Deal for May 9th - Alienware X51 Core i7 mini Gaming PC @ $1200

Subject: Systems | May 9, 2013 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: deals

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.

x51.jpg

To get our recommended Alienware X51 deal, follow these steps:

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

Source: LogicBUY

ZOTAC Supercharges ZBOX with Intel Core i5

Subject: Systems | May 8, 2013 - 03:10 PM |
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

ZBOX ID88 PLUS-17.jpg

    Intel Core i3 3220T (dual-core, 2.8 GHz)

ZBOX ID89 series

ZBOX ID89 PLUS-3.jpg

    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

    4GB DDR3
    500GB HDD

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

Source: Zotac

Lenovo's new IdeaCentre was designed for Win8

Subject: Systems | May 6, 2013 - 04:06 PM |
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.

TRS_Ideacentre.jpg

"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."

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Systems

Sapphire heads to the Edge again with the new VS8 Mini PC

Subject: Systems | April 24, 2013 - 06:52 PM |
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.

TS_sap13b.jpg

"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."

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Source: TechSpot

If Kickstarter is for your oculars: what about your legs?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 22, 2013 - 06:16 PM |
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.

Source: Virtuix

Stop Pushing Microsoft's Buttons! Take the Start Button!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | April 20, 2013 - 07:36 PM |
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?

Windows8loseall.png

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.

Source: ZDNet

Applied Micro's X-Gene SoC Will Be Used In HP Project Moonshot Servers

Subject: Systems | April 19, 2013 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: servers, project moonshot, microserver, hp, arm, Applied Micro Circuits, 64-bit

A recent press release from AppliedMicro (Applied Micro Circuits Corporation) announced that the company’s X-Gene server on a chip technology would be used in an upcoming HP Project Moonshot server.

HP Project Moonshot Server Chassis.jpg

An HP Moonshot server (expect the X-Gene version to be at least slightly different).

The X-Gene is a 64-bit ARM SoC that combines ARM processing cores with networking and storage offload engines as well as a high-speed interconnect networking fabric. AppliedMicro designed the chip to provide ARM-powered servers that will reportedly reduce the Total Cost of Ownership of running webservers in a data center by reducing upfront hardware and ongoing electrical costs.

Applied Micro X-Gene SoC.jpg

The X-Gene chips that will appear in HP’s Project Moonshot servers feature a SoC with eight AppliedMicro-designed 64-bit ARMv8 cores clocked at 2.4GHz, four ARM Cortex A5 cores for running the Software Defined Network (SDN) controller, and support for storage IO, PCI-E IO, and integrated Ethernet (four 10Gb Ethernet links). The X-Gene chips are located on card-like daughter cards that slot into a carrier board that has networking fabric to connect all the X-Gene cards (and the SoCs on those cards). Currently, servers using X-Gene SoCs require a hardware switch to connect all of the X-Gene cards in a rack. However, the next-generation 28nm X-Gene chips will eliminate the need for a rack-level hardware switch as well as featuring 100Gb networking links).

The X-Gene chips in HP Project Moonshot will use relatively little power compared to Xeon-based solutions. AppliedMicro has stated that eh X-Gene chips will be at least two-times as power efficient, but has not officially release power consumption numbers for the X-Gene chips under load. However, at idle the X-Gene SoCs will use as little as 500mW and 300mW of power at idle and standby (sleep mode) respectively. The 64-bit quad issue, Out of Order Execution chips are some of the most-powerful ARM processors to date, though they will soon be joined by ARM’s own 64-bit design(s). I think the X-Gene chips are intriquing, and I am excited to see how well they fare in the data center environment running server applications. ARM has handily taken over the mobile space, but it is still relatively new in the server world. Even so, the 64-bit ARM chips by AppliedMicro (X-Gene) and others are the first step towards ARM being a viable option for servers.

X-Gene Server Platform Supports LAMP.jpg

According to AppliedMicro, HP Project Moonshot servers with X-Gene SoCs will be available later this year. You can find the press blast below.

Gigabyte Shows Off SFF BRIX PC During Its New Idea Tech Tour

Subject: Systems | April 15, 2013 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: SFF, Intel, gigabyte, brix

The WindForce 450W GPU cooler was not the only piece of hardware Gigabyte showed off at its New Idea Tech Tour event in Berlin, Germany. The company also detailed a new small form factor PC called BRIX. The Gigabyte BRIX computer is set to compete with Zotac's Nano and Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PCs. There is no word on pricing or availability, but GIgabyte did delve into specifications of the tiny desktop PCs.

Gigabyte BRIX Small Form Factor Mini PC Debuted At New Idea Tech Tour In Berlin (2).jpg

Computerbase.de was on hand at the New Idea event in Berlin.

The Gigabyte BRIX PC is similar to Intel's NUC with a small motherboard, Intel CPU, mSATA connector for storage, Mini PCI-E slot for a Wi-Fi card, and a small case. The BRIX system is slightly smaller than both the NUC and Zotac's Nano systems, though the BRIX motherboard itself is a bit larger than the NUC's. The BRIX motherboard measures 100 x 105mm and the case with internals measures 114.8 x 108 x 29.5mm and weighs 404 grams.

Gigabyte BRIX Small Form Factor Mini PC Debuted At New Idea Tech Tour In Berlin (1).jpg

Internal specifications on the BRIX include an Intel ultrabook-class processor with sub-17W TDPs, two SO-DIMM slots (a maximum of 16GB at 1600MHz), one mSATA port, and one Mini PCI-E slot. The BRIX further comes with a Wi-Fi card and VESA mount. Processor options include:

  • Intel Celeron 1007U
  • Intel Core i3-3227U
  • Intel Core i5-3337U
  • Intel Core i7-3537U

The top-end Core i7-3537U gives you a dual core processor with hyper-threading clocked at 2GHz and 3.1GHz max turbo and 4MB cache. Pretty impressive for such a tiny PC!
The Gigabyte BRIX features a single USB 3.0 port on the front of the glossy black case. Rear IO includes an additional USB 3.0 port, one HDMI port, one DisplayPort video output, and a single Gigabit LAN port.

The Gigabyte BRIX looks to be a decent system that will give Zotac and Intel some needed small form factor competition. Here's hoping Gigabyte will allow custom cases, as I would love to see a passively-cooled option!

Computerbase.de has further details on the Gigabyte BRIX PC as well as a gallery of photos from the event.

Source: Gigabyte

Dell Launches Cheaper Alienware X51 With Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

Subject: Systems | April 9, 2013 - 03:37 AM |
Tagged: ubuntu 12.04 lts, ubuntu, linux, dell, alienware x51

Dell has been one of the biggest (major OEM) supporter of the open source Ubuntu Linux operating system, and it seems the Linux love is trickling down to the company's boutique Alienware PC lineup as well. A new version of the Alienware X51, a small form factor gaming PC, is now available with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS pre-installed. Quite possibly the closest thing (so far) to a Steam Box, the Alienware X51 can run the Steam for Linux client along with all of the Linux games available on Valve's digital distribution service. Granted, the Ubuntu version cannot tap into the relatively-massive Windows game library out of the box, but it is also $100 cheaper than the X51 pre-installed with Windows due to Linux being free, and thus costing Dell less.

The Alienware X51 hardware is decent for a small form factor system, though it maxes out at a NVIDIA GTX 660 in the highest-end SKU. For $600, you can get an X51 will a dual-core Intel Core i3-3220 processor clocked at 3.3GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 645 1GB graphics card, 6GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. On the other end fo the part configuration is the highest-end $1049 option, with a quad-core Core i7-3770 CPU clocked at 3.4GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 660 1.5GB GPU, 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive.

gallery-shot_desktops_x51_01.jpg

The Alienware X51 chassis measures 12.5" x 12.5" x 3.74" and should fit into most entertainment centers (if you can get past the significant-other approval factor, that is). The PC comes equipped with Dell's 1506 802.11g/n Wi-Fi card as well, for situations where Ethernet or Powerline Ethernet is not an option.

It is nice to see Dell continuing to support Linux in some small way. Hopefully as Valve pushes for further Steam for Linux adoption, we will see more Linux-compatible games and OEMs will take notice and support the open source OS more openly in consumer lineups (a geek can dream...)!

You can find more information on the Alienware X51 at alienware.com/ubuntu/.

Does the inclusion of Ubuntu sway you towards the Alienware X51 (at least it's cheaper than the PISTON...), or will you be building your own custom Steam Box?

Source: Dell

(Not) The End of DirectX

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | April 7, 2013 - 10:21 PM |
Tagged: DirectX, DirectX 12

Microsoft DirectX is a series of interfaces for programmers to utilize typically when designing gaming or entertainment applications. Over time it became synonymous with Direct3D, the portion which mostly handles graphics processing by offloading those tasks to the video card. At one point, DirectX even handled networking through DirectPlay although that has been handled by Games for Windows Live or other APIs since Vista.

AMD Corporate Vice President Roy Taylor was recently interviewed by the German press, "c't magazin". When asked about the future of "Never Settle" bundles, Taylor claimed that games such as Crysis 3 and Bioshock: Infinite keep their consumers happy and also keep the industry innovating.

gfwl.png

Keep in mind, the article was translated from German so I might not be entirely accurate with my understanding of his argument.

In a slight tangent, he discussed how new versions of DirectX tends to spur demand for new graphics processors with more processing power and more RAM. He has not heard anything about DirectX 12 and, in fact, he does not believe there will be one. As such, he is turning to bundled games to keep the industry moving forward.

Neowin, upon seeing this interview, reached out to Microsoft who committed to future "innovation with DirectX".

This exchange has obviously sparked a lot of... polarized... online discussion. One claimed that Microsoft is abandoning the PC to gain a foothold in the mobile market which it has practically zero share of. That is why they are dropping DirectX.

Unfortunately this does not make sense: DirectX would be one of the main advantages which Microsoft has in the mobile market. Mobile devices have access to fairly decent GPUs which can use DirectX to draw web pages and applications much smoother and much more power efficiently than their CPU counterparts. If anything, DirectX would be increased in relevance if Microsoft was blindly making a play for mobile.

The major threat to DirectX is still quite off in the horizon. At some point we might begin to see C++Amp or OpenCL nibble away at what DirectX does best: offload highly-parallel tasks to specialized processing units.

Still, releases such as DirectX 11.1 are quite focused on back-end tweaks and adjustments. What do you think a DirectX 12 API would even do, that would not already be possible with DirectX 11?

Source: c't magazin

Boxx Launches 3DBoxx 8950 Workstation

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 26, 2013 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, GTC 2013, BOXX, 3dboxx 8950

Boxx Technologies recently launched a new multi-GPU workstation called the 3DBoxx 8950. It is aimed at professionals that need a fast system with beefy GPU accelerator cards that they can design and render at the same time. The 8950 is intended to be used with applications like Autodesk, Dassault, NVIDIA iray, and V-Ray (et al).

8950 front.jpg

The Boxx 3DBoxx 8950 features two liquid cooled Intel Xeon Ed-2600 processors (2GHz, 16 cores, 32 threads), up to 512GB of system memory (16 DIMM slots), and seven PCI-E slots (four of which accept dual slot GPUs, the remaining three are spaced for single slot cards). A 1250W power suppy (80 PLUS Gold) powers the workstation. An example configuration would include three Tesla K20 cards and one Quadro K5000. The Tesla cards would handle the computation while the Quadro can power the multi-display ouput. The chassis has room for eight 3.5" hard drives and a single externally-accessible 5.25" drive. The 8950 workstation can be loaded with either the Windows or Linux operating system.

Rear IO on the 8950 workstation includes:

  • 5 x audio jacks
  • 1 x optical in/out
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x serial port
  • 2 x RJ45 jacks, backed by Intel Gigabit NICs

The system is available now, with pricing available upon request. You can find the full list of specifications and supported hardware configurations in this spec sheet (PDF).

Source: Boxx

Will ARMing your server room with Calxeda put you at a disadvantage?

Subject: Systems | March 25, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: arm, calxeda, Boston Viridis

Perhaps the most telling part of AnandTech's review of the Calxeda Boston Viridis server was the statement that "It's a Cluster, Not a Server" as that paints a different picture of the appliance in many tech's heads.  When you first open the chassis you are greeted by 24 2.5” SATA drive bays and a very non-standard looking motherboard full of PCIe slots, each of which can hold a EnergyCard which consists of four quad-core ARM SoCs, each with one DIMM slot and 4 SATA ports with the theoretical limit being 4096 nodes interconnected by physical, distributed layer-2 switches not virtualized switches which use CPU cycles.  Check out the results of AnandTech's virtual machine testing and a deeper look at the architecture of the cluster in the full article.

AAT_CalxedaServerClose-front_678x452.jpg

"ARM based servers hold the promise of extremely low power and excellent performance per Watt ratios. It's theoretically possible to place an incredible number of servers into a single rack; there are already implementations with as many as 1000 ARM servers in one rack (48 server nodes in a 2U chassis). What's more, all of those nodes consume less than 5KW combined (or around 5W per quad-core ARM node). But whenever a new technology is hyped, it's important to remain objective. The media loves to rave about new trends and people like reading about "some new thing"; however, at the end of the day the system administrator has to keep his IT services working and convince his boss to invest in new technologies."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

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Source: AnandTech

Blue His Build with Leaked Blue Little Windows...

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 24, 2013 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, Blue, windows blue

It was only a matter of time before Windows Blue was leaked, like just about every other version of the operating system in recent memory. Internally, Blue is a transition for Microsoft into an annual release schedule for Windows products; externally, Blue is the first feature-release for Windows.

Yes, Sean Bean, win'ders has come.

Zac from WinBeta, embed above, got hold of the operating system, apparently leaked today, and played around with the changes for all of YouTube to see.

Notable changes, as of build 9364, are:
  • New split-screen App options. (Unclear whether multi-monitor app support is fixed)
  • Minor clarifications for user instruction.
  • New tile sizes.
  • Swipe up from Start Screen to access list of apps.
  • More personalization options.
  • Picture frame mode.
  • New App: Calculator.
  • New App: Alarm.
  • New App: Sound Recorder.
  • New App: Movie Moments... apparently a new, confidential, video editing application.
  • Internet Explorer updated to version 11.

Personally, despite sticking with Windows 7 for political reasons, the new App options seem like they would be the most engaging feature for Windows Blue. For being such a core segment of the "modern" Windows experience, apps are surprisingly annoying to manage as they currently exist on Windows 8. If you have two or more monitors then you are probably having a nightmare with anything outside of Windows 8's desktop mode.

We now know that app support is being looked at, so there is some hope that multiple monitor users will be considered too.

Source: WinBeta

Value priced, Android powered media streamer from PIVOS

Subject: Systems | March 15, 2013 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: htpc, PIVOS, XIOS DS Media Play, android 4.0, xmbc

The XIOS DS Media Play is an Android 4.0 device powered by a Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics, capable of streaming local and online media content including HTML5 and Flash to a TV.  Not quite a full HTPC in some ways but certainly more than a cable box at only 4" square and 0.6" tall it can be hidden in plain sight.  Overclockers Club tried out the functionality of both the native OS and the XBMC as well as using a variety of apps from the Google Play store, all with great success.  For a mere $110 they feel it is a great value; check out the full review for a longer list of compatible media and tricks you can do with local storage.

OCC_xios.jpg

"The XIOS DS Media Play looks sleek and has a very small footprint but packs some interesting features. The Android OS will bring new life to your TV and the thousands available apps in the Google Play Store translate into an impressive potential of fun, productivity, and entertainment. The box provides a great experience as is but PIVOS went the extra mile and collaborated with the XBMC Media Center development team to bring the software with hardware decoding to the Android OS. Add the connectivity capabilities of the unit and we have a serious threat to those fancy HTPC systems at a mere asking price of $115. Built around the ARM CORTEX-A9 CPU and a MALI-400 MP GPU, the XIOS DS Media Play has what it takes to satisfy the needs of the majority of media lovers."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Shuttle Will Launch Celeron-Powered DS47 SFF PC in April

Subject: Systems | March 5, 2013 - 04:16 AM |
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, PC, Intel, ds47, celeron

If various sources are to be believed, Shuttle will be launching a new small form factor PC in April called the DS47. The new PC will be powered by an Intel Celeron 847 processor and features a fan-less design.

 

shuttle_logo.jpg

The Shuttle DS47 measures 200mm x 29.5mm x 165mm and weighs in at 2.05 kg. The internals include a motherboard with UEFI BIOS, dual core Intel Celeron 847 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz (2MB cache, 18W TDP), HD 2000 processor graphics, up to 16GB of RAM via two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and a 2.5” HDD or SSD. The motherboard supports SATA 3 6Gbps, and there is space for a single laptop-sized internal drive. The system also includes a Mini-PCI-E slot for half-size cards and a mSATA port for an SSD.

For such a small PC, it packs quite a bit of port options. The Shuttle DS47 includes the following external IO:

  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet jacks
  • 2 x RS232 connections
  • 1 x DVI
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 2.1 channel analog audio output

The DS47 has a nice feature set, and the dual Ethernet ports opens up the possible applications. Thanks to the DS47 opting for the Celeron over an Atom processor, it could easily operate as a file server, NAS, firewall, router, HTPC, or simply a low power desktop computer for example.

Pricing will be where the DS47 succeeds or fails as it aims to strike a balance between the Intel NUC and Atom-powered PCs. Unfortunately, there is no word on just how much this SFF PC will cost. It is rumored for an April launch, however so expect to see official pricing announced shortly.

Read more about small form factor systems at PC Perspective!

Source: FanlessTech

Brazos 2.0 powered ZBOX AD06 Plus

Subject: Systems | March 4, 2013 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: SFF, htpc, zotac, zbox ad06 plus, E2-1800

Zotac's ZBOX AD06 plus puts some graphical zip into a tiny package using an AMD E2-1800 1.7GHz and 2GB MHz DDR3-1333 with 320GB of local storage on a 5400RPM HDD.  They've included a VESA mount so it is quite possible to attach this device to the back of a display and control most functions with the included remote control.  Heat should not be an issue, when displaying 1080P clips it only pulls 16.8W, 27.7W when under full loads such as transcoding.  The benchmark results that TechPowerUp saw might not measure up to a full desktop system but they are certainly at the top of the pile when it comes to similar systems.  You can expect to pay just under $300 for the full system when it becomes available, or about $200 without RAM or HDD if you happen to have some handy.

TPU_inner.jpg

"The Zotac ZBOX AD06 utilizes the newest generation of AMD APUs, while the Plus model comes fully configured with a 320 GB hard drive and pre-installed memory."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Unreal Engine 4 Demo for PS4, Reduced Quality?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 26, 2013 - 08:07 PM |
Tagged: ps4, unreal engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 was present at Sony's Playstation 4 press conference, but that is no surprise. Epic Games has been present at several keynotes for new console launches. Last generation, Unreal Engine 3 kicked off both Xbox 360 and PS3 with demos of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 2007, respectively. The PS4 received a continuation of the Elemental Demo first released at the end of E3 last June.

All I could think about when I watched the was, “This looks pretty bad. What happened?”

If you would like to follow along at home, both demos are available on Youtube:

As you can see from the animated GIF above, particle count appears to have been struck the worst. The eyes contain none of the particle effects in the PS4 version. There appears to be an order of magnitude or two more particles on the PC version than the PS4. There are no particle effects around the eyes of the statue. Whole segments of particles are not even rendered.

UE4_2_PCvPS4.jpg

In this screenshot, downsampled to 660x355, the loss of physical detail is even more apparent. The big cluster of particles near the leg are not present in the PS4 version and the regular cluster is nowhere near as densely packed.

And the lighting, oh the lighting.

On the PS4 everything looks a lot higher contrast without a lot of the subtle lighting information. This loss of detail is most apparent with the volcano smoke and the glow of the hammer but are also obvious in the character model when viewed in the video.

Despite the 8GB of RAM, some of the textures also seem down-resolution. Everything appears to have much more of a plastic look to it.

Still, while computers still look better, at least high-end PC gaming will still be within the realm of scalability for quite some time. We have been hampered by being so far ahead of consoles that it was just not feasible to make full use of the extra power. At least that is looking to change.

Happy 0th Birthday Firefox OS

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 26, 2013 - 04:19 AM |
Tagged: Firefox OS, mozilla, firefox, MWC, MWC 13

Mobile World Congress is going on at Barcelona and this year sees the official entry of a new contender: Firefox OS.

Mozilla held their keynote speech the day before the official start to the trade show. If there is anything to be learned from CES, it would be that there is an arms race to announce your product before everyone else steals media attention while still being considered a part of the trade show. By the time the trade show starts, most of the big players have already said all that they need to say.

firefoxos.jpg

If you have an hour to spare, you should check it out for yourself. The whole session was broadcast and recorded on Air Mozilla.

The whole concept of Firefox OS as I understand it is to open up web standards such that it is possible to create a completely functional mobile operating system from it. Specific platforms do not matter, the content will all conform to a platform of standards which anyone would be able to adopt.

I grin for a different reason: should some content exist in the future that is intrinsically valuable to society, its reliance on an open-based platform will allow future platforms to carry it.

Not a lot of people realize that iOS and Windows RT disallow alternative web browsers. Sure, Google Chrome the app exists for iOS, but it is really a re-skinned Safari. Any web browser in the Windows Store will use Trident as its rendering engine by mandate of their certification rules. This allows the platform developer to be choosey with whichever standards they wish to support. Microsoft has been very vocally against any web standard backed by Khronos. You cannot install another browser if you run across a web application requiring one of those packages.

When you have alternatives, such as Firefox OS, developers are promoted to try new things. The alternative platforms promote standards which generate these new applications and push the leaders to implement those standards too.

And so we creep ever-closer to total content separation from platform.

Source: Mozilla

Chromebook Pixel Not a Joke, Just Its Price.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 25, 2013 - 02:18 AM |
Tagged: Chromebook Pixel, Chromebook

We have covered many Chrome OS-based devices, even a pair of reviews, but we have never seen the platform attempt to target the higher-end of the price spectrum. As you could guess by my ominous writing tone, that has changed.

The Chromebook Pixel.

The development commentary video could have been an Apple advertisement. We will embed it below, but it definitely had that whimsical tone we all know and groan. The Pixel was heavily focused on design and screen quality.

The display is quite small, just under 13”, but it has a higher resolution than professional-grade 30” monitors. It leapfrogs Catleap. When trying to visualize the use case, the first thought which comes to mind is a second PC for someone to take with them. If you can get a really high resolution experience with that, then bonus. Right?

The specifications, according to their Best Buy product page, are actually quite decent for a web browser-focused device.

  • Ivy Bridge Core i5
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 32GB SSD
  • Intel HD 4000 Graphics
  • With the low cost of RAM

The downside? The price starts at $1299 USD and goes up from there. You can get a larger SSD and LTE for just 150$ more, at the $1449 price point if you can wait until April.

Once you factor in the price, and a mighty big factor that is too, it makes it really difficult to figure out who Google is targeting. The only explanation which makes sense to me is a high-end laptop which is easy for IT departments to manage for executives and students.

Lastly, 4GB of RAM is ridiculously cheap nowadays. Could it have killed them to add in a little extra RAM to get more headroom? Also, what about the lack of connectivity to external displays? (Update: Sorry, just found mini displayport on the product tech specs.)

Source: Google Blogs

Sony's Fourth Playstation (PS4) Specs Revealed

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 20, 2013 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4

We're currently in the middle of Sony's Playstation announcement and right off the bat they discussed system specifications.

(Update 2: Press conference was over a few hours ago, and we now have an official press release.)

PS4-01.png

The Playstation 4, as it will be titled, is very similar to a mid-range gaming PC. When discussing with developers, they requested for Sony to stick with a typical x86-based architecture. Of course that does not stop Sony from describing it as a “Supercharged PC architecture”. Still, they do seem to have quite a decent amount of hardware in this box.

  • 8-core x86 CPU
  • 2 Teraflops GPU integrated on same die (update: chip).
  • I did not hear AMD mentioned, but it totally is.
  • 8GB GDDR5 RAM (shared)
  • Stereo Camera on the controller with a light bar, like the Wii, to judge distance to TV.
  • Also touch sensor in the controller.
  • (Update/correction: At least a ...) Spindle-based Hard Drive

While these specifications have been sufficiently leaked in the recent past, we have not been able to pin down exactly how much RAM is provided. We found the development kit contained 8GB of system memory. The problem is that development kits require more RAM than the system it pretends to be to account for development tools and unoptimized assets.

As it turns out, the system itself will contain 8GB of GDDR5 shared between the CPU and GPU, which is quite a lot. Developers will need to finally push the PC platform past the 4GB RAM+VRAM 32-bit barrier in order to keep up with the next generation consoles.

Most of our gaming limitations were due to art assets being limited by memory constraints. Thanks to the new Sony console, PC releases could finally be taken off the 512MB-long leash of Sony and Microsoft.

(Update 2, cont.: The press release has official tech specs as below but are "subject to change")

 

Main Processor
Single-Chip Custom Processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 Teraflops, AMD next-generation Radeon(tm)-based graphics engine
Memory GDDR5 8GB
Hard Disk Drive Built-in
Optical Drive (Read-Only)
BD 6x CAV
DVD 8x CAV
I/O Ports Super-Speed USB (USB3.0), AUX
Communication
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)
AV output
HDMI
Analog-AV out
Digital Out

So clearly Sony was slightly rounding up when they claimed it was a 2 Teraflop GPU. Still, this looks to be a healthy computer.

We now have the official confirmation we needed that AMD Jaguar cores will power the PS4. Given AMD's big wins in the console platforms, I would wonder if game developers would be able to take some of the tricks they will learn in a few years and be able to start optimizing PC gamers for AMD CPUs.

GPUs too for that matter... this could mean a lot for AMD's PC gamers.