Software defined USB may help save your devices

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2016 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c

The USB Implementers Forum, in charge of developing the standards for USB interfaces have developed software which can confirm the authenticity of a USB device or USB charger before allowing power to pass over the connection.  This is intended to prevent the death of another Pixel, or any other device which might charge over a Type C connection thanks to a dodgy cable.  It is not yet released but was written with the intention enabling it to be distributed as a patch to your OS as it was designed with a proper signature and certificate to ensure it is not easy to tamper with.  The Register has more on this story as well as information on Google's WebUSB protocol which will allow a connected USB device to communicate with connected networks.

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"The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has announced the "USB Type-C Authentication specification", a set of software-defined rules that a device can use to protect itself from potential sizzlage."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

PS4 Remote Play Now Available On PCs and Macs With 3.50 Firmware Update

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2016 - 12:54 AM |
Tagged: sony, remote play, PSN, ps4, playstation 4, game streaming

Sony is rolling out a new firmware update for its PlayStation 4 gaming console. The 3.50 firmware update adds social networking features to schedule events and allow users to appear offline along with a major change that opens up Remote Play to allow game streaming from the PS4 to Macs and Windows PCs.

PS4 Remote Play.jpg

Users should start receiving the console update shortly. In order to stream to PCs, users will need to download the Remote Play utility for Windows or OS X. PC system requirements are modest requiring a minimum of a dual core (4 thread) Intel Core i5 560M (2.67 GHz) and 2GB of RAM when running Windows. Mac users can get by with an even lower end i5 520M (2.4 GHz). Users will need to be running the 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows (8.1 or 10) or Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite or newer.

Sony recommends having a bare minimum of a 5Mbps symmetrical broadband internet connection in order to stream games to remote devices, and it recommends a connection with at least 12 Mbps download and upload speeds for the best results. Unfortunately, this rules out most DSL users, though they should still be able to play locally over their LAN. (It is not clear whether you can direct connect to the console to stream or if you have to go through a Sony server to stream, other remote play devices seem to be able to work only off of the LAN connection though so it should work.)

Sony makes it easy to play your games by supporting the DualShock 4 controller – users will simply need to plug it into the PC via USB cable and it will work as expected on PlayStation games. You will also need a Sony Entertainment Network account to pair devices and it is recommended to set the desired PS4 as your primary account. Specific setup instructions can be found here.

Streaming capabilities are currently limited as there is no support for streaming at 1080p resolution. Out of the box, Remote Play will stream at 540p and 30 FPS (frames per second). Users (preferably with wired devices including the PS4) can go into the settings and max it out at 720p and 60 FPS or dial it all the way down to 360p if you really need to play remotely over the internet with a small upload pipe.

Sony notes that not all games support Remote Play, but it seems like the majority of the console's catalog of games do.

There are several YouTube videos of users testing out Remote Play, and it does work. It seems to be a bit behind Xbox One streaming in the video quality and usability departments (e.g. no 1080p and you can't change resolution and frame rate on the fly). Hopefully Sony continues to flesh out the application and features.

Have you had a chance to try PS4 to PC game streaming? I'm now waiting for Microsoft to allow PC to Xbox One streaming hehe.

Source: Sony

Thrustmaster Introduces Xbox One Compatible TMX Wheel

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2016 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: Thrustmaster, TMX, T300, tx f458, force feedback, wheels, racing pedals, DiRT Rally, project cars, Assetto Corsa, xbox one

Some months ago I had the chance to review the PS3/4 and PC compatible Thrustmaster T150.  This turned out to be a solid little wheel with full functionality that would not break the bank.  The force feedback was not as strong or as nuanced as what I had found with the higher end TX F458 and T300 products, but it provided a wholly satisfactory experience that was around one half the price of the higher end products.
 
TMXproduct-1.png
 
Something missing from the lineup was a budget/entry level product for the Xbox One.  The TX F458 provides support for that platform, but it is anywhere from $300 to $400 US in price.  Essentially the same price as the console itself.  This comes at a pretty good time as a whole slew of racing games are being released on consoles these days (or soon).  Products such as DiRT Rally, Project Cars, and the upcoming console release of Assetto Corsa have injected new life into racing titles on consoles.  Add in Microsoft's continued development of the Forza series, console users have a good excuse to purchase racing inspired gear for their products.
 
In speaking with the DiRT developers, they admitted that they have to adjust the difficulty of the games to make them playable on game pads.  This makes sense as there are not nearly enough degrees of movement from either a turning or throttle/braking standpoint.  There is maybe a 30 degree movement in total with the thumbpads as well as not very many gradiations when using the triggers on the gamepad for braking and throttle control.  To get the most out of racing games a wheel is very necessary.  It provides the accuracy needed to drive very fast without the application helping a user out by decreasing the realism of the driving experience.
 
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The Thrustmaster TMX Force Feedback wheel is very similar in build and size to the earlier T150.  The primary differences are of course the Xbox One compatibility as well as a 900 degree rotation.  The T150 had the full 1080 degrees, but it seems like the 900 number is a hard limit on the Xbox.  The wheel can be programmed to handle rotations as low as 270 degrees as well as up to 900.  It is a hybrid pulley/geared unit with solid force feedback strength.  It features a metal axle and metal ball bearings so the wear will be minimal over the lifetime of the product.  It also features the same 12 bit optical tracking mechanism that the T150 utilizes that gives 4096 values for each 360 degrees of rotation of the wheel.
 
PictosPedalesTMX.jpg
 
No specialty drivers or software are needed for use with the Xbox One, but drivers are needed for the PC.  The firmware in the wheel contains all the necessary software to run successfully on the Xbox One, so it is simply plug and play for that platform.  The wheel comes with the wide 2 pedal unit which also allows users to remove the pads and adjust their position to their own liking.  The paddle shifters are also made of metal so that they will not break after extended use and wear.  While the actual wheel itself cannot be swapped out like with the TX and T300 bases, the TMX does support the Thrustmaster ecosystem of add-in parts.  It is compatible with the T3PA and T3PA-Pro bedals and the TH8A manual shifter (that can also be configured as a sequential shifter).
 
EcosystemTMX.jpg
 
$199.99 is not inexpensive, but it is a reasonable price for a product of this nature.  It looks to be a very good introductory wheel of the Xbox One platform that will last years.  It could also act as a gateway drug to more expensive purchases in the future, such as the pro pedals, a new base, and a fancy Alcantara based wheel.  The TMX should be available by next month at major retailers around the world.
Source: Thrustmaster

This ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti took the red pill

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 12, 2016 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: asus, 980 Ti, GTX 980 Ti MATRIX Platinum, DirectCU II

The ASUS GTX 980 Ti MATRIX Platinum comes with a mix of features including a memory defroster, as this card is designed with LN2 cooling in mind so we may see it appear in some of this years overclocking contests.  It uses the older dual-fan DirectCU II, not the newer CU III version but the cards still remained around 60C under full load when [H]ard|OCP tested them.  The one-press VBIOS reload is perfect if you run into issues overclocking, and this card will overclock as [H] hit 1266MHz Base/1367MHz Boost/1503MHz In-Game with VRAM at 8.2GHz.  That overclocking potential as well as an asking price currently under MSRP helped this card win the Gold, see it surpass the MSI Lightning in the full review.

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"Today we review the ASUS GTX 980 Ti MATRIX Platinum, a gaming enthusiast centered video card which boasts enthusiast air cooling and an enthusiast overclock on air cooling. This high-end video card features DirectCU II cooling, making it the perfect comparison to the MSI GTX 980 TI LIGHTNING in class, price, performance and cooling."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

T'is but a flesh wound! The PC market shrinks by about 10% this Q1

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2016 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, apple, asus, market share, doom

That rustling you hear outside your door is the press getting ready to once again predict the impending doom of the PC industry, ready with bon mots describing how the world, including statisticians, engineers and animation creators will be using tablets for their work from now on.  As is always the case, these doomsayers are vastly overstating their case, though this is not to say there are some hurdles facing the PC industry as a whole.

Windows 10 has failed to drive consumers to update their hardware, for a variety of reasons obvious to everyone but Gartner, IDC and Microsoft's marketing team.  Intel's latest offerings have not provided a solid reason for enthusiasts to upgrade their machines and AMD is worryingly quiet lately.  This has lead to a fall in sales compared to this time last year of between 9.6-11.5% depending on which of the two sources The Inquirer quoted you choose to believe is more accurate

Apple and ASUS are the only two companies showing growth and a 1% increase is nothing you should brag about, even if you are beating the competition.  Even Lenovo is seeing their sales shrink, to the tune of roughly 10%.  There is new hardware slated to arrive soon and the falling price of M.2 and PCIe SSDs may provide some impetus for enthusiasts to pick up a new motherboard at the very least, so hopefully we will see this trend begin to reverse itself before the end of the year.

montypython2.png

"Gartner's report said that PC shipments reached 64.8 million units in the first quarter of 2016, while IDC offered the more pessimistic figure of 60.6 million. This represents a decline of 9.6 per cent or 11.5 percent, depending on which figure you go on."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Micron and Intel Launch a Wave of Enterprise Storage Products

Subject: Storage | April 12, 2016 - 11:30 AM |
Tagged: vmware, ssd, S600DC, S3100, P3520, P3320, Nexenta, micron, Intel, D3700, D3600, Ceph, 9100, 7100, 5410s, 540s, 5400s

There has been a lot of recent shuffling about in the world of enterprise storage. I’m writing up this post from a Micron product launch event in Austin, Texas. Today they are launching a round of enterprise SSD products. These lines cover the full storage gamut from M.2 to U.2 to HHHL. While prior Micron SSDs were bottlenecked by AHCI and PCIe 2.0, these new lines are using Marvell controllers and are capable of PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds (plus NVMe).

9100.jpg

The workhorse of the lineup is the 9100, which will be available in HHHL and U.2 2.5” 15mm form factors.

7100.jpg

Lighter workloads are handled by the 7100 series, which is available in U.2 2.5” 7mm and M.2 22110. The slower serial bus remains covered by their S600DC SAS SSDs.

Micron is not the only company pushing further into this space. Less than two weeks ago, Intel ran their ‘Cloud Day’ event, where they launched a new Xeon CPU and a plethora of new SSDs, some of which were based on IMFT 3D NAND tech (SSD DC P3320). Intel also launched the client 540s and business 5400s product lines, which are based on Silicon Motion SM2256 controllers driving SK Hynix hybrid (SLC+TLC) flash. While these controllers and flash are coming from external sources, they must still pass Intel’s rigorous qualification and compatibility validation testing, so failure rates should be kept to a minimum.

Another aspect of this Micron launch day is their push into the production of not only SSDs, but all-flash storage devices. Dubbed ‘Micron Accelerated Solutions’, these are devices built, serviced, and supported by Micron. They naturally contain Micron SSDs, but also draw on other vendors like Supermicro and Nexenta. The products range from VMware SANs, to Ceph solutions capable of 1 million IOPS and 140 Gbps, to software-defined storage. I’ll be sitting through briefings and asking questions about these products when this post is set to go live, and I will update this space with any additional juicy tidbits once we wrap up for the day.

**Update**

Apparently we are going to see consumer IMFT 3D TLC NAND *this month* in the form of a Crucial MX300!

DSC00512.jpg

...and in a couple of months we will see Crucial M.2 PCIe SSDs:

DSC00513.jpg

There was also some discussion on XPoint (spoken 'cross point') and where Micron sees this new storage being implemented. Expected to see scaled production in 2017 and 2018, XPoint is non-volatile (like flash) but extremely fast (like DRAM). There was not much said beyond generalities, but they did have a wafer, and you know I love die shots:

DSC00531.jpg

I was not permitted to get a better die shot of the wafer at this event, as the Micron rep specifically requested that journalists only use photos that were shot from stage distance. Fortunately, this was not the only event where I have photographed a XPoint wafer. Here is a photo I caught at a prior event:

DSC03304.JPG

**End update**

Here is a quick breakdown of the products launched by both Intel and Micron over the last two weeks:

Intel:

  • SSD DC P3520 and P3320
    • First SSDs to use 256Gbit/die 32-layer IMFT 3D NAND.
    • PCIe 3.0 x4 HHHL and 2.5” U.2
    • 450GB-2TB
  • SSD DC D3700 and D3600
    • PCIe 3.0 x4 2.5” U.2 dual-port design.
      • Dual-port means two hosts can access a single SSD through the use of a special backplane that merges the PCIe lanes from two separate systems into a single U.2 connector. This is a move for increased redundancy, as one system can fail and the same flash storage will still be available to the failover system.
    • 800GB-1.6TB
  • SSD DC S3100
    • SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
      • Intended for boot OS / caching / index storage duties
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD 540s and Pro 5400s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix SLC+TLC hybrid flash
    • Pro 5200s adds Intel vPro / OPAL 2.0 and Microsoft eDrive support
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD E 5400s and E 5410s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix flash
    • Small capacity M.2 2280 and 2.5” SATA
    • 48GB-180GB

Micron:

That’s a whole lot of flash related product launches in a very short period of time. I’m excited to see large pushes into the enterprise because that means we will see this tech trickle down to consumers and power users that much sooner!

The Micron NVMe press release was a bit light on details, so I’ve included their Accelerated Solutions release after the break.

Source: Micron

Is there still a market for DIY watercooling kits? The Thermaltake Pacific RL240 surfaces

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 11, 2016 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: Pacific RL24, thermaltake, watercooler

As you can see from the image, the Thermaltake Pacific RL240 Water Cooling Kit comes with some assembly required, it is not an AiO cooler.  Since it is a full kit it will cost you much more than a self contained cooling apparatus, at $284 on both Amazon and Newegg many users will not be interested in installing this cooler.  For those that are still curious, one of the benefits of the kit is that it contains everything you need, including the waterblock, reservoir and pump as well as the radiator and even coolant.  Unfortunately [H]ard|OCP's testing revealed the performance to be moderate at best, so the price premium is hard to justify, as you can see in the full review.

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"In a world now filled with All-In-One CPU coolers, Thermaltake takes it old school with a water cooling kit that has everything you need from A to Z. If cutting your hose to length and perfecting the layout and presentation of your cooling loop appeals to you, Thermaltake makes it easy with a one stop shop."

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

CASES & COOLING

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The Priv has been flushed

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: Android, blackberry, Priv

Blackberry has abandoned the Priv, calling it somewhat of an expensive mistake not only because of the investment costs but also because it was priced well above what consumers are willing to pay for a phone.  They will be developing a new Android device which is intended to sell at $400, in line with the competitions prices.  This also seems to imply that the BB10 OS will no longer be actively developed at Blackberry although they have not stated that for the record.  They also haven't disclosed how many Priv's were sold but considering what they told The Register and others it is likely to be well below what they had hoped.  They aren't dead yet but they are certainly low on health.

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"BlackBerry's CEO has used an interview with United Arab Emirates outlet The National to announce plans to move the troubled mobe-maker's Android efforts downscale."

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Source: The Register

AMD Radeon Crimson Edition drivers continue quality improvement

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 11, 2016 - 11:23 AM |
Tagged: rtg, radeon technologies group, radeon, driver, crimson, amd

For longer than AMD would like to admit, Radeon drivers and software were often criticized for plaguing issues on performance, stability and features. As the graphics card market evolved and software became a critical part of the equation, that deficit affected AMD substantially. 

In fact, despite the advantages that modern AMD Radeon parts typically have over GeForce options in terms of pure frame rate for your dollar, I recommended an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, 980 and 980 Ti for our three different VR Build Guides last month ($900, $1500, $2500) in large part due to confidence in NVIDIA’s driver team to continue delivering updated drivers to provide excellent experiences for gamers.

But back in September of 2015 we started to see changes inside AMD. There was drastic reorganization of the company and those people in charge. AMD setup the Radeon Technologies Group, a new entity inside the organization that would have complete control over the graphics hardware and software directions. And it put one of the most respected people in the industry at its helm: Raja Koduri. On November 24th AMD launched Radeon Software Crimson, a totally new branding, style and implementation to control your Radeon GPU. I talked about it at the time, but the upgrade was noticeable; everything was faster, easier to find and…pretty.

Since then, AMD has rolled out several new drivers with key feature additions, improvements and of course, game performance increases. Thus far in 2016 the Radeon Technologies Group has released 7 new drivers, three of which have been WHQL certified. That is 100% more than they had during this same time last year when AMD released zero WHQL drivers and a big increase over the 1 TOTAL driver AMD released in Q1 of 2015.

crimson-3.jpg

Maybe most important of all, the team at Radeon Technologies Group claims to be putting a new emphasis on “day one” support for major PC titles. If implemented correctly, this gives enthusiasts and PC gamers that want to stay on the cutting edge of releases the ability to play optimized titles on the day of release. Getting updated drivers that fix bugs and improve performance weeks or months after release is great, but for gamers that may already be done with that game, the updates are worthless. AMD was guilty of this practice for years, having driver updates that would fix performance issues on Radeon hardware for reviewer testing but that missed the majority of the play time of early adopting consumers.

q1driver-2.jpg

Thus far, AMD has only just started down this path. Newer games like Far Cry Primal, The Division, Hitman and Ashes of the Singularity all had drivers from AMD on or before release with performance improvements, CrossFire profiles or both. A few others were CLOSE to day one ready including Rise of the Tomb Raider, Plants vs Zombies 2 and Gears of War Ultimate Edition.

 

Game Release Date First Driver Mention Driver Date Feature / Support
Rise of the Tomb Raider 01-28-2016 16.1.1 02-05-2016 Performance and CrossFire Profile
Plants vs Zombies 2 02-23-2016 16.2.1 03-01-2016 Performance
Gears Ultimate Edition 03-01-2016 16.3 03-10-2016 Performance
Far Cry Primal 03-01-2016 16.2.1 03-01-2016 CrossFire Profile
The Division 03-08-2016 16.1 02-25-2016 CrossFire Profile
Hitman 03-11-2016 16.3 03-10-2016 Performance, CrossFire Profile
Need for Speed 03-15-2016 16.3.1 03-18-2016 Performance, CrossFire Profile
Ashes of the Singularity 03-31-2016 16.2 02-25-2016 Performance

 

AMD claims that the push for this “day one” experience will continue going forward, pointing at a 35% boost in performance in Quantum Break between Radeon Crimson 16.3.2 and 16.4.1. There will be plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks and months to test AMD (and NVIDIA) on this “day one” focus with PC titles that will have support for DX12, UWP and VR.

The software team at RTG has also added quite a few interesting features since the release of the first Radeon Crimson driver. Support for the Vulkan API and a DX12 capability called Quick Response Queue, along with new additions to the Radeon settings (Per-game display scaling, CrossFire status indicator, power efficiency toggle, etc.) are just a few.

q1driver-4.jpg

Critical for consumers that were buying into VR, the Radeon Crimson drivers launched with support alongside the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Both of these new virtual reality systems are putting significant strain on the GPU of modern PCs and properly implementing support for techniques like timewarp is crucial to enabling a good user experience. Though Oculus and HTC / Valve were using NVIDIA based systems more or less exclusively during our time at the Game Developers Summit last month, AMD still has approved platforms and software from both vendors. In fact, in a recent change to the HTC Vive minimum specifications, Valve retroactively added the Radeon R9 280 to the list, giving a slight edge in component pricing to AMD.

AMD was also the first to enable full support for external graphics solutions like the Razer Core external enclosure in its drivers with XConnect. We wrote about that release in early March, and I’m eager to get my hands on a product combo to give it a shot. As of this writing and after talking with Razer, NVIDIA had still not fully implemented external GPU functionality for hot/live device removal.

When looking for some acceptance metric, AMD did point us to a survey they ran to measure the approval and satisfaction of Crimson. After 1700+ submission, the score customers gave them was a 4.4 out of 5.0 - pretty significant praise even coming from AMD customers. We don't exactly how the poll was run or in what location it was posted, but the Crimson driver release has definitely improved the perception that Radeon drivers have with many enthusiasts.

I’m not going to sit here and try to impart on everyone that AMD is absolved of past sins and we should immediately be converted into believers. What I can say is that the Radeon Technologies Group is moving in the right direction, down a path that shows a change in leadership and a change in mindset. I talked in September about the respect I had for Raja Koduri and interviewed him after AMD’s Capsaicin event at GDC; you can already start to see the changes he is making inside this division. He has put a priority on software, not just on making it look pretty, but promising to make good on proper multi-GPU support, improved timeliness of releases and innovative features. AMD and RTG still have a ways to go before they can unwind years of negativity, but the ground work is there.

The company and every team member has a sizeable task ahead of them as we approach the summer. The Radeon Technologies Group will depend on the Polaris architecture and its products to swing back the pendulum against NVIDIA, gaining market share, mind share and respect. From what we have seen, Polaris looks impressive and differentiates from Hawaii and Fiji fairly dramatically. But this product was already well baked before Raja got total control and we might have to see another generation pass before the portfolio of GPUs can change around the institution. NVIDIA isn’t sitting idle and the Pascal architecture also promises improved performance, while leaning on the work and investment in software and drivers that have gotten them to the dominant market leader position they are in today.

I’m looking forward to working with AMD throughout 2016 on what promises to be an exciting and market-shifting time period.

NVIDIA Releases 364.91 Beta Drivers for Developers

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 10, 2016 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, vulkan, graphics drivers

This is not a main-line, WHQL driver. This is not even a mainstream beta driver. The beta GeForce 364.91 drivers (364.16 on Linux) are only available on the NVIDIA developer website, which, yes, is publicly accessible, but should probably not be installed unless you are intending to write software and every day counts. Also, some who have installed it claim that certain Vulkan demos stop working. I'm not sure whether that means the demo is out-of-date due to a rare conformance ambiguity, the driver has bugs, or the reports themselves are simply unreliable.

khronos-2016-vulkanlogo2.png

That said, if you are a software developer, and you don't mind rolling back if things go awry, you can check out the new version at NVIDIA's website. It updates Vulkan to 1.0.8, which is just documentation bugs and conformance tweaks. These things happen over time. In fact, the initial Vulkan release was actually Vulkan 1.0.3, if I remember correctly.

The driver also addresses issues with Vulkan and NVIDIA Optimus technologies, which is interesting. Optimus controls which GPU acts as primary in a laptop, switching between the discrete NVIDIA one and the Intel integrated one, depending on load and power. Vulkan and DirectX 12, however, expose all GPUs to the system. I'm curious how NVIDIA knows whether to sleep one or the other, and what that would look like to software that enumerates all compatible devices. Would it omit listing one of the GPUs? Or would it allow the software to wake the system out of Optimus should it want more performance?

Anywho, the driver is available now, but you probably should wait for official releases. The interesting thing is this seems to mean that NVIDIA will continue to release non-public Vulkan drivers. Hmm.

Source: NVIDIA

Lian Li Debuts SFX-L PE-550 and PE-750 SFF Power Supplies

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2016 - 07:23 PM |
Tagged: small form factor, SFX-L, SFX, PSU, power supply, Lian Li

Lian Li has (rather unexpectedly) announced a pair of SFX-L power supplies, with the PE-550 and PE-750 small form-factor PSUs.

pe750-02.jpg

Lian Li PE-750 SFX-L power supply

SFX-L is the slightly longer (hence the "L") version of SFX, and permits more powerful designs and larger, quieter fans than standard SFX. Of the two new models from Lian Li the PE-550 is an 80 Plus Gold PSU rated at 550W, and the PE-750 is an 80 Plus Platinum model boasting a whopping 750W from this tiny form-factor.

Lian Li has doubtless contracted the manufacture of these PSUs, as the post on SFF Network has concluded: "The 550W at least is from Enhance according to the UL number and the possibly the 750W based on the heatsink design."

pe550.jpg

Lian Li PE-550 SFX-L power supply

The 750W model now bests SilverStone in the SFX power category, eclipsing their 700W SFX-L model shown at CES this year (and which is still not listed on their site). Just why anyone would need 750W for what would presumably be a mini-ITX system (limited as mITX motherboards are, with only one PCI Express x16 slot); but the benefits of SFX are certainly appreciated the moment one begins working inside of an enclosure such as the NCASE M1.

pe750-08.jpg

The PSUs are fully modular with flat, ribbon style cables (PE-750 pictured)

Particulars as the pricing/availability were not yet known at press time. For full specs check out the links for Lian Li's product pages for the PE-550 and PE-750.

Source: SFF Network

The GIGABYTE Z170X Gaming 6 sells at a very appropriate price

Subject: Motherboards | April 8, 2016 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z170X Gaming 6, Intel, Z170

At this moment the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 6 costs $170 on Amazon, which gets you support for dual SLI or triple Crossfire, a Killer NIC E2200, a pair of  M.2 slots, three SEx ports and even a Type-C USB 3.1 port in amongst other USB, A/V out and SATA connections.  [H]ard|OCP tested the performance of this board and found the overclocking potential to be somewhat disappointing, although possible with some effort.  After dealing with BIOS issues and some very warm MOSFETs one reviewer settled on running an i7 6700 @ 4.6GHz (100x46) and DDR4 set at 2666MHz.  In the end this board is a good value for someone who wants a wide variety of features and is either disinclined to overclock or who is willing to put effort into tweaking the UEFI to acheive a decent overclock.

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"GIGABYTE is back with its $165 Z170X Gaming 6 motherboard today. It’s a full featured motherboard that won’t break the bank and has a lot to offer. While many enthusiasts need what is considered high end, there are a lot of enthusiasts just looking for something that will get the job done with a few extra bells and whistles."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Corsair's Angular Carbide SPEC-ALPHA Enclosure Released

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2016 - 03:09 PM |
Tagged: mid-tower, enclosure, corsair, case, Carbide SPEC-ALPHA, atx case

Corsair has officially released the Carbide SPEC-ALPHA case they were showing off at CES 2016, and this mid-tower is a striking design that offers an alternative to more traditional look of the company's recent Carbide offerings.

DSC_0157.jpg

The White/Red SPEC-ALPHA at CES

"With its modern, angular appearance, the SPEC-ALPHA really stands out in a crowd. But its looks aren’t all that are modern – the SPEC-ALPHA features native USB 3.0 support, room for up to four SSDs, and a three-speed fan controller for the three included 120mm fans. A large window shows off internal components and the Direct Airflow Path layout, which provides superior cooling by getting rid of unnecessary drive bays."

The inclusion of a 3-speed fan control is definately welcome at this price, which is an attractive $79.99 MSRP. We'll have to wait until we get one in to test to see how it performs, but at first glance it looks promising. Doubtless the look won't be for everyone, but if you look at a lot of enclosures (like someone I know) unusual designs are always welcome!

DSC_0160.jpg

Inside the Black/Red version

Technical specifications from Corsair:

  • Expansion Slots: 7
  • 5.25” Drive bays: N/A
  • 3.5” Hard Drive Bays: 3
  • 2.5” Drive Bays: 4
  • Cooling Layout:
    • Front: 2 x 120mm (2 x 120mm LED included)
    • Top: 2 x 120mm
    • Rear: 1 x 120mm (included)
    • Radiator Compatibility:
      • 240mm: Front only
      • 120mm: Front, or Rear
  • Integrated dust filters for front and bottom intakes
  • Front I/O Panel includes:
    • USB 3.0 port (x2)
    • Three-Speed Fan Controller
    • Headphone and Microphone jacks
    • Power on and Reset buttons
  • Dimensions (LxWxH) 518 x 220 x 474 mm (20.39 x 8.66 x 18.66 inches)
    • Maximum GPU Length: 380 mm
    • Maximum CPU Cooler Height: 156 mm
    • Maximum PSU Length: 190 mm
  • 2 Year Warranty

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(Image credit: Corsair)

As stated above the Carbide SPEC-ALPHA retails for $79.99 and is available now.

Source: Corsair

Other PSU companies hate them; Corsair's one weird trick to get you from a 7 to a 10

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 8, 2016 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: Warranty, PSU, corsair

If you are using a Corsair AXi, HXi, RMi Series or RMx Series PSU they have some great news for you today.  The 7 year warranty that you used to have has now been increased to a full decade of protection against product defects the in materials or workmanship.  It still won't help you if a snake decides to make a home in your PSU but for any failures caused because of design problems will be covered.  You can see the full details of the warranty over at Corsair's site.

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You can read the full PR here.

Source: Corsair

Oh, we like this; Edge will now pause some Flash content

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2016 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: flash, microsoft, edge, windows 10

The new insider build of Windows 10 includes a new feature on Edge, similar to the one already found on Chrome, it will pause Flash assets on webpages which are not the main content.  This should mean far less annoying advertisements blaring from your speakers if you happen to visit an uncouth website which features that type of advertisement.  It is also a step in the right direction for security, considering Adobe has posted yet another critical update for a gaping security hole in Flash.  You can follow the links from Slashdot to grab the update if you wish, or delve into the morass of comments about this update.

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"Microsoft Edge will "intelligently auto-pause" Flash content that is "not central to the webpage." If you want to try this out now, you can take the feature for a spin with Windows 10 build 14316, which was recently made available to Windows Insiders"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

You know you want it, Little Tikes kidBoard

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2016 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: Little Tikes, kidBoard, input

Look at that colour scheme, LEDs would just ruin the beautiful clash of blue, red and purple on the yellow background.  Clicky keys?  You bet this thing clicks, so much better than any mere Cherry MX keyboard.  It is also ruggedized, you could keep typing even when falling down stairs, you might feel bad by the time you hit the ground floor but this keyboard won't care. It may not survive a jamming though, so keep your milk and cookies or PBJ to the side when composing on this keyboard.  Drop Modders Inc a note to let them know they've done a top notch job with this review as well as with their sense of humour.

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"The Little Tikes kidBoard: the name says it all. An undisputed titan of computer peripherals, the engineers at Little Tikes have set the bar higher than ever with their newest release. The kidBoard incorporates an incredible combination of bleeding-edge software, phonics integration, and hardware mastery to create the next generation of gaming keyboards."

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Source: Modders Inc

IBM is feeling Powerful in the Core Wars, details on the Power9 architecture have arrived

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2016 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, IBM, power9

IBM's Power9 processor is scheduled to appear on the scene just over a year from now and finally we have some details about what it will be.  Firstly the core count is to be two higher than Intel, 24 cores and is optimized for use in two socket servers.  The chips are 14nm FinFETs fabbed by GLOBALFOUNDRIES which will be compatible with modern industry standards including DDR4, PCIe 4.0 and NVLink 2.0 so you can even take advantage of Jen-Hsun's latest products. 

The list of customers is quite impressive, Google has moved to Power8 already and described changing to the infrastructure as simple as flipping a switch,  the US Department of Energy will build their next HPCs using Power9 and Rackspace is currently working with Google to develop Power9 server blueprints for the Open Compute Project. 

Several Chinese companies will take advantage of those OpenPower blueprints to develop their own 'partner chips', Power8 and 9 architecture which will be using 10nm gates in 2018 to 2020.  This is somewhat amusing considering the shipping of Xeon processors to China has been banned by the US Government.  Check out more of the slides from IBM's presentation at The Register.

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"IBM's Power9 processor, due to arrive in the second half of next year, will have 24 cores, double that of today's Power8 chips, it emerged today.

Meanwhile, Google has gone public with its Power work – confirming it has ported many of its big-name web services to the architecture, and that rebuilding its stack for non-Intel gear is a simple switch flip."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #394 - Measuring VR Performance, NVIDIA's Pascal GP100, Bristol Ridge APUs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2016 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, video, tesla p100, steamvr, Spectre 13.3, rift, podcast, perfmon, pascal, Oculus, nvidia, htc, hp, GP100, Bristol Ridge, APU, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #394 - 04/07/2016

Join us this week as we discuss measuring VR Performance, NVIDIA's Pascal GP100, Bristol Ridge APUs and more!

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

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

A can of Ashes; benchmarking the Singularity

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2016 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: gaming, ashes of the singularity, dx12

Ashes of the Singularity comes with a canned benchmark which makes it easier to compare the performance delta between DX11 and DX12, though actual gameplay may differ in performance it does make things much easier.  [H]ard|OCP set the graphics to Crazy and tried out the two top cards from NVIDIA and AMD in both APIs and found some very interesting results.  The AMD cards performed well above expectation, the Fury X happily sitting at the top of the pack but the 390X was more impressive, matching the performance of the 980 Ti.  The AMD cards also increased in performed when running underDX12 compared to DX11, a feat the NVIDIA cards were not able to replicate. 

It is still early days for the new DirectX and we should expect to see performance changes as drivers and game engines are refined but for now if you are looking to play this new RTS AMD is the way to go.  Check out the full performance details as well as VRAM usage in [H]'s full review.

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"The new Ashes of the Singularity game has finally been released on the PC. This game supports DX11 and the new DX12 API with advanced features. In this Day 1 Benchmark Preview we will run a few cards through the in-game canned benchmark comparing DX11 versus DX12 performance and NVIDIA versus AMD performance."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Regular Surface, Large Surface are in stock, soon you will be able to order a Small from Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2016 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface phone

For those masochists who like to run Windows phones there is good news on the horizon, three Surface phones are due to arrive some time in 2017.  The market segmentation is different from the competition, instead of offering curved screens or a different size they will sell consumer, business and enthusiast models.  That is an interesting way to separate your products and with the amount that usual phone usage has changed an Enthusiast model actually makes sense for those who spend more time gaming and watching HD content on their phones than on their laptops.

The Inquirer has heard rumours that the phones will have a 5.5" QHD AMOLED screen, an Intel Atom CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of local storage, though one hopes the enthusiast model gets a little boost in specs.

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"MICROSOFT'S RUMOURED Surface Phone reportedly won't see the light of day until next year, but will arrive in three versions when it does."

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Source: The Inquirer