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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CES 2014: Lenovo All-In-Ones

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, CES 2014, CES, all-in-one

Apple was famous for cramming as much PC hardware into a monitor as possible. At first, when the monitor was CRT-based, it looked weird. As monitors thinned, the computers became more classy. Leave it to the PC industry to fight over the smallest of details in order to get an edge over their competition. Several companies have been trying out various permutations of that idea and they sometimes hone in on one or more niches. Lenovo has four of these all-in-one PCs: the Horizon II, the N308, the A740, and the C560 Touch.

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The Lenovo Horizon II is up first. We reviewed the original Horizon and Ryan enjoyed it for the 2 hours of battery life he was able to surf the web on. He found the tabletop design very fun to play Monopoly with friends on. Its performance was not too bad either (although Battlefield 3 and Bioshock Infinite are no-gos). The Horizon II gives the option of a resolution boost from 1080p to 1440p and, if you are not feeling particularly attached to your money: options for a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 840A.

Maybe Battlefield is now... on the table... snicker snicker.

The Aura interface has been updated to version 2.0 and it interacts with phones via NFC. Speaking of mobile, the battery life is now expected to reach 4 hours per charge which would double what Ryan experienced if accurate. The Horizon II is also thinner and lighter with a weight of just 15.4 lbs which is over 3 lbs more light than the 18.95 lbs of the original Horizon.

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The Lenovo N308 is a step in a different direction. This Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 device includes an NVIDIA Tegra quad core processor with 2 GB of RAM. It has up to 3 hours of battery life and is a slightly more portable 19.5 inches (1600x900). It is still 10 lbs, though. It also has a gravity sensor which is great if you are playing a motion control game on this thing. No option for a wrist strap which is a blessing and a curse, I guess, when you're slinging around a 20-inch tablet? I think this is one of those things that will make more sense in person. Prices start at $449.

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The Lenovo A740 is more like a typical all-in-one computer. Monitor, stand, up to a Core i7 processor, up to a GeForce GTX 800 series GPU, 1TB HDD. The 27-inch display has a 1440p resolution and 10-finger touch sensor. The stand can also dip significantly which allows for 100 degrees of tilt. Prices start at $1499.

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Last, but not least, is the C560 Touch All-in-One PC. Starting at $549, it is Lenovo's budget all-in-one. It has a 23-inch 1080p touchscreen albeit one that can only track 5 fingers (which is still probably more than enough). You can give it up to 8 GB of memory and 2 TB of storage. All of this can be driven by a Haswell processor up to a Core i7 and an NVIDIA GeForce 705A 1GB GPU. The system is loaded with Windows 8.1. Nothing special with the stand. It stands up straight and looks interesting.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2014: Lenovo ThinkPad and ThinkVision Products

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Thinkpad, Lenovo, CES 2014, CES

The professional line of products from Lenovo includes: a 28-inch 4K display, another 28-inch 4K display which moonlights as an Android tablet, a proper tablet powered by Bay Trail, and a laptop which might crack a smile from fans of the Optimus keyboard. If any of these devices gets your attention then you might be glad to know that each of them is under $1300 base price.

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I don't want to believe that it's just a badly Photoshopped "simulated image"... but...

First up is the ThinkVision Pro2840m 4K Display which is a professional-grade 28-inch 3840x2160 monitor for $799. The image gets me excited for the thin bezel although a separate press deck (seen below) shows a visibly different monitor, with the same model number, having a more-standard border. Cross your fingers and hope that it looks more like the above image than the one below. I find it doubtful, however, but I digress either way.

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... it is probably a significantly larger bezel.

Lenovo does not mention the panel type but they advertise a 5ms response time and a 1000:1 contrast ratio. It has a 10bit color depth and a 72% color gamut which I am hoping refers to Adobe RGB which puts it roughly on par with my Wacom Cintiq 22HD. It could be 72% sRGB coverage, though, which would be problematic (especially for a professional panel).

Note that contrast ratio claims are messed with constantly. Most of these million-to-one claims are measured at separate times and often in separate environments. There have been tales of "black measurements" being taken in laboratory-controlled dark rooms with the panels off and white values recorded directly against the backlight. Static contrast ratios, measured with a black and white checkerboard pattern, are often not too far away from 1000:1. Plasma and OLED panels can get significantly better, however.

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Up next is the ThinkVision 28 Smart 4K Display. While it is also a 28-inch 3840x2160 monitor, it also has an integrated NVIDIA Tegra processor. This is basically a 28-inch Android 4.4 (KitKat) tablet, which can also be your computer monitor, for $1199.

Lenovo carefully wrote Latest Nvidia Tegra processor and ThinkVision 28 is expected to launch in July. This would be a year after the Tegra 4 launch and right around the rumored launch window of Logan (Q2 2014). This could be a launch-window release for the next Tegra. If so, this would be Android powered by Kepler.

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On the topic of tablets: the ThinkPad 8. Lenovo's idea of an 8.3-inch 1080p business tablet is one powered by Bay Trail for x86 support backed by up to 8 GB of RAM. Because it support x86, it is preloaded with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office. You can choose between 32, 64, and 128 GB of SSD storage and then later insert a MicroSD card for more storage. Prices are expected to start at $399.

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Lastly: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon. This 14-inch Ultrabook has voice and gesture control along with a programmable touch strip. The touch strip is quite interesting: it is a long, narrow, and apparently flexible LCD touchscreen. As programs open and close, its hotkeys will change accordingly. They do not say whether the user can control these or whether they are using baked profiles but, regardless, it is an interesting step.

The laptop itself has up to 8 GB of RAM, up to 512 GB of SSD storage, Haswell-based processors, and up to a 2560x1440 IPS display. Only Wireless-N is possible but it also integrates NFC for some reason. The battery allows for 8 hours on a single charge and, in under an hour of being plugged in, it is full again. Its GPU is the built-in GT3 which is Intel HD 5000 graphics. Prices start at $1299 (although one slide says $1199).

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2014: Lenovo Convertables, Tablets, and Laptops (Part 2) Y40 & Y50 Touch (with optional 4K), Z40 & Z50

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2014 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, GeForce 800M, CES 2014, CES, 4k

For the lover of a more conventional clamshell laptop, Lenovo has four models announced at CES. They do not need a special hinge to avoid the ho-hum. Some of these models have options for GeForce 800-series mobile and Radeon M200-series graphics. Some have options of 802.11ac (and others have it standard). One of the four even includes an option for a 4K panel.

Did I get your attention? Read on.

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The Lenovo Y40 and Y50 are their gaming class notebooks with relatively high-performance components. The aesthetic is sort-of flat edges and bevels which looks pretty crisp. The dimensions and weight "start at" under an inch thick and 5.3lbs. Options will be available up to 16 GB of RAM and a 1TB hybrid hard drive with 8 GB of SSD caching. It also appears as if 802.11ac wireless comes standard. You have a choice between 14-inch and 15.6-inch Full HD screens or, for the Y50, you can bump the resolution up to 3840x2160 for some mobile 4K.

The Y50 can be powered by as much as an Intel Core i7-4702HQ processor and an NVIDIA GTX 860M 2GB GPU. This graphics solution is currently unannounced but rumors (just rumors) claim it will have about 1.4 TeraFLOPs of performance from 960 shading units. This puts it a little bit behind the Xbox One in terms of peak shader performance however it is also laptop graphics. If the rumors hold true it should be just slightly behind a GeForce 650 Ti. Perhaps we will learn more as CES continues.

Prices start at around $500.

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The Lenovo Z40 and Z50, on the other hand, are their more mainstream laptops. Still, they are capable of upgrades up to an Intel Core i7 with GeForce 800-series graphics. They can include up to 16 GB of RAM and up to a 1TB HDD (with extra options for 8GB SSD caching). The laptop comes default with 802.11 b/g/n but can be upgraded to 802.11ac if desired. They come standard with a 1080p touchscreen display.

More interestingly, prices start at just under $400 (although clearly with less RAM, CPU, and GPU than the up to listings). Lenovo claims you can have "up to Windows 8.1" which makes me wonder if Windows 7 options will be available. That could be interesting if true.

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Source: Lenovo