Supercharge your Chromebook

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: linux, Chromebook

If you have purchased the Acer C720 Chromebook because it was relatively quick and very inexpensive you have probably been happy with it but maybe you wish it could do more.  To do so you could follow these instructions to install either Ubuntu or Bohdi Linux.  The process is a little more complicated than installing the OS from a CD but they have provided step by step instructions on how to accomplish this process.  Bring new life to your Chromebook with just a bit of work.

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"Chromebooks are amazing little machines. They are a marvel of speed and simplicity. The Acer C720 Chromebook is certainly near the top of the list of Chromebooks to be purchased (next to the Chromebook Pixel, of course). It's speedy and it's inexpensive. But for some, the simplistic nature of the devices doesn't offer enough power or flexibility. For those who need more from this Acer platform, I have the answer – in fact, I have two answers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Linux.com

MSI Intros Trio Of Low-Cost FM2+ Motherboards Using A58 Chipset

Subject: Motherboards | February 28, 2014 - 01:23 AM |
Tagged: msi, A58, Kaveri, FM2+, micro ATX, atx

MSI has launched three new low cost FM2+ motherboards based around AMD's budget A58 chipset. The new boards include an ATX form factor MSI A58-G41 PC Mate and two micro ATX boards: the A58M-E35 and the A58M-E33. The boards are compatible with AMD's Richland, Trinity, and Kaveri APUs and support PCI-E 3.0. The cost savings come from using the A58 chipset which drops support for SATA III 6Gpbs and USB 3.0. The boards further have smaller heatsinks and fewer overclocking features. Despite the restrictions, the new MSI A58 FM2+ motherboards still incorporate MSI's OC Genie 4, Click BIOS 4, and Command Center technologies along with the company's Military Class 4 hardware components.

MSI A58-G41 FM2+ Motherboard.png

The MSI A58-G41 PC Mate is an ATX form factor board with an FM2+ CPU socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, six SATA II 3Gbps ports, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, and three legacy PCI expansion slots. Rear IO on this board includes two PS/2 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, a single Gigabit LAN port, three analog audio jacks, and three video outputs (HDMI, VGA, and DVI).

MSI A58M-E35 FM2+ AMD Motherboard.png

The Micro ATX A58M-E35 also has an FM2+ socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, and six SATA II ports, but the expansion slot layout is scaled down. There is a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI-E 3.0 x1 slot, and one PCI slot. Rear IO on this board is identical to the A58-G41 board above (six USB 2.0, two PS/2, one GbE port, three audio, and three video outputs).

MSI A58M-E33.png

Finally, MSI's lowest-end A58M-E33 is a Micro ATX board similar in layout to the A58-E35, but with fewer port options. The expansion slot and memory slot configuration stays the same as the E35, but there are two fewer SATA II ports (four total) and two fewer USB 2.0 ports on the rear IO panel. Speaking of I/O, the board is similar to the E35 except that it lacks a DVI video output and two USB 2.0 ports.

MSI has not yet released exact pricing, but expect these boards to be well under $100, and the two micro ATX variants to be closer to the $50 mark based on prices of the higher-end A78 and A88 chipset-based motherboards. All three will be available for purchase later this year.

Source: MSI

Antec Launches HCP-1300 Platinum Power Supply For Extreme Crypto Mining Rigs

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 12:07 AM |
Tagged: power supply, HCP-1300, antec, 80 Plus Platinum

Antec has released a new high capacity HCP-1300 Platinum power supply fit for the highest-end workstations and cryptocurrency mining rigs. The 80 PLUS Platinum rated PSU is up to 94% efficient meaning less wasted electricity and more profit for miners running power hungry GPU farms. The HCP-1300 Platinum, as the name implies can deliver up to 1300W to the system, including 10 PCI-E power connectors.

Antec HCP Platinum 1300W Power Supply.jpg

The new PSU uses a fully modular design with a look towards the future. Antec is using 16-pin cable connectors for future modular cables as well as a 20+8 pin motherboard connector to accommodate future ATX motherboards that might require an additional four power pins over today's 20+4 pin boards. A 135mm fan keeps the internal components cool at high loads. Other enthusiast-friendly features include CircuitShield technology and an OC Link connector. The OC Link allows adventurous enthusiasts and miners to connect two HCP-1300 Platinum power supplies together and have them work in tandem to power a single ultra high end system (hopefully you miners attempting this are plugging the PSUs into dedicated AC circuits!).

This enthusiast PSU comes at a premium, however. In fact, the Antec HCP-1300 Platinum will set you back $312 for a single unit. On the bright side, it does come with a generous seven year warranty.

Will this beastly power supply be at the heart of your next Dream System?

Source: eTeknix

Podcast #289 - Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: x240, video, tegra, podcast, origin, nvidia, MWC, litecoin, Lenovo, Intel, icera, eos 17 slx, dogecoin, bitcoin, atom, amd, 750ti

PC Perspective Podcast #289 - 02/27/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the Origin PC EOS-17 SLX Gaming Laptop, Mining on a 750Ti, News from MWC 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

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:17:30
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:21:48 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

Overclocked SSDs are fast but also power hungry

Subject: Storage | February 27, 2014 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: SSD 730, ssd, Intel, Overclocked

Today marks the release of the first overclocked SSD to hit the market, the Intel 730 which is based on the SSD DC S3500 and SSD DC S3700 series for data centers.  As these were drives specifically crafted for the datacenter they were both more expensive than consumer models and were optimized for completely different uses.  The new Intel 730 drive is overclocked, the NAND functions at 600MHz compared to the DC's 400MHz and the cache RAM speed is jumped up to 100MHz from 83MHz.  The Tech Report discovered that extra frequency comes at a price, the wattage consumed by this drive is significantly higher than just about any other SSD they have reviewed, no wonder Intel labels this as specifically for desktops.

Make sure to check out Allyn's fresh off the presses review of this drive and don't let his temperature readings shock you too much.

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"Intel's new 730 Series desktop SSD is rather unique. It's based on the company's datacenter drives, it has an extra flash die onboard, and the controller and NAND are both clocked well beyond their usual speeds. We take a closer look."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

TSMC's ultraviolet lithography was a little too extreme

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 11:37 AM |
Tagged: euv, photolithography, Intel, TSMC, DSA

A recent test at TSMC proved their experimental extreme UV lithography process is a little too extreme after a misaligned laser caused serious internal damage to their prototype.  This is rather sad news for TSMC as EUV has been touted as the best way to reduce the chip making process below 10nm.  Intel has been hedging their bets about EUV, they have invested heavily in the development of the technology but recently have teamed up with ASML Holdings and Arkema to work on directed self assembly, where the chips are convinced to form out of solution on a molecular basis.  We are not quite talking Von Neumann machines but it is certainly within the same realm of thought.  Other researchers are working on electron etching; forsaking light and its comparatively large wavelength for much smaller etching tools.  You can read more about how companies such as Intel are trying to keep Moore's law alive at The Register.

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"A recent test of the next-generation chip-etching technology known as extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) has come a cropper at chip-baking giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Thermaltake Launches Modular Toughpower Gold Series Power Supplies

Subject: General Tech | February 27, 2014 - 02:19 AM |
Tagged: toughpower gold, thermaltake, power supply, 80 Plus Gold

Thermaltake has launched three new power supplies under its Toughpower Gold series. The new models come in 550W, 650W, and 750W capacities and offer up a semi-modular design and 80 PLUS Gold efficiency ratings.

Thermaltake Toughpower Gold 750W Power Supply.jpg

The new power supplies are rated at 87% to 92% efficient depending on the load and fall under the 80 PLUS Gold designation. Additionally, the PSUs offer a single rail design to deliver stable power to graphics cards and the processor. A semi-modular design has the 24 pin and 8 pin motherboard power connectors permanently attached and connection points for a variety of additional power cables. Thermaltake has gone for a flat cable design which should mean the cables are easier to route and hide behind the motherboard tray. Other features include high quality Japanese capacitors and a reportedly quiet 140mm fan that hits 18dB under typical loads.

The 550W offers two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors while the top end 750W version supports up to four 8-pin PCI-E power connectors meaning it can easily power CrossFire and SLI multi-GPU setups.

You can find more information on the Toughpower Gold power supplies on their respective product pages.

Unfortunately, pricing and exact availability has not yet been released.

Samsung Releases 8-Core and 6-Core 32-Bit Exynos 5 SoCs

Subject: Processors | February 26, 2014 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Samsung, exynos 5, big.little, arm, 28nm

Samsung recently announced two new 32-bit Exynos 5 processors with the eight core Exynos 5 Octa 5422 and six core Exynos 5 Hexa 5260. Both SoCs utilize a combination of ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 CPU cores along with ARM's Mali graphics. Unlike the previous Exynos 5 chips, the upcoming processors utilize a big.LITTLE configuration variant called big.LITTLE MP that allows all CPU cores to be used simultaneously. Samsung continues to use a 28nm process node, and the SoCs should be available for use in smartphones and tablets immediately.

The Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5422 offers up eight CPU cores and an ARM Mali T628 MP6 GPU. The CPU configuration consists of four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 2.1GHz and four Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.5GHz. Devices using this chip will be able to tap up to all eight cores at the same time for demanding workloads, allowing the device to complete the computations and return to a lower-power or sleep state sooner. Devices using previous generation Exynos chips were faced with an either-or scenario when it came to using the A15 or A7 groups of cores, but the big.LITTLE MP configuration opens up new possibilites.

Samsung Exynos 5 Hexa 5260.jpg

While the Octa 5422 occupies the new high end for the lineup, the Exynos 5 Hexa 5260 is a new midrange chip that is the first six core Exynos product. This chip uses an as-yet-unnamed ARM Mali GPU along with six ARM cores. The configuration on this SoC is four low power Cortex-A7 cores clocked at 1.3GHz paired with two Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. Devices can use all six cores at a time or more selectively. The Hexa 5260 offers up two higher powered cores for single threaded performance along with four power sipping cores for running background tasks and parallel workloads.

The new chips offer up access to more cores for more performance at the cost of higher power draw. While the additional cores may seem like overkill for checking email and surfing the web, the additional power can enable things like onboard voice recognition, machine vision, faster photo filtering and editing, and other parallel-friendly tasks. Notably, the GPU should be able to assist with some of this parallel processing, but GPGPU is still relatively new whereas developers have had much more time to familiarize themselves with and optimize applications for multiple CPU threads. Yes, the increasing number of cores lends itself well to marketing, but that does not preclude them from having real world performance benefits and application possibilities. As such, I'm interested to see what these chips can do and what developers are able to wring out of them.

Source: Ars Technica

HP Launches Bay Trail-Powered X360 Convertible Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 26, 2014 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: x360, Windows 8.1, tablet, hp, convertible tablet, convertible, Bay Trail

At MWC 2014, HP showed off an interesting convertible laptop similar in form factor to Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The HP X360 is a Bay Trail-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 that brings the 360-degree hinged hybrid laptop/tablet form factor to an affordable $460 price point. The red plastic and brushed aluminum PC is available for purchase now and will begin shipping in early March.

HP X360 Angled.png

HP's new X360 tablet measures 12.12” x 8.46” x 0.86” and weighs in at a portable 3.08 pounds. It is noticeably larger than other Bay Trail tablets like the ASUS T100 and Dell Venue series, but it also has an integrated keyboard and trackpad attached via a permanently attached double hinge to the 11.6” LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1366x768. The chassis is a glossy red plastic while the keyboard cover and palm rest use a brushed aluminum surface that surrounds a large gesture compatible touchpad and a chiclet-style keyboard that appears to be well spaced for an 11.6” machine (excluding the arrow keys which are bunched up in the bottom-right corner in order to allow full sized shift and enter keys). A silver chassis version is also in the works, but will not be available until later this year.

HP X360 Back Panel.png

The HP X360 features external I/O more akin to a traditional laptop than a tablet with the following connectivity options.

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (10/100 Ethernet)
  • 1 x headphone/mic combo jack
  • 1 x SD card slot
  • 1 x SIM card slot

Internally, the HP X360 uses an Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and a 2 cell Lithium Ion battery rated for up to four and a half hours of use. HP has further packed its tablet with Beats Audio technology. Interestingly, the Pentium N3520 CPU is a quad core chip based on Intel's Bay Trail (Atom) architecture which uses Silvermont cores and Intel HD graphics. The CPU is clocked at 2.166 GHz base and 2.42 GHz Turbo with 2MB of cache.

The X360 can be used as a laptop or a tablet in several configurations by swinging the display around appropriately. It is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga system, though HP is using a slightly different hinge design.

HP X360 Tablet Mode.png

The real advantage of the HP X360 is its price. At a starting price of $389 for the 4GB model, the X360 is much cheaper than the (admittedly more powerful) Yoga alternatives while still being a capable machine for note taking and media consumption. It lies in a middle ground between Bay Trail-powered tablets and Haswell-powered laptops. For an $80 premium over the ASUS T100, users get a more traditional convertible PC with more storage (albeit slower mechanical storage) and a faster clocked processor.

Personally, I'm tempted and have been debating between this and the T100 as a second portable machine to replace my aging Dell XT with comparably abysmal battery life (heh).

You can find more information on the new X360 (HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 PC) on this HP product page.

Source: HP

Video Perspective: Gaming on an Overclocked AMD A10-7850K APU

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 26, 2014 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged:

Overclocking the memory and GPU clock speeds on an AMD APU can greatly improve gaming performance - it is known.  With the new AMD A10-7850K in hand I decided to do a quick test and see how much we could improve average frame rates for mainstream gamers with only some minor tweaking of the motherboard BIOS.  

Using some high-end G.Skill RipJaws DDR3-2400 memory, we were able to push memory speeds on the Kaveri APU up to 2400 MHz, a 50% increase over the stock 1600 MHz rate.  We also increased the clock speed on the GPU portion of the A10-7850K from 720 MHz to 1028 MHz, a 42% boost.  Interestingly, as you'll see in the video below, the memory speed had a MUCH more dramatic impact on our average frame rates in-game.  

In the three games we tested for this video, GRID 2, Bioshock Infinite and Battlefield 4, total performance gain ranged from 26% to 38%.  Clearly that can make the AMD Kaveri APU an even more potent gaming platform if you are willing to shell out for the high speed memory.

  Stock GPU OC Memory OC Total OC Avg FPS Change
Battlefield 4
1920x1080
Medium
22.4 FPS 23.7 FPS 28.2 FPS 29.1 FPS +29%
GRID 2
1920x1080
High + 2xAA
33.5 FPS 36.3 FPS 41.1 FPS 42.3 FPS +26%
Bioshock Infinite
1920x1080
Low
30.1 FPS 30.9 FPS 40.2 FPS 41.8 FPS +38%

DirectX 12 and a new OpenGL to challenge AMD Mantle coming at GDC?

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2014 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, DirectX, amd

UPDATE (2/27/14): AMD sent over a statement today after seeing our story.  

AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle, and AMD is very excited to share the future of our own API with developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference.

Credit over to Scott and his reader at The Tech Report for spotting this interesting news today!!

It appears that DirectX and OpenGL are going to be announcing some changes at next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  According to some information found in the session details, both APIs are trying to steal some of the thunder from AMD's Mantle, recently released with the Battlefield 4 patch.  Mantle is na API was built by AMD to enable more direct access (lower level) to its GCN graphics hardware allowing developers to code games that are more efficient, providing better performance for the PC gamer.

mantle.jpg

From the session titled DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform we find this description (emphasis mine):

For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.

However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.

Come learn our plans to deliver.

Another DirectX session hosted by Microsoft is titled DirectX: Direct3D Futures (emphasis mine): 

Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!

In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware. 

If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.

Now look at a line from our initial article on AMD Mantle when announced at its Hawaii tech day event:

It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.

This is all sounding very familiar.  It would appear that Microsoft has finally been listening to the development community and is working on the performance aspects of DirectX.  Likely due in no small part to the push of AMD and Mantle's development, an updated DirectX 12 that includes a similar feature set and similar performance changes would shift the market in a few key ways.

olddirectx.jpg

Is it time again for innovation with DirectX?

First and foremost, what does this do for AMD's Mantle in the near or distant future?  For now, BF4 will still include Mantle support as will games like Thief (update pending) but going forward, if these DX12 changes are as specific as I am being led to believe, then it would be hard to see anyone really sticking with the AMD-only route.  Of course, if DX12 doesn't really address the performance and overhead issues in the same way that Mantle does then all bets are off and we are back to square one.

Interestingly, OpenGL might also be getting into the ring with the session Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL

Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.

This description seems to indicate more about new or lesser known programming methods that can be used with OpenGL to lower overhead without the need for custom APIs or even DX12.  This could be new modules from vendors or possibly a new revision to OpenGL - we'll find out next month.

All of this leaves us with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered when we get to GDC in mid-March.  Will this new version of DirectX be enough to reduce API overhead to appease even the stingiest of game developers?  How will AMD react to this new competitor to Mantle (or was Mantle really only created to push this process along)?  What time frame does Microsoft have on DX12?  Does this save NVIDIA from any more pressure to build its own custom API?

Gaming continues to be the driving factor of excitement and innovation for the PC!  Stay tuned for an exciting spring!

Source: Tech Report

Samsung Launches Galaxy S5 Flagship Smartphone With Improved Hardware Running Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2014 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 801, Samsung, qualcomm, galaxy s5, adreno 330

Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy S5 smartphone at Mobile World Congress earlier this week. Packing evolutionary updates over the S4, the new flagship handset will be available in 150 countries on April 11th for an undisclosed price (expect it to cost around $800 unlocked with unsubsidized versions available from the major carriers).

The Galaxy S5 is slightly bulkier than its predecessor at 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm and 145 grams. Despite this, the general look and feel of the smartphone remains unchanged, with rounded edges, a front dominated by a massive 5.1” 1080p Super AMOLED display (along with a 2MP webccam and a fingerprint reader) and a leather-esque texturized backplate hosting a 16MP rear camera. The device uses a covered micro USB 3.0 port and a gasket between the back cover and internals to achieve dustproof and water resistant ratings. The physical size upgrade is accompanyied by new color options (blue, white, gold, or black), updated internals, improved cameras, software tweaks, and a new fingerprint reader.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Charcoal Black.jpg

Connectivity includes a headphone jack, micro USB 3.0 port, and a slew of wireless radios including NFC, Category 4 LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a IR transmitter.

Internally, the Samsung Galaxy S5 packs a respectable bit of hardware. Notably, Samsung decided to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor over its own Exynos 5 Octa chip in the US (an upcoming variant of which may be used in some markets, but not the US version). This SoC is a quad core clocked at 2.5GHz with Adreno 330 graphics clocked at 578MHz. For comparison, the US Galaxy S4 used a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC clocked at 1.89GHz with Adreno 320 graphics. Note that international versions will use an upcoming variant of the Exynos 5 Octa 5422 versus the Exynos 5 5410 in the Galaxy S4.

That boils down to a clockspeed bump in CPU and graphics for the North American Galaxy S5 and a clockspeed (GPU and CPU) bump and the ability to utilize all eight big.LITTLE cores simultaneously instead of only the four Cortex-A15 or four Cortex-A7 cores at a time as in the S4. Nothing mind blowing, but the new phone will see at least a slight performance boost as a result of the incremental upgrade.

Beyond the core SoC, the Galaxy S5 features 2GB of RAM, either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, and support for up to 128GB of expandable microSD card storage. A slightly more capacious 2,800 mAh battery powers the smartphone.

  Galaxy S5 Galaxy S4
Display 5.1" 1080p Super AMOLED 5" 1080p Super AMOLED
Processor (SoC) - US version Snapdragon 801 @ 2.5GHz Snapdragon 600 @ 1.9GHz or Snapdragon 800 @ 2.3GHz in later models
Processor (SoC) - International version Exynos 5 Octa 5422 Exynos 5 Octa 5410
Graphics (SoC integrated) - US version Adreno 330 Adreno 320
RAM 2GB 2GB
Storage 16GB or 32GB + 128GB SD 16GB or 32GB + 64GB SD
Battery Capacity 2800mAh 2600mAh
Dimensions 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm
Weight 145 grams 130 grams

The Galaxy S5 will come with the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system and a toned-down TouchWiz user interface. Samsung has scaled back the TouchWiz UI and pre-installed applications with the S5 which is a welcome change in the right direction. Further, the camera application now allows selective focus that can be adjusted after the shot has been taken as well as other photo modes that have been made more obvious and easier to access than on the S4. Speaking of cameras, the front-facing camera is a mere 2MP, but the rear camera (with LED flash) is an impressive 16MP model capable of recording UHD video and HDR video and stills.

The Galaxy S5 is now official, and I have been letting the specifications sink in. It is true that the smartphone is at best an evolutionary upgrade over the S4 rather than the revolutionary flagship some might have been expecting. However, I argue that the S5 is a fine device that features just enough useful tweaks over its predecessor to make it a worthwhile purchase. If you were unable to wait out the S5 and recently picked up an S4 for a good price, it will be difficult to justify an upgrade to the new flagship, but if you are coming in fresh from an even older smartphone now that your contract is up for renewal or looking to add a new line it looks to be a solid high performance Android phone.

What do you think, will you be picking up the Galaxy S5 or going with something else?

Source: Samsung

Oculus Rift Development Kit Production is Suspending

Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 08:33 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, Oculus

The current Oculus Rift development kit will being to sell out, region-by-region, as their current inventory depletes. This is because "certain components" which they require are no longer available nor will they be produced. They claim to be looking for alternate suppliers but do not know how long that will take. In case you are wondering, they will be floating a stash of units to fulfill replacement requests (RMAs).

oculus-ryan.jpg

As of five days ago, they currently have stock in the following regions:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • European Union
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia
  • Switzerland
  • Norway

Of course, there is now speculation that Oculus is preparing to launch a new development kit revision. It is obvious that something new is in the works, especially since they presented a prototype at this year's CES, less than two months ago. The cynical way to take this is that they are looking to deplete their stock before releasing a new unit. The other direction is that they were intending to sell the first kit for a little while longer but one or two parts became difficult to acquire. Either way, unless finding a replacement source is easy enough and they do resume production of the original kit, we might be seeing a refresh at some point.

The question is then, "How long will that take?"

Phone companies branding tablets? What's next; dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria ...

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2014 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: verizon, Ellipsis 7, 4g lte, phablet

Not content with selling phones and hotspots, Verizon combined both into a phablet called the Ellipsis 7 4G LTE tablet.  It features a 1280x800 7" HD IPS display and runs Android 4.2.2 on an quad-core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM.  At $120 with a 2 year contract, plus connectivity charges of course, it is not a bad price for an LTE capable tablet and even the $300 price tag without a contract beats the price of many phones on the market.  Of course price is not everything, which is why you should check out Legit Reviews full coverage of the tablet here.

verizon-ellipss-7-7-645x452.jpg

"The Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet is a new release from 'The Worlds Most Reliable Network'. The Ellipsis 7 is targeted at those looking for productivity on the go, as well as a touch of entertainment. A 7" tablet is small enough to toss into a jacket pocket or purse, but large enough to use for most tasks without an issue. The Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet isn't just a Wi-Fi tablet like many of the tablet out there, the Ellipsis 7 is connected to the Verizon 4G LTE network and has all the benefits that come with it. If you're interested in the Verizon Ellipsis 4G LTE tablet you can pick it up on Amazon.com for as little as $119.99 with a 2 year contract, or $299.99 without a contract. Read on to see how it performs!"

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Video Perspective: CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Laptop Cooler by Cooler Master

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2014 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: video, laptop cooler, cooler master, CM Storm SF-17, CM Storm

When we were testing the ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX gaming notebook over the last few weeks we wanted to try out another component that high end laptop gamers might be interested in: notebook coolers.  Obviously with a beast of a machine like the EON17-SLX, we couldn't just go with something you might find on the shelves at Best Buy.  Instead, today we have a video overview of the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Laptop Cooler by Cooler Master.

This cooler includes a 180mm fan, 4-port USB hub and a red LED light bar to give some style to your gaming setup.

You can find the Cooler Master CM Storm SF-17 cooler on Amazon.com for $59.

sf17-3.jpg

sf17-4.jpg

The Bigger They Are: The Titan They Fall? 48GB Install

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: titanfall, ssd

UPDATE (Feb 26th): Our readers pointed out in the comments, although I have yet to test it, that you can change Origin's install-to directory before installing a game to have them on a separate hard drive as the rest. Not as easy as Steam's method, but apparently works for games like this that you want somewhere else. I figured it would forget games in the old directory, but apparently not.

Well, okay. Titanfall will require a significant amount of hard drive space when it is released in two weeks. Receiving the game digitally will push 21GB of content through your modem and unpack to 48GB. Apparently, the next generation has arrived.

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Honestly, I am not upset over this. Yes, this basically ignores customers who install their games to their SSDs. Origin, at the moment, forces all games to be installed in a single directory (albeit that can be anywhere) unlike Steam, which allows games to be individually sent to multiple folders. It would be a good idea to keep those customers in mind... but not at the expense of the game itself. Like always, both "high-end" and "unoptimized" titles have high minimum specifications; we decide which one applies by considering how effectively the performance is used.

That is something that we will need to find out when it launches on March 11th.

Source: PC Gamer

Kaveri loves fast memory

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: ddr3, Kaveri, A10 7850K, amd, linux

You don't often see performance scaling as clean as what Phoronix saw when testing the effect of memory speed on AMD's A10-7850K.  Pick any result and you can clearly see a smooth increase in performance from DDR3-800 to DDR3-2400.  The only time that increase seems to decline slightly is between DDR3-2133 and 2400MHz, with some tests showing little to no increase between those two speeds.  Some tests do still show an improvement, for certain workloads on Linux the extra money is worth it but in other cases you can save a few dollars and limit yourself to the slightly cheaper DDR3-2133.  Check out the full review here.

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"Earlier in the week I published benchmarks showing AMD Kaveri's DDR3-800MHz through DDR3-2133MHz system memory performance. Those results showed this latest-generation AMD APU craving -- and being able to take advantage of -- high memory frequencies. Many were curious how DDR3-2400MHz would fair with Kaveri so here's some benchmarks as we test out Kingston's HyperX Beast 8GB DDR3-2400MHz memory kit."

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Source: Phoronix

AMD Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 Driver Released

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 25, 2014 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: amd, Mantle, TrueAudio, Thief 4, thief

AMD released their Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 graphics drivers today, coinciding with the launch of Thief. The game, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, is another entry in "Gaming Evolved" and their "Never Settle" promotion. Soon, it will also support Mantle and TrueAudio.

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Being Theif's launch driver, it provides optimizations for both single-GPU and Crossfire customers in that title. It also provides fixes for other titles, especially Battlefield 4 which can now run Mantle with up-to four GPUs. Battlefield 3 and 4 also supports Frame Pacing on very high (greater than 2560x1600) resolution monitors in dual-card Crossfire. It also fixes a couple of bugs in using Crossfire with DirectX 9 games, missing textures Minecraft, and corruption in X-Plane.

Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 driver is available now at AMD's website.

Source: AMD

New Intel Graphics Drivers Further Spread Quick Sync Video

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 25, 2014 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, Intel, iGPU, haswell

Recently, Intel released the 15.33.14.3412 (15.33.14.64.3412 for 64-bit) drivers for their Ivy Bridge and Haswell integrated graphics. The download was apparently published on January 29th while its patch notes are dated February 22nd. It features expanded support for Intel Quick Sync Video Technology, allowing certain Pentium and Celeron-class processors to access the feature, as well as an alleged increase in OpenGL-based games. Probably the most famous OpenGL title of our time is Minecraft, although I do not know if that specific game will see improvements (and if so, how much).

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The new driver enables Quick Sync Video for the following processors:

  • Pentium 3558U
  • Pentium 3561Y
  • Pentium G3220(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Pentium G3420(Unsuffixed/T)
  • Pentium G3430
  • Celeron 2957U
  • Celeron 2961Y
  • Celeron 2981U
  • Celeron G1820(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
  • Celeron G1830

Besides the addition for these processors and the OpenGL performance improvements, the driver obviously fixes several bugs in each of its supported OSes. You can download the appropriate drivers from the Intel Download Center.

Source: Intel

BYOD is going to lead to BYOB in the IT Room

Subject: General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: security, nightmare, byod

The new generation of workers arriving on the scene are of a connected generation, fully conformable with technology and ways of sharing; though with neither clue nor care about security.  That extends from doing an end run around Sharepoint and sFTP sites in favour of Dropbox and Google Drive, blissfully unaware that the Terms and Service agreement spell out that they now have a copy of your proprietary data for quality assurance purposes thus breaking security agreements made with clients.  The software is only a part of the problem as Bring Your Own Device arrives on the scene with your new hires.  Benchmark Reviews has put up an overview of what that may mean for many companies and discusses the benefits of implementing true Mobile Device Management software.  With proper MDM you can, for the most part, retain some control over the devices connected to your systems, attempting to blacklist the many apps which will happily share any of your company's information stored on the phone and in many cases be able to wipe the device remotely after the inevitable accidental loss of such a device.

MDM's mitigating the problems created by BYOD is good in theory but it overlooks one major issue that this will cause.  Your IT staff are now going to be bombarded by requests to fix these random devices, from Microsoft and Apple to Sony and Google through Lenovo and Samsung, every tablet or portable device in every possible configuration of OS and software will show up on your IT peoples desks.  Regardless the original official policy, once you accept BYOD your IT people will spend huge amounts of time figuring out basic troubleshooting for devices they've never seen before as you can bet there is no budget to give IT one of each device and time to get familiar with it. 

In many cases your techies won't even be able to say with certainty that the device is capable of doing what the user wants in the first place.  How will you explain to someone who picked up a Surface that WinRT is not going to be able to be added to the domain for ActiveSync access or that your Samsung just isn't going to connect to that Sharepoint site you do a lot of work on?  What will you do when someone hands you a Huawei MediaPad X1?  BYOD may attract young new minds to your company but realize that there is a cost to be paid in both lawyers fees when your client discover how much of their data has been accidentally shared as well as in the time your already overworked IT staff have to support your actual infrastructure.

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"Let’s face it, smart phones and tablets have become a common part of life. It is not unusual to walk into a place and see a majority of the people with their eyes down, totally engrossed in a mobile device. This is something that happens out in everyday life and is becoming increasingly more common in the workplace. Laptops and desktops are starting to be replaced by tablets and laptop-tablet hybrids. No matter the business industry, just like computers, tablets and smartphones are becoming essential in almost all areas of business."

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