The NVIDIA, Samsung and Qualcomm saga has been cleared to continue

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2015 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, qualcomm, Samsung, patents, sueball

A judge has ruled that six of the seven patent disputes that NVIDIA has filed are valid and will proceed to court for judgment.  These patents involve the use of graphics coprocessors in mobile devices and have been judged to be worded in such a way that it does not matter if those GPUs are ARM, Imagination Technologies or Qualcomm.  This is not the end of the dispute, merely a pretrial to see if the claims are valid and worth going to trial.  Of course Qualcomm and Samsung dispute NVIDIA's claims and in Samsung's case they have already launched a counter suit claiming NVIDIA has violated six of their own patents.  You can read about the history of the latest legal battle in the tech world as well as today's judgment over at The Register.

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"Nvidia has won an important early victory in its ongoing patent litigation against Qualcomm and Samsung, with a judge in the US International Trade Commission ruling in Nvidia's favor as to the language of the disputed patents."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

ASUS MG279Q Monitor Now Officially a FreeSync Monitor

Subject: Displays | April 7, 2015 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: variable refresh rate, mg279q, freesync, asus, amd

If you remember back at CES in early January, we got hands-on with an upcoming monitor from ASUS, the MG279Q. Unlike the company's other G-Sync enabled displays, this monitor was unique in that offered support for the Adaptive Sync portion of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard but was also not a part of AMD's initial wave of FreeSync monitors.

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The ASUS MG279Q from CES 2015

The screen technology itself was impressive: a 2560x1440 resolution, IPS-style implementation and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. (Note: the new marketing material indicates that the panel will have a 144 Hz maximum refresh rate. Maybe there was a hardware change since CES?) During a video interview with ASUS at the time it was labeled as having a minimum refresh rate of 40 Hz which is something we look forward to testing if and when we can get a sample in our labs.

At the time, there was some interesting debate about WHY this wasn't a FreeSync branded monitor. We asked AMD specifically about this monitor's capability to work with capable Radeon GPUs for variable refresh and they promised there were no lock-outs occurring. We guessed that maybe ASUS' deal with NVIDIA on G-Sync was preventing them from joining the FreeSync display program, but cleary that wasn't the case. Today on Twitter, AMD announced that the MG279Q was officially part of the FreeSync brand.

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I am glad to see more products come into the FreeSync monitor market and hopefully we'll have some solid gaming experiences with the ASUS MG279Q to report back on soon!

Source: AMD Twitter

90-some percent of the performance for 70 percent of the price; PowerColor's PCS+ R9 290X

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 6, 2015 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: factory overclocked, powercolor pcs+, R9 290X

The lowest priced GTX 980 on Amazon is currently $530 while the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290X is $380, about 72% of the price of the GTX 980.  The performance that [H]ard|OCP saw after overclocking the 290X was much closer, in some games even matching it but usually about 5-10% slower than the GTX 980, making it quite obvious which card is the better value.  The GTX 970 is a different story, you can find a card for $310 and the performance is only slightly behind the 290X although the 290X takes a larger lead at higher resolutions.  Read through the review carefully as the performance delta and overall smoothness varies from game to game but unless you like paying to brag about your handful of extra frames the 970 and 290X are the cards offering you the best bang for your buck.

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"Today we examine what value the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290X holds compared to overclocked GeForce GTX 970. AMD's Radeon R9 290X pricing has dropped considerably since launch and constitutes a great value and competition for the GeForce GTX 970. At $350 this may be an excellent value compared to the competition."

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

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Windows 10 Build 10051 Leak gets WinBeta Walkthrough

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2015 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, leaked build, leak, build 10051

This leaked build arrives just two versions ahead of the latest public release from last week. As such, not much has changed, but some things have. First, Mail and Calendar have been replaced with an upgrade under the Outlook branding. Those apps make up the majority of known changes for this not-release. One change to Project Spartan has also been spotted by WinBeta in their walkthrough. Spartan now includes an “Open with Internet Explorer” option. The concept seems to be if you visit a website that was designed for Internet Explorer, you can easily switch to the other Microsoft browser.

A new app, Microsoft Family, has also been added but it currently consists of a Windows Live logo leading into a completely blank screen. More specifically, it is the Windows Live 3d characters in the same arrangement as the silhouettes on Microsoft Family Safety. As such, it will probably be a parental control application.

There will probably be a few more builds until we get one pushed down Windows Update, but at least we can see a bit more of what's going on behind the scenes.

Source: WinBeta

Intel Compute Stick Starts Pre-order: Bay Trail and Windows 8.1 for $149

Subject: Systems | April 6, 2015 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: Intel, compute stick, Bay Trail-D

Back at CES in January Intel shared with us a preview of the company's latest new platform form factor, the Compute Stick. That's the formal, official name, a follow up from the same team that brought us the NUC (Next Unit of Computing). The Compute Stick is a thumb-drive-shaped, full PC integration that has a physical HDMI connection to plug directly into your TV.

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The specifications remain unchanged from what we learned at CES:

The Intel Compute Stick, aptly named, seems to fit somewhere between these two devices. It is an HDMI dongle enclosing an x86, quad-core, computer with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Intel eventually plans to have the device powered by the HDMI port, but it currently requires power over micro USB. Besides power, it also has a standard USB (Type A-Female) port and a micro SD card slot. It also has 802.11n wireless networking inside it. Being a full Windows device, you can stream media, browse the web, and use many other applications on it.

This week the devices have started showing up for pre-order on Newegg.com and even Amazon.com.

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Newegg.com has a specific pre-order going but it looks like Amazon is still on the waiting list process. Interestingly, a quick search for "compute stick" on Amazon reveals a host of other very similar devices, the most popular of which are sold as the MeeGoPad Stick with a price tag of ~$109. I'm not sure what those products will ship with when it comes to an operating system and some reviews indicate that the Windows version installed is not activated, so go in at your own risk.

As for the official Intel sold Compute Stick, I'm excited to try one out. The device includes a Bay Trail quad-core CPU, a single micro-USB port for power, a full-sized USB 2.0 port for connectivity (webcam, etc.) as well as a MicroSD slot for storage expansion. The device embeds Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth so you'll be able to connect to a network and get wireless keyboards and mice up and running easily.

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The amount of capability you get for $149, including a full copy of Windows 8.1 with Bing, is astounding and, if it lives up the hype, could be a great replacement for a Google Chromecast or a Kindle Fire TV. Look for a review very soon!

Onlive has been grabbed by Sony and then immediately consigned to the garbage heap

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2015 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: cloud gaming, onlive, sony, pc game streaming

Five years ago Onlive launched a beta of their online gaming system, allowing you to play games over the internet, without needing a high end PC.  Ryan got his hands on the beta to try out and while it did work for him, there was high latency effecting his gameplay and when he mentioned that Onlive had a few words with him.  It seems Sony dislikes the service more than anyone as they have just purchased the company and will be shutting it down in a month, without even offering to move the customers to Playstation Now.  This effects not only the gamers but also the graphics manipulation service they offered to companies using the same infrastructure.   It is always hard to be the first to try offering a new service and streaming has become a competitive business with a lot of companies with deep pockets offering similar services.  There is one major up side for Sony, according to The Register Onlive possesses over 1000 patents for cloud gaming, which Sony can now use to further develop their services.

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"Subscribers to the OnLive cloud gaming service have just 27 days of playing time left before the corporate servers that host their fragging sessions are to be shut down by Sony, which announced that it had acquired the service on Thursday."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Just Delivered: LG G3 Android Smartphone (LG D851 G3 Silk White)

Subject: Mobile | April 3, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon 801, smartphone, quad hd, LG, Android 5.0

Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Find the LG G3 on Amazon!

Last week I stopped by the T-Mobile store in the mall, handed over two old phones, and ported over two lines from Verizon. I walked out with a cheaper contract with unlimited data (versus 4GB on Verizon) and a shiny new (to me, it's been out for awhile) LG G3. Which brings me to this post.

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First off, the LG G3 is huge. This is the smallest tablet largest smartphone I have ever owned. Measuring 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm, the 149g smartphone is slightly smaller than the Apple iPhone 6 Plus and a bit chunkier at its thickest point. It is however easier to hold and operate (especially one handed) than the iDevice. The  is dominated by a large 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS display (2560 x 1440 resolution) and features round edges and a curved back. I chose the white version, but it also comes in black, blue, gold, red, and purple (the international versions). Except for the top bezel that holds the webcam, light sensor, and speaker, and that bit of empty space below the display with the LG logo, the G3 has super thin bezels. In fact, the phone is not much larger than the display (certainly width wise). 

The LG G3's display looks amazing with sharp text and extremely detailed videos (the included 4k content is great). It is highly reflective and I had to crank the brightness all the way up to be able to read it under direct sunlight (my S4 was similar in this respect). In other lighting situations, it worked really well.

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An infrared transmitter, microphone, micro USB port, and 3.5mm audio jack are placed along the top and bottom edges of the phone. Like its predecessor (the G2), LG has placed the power and volume buttons on the back of the device rather than the sides (Update: I am generally liking this setup now). The recessed buttons sit beneath the camera lens and are easier to find and use than I expected them to be. Now that I am getting used to them, I think LG is onto something (good) with this button placement. There is also a 1-watt speaker in the lower left corner of the back cover for media playback and speakerphone calls. For a smartphone speaker it can get fairly loud and does what it is supposed to. It is not spectacular but it is also not bad. I mostly use headphones but it's nice to know that I have a decent speaker should I want to share my music.

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The curved back cover makes it easy to hold in one hand (even if I can't hit all the on-screen buttons without a longer thumb heh) and I feel like it will be dropped less frequently than my previous phone (the Galaxy S4) as a result of the form factor. One big change with the G3, for me, is the lack of buttons below the display (capacitive or physical), but I am slowly getting used to the on-screen navigation on Android (especially once I figured out I could long press the recent apps button to regain the menu button I miss from my S4).

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Aside from the display, the G3 features a 2.1MP front facing camera and a 13MP rear camera. The rear camera is where things get interesting because it is paired with a dual LED flash, laser focus, and optical image stabilization (OIS) technology. Outdoor shots were excellent and indoor shots with enough lighting were great. In low light situations, the camera left something to be desired, and I was kind of disappointed. Using the flash does help and it is quite bright. However, I tend to not like using the flash unless I have to as photos always look less natural. For as small as the camera is though (the lens and sensor are tiny), it does pretty well. In good lighting conditions it is trounces my S4 but the (upgrade) is much less noticeable with less light (the G3 does have a much brighter flash).

The laser focus is a really cool feature that works as advertised. The camera focuses extremely quickly (even in low light) allowing me a much better chance to capture the moment. It also refocuses (tap to focus) quickly.

The camera software is not as full featured as other smartphones I have used, however. I was put off by this at first as someone that likes to tinker with these things but at the end of the day it does what it is supposed to and it does it well (which is to take photos). You can swipe to switch between the front and back cameras, choose from a couple preset modes, and adjust basic settings like resolution, voice controls, HDR, and shutter timer. For "selfie" fans, LG has a feature where you can make a fist in the air and it will start a countdown timer. While I have not tried the voice commands, I did try the gesture and it does work well.

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Anyways, before this turns into a full review (heh), it might help to know what's under the hood as well. The G3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC which pairs four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked at 2.5 GHz with an Adreno 330 GPU. The phone comes with either 16GB internal storage and 2GB of RAM or 32GB internal storage and 3GB RAM. I chose the higher end model to get the extra RAM just in case as I plan to have this phone for a long time. It supports 4G LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC (Near Field Communication). You can also use it with Qi-enabled wireless chargers if you purchase a supporting back cover. The G3 is running Android 4.4.2 on T-Mobile but it does support Android 5.0 and some carriers have already pushed out updates.

The G3 comes with a 3,000 mAh battery and a 1.8 amp USB charger. It does take awhile to charge this thing (my 2.1 amp Samsung charger is a bit faster), but once it is fully charged it will easily last all day including listening to streaming music and audiobooks, text messaging, and web browsing. (Update: I don't have specific battery life numbers yet, but I generally only need to charge it once a day so long as I keep the display brightness around half. If I crank the brightness all the way up I can almost feel the battery draining by the second heh.)

Like Samsung, LG has a battery saving feature that will kick in at 30% to conserve battery but turning down the screen brightness, turning off radios that are not active, and a few other configurable battery drainers (haptic feedback, notification lights, and account syncing). I do like their battery settings page as it will estimate the time needed to charge and the time remaining as it discharges along with a nice graph of battery percentages over time. Other Android phones have something similar but LG has fleshed it out a bit more.

Just for fun, I installed 3DMark and ran the Ice Storm benchmark. The LG G3 maxed out the Ice Storm test and scored 10,033 points in Ice Storm Extreme. Further, it scored 16,151 in Ice Storm Unlimited. In comparison, the (apparently extremely popular judging by the feedback) Samsung Galaxy Centura scored 536 in Ice Storm and 281 in Ice Storm Extreme respectively (hehe). My Galaxy S4 is no longer available for me to test, but TweakTown was able to get 6,723 in the Ice Storm Extreme test.

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LG packs light with only the smartphone, USB cable, USB charger, and a quck start guide included in the box. No headphones or extra accessories here.

In all, so far so good with the LG G3. I am very happy with my purchase and would recommend checking it out if you are in the market for a large display-packing smartphone that's not an iPhone 6 Plus or Galaxy Note 4 (which Ryan recently reviewed). If you want the latest and greatest Android phone and can afford the premium (about $300 more in my case when I compared them), grab the Note 4. On the other hand, if you are looking for a Android smartphone with a large display, good battery life, and decent hardware specifications, the LG G3 is a respectible choice that delivers and doesn't break the bank.

Have you tried out the G3? What do you think about the trend for larger and thinner smartphones? This is hardly an exhaustive review and there are things I didn't get into here. After all, I'm still checking out my G3. With that said, from first impressions and about a week of usage it seems like a really solid device. I've since fitted it with a screen protector and a case so as to not break it – especially that hi-res display!

PCPer Live! Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway!

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2015 - 08:19 PM |
Tagged: video, sdd, live, Intel, giveaway, contest

UPDATE: The secret is out! Today's live stream will focus on the new Intel SSD 750 Series products, which Allyn posted our review of just a few minutes ago. Be sure you read up on that story and prepare your questions for our event that starts in less than three hours!

UPDATE 2: If you missed the live streaming event today, you can find the reply embedded directly below. You can't win any of the prizes at this point (sorry!) but there is a ton of information for you to gleam from the discussion. That includes a history of Intel's SSD technology, how flash works and what the new SSD 750 Series has to offer with PCIe and NVMe. Enjoy!

Earlier this month we spotted a new and potentially very exciting SSD while looking through some PAX East coverage around the web. It appears to be a PCI Express based Intel SSD, likely based on the same technology as the P3700-series of NVMe drives released last June. And today, if you take a look at this Intel promotional landing page you'll see a timer and countdown that ends on April 2nd.

Sounds like something must be up, huh?

Well, in totally unrelated news, PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together for a live stream to discuss "SSD related topics" on April 2nd.

pcperlive.png

Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway

12pm PT / 3pm ET - April 2nd

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

Joining us for the live event will be Intel's Bryn Pilney and Kei Kobayashi, making a follow up appearance after jumping on stage with us at Quakecon 2014. During the event we'll discuss some of the history of Intel's move into the SSD market, how consumers benefit from Intel development and technology and a certain new product that will be making an appearnce on that same day.

And of course, what's a live stream event without some hardware to give away?!? Here's what we have on the docket for those that attend:

  • 2 x Intel 180GB 530 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 480GB 730 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 400GB 750 Series SSDs

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Huge thanks to Intel for supporting our viewers and readers with hardware to giveaway!

The event will take place Thursday, April 2nd at 3pm ET / 12pm PT at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience, asking questions for me and Intel to answer live. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

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If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from Intel?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 3pm ET / 12pm PT and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

This year's Razer Blade 14 is impressively powerful and priced to match

Subject: Mobile | April 2, 2015 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: razer, blade 14, gaming laptop

Razer has refreshed their Blade series gaming laptop for 2015, thankfully keeping the M.2 SSD and the 3200×1800 resolution but unfortunately they stuck with the glossy panel.  The i7-4720HQ stays but the GPU has been replaced with a GTX970m 3GB and have doubled the RAM to 16GB, at least in the model which Kitguru tested.  The 14" size helps keep the weight down to 4.5lbs but also ensures the price is high, Amazon is selling the 512GB model for $2700 currently. If you have the money and require a gaming laptop for some reason this is a great choice, otherwise spend less on a more powerful desktop machine.

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"Gaming laptops have a huge audience, but not everyone wants to lug around a 17 inch behemoth weighing more than 5KG. Razer have enjoyed success in recent years with their Blade range of laptops … even if the price has been prohibitive for many."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

Source: Kitguru

Samsung may be fabbing the Snapdragon 820

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2015 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, qualcomm, 14 nm, snapdragon 820

If DigiTimes has called it right Qualcomm will be using Samsung to fab the new Snapdragon 820, likely on the same line as Samsung used for the 14 nm EXynos 7420.  TSMC's 16 nm tech is slightly behind in quality to Samsung's current 14 nm and Qualcomm really wants to replace the current Snapdragon 810 as soon as possible.  This move makes sense strategically seeing as how Samsung will be using its own processors in the new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5 and Qualcomm may look to leverage their status as a customer to try to get their Snapdragon back into future Samsung products.

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"Qualcomm's next-generation application processor (AP), the Snapdragon 820, is expected to outsource to Samsung Electronics using a 14nm node, which the Korea-based foundry house has demonstrated as a proven process as showcased by the performance and power consumption of its14nm EXynos 7420 CPU developed in house, according to Digitimes Research."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Podcast #343 - DX12 Performance, Dissecting G-SYNC and FreeSync, Intel 3D NAND and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2015 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, dx12, 3dmark, freesync, g-sync, Intel, 3d nand, 20nm, 28nm, micron, nvidia, shield, Tegra X1, raptr, 850 EVO, msata, M.2

PC Perspective Podcast #343 - 04/02/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DX12 Performance, Dissecting G-SYNC and FreeSync, Intel 3D NAND 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

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

Determining what it takes to join Battlefield Hardline

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2015 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield hardline

[H]ard|OCP has put together an exhaustive look at what you will need to play Battlefield Hardline, using both Mantle and D3D.  They tested 5 GPUs from each vendor including the Titan X as well as the GTX 980 and R9 290X in both single and dual GPU configurations.  The Mantle version appears to require some more optimization as it was outperformed by D3D 11 in testing, hopefully this will change over time.  At 1440p the Titan is unable to keep up with the GTX 980 SLI configuration and outperforms the Crossfired R9 290X setup, when they increased the resolution to 4k the Titan came out on top.  At release the game will support dual GPUs but as you can see in [H]'s testing the scaling is not as good as it could be, again this will hopefully be addressed over time.

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"Battlefield Hardline has been released finally. We gather twelve video card comparisons and find out what you need to enjoy this game in multiplayer and campaign modes. We will look at multi-GPU scaling, D3D vs. Mantle, and VRAM usage to find out where the best money is spent to enjoy this new game."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel's low end refresh, the die shrunk Braswell family

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2015 - 07:56 PM |
Tagged: celeron, N3000, N3050, pentium, Intel, 14 nm, N3150, N3700, Airmont

Intel has released four low powered 14 nm Braswell SoCs, with Airmont cores and Generation 8 graphics to replace the current Bay Trail-D processors currently being sold. There are two Celeron models with two cores as well as Celeron and Pentium model with 4 cores, that is also the number of threads available as these processors do not support HyperThreading.  The base frequencies range from 1.04GHz base and 2.08GHz boost clock to the top end Pentium running at 1.6GHz base and 2.4 GHz boost.  All but the low end Celeron model will run at a 6W TDP, with the lowest clocked Celeron running at 4W.  You can expect to see these in lower end laptops and desktops very soon.  Follow the links from The Register for a bit more information on Intel's new low powered SoCs.

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"CPU World reports that Intel will offer four new Atom products based on its 14-nanometer "Braswell" process, to be marketed under the Celeron and Pentium brands."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Samsung's 850 EVO now comes in M.2 flavour too

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2015 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, Samsung, msata, M.2 SATA, 850 EVO, 500gb, 1TB, 120gb

As Al's review of the 850 EVO exists in a cat like superposition of being biased both for and against Samsung, perhaps you would like a second opinion.  That is where The Tech Report's review comes in handy, which was published just a few short hours ago.  Their findings were perfectly in line with the others, exactly the same performance as the 2.5" drives but in a nice bite sized form factor.  The only drawback is the size, the new M.2's are missing the 1TB model at the moment.

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"Samsung's 850 EVO SSD debuted in December inside the usual 2.5" case. Now, the drive is spreading to smaller mSATA and M.2 form factors. We've examined the new drives to see how the mini lineup compares to its full-sized forbear."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Raptr's Top PC Games of February 2015

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

A little late this month, but there is yet another Top 20 PC Games of the month from Raptr. This one counts the amount of person-hours played per title over the month of February and presents them as a percent of their recorded total. This month finally shows some shake-up in the top five games, but not a lot. Still, this was the first time since November that we saw anything other than: League of Legends, World of Warcraft, DOTA 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Smite -- in that order -- at the top of the list.

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Basically, Diablo III rose about a percent and a half to take the fifth-place spot from Smite. First through fourth maintain the exact same order as they have been in since October. In terms of percentage, League of Legends jumped back above 20% total usage and World of Warcraft dropped below 10% total time. Both Valve titles in the top five, DOTA 2 and CS:GO, saw an increase due to content patches.

There was a lot of shuffling in the bottom fifteen, but each have less total play time than the amount that WoW lost. Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA from Blizzard, joined the list at 1.09%. This launches them onto the list at lucky number thirteen. The only game to fall off the list was Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Don't worry, fans of DirectX 9, Star Wars: The Old Republic is still on the list.

Oh, and Dragon Age: Inquisition fell ten places, but caught itself at #19.

Source: Raptr

HUGE Contest and Giveaway - Put a little Green in your PC!

Subject: Editorial | March 31, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: video, pcper, hwc, hardware canucks, giveaway, contest

One of our favorite holidays is creeping up on us: St. Patrick's Day! What's better than an open excuses to skip work and down some beers? How about getting a boat load of free PC hardware as well?!?

That's right, PC Perspective and Hardware Canucks have teamed up with sponsors NVIDIA, EVGA, ASUS, Crucial and Phanteks to bring our readers and YouTube subscribers a a mega-epic prize pack you are going to have to see to believe!

Here is the total list:

  • Grand Prize
    • ASUS ROG Swift G-Sync Monitor
    • EVGA GTX 980 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Maximus VII Hero
    • ASUS Strix Claw Mouse
    • ASUS Strix Tactic Pro KB
    • ASUS Strix Pro Headset
    • Crucial MX200 1TB SSD
    • Phanteks Enthoo Luxe Case
    • Phanteks PH-TC14S
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140MP
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140SP
  • 2nd Prize
    • EVGA GTX 960 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Maximus VII Hero
    • ASUS Gladius Mouse
    • Crucial BX100 1TB SSD
    • Phanteks PH-TC12LS
    • 2 x Phanteks PH-F140MP
  • 3rd Prize
    • EVGA GTX 960 ACX 2.0
    • ASUS Gladius Mouse

We are hosting this contest on our YouTube channels, so here are the rules for entry:

  1. Subscribe to PCPer's YouTube channel
  2. Leave a comment on PCPer's contest video
  3. Subscribe to Hardware Canucks' YouTube channel
  4. Leave a comment on Hardware Canucks' contest video

Sorry, this is open only to US and Canada users; the cost and complexity of international shipping is just to drastic for this much hardware.

You have until March 30th to enter and we'll announce the winner on March 31st.

Good luck!!

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview Build 10049

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 10049

Less than two weeks after releasing the last preview build, 10041, Microsoft has pushed an update for users in the “Fast” ring. We have been asking for more rapid releases and we are beginning to get them. I spent quite a bit of Monday downloading, installing, and rebooting to install Build 10049. Now that I have used it for a bit, I can give my opinion.

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Before we get to what's new, I would like to get into what is fixed (and broken). First, apparently Visual Studio 2015 has some issues, particularly with deploying to external devices. On the other hand, my usage of Visual Studio 2013 seems fine and stable. Second, a bug is preventing Hyper-V from being enabled for users who want to create a virtual machine. If you upgrade to 10049 from a previous build, where Hyper-V has been activated, then “everything works fine” when you update.

One of the listed bugs for Build 10041 (the previous build) was that Windows Update would tell you to restart to complete updates even if nothing was installed, and that the messages could be “ignored safely”. I never had that happen in 10041, but have seen it this afternoon in 10049. No big deal.

As for fixed? When I upgraded to 10041, StarCraft II stopped working and apparently the bug extended to Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, League of Legends, and others. This has been fixed in 10049. I can play StarCraft II without problems. Yay! Also, many sections of the new Settings app crashed when I attempted to open them. This nuisance has been bugging me since one of the earlier builds from last year. It has mostly been fixed now. The only hiccup is “Apps & features”, which sometimes (but not always) crashes after the loading bar completes.

The main “feature” of this build is the introduction of Project Spartan. Now this is interesting. The browser itself feels a lot more smooth. I have been suspecting that Microsoft would include a DirectX 12 rendering path for Project Spartan, which would better explain the move to their “Edge” fork of Trident, but I have been unable to benchmark it. I have been trying to push sites with a lot of small draw calls, but it seems to be within the performance of a normal browser. One WebGL benchmark saw an increase of about 17% going between Internet Explorer 11 with Edge disabled and Project Spartan, but that is probably just more efficient rendering and JavaScript engines. So... nothing yet.

Apparently Cortana has been given some non-descript update. They might be referring to its integration with Spartan, which I have yet to test, but it is still unable to, for instance, set a timer or launch Photoshop.

It took me two installs to get it actually on my system, but it seems to be very stable for a pre-release operating system with a bunch of unfinished APIs and drivers. Looking good (but I'm still scared of Windows Dev Certification)!

Source: Microsoft

Hints of things to come from AMD

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: skybridge, HPC, arm, amd

The details are a little sparse but we now have hints of what AMD's plans are for next year and 2017. In 2016 we should see AMD chips with ARM cores, the Skybridge architecture which Josh described almost a year ago, which will be pin compatible allowing the same motherboard to run with either an ARM processor or an AMD64 depending on your requirements.  The GPU portion of their APUs will move forward on a two year cycle so we should not expect any big jumps in the next year but they are talking about an HPC capable part by 2017.  The final point that The Register translated covers that HPC part which is supposed to utilize a new memory architecture which will be nine times faster than existing GDDR5.

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"Consumer and commercial business lead Junji Hayashi told the PC Cluster Consortium workshop in Osaka that the 2016 release CPU cores (an ARMv8 and an AMD64) will get simultaneous multithreading support, to sit alongside the clustered multithreading of the company's Bulldozer processor families."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Nice rack! It would look better if you added a Noctua NH-U9S or NH-D9L

Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 30, 2015 - 07:32 PM |
Tagged: noctua, NH-U9S, NH-D9L, cpu cooler, air cooling

You might want to hold off reading this review as these coolers are very likely to grace our pages in the near future but if you can't wait then HiTech Legion is the place to go to check out these small coolers from Noctua.  The 125mm NH-U9S fits in 4U cases while the 110mm NH-D9L can fit in 3U spaces, making them perfect for not only rack mounted cases but also for SFF builds.   The weights are also smaller than usual, with the 92mm fan installed they weigh 618g and 531g respectively.  For small builds with processors with a moderate TDP these are certainly worth your consideration.

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"While Noctua’s new NH-U9S and NH-D9L were designed to comply with rack mount system standards, their low profile and horizontal airflow make them a natural choice for SFF and HTPC systems where CPU cooler space is limited. The Noctua NH-U9S meets 4U standards at 125mm tall, while the NH-D9L takes it a step further to meet the 110mm requirement of 3U standard."

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CASES & COOLING

Gigabyte's Z97X Gaming 7, a decent motherboard all around

Subject: Motherboards | March 30, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z97X Gaming 7, z97, Intel

The Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 7 motherboard offers a nice balance between price and performance, at $172 it is a bit pricey but when on sale for around the $150 mark it is a great deal.  The onboard audio provided by Realtek's ALC1150 produced very good sound and while the Qualcomm Killer NIC E2201 doesn't offer benefits over a more generic NIC there are those who prefer the software which comes with it.  The board overclocked very well for [H] manually, providing noticeable boosts with solid performance, however the EasyTune software provided them with some issues.  Check out the full review right here.

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"GIGABYTE's Z97X Gaming 7 promises solid overclocking and performance. The feature list for the Z97X Gaming 7 is long and includes gamer focused features like a dedicated audio amplifier, Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 support and more. We've had mixed results with the GIGABYTE lately, so the real question is; does it work?"

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Motherboards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP