Intel's plastic position on ultrabook chassis

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2011 - 12:03 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, plastic and fibreglass, MiTAC Technology, Intel

A metal chassis, such as the magnesium- aluminium alloy we have seen on various Ultrabooks, is not actually in the specifications Intel set for manufacturers.  It has been used because the incredible thinness that is specified would make a plastic chassis far too flexible and could cause the internal components to deform to the point they become damaged.  The problem with the metal chassis is the expense, they do add to the cost of the Ultrabook and it seems that Intel is targeting that expense as the next price cut to the Ultrabook in an attempt to drop it below $1000.

They are working with a company called MiTAC Technology to develop a fibreglass and plastic material that will be much less expensive than a metal alloy case but still have enough rigidity for ease of use and to protect the internals.  DigiTimes points out that fibreglass is much easier to colour than metal which could result in a case that is as attractive as brushed aluminium.  The all-in-one PCs that they sell do include a touch screen so there must be some firmness to MiTAC's materials.

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One of MiTAC's AIOs

"Intel has recently been aggressively cooperating with notebook chassis suppliers hoping to achieve the goal of dropping Ultrabook prices to below US$1,000, and Intel is currently focusing on pushing plastic and fiberglass hybrid chassis for the new machines, according to sources from the PC supply chain.

The sources pointed out that magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis are still the top choice for Ultrabooks, but limited by capacity and price, most of brand vendors are unable to offer an end price below the targeted US$1,000, and the three already-launched Ultrabooks from Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba are all estimated to have end price higher.

The sources also revealed that at one of Intel's recent supply chain conferences, Intel invited fiberglass chassis supplier Mitac Technology to participate and even had personnel from Mitac on stage to explain the technology which most of the attending suppliers believe is an indication for brand vendors to adopt the chassis."

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Source: DigiTimes

Magma Unveils the First Three-Slot Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2011 - 09:31 PM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, magma

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Magma introduces ExpressBox 3T, an expansion chassis with three PCIe slots and a lightning fast connection through Thunderbolt. Magma’s ExpressBox 3T provides an easy, rock solid migration path to newer and faster computers while protecting the customers’ investment in specialized PCI Express peripherals made for video capture and edit, broadcast video, pro audio, communications, data acquisition and more.

ExpressBox 3T provides an 'outside-the-box' solution for using PCIe® cards with Thunderbolt-equipped computers. High-performance flows are possible by connecting a Thunderbolt equipped computer to a Magma ExpressBox 3T containing PCIe cards such as video capture, media transcoding, audio processing, and fast data storage. And because Thunderbolt is also based on DisplayPort technology, you can daisy chain a high-resolution display with your Magma ExpressBox 3T.

Source: Magma

If the reset doesn't work the first time ... do it harder! Hard Reset Demo available

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2011 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, hard reset, demo

Hard Reset has been described as an Old School Shooter, which you can read as similar to the original Doom.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN would like you to know that the demo has arrived on Steam as well as several other locations and that you should try to find time in between Space Marine and Deus Ex to play it.  The only real difference between this game and the predecessors it honours is your weapon.  Instead of starting out against the legions of Hell with a pop gun and hoping to find better weapons before you die, you start with a standard bullet-firing machine gun, and an electricity-firing plasma gun.  Through exploration and bloody killing sprees you gain XP which can be spent to upgrade your two weapons and eventually evolve them into completely different weapons. 

Enough reading, get out there and start blazing away.

do it harder.jpg

"The first mirror I’ve found for the demo of this “old school” PC-only shooter is here. The second is here. And it’s also on Steam. If you want something to read about what is in store for you while it downloads, you can go here. John says: “That’s mostly what Hard Reset is about. Having some weapons, and shooting at the enemies. Also, shooting at the scenery to make stuff blow up to destroy the enemies. And it’s no more sophisticated than that."

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More on GLOBALFOUNDRIES 32nm process and the supply problems we've seen

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2011 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, 32nm, llano

We have mentioned in the Podcast and on the front page that GLOBALFOUNDRIES 32nm process has been having some problems.  Poor yields have prevented AMD from hitting the targets that they wanted to see from Llano thought they still produce enough to sell.  The supply is enough to keep up with the demands of the individual DIY system builders but AMD really wants major laptop and system vendors to pick up Llano as a base for new models.  Since they want to order very large numbers of APUs at the same time, until Llano can reliably be available for bulk purchases AMD's new APU is not terribly attractive to those vendors.  Why is the Llano having such troubles? Check out Charlie's theory over at SemiAccurate.

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"Global Foundries is having the proverbial ‘issues’ with their high end 32nm-SHP process. The knee-jerk reaction is to kick GloFo for the problems, but that doesn’t take in to account the good partss of the process.

To say this story is complex and nuanced is putting things mildly. The 32nm-SHP process is the first foundry process to ship High-K Metal Gate (HKMG) chips, and it is the first foundry to ship customer products on a sub-40nm process. They are also the only foundry shipping HKMG products with strain, aka a SiGe cap. That is the hard part, compared to strain, the rest of the HKMG process is easy. The fact that AMD has shipped almost 10 million Llano CPUs by now says that something is going right. GloFo is currently making things that no one else can, and with a 6+ month lead on the competition."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Silly Intel, the high price and limited availability were the parts your Ultrabook was supposed to drop

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2011 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel

The Ultrabook gambit is receiving a lot of attention and has been since before there was even a single model available for review.  In this particular case the interest is not because of the hardware but because of the gamble Intel is taking trying to muscle in on Apple's ultramobile territory, especially since the memory of the UMPC is still fresh in the minds of many.  Two benchmarks for success have pretty much been agreed upon by the tech wonks; it must cost less than the equivalent MacBook Air and people have to be able to buy one easily. 

As we have seen, the price point is not great as the top tier manufacturers warned us it would be.  By just barely matching Apple's prices on a new technology it gives Apple the chance to show off the maturity of their ultra-thin notebook lineup.  If Intel had managed to better the pricing then there was a chance of some price conscious consumers at least giving the Ultrabook a try.  Since all things are essentially equal between the two products, Apple users are probably just going to stick with what they know.

That price point also raised some reg flags, if manufactures are just barely able to match the competitors market prices it seems likely that their profit margin is taking a hit and the Ultrabooks are being sold on a thin margin just to ensure some will sell.  If that were the case then you would expect to see limited initial runs of Ultrabooks from the major players in the industry and as of today we know that to be the reality.  According to DigiTimes every single Intel Ultrabook partner is limiting their initial runs to under 50,000 units worldwide. That speaks volumes towards the confidence, or lack thereof, that these companies have in the financial success of the Ultrabook. 

That leads directly to the second hurdle Intel faces; availability.  No matter how fantastically paradigm breaking your product might be, if no one can buy one to find out for themselves then it won't survive in the marketplace.  With under 50K available fom the four major top-tier vendors, it will be very hard to find an Ultrabook for sale or being demonstrated.  That will kill the interest of consumers very quickly and could even trigger enough resentment to ensure that the Macbook Air remains the ultraportable of choice even if Intel's product might better the Apple product in certain ways.

Acer-Aspire-S3.jpg

"First-tier notebook brand vendors Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba and Asustek Computer, understanding that demand for notebooks is unlikely to recover in the fourth quarter, while Apple's products are taking up all the glory in the market, will limit their initial Ultrabook shipment volume to below 50,000 units for testing the water, according to sources from notebook makers.

To encourage its notebook brand partners, Intel will host a conference for Ultrabooks on September 14 in the hopes to resolve some technology bottlenecks and attract more notebook players to join the Ultrabook industry.

Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo and Asustek's new Ultrabook models will all start shipping in September and products will appear in the global retail channels in October. Acer's Ultrabook is manufactured by both Compal Electronics and Quanta Computer, while Toshiba's machine is outsourced to Compal with Lenovo's device handled by Wistron and Asustek's model by Pegatron Technology."

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Source: DigiTimes

GPU-Z Releases Version 0.5.5 With Improved Support for AMD and Nvidia Graphics Cards

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2011 - 01:32 AM |
Tagged: gpu, hardware, Utility, windows, amd, Intel, nvidia

GPU-Z is a fine little Windows utility that, much like its CPU-Z brethren, can tell you all sorts of useful information about your graphics sub-system. The lightweight program does not require a restart, and weighs in at 922 KB. GPU-Z is distributed by TechPowerUp, and is now officially on it’s 0.5.5 version.

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The new version adds support for a slew of AMD and Nvidia graphics cards, improved support for BIOS identification, and a new tab for a giveaway by graphics card vendor PowerColor. On the AMD front, the new version adds support for the companies line of A-Series APU graphics cores, AMD’s mobile cayman GPU “Blackcomb,” and various FirePro cards including the V8000, V3700, and 2460 (FireMV). On the Nvidia side of things, the new version adds support for the GeForce GT 530, GT 545, GT 560 Ti OEM, Quadro 400, Quadro 4000M, and Quadro 5000. Further, GPU-Z updated support for mobile versions of Nvidia cards, including the GeForce GT 305M, 410M, 520M, 520MX, 555M, and the GTX 580M.

The program further improves the BIOS readings of Nvidia cards as well as fixing a shader count detection bug on the Blackcomb mobile Cayman AMD parts. The ASUS MARS II GPU also receives support in version 0.5.5. PowerColor is holding a giveaway for a 6990 graphics card to a lucky winner. The new GPU-Z tab has all the relevant information as well as an entry form. Lastly, the program will now remember the last selected GPU selected from the drop down on multi-GPU systems.

The updated support is nice, and the lightweight program starts up just as fast as the previous versions. Do you use GPU-Z?  You can download the new version here.

Windows Media Center Confirmed For Windows 8

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2011 - 07:31 PM |
Tagged: Media Center, htpc, microsoft, windows 8

There are quite a few aspects of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system that are still an unknown; however, a recent MSDN blog confirmed quite a few bits of software that will make the cut into the final version of the operating system. One piece of software in particular that will definitely be included in Windows 8 is Windows Media Center. Steven Sinofsky stated “I want to reassure customers that Media Center will definitely be part of Windows 8. No doubt about it.”

windowsmediacenter.png

While the good news lies in Media Center’s inclusion in the new operating system, the announcement comes with two bits of bad news. Firstly, they are not able to release details about the Media Center application itself, so there are no details on any new features or speed increases. Further, Media Center will not be included in most of the pre-release builds of the operating system. While Microsoft reports that the beta testers of the application are pleased with it, the majority of consumers and enthusiasts will have to wait until the operating system gets closer to RTM (release to manufacturing) before getting a look at the application.

Microsoft further stated that the Media Center application will be included in the “premium” SKUs of the operating system, assuming the upcoming OS will imitate its predecessor’s multiple SKU strategy. More information on upcoming Windows 8 features can be found on the MSDN blog.

What are your thoughts on Media Center? Is it an application that you find useful, and if so what features would you most like to see improved upon? Personally, I use the Media Center extender functionality quite a bit to watch videos on the living room TV, and I would love to have Microsoft implement some performance increases to speed up the often pokey interface (which admittedly might be partly attributable to the Xbox 360’s hardware).

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #168 - ASUS MARS II, Coolermaster CM Storm Headphones, News of the Week, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2011 - 05:13 PM |
Tagged: podcast, nvidia, mars ii, mars, GTX580, coolermaster, CM Storm, asus, 580

PC Perspective Podcast #168 - 9/01/2011

This week we talk about the ASUS MARS II, Coolermaster CM Storm Headphones, News of the Week, and more!

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

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

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

Hosts: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano and Scott Michaud

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:08:21

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:38 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:02:34 CM Storm Sirus Headphones Review
  6. 0:10:32 ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 580 3GB Graphics Card Review
  7. 0:19:35 UPDATE: Where Have All the 6970s Gone?
  8. 0:22:22 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  9. 0:24:20 Windows 8 Will Support Mounting ISO and VHD Files Natively
  10. 0:27:10 GLOBALFOUNDRIES 20nm tape out
  11. 0:32:22 New Firmware Offers Performance Boost To Crucial M4 SSDs
  12. 0:46:35 Cedar Trail preview, can it keep Intel's netbook lineup alive?
  13. 0:52:35 Mod a dial that goes to 11 onto your AMD graphics card
  14. 0:55:15 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Don't buy the Samsung Verizon 4G LTE portable router!
    2. Jeremy: Gigabyte's new pranking tool
    3. Josh: Far Cry and Far Cry 2 on Steam... CHEAP
    4. Allyn: OpenDNS
    5. Scott: 2nd production run of HP Touchpads
  15. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  16. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  17. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  18. 1:06:50 Closing

Source:

Zotac Releases New ZBOX Nano AD10 Series Mini PCs

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2011 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: zotac, htpc, brazos, APU

Zotac has made a name for itself in the small form factor sector of the computer market. Their ZBOX computers are designed to use little power but have enough horsepower to drive smooth HD video playback. The new ZBOX nano AD10 series is a new line in the Zotac family that shares the media-centric traits of its predecessors. The Nano AD10 series PCs are some of the smallest the company has released, and shrinks the ZBOX form factor while packing in new home theater PC features.

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Inside the tiny frame measuring 127mm x 127mm x 45mm, is a 1.8 GHz dual core AMD Brazos E-350 APU, DDR3 SO-DIMM slot, and space for a 2.5” SATA 3 (6Gbps) hard drive. Connectivity options include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, and two USB 3.0 ports. Further, the ZBOX computer features a built in IR (infra-red) receiver and media center remote in addition to an eSATA port and a 6-in-1 media card reader. On the audio front, the media center PC supports on-board analog stereo and 7.1 channel digital audio (LPCM and Bitstream via HDMI).

zboxnano.jpg

There are currently two models in the AD10 series, the AD10 and the AD10 Plus. The AD10 model allows for a bit more user customization by leaving it up to the user to add their own RAM and hard drive of choice to the mini PC. The AD10 Plus on the other hand, is the same as the AD10 except for the fact that it includes a 2 GB DDR3 SO-DIMM and a 320 GB 5400 RPM hard drive. Both models come with the media center remote, USB IR receiver (in addition to the built in receiver), and VESA mount.

Media center PCs are getting smaller every day, and the new Nano AD10 series from Zotac is no different. Thanks to the APU (especially the GPU), and hardware accelerated video decoding, it will deliver plenty of horsepower for all your home theater PC needs. Unfortunately, there was no word on MSRP or availability at the time of publication. Stay tuned for an update.

Source: Zotac

Don't say we didn't warn you ... the Ultrabook is arriving in just over a month

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2011 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook

Lenovo will be the first to release an Ultrabook and the least of the bad news is that it doesn't seem to have a brushed aluminium exterior.  The specs look great, a 13.3" screen gives enough size for most eyes to comfortably view movies and the web and the 14.9mm thick body will see it slip into even the tightest of spaces.  A total reported weight of 1.32kg (2.9lbs) is also very attractive, making it both lighter and slimmer than a popular portable fruit-based alternative.

The technical specs also measure up to the promise of the ultrabook, with a Core i7 and 4GB of DDR3 providing rather decent processing and graphics power for such a small note net portable computer.  The promise of 'instant on' is met with either a 128 or 256GB SSD of indeterminate origin as the storage medium as well as something known as Rapiddrive SSD which will boot to you to the desktop in just 10 seconds, presumably from a cold start.

With all this good news you might wonder what the warning was for?  As has been mentioned by the manufacturers and as Intel attempted to refute, price is the key for this form factor.  The Ultrabook is attempting to enter a market that has already been totally wrapped up by a well loved and mature product.  The Macbook Air has been selling to those who want a full fledged laptop in an ultramobile form factor for quite a while now, and those in this target market probably already own a Macbook Air.  In order to pull people away from Apple you need to at least match them in everything they do and better them in some way. 

How does the Ultrabook do on those accounts?  Apple will sell you an Air for $1299 which sports an SSD and a Core i5 processor, while Lenovo's new U300s will have the same specifications and according to The Inquirer it will cost around $1200, which is likely to actually be $1299.  That puts the two machines on almost equal footing with a slight CPU benefit to be claimed in the Intel camp, which brings us to maturity.  The Air works, we know this to be true as it has been on the market for long enough to work out any bugs.  The Ultrabook is an unknown; the first generation of any new form factor will go through teething issues which might be serious or perhaps be negligible but you will see them.

So, with the price being equal as well as the hardware, at least for most actual usage; would you pick up the new guy or go with the incumbent?

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"CHINESE LAPTOP MAKER Lenovo has announced its super thin and high performance U300s Ultrabook laptop.

The U300s will come with a 13.3in screen and Intel's second generation Core i5 or Core i7 processor. Lenovo gave a general availability of mid October and a price of around $1,200."

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Source: The Inquirer