MSI's mini-ITX Z170I GAMING PRO AC is versatile but perhaps not for the dedicated overclocker

Subject: Motherboards | February 16, 2016 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: Z170i Gaming Pro AC, msi, Intel Z170, lga1151, mini ITX

At $172 the price of the MSI Z170I GAMING PRO AC may be bigger than the actual board, as it is a mini-ITX motherboard.  As with many modern mini-ITX boards, the amount of features included is nothing short of amazing, apart from the single PCIe 16x slot which all boards of this size are limited to.  It does have a pair of DDR4 slots supporting up to 32GB, four SATA 6Gbps ports, a single SEx port and M.2 slot, five USB 3.0 and a half dozen USB 3.1 ports; connectivity includes wired, WiFi and even Bluetooth.  The overall design is quite attractive though the reviewers at [H]ard|OCP were not a fan of the overclocking ability nor the positioning of the M.2 slot on the rear of the board, see if those negatives outweigh the positives in their full review.

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"The Z170I GAMING PRO AC motherboard is poised to be a tiny powerhouse for SFF builds or for those of you looking to focus on "less is more." If you are looking to make the jump to an Small Form Factor build, or you want to update an existing build you won’t want to miss this feature rich Mini-ITX motherboard. "

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

This new type of Resistive RAM can be flexible and transparent

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2016 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: ReRAM, RRAM, aluminium oxide

Entirely transparent or translucent devices, which are also flexible are becoming less of a dream and coming closer to reality.  We have discussed RRAM quite a bit here on PCPer, most recently another teams research on creating transparent and flexible RRAM out of indium zinc oxide materials.  Nanotechweb have just linked to another set of researchers who are using aluminium oxide to design similar RRAM; great news as more research on the possible materials which will bring us the next generation of RAM the better.  Materials pricing is very important and as we move away from silicon the more choices manufacturers have, the less likely we will have shortages and prohibitive cost increases for production.  Pop over to Nanotechweb for an overview of this particular research if you are so inclined.

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"Among the emerging memories, resistive switching memory (ReRAM) in particular has attracted much attention in recent times owing to its fast switching, simple structure, and non-volatility. Flexible and transparent electronic devices have also attracted considerable attention for making future electronic devices."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Nanotechweb

Report: NVIDIA Working on Another GeForce GTX 950 GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2016 - 05:01 PM |
Tagged: rumor, report, nvidia, Maxwell 2.0, GTX 950 SE, GTX 950 LP, gtx 950, gtx 750, graphics card, gpu

A report from VideoCardz.com claims that NVIDIA is working on another GTX 950 graphics card, but not the 950 Ti you might have expected.

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Reference GTX 950 (Image credit: NVIDIA)

While the GTX 750 Ti was succeeded by the GTX 950 in August of last year, the higher specs for this new GPU came at the cost of a higher TDP (90W vs. 60W). This new rumored GTX 950, which might be called either 950 SE or 950 LP according to the report, would be a lower power version of the GTX 950, and would actually have a lot more in common with the outgoing GTX 750 Ti than the plain GTX 750 as we can see from this chart:

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(Image credit: VideoCardz)

As you can see the GTX 750 Ti is based on GM107 (Maxwell 1.0) and has 640 CUDA cores, 40 TUs, 16 ROPs, and it operates at 1020 MHz Base/1085 MHz Boost clocks. The reported specs of this new GTX 950 SE/LP would be nearly identical, though based on GM206 (Maxwell 2.0) and offering greater memory bandwidth (and slightly higher power consumption).

The VideoCardz report was sourced from Expreview, which claimed that this GTX 950 SE/LP product would arrive next month at some point. This report is a little more vague than some of the rumors we see, but it could very well be that NVIDIA has a planned replacement for the remaining Maxwell 1.0 products on the market. I would have personally expected to see a"Ti” product before any “LE/LP” version of the GTX 950, and this reported name seems more like an OEM product than a retail part. We will have to wait and see if this report is accurate.

Source: VideoCardz

Samsung's HBM2 will be ready before you are

Subject: Memory | February 15, 2016 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, HBM2, Data Memory Systems

Samsung is ready to roll out the next generation of High Bandwidth Memory, aka HBM2, for your desktop and not just your next generation of GPU.  They have already begun production on 4GB HBM2 DRAM and promise 8GB DIMMs by the end of this year.  The modules will provide double the bandwidth of HBM1, up 256GB/s of bandwidth which is very impressive compared to the up to 70GB/s DDR4-3200 theoretically offers.

Not only is this technology going to appear in the next genertation of NVIDIA and AMD GPUs but could also work its way into main system memory.  Of course these DIMMs are not going to work with any desktop or mobile processor currently on the market but we will hopefully see new processors with compatible memory controllers in the near future.  You can also expect this to come with a cost, not just in expensive DIMMs at launch but also a comparible increaset in CPU prices as they will cost more to manufacture initially. 

It will be very interesting to see how this effects the overall market; will we see a split similar to what is currently seen in mainstream GPUs, a lower cost DDR version and a standard GDDR version?  The new market could see DDRx and HMBx models of CPUs and motherboards and could do the same for the GPU market, with the end of DDR on graphics cards.  If so will it spell the end of DDR5 development?  Interesting times to be living in, we should be hearing more from Samsung in the near future.

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You can read the full PR below.

Acer's Predator X34; it's a 21:9 curved 1440p display with G-SYNC

Subject: Displays | February 15, 2016 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: Predator X34, ips, gsync, curved lcd, acer, 1440p

On paper it looks brilliant, a 3440x1440 IPS curved display with a a refresh rate that can be overclocked to 100Hz, with G-SYNC handling the adaptive sync duties.  It will cost you a bit to pick up of course, currently Amazon has it priced at $1350 so it does have a lot to live up to.  Techgage tested it out and found a lot to love, from physical control buttons instead of virtual controls, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors as well as four USB 3.0 ports speak well of the physical design. On the other hand the monitor has a serious case of IPS glow and some may not be able to hit 100Hz, then again neither can most GPUs even when in SLI.  Techgage offers advice on adjusting your display if you have issues and overall loved everything about the display ... excepting the price.

Ryan and the crew took a look at this display a while back.

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"On the lookout for a gaming monitor that can do it all? If price isn’t a concern, Acer's Predator X34 is the one to look at. It comes in at 34 inches, boasts a 3440×1440 ultra-wide resolution, makes images pop with an IPS panel, takes advantage of NVIDIA’s G-SYNC frame-smoothing technology, and if that’s not enough: it’s curved."

Here are some more Display articles from around the web:

Displays

Source: Techgage

Why can't we have nice things? USB Type-C can be as bad as the etherkiller

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2016 - 07:07 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C

USB 3.0 Type C cables have finally solved the strange physics defying issue of the originals and you no longer need to rotate your USB plug twice before it will connect.  Unfortunately it has introduced more serious problems, in some cases dangerous and expensive problems.  Back in November we posted about a Google researcher who found a variety of cables which did not have the correct resistor installed and which could release the magic smoke from your computer.  He is still at it and may be one of the only reasons to join Google+ as you can follow his findings there.  Unfortunately he won't be posting for a little while as the most recent one, a SurjTech 3M cable, destroyed his test equipment, including a $1499 Pixel 2.

Sadly it is not just cheap off brand cables you need to fear, Apple recently recalled numerous Type C cables which shipped with their products.  The Inquirer mentions a way to tell if your cable is definitely dangerous but this seems a situation where you are better safe than sorry.  Considering these dangers and the fact that in many cases the manufactures are actually using USB 3.0 cables with the Type C connection, it might be worth waiting on upgrading those peripherals.

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"APPLE IS the latest company to fall foul of the messy rollout of USB-C. The company has recalled a bunch of the cables that were official accessories sold separately or included with the most recent MacBook devices that eschewed USB=A and Lightning in favour of a single USB-C port for everything."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

What Micron's Upcoming 3D NAND Means for SSD Capacity, Performance, and Cost

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 07:51 PM |
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB

You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.

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Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:

  • 256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block

  • 384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block

To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.

With that explained, of significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.

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A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.

Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech so good at controlling leakage for planar NAND on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands, with a possible remedy being to crank up the Over-Provisioning of SSDs (AKA throwing flash at the problem). Higher OP means less active pages per block and a reduction in the data shuffling forced by smaller writes.

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A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.

One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.

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Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.

One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.

ASRock Launches New Mini ITX Motherboard For AMD APUs

Subject: Motherboards | February 14, 2016 - 10:02 AM |
Tagged: mini ITX, FM2+, ddr3, asrock, A88X

ASRock's new A88M-ITX/ac is a tiny new motherboard sporting the FM2+ socket and A88X chipset for AMD APUs. This new board has an interesting design with two DDR3 memory slots set along the top of the board. The FM2+ socket and 5-phase VRM is placed in the center with the chipset and dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi module sitting between the socket and a single PCI-E x16 slot along the bottom edge. Six SATA 6Gbps ports are nestled in the lower right corner. Power input includes a 24-pin ATX and 8-pin CPU which should help any overclocking should this be for a SFF gaming box.

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Rear I/O on the A88M-ITX/ac includes:

  • 1 x PS/2
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x Video outputs
    • 1 x DVI
    • 1 x HDMI 1.4a
    • 1 x VGA
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x GbE (Realtek 8111GR)
  • 3 x Analog Audio (Realtek ALC887 and ELNA audio caps)

This board is clad in black and silver except for the FCH which is copper. While the absence of HDMI 2.0 will be a turn off for those looking for a HTPC to drive a 4K big screen, it could still make for a small budget gaming build. It is nice to see more small form factor options for AMD builds!

Unfortunately, ASRock is not yet talking pricing or availability.

What would you use this Mini ITX AMD motherboard for?

Source: ASRock

PSA: Get An Additional 2GB of Free Google Drive Storage by Securing Your Account

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2016 - 02:56 AM |
Tagged: google drive, google, cloud storage

In honor of Safer Internet Day, Google is offering up 2GB of additional Google Drive storage space for free to users that run a security checkup on their accounts through this Google tool.

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Google will ask you to go through several steps to secure your Google account and verify your information. You will need to confirm your account recovery information and connected devices. The tool will also show you what applications and services have access to your Google account (for me it was only Chrome and Target's Cartwheel app). Further, it will ask you to set up 2-factor authentication and confirm that you still want to leave the listed app passwords active (app passwords are randomly generated passwords used in apps that do not support 2-factor authentication, such as Thunderbird).

After stepping through the security checklist, you will find an addtional 2GB of storage space in your Drive account. Note that native Google Docs do not count against your space, but uploaded copies of things like Excel spreadsheets and Word documents kept in those formats do. Get the free space while it's still being offered!

Also, I hope that you have already locked in your OneDrive storage space as well!

Source: Google

Qualcomm Announces X16 Modem Featuring Gigabit LTE

Subject: Mobile | February 12, 2016 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: X16 modem, qualcomm, mu-mimo, modem, LTE, Gigabit LTE, FinFET, Carrier Aggregation, 14nm

Qualcomm’s new X16 LTE Modem is the industry's first Gigabit LTE chipset to be announced, achieving speeds of up to 1 Gbps using 4x Carrier Aggregation. The X16 succeeds the recently announced X12 modem, improving on the X12's 3x Carrier Aggregation and moving from LTE CAT 12 to CAT 16 on the downlink, while retaining CAT 13 on the uplink.

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"In order to make a Gigabit Class LTE modem a reality, Qualcomm added a suite of enhancements – built on a foundation of commercially-proven Carrier Aggregation technology. The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem employs sophisticated digital signal processing to pack more bits per transmission with 256-QAM, receives data on four antennas through 4x4 MIMO, and supports for up to 4x Carrier Aggregation — all of which come together to achieve unprecedented download speeds."

Gigabit speeds are only possible if multiple data streams are connected to the device simultaneously, and with the new X16 modem such aggregation is performed using LTE-U and LAA.

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(Image via EE Times)

What does all of this mean? Aggregation is a term you'll see a lot as we progress into the next generation of cellular data technology, and with the X16 Qualcomm is emphasizing carrier over link aggregation. Essentially Carrier Aggregation works by combining the carrier LTE data signal (licensed, high transmit power) with a shorter-range, shared spectrum (unlicensed, low transmit power) LTE signal. When the signals are combined at the device (i.e. your smartphone), significantly better throughput is possible with this larger (aggregated) data ‘pipe’.

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Qualcomm lists the four main options for unlicensed LTE deployment as follows:

  • LTE-U: Based on 3GPP Rel. 12, LTE-U targets early mobile operators deployments in USA, Korea and India, with coexistence tests defined by LTE-U forum
  • LAA: Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) targets deployments in Europe, Japan, & beyond.
  • LWA: Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, LWA (LTE - Wi-Fi link aggregation) targets deployments where the operators already has carrier Wi-Fi deployments.
  • MulteFire: Broadens the LTE ecosystem to new deployment opportunities by operating solely in unlicensed spectrum without a licensed anchor channel

The X16 is also Qualcomm’s first modem to be built on 14nm FinFet process, which Qualcomm says is highly scalable and will enable the company to evolve the modem product line “to address an even wider range of product, all the way down to power-efficient connectivity for IoT devices.”

Qualcomm has already begun sampling the X16, and expects the first commercial products in the second half of 2016.

Source: Qualcomm

Just another ATX on the wall

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 12, 2016 - 08:06 PM |
Tagged: thermaltake, Core P5 Wall-Mounted ATX Chassis

Thermaltake have come up with a unique take on an enclosure, the Core P5 Wall-Mounted ATX chassis.  It is a case designed to be mounted on a wall and to show off all of your components thanks to a clear acrylic front panel.  You can see there is quite a bit of space for components inside which can present a challenge if you are trying for a particular aesthetic but with some creativity you should be able to fill it attractively.  It is an open air design which you should consider when deciding where to mount the case and it also offers benefits when you consider cooling.  Check out the full review over at [H]ard|OCP.

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"The main element that Thermaltake wants you to be able to accomplish with it new Core P5 Chassis, is for you to be able to show off your awesome PC system configuration that you have spent weeks working on so that it is near-perfect. While the P5 checks off more feature boxes than that, it surely does a good job of showing off your rig."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Fancy new Intel powered routers from Wind River

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2016 - 05:28 PM |
Tagged: Intel, wind river, telecoms

The next dream of telecoms providers is network function virtualization, the ability to virtualize customers hardware instead of shipping them a device.  The example given to the The Register were DVRs, instead of shipping a cablebox with recording capability to the customer the DVR would be virtualized on the telcos internal infrastructure.   You could sign up for a DVR VM, point your smart TV at the appropriate IP address and plug in a USB disk for local storage.

The problem has been the hardware available to the telco, the routers simply did not have the power to provide a consistent internet or cable connection, let alone add virtual devices to their systems.  At the upcoming MWC, Wind River will be showing off Titanium Servers for virtualizing customer premises equipment, with enough processing power and VM optimizations that these types of services could be supported.

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"Intel is starting to deliver on its vision of x86-powered modem/routers in the home , as its Wind River subsidiary releases a server dedicated to delivery of functions to virtual customer premises equipment (CPE)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Meet Cerberus: Crowdfunded Micro-ATX Case Made in USA

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 12, 2016 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: small form-factor, SFF, NCASE M1, Kimera Industries, enclosure, crowdfunding, Cerberus, case

Micro-ATX offers a compelling option for smaller system builds without the limitations inherent with the mini-ITX form-factor, and a new company aims to offer one of the smallest micro-ATX enclosures possible while still supporting full-size components. That company is Kimera Industries, a newcomer (founded in 2014) that will be turning to Indiegogo to fund the Cerberus mATX enclosure, to be built right here in the United States.

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Known previously as Project Nova, the Cerberus is reminiscent of the NCASE M1, a crowdfunded mini-ITX design that is ridiculously small even for mITX. In addition to supporting the larger mATX form-factor motherboard, the Cerberus is constructed from steel (rather than the M1's aluminum), and boasts an extremely compact size for an enclosure that can easily house a dual-GPU gaming setup.

“At just 18.2L, Cerberus is smaller than nearly all mATX (and many mITX) cases in industry today, yet supports flagship graphics and high-end PC components, making it a potent enclosure for hardware enthusiasts that want a compact and portable computer without compromises on performance.”

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A look at the interior with a complete system installed shows just how much can be crammed into this small space, just as with the NCASE M1. The inclusion of a hinged bracket for a liquid cooler (or other components) is a nice touch that should aid in system building with the Cerberus.

So, just how small is the Cerberus? A look at the full specs (available here) reveals dimensions of 320 mm height, 170 mm width, and 364 mm depth (12.60 x 6.69 x 14.33 inches). The enlosure, made from 20 gauge steel internally with 18 gauge steel panels on the outside, weighs in at 11.68 lbs.

Here’s a list of the features of the Cerberus enclosure from Kimera:

  • Size: At just 18.2L, Cerberus is smaller than some of the most popular mITX cases on the market, from Fractal Design’s Node 304, or BitFenix’s Prodigy. When compared to most mATX cases, Cerberus typically bests the competition by 10L or more - a whopping 40%+ volume reduction.
  • Quality: Made entirely of powder coated steel, and assembled in the United States, Cerberus is built to last for the long haul, with thoughtful features such as user-replaceable parts, durable metal hardware, and all-steel panel clips and pins.
  • Design: Cerberus embraces a minimalist, refined aesthetic, with a luxurious matte finish and industrial design that embraces clean edges and understated features over bright lights and garish plastic accents.
  • Customizability: With multiple colors on offer, additional colors available as stretch goals, and the option to add an optional metal handle and/or plexiglass window, Cerberus is engineered to be customized to enthusiasts’ exact preferences.
  • Flexibility: From SFX and ATX PSU support, to the hinged side bracket, to the innovative Infinite Vent system, Cerberus retains some of the most diverse hardware support in industry, and can comfortably contain systems as simple as HTPCs and as sophisticated as water-cooled, multi-GPU gaming powerhouses.
  • Craftsmanship: Through a unique partnership with Sliger Designs, every Cerberus is built by trained and talented engineers on Sliger’s production floor, located in Sparks, Nevada, USA. By manufacturing enclosures domestically, instead of through nondescript factories in China or Taiwan, Kimera Industries is able to maintain strict quality controls, communicate constantly with engineers on the floor, and greatly expedite production and shipment of units to backers - all while supporting local workers, businesses, and communities.

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The Cerberus is also available in white, shown with optional handle

The Indiegogo campaign launches March 1st, and additional information can be found at the Kimera Industries site.

Just Delivered: Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 09:48 PM |
Tagged:

Fabled to be "coming soon" since the launch of the AMD R9 Fury X back in June, today we finally got our hands on our first DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter.

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Coming from Accell, the aptly named DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter is a fairly self explanatory product. This adapter sits inline between your DisplayPort video card and HDMI TV in order to convert between the two interfaces. Previously, the only available adapters supported up to HDMI 1.4a, which only allowed for 30Hz connectivity at 4K.

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Users looking to connect their 4K TV to a PC had their GPU options severely limited to exclude  all current AMD video cards and NVIDIA video cards below the GTX 950.

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A quick test with the Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter with the AMD R9 Nano alongside our trusty Wasabi Mango UHD420 display proved that this adapter did indeed bring full 4K support at 60Hz and 4:4:4 color via HDMI on the Nano. This helps the R9 Nano become more useful in compact, HTPC builds.

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Here we can see 4:4:4 subsampling working as intended

We also went ahead and tried this adapter with a GTX 780 Ti and found the same results. We were able to drive our 42" 4K TV at full refresh rate and color space.

It appears this adapter might not be fully retail available yet, but Accell has it listed on its online store for $37.99 shipping now. For users who have been looking for a way to get the most out of their older GPU (or a Fiji-based AMD part) and a 4K display, this seems like a no brainer.

Source: Accell

The new QHQ ASUS Zenbook UX305CA

Subject: Mobile | February 11, 2016 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, asus zenbook, ux305ca, qhd

At 13.3" in size it still seems odd to use a 3200x1800 display, but that is why scaling is important; especially for aged eyes.  The model of UX305CA that The Inquirer reviewed is running on a Skylake based Core M3-6Y30 clocked at 900MHz, 8B RAM and a 128GB SSD with other models available for those that wish upgraded components.  The Inquirer ran into a few small issues with the OS and you cannot expect the laptop to handle demanding tasks but for browsing and productivity it had no issues.  As well, the battery lasted over 9 hours during usage, not bad for a device weighing 1.2kg (2.65lbs).

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"From the ports to processor to the operating system, this refresh has been subject to a rather diverse mix of changes, the biggest being the addition of a QHD+ resolution screen, despite the price staying level with the original FHD model."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

 

Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #386 - Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: vr edition, video, UMC, ue4, podcast, phanteks, nvidia, logitech, GTX 980 Ti, g810, evga, enthoo evolv itx, asrtock, arm, amd, 28HPCU

PC Perspective Podcast #386 - 02/10/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

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Program length: 1:30:34

  1. Week in Review:
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  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

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EVGA Releases GeForce GTX 980 Ti VR Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 10, 2016 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive vr, Oculus, evga, 980 Ti

You might wonder what makes a graphics card “designed for VR,” but this is actually quite interesting. Rather than plugging your headset into the back of your desktop, EVGA includes a 5.25” bay that provides 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x HDMI 2.0 connection. The use case is that some users will want to easily connect and disconnect their VR devices, which, knowing a few indie VR developers, seems to be a part of their workflow. The same may be true of gamers, but I'm not sure.

evga-2016-980Ti-VR-Header_BG.jpg

While the bay allows for everything, including the HDMI plug via an on-card port, to be connected internally, you will need a spare USB 3.0 header on your motherboard to hook it up. It would have been interesting to see whether EVGA could have attached a USB 3.0 controller on the add-in board, but that might have been impossible (or unpractical) given that the PCIe connector would need to be shared with the GPU (not to mention the complexity of also adding a USB 3.0 controller to the board). Also, I expect motherboards should have at least one. If not, you can find USB 3.0 add-in cards with internal headers.

evga-2016-980ti.jpg

The card comes in two sub-versions, one with the NVIDIA-style blower cooler, and the other with EVGA's ACX 2.0+ cooler. I tend to prefer exposed fan GPUs because they're easier to blow air into after a few years, but you might have other methods to control dust.

Both are currently available for $699.99 on Newegg.com, while Amazon only lists the ACX2.0+ cooler version, and that's out of stock. It is also $699.99, though, so that should be what to expect.

Source: EVGA

Speaking of Windows Updates... Here's What's Inside Them

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has been pushing for updates to just happen. They want users to receive each of them, because then it's harder for malware authors to take advantage of known vulnerabilities and it's also easier for Microsoft to update Windows (because it would have fewer permutations of patch levels). These updates would arrive with the useless name “Cumulative update for Windows 10 (some version)” and no further information, besides a list of changed files without any context.

windowsupdate.png

Now with slightly less blindness...

Microsoft now has a page that lists the general improvements as a bullet-point list. It's not an extensive list of changes, and most of them are related to security and privacy, but that is to be expected now that Windows has moved to a build paradigm. They are broken down by build level, though, which lets you see everything that happened to 10240 since it launched separate from the list of everything that happened to 10586 since it was published.

This is positive. Microsoft should have done this for a while, and I hope they continue indefinitely.

Source: Microsoft

The BayTrail powered lASUSTOR AS5002T 2-Bay NAS

Subject: Systems, Storage | February 10, 2016 - 08:34 PM |
Tagged: asustor, AS5002T, NAS, htpc, baytrail

Being in the market for a Plex server and running low on patience and spare hardware I have been sniffing around NAS servers, which is why you are now reading about the ASUSTOR AS5002T.  Missing Remote just picked this NAS up for review, powered by a dual core Celeron J1800 clocked at 2.4GHz instead of an ARM processor.  The reason that matters is the inclusion of Intel HD Graphics onboard for real time encoding when streaming to remote devices.  On the other hand it is not the most modern of processors and the AS5002T also showed some peculiarity with drive sizes.  The processor is not going to be able to push 4k over some interfaces but HDMI 1.4a, IR control capability and broad support for the usual selection of HTPC programs does make this NAS a good fit for many.  Read the full review to get a better idea of the capabilities of the ASUSTOR AS5002T.

as5002tp.png

"The ASUSTOR AS5002T is the first Intel based network attached storage (NAS) device tested at Missing Remote. So, I was very curious to see how its dual-core 2.4GHz Celeron J1800 would stack up against the strong showing we’ve seen from ARM Cortex-A15 based systems recently."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Microsoft Adds Third Ring to Insider Program

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 08:03 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The Windows 10 preview program had two settings: Fast and Slow. A third one has been added, called Release Preview, although it sounds a bit different from the other two. According to the blog post, which is supposed to be about a new build of Windows 10 Mobile, Release Preview will grant early access to updates on the current branch of Windows 10. They also call it “updates” instead of “builds”. Fast and Slow, as they have existed, provide builds for the next branch of Windows 10 at the time.

windows-10-bandaid.png

When the public was on July release, Insider provided builds that ended up in the November update. When Windows 10 1511 was released, Insiders received builds on the “Redstone” branch, to be released at some point in the future. That is, apparently, not how Release Preview ring will work. They will receive 1511 updates early. They might receive the final Redstone-one build before general availability, but that is just speculation.

This might take some pressure off of Slow, which, during the Threshold-two timeframe, only received a single build, 10565, outside of the final 10586 one that was released to the public. Slow ended up being little more than a release candidate ring for the upcoming branch. If they push that to Release Preview, for the build that the public will see, then Slow might receive a few more steps on the upcoming branch, especially now that Fast are receiving more frequent updates. After all, users who are only interested in one or two builds per branch will probably be satisfied with pre-release updates and the final build early (again, if they release the final builds early on Release Preview, which is speculation).

Or Microsoft might just want a few more testers for Windows Update patches. Who knows?

Source: Microsoft