Check out the soundstage on this review

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2016 - 09:35 PM |
Tagged: audio, Abyss 1266, Cavalli Liquid Gold, Hi-Fi HE1000, Luxman P700u, Audeze LCD 4, Chord Hugo TT, Stax 009, Blue Hawaii SE, headphone, amp

The least expensive pairing in this review will run you £5,194 and the most expensive doubles that, not the audio source and cables whose prices leave Monster green with envy.  Kitguru has taken on the high end of headphones and amps, leaving even those $1000 studio headsets far behind.  Each has their own usage, when you are spending this much on equipment they tend to be very specialized; usable in all scenarios but best served for what they were designed for.  Check out the review to laugh, cry or in some cases feel jealous of equipment you might actually want for some reason.

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"This article today is focused around the synergy between amplifier and headphone and the four setups I have chosen for this article are to my mind some of the best that money can buy. There is about £70,000 of equipment on test today."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: KitGuru

A tiny fanless PC from CompuLab, check out the Broadwell powered Airtop

Subject: Systems | April 5, 2016 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: compulab, airtop, passive cooling, linux, SFF

Phoronix has spent a bit of time with the CompuLab Airtop PC, a SFF machine with passive cooling and no moving parts.  It sports decent components, an i7-5775C Broadwell processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB ADATA SSD, and a GeForce GTX 950, with Linux Mint installed and support for just about any other flavour of that OS you might prefer.  It also has a very impressive array of outputs on the back including dual LAN ports and antennae for wireless connectivity, two power connectors for redundancy and a plethora of USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort and other ports.  Check out this overview of the construction and a quick peek at the performance of this passively cooled machine.

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"At the end of February I posted my initial hands-on with the passively-cooled Airtop PC that's been exciting many readers over its unique design and being Linux-friendly. As I hadn't written anymore about it in the past few weeks, some Phoronix readers had emailed me and tweeted, curious what the deal was and if it wasn't living up to expectations. That's not the case at all and the Airtop PC continues to exhibit great potential and is yet another solid offering from CompuLab."

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Systems

Source: Phoronix

Behold, the spectrum of storage

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2016 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: NVMe, SAS, sata, PCIe SSD, low latency

The Register have put together a nice graphic and table displaying current storage technologies and how they relate to each other.  They constructed the graph to demonstrate the major boundaries in storage, between cache/memory, local storage and external storage and how these are going to move thanks to new technology.  NVMe-over-fabric will enable companies to utilize external storage at latencies lower than internal storage that still uses SATA or SAS, with only pure PCIe local storage outpacing its potential.  X-Point, assuming it lives up to the hype, will blur the line between local storage and memory/cache storage, offering latency previously only seen in system memory or on-die cache.

They also provide a table to give you some rough ideas how this translates between storage media, normalizing it a theoretical task which would take L1 cache 1 second to access, this can make it somewhat easier to comprehend for some than nanoseconds.

memory_storage_latency_spectrum.jpg

"Two technology changes are starting to be applied and both could have massive latency reduction effects at the two main storage boundary points: between memory and storage on the one hand, and between internal and external, networked storage on the other."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

EVGA Releases NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 Low Power Cards

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 5, 2016 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: PCIe power, nvidia, low-power, GTX950, GTX 950 Low Power, graphics card, gpu, GeForce GTX 950, evga

EVGA has announced new low-power versions of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950, some of which do not require any PCIe power connection to work.

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"The EVGA GeForce GTX 950 is now available in special low power models, but still retains all the performance intact. In fact, several of these models do not even have a 6-Pin power connector!"

With or without power, all of these cards are full-on GTX 950's, with 768 CUDA cores and 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The primary difference will be with clock speeds, and EVGA provides a chart to illustrate which models still require PCIe power, as well as how they compare in performance.

evga_chart.png

It looks like the links to the 75W (no PCIe power required) models aren't working just yet on EVGA's site. Doubtless we will soon have active listings for pricing and availability info.

Source: EVGA

AMD Pre-Announces 7th Gen A-Series SOC

Subject: Processors | April 5, 2016 - 10:30 AM |
Tagged: mobile, hp, GCN, envy, ddr4, carrizo, Bristol Ridge, APU, amd, AM4

Today AMD is “pre-announcing” their latest 7th generation APU.  Codenamed “Bristol Ridge”, this new SOC is based off of the Excavator architecture featured in the previous Carrizo series of products.  AMD provided very few hints as to what was new and different in Bristol Ridge as compared to Carrizo, but they have provided a few nice hints.

br_01.png

They were able to provide a die shot of the new Bristol Ridge APU and there are some interesting differences between it and the previous Carrizo. Unfortunately, there really are no changes that we can see from this shot. Those new functional units that you are tempted to speculate about? For some reason AMD decided to widen out the shot of this die. Those extra units around the border? They are the adjacent dies on the wafer. I was bamboozled at first, but happily Marc Sauter pointed it out to me. No new functional units for you!

carrizo_die.jpg

This is the Carrizo shot. It is functionally identical to what we see with Bristol Ridge.

AMD appears to be using the same 28 nm HKMG process from GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  This is not going to give AMD much of a jump, but from information in the industry GLOBALFOUNDRIES and others have put an impressive amount of work into several generations of 28 nm products.  TSMC is on their third iteration which has improved power and clock capabilities on that node.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES has continued to improve their particular process and likely Bristol Ridge is going to be the last APU built on that node.

br_02.png

All of the competing chips are rated at 15 watts TDP. Intel has the compute advantage, but AMD is cleaning up when it comes to graphics.

The company has also continued to improve upon their power gating and clocking technologies to keep TDPs low, yet performance high.  AMD recently released the Godavari APUs to the market which exhibit better clocking and power characteristics from the previous Kaveri.  Little was done on the actual design, rather it was improved process tech as well as better clock control algorithms that achieved these advances.  It appears as though AMD has continued this trend with Bristol Ridge.

We likely are not seeing per clock increases, but rather higher and longer sustained clockspeeds providing the performance boost that we are seeing between Carrizo and Bristol Ridge.  In these benchmarks AMD is using 15 watt TDP products.  These are mobile chips and any power improvements will show off significant gains in overall performance.  Bristol Ridge is still a native quad core part with what looks to be an 8 module GCN unit.

br_03.png

Again with all three products at a 15 watt TDP we can see that AMD is squeezing every bit of performance it can with the 28 nm process and their Excavator based design.

The basic core and GPU design look relatively unchanged, but obviously there were a lot of tweaks applied to give the better performance at comparable TDPs.  

AMD is announcing this along with the first product that will feature this APU.  The HP Envy X360.  This convertible tablet offers some very nice features and looks to be one of the better implementations that AMD has seen using its latest APUs.  Carrizo had some wins, but taking marketshare back from Intel in the mobile space has been tortuous at best. AMD obviously hopes that Bristol Ridge in the sub-35 watt range will continue to show fight for the company in this important market.  Perhaps one of the more interesting features is the option for the PCIe SSD.  Hopefully AMD will send out a few samples so we can see what a more “premium” type convertible can do with the AMD silicon.

br_04.png

The HP Envy X360 convertible in all of its glory.

Bristol Ridge will be coming to the AM4 socket infrastructure in what appears to be a Computex timeframe.  These parts will of course feature higher TDPs than what we are seeing here with the 15 watt unit that was tested.  It seems at that time AMD will announce the full lineup from top to bottom and start seeding the market with AM4 boards that will eventually house the “Zen” CPUs that will show up in late 2016.

Source: AMD

AMD Brings Dual Fiji and HBM Memory To Server Room With FirePro S9300 x2

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 5, 2016 - 06:13 AM |
Tagged: HPC, hbm, gpgpu, firepro s9300x2, firepro, dual fiji, deep learning, big data, amd

Earlier this month AMD launched a dual Fiji powerhouse for VR gamers it is calling the Radeon Pro Duo. Now, AMD is bringing its latest GCN architecture and HBM memory to servers with the dual GPU FirePro S9300 x2.

AMD Firepro S9300x2 Server HPC Card.jpg

The new server-bound professional graphics card packs an impressive amount of computing hardware into a dual-slot card with passive cooling. The FirePro S9300 x2 combines two full Fiji GPUs clocked at 850 MHz for a total of 8,192 cores, 512 TUs, and 128 ROPs. Each GPU is paired with 4GB of non-ECC HBM memory on package with 512GB/s of memory bandwidth which AMD combines to advertise this as the first professional graphics card with 1TB/s of memory bandwidth.

Due to lower clockspeeds the S9300 x2 has less peak single precision compute performance versus the consumer Radeon Pro Duo at 13.9 TFLOPS versus 16 TFLOPs on the desktop card. Businesses will be able to cram more cards into their rack mounted servers though since they do not need to worry about mounting locations for the sealed loop water cooling of the Radeon card.

  FirePro S9300 x2 Radeon Pro Duo R9 Fury X FirePro S9170
GPU Dual Fiji Dual Fiji Fiji Hawaii
GPU Cores 8192 (2 x 4096) 8192 (2 x 4096) 4096 2816
Rated Clock 850 MHz 1050 MHz 1050 MHz 930 MHz
Texture Units 2 x 256 2 x 256 256 176
ROP Units 2 x 64 2 x 64 64 64
Memory 8GB (2 x 4GB) 8GB (2 x 4GB) 4GB 32GB ECC
Memory Clock 500 MHz 500 MHz 500 MHz 5000 MHz
Memory Interface 4096-bit (HBM) per GPU 4096-bit (HBM) per GPU 4096-bit (HBM) 512-bit
Memory Bandwidth 1TB/s (2 x 512GB/s) 1TB/s (2 x 512GB/s) 512 GB/s 320 GB/s
TDP 300 watts ? 275 watts 275 watts
Peak Compute 13.9 TFLOPS 16 TFLOPS 8.60 TFLOPS 5.24 TFLOPS
Transistor Count 17.8B 17.8B 8.9B 8.0B
Process Tech 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
Cooling Passive Liquid Liquid Passive
MSRP $6000 $1499 $649 $4000

AMD is aiming this card at datacenter and HPC users working on "big data" tasks that do not require the accuracy of double precision floating point calculations. Deep learning tasks, seismic processing, and data analytics are all examples AMD says the dual GPU card will excel at. These are all tasks that can be greatly accelerated by the massive parallel nature of a GPU but do not need to be as precise as stricter mathematics, modeling, and simulation work that depend on FP64 performance. In that respect, the FirePro S9300 x2 has only 870 GLFOPS of double precision compute performance.

Further, this card supports a GPGPU optimized Linux driver stack called GPUOpen and developers can program for it using either OpenCL (it supports OpenCL 1.2) or C++. AMD PowerTune, and the return of FP16 support are also features. AMD claims that its new dual GPU card is twice as fast as the NVIDIA Tesla M40 (1.6x the K80) and 12 times as fast as the latest Intel Xeon E5 in peak single precision floating point performance. 

The double slot card is powered by two PCI-E power connectors and is rated at 300 watts. This is a bit more palatable than the triple 8-pin needed for the Radeon Pro Duo!

The FirePro S9300 x2 comes with a 3 year warranty and will be available in the second half of this year for $6000 USD. You are definitely paying a premium for the professional certifications and support. Here's hoping developers come up with some cool uses for the dual 8.9 Billion transistor GPUs and their included HBM memory!

Source: AMD

The DQ550ST 550W PSU, is it the greatest PSU of DEEPCOOL?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 4, 2016 - 10:14 PM |
Tagged: DQ550ST, Deepcool, 550W

The Deepcool DQ550ST 550W PSU is not even slightly modular, however it does ship with flat cables to make cable management much more effective for you.  This also helps with the pricing, you should be able to find the unit for ~$50 which beats out the competition.  This was [H]ard|OCP's first Deepcool PSU but that didn't deter them from strapping it into their torture chamber for some serious testing.  The PSU passed all of their tests and showed itself to be a well build PSU which would be a good basis for a mid-range system.  It did not come off with a reward, something to blame the marketers on as when you advertise a product as "one of the greatest PSU of DEEPCOOL" you raise expectations to a level beyond a mere pass.  Check out the full review if you are in the market for a ~500W PSU that will give you good value for your money, even if it is not quite the greatest.

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"DEEPCOOL is not the first brand that comes to mind when you think about PSUs. But when a company gives you a feature set like this, "120mm FDB Bearing PWM fan with specially designed fan-blade, enjoys higher wind-pressure, super silent and excellent performance," we have to take a look. I loves me some wind-pressure."

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

CASES & COOLING

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Windows 10 Will Finally Get a Dark Theme in Redstone 1

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Microsoft has been slowly shifting Windows and the rest of their software toward a dark theme over the last couple of years. This is the case on Visual Studio, Edge, and... some of the operating system's user interface. You can see it in the taskbar, in a few context menus on the desktop, and so forth. If you then open the system settings, you are greeted with light grey and white.

microsoft-2016-windows10settings.png

According to Brad Sams at Thurrott.com, Windows 10 will receive an actual dark theme option in the upcoming Anniversary Update. It could have been unlocked in the registry since before Windows 10 initially launched last year, but it was very incomplete. I also don't exactly like enabling experimental things in the registry, because you never know if Microsoft will test all possible combinations of work-in-progress flags when said feature actually goes public.

Speaking of which, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is expected at some point in July. You know, the one-year anniversary of Windows 10 reaching RTM totally not RTM, because Windows 10 doesn't go RTM.

Source: Thurrott.com

Gigabyte's Aorus X3 Plus v5, gaming on the go for those who do such things

Subject: Mobile | April 4, 2016 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, GTX 970M, gigabyte, gaming laptop, Aorus X3 Plus v5

Gaming notebooks do not tend to generate positive feedback in our reviews, as many reader feel the sacrifices to fit a powerful machine into a slim chassis are just too much of a compromise.  BGA processors have negative connotations surrounding them, in some cases fair criticism but there is obviously a market for these machines as companies are producing and selling them.  The Tech Report takes a peek at Gigabyte's Aorus X3 Plus v5, a 14" 3200x1800 IPS laptop powered by a Core i7-6700HQ and GeForce GTX 970M, a 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD and 16GB o fDDR4-2133.  They loved the machine apart from the fact that the 970M just can't drive the panel at native resolutions when playing a demanding game and perhaps a lower resolution would have been preferable; which would bring a different set of negative comments.

The Lagavulin allegory which starts out the review is apropos, if you like something enough, you will find a way to afford it.  That said, if you consider $90 as the high end of Scotch your tastebuds have some nice surprises in store; your bank account not so much.

conclusion.jpg

"Aorus' X3 Plus v5 laptop packs eight threads of Skylake pro cessing power and a GeForce GTX 970M graphics card into a 14" chassis. We put the X3 Plus v5 to the test to see whether it ushers in a new era of portable computing power."

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Now that the Oculus Rift has arrived you can see how shady the T&C's are

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Privacy, rift, Oculus, facebook

As expected, Facebook has added some questionable features to the Oculus Rift and if any of it surprises you then you haven't been paying attention.  The Register went through it to pull out a variety of terms than many may find questionable.  Your usage will be tracked while you are using the headset and just like Facebook and many other social media apps it will use the data collected for targeted advertising.  There does not seem to be any incognito mode, so think twice before using the Rift for certain applications unless you want some interesting adverts showing up on your Facebook page. 

A Slashdot post points out a different concern for content creators, if you use the Oculus to create something original then while Oculus can't claim to own it, it can use it without your consent and without  having to pay you for for using it.  Again, this should not be surprising but if you weren't aware of the possibility, you should consider these T&C's before picking the Rift.

oculus-rift-consumer-edition.png

"THOSE OF a weak disposition should look away. News has reached us that face fun virtual reality machine, and eye of Facebook, the Oculus Rift has features that track things that people do, and use the information for the purposes of advertising."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Legend of Zelda in WebGL Voxels

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2016 - 05:30 PM |
Tagged: zelda, webgl, Nintendo

Before it invariably gets taken offline, you might want to check out a remake of the original Legend of Zelda. It's not just a straight port of the original, though. Its pixel art assets were remade in voxels, which are rendered in WebGL at an angle that's similar to what the original pixel art implies. Original NES controls are overlaid on the screen, which is useful for multi-touch, but keyboard also works.

nintendo-2016-zeldaunofficialvoxel.png

Most of the game is plugin-free and running in the browser. The only thing that requires plug-in support is audio, and it doesn't play nice with click-to-activate. It would have been nice for them to implement it in WebAudio API, and implement Gamepad API while they're at it, but who am I to criticize a passion project that will likely be challenged by Nintendo in a handful of days?

I'm not sure how complete the game is. They seem to imply that all eight dungeons are available, but I haven't had a chance to check.

NVIDIA's New Quadro VR Ready Program Targets Enterprise

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 4, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: workstation, VR, virtual reality, quadro, NVIDIA Quadro M5500, nvidia, msi, mobile workstation, enterprise

NVIDIA's VR Ready program, which is designed to inform users which GeForce GTX GPUs “deliver an optimal VR experience”, has moved to enterprise with a new program aimed at NVIDIA Quadro GPUs and related systems.

NVIDIA_VR.png

“We’re working with top OEMs such as Dell, HP and Lenovo to offer NVIDIA VR Ready professional workstations. That means models like the HP Z Workstation, Dell Precision T5810, T7810, T7910, R7910, and the Lenovo P500, P710, and P910 all come with NVIDIA-recommended configurations that meet the minimum requirements for the highest performing VR experience.

Quadro professional GPUs power NVIDIA professional VR Ready systems. These systems put our VRWorks software development kit at the fingertips of VR headset and application developers. VRWorks offers exclusive tools and technologies — including Context Priority, Multi-res Shading, Warp & Blend, Synchronization, GPU Affinity and GPU Direct — so pro developers can create great VR experiences.”

Partners include Dell, HP, and Lenovo, with new workstations featuring NVIDIA professional VR Ready certification. 

Pro VR Ready Deck.png

Desktop isn't the only space for workstations, and in this morning's announcement NVIDIA and MSI are introducing the WT72 mobile workstation; the “the first NVIDIA VR Ready professional laptop”:

"The MSI WT72 VR Ready laptop is the first to use our new Maxwell architecture-based Quadro M5500 GPU. With 2,048 CUDA cores, the Quadro M5500 is the world’s fastest mobile GPU. It’s also our first mobile GPU for NVIDIA VR Ready professional mobile workstations, optimized for VR performance with ultra-low latency."

Here are the specs for the WT72 6QN:

  • GPU: NVIDIA Quadro M5500 3D (8GB GDDR5)
  • CPU Options:
    • Xeon E3-1505M v5
    • Core i7-6920HQ
    • Core i7-6700HQ
  • Chipset: CM236
  • Memory:
    • 64GB ECC DDR4 2133 MHz (Xeon)
    • 32GB DDR4 2133 MHz (Core i7)
  • Storage: Super RAID 4, 256GB SSD + 1TB SATA 7200 rpm
  • Display:
    • 17.3” UHD 4K (Xeon, i7-6920HQ)
    • 17.3” FHD Anti-Glare IPS (i7-6700HQ)
  • LAN: Killer Gaming Network E2400
  • Optical Drive: BD Burner
  • I/O: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 x6, SDXC card reader
  • Webcam: FHD type (1080p/30)
  • Speakers: Dynaudio Tech Speakers 3Wx2 + Subwoofer
  • Battery: 9 cell
  • Dimensions: 16.85” x 11.57” x 1.89”
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Pricing:  
    • Xeon E3-1505M v5 model: $6899
    • Core i7-6920HQ model: $6299
    • Core i7-6700HQ model: $5499

MSI_NB_WT72_Skylake_Photo18.jpg

No doubt we will see details of other Quadro VR Ready workstations as GTC unfolds this week.

Source: NVIDIA

A new version of Intel E5 for your server room; Broadwell Xeon E5-2600 v4

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2016 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: Xeon E5-2600 v4, Intel, Broadwell-EP

Yesterday, towards the end of the day, Intel announced the arrival of their newest Xeon chips, the v4 series of Xeon E5 CPUs.   As you would expect of server chips there is no GPU present however there are new features to improve your servers performance.  The new Broadwell-EP chips will have up to 22 cores and 44 threads, an impressive 55MB of cache on some models and support for DDR4-2400.  As far as raw performance goes, Intel advertises these chips as delivering about 5% instructions per second compared to Haswell and handles AVX instructions more efficiently, allowing cores not running these tasks to remain at full speed.  The Register has a great breakdown of the other new features which these Xeons can provide.

xeon_e5_v4_skus.jpg

"These chips follow up 2014’s Xeon E5 v3 parts, which used a 22nm process size and the Haswell micro-architecture. Intel shrunk Haswell to 14nm, and after some tinkering, codenamed the resulting design Broadwell."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

The Silent Base 800 may Be Quiet!, but the orange trim certainly isn't

Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 31, 2016 - 09:16 PM |
Tagged: be quiet!, Silent Base 800

Lee reviewed the Be Quiet! Silent Base 800 back on my birthday but since that feels like so long ago and since there are so many cases on the market it seems worth revisiting.  As this is the first time [H]ard|OCP has reviewed a case from this manufacturer, they are looking at it with fresh eyes instead of comparing it to the 600 model.  At 495x266x542mm (19.5x10.5x21.3") it is large enough to fit just about any component you might want and with seven slots it is great for multiple GPUs. [H] was impressed enough to grant a Gold Award to the 800, not just for the acoustical and thermal performance but also for the flexibility of the drive cages.  If you gave the case a pass previously, perhaps ponder a peek.

1458682777FhVrHeeInd_1_3.jpg

"With a company name like be quiet!, you likely know what to somewhat expect. This German company strives to build some of the best designed computer chassis on the market. Its new Silent Base 800 series case certainly looks good on the outside. How does it perform when it comes to being cool and quiet?"

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

CASES & COOLING

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Pixel C Developer Discounts Have Expanded

Subject: Mobile | March 31, 2016 - 07:40 PM |
Tagged: google, pixel c

A few weeks ago, Google published preview builds of Android N, and they announced a developer discount page for the Pixel C. At the time, it was US-only and applied to the 64GB version, bringing it down to $450 USD. The website also seemed... broken... so I wasn't sure if Google were fixing it or whatever. A few people received discount codes on the first run, but the websites now say that they will email you within a few days with a promotional code.

google-2016-android-n-discount.png.jpg

The discount website has now been updated, and the terms have changed. The major difference is that it is now available in 13 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States, of course. The discount is now a blanket 25% off a Pixel C tablet (just one, like before). I haven't received the promotion code yet, so I can't confirm that it applies to both 32GB and 64GB models, but ZDNet claims it does, and Android Police states that Google confirmed it to them. The discount still does not apply to the keyboard.

Google's Nexus line has been known to limit API access, specifically by not shipping OpenCL drivers and pushing developers toward their proprietary RenderScript instead. That said, it should be kept up to date with Google's latest OSes for longer than most devices. Also, Vulkan is being considered a Google-supported API, so, unless something weird happens, Pixel C should get those drivers, which should be sufficient for upcoming GPU compute and gaming tasks.

Source: Google

Adata's XPG SX930, JMicron on the outside, Micron on the inside

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2016 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: adata, XPG SX930, JMF670H, mlc

Now that Adata's XPG SX930 240GB SSD has been out for a while it is worth revisiting for enthusiasts on a budget.  It is currently $80 on Amazon, short of Ryan's pricing goals as it is just over $0.33/GB but still an attractive price for a drive with JMicron's JMF670H controller.  Also worth noting is the lifespan of the drive, when The Tech Report reached out to ADATA they were told it was 280TB, more than enough for most users.  Check out their review to see how it performs as there are many drives only $30-40 more that have very impressive performance, such as the Trion and 850 EVO.

insides.jpg

"Adata's XPG SX930 combines a JMicron controller and Micron MLC flash into an enthusiast-oriented 240GB SSD. We put it to the test to see whether it's worth its cost of admission."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.11

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 06:52 PM |
Tagged: epic games, unreal engine, unreal engine 4

It has been in preview since December, but Epic Games has finally released Unreal Engine 4.11 for developers to create awesome things with. This version focused on performance and the features that were added for Paragon, which entered early access two weeks ago. DirectX 12 is still considered experimental, and Vulkan is missing officially (although John Alcatraz has a tutorial to add it to Unreal Engine built from source), but the rendering back-end has received significant changes to accommodate the new graphics APIs in the future.

epicgames-2015-paragon-hair3.jpg

The three features that I'm most interested in, apart from free performance, are lighting channels, capsule shadows, and improved building of static light. Light channels are very difficult to implement in a deferred renderer, but Epic managed. This means that you can have dynamic lights only affect certain objects in the scene, either for performance, if enough lights are ignored to justify the cost of the channels themselves, or for special effects, like making a specific object stand out in a scene. They also added new shading models for eyes, hair, skin, and cloth, and added a bunch of interesting audio features.

Unreal Engine 4.11 is available now from Epic's Launcher. It's free to use, but Epic takes a royalty on certain revenues.

Source: Epic Games

Synology Launches Portable DS416slim 4-Bay 2.5" Drive NAS

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2016 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: synology, SOHO, network storage, NAS, media streaming, DSM, ds416slim

Synology recently revealed a new small and lightweight NAS for home and small business users. The DS416slim is a small networked attached storage device that uses up to four 2.5" SATA drives to offer up to 8TB of storage that can be used for backups, media streaming, file synchronization, and offsite storage thanks to its dual core ARM processor and DiskStation Manager 6.0 operating system.

Synology DS416slim Portable NAS.jpg

This new NAS is fairly compact at 7.24" x 6.61" x 9.05" (18.4cm x 16.8cm x 23cm) and weighing just over one and a half pounds (700 grams). It is roughly rectangular with the front decked out in status LEDs and a single USB 3.0 port. The laptop-sized hard drives (up to 12.5mm so basically any 2.5" SATA drive will work) are loaded vertically into the unit using snap-in drive trays that slide into the back. The back panel also holds dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and a second USB 3.0 port.

Interestingly, the DS416slim supports link aggregation as well as failover and load balance modes depending on your settings. Using link aggregation to connect to a Windows PC, Synology rates transfer speeds at up to 177 MB/s reads and 77 MB/s writes. Using a single Gigabit link the NAS can hit read speeds up to 112.77 MB/s.

With all four drives installed, users can choose from all the usual RAID suspects including RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10. Of course, single volumes and JBOD are also options with the total raw storage capacity being 8TB (4 x 2TB hard drives or solid state drives). A bottom-mounted removable 60mm fan module keeps the drives running cool and reportedly the Synology NAS has noise levels of 20.3 dBA.

Internally, the NAS is powered by a dual core Armada 385 processor clocked at 1.0 GHz with dedicated hardware encryption engine and 512 MB of DDR3 memory. The also recently released DSM 6.0 OS allows the NAS to be a backup destination for multiple PCs, a media server, file synchronization hub, and a source to sync files to all the various cloud storage providers for offsite backup. Synology's browser-accessed OS GUI also lets you add various services and features using downloadable applications to expand its out-of-the-box functionality (e.g. torrent box).

Synology DS416slim 4-bay NAS.jpg

The front and rear USB 3.0 ports can be used to easily transfer data to or from external hard drives to make offsite backups easy. The DS416slim is interesting in that its small size makes it a nice portable option for video editors, photographers, or other small business users that need on site access to lots of fast file storage at various job sites. The use of laptop hard drives means that storage is going to be a bit more expensive per GB and not quite as fast, but the drives are built a bit more robustly when it comes to moving them around versus your standard desktop drive. I do wonder about the reliability versus 3.5-inch drives over time, but the difference is likely marginal today and the lower power usage is much more suited to SOHO NAS duties. I would like to see this decked out with RAIDed SSDs though!

Synology rates the laptop-drive inspired NAS at 17.17W during disk access and 11.63W power usage while the drives are hibernating.

The Synology DS416slim comes with a 2 year warranty and with be avaialable early next month and retail (without drives) for around $290 (Amazon lists it at $289+shipping though once more units are available I would expect it to drop a smidge in price).

Source: Synology

The Status of Windows Phone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 31, 2016 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: BUILD, build 2016, microsoft, windows 10, windows phone

If you watched the opening keynote of Microsoft's Build conference, then you probably didn't see much Windows Phone (unless you were looking at your own). The Verge talked to Terry Myerson about this, and Microsoft confirmed that they are leading with non-Windows, 4-inch devices, and they want to “generate developer interest” on those platforms for this year.

PC World interpreted this conversation to say that Windows Phone is put on hold.

microsoft-2016-win10devices.jpg

That might be a little hasty, though. Microsoft is still building Windows 10 for Mobile. In fact, since Microsoft updated “Windows OneCore” and jumped build to 14xxx-level build numbers with Windows 10 build 14251, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 PC are kept in lockstep. As far as I know, that is still the plan, and Windows Insiders should continue to receive these on compatible devices.

That said, Microsoft has basically admitted that Windows Phone would just be a distraction for developers this year. At the very least, they don't believe that the platform will be ready for them until next year's Build conference, which means that consumers will probably be even further down than that because there would be no applications for them. Yes, Windows Phone could be slowly shimmying out of the spotlight, but it could also be delayed until they make a good impression, and have the PC, Xbox, Hololens, and other ecosystems secure to lift it up.

Source: The Verge

Toshiba laptops are so hot right now

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, recall, fire

Forget the concerns about fertility when using a laptop placed directly on your lap, having your lap catch fire is a bit more of a concern.  If you are using a Toshiba laptop right now, quickly flip it over and check if it is on fire, or if the serial number resembles G71Cxxxxxxxx.  If either of those conditions are true, please contact Toshiba customer support on this page, which also has a software utility you can run to see if you are affected by this recall.  According to The Register, some of these batteries may have been sold individually or as repair kit for Satellite, Portégé and Tecra models so you should check; better safe than on fire.

191_1pants_on_fire_version_2.jpg

"Toshiba is recalling the battery packs in 39 notebook models over fears they could be prone to catching fire."

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Source: The Register