ASUS Responds to GTX 1080 "Reviewer VBIOS" Concerns

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 17, 2016 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: asus, GTX 1080, strix, vbios

Yesterday, there were several news stories posted on TechpowerUp and others claiming that ASUS and MSI were sending out review samples of GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 graphics cards with higher clock speeds than retail parts. The insinuation of course is that ASUS was cheating, overclocking the cards going to media for reviews in order to artificially represent performance.

130f.jpg

Image source: Techpowerup

MSI and ASUS have been sending us review samples for their graphics cards with higher clock speeds out of the box, than what consumers get out of the box. The cards TechPowerUp has been receiving run at a higher software-defined clock speed profile than what consumers get out of the box. Consumers have access to the higher clock speed profile, too, but only if they install a custom app by the companies, and enable that profile. This, we feel, is not 100% representative of retail cards, and is questionable tactics by the two companies. This BIOS tweaking could also open the door to more elaborate changes like a quieter fan profile or different power management.

There was, and should be, a legitimate concern about these types of moves. Vendor one-up-manship could lead to an arms race of stupidity, similar to what we saw on motherboards and base frequencies years ago, where CPUs would run at 101.5 MHz base clock rather than 100 MHz (resulting in a 40-50 MHz total clock speed change) giving that board a slight performance advantage. However, the differences we are talking about with the GTX 1080 scandal are very small.

  • Retail VBIOS base clock: 1683 MHz
  • Media VBIOS base clock: 1709 MHz
  • Delta: 1.5%

And in reality, that 1.5% clock speed difference (along with the 1% memory clock rate difference) MIGHT result in ~1% of real-world performance changes. Those higher clock speeds are easily accessible to consumers by enabling the "OC Mode" in the ASUS GPU Tweak II software shipped with the graphics card. And the review sample cards can also be adjusted down to the shipping clock speeds through the same channel.

strix-1080-box.jpg

ASUS sent along its official statement on the issue.

ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 graphics cards come with exclusive GPU Tweak II software, which provides silent, gaming, and OC modes allowing users to select a performance profile that suits their requirements. Users can apply these modes easily from within GPU Tweak II.
 
The press samples for the ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 OC and ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1070 OC cards are set to “OC Mode” by default. To save media time and effort, OC mode is enabled by default as we are well aware our graphics cards will be reviewed primarily on maximum performance. And when in OC mode, we can showcase both the maximum performance and the effectiveness of our cooling solution.
 
Retail products are in “Gaming Mode” by default, which allows gamers to experience the optimal balance between performance and silent operation. We encourage end-users to try GPU Tweak II and adjust between the available modes, to find the best mode according to personal needs or preferences.
 
For both the press samples and retail cards, all these modes can be selected through the GPU Tweak II software. There are no differences between the samples we sent out to media and the retail channels in terms of hardware and performance.
 
Sincerely,
ASUSTeK COMPUTER INC.

While I don't believe that ASUS' intentions were entirely to save me time in my review, and I think that the majority of gamers paying $600+ for a graphics card would be willing to enable the OC mode through software, it's clearly a bad move on ASUS' part to have done this. Having a process in place at all to create a deviation from retail cards on press hardware is questionable, other than checking for functionality to avoid shipping DOA hardware to someone on a deadline. 

As of today I have been sent updated VBIOS for the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 that put them into exact same mode as the retail cards consumers can purchase. 

We are still waiting for a direct response from MSI on the issue as well.

Hopefully this debacle will keep other vendors from attempting to do anything like this in the future. We don't need any kind of "quake/quack" in our lives today.

SK Hynix jumps into Enterprise SSDs with the SE3010

Subject: Storage | June 16, 2016 - 02:54 PM |
Tagged: SK Hynix, enterprise ssd, SE3010

SK Hynix's SE3010 uses their own controller, the eight channel SH87910AA Pearl and in the case of the 960GB model, eight 16nm 128Gb MLC NAND chips with a mysterious H27Q18YEB9a label and four capacitors to prevent data loss in the case of unexpected power loss.  The drive is optimized for read speeds and Kitguru's testing certainly shows that they were effective in their implementation.  Check out the write speed and overall conclusions in the full review.

P6071858.jpg

"When we last looked at an SSD from SK hynix it was from their consumer portfolio. This time around we are looking at a drive from the other part of their storage business in the shape of the SE3010, a read intensive drive for the Enterprise market space."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: Kitguru

Must have been a good Computex

Subject: General Tech | June 16, 2016 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: computex 2016, gx700, avalon, asus

The Tech Report must have been a little worn down by Computex, which is not uncommon as that week long show will take out even the heartiest of individuals.  Nevertheless they have managed to compose both themselves and a roundup article of everything they officially witnessed during the show.  They did pick up some unique photos such as the innards of the ASUS Avalon modular desktop PC as you can see below.  They also snapped a photo of the twin 330W power supplies required for the watercooled ASUS GX700 gaming laptop.  There are seven pages in total so grab a beverage and peruse at your leisure.

DSC_9289.jpg

"A couple weeks ago, we trekked all over Taipei to take in everything that Computex 2016 had to offer. Come with us and see the state of the PC in 2016, as interpreted by dozens of companies both small and large."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Podcast #404 - Crucial MX300, E3 hardware news, GTX 1080 Shortages and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 16, 2016 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, xbox one, void, video, Strider, Silverstone, rx 480, rx 470, rx 460, podcast, PHAB2, Optane, MX300, Lenovo, GTX 1080, Egil, crucial, corsair, asus, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #404 - 06/16/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the new Crucial MX300 SSD, news on upcoming Xbox hardware changes, GTX 1080 shortages 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, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:48:30
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:39:00 Xbox E3 Hardware Discussion
    2. 0:49:50 GeForce GTX 1080 Shortages?
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Trackr
    2. Allyn: Safely Remove USB devices (or figure out what’s stopping them)
  4. Closing/outro

Rumor: AMD Plans 32-Core Opteron with 128 PCIe Lanes

Subject: Processors | June 15, 2016 - 11:18 PM |
Tagged: Zen, opteron, amd

We're beginning to see how the Zen architecture will affect AMD's entire product stack. This news refers to their Opteron line of CPUs, which are intended for servers and certain workstations. They tend to allow lots of memory, have lots of cores, and connect to a lot of I/O options and add-in boards at the same time.

amd-2016-e3-zenlogo.png

In this case, Zen-based Opterons will be available in two, four, sixteen, and thirty-two core options, with two threads per core (yielding four, eight, thirty-two, and sixty-four threads, respectively). TDPs will range between 35W and 180W. Intel's Xeon E7 v4 goes up to 165W got 24 cores (on Broadwell-EX) so AMD has a little more headroom to play with for those extra eight cores. That is obviously a lot, and it should be, again, good for cloud applications that can be parallelized.

As for the I/O side of things, the rumored chip will have 128 PCIe 3.0 lanes. It's unclear whether that is per socket, or total. Its wording sounds like it is per-CPU, although much earlier rumors have said that it has 64 PCIe lanes per socket with dual-socket boards available. It will also support sixteen 10-Gigabit Ethernet connections, which, again, is great for servers, especially with virtualization.

These are expected to launch in 2017. Fudzilla claims that “very late 2016” is possible, but also that it will launch after high-end desktop, which are expected to be delayed until 2017.

Source: Fudzilla

Skyrim Special Edition Announced (now with 64 bits!)

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2016 - 10:01 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, bethesda

On Sunday, Bethesda had their E3 2016 press conference, where they announced a bunch of content that are relevant to PC gamers. One of them was Skyrim: Special Edition. It hasn't been added to their website yet, but it updates The Elder Scrolls V with new assets, shaders, and effects. On the PC, it will be free to anyone who has purchased the base game and all of its expansions.

Even better: it is also compiled as a 64-bit application.

bethesda-2016-skyrim-special-edition.png

One of the original Skyrim's limits, specifically for modders, was that it could only address a little over 3GB of system memory before crashing. Worse: RAM usage was interconnected with GPU memory usage, which further limits the number of assets you can actually load. While there are probably still plenty of ways for Skyrim to crash, especially when third-party content is injected, Skyrim: Special Edition will move the solid, 3GB wall.

DigitalFoundry also claims that the engine itself is updated to a newer branch itself, like what was used for Fallout 4. This makes sense, because several effects would be difficult to do on DirectX 9 (like volumetric god rays). Despite the newer engine version, Pete Hines of Bethesda said “basically, yes” when asked whether existing Skyrim mods would be compatible. This suggests that the internal API would be the same for at least the majority of cases. Interesting!

Skyrim: Special Edition will be available on October 28th.

Source: PCGamer

Silverstone expands their Argon series with the AR08

Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 15, 2016 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: Argon Series, Silverstone, AR08

We have seen numerous examples of SilverStone's Argon series of heatsinks, dating back to the AR01 which Morry reviewed in 2014.  The AR08 is a new member of the series, 285g and 92x50x134mm with a 92mm fan and a $35 price tag.  The small size and price make a good choice for those on a budget and who chose a smaller case which precludes the use of a Morry special cooler.  As you might expect, the competition for this cooler is the stock cooler which came with your processor, which in [H]ard|OCP's testing that would be an i7-4770K.  Check out the full review to see how well it can outperform the stock cooler, in both heat and sound management.

1464635020KbGfWEqSem_2_5_l.jpg

"SilverStone's Argon Series AR08 looks to address those building a budget mid-level computer that balances performance and budget. It does however bring some enthusiast features with it like direct contact heatpipes, a 92mm PWM "diamond edged" fan, and noise dampening technologies. "

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

New from the creator of X-COM; Phoenix Point

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2016 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: gaming, xcom, phoenix point

The turn based strategy and base management of X-COM will survive in Phoenix Point but from what was revealed by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN you may not survive that long.  It is not just the mutated victims of the alien virus you need to be wary of but also your fellow surviving humans as there are several faction with very different and incompatible survival strategies.  The mutated enemies will not be broken down into distinct and repetitive races, instead they will evolve as you try to defeat them.  Sniper heavy tactics could result in aliens with reinforced front facing armour the next time you deal with them, use grenades and the next wave you face may be resistant to fire.  The game sounds very complex but it is not due for release until 2018 so there is plenty of time for them to make this game work.  Check out more by following the link.

phoenixpoint01.jpg

"One of the most exciting games in Los Angeles this week won’t be featured at press conferences or on the showfloor. Phoenix Point [official site] is the new tactical-strategy hybrid from Julian Gollop, the creator of the original X-COM, and we met yesterday to discuss its procedurally generated alien threats, simulated human factions and much more."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

A sneak peek at two RX 470 benchmarks

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2016 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: rx 470, amd, leak, RX 480M

Sharp eyes over at The Guru of 3D spotted some information in a recent press release from AMD that might have been unintentionally released; performance numbers and mention of a AMD Radeon RX 480M.  These benchmarks are internal and so should be taken with a grain of salt but they do offer a glimpse at how the RX 470 will perform. The benchmarks were run on a system comprised of ab i7 5960X, 16GB memory and Radeon 16.20, showing better performance than a R9 270X on three games as well as Firestrike below.  Follow the link for the results they gleaned from the footnotes.

untitled-2.png

"In the slide-deck that was released yesterday some benchmark numbers have been, well almost hidden. But they are there. I added them into two charts to check out.

Let me clearly state that the benchmarks have been performed by AMD so we cannot verify quality settings. The scores have been derived from the footnotes of the PDF"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Guru of 3D

How far can a GTX 1070 Founders Edition go?

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 14, 2016 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: GTX1070, nvidia, overclocking

Overclocking the new Pascal GPUs can be accomplished with the EVGA Precision X tool as it allows you to bump up the power, temperature target and fan speed as well as the frequencies for the GPU and memory easily and effectively.  [H]ard|OCP set out to push the 1070 as far as it would go with this software in a recent review.  The power target can only be increased to 112%, which they implemented along with setting the fan to 100% as this is about the maximum performance, not about peace and quiet.  After quite a bit of testing they settled on 2062MHz GPU and 4252MHz RAM clocks as the highest stable frequency this particular card could manage.  The results show a card which leaves the TITAN X in the dirt and this card does not even have a custom cooler; we anxiously await the non-Founders Edition releases to see what they can accomplish.

1465810411UrsXB3Z0D6_1_1.gif

"In our overclocking review of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition we will see how far we can overclock the GPU and memory and then compare performance with GeForce GTX TITAN X and GeForce GTX 980 Ti. How high will she go? Can the $449 GTX 1070 outperform a $1000 GTX TITAN X? The answer is exciting."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Google's take on the quantum computer

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2016 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: google, quantum computing

 IBM, D-Wave and Google are the major players in quantum computing research, with each taking a different route towards developing a Universal Turing Machine using qubits; a machine that can perform all the computations of a traditional processor but at speeds exponentially faster.  Before the research discussed in this article at Nanotechweb, Google had focused on adiabatic solution which is essentially a quantum computer purpose built to solve a particular problem, not a machine capable of performing any data manipulation problem presented.  They have switched tactics have digitized their adiabatic quantum computer to allow for error correction and to allow for non-stoquastic interactions.  This should, in theory, allow for scalability thanks to the unique direction the research is taking.  The reading is rather heavy, especially if you follow the link to Nature but very interesting if you are curious about new methods of developing quantum computers.

200px-Quantum_computer.svg_.png

"Bringing together the best of two types of quantum computer for the first time, researchers at Google have created a prototype that combines the architecture of both a universal quantum computer and an analogue quantum computer."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Nanotechweb

Now that's a NUC of a different colour, the NUC6i5SYK

Subject: Systems | June 13, 2016 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, NUC6i5SYK, Skylake

The new NUC6i5SYK may look like the previous generations but the innards represent a huge step forward.  At the base is a Skylake Core i5-6260U which brings with it support for DDR4 and more importantly NVMe SSDs. Connectivity includes Ethernet, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi, miniDP 1.2 and proper HDMI CEC 1.4b output.  The barebones kit will run $380USD, not bad for this type of design.  Missing Remote put the new NUC through its paces; check out the results here.

NUC6i5SYKtp_0.png

"Updated with an Intel Core i5-6260U with Intel Iris Graphics 540, support for NVMe SSD, and DDR4, the system has the opportunity to fix the shortcomings in the previous generation (cough, CSH). The sleek looks and features will not be as much of a bargain as the plug-in-and-go Intel Pentium based NUC5PGYH. Intel is asking $380/£335 for the barebones kit, but with quite a bit more performance, better networking, and features on tap, it could well be worth the extra dosh."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

AMD "Sneak Peek" at RX Series (RX 480, RX 470, RX 460)

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | June 13, 2016 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: amd, Polaris, Zen, Summit Ridge, rx 480, rx 470, rx 460

AMD has just unveiled their entire RX line of graphics cards at E3 2016's PC Gaming Show. It was a fairly short segment, but it had a few interesting points in it. At the end, they also gave another teaser of Summit Ridge, which uses the Zen architecture.

amd-2016-e3-470460.png

First, Polaris. As we know, the RX 480 was going to bring >5 TFLOPs at a $199 price point. They elaborated that this will apply to the 4GB version, which likely means that another version with more VRAM will be available, and that implies 8GB. Beyond the RX 480, AMD has also announced the RX 470 and RX 460. Little is known about the 470, but they mentioned that the 460 will have a <75W TDP. This is interesting because the PCIe bus provides 75W of power. This implies that it will not require any external power, and thus could be a cheap and powerful (in terms of esports titles) addition to an existing desktop. This is an interesting way to use the power savings of the die shrink to 14nm!

amd-2016-e3-backpackpc.png

They also showed off a backpack VR rig. They didn't really elaborate, but it's here.

amd-2016-e3-summitdoom.png

As for Zen? AMD showed the new architecture running DOOM, and added the circle-with-Zen branding to a 3D model of a CPU. Zen will be coming first to the enthusiast category with (up to?) eight cores, two threads per core (16 threads total).

amd-2016-e3-zenlogo.png

The AMD Radeon RX 480 will launch on June 29th for $199 USD (4GB). None of the other products have a specific release date.

Source: AMD

No that is not a toolbox, it's Braven's BRV-XXL portable speaker

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2016 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: braven, audio, BRV-XXL, Portable Audio

Braven's BRV-XXL is a wee bit bigger than your average portable speaker, 8.2kg (18lbs) and 514x210x241mm (20.25x8.25x9.5") and Techgage conducted some tests to see if it is worth carting around.  Part of that weight is the 15,600 mAh battery, giving 12 or more hours of play and happily charging phones as well.  As well there are four speakers and a subwoofer in the BRV-XXL, offering significantly more range and volume that a more petite portable speaker.  Read on to see if it sounded good enough to offset the encumbrance penalty.

Braven-BRV-XXL-Angle-Shot-680x516.jpg

"Braven is no stranger to portable audio, but its latest creation might be its best yet. Can you really have it all in a portable speaker? Let’s find out if the Braven BRV-XXL can allow us to answer “yes”."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Techgage

You can HaaS Surface; Microsoft now considers it a service

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2016 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface

Microsoft now offers the perfect thing to run software you don't really own on; you can run your rented OS and applications on a rented Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 or Surface 3.  As per the usual industry practice they don't refer to it as renting, but rather Hardware as a Service.  The plans are available as 18, 24 or 30 month memberships, with a "Complete for Business Extended Service Plan with Accidental Damage Protection" which sounds rather impressive as it claims to cover high velocity impacts and coffee disasters.  The Register has more information on the deal here.

The default Surface Book will run you $109/month @ 18 months or $80/month if you sign up for 30, or $1500 to buy it outright.  Interesting idea, fad or a money grab that will make Adobe green with jealousy?

en-INTL-PDP0-Surface-Book-CR9-00001-P2.jpg

"First Microsoft turned Office into software-as-a-service. It's currently transforming Windows into Windows-as-a-service. And now it's decided that its Surface Pro typoslab should become Surface-as-a-service, to help businesses buy more of the hybrid machines."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 03:46 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand

A recent post over at benchlife.info included a slide of some significant interest to those who have been drooling over XPoint technology:

intel-octane-ssd-roadmap.jpg

For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.

Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.

XPoint.png

Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).

We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.

3D-NAND-32-Layer-Stack.png

Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).

DSC03304.JPG

IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...

Microsoft's guide on how not to to win friends and influence people

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2016 - 03:47 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, pc sales

IDC is predicting a drop in PC sales this year and put the majority of the blame on Microsoft and it's new OS.  The free upgrade has not driven PC sales higher as HP and others predicted in either the consumer or business market segments.  That is not the whole picture of course, as there are also economic factors involved as exemplified by a similar drop in sales of phones and tablets.  You can follow the link from The Inquirer for a more indepth look at this drop and the causes for it from IDC and Gartner.

Windows-10-Technology-HD-Wide-Wallpaper.jpg

"That's according to forecasts by analyst outfit IDC, which claims that PC shipments will fall by 7.3 per cent year on year, around with growth in the market now forecast at two per cent below its earlier predictions for 2016."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Bluetooth 5 Announced

Subject: Networking | June 10, 2016 - 08:11 AM |
Tagged: bluetooth 5, bluetooth

The fourth version of Bluetooth was released almost six years ago now. Its main focus was lower power, which was very important at the time. Bluetooth and WiFi were major energy sinks for mobile devices, and smartphones were taking off. This was also during the first wave of tablets.

bluetooth-2016-logo.png

The Bluetooth special interest group has now announced Bluetooth 5. The headlining features are double range and quadruple speed for low-powered Bluetooth connections. (Update, June 13th @ 1:15pm: Bluetooth's PR agency contacted me, said the source's numbers were backwards, and asked me to update to the correct ones. It's double speed and quadruple range for low-powered Bluetooth connections.) This is obviously useful for a data communication protocol, although it is difficult to tell whether low bandwidth was an issue for many devices. It is not exactly something that hardware vendors would publicly complain about.

They also intend to allow certain services to operate without pairing. The open letter says that it is intended to be used with “beacons” and “location-based services” but fails to elaborate. Instead, it points to their Discover Blue: London event on June 16th, so I expect that will be expanded upon there. Part of me is concerned that connectionless could turn into “operates without user control,” but, ultimately, the device is responsible for what it executes. There shouldn't be a way that a protocol, without the OS being involved, could force an interaction -- at least not without a backlash against the OS for permitting it.

Again, we'll find out more in about a week, on June 16th.

Basemark Releases Basemark Web 3.0 with WebGL 2.0

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2016 - 01:50 AM |
Tagged: Basemark, webgl, webgl2

Basemark has just released Basemark Web 3.0, which includes WebGL 2.0 tests for supporting browsers. No browsers support the standard by default yet, although it can be enabled on Firefox and Chrome with a command-line flag.

basemark-2016-webgl2.png

WebGL 1.0 has become ubiquitous, but it is based on quite an old version of OpenGL. OpenGL ES 2.0 was specified all the way back in March 2007. While it simplified development by forcing everyone down a programmable shader pipeline, it has quite a few limitations. OpenGL ES 3.0 remedied many of these, such as allowing multiple render targets and texture compression. OpenGL ES 3.1 added compute shaders, which brings us pretty much to today. In fact, Vulkan targets OpenGL ES 3.1 hardware (should the hardware vendor provide a driver).

WebGL targeted OpenGL ES 2.0. WebGL 2 targets OpenGL ES 3.0.

Of course, this means that the WebGL 2.0 base standard does not support compute shaders, which is a bit of a drag. It's something that they really want to incorporate, though, but they still can't seem to decide whether it will align with a new version of WebGL (such as WebGL 2.1) or be incorporated in a multi-vendor extension.

So where are we today?

Well, WebGL 2.0 is still a little ways off from being everywhere. As we mentioned, only Firefox and Chrome support the standard, although WebKit is working on it, too. Microsoft has WebGL 2.0 listed as “Under Consideration” with a “Roadmap Priority” of Medium, “Development is likely for a future release.” One major hold up was its shader support. Again, OpenGL ES 3.0 shaders are much more complex than OpenGL ES 2.0 ones, and many WebGL browsers convert OpenGL ES 2.0 shaders to HLSL for DirectX on Windows. This circumvents lackluster graphics drivers, and it adds an extra, huge layer of complexity for someone who wants to write malware. It's not sufficient to know of a driver bug with a specific shader string -- you need to trick the transpiler into outputting it, too.

But, again, we're slowly inching our way there.

Source: Basemark

A pretty pair of peripherals from Corsair; the K65 RGB and M65 Pro RGGB

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2016 - 04:39 PM |
Tagged: input, corsair, K65 RGB, M65 PRO RGB, gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX

If you love lights and are searching for a new mouse and keyboard, perhaps ones that would fit on your lap, then drop by Benchmark Reviews for a look at the Corsair M65 PRO RGB Mouse and Corsair K65 RGB RAPIDFIRE Keyboard.  Both of these peripherals are made of aluminium and use CUE LINK to power their light shows, the keyboard able to show off a bit more than the mouse which has only 8 keys.  These devices both scored highly, take a peek at the review to see if you want to get your hands on them.

Corsair-M65-PRO-RGB-Front-LED-Test.jpg

"Instead of the laser sensor seen in the previous model, Corsair has included the PixArt PMW3360 optical sensor with a maximum DPI of 12000. There is also a weight system for adjusting the weight and a dedicated sniper button, which can be assigned to serve various functions."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk