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Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
The ASUS X99-Deluxe motherboard is among the initial offerings in ASUS' Intel X99 chipset board line. The board supports the latest Intel LGA2011-v3 socket processors as well as DDR4 memory modules. ASUS also integrated and improved upon many of the features from its award-winning Z97 board line into this product, making for a superior synthesis of technology and computing power. The board does not come cheap with an MSRP of $399.99, but its integrated feature set and performance potential more than justifies the X99-Deluxe's premium price.
Courtesy of ASUS
Courtesy of ASUS
ASUS built the X99-Deluxe to take the punishment associated with a high performance system, integrating a 8+4 phase digital power system for the CPU and DDR4 DRAM power needs. Also integrated is the latest version of ASUS' Digi+ power power regulation circuitry along with 5k rated solid capacitors.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Today I'm going to talk to you about something you might not have thought you needed, but once you realize what this new device can do, you might just want one. Imagine a Western Digital My Cloud, but only smaller, battery powered, and wireless. You could fill it with a bunch of movies, music, and other media for something like an upcoming family road trip. If said device could create its own wireless hotspot, the kids could connect to it via their tablets or other portable devices and watch their movie of choice during the drive. Once you are at your destination and snapping a bunch of photos, it would also be handy if this imaginary device could also mount SD cards for sharing recently taken photos with others on your trip. A bonus might be the ability to store a back-up of those SD cards as they become full, or maybe even empty them for folks without a lot of SD capacity available. As a final bonus, make all of this work in such a way that you could pull off an entire trip with *only* mobile devices and tablets - *without* a PC or a Mac. Think all of that can happen? It can now!:
Behold the WD My Passport Wireless!
Tonga GPU Features
On December 22, 2011, AMD launched the first 28nm GPU based on an architecture called GCN on the code name Tahiti silicon. That was the release of the Radeon HD 7970 and it was the beginning of an incredibly long adventure for PC enthusiasts and gamers. We eventually saw the HD 7970 GHz Edition and the R9 280/280X releases, all based on essentially identical silicon, keeping a spot in the market for nearly 3 years. Today AMD is launching the Tonga GPU and Radeon R9 285, a new piece of silicon that shares many traits of Tahiti but adds support for some additional features.
Replacing the Radeon R9 280 in the current product stack, the R9 285 will step in at $249, essentially the same price. Buyers will be treated to an updated feature set though including options that were only previously available on the R9 290 and R9 290X (and R7 260X). These include TrueAudio, FreeSync, XDMA CrossFire and PowerTune.
Many people have been calling this architecture GCN 1.1 though AMD internally doesn't have a moniker for it. The move from Tahiti, to Hawaii and now to Tonga, reveals a new design philosophy from AMD, one of smaller and more gradual steps forward as opposed to sudden, massive improvements in specifications. Whether this change was self-imposed or a result of the slowing of process technology advancement is really a matter of opinion.
Pushing the 8 Cores
It seems like yesterday when I last talked about an AMD refresh! Oh wait, it almost was. Some weeks ago I was able to cover the latest AMD APU offerings that helped to flesh out the Kaveri lineup. We thought AMD was done for a while. Color us wrong. AMD pulled out all the stops and set up an AM3+ refresh! There is a little excitement here, I guess. I am trying to contain the tongue-in-cheek lines that I am oh-so-tempted to write.
AMD is refreshing their FX lineup in the waning days of Summer!
Let me explain the situation from my point of view. The FX lineup for AM3+ has not done a whole lot since the initial release of the Piledriver based FX-8350 and family (Vishera). Piledriver was a pretty significant update from Bulldozer as it slightly improved IPC and greatly improved power consumption (all the while helping to improve clockspeed by a small degree). There were two updates before this one, but they did not receive nearly as much coverage. These updates were the FX-6350 and the FX-9000 series. The FX-6350 is quite popular with the budget enthusiast crowd who still had not moved over to the Intel side of the equation. The FX-9000 series were OEM only initially and reaching up to $1000 at the high end. During that time since the original Vishera chips were released, we have seen the Intel Ivy Bridge and Haswell architectures (with a small refresh with Haswell with the 2nd gen products and the latest Socket 2011 units).
Revamped Enthusiast Platform
Join us at 12:30pm PT / 3:30pm ET as Intel's Matt Dunford joins us for a live stream event to discuss the release of Haswell-E and the X99 platform!! Find us at http://www.pcper.com/live!!
Sometimes writing these reviews can be pretty anti-climactic. With all of the official and leaked information released about Haswell-E over the last six to nine months, there isn't much more to divulge that can truly be called revolutionary. Yes, we are looking at the new king of the enthusiast market with an 8-core processor that not only brings a 33% increase in core count over the previous generation Ivy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge-E platforms, but also includes the adoption of the DDR4 memory specification, which allows for high density and high speed memory subsystems.
And along with the new processor on a modified socket (though still LGA2011) comes a new chipset with some interesting new features. If you were left wanting for USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt on X79, then you are going to love what you see with X99. Did you think you needed some more SATA ports to really liven up your pool of hard drives? Retail boards are going to have you covered.
Again, just like last time, you will find a set of three processors that are coming into the market at the same time. These offerings range from the $999 price point and go down to the much more reasonable cost of $389. But this time there are more interesting decisions to be made based on specification differences in the family. Do the changes that Intel made in the sub-$1000 SKUs make it a better or worse buy for users looking to finally upgrade?
Haswell-E: A New Enthusiast Lineup from Intel
Today's launch of the Intel Core i7-5960X processor continues on the company's path of enthusiast branded parts that are built off of a subset of the workstation and server market. It is no secret that some Xeon branded processors will work in X79 motherboards and the same is true of the upcoming Haswell-EP series (with its X99 platform) launching today. As an enthusiast though, I think we can agree that it doesn't really matter how a processor like this comes about, as long as it continues to occur well into the future.
The Core i7-5960X processor is an 8-core, 16-thread design built on what is essentially the same architecture we saw released with the mainstream Haswell parts released in June of 2013. There are some important differences of course, including the lack of integrated graphics and the move from DDR3 to DDR4 for system memory. The underlying microarchitecture remains unchanged, though. Previously known as the Haswell-E platform, the Core i7-5960X continues Intel's trend of releasing enthusiast/workstation grade platforms that are based on an existing mainstream architecture.
Little. Yellow. Different.
Corsair just can't help themselves, they just can't stop building new cases. Obsidian, Carbide, Graphite; the obsession is never ending it seems. That's good news for enthusiasts though as Corsair's entries to the case market have almost always been high quality. Today's official launch of the Graphite 380T, available in yellow, black and white color schemes, brings yet another entry to the Mini-ITX form factor. It's a market that has been getting a lot of attention lately and one that requires more careful thought in design.
With a price of $139-149 depending on color, the Graphite 380T isn't a cheap case by most users descriptions but it is quite unique - both from the look and style as well as the implementation of components. You get a 3-speed fan controller as well as an interior dome light that adds a little character to an exterior that will already get a lot attention. And maybe some comparisons to a Dewalt portable worksite stereo.
The front panel removes with a simple spring-loaded click release and acts as both air inlet and filter for the large 140mm fan included up front.
Welcome Back to Part 2
(Courtesy of Cooler Master)
Welcome back to the second part of our Cooler Master HAF Stacker Series case review. In Part 1 we took a detailed look at the construction, specifications, and features of the HAF Stacker 935 and HAF Stacker 915R/F enclosures.
HAF Stacker 935 Mod-Tower Enclosure
Cooler Master’s new HAF Stacker modular cases offer great flexibility and expandability. You can easily build a dual system in one enclosure by installing a full-size ATX system in the lower mid-tower section with a complete, self-contained mini-ITX system in the HAF 915 chassis up top. The HAF Stacker modular design offers tremendous room with virtually unlimited options for serious water-cooling. And if you want even more room, you can stack HAF case modules on top of each other in a virtually endless combinations!
Dual Peltier Water Chiller
Now in Part 2, we are going to complete our review by checking out component installation, building two complete systems in the Stacker cases (full ATX gaming rig and a mini-ITX based system), and look at various cooling options including the potential to house a full-blown water-cooling system with a Thermoelectric (TEC) water chiller.
HAF Stacker 915R/F Stackable Enclosures
Since the introduction of the Haswell line of CPUs, the Internet has been aflame with how hot the CPUs run. Speculation ran rampant on the cause with theories abounding about the lesser surface area and inferior thermal interface material (TIM) in between the CPU die surface and the underside of the CPU heat spreader. It was later confirmed that Intel had changed the TIM interfacing the CPU die surface to the heat spreader with Haswell, leading to the hotter than expected CPU temperatures. This increase in temperature led to inconsistent core-to-core temperatures as well as vastly inferior overclockability of the Haswell K-series chips over previous generations.
A few of the more adventurous enthusiasts took it upon themselves to use inventive ways to address the heat concerns surrounding the Haswell by delidding the processor. The delidding procedure involves physically removing the heat spreader from the CPU, exposing the CPU die. Some individuals choose to clean the existing TIM from the core die and heat spreader underside, applying superior TIM such as metal or diamond-infused paste or even the Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra metal material and fixing the heat spreader back in place. Others choose a more radical solution, removing the heat spreader from the equation entirely for direct cooling of the naked CPU die. This type of cooling method requires use of a die support plate, such as the MSI Die Guard included with the MSI Z97 XPower motherboard.
Whichever outcome you choose, you must first remove the heat spreader from the CPU's PCB. The heat spreader itself is fixed in place with black RTV-type material ensuring a secure and air-tight seal, protecting the fragile die from outside contaminants and influences. Removal can be done in multiple ways with two of the most popular being the razor blade method and the vise method. With both methods, you are attempting to separate the CPU PCB from the heat spreader without damaging the CPU die or components on the top or bottom sides of the CPU PCB.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
AMD has been branching their brand out past CPUs for nearly a decade now. Back in 2006, AMD acquired ATI, and their video card branch has been highly competitive ever since. Then in 2011, AMD entered the RAM market by partnering with Patriot and VisionTek. That partnership appears to have been fruitful, along with some additional help in the form of RAMDisk software through an additional partnership with Dataram, as more recently a highly competitive Gamer Series of that RAM was launched. So, CPU's - check, GPU's - check, RAM - check. What's next? Solid State Drives? Sure, why not!
Behold the AMD Radeon R7 SSD!
Ok, so the naming might be a bit confusing for those familiar with AMD's video card line of the same name, so you'll have to be sure to include 'SSD' in your searches if you are looking for one of these on the market. Just like AMD handled the RAM, they have again chosen to partner with another company in the creation of a new product:
...and this time that choice was OCZ. As you can see above, the Radeon R7 is a gamer-oriented SSD, which sits right in between the Vertex 460 and the Vector 150 in OCZ's product lineup. The expectation is performance similar to the Vector, but with a slightly lower warranty and GB/day rating. We also see the inclusion of the lower cost 'advanced' Toshiba A19nm MLC flash, which should help with pricing and get this new SSD into the hands of even more gamers.
Introduction and Features
Today we are going from one extreme to another. Two months ago we took an in-depth look at Cooler Master’s Elite 110 enclosure, which is a compact small form-factor case designed to house a mini-ITX system. Now we are going to the opposite end of the spectrum and will be taking a detailed look at the largest case Cooler Master (or most anyone else for that matter) has released to date, the HAF Stacker 935 Modular-Tower Case. In addition, the good folks at Cooler Master sent along a HAF Stacker 915F to show off how easy it is to expand a HAF Stacker system by adding one or more HAF Stacker case modules.
(Courtesy of Cooler Master)
Because this case is so large (we will actually be reviewing three different cases together: HAF 915F, 925 mid, and 915R) we are going to split the review into two parts. In Part 1 we are taking a detailed look at the three chassis (features, specifications, etc.) and the in Part 2 we will start installing parts and build a full-size ATX system along with a mini-ITX system and also look at various cooling solutions.
CM HAF Stacker 935 (HAF 925/HAF 915R) (3) HAF 915s Stacked
The Cooler Master HAF Stacker 935 case consists of two pieces: a HAF 925 Mid-Tower enclosure and a HAF 915R mini-ITX case stacked together. The HAF 935 comes with the 915 mini-ITX chassis mounted on top of the HAF 925 Mid-Tower case but you can swap them around if you like because all of the HAF Stacker Series cases are interchangeable. This offers great flexibility for building multi-PCs in one chassis and provides a large amount of room for mounting all sorts of components like high-end water cooling systems, huge HDD arrays, etc. The HAF Stacker series can provide an excellent base system for some extreme case modding if desired.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
You might have never heard of Angelbird - until now, that is. Angelbird Technologies GmbH is an SSD maker based out of Vorarlberg, Austria. Their product lines have historically focused around high end and Mac-based products, with a recent arch into portable SSDs (like their SSD2go line). Angelbird is known for their high build quality, and their products are assembled using a technique I can appreciate - vapor phase soldering - (seen here) a technique that puts the least possible thermal stress on the components, as well as ensuring all solder joints are oxygen free. While the vast majority of the their prior products have been build around SandForce controllers, today they have launched a new line, the SSD wrk:
The Angelbird SSD wrk is built around a new (to them) controller, the SM2246EN from Silicon Motion:
Silicon Motion prides themselves on making SSD controllers that deliver good performance at very low power consumption. For those wanting more detail on this particular controller technology, we have a detailed analysis from last August, available at this page.
It's so cool, and so tiny
Corsair continues to march down the path of making a PC case for just about every user imaginable. At Computex this past June, Corsair announced the Carbide Air 240 case, which is a smaller version of the very popular (and well reviewed) Carbide Air 540. These unique cases include two separate compartments: one for the motherboard, CPU, and graphics card and another for the power supply, storage, and miscellaneous cable clutter. The result is a sleek cube-shaped form factor that is easy to build inside.
Available in both black and white (with UV resistant paint), the $89/99 case fits both Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX motherboards allowing quite a bit of component flexibility.
A quick look at the front of the case shows the cube-like shape that both the Air 540 and Air 240 share, a form factor resulting from the dual-compartment design. The Corsair logo in the center can actually be rotated depending on the orientation of the case which itself can be rotated to allow the windowed case door to be the top of the case rather than the side.
The notebook market of today barely resembles the notebook market of 5 years ago. People are spending less money on their computers than ever before, and we find even sub $1000 options are adequate for casual 1080p gaming. However the high-end, boutique gaming notebook hasn’t been forgotten. Companies like Maingear still forge on to try to provide a no compromise portable gaming experience. Today, we look at the Maingear Pulse 17 gaming laptop.
The most striking feature of the Pulse 17 is the namesake 17-in display. While we are used to seeing gaming laptops fall in the 15-in or higher range, there is something to be said about opening up the Pulse and being greeted by a massive display with 1080p resolution. The choice of a 17-in display here also enables one of the most impressive parts of this notebook, the thickness.
When most people think about gaming laptops, their minds go to the gigantic bricks of the past, The Pulse 17 manages to provide gaming power in a similar thickness to the average ultrabook at 0.86”. In fact, the form factor is similar to what I’d imagine a 17” MacBook Pro Retina as, if Apple decided to use a display that large.
Even though the screen size creates a large footprint for the Pulse 17, both the thickness, and the 6lb weight make this the first truly portable gaming laptop I have used.
Comparing the physical form of the Pulse 17 to a notebook like the ASUS G750JX, which we reviewed late last year, is almost comical. The G750 weighs in at 10lbs and just under 2” thick while toting similar hardware and performance to the Pulse 17.
Top: Maingear Pulse 17, Bottom: ASUS G750JX
Beyond physical attributes, the Pulse 17 has a lot to offer from a hardware standpoint. The Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor and NVIDIA GTX 765M GPU (as tested, it now ships with a 870M) mean that you’ll have all that you need to play any modern game on the integrated 1080p display.
Storage is provided by a 1TB Hard Drive, as well as 2x128GB mSATA SSDs in SuperRAID 0 to provide maximum throughput.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
OCZ is on what I would consider to be an upswing now that it exists under the relative safety of its parent company, Toshiba. Shortly after they were acquired, OCZ cut a bunch of unnecessary and/or redundant SKUs from their inventory and simultaneously began the transition of all of their product lines to exclusively use Toshiba branded flash. It only makes sense, given that flash is now available in-house - a luxury OCZ had wanted to have for quite some time. The changeover so far has refreshed the Vector 150, Vertex 460, and most recently the RevoDrive 350. Today OCZ has made another change, but instead of refreshing an old product, they are introducing a new one:
Behold the ARC 100!
To those wondering why OCZ needs another model SSD, and where that model will fall in their lineup, here's everything you need to see:
...so we have a slightly de-rated SSD, with the same Indilinx Barefoot controller, and the same Toshiba 19nm flash, but with a *significantly* reduced price. I wouldn't sweat the 20GB/day rating, as the vast majority of users will average far less than that daily when that usage is spread over a multi-year period. Even heavy gamers that blow through 100+GB of writes on an initial system and game install will still average far less than that over the subsequent months and years. Here is a look at the complete OCZ product spectrum, including their business and PCIe offerings:
OK, so they've got my attention with this price thing, so lets see how well the ARC performs given its lower cost:
Coming in 2014: Intel Core M
The era of Broadwell begins in late 2014 and based on what Intel has disclosed to us today, the processor architecture appears to be impressive in nearly every aspect. Coming off the success of the Haswell design in 2013 built on 22nm, the Broadwell-Y architecture will not only be the first to market with a new microarchitecture, but will be the flagship product on Intel’s new 14nm tri-gate process technology.
The Intel Core M processor, as Broadwell-Y has been dubbed, includes impressive technological improvements over previous low power Intel processors that result in lower power, thinner form factors, and longer battery life designs. Broadwell-Y will stretch into even lower TDPs enabling 9mm or small fanless designs that maintain current battery lifespans. A new 2nd generation FIVR with modified power delivery design allows for even thinner packaging and a wider range of dynamic frequencies than before. And of course, along with the shift comes an updated converged core design and improved graphics performance.
All of these changes are in service to what Intel claims is a re-invention of the notebook. Compared to 2010 when the company introduced the original Intel Core processor, thus redirecting Intel’s direction almost completely, Intel Core M and the Broadwell-Y changes will allow for some dramatic platform changes.
Notebook thickness will go from 26mm (~1.02 inches) down to a small as 7mm (~0.27 inches) as Intel has proven with its Llama Mountain reference platform. Reductions in total thermal dissipation of 4x while improving core performance by 2x and graphics performance by 7x are something no other company has been able to do over the same time span. And in the end, one of the most important features for the consumer, is getting double the useful battery life with a smaller (and lighter) battery required for it.
But these kinds of advancements just don’t happen by chance – ask any other semiconductor company that is either trying to keep ahead of or catch up to Intel. It takes countless engineers and endless hours to build a platform like this. Today Intel is sharing some key details on how it was able to make this jump including the move to a 14nm FinFET / tri-gate transistor technology and impressive packaging and core design changes to the Broadwell architecture.
Intel 14nm Technology Advancement
Intel consistently creates and builds the most impressive manufacturing and production processes in the world and it has helped it maintain a market leadership over rivals in the CPU space. It is also one of the key tenants that Intel hopes will help them deliver on the world of mobile including tablets and smartphones. At the 22nm node Intel was the first offer 3D transistors, what they called tri-gate and others refer to as FinFET. By focusing on power consumption rather than top level performance Intel was able to build the Haswell design (as well as Silvermont for the Atom line) with impressive performance and power scaling, allowing thinner and less power hungry designs than with previous generations. Some enthusiasts might think that Intel has done this at the expense of high performance components, and there is some truth to that. But Intel believes that by committing to this space it builds the best future for the company.
The Waiting Game
NVIDIA G-Sync was announced at a media event held in Montreal way back in October, and promised to revolutionize the way the display and graphics card worked together to present images on the screen. It was designed to remove hitching, stutter, and tearing -- almost completely. Since that fateful day in October of 2013, we have been waiting. Patiently waiting. We were waiting for NVIDIA and its partners to actually release a monitor that utilizes the technology and that can, you know, be purchased.
In December of 2013 we took a look at the ASUS VG248QE monitor, the display for which NVIDIA released a mod kit to allow users that already had this monitor to upgrade to G-Sync compatibility. It worked, and I even came away impressed. I noted in my conclusion that, “there isn't a single doubt that I want a G-Sync monitor on my desk” and, “my short time with the NVIDIA G-Sync prototype display has been truly impressive…”. That was nearly 7 months ago and I don’t think anyone at that time really believed it would be THIS LONG before the real monitors began to show in the hands of gamers around the world.
Since NVIDIA’s October announcement, AMD has been on a marketing path with a technology they call “FreeSync” that claims to be a cheaper, standards-based alternative to NVIDIA G-Sync. They first previewed the idea of FreeSync on a notebook device during CES in January and then showed off a prototype monitor in June during Computex. Even more recently, AMD has posted a public FAQ that gives more details on the FreeSync technology and how it differs from NVIDIA’s creation; it has raised something of a stir with its claims on performance and cost advantages.
That doesn’t change the product that we are reviewing today of course. The ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q 27-in WQHD display with a 144 Hz refresh rate is truly an awesome monitor. What did change is the landscape, from NVIDIA's original announcement until now.
Filling the Product Gaps
In the first several years of my PCPer employment, I typically handled most of the AMD CPU refreshes. These were rather standard affairs that involved small jumps in clockspeed and performance. These happened every 6 to 8 months, with the bigger architectural shifts happening some years apart. We are finally seeing a new refresh of the AMD APU parts after the initial release of Kaveri to the world at the beginning of this year. This update is different. Unlike previous years, there are no faster parts than the already available A10-7850K.
This refresh deals with fleshing out the rest of the Kaveri lineup with products that address different TDPs, markets, and prices. The A10-7850K is still the king when it comes to performance on the FM2+ socket (as long as users do not pay attention to the faster CPU performance of the A10-6800K). The initial launch in January also featured another part that never became available until now; the A8-7600 was supposed to be available some months ago, but is only making it to market now. The 7600 part was unique in that it had a configurable TDP that went from 65 watts down to 45 watts. The 7850K on the other hand was configurable from 95 watts down to 65 watts.
So what are we seeing today? AMD is releasing three parts to address the lower power markets that AMD hopes to expand their reach into. The A8-7600 was again detailed back in January, but never released until recently. The other two parts are brand new. The A10-7800 is a 65 watt TDP part with a cTDP that goes down to 45 watts. The other new chip is the A6-7600K which is unlocked, has a configurable TDP, and looks to compete directly with Intel’s recently released 20 year Anniversary Pentium G3258.
Experience with Silent Design
In the time periods between major GPU releases, companies like ASUS have the ability to really dig down and engineer truly unique products. With the expanded time between major GPU releases, from either NVIDIA or AMD, these products have continued evolving to offer better features and experiences than any graphics card before them. The ASUS Strix GTX 780 is exactly one of those solutions – taking a GTX 780 GPU that was originally released in May of last year and twisting it into a new design that offers better cooling, better power and lower noise levels.
ASUS intended, with the Strix GTX 780, to create a card that is perfect for high end PC gamers, without crossing into the realm of bank-breaking prices. They chose to go with the GeForce GTX 780 GPU from NVIDIA at a significant price drop from the GTX 780 Ti, with only a modest performance drop. They double the reference memory capacity from 3GB to 6GB of GDDR5, to assuage any buyer’s thoughts that 3GB wasn’t enough for multi-screen Surround gaming or 4K gaming. And they change the cooling solution to offer a near silent operation mode when used in “low impact” gaming titles.
The ASUS Strix GTX 780 Graphics Card
The ASUS Strix GTX 780 card is a pretty large beast, both in physical size and in performance. The cooler is a slightly modified version of the very popular DirectCU II thermal design used in many of the custom built ASUS graphics cards. It has a heat dissipation area more than twice that of the reference NVIDIA cooler and uses larger fans that allow them to spin slower (and quieter) at the improved cooling capacity.
Out of the box, the ASUS Strix GTX 780 will run at 889 MHz base clock and 941 MHz Boost clock, a fairly modest increase over the 863/900 MHz rates of the reference card. Obviously with much better cooling and a lot of work being done on the PCB of this custom design, users will have a lot of headroom to overclock on their own, but I continue to implore companies like ASUS and MSI to up the ante out of the box! One area where ASUS does impress is with the memory – the Strix card features a full 6GB of GDDR5 running 6.0 GHz, twice the capacity of the reference GTX 780 (and even GTX 780 Ti) cards. If you had any concerns about Surround or 4K gaming, know that memory capacity will not be a problem. (Though raw compute power may still be.)
The Thecus N2560 is a dual-bay NAS Server powered by an Intel Atom SoC. With the addition of HDMI output could this be the answer for some basic HTPC needs as well?
The Thecus N2560 at work in the living room
The N2560 is similar in some ways to the Thecus N2310 NAS we looked at a couple of months ago, but it builds on both the functionality and power of that unit. Both are 2-bay designs with support for up to 8TB of storage via dual 4TB hard drives, and they run the same OS (ThecusOS 6). There are some very big differences, too. The N2560 boasts an Intel Atom SoC which provides dual 1.60 GHz cores, compared to the N2310’s single 800 MHz PowerPC core. The N2560 also features a full-size HDMI output as well as SPDIF digital audio output, making it a potential alternative for some HTPC tasks.
The Thecus N2560 is an attractive-looking device, with the smooth lines and finish of a more expensive product. But beyond the N2560's appearance and basic function as a NAS, this is really a server. Digital audio and video output is certainly an impressive addition for a device that retails for around $180, making it a compelling budget HTPC option if the OS and media software work well. Since the basics of the Thecus OS and NAS usage were covered with the N2310, the media output potential of the N2560 is the area of focus for this review.
Optical + Accelerometer
When I met with Logitech while setting up for our Hardware Workshop at Quakecon this year, they wanted to show me a new mouse they were coming out with. Of course I was interested, but to be honest, mice have seemingly gone to a point where I could very rarely tell them apart in terms of performance. Logitech promised me this would be different. The catch? The G402 Hyperion Fury includes not just an optical sensor but an accelerometer and gyro combo.
Pretty much all mice today use optical sensors to generate data. The sensors are, basically, taking hundreds or thousands of photos of the surface of your desk or mouse and compare them to each other to measure how far and how fast you have moved your mouse. Your PC then takes that data from the mouse at a USB polling rate, up to 1000 Hz with this mouse, and translates it into mouse movement on your desktop and in games.
There is an issue though - at very high speeds of mouse movement, the optical sensor can fail. It essentially loses track of where it is on the surface and can no longer provide accurate data back to the system. At this point, depending on the design of the mouse and driver, the mouse may just stop sending data all together or just attempt to "guess" for a short period of time. Clearly that's not ideal and means that gamers (or any user for that matter) is getting inaccurate measurements. Boo.
To be quite honest though, that doesn't happen with modern mice at your standard speeds, or even standard "fast" gaming motions. According to Logitech, the optical sensor will start to lose tracking somewhere in the 150-180 IPS, or inches per second. That's quite a lot. More precisely that is 3.8 meters per second or 8.5 miles per hour.