Razer Seiren Elite is a microphone of many talents

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: razer, Seiren Elite, microphone, audio

The Razer Seiren Elite is a microphone which can be used in almost any situation, for meetings it can be set to omnidirectional, for conversations it can be bidirectional, the stereo mode is good for aspiring musicians and the cardioid is great for solo podcasts.  All are accessible via a switch that sits on the same side as the gain adjustment and the zero delay headset connection is perfect for those recording as opposed to broadcasting live.  Thankfully the multiple modes do not mean that it can do many things poorly, the testing MadShrimps did showed it performed well in all four modes.  At $150 it is a very good value for those who need a microphone that can fulfill a variety of roles.

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"Thanks to the three 14mm condenser capsules, Seiren can function in four different modes: cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional or bidirectional, in order to accommodate different recording environments. Even if you do not use it in a professional environment, it should bring a lot of benefit to people which record streams daily/weekly thanks to the added clarity but also to the ones which talk a lot on Skype or any other audio/video conference programs."

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Source: Mad Shrimps
Manufacturer: Inateck

One hub to rule them all!

Inateck sent along a small group of connectivity devices for us to evaluate. One such item was their HB7003 7 port USB 3.0 hub:

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This is a fairly standard powered USB hub with one exception - high speed charging. Thanks to an included 36W power adapter and support for Battery Charging Specification 1.2, the HB7003 can charge devices at up to 1.5 Amps at 5 Volts. This is not to be confused with 'Quick Charging', which uses a newer specification and more unique hardware.

Specifications:

  • L/W/H: 6.06" x 1.97" x 0.83"
  • Ports: 7
  • Speed: USB 3.0 5Gbps (backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1)
  • Windows Vista / OSX 10.8.4 and newer supported without drivers

Packaging:

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Densely packed brown box. Exactly how such a product should be packaged.

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Power adapter (~6 foot cord), ~4.5 foot USB 3.0 cord, instruction manual, and the hub itself.

Charging:

Some quick charging tests revealed that the HB7003 had no issue exceeding 1.0 Amp charging rates, but fell slightly short of a full 1.5A charge rate due to the output voltage falling a little below the full 5V. Some voltage droop is common with this sort of device, but it did have some effect. In one example, an iPad Air drew 1.3A (13% short of a full 1.5A). Not a bad charging rate considering, but if you are expecting a fast charge of something like an iPad, its dedicated 2.1A charger is obviously the better way to go.

Performance and Usability:

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As you can see above, even though the port layout is on a horizontal plane, Inateck has spaced the ports enough that most devices should be able to sit side by side. Some wider devices may take up an extra port, but with seven to work with, the majority of users should have enough available ports even if one or two devices overlap an adjacent port. In the above configuration, we had no issue saturating the throughput to each connected device. I also stepped up to a Samsung USB T1 which also negotiated at the expected USB 3.0 speeds.

Pricing and Availability

Inateck is selling it these direct from their Amazon store (link above).

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • Clean design 7-port USB 3.0 hub.
  • Port spacing sufficient for most devices without interference.
  • 1.5A per port charging.
  • Low cost.

Cons:

  • 'Wall wart' power adapter may block additional power strip outlets.

At just $35, the Inateck HB7003 is a good quality 7-port USB 3.0 hub. All ports can charge devices at up to 1.5A while connecting them to the host at data rates up to 5 Gbps. The only gripe I had was that the hub was a bit on the light weight side and as a result it easily slid around on the desk when the attached cords were disturbed, but some travelers might see light weight as a bonus. Overall this is a simple, no frills USB 3.0 hub that gets the job done nicely.

Who gets Windows 10 love and who doesn't

Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, fud

The Inquirer was nice enough to compile a list of requirements to get a free upgrade to Windows 10, based on the rather confusing information which is being provided by Microsoft.  Windows XP and Vista users as well as any and all Enterprise customers will have to pay; prices are expected to be similar to previous releases.  If you run Win7 then you have until 27 July 2016 to click that little upgrade icon to reserve your copy for installation once the new OS is released.  If you are running Win8 then you must upgrade to Win8.1, from there you are qualified.  If you ran the beta, as in you were a member of the Windows Insiders Programme, it depends on your current Windows license, the fact that you tested will not grant you a free copy of Windows 10.  If you pirated or have lost your key then you are SOL, as are those running Linux as The Inquirer amusingly points out.

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"MICROSOFT has been a little less than helpful in clarifying the terms of the free Windows 10 upgrade offer, and The INQUIRER is here to help."

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Source: The Inquirer

Linux will be able to play Crysis

Subject: General Tech | June 22, 2015 - 07:05 PM |
Tagged: linux, CRYENGINE, Oculus

That's right, with the new CRYENGINE 3.8.1 release you will be able to make games using that engine which will run on Linux machines.  In theory any game which is moved to the new version should also offer Linux support although neither the Slashdot post nor the links within make it clear how much work would need to be done by the developers but the support now exists.  As well, support for Oculus Rift and games on Android TV have also been added, products which may help make Linux far more attractive for gamers and HTPC enthusiasts especially considering the coming demise of Microsoft's Media Centre in Windows 10.

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"CRYENGINE, the video game engine from Crytek, will run natively on Linux starting from version 3.8.1. Other improvements include the ability to run on the Oculus Rift, support for OpenGL, 8-weight GPU vertex skinning, and improved POM self-shadowing. Here are the full release notes. They've also added Game Zero, a full blown example game that demonstrates how various features of the engine can work."

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Source: Slashdot

Graphene coated copper shows significant promise

Subject: General Tech | June 19, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: graphene, copper, interconnect

Earlier this week we heard news about IBM's research into optical transceiver chips and today comes news at The Register of another interesting project to increase the frequency of processors by sheathing current copper interconnects in graphene.  This is not the first time the usage of graphene has been investigated for computers, indeed there is research being conducted into improving non-volatile storage and even cooling with the use of graphene. The project being carried out by a team at Stanford University found graphene-coated interconnects can reliably carry data at speeds 4-17% faster than copper without the sheathing.  They feel that a 30% improvement is reachable with current process technology; you can read more in the full article.

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"Researchers have made tremendous advances on all of the other components in chips but recently, there hasn't been much progress on improving the performance of the wires," said Stanford electrical engineer Philip Wong."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #354 - AMD R9 Fury X, R9 Nano, ASUS Zenfone2 and much more!

Subject: General Tech | June 18, 2015 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, radeon, R9, fury x, Fury, Fiji, fiji xt, r9 nano, fiji x2, project quantum, asus, zenfone 3, g751j, gameworks, nvidia, metal gear solid

PC Perspective Podcast #354 - 06/18/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Fury X, R9 Nano, ASUS Zenfone2 and much more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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

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

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

Better late than never, Skylake in August

Subject: General Tech | June 18, 2015 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, lga1151, Intel, i7-6700K, i5-6600K, H110, 14nm

DigiTimes has some dates for Skylake, with the desktop chips you are most interesting being revealed at Gamescon in Germany at the end of August.  There will be a pair of i7 models, one unlocked K model and a power optimized T model and six i5 models, three with lower TDPs and at least one unlocked i5, the 6600K.  A month after the new chips are shown off will come the arrival of the new LGA 1151 socketed H110 chipset, which will likely be compatible with a certain AiO watercooler.  Mobile versions will not be for sale until the new year but the long wait will likely mean the inclusion of the new USB 3.1 Type-C ports on those laptops.

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"Intel will then unveil its Skylake-based Core i7-6700/6700T, Core i5-6600, 6500, 6400, 6600T, 6500T and 6400T, and H170 and B150 chipsets between August 30-September 5."

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Source: DigiTimes

Microsoft Announces Xbox One Elite Controller for Windows 10

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller

And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.

Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.

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At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.

The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.

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That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.

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Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.

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This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.

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The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.

Get that John Williams' shiver watching the trailer for Star Wars Battlefield

Subject: General Tech | June 17, 2015 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: Star Wars, gaming, ea

EA showed what they described as in game footage of the new Star Wars: Battlefront which was gorgeous and seems to capture the feel of that universe quite well.  Tthe more realistic of us worry that this might be in game footage in the same sense as Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs footage from last year and most of us are just hoping EA doesn't find a way to screw this game up more than they already have.  From the video below we can see that first and third person views are supported, flying vehicles have been included and jetpacks will be available.  We also learned that Luke can apparently time travel from the future into the past.  It is hard not to be excited about this release, one can only hope it does not all end in tears.

HEXUS also has a few more EA videos on their page right here.

"EA revealed new video trailers, footage and information about all its hottest gaming titles at the E3 show yesterday. The one and a half hour long presentation, available in full here, included information about Star Wars: Battlefront, Mass Effect Andromeda, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, the Need 4 Speed reboot, a plethora of sports title updates (plus an on-stage interview with Pele) and more."

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Source: HEXUS

AMD prepares for the return of the Thin Client

Subject: General Tech | June 17, 2015 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: amd, Samsung, cloud monitor

AMD and Samsung will be releasing several 'Cloud Monitors',  a design previously know as thin clients, powered by a 2.2GHz dual-core AMD GX222 APU with an unspecified 655MHz GPU and 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM.   The TC222W will have a 21.5" screen and the TC242W a 23.6" screen, both will be 1080p and come with three USB 3.0 slots, four USB 2.0 slots and an Ethernet port.  The storage will be cloud based, hence the name, and will be similar to HP's MT245 and T420 which will also be powered by AMD APUs.  The thin client is making a return to the office and with AMD offering chips with configuration TDPs between 5W to 25W they may find themselves successful in this returning segment of the marketplace.  Read more at The Inquirer.

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"SAMSUNG AND AMD have joined forces to announce a line of all-in-one 'cloud monitors' featuring integrated thin client technology powered by AMD's Embedded G-series system on chip (SoC)."

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Source: The Inquirer