CES 2015: MSI AG240 4K Edition Gaming All-in-One

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 03:01 AM |
Tagged: msi, ces 2015, CES, all-in-one, AIO, ag240, 4k

Our review of the MSI AG270 Gaming AIO was pretty eye opening; I really didn't expect to find that kind of gaming capability inside an all-in-one chassis. Building on that success, MSI is preparing for a March release of the AG240 4K Edition, which as the name suggests, includes a 24-in 4K IPS monitor.

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Other hardware specifications include a 4th Generation Haswell processor, a yet-to-be-named GTX 900-series mobility GPU from NVIDIA and up to 3x mSATA SSDs running in RAID-0 (MSI sure loves its SuperRAID). The 4K screen itself definitely looked nice though I am curious about the choice to only include a single GPU in a system with that many pixels. You can still play your games at 1080p though should GPU horsepower be a concern.

I'm sure we'll have a review sample sometime this quarter, so stay tuned!

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Storage Visions Sightings Part 1: HGST He8, DriveSavers, and SanDisk

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 10:34 PM |
Tagged: CES, storage visions, ssd, sandisk, hgst, He8, DriveSavers, ces 2015

Many of the storage announcements this year are under embargo until tomorrow or later in the week. Fortunately there was plenty of things on display out in the open - meaning fair game for me to photograph and present to you in this quick photo walkthrough.

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The HGST Ultrastar He8 was on display. This is a 7-platter Helium filled HDD. The lower density atmosphere enables more platters and higher spin speeds without producing too much heat for the drive to handle.

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The added platters also enable a very large capacity of 8TB, all while consuming less power than most other available non-He HDD's, which is attractive for enterprise usage where racks upon racks are filled with these drives.

The display model we saw here was covered with plexiglass, but the DriveSavers folks had one completely open in all of its glory:

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Seeing the head pack out of a drive is rare, as you're supposed to only get to that point in a clean room environment (unless you don't want your data back, that is). DriveSavers told us the challenge to recovery from an He HDD is getting the Helium back into the housing prior to closing it back up after a failed component replacement. Here's a closer look at that head pack. Note the small logic die built into the ribbon - this component needs to be mounted as close as possible to the heads to minimize interference and signal loss from the very high frequency signal coming from the read heads:

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DriveSavers also has recently announced data recovery capability and partnership with SanDisk. There is a separate announcement we will be covering later in the week, but since we're talking about SanDisk, here is a look at the non-embargoed products we were allowed to show for now:

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From left: UltraDIMM, FusionIO Atomic, Optimus Max, Optimus MAX (opened), Optimus ECO. More interesting here is that SanDisk is able to pack 4TB into the Optimus form factor. They accomplish this by a unique folding PCB design shown below in unfolded form:

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That's it for this update, more to follow shortly.

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PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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CES 2015: NVIDIA Tegra Press Conference Live Stream

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: video, tegra, press conference, nvidia, live stream, live, ces 2015, CES

Tonight at 8pm PT / 11pm ET NVIDIA will be hosting its annual press conference from CES 2015. While I fully expect the majority of the information to be on Tegra-related products, there is a chance they could slip in some GeForce products as well. I leave nothing past NVIDIA with a 2 hour window.

You can watch the live stream of the event right here and I am going to be live blogging from the event as well, pending Internet capability inside the conference room.

 

Live Blog NVIDIA CES 2015 Press Conference

 

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PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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CES 2015: MSI Implements USB 3.1 and USB Type-C Connector

Subject: Motherboards, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c, usb 3.1, msi, ces 2015, CES

If you are like me, you probably thought the world of USB was going to be stable for a bit. Not so much as it turns out! MSI was showing off a couple of new products in its suite at CES 2015 that showcase new performance levels for USB as well as a much-needed new connector type.

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First up, USB 3.1, the upgrade that includes performance as high as single channel Thunderbolt, 10 Gbps. MSI will be shipping USB 3.1 on a new revision of the GT72 gaming notebook as well as on the X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard shipping in February or March. Each will feature two ports of USB 3.1 capable of some impressive speeds.

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These results are based on a RAID-0 implementation of a pair of Intel SSD 730 SSDs running on a prototype USB 3.1 capable controller that MSI didn't want us to show you. Seeing USB speeds reaching as high as 694 MB/s are impressive, exceeding that of the best USB 3.0 speeds we have seen at 470 MB/s. Considering we are looking at very early devices and software implementations, MSI's results on this board are fantastic.

Maybe more exciting than a speed boost to some USB users is implementation of the USB Type-C connector on the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard due in the same time frame.

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There are several advantages to this new connector for both users and OEMs. First, it is reversible meaning you can plug plug the connector in upside down and it will work (finally!). It is also small, able to fit on the slimmest phones and tablets. Both sides of the cable are going to be the same, so any device that can use a Type-C connector will be able to use most any cable.

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Power delivery also improves - 10 watts (5V at 2A), 60 watts (12V at 5A) and even up to 100 watts (20V at 5A)! And all of this power can be sent through that tiny Type-C connector as well leaving the possibility of charging your laptop through the same connector as your phone.

Expect both USB 3.1 as well as Type-C connectors to be a big shift in the middle of Q1.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Storage Visions: Western Digital SATA Express SSD+HDD Spotted

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: CES, western digital, storage visions, ssd, SATA Express, hybrid, hdd, ces 2015

At the SATA-IO booth at Storage Visions, they have a functional demo of Western Digital prototype hybrid HDD/SSD's.

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These are not hybrid in the traditional sense, as the SSD portion (128GB JMicron based controller driving Toshiba flash in the case of these prototypes) is logically separated from the HDD portion (a standard 4TB Black in this case).

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Given that a SATA Express link can simultaneously pass a PCIe 2.0 x2 link in addition to a SATA 6Gbit/sec link, this one unit can link an SSD and an HDD simultaneously and independently. Above you see the standard SATA Express connector, and below is how those pins are connected at the drive itself:

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Note the additional pins at what is usually the black side of the connector.

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The rest of the connector is mostly a standard SATA connector that you are used to seeing.

At the demo, we saw a single 3.5" hybrid unit booting from the SSD portion and using the 4TB HDD for mass storage, all from the same device. The second demo had a separate boot drive and linked a pair of these prototype units in a dual RAID. Configured through Windows dynamic volumes, a RAID of the HDD's offered the increased performance you might expect from a pair of 4TB WD Blacks. The SSD portion of each unit was also RAIDed, and we saw their combined throughput as just over 1GB/sec. That was not much more than what a pair of RAIDed SATA 6Gb/sec SSDs would do, but realize this was being accomplished in addition to (and independently of) the HDD portions.

We were not allowed to start removing screws, but here's a look at the accessible portion of the logic board for this drive:

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There is a JMicron controller paired with a single package of Toshiba flash. Toshiba has shown they can contain 128GB in a single package, so no problems there.

We're not sure where this technology is headed as the recent trend has been towards sticking with the standard SATA link for mass storage and M.2 SSDs plugged directly into the added port we've been seeing in many recent motherboards. We'll keep an eye on this technology moving forward, but for now at least we have seen it in the flesh and fully functional.

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PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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CES 2015: MSI GS30 Shadow Notebook with Discrete GPU Dock Station

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: shadow, msi, gs30, gpu, docking station, ces 2015, CES

Laptops with external graphics - we have been chasing this ghost for a long time everyone. We have seen them attempted through ExpressCard slots and more recently through Thunderbolt. MSI has a different plan with the GS30 Shadow - a physical PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot.

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The GS30 Shadow starts with a laptop - a 13.3-in 1080p design that is surprisingly slim and sleek. It includes a Core i7-4780HQ processor with Iris Pro 5200 graphics, 16GB of DDR3 memory, RAID-0 performance with a pair of M.2 slots and Gigabit networking. Battery life is likely pretty low on its own as there doesn't seem to be much space for a large battery.

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But what really makes the GS30 Shadow stand out is the docking station included. This is a base measuring about a foot long by 6 inches wide and tall. It connects to the laptop through a physical x16 PCIe 3.0 slot along the back of the machine and mechanically latches into place. There is a very old-style feeling to the connection - you pull a latch and use a physical lock button to keep it in place. But once installed, the GS30 sits on top of the docking station and is ready for use.

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The docking station ships with a 450 watt desktop style power supply and supports a full size, desktop-class dual-slot graphics card. Also included are a set of speakers embedded in the front, four USB 3.0 ports as well as audio input and output connections. You will also be able to install additional storage inside the docking station; it adds room for a 3.5-in hard drive.

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The GS30 Shadow with docking station will ship this month and has an MSRP set at $1999. If you value the laptop alone at $1400-1500 then you are paying a premium of around $500 for the docking station capability. This is another new device from MSI that we are eager to test and see if it stands up to real-world usage scenarios as well as it sounds like it might. Could we finally have a good option for mobility + gaming that works for gamers?

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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CES 2015: MSI GT80 Titan SLI 18-in Gaming Notebook with Cherry MX Brown Keyboard

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: titan, sli, msi, GTX 980M, gt80, cherry mx brown, ces 2015, CES

Back in late October MSI announced the GT80 Titan gaming laptop that included an impressive array of features, the most interesting of which was the full-size Cherry MX Brown keyboard embedded in the chassis. Seriously.

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At CES this week we got hands on with the beast and I have to say I came away pretty impressed. Hardware powering the system includes an Intel Core i7-4980HQ processor, a pair of GTX 980M GPUs running in SLI, 24GB of DDR3 system memory, up to quad M.2 SSDs in RAID-0, Killer wired and wireless networking and more. All of that hardware sits under the top portion of the bottom of the notebook - the LED backlit Cherry MX Steel Series keyboard takes up the entire depth of the GT80 in the bottom portion.

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Despite its appearance, the GT80 Titan is similar in size to some of the other 17/18-in Alienware notebooks currently selling, but they obviously don't include a Cherry keyboard will full travel switches. MSI also claims that access to the system memory, M.2 storage, 2.5-in HDD location and optical drive through the top panel allows for reasonable upgrade options down the road. Even the two MXM modules for the GTX 980M cards can be changed through the bottom of the GT80. (Mobile GPU upgrades have always been problematic.)

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The GT80 Titan will be available next week and will start at $3299 with a $3499 option including the faster Intel processor. That is an incredibly high price for a gaming machine that is less "portable" than "transportable" but it would be hard to get more gaming horsepower in a smaller package anywhere else. We are looking forward to a review unit showing up shortly after our return! Stay tuned!

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: MSI Announces GTX 970 Gaming 100ME - 100 millionth GeForce GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 970, gaming, ces 2015, CES, 100me

To celebrate the shipment of 100 million GeForce GPUs, MSI is launching a new revision of the GeForce GTX 970, the Gaming 100ME (millionth edition). The cooler is identical that used in the GTX 970 Gaming 4G but replaces the red color scheme of the MSI Gaming brand with a green very close to that of NVIDIA's.

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This will also ship with a "special gift" and will be a limited edition, much like the Golden Edition GTX 970 from earlier this year.

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MSI had some other minor updates to its GPU line including the GTX 970 4GD5T OC with a cool looking black and white color scheme and an 8GB version of the Radeon R9 290X.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Sony Announces PlayStation Now for Samsung Smart TVs

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | December 29, 2014 - 10:06 AM |
Tagged: sony, Samsung, playstation now, Playstation

I know that I have said it in the past, but I am not big on cloud streaming services. For art, the ability to genuinely own your content keeps it safe from censorship and licensing disagreements. You only need to look back a year to see Disney pulling access to legally purchased content on Amazon because they wanted their TV channel to have exclusive rights to the Christmas movies in the holiday season. This does not apply to people who actually owned the content (semi-)DRM-free. Streaming services, especially for video games, are examples of perfection for anyone willing to abuse the system.

Remember: If you build it, the abuse will come.

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With that commentary out of the way, what streaming services are good at is pure entertainment. They are just about peak convenience to deliver... some form of entertaining content... unless you have spotty internet (or some other exception). These services have definite merit, so long as they augment platforms for actual art and not attempt to replace them.

So why am I rambling? Recently, Sony has announced that PlayStation Now will arrive for Samsung Smart TVs alongside Sony devices. At first, this might sound surprising. Sony, a console manufacturer, is providing access to the PlayStation ecosystem on other platforms – and yes, that is noteworthy. It is also not without precedent. While the initiative is mostly abandoned, Sony tried opening up to third-party mobile manufacturers (HTC, Sharp, Fujitsu, Wikipad, and Alcatel) with “PlayStation Certified”.

There is also a second reason why this is not too surprising: Samsung and Sony are fairly close partners in TV technology. Until just a few years ago, Sony LCD TV panels were manufactured by S-LCD, until Samsung eventually bought out Sony's interest in the company. The two companies are not really hostile in the TV market. If we see Sony open up PlayStation Now to LG Electronics, then I will scratch my head.

While announced ahead of CES, PlayStation Now is expected to be present at the show on Samsung TVs.

Source: Tom's Guide

Micron launches M600 SATA SSD with innovative SLC/MLC Dynamic Write Acceleration

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2014 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: ssd, slc, sata, mlc, micron, M600, crucial

You may already be familiar with the Micron Crucial M550 line of SSDs (if not, familiarize yourself with our full capacity roundup here). Today Micron is pushing their tech further by releasing a new M600 line. The M600's are the first full lineup from Micron to use their 16nm flash (previously only in their MX100 line). Aside from the die shrink, Micron has addressed the glaring issue we noted in our M550 review - that issue being the sharp falloff in write speeds in lower capacities of that line. Their solution is rather innovative, to say the least.

Recall the Samsung 840 EVO's 'TurboWrite' cache, which gave that drive a burst of write speed during short sustained write periods. The 840 EVO accomplished this by each TLC die having a small SLC section of flash memory. All data written passed through this cache, and once full (a few GB, varying with drive capacity), write speed slowed to TLC levels until the host system stopped writing for long enough for the SSD to flush the cached data from SLC to TLC.

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The Micron M600 SSD in 2.5" SATA, MSATA, and M.2 form factors.

Micron flips the 'typical' concept of caching methods on its head. It does employ two different types of flash writing (SLC and MLC), but the first big difference is that the SLC is not really cache at all - not in the traditional sense, at least. The M600 controller, coupled with some changes made to Micron's 16nm flash, is able to dynamically change the mode of each flash memory die *on the fly*. For example, the M600 can place most of the individual 16GB (MLC) dies into SLC mode when the SSD is empty. This halves the capacity of each die, but with the added benefit of much faster and more power efficient writes. This means the M600 would really perform more like an SLC-only SSD so long as it was kept less than half full.

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As you fill the SSD towards (and beyond) half capacity, the controller incrementally clears the SLC-written data, moving that data onto dies configured to MLC mode. Once empty, the SLC die is switched over to MLC mode, effectively clearing more flash area for the increasing amount of user data to be stored on the SSD. This process repeats over time as the drive is filled, meaning you will see less SLC area available for accelerated writing (see chart above). Writing to the SLC area is also advantageous in mobile devices, as those writes not only occur more quickly, they consume less power in the process:

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For those worst case / power user scenarios, here is a graph of what a sustained sequential write to the entire drive area would look like:

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Realize this is not typical usage, but if it happened, you would see SLC speeds for the first ~45% of the drive, followed by MLC speeds for another 10%. After the 65% point, the drive is forced to initiate the process of clearing SLC and flipping dies over to MLC, doing so while the host write is still in progress, and therefore resulting in the relatively slow write speed (~50 MB/sec) seen above. Realize that in normal use (i.e. not filling the entire drive at full speed in one go), garbage collection would be able to rearrange data in the background during idle time, meaning write speeds should be near full SLC speed for the majority of the time. Even with the SSD nearly full, there should be at least a few GB of SLC-mode flash available for short bursts of SLC speed writes.

This caching has enabled some increased specs over the prior generation models:

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Note the differences in write speeds, particularly in the lower capacity models. The 128GB M550 was limited to 190MB/sec, while the M600 can write at 400MB/sec in SLC mode (which is where it should sit most of the time).

We'll be testing the M600 shortly and will come back with a full evaluation of the SSD as a whole and more specifically how it handles this new tech under real usage scenarios.

Full press blast after the break.

Source: Micron