X means X again, thanks Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2016 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

It seems that taking inspiration from those nasty popups where the X button does not actually close the window was a bad idea for Redmond and thankfully they have listened to reason.  No longer will clicking the X on the Win10 nag screen be construed as accepting the upgrade as long as it is a Roman numeral, but will once again return to the clost command which it represents on any and all other windows.  The Inquirer was more than a little miffed about this which is perfectly understandable as this particular step was far beyond the pale, the other attempts to forcibly upgrade ranged from reasonable to annoying but this one was just wrong.  Thankfully Microsoft has listened and once again it will go back to asking you for a date repeatedly, until you remove KB2952664, acquiesce to its advances or hold out past July 29th when you will have to pay $120 to hang out with it.

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"Microsoft has now responded to "customer feedback" and agreed to change the behaviour of the 'X' button back to the more 'piss off' tone that we all know and love."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Inquirer

Soon to be observed - AOC Bringing Quantum Dot Monitors to North America

Subject: Displays | May 25, 2016 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: quantum dots, QD Vision, AOC

AOC is partnering with QD Vision to bring QLED displays to market in the near future.  If the term does not seem familiar you can revisit our older coverage, but essentially they are tiny particulates which radiate colour when excited based on size with larger dots fluoresce red, mid-sized dots green and the smallest blue.  This property allows a much wider colour gamut to be produced and requires a lot less energy to do so.  AOC will be launching a series of PLS/PLS-ADS displays in the near future which will provide up to 98% Adobe RGB colour reproduction, the first generation will be 1080p but expect to see this change as the technology matures.  We don't have set dates or prices as of yet but we do have the PR which you can read below.

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San Francisco, California – May 25, 2016 – Today AOC, one of the world’s leading monitor brands, announced that their latest quantum dot-based monitors will be available in North America this year. The new monitors, which were introduced in China last month, integrate QD Vision’s Color IQ™ technology to deliver the most vivid color viewing experience commercially available today, enabling 50 percent better color performance than a typical LCD monitor, at a competitive price point.

AOC will sell its 27-inch and quantum dot displays, which deliver 98 percent Adobe RGB color, making them ideal for entertainment, photography and gaming. The new AOC Quantum Dot monitors will be available later this year online and at AOC retailers.

“Given the overwhelming positive feedback we’ve received from customers and reviewers alike, we are thrilled to expand our distribution to North America,” said Mr. Lidong Yan, general manager of monitor BU, OBM China, TPV Group. “QD Vision has helped us deliver the widest color gamut displays available today with their leading-edge quantum dot technology, and we can now bring the latest product innovations and display technology to a broader global audience.”

QD Vision’s Color IQ solution enables the widest, more accurate color gamut across screens by utilizing semiconductor nanocrystals, called quantum dots, to precisely and efficiently convert light emissions and create virtually any color of the visible spectrum. Color IQ Optics lead in green chemistry nano-material innovation and deliver the most brilliant, full gamut color displays, providing a superior viewing experience over any other commercial technology, including OLED, but at a much lower overall cost.

“Quantum dot technology provides far more natural and vivid viewing, and these new monitors from AOC will enhance performance, accuracy and user experience for consumers worldwide,” said John Volkmann, chief marketing officer at QD Vision. “AOC is one of the leaders in delivering the most accurate, wide color gamut experience and by integrating QD Vision’s Color IQ optics, these monitors deliver incredible performance at affordable price points.”

Today, most high-end monitors can only display 95 percent of the Adobe RGB color gamut while many mainstream models are limited to illustrating, at most, 70 percent of the Adobe spectrum. Using QD Vision's Color IQ solution, AOC quantum dot displays deliver nearly 100 percent of the full Adobe RGB spectrum, resulting in remarkably crisp images with vivid, life-like colors, making them ideally suited for binge-watching television shows, online gaming, personal photography or other activities that would benefit from the highest degree of color accuracy and brightness consistency.

The PLS/PLS-ADS wide view angle panel offers perfect image performance and real color uniformity at an extremely large viewing angle of 178°, and flicker-free technology provides critical eye support for photographers who are used to long-time photo editing, providing a more comfortable viewing experience that promotes greater eye health. The AOC 27” quantum dot monitors features 1920 x 1080 resolution, ?E<3 color deviation, 50 million:1 dynamic contrast and support for multiple I/O ports including VGA, DVI-D, HDMI and an audio line output. The series is compatible with Blu-ray players and most gaming consoles, including PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360.

Source: AOC

GOATS IN SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!

Subject: General Tech | May 25, 2016 - 07:28 PM |
Tagged: gaming, goat simulator, #MakeSpaceGreatAgain

That's right, those insanely beautiful bastards over at Coffee Stain Studios did it again, Goat Simulator: Waste of Space will be arriving tomorrow on Steam as DLC, likely at the $5.00 price point the previous GoatZ and Payday DLCs sold for.  It features a lightsabre so impressive it will throw Kylo into a sulk, romance plot lines that put Mass Effect to shame, facehugger spitting goats and plenty of self referential humour as well.  The trailer is below and you can read a bit more over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

You are a goat too!

"Then there’s the faux-Schwarzenegger narrator. “Listen to me, you bastards,” he demands. “You will stop at absolutely nothing to make the galaxy great again.” Which evidently involves licking a crew member’s face who has cherry-topped cream cakes covering their nipples."

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Gaming

MSI at Computex, a peek before the show

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 25, 2016 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: msi, computex 2016, GS63 Stealth Pro

MSI offered a sneak peek at the lineup you can expect to see them showcase at Computex and the list is quite long, with some interesting new additions.

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For laptops you can expect to see the new GS63 Stealth Pro, with a Core i7 6700HQ and GTX970M inside.  The cooling system is also new, a five heatpipe system called the Cooler Boost Trinity with Whirlwind Blades pushing hot air out the exhaust ports.  We should hear more about what this system actually is during the show.

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The GT83 and GT73 Titan SLI laptops are built with VR in mind, as well as supporting output to multiple monitors and 4K resolutions; though perhaps not both at once.  The GT83 contains desktop class GTX 980s while the GT73 uses the mobile versions, the GTX 980M or a single desktop GTX 980 if you prefer.

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The GS73 focuses on a slimmed down design while still incorporating a GTX970M and the aforementioned Cooler Boost Trinity system.  It will also sport a SteelSeries gaming keyboard, an ESS SABRE HiFi headset AMP and Nahimic 2.0 sound system.

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Something far more unique is the 'Backpack PC', allowing you to strap a Core i7 and GTX 980 to your back so that you are not tied to a desk when using VR.  With that amount of power you will still need mains power as the weight of the battery required to power that system for more than a few minutes would be prohibitive.  On the other hand the cables from your VR headset and controllers would be connected to the backpack which would theoretically direct the cables out of your way.

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The Aegis Gaming Desktop is a far more familiar desktop machine, though it too offers a nod towards VR usage by locating an HDMI connection at the front of the 19.6L case.  It will also have a Dragon Button, reminiscent of the old Turbo button from the original 8086 processor, which will boost your 'speed and performance' by 15%.  Likely this is an overclocking preset which one assumes can be enabled on the fly.

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The Vortex G65 SLI desktop is a little less plain, a round case which is a mere 6.5L in volume but still contains two GTX 980s and an i7-6700K, with their proprietary Silent Storm Cooling system.  MSI continues the pattern of building systems around VR compatibility with the Vortex.

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Continuing on to their Cubi 2 Plus, a SFF system powered by a Skylake-S class processor a wee 5x5" mini-STX motherboard.  The CPU is not BGA and so can be upgraded and there is enough space in the system for a 2.5" SSD upgrade, albeit just barely.

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On to their motherboards, first up is the X99A GAMING PRO CARBON which offers a few new features to tempt users to upgrade.  Not only does it have USB Type-C connectors but they are described as being located at the front, presumably on a header. It also sports Audio Boost 3, Turbo M.2 32 Gb/s, SEx ports and Dynamic Mystic Light, an LED systems with software that supports more than 16.8 million colors.

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For those more concerned with overclocking than having an impressive light show, the X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM features Military Class 5 components and a specially designed thermal system to ensure a solid overclock.  It also has support for U.2 32Gb/s drives.

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The last of the trio of motherboards will be the Z170A MPOWER GAMING TITANIUM, similar to the X99A model apart from the socket. You will get all the features of the TITANIUM series for your LGA1151 processors.

Expect to see much more information about these products and others once Computex gets underway.

Source: MSI

Report: AMD Socket AM4 Compatible with Existing AM2/AM3 Coolers

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Processors | May 25, 2016 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: Zen, socket AM3, cpu cooler, amd, AM4

Upgrading to the upcoming Zen processors won't require the purchase of a new cooler or adapter, according to a report from Computer Base (German language).

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The AMD Wraith Cooler (image credit: The Tech Report)

Answering a customer question on Facebook, a Thermalright representative responded (translated):

"For all AMD fans, we have good news. As we advance AMD has assured the new AM4 processors and motherboards are put on the usual base-fixing, which is standard for AM2. To follow all the Thermalright coolers are used on the Zen processors without additional accessories!"

This news is hardly surprising considering AMD has used the same format for some time, much as Intel's current CPUs still work with coolers designed for LGA 1156.

Quiet PC Launches Stylish Fanless Intel NUC-Based PC

Subject: Systems | May 25, 2016 - 06:26 AM |
Tagged: UK, SFF, quiet pc, nuc, iris, Intel Skylake, hd graphics

Quiet PC (a UK-based retailer for PCs and components) recently launched a small form factor fanless PC based on Intel’s Skylake NUC platform. The new PC is aptly named the Ultra NUC Pro 6 and combines an Intel Skylake-based Core i5 processor with a fanless chassis from Aleutia (the R50) that results in a quiet and stylish PC.

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The understated case is built from a single block of aluminum using a CNC machine and 5-axis drill. It is primarily black although the center of the case reveals bare copper plates (that direct contact the CPU) used help facilitate cooling the 15W TDP Core i5-6260U CPU. The front panel hosts two USB 3.0 ports, an analog audio port, and IR receiver while the rear I/O includes two more USB 3.0 ports, one Wi-Fi antenna connector, Kensington lock, Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45), AC power, and mini DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4b video outputs.

Internally, you are able to configure this particular fanless NUC with either a Core i3 clocked at 2.3 GHz or a Core i5 clocked at 1.8 GHz base and up to 2.9 GHz Turbo Boost. Both 14nm chips have a 15W TDP and are dual cores with HyperThreading (2 core / 4 thread), but they differ in the GPU portion. The Core i3 hosts Intel HD Graphics 520 while the Core i5 has Intel’s Iris Graphics 540. Beyond the processor, users can configure the PC with up to 32GB of dual channel DDR4, a single M.2 form factor SSD (up to a 512GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD), and a pre-installed Wi-Fi module (Intel Wireless-AC 8260).

Alueta Quite PC Fanless NUC case.jpg

This new NUC measures 160 x 37 x 110mm and comes with a 2 year warranty. Quiet PC currently offers the base model at £575.83 (~$841.33) sans OS. The model with Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and Windows 10 Pro is £776.76 which translates to about $1135.23.

That is the major drawback of this nearly half liter PC: the price. Despite it’s neat industrial design, this PC is essentially priced out of the home market perhaps save for certain fanless enthusiasts like our friends at FanlessTech (hehe). Industrial customers that need a decently powerful PC without moving parts and an internal case that can gather dust, metals, wood, and whatever other factory and workshop conditions it might be subjected to would be interested in this however. Quiet PC further indicates that this fanless PC is aimed at marine and healthcare customers. Aleutia claims that at ambient temperatures of 21°C (69.8°F) the PC maxed out at 51°C (123.8°F) under 100% CPU load and the PC can be used in environments with ambient temperatures up to 50°C (122°F).

Do you think our friends on the other side of the pond have a nice quiet PC option or is the price of silence too much?

Also watch: Intel NUC5i5RYK SFF System Review - Broadwell NUC

Source: Quiet PC

CRYENGINE Source Goes Public on GitHub

Subject: General Tech | May 25, 2016 - 05:43 AM |
Tagged: crytek, CRYENGINE V, CRYENGINE

So, a few months ago in March, Crytek announced that CRYENGINE V would be licensed under a “pay what you want” business model, which extends down to free -- nothing up front and no royalties. It supports DirectX 12 and a Mono-based framework, which they're calling CE# Framework, that allows gameplay code to be programmed in C#. Since it's done in Mono, it looks like it can be used in all supported platforms, but I could be wrong. While C++ is typically more desirable for AAA-style games, other engines, especially Unity, have attracted a lot of attention with their C# parsers.

The engine doesn't appear to support Vulkan, though, at least not yet.

Crysis2.jpg

Hold the phone...

Today's news? The source code is now on GitHub, and not even as a private repository. It's just... there. CRYENGINE V is licensed under a typical EULA, of course, so they impose a few restrictions on how it can be used. Content must not be sexual explicit, vulgar, or “in a reasonable person's view, objectionable.” I expect that this will not be enforced too strictly in terms of violence and cursing, but it differs from, say, Unreal Engine 4, which officially permits Adult content (although they'll occasionally ask to have their trademarks removed, so their logos do not appear to be endorsements).

Crytek also prevents their engine from being used in simulation, science, and architecture. I assume those are intended to be pushed into a separate licensing structure. It would seem silly for them to just outright ban those applications.

Anywho, feel free to check out the engine on GitHub.

AMD Releases Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.5.3

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 25, 2016 - 01:46 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, radeon, overwatch, graphics driver, Crimson Edition 16.5.3, crimson, amd

AMD has released new drivers for Overwatch (and more) with Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.5.3.

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"Radeon Software Crimson Edition is AMD's revolutionary new graphics software that delivers redesigned functionality, supercharged graphics performance, remarkable new features, and innovation that redefines the overall user experience. Every Radeon Software release strives to deliver new features, better performance and stability improvements."

AMD lists these highlights for Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.5.3:

Support for:

  • Total War: Warhammer
  • Overwatch
  • Dota 2 (with Vulkan API)

New AMD Crossfire profile available for:

  • Total War: Warhammer
  • Overwatch

The driver is available from AMD from the following direct links:

The full release notes with fixed/known issues is available at the source link here.

Source: AMD

NVIDIA Releases 368.22 Drivers for Overwatch

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 24, 2016 - 10:36 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

Yesterday, NVIDIA has released WHQL-certified drivers to align with the release of Overwatch. This version, 368.22, is the first public release of the 367 branch. Pascal is not listed in the documentation as a supported product, so it's unclear whether this will be the launch driver for it. The GTX 1080 comes out on Friday, but two drivers in a week would not be unprecedented for NVIDIA.

While NVIDIA has not communicated this too well, 368.22 will not install on Windows Vista. If you are still using that operating system, then you will not be able to upgrade your graphics drivers past 365.19. 367-branch (and later) drivers will required Windows 7 and up.

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Before I continue, I should note that I've experienced so issues getting these drivers to install through GeForce Experience. Long story short, it took two attempts (with a clean install each time) to end up with a successful boot into 368.22. I didn't try the standalone installer that you can download from NVIDIA's website. If the second attempt using GeForce Experience failed, then I would have. That said, after I installed it, it seemed to work out well for me with my GTX 670.

While NVIDIA is a bit behind on documentation, the driver also rolls in other fixes. There were some GPU compute developers who had crashes and other failures in certain OpenCL and CUDA applications, which are now compatible with 368.22. I've also noticed that my taskbar hasn't been sliding around on its own anymore, but I've only been using the driver for a handful of hours.

You can get GeForce 368.22 drivers from GeForce Experience, but you might want to download the standalone installer (or skip a version or two if everything works fine).

Source: NVIDIA

ASUS and Gigabyte boards see a small growth

Subject: General Tech | May 24, 2016 - 05:46 PM |
Tagged: asus, gigabyte

According to the information that DigiTimes was able to garner, only Asustek Computer and Gigabyte Technology will see their shipment of motherboards over this first half of the year either remain the same as last year or perhaps experience a small growth.  As neither are expected to break 20 million units this is not great news but is certainly better than the news ASRock, MSI, ECS and Biostar are expecting.  The lack of competition in the CPU/APU market is spilling over to motherboard manufacturers as customers are not immediately upgrading to the new platforms but are instead choosing premedical upgrades.  The next few quarters are going to be interesting as we see what strategies motherboard manufacturers adopt to retain sales.  New boards based on the Intel 200 series chipset will not likely be a factor until the last quarter of this year, at the earliest.

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"The sources expect Asustek and Gigabyte's motherboard shipments in 2016 to stay at the same level in 2015 and neither of them is able to break 20 million units. Since overall demand continues shrinking, the top-2 players are likely to continue taking market share from lower-tier players."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: DigiTimes

In Win Releases 303 Mid-Tower Steel and Glass Enclosure

Subject: Cases and Cooling | May 23, 2016 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: tempered glass, steel, SECC, mid-tower, In Win 303, in win, enclosure, case, atx case

In Win's 303 enclosure has been released, and this mid-tower offers a very clean, simple look, and provides the option of a tempered glass side panel to show off your build.

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"The IN WIN team presents the 303, a simple, yet elegant computer chassis crafted from steel and tempered glass. The distinctively clean front panel is complemented with a bright LED design to balance the overall appearance.

The IN WIN logo is highlighted “Neon” as well as the lucent stripped I/O front panel. These gorgeous LEDs also have the purpose of indicating when the PC is activated."

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The In Win 303 is available with a white or black finish

The 303 is constructed primarily of SECC (electrogalvanized steel), which should help them keep costs down versus aluminum designs at the expense of some added weight.

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The 303 offers buyers a choice between a pair of side panel styles, with both tempered glass and solid aluminum options. As to the former, the company states you are "able to remove the beautiful 3mm tempered glass side panel by just pressing the handle," while the aluminum panel is affixed with thumbscrews.

303_interior.jpg

In Win 303 interior

While officially released with a product page up on In Win's site, actual retail availability in the U.S. might have to wait until after Computex, as listings have yet to appear on Newegg or Amazon for the new 303 (at time of publication).

Source: In Win

Was Google holding back at I/O? Not really; but here are a few things you might have missed.

Subject: General Tech | May 20, 2016 - 04:29 PM |
Tagged: google

The Inquirer put together a list of topics that received little to no coverage during the Google I/O keynote, though why Daydream VR was included is hard to say as it was all over the news yesterday.  The Google Play store coming to Chromebooks and Android Pay arriving in the UK were also services we knew about but which did not get a mention.  On the other hand, Google's Tensor Processing Unit really should have received more emphasis as it is rather impressive. If AMD, NVIDIA and Intel were hoping to get a contract from Google to power the next generation of Deep Dream or Google Assistant then they are out of luck.  Take a peek at the other topics The Inq wanted to hear more about here.

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"As such, here's the INQ top 10 announcements that got bumped from the I/O keynote to a footnote or out of the main speech altogether."

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Source: The Inquirer

A trio of high powered gaming laptops

Subject: Mobile | May 19, 2016 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: msi, origin, eurocom, gaming laptop, GTX 980M

You have likely run into the 17.3" MSI GT72S Dominator Pro Dragon Edition but have you seen either the Origin EON17-SLX or Eurocom SKY X9 gaming laptop.  The Eurocom especially is rather impressive, a 4K panel powered by two GTX 980Ms in SLI, the other two have only a single GPU, though it is the desktop version of the GTX 980.

The least expensive of these laptops is $2899, the most expensive is $4837.  Take a look at how these beasts perform over at Hardware Canucks.

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"Gaming performance of high end gaming notebooks is quickly closing the gap with desktops. In this roundup we look at over $11,000 worth of desktop replacement options from MSI, Origin and Eurocom."

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Podcast #400 - Talking GTX 1080 Performance, GTX 1070 specs, AMD Polaris leaks and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 19, 2016 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: video, radeon, polaris 11, polaris 10, Polaris, podcast, pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx, geforce, arm, amd, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #400 - 05/19/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1080 performance and features, official specifications of the GTX 1070, new Polaris specification rumors, ARM's 10nm chip test 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!

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

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

Lian Li Announces Ebonsteel Line of Affordable Steel Cases

Subject: Cases and Cooling | May 19, 2016 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: steel, matx case, Lian Li, enclosure, case, atx case

Lian Li is now producing steel enclosures (gasp), which translates into some more affordable options on the market from this venerable brand that typically produces products from aluminum and glass.

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(left to right) Lian Li PC-K5, PC-K6, and PC-K6S

“Lian Li has been known for its signature brushed aluminum aesthetic for decades. For many years, a number of customers have requested more affordable alternatives. The Ebonsteel series is intended to provide this option for those who seek the best value in PC cases. While these chassis are built with steel rather than aluminum, they are still very much Lian Li cases – tool-less building features, grommeted panel cutouts for cable management, vibration-dampened PSU mounts and drive cages, removable mesh filters on fan mounts – they include many of the bells and whistles of a typical Lian Li case!”

The three new enclosures Lian Li is featuring in their news release include the mid-tower PC-K5 and PC-K6, and a silent version of the latter named PC-K6S. Of these the PC-K5 is a budget-minded option, with an MSRP of $56 for the standard version, and $60 if you'd like a side panel window. The PC-K6 is a more premium offering, with an MSRP of $93, with the silent version at $109.

As to availability, I'll quote the press release here: "The Ebonsteel cases will be available in mid June for K5, and late June for K6, K6S."

Source: Lian Li

AMD Gains Market Share in Q1'16 Discrete GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 18, 2016 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: amd, radeon, market share

AMD sent out a note yesterday with some interesting news about how the graphics card market fared in Q1 of 2016. First, let's get to the bad news: sales of new discrete graphics solutions, in both mobile and desktop, dropped by 10.2% quarter to quarter, a decrease that was slightly higher than expected. Though details weren't given in the announcement or data I have from Mercury Research, it seems likely that expectations of upcoming new GPUs from both NVIDIA and AMD contributed to the slowdown of sales on some level.

Despite the shrinking pie, AMD grabbed more of it in Q1 2016 than it had in Q4 of 2015, gaining on total market share by 3.2% for a total of 29.4%. That's a nice gain in a short few months but its still much lower than Radeon has been as recently as 2013. That 3.2% gain includes both notebook and desktop discrete GPUs, but let's break it down further.

  Q1'16 Desktop Q1'16 Desktop Change Q1'16 Mobile Q1'16 Mobile Change
AMD 22.7% +1.8% 38.7% +7.3%
NVIDIA (assumed) ~77% -1.8% ~61% -7.3%

AMD's gain in the desktop graphics card market was 1.8%, up to 22.7% of the market, while the notebook discrete graphics share jumped an astounding 7.3% to 38.7% of the total market.

NVIDIA obviously still has a commanding lead in desktop add-in cards with more than 75% of the market, but Mercury Research believes that a renewed focus on driver development, virtual reality and the creation of the Radeon Technologies Group attributed to the increases in share for AMD.

Q3 of 2016 is where I think the future looks most interesting. Not only will NVIDIA's newly released GeForce GTX 1080 and upcoming GTX 1070 have time to settle in but the upcoming Polaris architecture based cards from AMD will have a chance to stretch their legs and attempt to continue pushing the needle in the upward direction.

SilverStone's AR07, a quiet small sized cooler for a small sized system

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 08:25 PM |
Tagged: Silverstone, Argon ar07, SFF

SilverStone's Argon series are specialized for systems built in small cases and where noise can be an issue.  It measures 140x50x159mm, perfect for fitting into a smaller system and from [H]ard|OCP's testing we see the cooler produces 40.9db(A) maximum.  This does mean the cooler is not for systems you plan to heavily overclock but the performance is good enough to support a minor boost if your HTPC needs a bit more power.  Check out the full review here.

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"The Argon Series AR07 CPU air cooler is billed by Silverstone as being, "For users looking for a no-nonsense top performing cooler without the premium price, the Argon AR07 is the perfect choice." Three heatpipes, some fins, and a 140mm fan is no-nonsense in our book, so how does it cool?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Microsoft Releases Windows 7 "Convenience" Roll-Up

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 07:40 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows 7, Windows 8.1

I know this sounds like yet another story where Microsoft attempts to ram Windows 10 down your throat, but it's not (apart from a potential interpretation of the last paragraph). It's been about six-and-a-half years since Windows 7 launched, and about five years since Service Pack 1. If you've attempted to install Windows 7 recently, then attempting to run Windows Update makes it painfully obvious how long that's been.

microsoft-2016-windows7-update.png

Image Credit: Microsoft

Finally, Microsoft is making an official roll-up available. Better? It can be slipstreamed into install media, so you don't even need to go through that step with each reformat. This will not contain every possible update, though. Microsoft lists 23 patches that they excluded based on three conditions:

  • “They don't have broad applicability.”
  • “They introduce behavior changes.”
  • “They require additional user actions, such as making registry settings.”

They also excluded every update to Internet Explorer, which makes sense. Users can install Internet Explorer 11 and update it, or just uninstall it entirely if they want (after they download whatever browser(s) that they will actually use). While some of these excluded fixes will affect many users, it should be a much better experience than several hundred patches and a half-dozen reboots. It's probably better to let the user choose many of these optional updates by hand anyway.

At the same time, they also announced that “non-security updates” will be merged into a monthly roll-up for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (and several versions of Windows Server). They're not too clear about how this will work, but it sounds like users will not be able to pick and choose parts of optional patches anymore. Given how many of these were attempts to, again, shove Windows 10 down our throats, that's a bit of a concern. However, I suspect that this is just so Microsoft can align its release structure to how it's done on Windows 10. It's probably just easier for them to manage.

Source: Microsoft

DOOM is back

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2016 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: gaming, doom

Most reviewers agree, the new DOOM is a callback to the old days of run and gun shooters, not the overly prevalent cover shooters of today.  The speed is the key to having fun, leaping up obstacles, chainsawing demons when you are low on ammo or simply putting your boot through them.  The shotgun comes early and does exactly what you want it to, or you can choose different favourites from the arsenal you are sure to accumulate.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN were hoping for a little more variation in the common demon types and the inevitable mod to enlarge the colour palette used in the game but are having a great time already.  Check out their first impressions here if you have yet to find the time to play.

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"It’s early doors of course, so anything I say below may well become incorrect depending on how things shake out later on. I also haven’t dabbled in multiplayer yet, but will go hang my hide out for an online beating a little later today. "

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Gaming

New AMD Polaris 10 and Polaris 11 GPU Details Emerge

Subject: Editorial, Graphics Cards | May 18, 2016 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: rumor, Polaris, opinion, HDMI 2.0, gpu, gddr5x, GDDR5, GCN, amd, 4k

While Nvidia's Pascal has held the spotlight in the news recently, it is not the only new GPU architecture debuting this year. AMD will soon be bringing its Polaris-based graphics cards to market for notebooks and mainstream desktop users. While several different code names have been thrown around for these new chips, they are consistently in general terms referred to as Polaris 10 and Polaris 11. AMD's Raja Kudori stated in an interview with PC Perspective that the numbers used in the naming scheme hold no special significance, but eventually Polaris will be used across the entire performance lineup (low end to high end graphics).

Naturally, there are going to be many rumors and leaks as the launch gets closer. In fact, Tech Power Up recently came into a number of interesting details about AMD's plans for Polaris-based graphics in 2016 including specifications and which areas of the market each chip is going to be aimed at. 

AMD GPU Roadmap.jpg

Citing the usual "industry sources" familiar with the matter (take that for what it's worth, but the specifications do not seem out of the realm of possibility), Tech Power Up revealed that there are two lines of Polaris-based GPUs that will be made available this year. Polaris 10 will allegedly occupy the mid-range (mainstream) graphics option in desktops as well as being the basis for high end gaming notebook graphics chips. On the other hand, Polaris 11 will reportedly be a smaller chip aimed at thin-and-light notebooks and mainstream laptops.

Now, for the juicy bits of the leak: the rumored specifications!

AMD's "Polaris 10" GPU will feature 32 compute units (CUs) which TPU estimates – based on the assumption that each CU still contains 64 shaders on Polaris – works out to 2,048 shaders. The GPU further features a 256-bit memory interface along with a memory controller supporting GDDR5 and GDDR5X (though not at the same time heh). This would leave room for cheaper Polaris 10 derived products with less than 32 CUs and/or cheaper GDDR5 memory. Graphics cards would have as much as 8GB of memory initially clocked at 7 Gbps. Reportedly, the full 32 CU GPU is rated at 5.5 TFLOPS of single precision compute power and runs at a TDP of no more than 150 watts.

Compared to the existing Hawaii-based R9 390X, the upcoming R9 400 Polaris 10 series GPU has fewer shaders and less memory bandwidth. The memory is clocked 1 GHz higher, but the GDDR5X memory bus is half that of the 390X's 512-bit GDDR5 bus which results in 224 GB/s memory bandwidth for Polaris 10 versus 384 GB/s on Hawaii. The R9 390X has a slight edge in compute performance at 5.9 TFLOPS versus Polaris 10's 5.5 TFLOPS however the Polaris 10 GPU is using much less power and easily wins at performance per watt! It almost reaches the same level of single precision compute performance at nearly half the power which is impressive if it holds true!

  R9 390X R9 390 R9 380 R9 400-Series "Polaris 10"
GPU Code name Grenada (Hawaii) Grenada (Hawaii) Antigua (Tonga) Polaris 10
GPU Cores 2816 2560 1792 2048
Rated Clock 1050 MHz 1000 MHz 970 MHz ~1343 MHz
Texture Units 176 160 112 ?
ROP Units 64 64 32 ?
Memory 8GB 8GB 4GB 8GB
Memory Clock 6000 MHz 6000 MHz 5700 MHz 7000 MHz
Memory Interface 512-bit 512-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth 384 GB/s 384 GB/s 182.4 GB/s 224 GB/s
TDP 275 watts 275 watts 190 watts 150 watts (or less)
Peak Compute 5.9 TFLOPS 5.1 TFLOPS 3.48 TFLOPS 5.5 TFLOPS
MSRP (current) ~$400 ~$310 ~$199 $ unknown

Note: Polaris GPU clocks esitmated using assumption of 5.5 TFLOPS being peak compute and accurate number of shaders. (Thanks Scott.)

Another comparison that can be made is to the Radeon R9 380 which is a Tonga-based GPU with similar TDP. In this matchup, the Polaris 10 based chip will – at a slightly lower TDP – pack in more shaders, twice the amount of faster clocked memory with 23% more bandwidth, and provide a 58% increase in single precision compute horsepower. Not too shabby!

Likely, a good portion of these increases are made possible by the move to a smaller process node and utilizing FinFET "tri-gate" like transistors on the Samsung/Globalfoundries 14LPP FinFET manufacturing process, though AMD has also made some architecture tweaks and hardware additions to the GCN 4.0 based processors. A brief high level introduction is said to be made today in a webinar for their partners (though AMD has come out and said preemptively that no technical nitty-gritty details will be divulged yet). (Update: Tech Altar summarized the partner webinar. Unfortunately there was no major reveals other than that AMD will not be limiting AIB partners from pushing for the highest factory overclocks they can get).

Moving on from Polaris 10 for a bit, Polaris 11 is rumored to be a smaller GCN 4.0 chip that will top out at 14 CUs (estimated 896 shaders/stream processors) and 2.5 TFLOPS of single precision compute power. These chips aimed at mainstream and thin-and-light laptops will have 50W TDPs and will be paired with up to 4GB of GDDR5 memory. There is apparently no GDDR5X option for these, which makes sense at this price point and performance level. The 128-bit bus is a bit limiting, but this is a low end mobile chip we are talking about here...

  R7 370 R7 400 Series "Polaris 11"
GPU Code name Trinidad (Pitcairn) Polaris 11
GPU Cores 1024 896
Rated Clock

925 MHz base (975 MHz boost)

~1395 MHz
Texture Units 64 ?
ROP Units 32 ?
Memory 2 or 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 5600 MHz ? MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth 179.2 GB/s ? GB/s
TDP 110 watts 50 watts
Peak Compute 1.89 TFLOPS 2.5 TFLOPS
MSRP (current) ~$140 (less after rebates and sales) $?

Note: Polaris GPU clocks esitmated using assumption of 2.5 TFLOPS being peak compute and accurate number of shaders. (Thanks Scott.)

Fewer details were unveiled concerning Polaris 11, as you can see from the chart above. From what we know so far, it should be a promising successor to the R7 370 series even with the memory bus limitation and lower shader count as the GPU should be clocked higher, (it also might have more shaders in M series mobile variants versus of the 370 and lower mobile series) and a much lower TDP for at least equivalent if not a decent increase in performance. The lower power usage in particular will be hugely welcomed in mobile devices as it will result in longer battery life under the same workloads, ideally. I picked the R7 370 as the comparison as it has 4 gigabytes of memory and not that many more shaders and being a desktop chip readers may be more widely familiar with it. It also appears to sit between the R7 360 and R7 370 in terms of shader count and other features but is allegedly going to be faster than both of them while using at least (on paper) less than half the power.

Of course these are still rumors until AMD makes Polaris officially, well, official with a product launch. The claimed specifications appear reasonable though, and based on that there are a few important takeaways and thoughts I have.

amd-2016-polaris-blocks.jpg

The first thing on my mind is that AMD is taking an interesting direction here. While NVIDIA has chosen to start out its new generation at the top by announcing "big Pascal" GP100 and actually launching the GP104 GTX 1080 (one of its highest end consumer chips/cards) yesterday and then over the course of the year introducing lower end products AMD has opted for the opposite approach. AMD will be starting closer to the lower end with a mainstream notebook chip and high end notebook/mainstream desktop GPU (Polaris 11 and 10 respectively) and then over a year fleshing out its product stack (remember Raja Kudori stated Polaris and GCN 4 would be used across the entire product stack) and building up with bigger and higher end GPUs over time finally topping off with its highest end consumer (and professional) GPUs based on "Vega" in 2017.

This means, and I'm not sure if this was planned by either Nvidia or AMD or just how it happened to work out based on them following their own GPU philosophies (but I'm thinking the latter), that for some time after both architectures are launched AMD and NVIDIA's newest architectures and GPUs will not be directly competing with each other. Eventually they should meet in the middle (maybe late this year?) with a mid-range desktop graphics card and it will be interesting to see how they stack up at similar price points and hardware levels. Then, of course once "Vega" based GPUs hit (sadly probably in time for NV's big Pascal to launch heh. I'm not sure if Vega is Fury X replacement only or even beyond that to 1080Ti or even GP100 competitor) we should see GCN 4 on the new smaller process node square up against NVIDIA and it's 16nm Pascal products across the board (entire lineup). Which will have the better performance, which will win out in power usage and performance/watt and performance/$? All questions I wish I knew the answers to, but sadly do not!!

Speaking of price and performance/$... Polaris is actually looking pretty good so far at hitting much lower TDPs and power usage targets while delivering at least similar performance if not a good bit more. Both AMD and NVIDIA appear to be bringing out GPUs better than I expected to see as far as technological improvements in performance and power usage (these die shrinks have really helped even though from here on out that trend isn't really going to continue...). I hope that AMD can at least match NV in these areas at the mid range even if they do not have a high end GPU coming out soon (not until sometime after these cards launch and not really until Vega, the high end GCN GPU successor). At least on paper based on the leaked information the GPUs so far look good. My only worry is going to be pricing which I think is going to make or break these cards. AMD will need to price them competitively and aggressively to ensure their adoption and success.  

I hope that doing the rollout this way (starting with lower end chips) helps AMD to iron out the new smaller process node and that they are able to get good yields so that they can be aggressive with pricing here and eventually at the hgh end!

I am looking forward to more information on AMD's Polaris architecture and the graphics cards based on it!

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I will admit that I am not 100% up on all the rumors and I apologize for that. With that said, I would love to hear what your thoughts are on AMD's upcoming GPUs and what you think about these latest rumors!