A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt
Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.
First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.
This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.
Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.
From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.
With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.
For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.
Subject: Networking, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 12:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: msi, killer nic, killer, computex 2015, computex, 802.11ac
Killer Networking has developed several networking solutions, focused on gamers, over the last decade or so. Ryan reviewed their first product way back in 2006, and he found it had some merit but struggled when quantifying it, especially to the price tag that it bore. Many years later, Qualcomm picked them up and their technology found a few design wins, especially with Gigabyte motherboards. They also branched out into wireless networking, a segment that undeniably could benefit from innovation. They are also, now, under the Rivet Networks brand, which is listed as an “Authorized Design Center” for Qualcomm.
Today, they are announcing the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 Networking Adapter. This brings their technology to the 802.11ac standard. It includes features like DoubleShow Pro, which allows Windows to balance network traffic between wireless and wired networks. It also allows the user to monitor their wireless traffic, even providing an interface to throttle or outright disable certain applications from using the internet. They are mostly promoting their “ExtremeRange” technology, which uses the MU-MIMO standard of 802.11ac, along with beamforming and two signal amplifiers, to provide high bandwidth at longer ranges.
The Killer Wireless-AC 1535 has received a few design wins, this time with MSI. It will be available in the MSI GT72 and MSI GT80 gaming laptops, as well as the MSI X99A GODLIKE GAMING motherboard. Thankfully, they are not adopting MSI's love of uppercase letters.
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:10 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, computex 2015, computex, Broadwell
Earlier this morning you saw us post a story about MSI updating its line of 20 notebooks with new Broadwell processors. Though dual-core Broadwell has been available for Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s for some time already, today marks the release of the quad-core variations we have been waiting on for some time. Available for mobile designs, as well as marking the very first Iris Pro graphics implementation for desktop users, Broadwell quad-core parts look to be pretty impressive.
Today Intel gives to the world a total 10 new processors for content creators and enthusiasts. Two of these parts are 65 watt SKUs in LGA packaging for use by enthusiasts and DIY builders. The rest are BGA designs for all-in-one PCs and high performance notebooks and include both 65 watt and 47 watt variants. And most are using the new Iris Pro Graphics 6200 implementation.
For desktop users, we get the Core i7-5775C and the Core i5-5675C. The Core i7 model is a quad-core, HyperThreaded CPU with a base clock of 3.3 GHz and a max Turbo clock of 3.7 GHz. It's unlocked so that overclockers and can mess around with them in the same way do with Haswell. The Iris Pro Graphics 6200 can scale up to 1150 MHz and rated DDR3L memory speeds are up to 1600 MHz. 6MB of L3 cache, a 65 watt TDP and a tray price of $366 round out the information we have.
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The Core i5-5675C does not include HyperThreading, has clock speed ranges of 3.1 GHz to 3.6 GHz and only sees the Iris Pro scale to 1100 MHz. Also, it drops from 6MB of L3 cache to 4MB. Pricing on this model will start a $276.
These two processors mark the first time we have seen Iris Pro graphics in a socketed form factor, something we have been asking Intel to offer for at least a couple of generations. They focused on 65 watt TDPs rather than anything higher mostly because of the target audience for these chips: if you are interested in the performance of integrated graphics then you likely are pushing a small form factor design or HTPC of some kind. If you have a Haswell-capable motherboard then you SHOULD be able to utilize one of these new processors though you'll want a Z97 board if you are going to try to overclock it.
From a performance standpoint, the Core i7-5775C will offer 2x the gaming performance, 35% faster video transcoding and 20% higher compute performance when compared to the previous top-end 65 watt Haswell part, the Core i7-4790S. That 4th generation part uses Intel HD Graphics 4600 that does not include the massive eDRAM that makes Iris Pro implementations so unique.
For mobile and AIO buyers, Intel has a whole host of new processors to offer. You'll likely find most of the 65 watt parts in all-in-one designs but you may see some mobile designs that go crazy and opt for them too. For the rest of the gaming notebook designs there are CPUs like the Core i7-5950HQ, a quad-core HyperThreaded part with a base clock of 2.9 GHz and max Turbo clock of 3.8 GHz inside a TDP of 47 watts. The Iris Pro Graphics 6200 will scale from 300 to 1150 MHz so GPU performance should basically be on par with the desktop 65-watt equivalent. Pricing is pretty steep though: starting at $623.
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These new processors, especially the new 5950HQ, offer impressive compute and gaming performance.
Compared to the Core i7-5600U, already available and used in some SFF and mobile platforms, the Core i7-5950HQ is 2.5x faster in SPECint and nearly 2x faster in a video conversion benchmark. Clearly these machines are going to be potent desktop replacement options.
For mainstream gamers, the Iris Pro Graphics 6200 on 1920x1080 displays will see some impressive numbers. Players of League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and WoW will see over 60 FPS at the settings listed in the slide above.
We are still waiting for our hardware to show up but we have both the LGA CPUs and notebooks using the BGA option en route. Expect testing from PC Perspective very soon!
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 29, 2015 - 03:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Android, google, google io, google io 2015
I'll be honest with you: I did not see a whole lot that interested me out of the Google I/O keynote. The company released a developer preview of their upcoming Android OS “M”, which refers to the thirteenth alphabetical release (although only eleven were formally lettered because they started with “C”upcake). Version nomenclature aside, this release is supposed to tune the experience. While the platform could benefit from a tune-up, it is also synonymous with not introducing major features.
But some things are being added, including “Google Now on Tap”. The idea is that Google will understand what is happening on screen and allow the user to access more information about it. In a demo on Engadget, the user was looking at scores for the Golden State Warriors. She asked “When are they playing next”, actually using the pronoun “they”, and the phone brought up their next game (it was against the Cavaliers).
Fingerprint reading and Android Pay are also being added to this release.
Other than that, it is mostly performance and usability. One example is “Doze State”, which allows the OS to update less frequently when the device is inactive. It is supposed to play nice with alarms and notifications though, which is good. Normally, I would wait to see if it actually works before commenting on it, but this seems like something that would only be a problem if no-one thought of it. Someone clearly did, because they apparently mentioned it at the event.
Android M, whatever it will actually be called, is expected to ship to consumers in the Fall.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 28, 2015 - 02:04 AM | Ken Addison
Shortly after the keynote at Lenovo Tech World today,we got hands on with the Dual-Screen Smartwatch concept, the Magic View.
The Magic View is an Android Wear device, which integrates a unique “virtual interactive display" via a small prism on the watch band. Users must bring the device up to their face and look through the prism to see a secondary display for tasks such as video viewing.
Looking inside the Magic View reminded us a lot of Google Glass. As you put your eye up to the prism on the watch band, you could see what looked like a display off in the distance. It was difficult to determine the relative size, but Lenovo claims this display is 20x bigger than the display on the smartwatch itself. Resolution was also undetermined, but it seemed to be low and about on par with the original Google Glass units.
The device itself was a bit warm and the additional display unit added some bulk, but these weren't immediate deal breakers. The design was still ergonomic and seemed like something that you wouldn't have an issue wearing all-day long.
This is definitely an early concept, but the fact that Lenovo are showing off demo units here means that they are serious about the ideas presented in the Magic View. If additional development can solve some of the heat issues, it seems like this would be a feature that doesn't detract from the core use of the device and can provide a potentially value new interaction method.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:55 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: wearable, tech world, smartwatch, smartphone, smart cast, magic view, lenovo tech world, Lenovo, concept
Today at the Lenovo Tech World keynote presentation, Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius took the opportunity to show some of the far reaching concepts for smartphones and smartwatches.
The Magic View smartwatch is a stylish, round smartwatch reminiscent of the Moto 360 that seems from the concept renderings to be based around Android Wear. However, the uniqueness comes from what Lenovo is claiming makes it the only smartwatch with two screens.
Optical reflection is used inside of a portion of the strap in order to project a second “virtual interactive display” more than 20 times larger than the integrated display. This is made possible through Lenovo-designed silicon aimed at miniaturizing the components for this type of projection while maintaining the same performance.
Lenovo claims this secondary screen will be useful for things like maps, as well as photo and video viewing, but it be remains to be seen if users would favor a virtual display like this over simply using their existing smartphone display. Privacy is also a big part of what Lenovo is pitching with the Magic View. Since users must place the lens portion next to their eye, other people in the same area cannot look over their shoulders and view potientially sensitive information.
The Lenovo Smart Cast concept plays on a similar idea as the Magic View. Through the use of a build in laser projector, as well as specialized sensors, Lenovo aims at allowing users to project a large virtual touch screen onto tabletop surfaces.
With the use of infrared sensors, users can touch the surface underneath the projection and interact just as if it were a physical display. Lenovo points towards this being useful for such applications as virtual keyboards in productivity apps, or even for media control of projected movies and light gaming such as Fruit Ninja.
The projected display is also independent of the smartphone display, allowing things such as two separate views for video chatting applications.
It remains to be seen if these concepts will ever actually make it into production devices, and if those devices will ever hit North America, but it's always interesting to see what R&D divisions of large companies like Lenovo are up to.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: windows 10, reachit, microsoft, Lenovo, cortana
Yesterday during briefings at Lenovo’s North Campus just outside of Beijing, the Contextual Computing group took the opportunity to discuss their unique integration of a technology called REACHit with Cortana on Windows 10.
REACHit is an indexing program that Lenovo has developed which is aimed at helping users find their documents among many different services and contexts. Once you authenticate REACHit with your accounts such as Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or your local computers, Lenovo makes an index of the files which you keep there to help you more easily locate what you are looking for.
The most unique feature of REACHit comes in how you issue a search query. Lenovo has developed multiple contexts which they think will be useful in locating files, such as File Type, File Actions, Location, Calendar Events, and time frames. They are indexing the files you give them access to for these specific prompts, and hoping to present them in a more useful fashion.
One of the examples we were walked through involved the prompt, “Where is the presentation I was working on at Starbucks last week?”. In this case, Lenovo is looking at the file types (PPT), whether or not a file was Saved/Opened, the geolocation which this occurred at, and the time frame at which these operations took place.
We didn’t see a live demo of these searches working, and haven’t had hands-on time with the software yet so it’s hard to say if Lenovo has succeeded at their goal, but the technology seems like an interesting solution to a common problem.
There are also security concerns about giving Lenovo access to all of your files, and letting them build an index your metadata. We have been told there is encryption being handled on Lenovo’s server side, but they couldn’t get into any further details about this.
REACHit at this point is purely integrated with Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10, and there is no other option for running a search or external API access. Lenovo expects REACHit to be available at the Windows 10 launch for Lenovo machines only, and is currently opening sign-ups for the private beta at Cortanareachit.com
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 08:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overwatch, E3 2015, E3, blizzard
Various companies have begun teasing what we might see at this year's E3 expo. Blizzard has not historically had a big presence at the event, though. With the size and scope of Blizzcon, the company usually saves it announcements for then. In fact, I cannot think of a single, non-trivial thing that Blizzard did at E3 since the expo downsized after E3 2006.
This year, on the other hand, Blizzard will be present at AMD and PC Gamer's E3 show. The recent Overwatch previews could be leading up to this event, which takes place three weeks from yesterday. The recent video that I embed above, Tracer, is pretty interesting too. It shows how useful a light assault player could be if they don't obey the space-time continuum. The last two-thirds of the video show off an impressive kill streak.
Again, expect more E3 coverage leading up to the Expo on June 16th.
Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 08:01 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, computex 2015, msi, x99a xpower ac, x99a gaming 9 ack, X99
Even though COMPUTEX 2015 doesn't begin for almost a week, the organizers have presented their “Best Choice Award”. Many devices won from a variety of categories, such as the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet and the 19” Stainless Fanless Industrial Panel PC from Wincomm Corporation. Being COMPUTEX, they appreciate PC gaming and overclocking, which led to MSI winning a pair of awards for its X99-based motherboards.
The MSI X99A GAMING 9 ACK motherboard won the Best Choice Golden Award for Gaming and Entertainment because of its Streaming Engine Module. This feature uses an AVerMedia encoder to stream 60 megabit, 1080p, H.264 gaming video over the internet, to compensate for the lack of Intel Quicksync on Haswell-E. I have never seen it in action, but it seems to have interested the judges. MSI's second award is for the MSI X99A XPOWER AC motherboard, which won the Best Choice Award for Computer and System because of its overclocking capability.
COMPUTEX starts on June 2nd in Taiwan, which is next week, but expect more news before then.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 12:27 AM | Ken Addison
Tagged: z51, z41, tech world, r9 m375, r9 m360, Lenovo, ideapad 100, amd
Today at their Tech World event in Beijing, Lenovo is taking the opportunity to announce some new mainstream notebook options.
First off, we have simply the Lenovo Z41 and Z51. The 14-inch Z41 and 15.6-inch Z51 aim to refresh the previous Z40 and Z50 with Broadwell CPUs as well as new AMD discrete GPU options.
Lenovo is using the Broadwell-U class of CPUs here as you would find in ultra books, so don't expect a CPU powerhouse, but for productivity style tasks these machines should hit the sweet spot of Price vs Performance with a starting price of $549 for the base Z51.
Paired with the new AMD R9-M360 (Z41) or M375 (Z51) these notebooks should also be able to play mainstream titles on the integrated 1080p display while coming in just over $800.
Lenovo also announced a low-cost entry into the ideapad line utilizing Intel's BayTrail-M processors. The ideapad 100 is available in both 14-inch and 15-inch variants and seems to be aimed at the low-cost Chromebook market.
Starting at $249, the ideapad 100 seems like it will be a good option for users looking for a secondary option for basic web browsing and office tasks.
Stay tuned for more from Lenovo's Tech World Event this week!