CES 2015: EVGA Shows Two New GTX 980 Cards

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: video, maxwell, Kingpin, hydro copper, GTX 980, GM204, evga, classified, ces 2015, CES

EVGA posted up in its normal location at CES this year and had its entire lineup of goodies on display. There were a pair of new graphics cards we spotted too including the GTX 980 Hydro Copper and the GTX 980 Classified Kingpin Edition.

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Though we have seen EVGA water cooling on the GTX 980 already, the new GTX 980 Hydro Copper uses a self-contained water cooler, built by Asetek, rather than a complete GPU water block. The memory and power delivery is cooled by the rest of the original heatsink and blower fan but because of lowered GPU temperatures, the fan will nearly always spin at its lowest RPM.

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Speaking of temperatures, EVGA is saying that GPU load temperatures will be in the 40-50C range, significantly lower than what you have with even the best air coolers on the GTX 980 today. As for users that already have GTX 980 cards, EVGA is planning to sell the water cooler individually so you can upgrade yourself. Pricing isn't set on this but it should be available sometime in February.

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Fans of the EVGA Classified Kingpin series will be glad to know that the GTX 980 iteration is nearly ready, also available in February and also without an known MSRP.

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EVGA has included an additional 6-pin power connector, rearranged the memory traces and layout for added memory frequency and includes a single-slot bracket for any users that eventually remove the impressive air cooler for a full-on water block.

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CES 2015: Storage Visions Sightings Part 2: OWC, Intel, Micron, Samsung

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 12:40 AM |
Tagged: storage visions, ssd, Samsung, owc, micron, Intel, ces 2015, CES

We covered some other Storage Visions sightings in a prior post, so now that a bit of the CES dust is settling down, here's the rest of what was cool to see at Storage Visions:

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We'll start off with the Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro Plus, seen here with a pair of OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSDs installed. This is a PCIe to 4-channel SATA HBA. The controller does not appear to employ RAID, leaving that functionality up to the host system OS. Two 2.5" SATA devices can be mounted directly to the PCB, and an additional two SATA channels are available through the rear panel eSATA ports. This card is marketed primarily as a storage expander for Mac products, and can be connected to a Mac Pro via a Thunderbolt-to-PCIe card expander.

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Here is an ASUS Copper, which bridges M.2 (enclosed within a 2.5" housing) to a SATA Express link. This may be handy for current generation PCIe 2.0 x2 M2 devices, but with PCIe 2.0 x4 and 3.0 x4 SSDs on the horizon, a SATA Express device of this type will rather quickly become a throughput bottleneck.

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Various recent enterprise SSDs. Bottom left is our first sighting of a P3500, sitting next to a Micron P420M, which is just below a Micron M500DC. The right side is all Samsung, and includes an XS1715, which is not SATA, but PCIe/NVMe via an SFF-8639 connector. There are a few M.2 units in the center, and what appears to be another 1715 HHHL unit (PCIe/NVMe) at the bottom right.

That wraps up the Storage Visions goodies. Stand by for more storage related posts as we comb through all of the press releases and photos from the meetings we attended earlier this week.

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CES 2015: ASUS MG279Q 27-in 2560x1440 IPS 120 Hz Variable Refresh Monitor

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: vrr, video, variable refresh rate, mg279q, gsync, g-sync, freesync, ces 2015, CES, asus

We have talked about G-Sync for what seems like years now and we got our first hands-on with AMD's FreeSync monitors earlier this week at CES, but the new ASUS MG279Q is in an interesting place: it is the first display that publicly supports Adaptive Sync and DP 1.2a+ but does not have an affiliation with either branded variable refresh rate technology. As it turns out though, that isn't bad news.

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First, let's talk about the hardware. The screen is a 27-in 2560x1440 display with IPS panel technology and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. High refresh rate IPS monitors are brand new and we are glad to see that ASUS is bringing one to the market so we can finally combine great color, great viewing angles and great refresh rates. The monitor supports DP 1.2a+ and Adaptive Sync which leads us too...

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...the fact that this monitor will work with AMD Radeon graphics cards and operate at a variable refresh rate. After talking with AMD's Robert Hallock at the show, he confirmed that AMD will not have a whitelist/blacklist policy for FreeSync displays and that as long as a monitor adheres to the standards of DP 1.2a+ then they will operate in the variable refresh rate window as defined by the display's EDID.

So, as described by the ASUS reps on hand, this panel will have a minimum refresh of around 40 Hz and a maximum of 120 Hz, leaving a sizeable window for variable refresh to work it's magic.

Even better? The price! ASUS said this panel will ship in late Q1 of this year for just $599!

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CES 2015: ASUS PA328Q 4K IPS LCD With 100% sRGB ProArt Series

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2015 - 12:07 AM |
Tagged: video, PA328Q, ips, ces 2015, CES, asus, 4k

The ASUS PQ321Q was the first 4K 60 Hz screen that we had experience with back in 2013 but it had a couple of hiccups. First and most importantly, the monitor was an MST display that required a pair of inputs to function at the full 60 Hz refresh rate. It was initially very complicated (though it has been worked out for a while) and required specific drivers and hardware configurations. It was also expensive at the time of launch, hitting as much as $3500 in most regions.

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At CES 2015, ASUS has announced the successor to that panel, the PA328Q, a ProArt series display that has better image quality, a better user experience and a much lower starting price.

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Available in Q2 for around $1400, the PA328Q is a 32-in 4K 60 Hz monitor that supports full refresh rate in a single stream from either DisplayPort or HDMI 2.0. The true beauty is in the panel itself, using in-plane switching technology for incredible viewing angles and bright, high contrast images. It comes pre-calibrated out of the box:

Designed for photographers, video producers and graphics professionals, PA328Q is factory pre-calibrated to give outstanding industry-leading color accuracy (∆E ≤ 2), with a wide color gamut of 100% sRGB and Rec. 709 color space support — the latter being the standard HDTV format for video production and editing.

PA328Q uses a 12-bit internal lookup table (LUT) and supports gamma values of 2.4, 2.2, and 1.8 to enhance color accuracy, smoother color gradations and a more natural transition between hues. PA328Q has a color uniformity ranging between 91-103%, solving common problems like fluctuations in brightness and chroma on different parts of the screen to give accurate and consistent onscreen colors.

The stand looks great, the bezel around the panel is very thin, it has a reasonable price for a professional quality IPS 60 Hz screen - these are all items that leave us eager for more time with it in an upcoming review.

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CES 2015: CoolChip Technologies and Cooler Master Show Kinetic Cooling

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 11:19 PM |
Tagged: kinetic cooling, cooler master, coolchip, ces 2015, CES

During CES we saw a demonstration of a new genre of processor cooling that truly wowed me. That is tough to do - heatsinks and even self-contained water blocks appear to be a dime a dozen these days. Cooler Master has partnered with CoolChip technologies, a start up that promises to make processor cooling more efficient, 2x smaller and quieter too. The secret is kinetic cooling.

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Kinetic cooling works by removing the typical fan in a heatsink design and replacing it with a piece of rotating metal. This top metal has fins that resemble that of traditional fans that move air UP and away from the heatsink assembly. These fins are mated with a cooling plate, a base piece of metal that comes in contact with the processor and transfers the heat away.

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The key is the connection between the top and bottom metal: using a very thin layer of air that resides between a set of interlocking grooves, the small motor in the center of the cooler spins the groves inside each other without touching, drawing heat from the stationary portion to the rotating one.

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This is a prototype of a hybrid cooler combining heatpipes and CoolChip

The result is a cooler that is just as efficient as today's but can be small and generate less noise. Because the top half of the heatsink is actually rotating to provide air movement, you no longer need a fan, lowering z-height. And because you are halving the number of places air is making contact (just fan blades versus fan blades and heatsink fins), sound levels are significantly lower for similar TDPs.

Oh and they look damn cool too. CoolChip says that pricing and build cost will be in line with current heatsinks, alleviating worries of high prices.

Check out the video we did with CoolChip for a demonstration!

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CES 2015: MediaTek MT2601 Low-Power SoC for Wearables

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: smartwatch, mt2601, mediatek, ces 2015, CES

When you start getting into the wearables market, even mobile SoCs can be somewhat big and power-hungry. As such, we are seeing more innovation in processors that satisfy these lower classes (which could just be us paying more attention). The MediaTek MT2601 is one such device, which combines a pair of ARM Cortex-A7 cores (1.2 GHz) with an ARM Mali 400MP GPU (intended frequency unknown) on a package PCB that is less than 480mm2. (Edit @ 9:48PM -- they seem to mean the SoC and other chips, like the Bluetooth module)

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MediaTek's release does not list fab nodes, but PDAdb.net claims that it is designed for 28nm.

Of course, these chips are designed to be low cost, low power, and whatever performance can be squeezed out of those two requirements, so it might not be the most interesting SoC that we can talk about. Still, battery life has been a major hindrance to smart watches and other small, niche devices. It will be interesting to see new-generation devices that use these components.

Heck, if I had more time, I might even want to hack around with these directly.

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CES 2015: AMD Talks Technical about FreeSync Monitors

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 03:11 AM |
Tagged: video, radeon, monitor, g-sync, freesync, ces 2015, CES, amd

It finally happened - later than I had expected - we got to get hands on with nearly-ready FreeSync monitors! That's right, AMD's alternative to G-Sync will bring variable refresh gaming technology to Radeon gamers later this quarter and AMD had the monitors on hand to prove it. On display was an LG 34UM67 running at 2560x1080 on IPS technology, a Samsung UE590 with a 4K resolution and AHVA panel and BenQ XL2730Z 2560x1440 TN screen.

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The three monitors sampled at the AMD booth showcase the wide array of units that will be available this year using FreeSync, possibly even in this quarter. The LG 34UM67 uses the 21:9 aspect ratio that is growing in popularity, along with solid IPS panel technology and 60 Hz top frequency. However, there is a new specification to be concerned with on FreeSync as well: minimum frequency. This is the refresh rate that monitor needs to maintain to avoid artifacting and flickering that would be visible to the end user. For the LG monitor it was 40 Hz.

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What happens below that limit and above it differs from what NVIDIA has decided to do. For FreeSync (and the Adaptive Sync standard as a whole), when a game renders at a frame rate above or below this VRR window, the V-Sync setting is enforced. That means on a 60 Hz panel, if your game runs at 70 FPS, then you will have the option to enable or disable V-Sync; you can either force a 60 FPS top limit or allow 70 FPS with screen tearing. If your game runs under the 40 Hz bottom limit, say at 30 FPS, you get the same option: V-Sync on or V-Sync off. With it off, you would get tearing but optimal input/display latency but with it off you would reintroduce frame judder when you cross between V-Sync steps.

There are potential pitfalls to this solution though; what happens when you cross into that top or bottom region can cause issues depending on the specific implementation. We'll be researching this very soon.

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Notice this screen shows FreeSync Enabled and V-Sync Disabled, and we see a tear.

FreeSync monitors have the benefit of using industry standard scalers and that means they won't be limited to a single DisplayPort input. Expect to see a range of inputs including HDMI and DVI though the VRR technology will only work on DP.

We have much more to learn and much more to experience with FreeSync but we are eager to get one in the office for testing. I know, I know, we say that quite often it seems.

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CES 2015: Intel Compute Stick Runs Windows for $149

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 12:56 AM |
Tagged: x86, Raspberry Pi, Intel, compute stick, chromecast, ces 2015, CES, atom

The Chromecast (and its open siblings) and the Raspberry Pi are interesting devices because they shrunk our concept of a compute device, which put them into new roles. Whether it is streaming media to your TV or controlling electronics on a high altitude balloon, you can use a full computer to do it. Full computers in new roles sound exactly like something Intel wants to research into lately.

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The Intel Compute Stick, aptly named, seems to fit somewhere between these two devices. It is an HDMI dongle enclosing an x86, quad-core, computer with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Intel eventually plans to have the device powered by the HDMI port, but it currently requires power over micro USB. Besides power, it also has a standard USB (Type A-Female) port and a micro SD card slot. It also has 802.11n wireless networking inside it. Being a full Windows device, you can stream media, browse the web, and use many other applications on it.

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The Intel Compute Stick with Windows will cost $149, which is significantly more than either a Chromecast or a Raspberry Pi. A Linux version, with 1GB of RAM (half of the Windows version) and 8GB of storage (a quarter of the Windows version), but at a significantly lower price of $89.

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Source: Intel

CES 2015: Dell XPS 13 Notebook is Slim, Sleek and Nearly Bezel-less

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: XPS 13, dell, ces 2015, CES, broadwell-u, Broadwell

Honestly, it takes something pretty special to get us excited about a laptop in today's market. Sure, the MSI GT80 Titan was able to do it but it required a full-travel Cherry MX Brown keyboard to do it! The new Dell XPS 13 was able to as well, but for a very different reason.

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This laptop takes up the physical space of a standard 11-in laptop but is able to showcase a 13-in screen with incredibly minuscule 5.7mm bezels. That screen will be available in both 3200x1800 (WQHD+) and 1920x1080 (with a matte finish) resolutions, the lower of which will have models starting at the $1299 price tag. The higher resolution screen options will reach as high as $1699 with SSD capacity of 512GB. The system is powered by Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors using the new Broadwell-U architecture so you are absolutely not sacrificing any performance for the sake of the form factor.

I still have to get my hands on several other notebooks that have upgraded chassis designs for Broadwell-U, but for now, the Dell XPS 13 is easily the most impressive candidate at CES.

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CES 2015: Dell Venue 8 7000 8-in Atom Tablet

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: z3580, video, venue 8 7000, Intel, dell, ces 2015, CES, atom

Dell's Venue 8 7000-series Android tablet has been previewed for some time with my first hands on coming at the Intel Developer Forum this past September. The specifications are pretty straight forward.

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  • Intel Atom Z3580 Quad-Core processor (Burst clock of 2.33 GHz)
  • 2GB of LP-DDR3
  • 16GB of on board storage (expandable to 64GB via SD)
  • 8.4-in 2560x1600 OLED screen
  • Up to 8 hours of battery life
  • Android 4.4.4
  • Intel RealSense 3D Camera

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But the appeal of the tablet is in the beauty of the design. The screen resolution makes images and text crisp and clear and the bezel is incredibly small, giving the appearance of an edge-to-edge screen design. It weighs less than 11 oz (305g) and is 6mm thick.

The Venue 8 7000 will be shipping today (and is already showing up for sale at some retailers) for $399. We are working with Dell to get a sample unit of this engineering showcase.

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