CES 2014: ASUS ThunderboltEX II Expansion Card

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: ThunderboltEX II, Thunderbolt 2, CES 2014, CES, asus

It has been a rocky road for the ASUS Thunderbolt EX expansion card(s). Development was not a problem. They were created but could not be released because of Intel certification woes (because those never happen). The specific reason was never identified but they did hold back releases until after Intel designed a reference add-in card (AIC) for select Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) partners.

No need to stew over my alphabet soup.

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ASUS has now announced the ThunderboltEX II expansion card which is the first Intel-certified AIC providing a single Thunderbolt 2 port. Despite the multitude of delays, ASUS should still be first to market albeit a market where USB 3.0 became fairly ubiquitous (a lot can happen in a one-year exclusivity). The Thunderbolt EXII is rated at 20 Gbps. The card will be compatible with certain 8-series motherboards from ASUS.

A dual-port AIC, the ThunderboltEX II/DUAL, is also announced.

Still not much on pricing or availability. All we know is that the ThunderboltEX II should be the first to market and the DUAL will come at some point after that.

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Source: ASUS

CES 2014: ASUS S1 Mobile LED Projector & SBW-S1

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: projector, DLP, CES 2014, CES, asus

And now, for a much different display.

This one has nothing to do with 4K or G-Sync. This is a relatively tiny DLP projector with a built-in rechargeable battery. It is designed to be portable and even connect to MHL-compliant tablets and smartphones. The enclosed battery is expected to last three hours on a single charge or, if using the phone has more need for power than the projector, it can charge your mobile device from its battery.

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The projector is capable of producing a 41-inch image with only 3 feet of throw distance. It also has an integrated speaker. The SBW-S1 Blu-Ray drive is a companion product to playback high-definition optical disks with the projector (and maybe other devices?). It includes a Xonar sound card and headphone amplifier although I am not sure the use case for a playing Blu-Rays on a 41-inch projector wearing headphones.

The S1 Projector has an MSRP of $319. No availability information yet. Also, no pricing or availability on the Blu-ray drive, either.

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Source: ASUS

CES 2014: ASUS ROG SWIFT PG278Q (120+ Hz, G-Sync)

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: g-sync, CES 2014, CES, asus

Another G-Sync panel has been announced at CES. This one is not a standard 1080p panel, which is promising, rather a bump in resolution to WQHD 2560x1440 while still reaching "120+ Hz". It is still based on TN pixels but the resolution is different so at least that is progress. Perhaps we will see some IPS (or similar) displays later? Hopefully? I'm serious, I do not have inside information.

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The SWIFT PG278Q is 27-inch with a narrow (6mm) bezel. The stand allows for tilt, swivel, height, and pivot adjustments which could be useful if you want to present portrait images or handle long documents. That said, I was really looking forward to pivot when I purchased my most recent monitor (last year) and eventually found that it was more convenient to use two documents side-by-side with Aero snap.

One feature that ASUS added to the panel was "GamePlus" which would probably not be the best to use in a LAN party. It enables custom crosshairs and timers on screen. I am sure that someone will interpret that as cheating (especially for games which disable crosshairs such as Battlefield 4 "hardcore"). They claim it is a practice tool, which I will accept, just use it in public at your own risk.

The monitor will be available in Q2 for $799 USD.

Press release after the break!

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Source: ASUS

CES 2014: Digital Storm Bolt II SFF Steam Machine

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: SteamOS, Digital Storm, CES 2014, CES

Another big expectation coming into CES, this year, was the announcement of Steam Machines. We have already seen a few announcements but most of those were just teasers of what is to come at the event. Unlike our fears with G-Sync, many of the products we have seen differ from one-another and attack specific niches. One attaches to the back of your TV while another is a pretty beefy system with a console price-tag.

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This one is another small form factor (SFF) machine that includes both SteamOS and Windows to access both libraries. The Digital Storm Bolt II goes after the high end with a factory-overclocked CPU and easily accessible (their claim, I cannot form an opinion without using it) graphics card, storage, optical drive, and cooling system. They do stress the cooling capabilities of their SFF design so it would seem that was their development priority.

I am somewhat confused about the default dual-install, however. Everything special about SteamOS will be ported to the Steam Client so the main advantage of leaving Windows would be to access Linux-exclusive games. That does not seem like much of a market at least for the moment. I expect that, unless Microsoft completely blows away their own foot, anything that comes out for SteamOS will also be released on Windows. I would expect this feature to come much further down the line. It is certainly not a bad thing, however, apart from a little recovered harddrive space.

Apparently the device will be available soon, this month, with an $1899 MSRP.

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CES 2014: Increased M.2 SSD presence at Storage Visions

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 02:32 AM |
Tagged: ssd, M.2, CES 2014, CES

During our roam of Storage Visions we noticed a bit of a trend. Of the limited devices on display, an increasing number of them were of the M.2 form factor. Our first sighting of an M.2 device was last CES, at a Micron press briefing. Since then, we have only seen a few announcements of support for this form factor. The key to M.2 is that host will be able to support both SATA and PCIe connectivity through the same physical port. While many of the SSDs available will start off using well-known SATA controllers, M.2 will make the transition to PCIe storage controllers significantly easier.

Here are some of the M.2 devices we spotted. First a couple from SanDisk:

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M.2 makes things a bit simpler as far as PCB size goes. Where mSATA had a bunch of random names denoting various sized, M.2 simply puts the dimensions (in mm) right after the name. For example, M.2 2260 is 22mm wide band 60mm in length. Below are some more examples from various vendors:

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Above we see samples from Toshiba (upper left), Kingston (center left), and Intel (two right). We also spoted an engineering sample of an M.2 Intel 1500 Pro:

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The part number of this unit is CVDA321500BX180H, and like other 1500 Pro models it is equipped with a newer low-power SandForce 2281.

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Here's hoping these devices trickle out into the mainstream. Standardization should help with adoption and upgradeability, especially in Ultrabooks and smaller devices incorporating these units.

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CES 2014: Philips 27" 144Hz Monitor with G-Sync

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 11:50 PM |
Tagged: philips, g-sync, CES 2014, CES

One of the big questions we had leading into CES was exactly how many G-Sync panels we would see. If several monitor developers sign on then we would assume that it has a bright future. If we can count the number of models on one hand (and all of them 1080p TN-based panels) then we would have serious doubts.

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Philips has just contributed a monitor to the mix: the 272G5DYEB; however, it is a 27-inch 1080p panel based on TN technology. It is capable of 144 Hz refresh rate and will be available in Spring. Its only input is DisplayPort as is common with G-Sync. There is not too much different about this panel compared to the ASUS version which has recently been made available. Hopefully this will be one of many announcements.

The Philips 27" Gaming Monitor with G-SYNC (272G5DYEB) will be available in Spring 2014 for $649 USD.

Press release after the break.

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Source: Philips

CES 2014: Lenovo Storage - Beacon and... px4-400d?

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 10:23 PM |
Tagged: NAS, Lenovo, CES 2014, CES, Beacon

Lenovo is set to release several PCs including All-in-Ones (AIOs), phones, laptops, and tablets as we have previously reported on. They are also not forgetting their business customers with several interesting products including a cheap 4K monitor. Of course, all of these devices are nothing without content which means storage is a necessity. Lenovo briefed us on two such products however one is curiously absent from the show floor (and subsequent press decks).

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The Lenovo Beacon Home Cloud Centre, properly spelled in the Queen's English, is a remote storage device and a home theater (not Queen's English) hub. The device, pre-loaded with XBMC, is based on Linux and can hold up to 6TB of internal hard drives. Up to two disks can be loaded into its bays and it does not care whether they are 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch form factors. The Beacon supports either RAID 1 or RAID 0 if you cannot remember our old meme with Colleen.

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For performance, the Beacon can be powered by "up to" an Intel Atom dual core processor and up to 1 GB of RAM. They do not specify the type of Atom processor. That said, it does not have to do very much. As long as it can keep a stutter-free stream out of its HDMI plug while delivering content to other devices over the network, I doubt anyone could load it any harder.

The Lenovo Beacon will be available in April for $199 USD.

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The other product mentioned was the LenovoEMC px4-400d Network Storage. This device is a small form factor computer fit with a dual core Intel Atom D2701 processor from 2011. It can be fit with up to 16 TB of storage (or sold empty). It is, or at least was, expected to launch this month from $649 USD (which we assume is the "bring your own drive" model). We are still unsure what happened with it.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2014: Connected Data shows Transporter and new Transporter Sync at Storage Visions

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 10:14 PM |
Tagged: transporter sync, transporter, personal cloud, connected data, cloud, CES 2014, CES

At Storage Visions, we checked out the Connected Data Transporter as well as the recently launched Transporter Sync:

I love the idea of having DropBox-like functionaity without having to pay a bunch for a large amount of storage. Keeping that data under your own control is a good idea as well. The only thing missing from this equation is off-site backup, so be sure you are covered there in case anything happens to the location where the Transporter device is stored.

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CES 2014: SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive at Storage Visions

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 10:04 PM |
Tagged: wireless, sandisk, flash, CES 2014, CES

While at Storage Visions I checked out the new SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive. This is a flash drive capable as also doubling as a wireless network storage device - and it can do so under it's own power for 3-4 hours.

I really like the idea of such a device. Need several people to access the stuff on your drive? Click one button and you can! It charges off of the same USB connection used to connect it locally (i.e. the 'old school' way). Here's a closer view:

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CES 2014: A quick word with Samsung on SSD Magician, Firmware Updates, and Full Drive Encryption

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 09:38 PM |
Tagged: SSD Magician, Samsung, CES 2014, CES

While at Storage Visions, I had a quick word with Chris Geiser of Samsung. Over the past few weeks there have been updates to 840 (PRO / EVO) SSD Firmware as well as to their SSD Magician software. These updates enable increased performance as well as full drive encryption (with no performance loss whatsoever). Check out the video below for full details:

So long story short, if you own these drives, consider updating your Magician Software, SSD firmware, and start protecting your data with full drive encryption. As always with any firmware upgrade, even though Samsung updates are non-destructive, it's a good idea to back up first regardless.

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PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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