Star Citizen Keeps Getting Bigger. Literally.

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: star citizen, rsi

When the game is finished, Robert Space Industries is expecting the Star Citizen game client to be 100GB in size. The company was given $75 million USD from fans over the last two and a half years, and they seem to be using it for content. Individual patches are expected to be in the 2 to 6GB range, but could extend to 20GB if an architecture change requires updating old assets to some new system.

robertsspace-coffee.jpg

I guess this is a case of “be careful what you wish for”. When you praise a developer for producing a gigantic experience with tonnes of content, it will need to be stored somewhere. At the same time, I wonder when games from typical publishers will match this bar. Say what you like about crowd-funding, but Star Citizen seems to be an example of the business model done right (although their budget is astronomical and that probably helped).

Star Citizen is slowly being released, piece by piece, with a 2016 shipping date.

Source: PC Gamer

GDC 15: Valve's GDC VR "Aperture Science" Demo

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 14, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: vive vr, vive, valve, re vive, Portal 2, Portal, mwc 15, MWC, htc, gdc 15, GDC

At the recent Game Developer Conference and Mobile World Congress events, Valve had a demo for HTC's Vive VR system that was based in the Portal universe. The headset is combined with two controllers, one for each hand, which sound like a cross between Valve's Steam Controller and the Razer Hydra.

htc-valve-vr.jpg

When HTC briefed journalists about the technology, they brought a few examples for use with their prototype. C|Net described three: a little demo where you could paint with the controllers in a virtual space, an aquarium where you stand on a sunken pirate ship and can look at a gigantic blue whale float overhead, and a Portal-based demo that is embedded above. I also found “The Gallery” demo online, but I am not sure where it was presented (if anywhere).

Beyond VR, the Source 2 engine, which powers the Portal experience, looks good. The devices looked very intricate and full of detail. Granted, it is a lot easier to control performance when you are dealing with tight corridors or isolated rooms. The lighting also seems spot on, although it is hard to tell whether this capability is dynamic or precomputed.

The HTC Vive developer kit is coming soon, before a consumer launch in the Autumn.

Source: YouTube

Windows 10 Preview Build Stuff and Stuff

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

So we have been on Build 9926 for a while and Microsoft is aware that we want something new. They started out this Technical Preview claiming that we will see the OS evolve as it is built. While we have, for the most part, been given builds frequently enough to influence the development, the last couple of updates have been about half of their expected interval.

windows-10.png

For this release, Microsoft claims that there is just a single blocking bug that is preventing a public release. They also state that users who want a more stable preview build, such as those who installed it to a production machine (not naming any names... sigh), should switch their update schedule to “Slow”. Users on the “Fast” lane will get new builds much quicker. The words “Daily Builds” appeared on an internal document, but was quickly clarified as an internal memo.

Microsoft is also considering a third tier that pushes updates faster than both “Fast” and “Slow”.

There are two opposing forces when it comes to the update speed of preview software. While you end up with more stability if you are extra careful with troubleshooting, you will not catch every bug. For that matter, there are still bugs that I can point to in Windows 7 that will never be fixed at this point (there is one bug with resizing windows on vertically-separated multiple monitors that still exists in Windows 10 -- although other multi-monitor interfaces that are not in Windows 7 give plenty of workarounds room).

When the update speed is low, you are stuck with bugs that feel excruciating for what feels like forever. Add that to the slow, bursty roll-out of new features and it gives some extra merit to the fast release model. That is, unless you get so quick that you run into bluescreens and other, more critical failures. It is a tough balance that I can sympathize with and empathize to.

It's tough, so I have personally flipped my machine over to “slow”. I figure that I could keep on the more stable builds for a short period of time and wait to hear what the community thinks about each new release before flipping to the fast track.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

MSI Announces New AMD And Intel Motherboards With USB 3.1

Subject: Motherboards | March 14, 2015 - 12:33 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, msi, FX, atx, asmedia asm1352r, amd, am3+

MSI recently announced a torrent of new motherboards that feature USB 3.1 ports. The refreshed lineup includes ten Intel models and, in an interesting twist, two AMD motherboards. MSI’s new motherboards support USB 3.1 by using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller that interfaces with the system via two PCI-E 2.0 lanes (PCI-E 2.0 x2). The controller is rated for the full 10Gbps USB 3.1 speeds. 

MSI X99 Z97 990FA 970A Motherboards WIth USB 3-1.png

It is worth noting that the boards use the traditional USB Type-A connector with one exception. The MSI Z97A Gaming 6 features the new reversible Type-C connector in the form of a single Type-C USB 3.1 port on the rear I/O panel. The other boards have at least two USB 3.1 ports on their rear I/O panels.

The new USB 3.1-supporting lineup is listed below:

  • AMD (970 chipset):
    • SLI Krait Edition
  • AMD (990FX chipset):
    • 990FXA Gaming
  • Intel (Z97 chipset):
    • Z97A Gaming 9 ACK
    • Z97A Gaming 7
    • Z97A Gaming 6
  • Intel (X99 chipset):
    • X99A Gaming 9 ACK
    • X99A Gaming 7
    • X99A Xpower AC
    • X99A Mpower
    • X99A SLI Krait Edition
    • X99A SLI Plus
    • X99A Raider

These new boards are all essentially minor refreshes of previous versions that add the Asmedia controller and faster USB 3.1 ports. You can expect all the multi-GPU and overclocking-friendly features to remain present on these new motherboards.

MSI USB 3.1 Motherboards.jpg

MSI's X99 Xpower AC (left) and Z97A Gaming 9 ACK (right) now support 10Gbps USB 3.1 ports.

AM3+ is still technically AMD's enthusiast platform, but it is still somewhat odd that MSI chose to add USB 3.1 support to AM3+ motherboards with AMD’s aging 990FX and 970 chipsets rather than FM2+ boards with the newer A88X chipset. On the other hand, you can now add much faster external storage to your AM3+ system to give it a bit more life. 

There is no word on pricing but expect the USB 3.1 models to come at a slight premium over the older models in each respective series.

Source: MSI

Report: ASRock to Reveal Mini-ITX Haswell-E Motherboard at CeBIT - The X99E-ITX/ac

Subject: Motherboards | March 13, 2015 - 11:34 PM |
Tagged: X99, mini-itx, Haswell-E, CeBIT 2015, asrock

AnandTech is reporting that motherboard maker ASRock will be showing off a new Haswell-E motherboard at CeBIT 2015, and it would represent an industry first as this new X99 board is in the mini-ITX form factor.

X99E-ITX_ac_Box-2_678x452.jpg

Cramming an X99 system into mini-ITX does limit the platform, as the form-factor's two-DIMM limitation means this can only support dual-channel memory. The other obvious penalty is the single x16 PCI Express slot, though ASRock has incorporated an M.2 connector that may be using a x4 connection (the article points out the "Ultra M.2" listing on the box).

The LGA 2011-3 socket is apparently a slim version according to the report, but it still dominates the tiny motherboard. Dual Intel NICs and included 802.11ac WiFi make this very capable from a networking standpoint, but with limited expansion and reduced memory bandwidth this will appeal to only a limited number of users. Very compact micro-ATX enclosures and existing X99 motherboards in the mATX form-factor can already provide a platform for a very powerful small build, but there is something to be said for the engineering that has made the move the mini-ITX possible.

asrock-x99e-itx-ac-plyta-glowna-3.jpg

Image credit: SweClockers

One item of interest is the inclusion of a heatsink and fan with the motherboard, and given the unusual layout and socket design it is unclear what the aftermarket cooler support might be like with this motherboard. We should see further details soon as CeBIT 2015 kicks off next week.

Source: AnandTech

Dual GPUs can still be quiet

Subject: Systems | March 13, 2015 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: sli, quiet computing

Silent PC Review spends a lot of effort choosing components which offer a great performance but do not create a lot of noise and their latest sytem is a perfect example.  Even with a pair of air cooled GTX 970's and an i5-4690K this system only hit 23dBA under load, quiet enough for SPCR to confirm their 970's suffer from coil whine.  The sound came primarily from the GPUs as you would expect so it is possible that finding a very quiet radiator and watercooling them might reduce the sound produced even further.  It just goes to show how much quieter air cooling has become from the days of screaming 40mm Deltas.

sys1.jpg

"For our 8th Quiet Gaming PC Build Guide, we take on the challenge of two high-end video cards in an SLI configuration featuring a pair of Zotac GTX 970s in the SilverStone Fortress FT05 case."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

 

HiFiMAN's HE-400i Planar Magnetic Headphones for those with the ears to hear

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: audio, hifiman, HE-400i

When HiFiMan refers to the single-sided planar magnetic driver in the HE-400i headset they are describing the positioning of the magnets within the drivers, single sided only have magnets on the side of the driver that is facing away from your ear.  As you might expect from this design decision this is not an inexpensive gaming headset but a high end audiophile headset and the $500 price tag further emphasizes this.  TechPowerUp had a chance to don these earphones and try them out, connected to JDSLabs C5D and O2 headphone amps and were more than impressed.  Indeed the bass reproduction of the HE-400i came near to matching the HE-560 which is twice the price.  If you have a decent headphone amp and discerning ears then HiFiMan is brand to take under consideration.

headphones.jpg

"HiFiMAN has always been known to produce some pretty interesting high-end headphones. Today, we take a look at the new HE-400i. It uses the same magnet array technology HiFiMAN introduced with the critically acclaimed HE-560."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: techPowerUp

Even Intel is feeling the pinch, to the tune of a billion dollars

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Q1, Intel, earnings, billions

Earlier in the week came distressing news from many manufacturers of PC components and now Intel has made their financial state a little clearer.  The Register has posted the numbers, predicted earnings for Q1 of this year have dropped from USD13.7 billion +/- $500 million, down to USD12.8bn +/- $300 million.  Losing about a billion dollars in profit is going to hurt anyone, even the mighty Intel.  The drop in the PC market comes from a variety of sources but two of the most likely candidates are the lack of cash in consumers pockets to upgrade and a lack of competition driving an urge to upgrade.  Once many gamers would willing live on ramen noodles for a time so that they could afford the next GPU or CPU upgrade thanks to the impressive performance increases the next generation offered.  Now new releases tend to offer a small incremental performance increase and occasionally new features which are impressive but nowhere near what an upgrade 10 years ago offered.  Certainly part of the issue is the difficult of coaxing a bit more performance out of silicon and with the reduced competition it is less financially attractive to fund expensive and risky R&D projects than it is to work on small incremental increases in efficiency and performance.

Here's hoping for a change to this market in the coming years.

150px-Intel-logo.svg_.png

"Intel has lowered its revenue forecast for the first quarter of its fiscal 2015 by nearly a billion dollars, citing a weaker than expected PC market."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Razer Blade Pro Notebook Updated with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M and Additional Storage

Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:33 AM |
Tagged: Razer Blade Pro, razer, notebook, laptop, i7-4720HQ, GTX 960M, gaming notebook

Razer has updated their massive Blade Pro notebook with new dual storage options and NVIDIA’s newly announced GeForce GTX 960M graphics.

Blade_Pro_1.jpg

Razer targets the Blade Pro at both gamers and professionals, placing emphasis on the usefulness of the device beyond gaming. However, being limited to 1920x1080 on a 17.3-inch display will eliminate this from consideration by most creative professionals (though the display does feature an anti-glare matte finish). Aiding the performance/gaming side of the notebook is Razer’s localized heating system which the company claims “focuses on directing heat away from the main touch surfaces of the notebook, to areas that can dissipate heat quickly and are not commonly touched by the user. This allows the laptop to pack in the highest performance available with NVIDIA’s critically acclaimed GTX graphics”.

Blade_Pro_2.jpg

The Blade Pro is constructed from aluminum and while reasonably thin at 0.88 inches, the notebook weighs in at a hefty 6.76 pounds (though the probably battery life of such a high-powered system precludes this from a lot of portable use anyway).

Blade_Pro_3.jpg

One of the most interesting aspects of this design is Razer’s Switchblade User Interface (SBUI), which the company says “is designed for a more efficient and intuitive experience for professionals and gamers.” It combines 10 customizable tactile keys and a unique LCD trackpad (which I would assume features a glass surface). Meanwhile the keyboard is backlit and features anti-ghosting technology as well.

Specifications

Intel Core i7-4720HQ Quad Core Processor (2.6GHz / 3.6GHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5 VRAM), Optimus Technology
16GB System Memory (DDR3L-1600 MHz)
Windows 8.1 64-Bit
128GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 256GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
17.3" Full HD 16:9 Ratio, 1920 x 1080 LED backlit
Intel Wireless-AC 7260HMW (802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0)
Gigabit Ethernet port
3x USB 3.0 ports
HDMI 1.4a audio and video output
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition
Built-in stereo speakers
3.5 mm microphone/headphone combo jack
Array microphone
7.1 Codec support (via HDMI)    
Built-in full-HD webcam (2.0 MP)
Compact 150 W Power Adapter
Built-in 74 Wh Rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery
Razer Switchblade User Interface (SBUI)
Razer Anti-Ghosting Keyboard (with adjustable backlight)
Razer Synapse Enabled
Kensington Lock interface
16.8 in. (427 mm) Width x 0.88 in. (22.4 mm) Height x 10.9 in. (277 mm) Depth
6.76 lbs. / 3.07 kg

The Razer Blade Pro starts at $2299.99 and is available now from the Razer online store.

Source: Razer

Asus Launches Premium ROG G501 Gaming Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: haswell, GTX 960M, gaming laptop, g501, ASUS ROG, asus

Today Asus unveiled the Republic of Gamers (ROG) G501 gaming laptop. The G501 is a 4.54 pound 15.6” laptop that packs high end hardware into a thin aluminum shell.

G501_Left Open135 Top.jpg

The ROG G501 features a dark gray 0.81” thick aluminum chassis with a brushed metal finish and red bezel accents. A 15.6” matte IPS display dominates the top half of the PC with a resolution of 3840x2160 (UHD). The lower half includes a red backlit keyboard (1.6mm key travel) with colored WASD keys and a number pad as well as a large trackpad.

External I/O on this gaming machine is extensive and includes:

  • 1 x Thunderbolt
  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x Audio combo jack
  • 1 x SD
  • 1 x 1.2MP webcam
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0

Asus is using the latest mobile technology with the G501 including a 47W Intel Haswell Core i7-4720HQ (4c/8t) processor, NVIDIA GTX 960M (4GB) graphics card, up to 16GB of DDR3 memory, and an impressive 512GB PCI-E x4 solid state drive (rated at 1,400MB/s reads). The laptop also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Asus claims that its Hyper Cool technology will keep the system running cool by using copper heatpipes and giving the CPU and GPU their own heatsink and fan which can be independently controlled to maintain a balance of heat and noise. The laptop is powered by a 96Wh Lithium Polymer battery.

G501_Right Open135.jpg

This beastly gaming laptop will be available next month with an MSRP of $1,999 (with the configuration listed above). More information can be found at gseries.asus.com

In addition to the ROG G501, Asus’ GL551 and G751 series are also being refreshed to include NVIDIA’s new GTX 900 series graphics. The GL551JW will get the GTX 960M while the G751JL will use the GTX 965M.

Source: Asus

NVIDIA Releases GeForce GTX 960M and GTX 950M Mobile Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 12, 2015 - 11:13 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, GTX 960M, GTX 950M, gtx 860m, gtx 850m, gm107, geforce

NVIDIA has announced new GPUs to round out their 900-series mobile lineup, and the new GTX 960M and GTX 950M are based on the same GM107 core as the previous 860M/850M parts.

geforce-gtx-960m-3qtr.png

Both GPUs feature 640 CUDA Cores and are separated by Base clock speed, with the GTX 960M operating at 1096 MHz and GTX 950M at 914 MHz. Both have unlisted maximum Boost frequencies that will likely vary based on thermal constraints. The memory interface is the other differentiator between the GPUs, with the GTX 960M sporting dedicated GDDR5 memory, and the GTX 950M can be implemented with either DDR3 or GDDR5 memory. Both GTX 960M and 950M use the same 128-bit memory interface and support up to 4GB of memory.

As reported by multiple sources the core powering the 960M/950M is a GM107 Maxwell GPU, which means that we are essentially talking about rebadged 860M/850M products, though the unlisted Boost frequencies could potentially be higher with these parts with improved silicon on a mature 28nm process. In contrast the previously announced GTX 965M is based on a cut down Maxwell GM204 GPU, with its 1024 CUDA Cores representing half of the GPU core introduced with the GTX 980.

New notebooks featuring the GTX 960M have already been announced by NVIDIA's partners, so we will soon see if there is any performance improvement to these refreshed GM107 parts.

Source: NVIDIA

New Intel Xeon D Broadwell Processors Aimed at Low Power, High Density Servers

Subject: Editorial, Processors | March 12, 2015 - 08:29 PM |
Tagged: Xeon D, xeon, servers, opinion, microserver, Intel

Intel dealt a blow to AMD and ARM this week with the introduction of the Xeon Processor D Product Family of low power server SoCs. The new Xeon D chips use Intel’s latest 14nm process and top out at 45W. The chips are aimed at low power high density servers for general web hosting, storage clusters, web caches, and networking hardware.

Intel Xeon D Processor.png

Currently, Intel has announced two Xeon D chips, the Xeon D-1540 and Xeon D-1520. Both chips are comprised of two dies inside a single package. The main die uses a 14nm process and holds the CPU cores, L3 cache, DDR3 and DDR4 memory controllers, networking controller, PCI-E 3.0, and USB 3.0 while a secondary die using a larger (but easier to implement) manufacturing process hosts the higher latency I/O that would traditionally sit on the southbridge including SATA, PCI-E 2.0, and USB 2.0.

In all, a fairly typical SoC setup from Intel. The specifics are where things get interesting, however. At the top end, Xeon D offers eight Broadwell-based CPU cores (with Hyper-Threading for 16 total threads) clocked at 2.0 GHz base and 2.5 GHz max all-core Turbo (2.6 GHz on a single core). The cores are slightly more efficient than Haswell, especially in this low power setup. The eight cores can tap into 12MB of L3 cache as well as up to 128GB of registered ECC memory (or 64GB unbuffered and/or SODIMMs) in DDR3 1600 MHz or DDR4 2133 MHz flavors. Xeon D also features 24 PCI-E 3.0 lanes (which can be broken up to as small as six PCI-E 3.0 x4 lanes or in a x16+x8 configuration among others), eight PCI-E 2.0 lanes, two 10GbE connections, six SATA III 6.0 Gbps channels, four USB 3.0 ports, and four USB 2.0 ports.

Intel Xeon D Server Processor Performance.png

All of this hardware is rolled into a part with a 45W TDP. Needless to say, this is a new level of efficiency for Xeons! Intel chose to compare the new chips to its Atom C2000 “Avoton” (Silvermont-based) SoCs which were also aimed at low power servers and related devices. According to the company, Xeon D offers up to 3.4-times the performance and 1.7-times the performance-per-watt of the top end Atom C2750 processor. Keeping in mind that Xeon D uses approximately twice the power as Atom C2000, it is still looking good for Intel since you are getting more than twice the performance and a more power efficient part. Further, while the TDPs are much higher,

Intel has packed Xeon D with a slew of power management technology including Integrated Voltage Regulation (IVR), an energy efficient turbo mode that will analyze whether increased frequencies actually help get work done faster (and if not will reduce turbo to allow extra power to be used elsewhere on the chip or to simply reduce wasted energy), and optional “hardware power management” that allows the processor itself to determine the appropriate power and sleep states independently from the OS.

Being server parts, Xeon D supports ECC, PCI-E Non-Transparent Bridging, memory and PCI-E Checksums, and corrected (errata-free) TSX instructions.

Ars Technica notes that Xeon D is strictly single socket and that Intel has reserved multi-socket servers for its higher end and more expensive Xeons (Haswell-EP). Where does the “high density” I mentioned come from then? Well, by cramming as many Xeon D SoCs on small motherboards with their own RAM and IO into rack mounted cases as possible, of course! It is hard to say just how many Xeon Ds will fit in a 1U, 2U, or even 4U rack mounted system without seeing associated motherboards and networking hardware needed but Xeon D should fare better than Avoton in this case since we are looking at higher bandwidth networking links and more PCI-E lanes, but AMD with SeaMicro’s Freedom Fabric and head start on low power x86 and ARM-based Opteron chip research as well as other ARM-based companies like AppliedMicro (X-Gene) will have a slight density advantage (though the Intel chips will be faster per chip).

Intel Xeon Processor D Product Family Server SoC.png

Which brings me to my final point. Xeon D truly appears like a shot across both ARM and AMD’s bow. It seems like Intel is not content with it’s dominant position in the overall server market and is putting its weight into a move to take over the low power server market as well, a niche that ARM and AMD in particular have been actively pursuing. Intel is not quite to the low power levels that AMD and other ARM-based companies are, but bringing Xeon down to 45W (with Atom-based solutions going upwards performance wise), the Intel juggernaut is closing in and I’m interested to see how it all plays out.

Right now, ARM still has the TDP and customization advantage (where customers can create custom chips and cores to suit their exact needs) and AMD will be able to leverage its GPU expertise by including processor graphics for a leg up on highly multi-threaded GPGPU workloads. On the other hand, Intel has the better manufacturing process and engineering budget. Xeon D seems to be the first step towards going after a market that they have in the past not really focused on.

With Intel pushing its weight around, where will that leave the little guys that I have been rooting for in this low power high density server space?

Source: Intel

Cougar CMD Digital Power Supplies Come With Integrated Fan Controller

Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 12, 2015 - 04:52 PM |
Tagged: power supply, modular psu, Cougar, 80+ bronze

Cougar is launching its new CMD Digital power supplies in 500W and 600W versions. In a move to differentiate itself from the crowd, Cougar has packed in an integrated fan controller and the ability to monitor and control the PSU (e.g. voltage) using software.

The new power supplies are modular excluding the main 24-pin ATX and CPU cables. Both models use a single 12V rail rated at 40A on the 500W model and 49A on the 600W PSU. Cougar uses a temperature controlled 140mm fan to keep the PSU cool. The CMD Digital is 80+ Bronze certified and features various over and under current and voltage protections (OCP, SCP, OVP, UVP, and OPP).

Cougar CMD Digital Power Supply.png

The following power cables and connectors are included:

  • 1 x 24-pin ATX
  • 3 x 4-pin Peripheral (Molex)
  • 5 x SATA (6 on the 600W model)
  • 2 x 8-pin PCI-E (6+2)
  • 1 x 8-pin CPU (4+4)
  • 2 x 3-pin Fan headers
  • 1 x TSR temp sensor port

In all, it’s a fairly standard layout with enough amperage and PCI-E power connectors to support a high end GPU setup.

The integrated fan controller drives up to two case fans (more if you use a splitters, I suppose) that are connected to the back of the power supply. Further, Cougar provides a temperature sensor that you can place anywhere inside your case to monitor case temperature. 

Cougar UIX Analysis.jpg

Using the company’s Cougar UIX software, users can monitor and control fan speeds, monitor system component utilization (CPU, HDD, etc), monitor power consumption, adjust voltage levels, and log various power delivery stats.

Cougar has not yet released pricing, but it will be available in April.

From the features, it sounds like a decent power supply though my opinion would heavily be influenced by the included software. Despite ample computing resources, I like to run a lean system with as little running in the background as possible. If Cougar UIX sips resources and it holds up to the advertised power delivery ratings, I would consider it.

Hopefully we can get one in for review soon and Lee can put it through its paces.

Source: Cougar

Google Releases the Pixel: A $999 Chromebook

Subject: Mobile | March 12, 2015 - 02:56 PM |
Tagged:

Until yesterday virtually all Chromebooks had two things in common: low-end specs and equally low prices. Most sell for around $200 and are available from virtually every manufacturer, and the relative success of these Google Chrome OS laptops in the post-netbook portable space has relied on price. Now Google has announced a new concept for a Chromebook: give it high-end specs and charge $999.

stuff~2.jpg

Is it reasonable to assume in 2015 that a user could be perfectly content using cloud storage and web-based apps to accomplish daily tasks? In many cases, yes. But asking $1k on the strength of better hardware is going to be a difficult sell for a Chromebook. The specs are impressive, beginning with a very high resolution 2560x1700 touchscreen, and like the new MacBook this is also sporting USB Type-C connectivity (with the same 5Gbps speed as the Apple implementation).

The pricing for this device continues a disturbing trend, coming just days after Apple's announcement of a Core M MacBook for $1299. In appearance the Pixel seems to borrow rather heavily from the MacBook Air design with a silver finish, glass trackpad, and backlit island-style black keyboard. If the build quality and screen are top notch then Google may have some justification for the price, but with the limitation of just 32GB of local storage (an additional 1TB cloud storage is offered at no cost for 3 years) and an OS that can only run applications from Google's Chrome store, the price does seem high.

Screenshot_2015-03-12-11-03-30~2.jpg

Specs from Google below:

    • 12.85" multi touch display, 2560 x 1700 (239 ppi), 400 nit brightness, 178° viewing angle
    • Intel® Core™ i5 processor @ 2.2GHz, 8GB memory or Intel® Core™ i7 processor @ 2.4GHz, 16GB memory
    • Intel® HD Graphics 5500, supports 4K video output over DisplayPort or HDMI with optional Type-C video adapter cable
    • 32GB or 64GB of flash storage
      Backlit keyboard, fully clickable etched-glass trackpad
    • 720P HD wide angle camera with blue glass
    • 2x USB Type-C (up to 5Gbps data, 4K display out with optional HDMI or DisplayPort™ adapter, 60W charging)
    • 2x USB 3.0
    • SD card reader
    • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 2x2, Bluetooth 4.0
    • High power stereo speakers, built-in microphone, headphone/mic combo jack
    • Universal Type-C USB Charger, 60W
    • Up to 12 hours of battery life
    • Dimensions: 11.7” x 8.8” x 0.6”, 3.3lbs

If you're ready for the $999 Chromebook experience the Pixel is available now from Google's online store.

Source: Google

The MSI GS30; is that a GTX 980 in your dock or are you just happy to see me?

Subject: Mobile | March 12, 2015 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: msi, gs30, gamingdock

The MSI GS30 Shadow is a high powered laptop with the first external GPU that you can actually buy.  The GamingDock is indeed rather unattractive and hefty on the outside but it is what is on the inside that counts, a full GTX 980 with its own dedicated PSU.  The external connection is a rear mounted PCIe slot which allows the 980 to run at the speeds you would expect it it were inside a desktop PC.  The laptop itself has a Haswell i7-4870HQ, 16GB of DDR3-1600 and pair of Kingston 256GB M.2 SSDs in RAID 0, with the only internal graphics being the Iris Pro 5200 on the CPU.  Kitguru has posted a review here, though it would be interesting another review featuring a head to head competition with the GTX980M.

P4890090.jpg

"When we previewed the MSI GS30 Shadow and GamingDock at the end of 2014 we were blown away by the combination of Core i7-4870HQ CPU in the laptop and the desktop GTX 980 graphics card in the GamingDock. The concept of using an external dock to add proper gaming graphics to a thin and light laptop worked superbly well and we could hardly wait for the official release of the final package of hardware."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: KitGuru

Podcast #340 - News from GDC 2015, FreeSync Release Date, Vulkan and Mantle, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2015 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: western digital, vulkan, video, SSD 750, Re+, raptr, r9 390x, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, Intel, imagination, gtx 960, gsync, gdc 15, freesync, Broadwell, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #340 - 03/12/2015

Join us this week as we wrap up news from GDC 2015, FreeSync Release Date, Vulkan and Mantle, and more!

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

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Beware strange USB drives, they can be killers

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2015 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: usb, flash drive

It is not easy to kill something via USB as the plugs deal with all sorts of devices that are off spec but it can be done.  If you short ground and power the plug disables itself, TVS diodes prevent static electricity from damaging anything and excessive RF is bled off by the inline filtering beads.  That didn't stop this Hack a Day reader from figuring out a way to make a killer USB drive with a inverting DC-DC converter and capacitor bank.  The drive uses the power provided by the USB port to charge the capacitors to -110VDC which then discharges that to the data pins, enough to overcome the protection on the port and it repeats until the USB port is no longer capable of delivering power.  Considering many USB ports are integrated onto your CPU at this point, this is not a very nice thing to do; we present this as a warning and do not recommend this or similar projects be undertaken by our readers.

usb-fryer1.jpg

"[Dark Purple] recently heard a story about how someone stole a flash drive from a passenger on the subway. The thief plugged the flash drive into his computer and discovered that instead of containing any valuable data, it completely fried his computer. The fake flash drive apparently contained circuitry designed to break whatever computer it was plugged into."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Waiting for a date with USB 3.1?

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, Superspeed+, Superspeed Plus, asus, Z97-A/USB 3.1

Not too long ago Al and Ryan had a chance to play with a prototype USB 3.1 enclosure from ASUS and an add-in card with a controller from ASMedia.  The Tech Report also received the prototype USB 3.1 enclosure with two mSATA drives running in RAID-0 mode but they happened to have an ASUS Z97-A/USB 3.1 motherboard which has a built in port and ASMedia controller.  Their CrystalDiskMark results showed a ~75% boost in sequential read and write performance with 4K random write speeds also vastly increased.  That is not the highlight of their review however; ASUS provided a list of upcoming USB 3.1 releases from multiple vendors so you can now get an idea when you might want to upgrade to a board with USB 3.1 on it.

dock2.jpg

"Today, we're going to take our very first look at some USB 3.1 gear. Asus has supplied us with a drive enclosure and a matching motherboard, which will help us gauge the kinds of performance gains users can expect."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

More shiny zombies; Dying Light is brought to you by a similar engine to Dead Island

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: gaming, zombies, dying light, Chrome Engine 6

Dead Island used Chrome Engine 5 and Dying Light will use the sixth version of this engine which should give you an idea of the look and scope of this game.  As for performance, look no further than this article from [H]ard|OCP which details the performance of the game on NVIDIA cards ranging from the GTX 750 Ti to the GTX 980 as well as Radeons from R9-285 through the 290X.  This engine proved to love VRAM, at 4K the GTX 980 and R9 290X stuttered at points and the three 2GB cards showed the same problems at 1080p.  It would seem that even though the 970 never used more than 3.6GB of VRAM the card performed better than either of AMD's top offerings.  Pity about the lack of multiple GPU support.

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"Dying Light is out on the PC and we are liking it. Today we evaluate performance on many video cards to find out what kind of gameplay experience to expect. We will also compare graphical settings and find out which ones are the most demanding and what level of video card you need for this game."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Hey Cortana, your father is 20 now! Hope you fare better than BOB

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, fail, bob

For those who have seen the interface in the YouTube video before; we apologize for the mess you just made on your floor but the younger generations should be reminded of what has come before.  Microsoft Bob was released 20 years ago yesterday and most of it died very shortly afterwards as Windows 95 did not need a replacement GUI for the File Manager, the only way to interface with your Windows machine previously.  The saddest part is that File Manager grew up to become Windows Explorer while what remained of Bob were only seen when you encountered a machine that did not have the Search Buddy turned off.  You may recognize that giant waste of CPU cycles, Rover, as that Search Buddy but he also stalked you throughout the Bob GUI, though back then he would roll over if you scratched him.  You can find Bob and Win3.1 on the net in seconds but The Register was also nice enough to link to an .OVA file so you can relive one of the more painful memories of both Microsoft users and executives.  Let's hope Cortana doesn't suffer as horrible a fate as her predecessor.

"Tuesday, 10 March 2015, is a day of infamy, for on that day in 1995 Microsoft gave the world Bob, the “social interface” for Windows 3.x and 95."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register