/g/n wireless (yes, workstation too)
  • SDXC card reader
  • HDMI 1.4, 2x USB 3.0, etc.
  • Backlit Keyboard from SteelSeries

The GT60 2OD-261US (Gaming) also includes:

  • Windows 8
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M GPU (4GB)
  • Blu-ray reader

The GT60 2OKWS-278US (Workstation) instead includes:

  • Windows 7 Professional
  • NVIDIA Quadro K3100M (4GB)
  • Blu-ray recorder

These laptops are currently available at two price points: $2200 for the gaming version and $2800 for the workstation. Press release after the break!

Source: MSI

iBuyPower Steam Machine: $499?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 5, 2013 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: amd, r9 270, Steam Machine, SteamOS

I cannot see how they will be making any money at this but, next year, iBuyPower will launch their first Steam Machine. At the price of $499, the same as an Xbox One, you will get an AMD CPU bundled with a discrete Radeon R9 270 graphics card.

ibuypower-steam-machine_0.jpg

Image Credit: The Verge

Oh, and Valve's controller will be included in that price.

Sure, they can save money on the free operating system, but that still looks pretty awesome. In terms of actual dimensions, the case is said to be between the size of the PS4 and the Xbox one. Frankly, if you like the look of home theater appliances, this could be a nice twist on that aesthetic. It will also come with a 500GB hard drive. Don't worry, though: it is a PC. If there is a USB 3.0 port anywhere on it, you can attach a giant drive for your games.

And the power supply is internal, too!

iBuyPower is expected to ship this device at some point in 2014 along with a wave of other Steam Machines. Prepare for many of these innovations to come out of CES.

Source: The Verge