Dual GPUs can still be quiet

Subject: Systems | March 13, 2015 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: sli, quiet computing

Silent PC Review spends a lot of effort choosing components which offer a great performance but do not create a lot of noise and their latest sytem is a perfect example.  Even with a pair of air cooled GTX 970's and an i5-4690K this system only hit 23dBA under load, quiet enough for SPCR to confirm their 970's suffer from coil whine.  The sound came primarily from the GPUs as you would expect so it is possible that finding a very quiet radiator and watercooling them might reduce the sound produced even further.  It just goes to show how much quieter air cooling has become from the days of screaming 40mm Deltas.

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"For our 8th Quiet Gaming PC Build Guide, we take on the challenge of two high-end video cards in an SLI configuration featuring a pair of Zotac GTX 970s in the SilverStone Fortress FT05 case."

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GDC 15: ZOTAC Announces the SN970 Steam Machine - Powered by a GTX 970M and Intel Skylake CPU

Subject: Systems | March 4, 2015 - 12:11 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, zotac, valve, SteamOS, Steam Machine, steam, gdc 2015, gdc 15, GDC, GTX 970M

Favor a steamier TV gaming experience? ZOTAC has announced a new Steam Machine on the eve of Valve’s presentation at GDC on Wednesday.

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The SN970 presumably gets its name from the GTX 970M mobile GPU within, and this does the heavy lifting along with an unspecified 6th-generation Intel (Skylake) CPU. The massive amount of HDMI outputs (there are 4 HDMI 2.0 ports!) is pretty impressive for a small device like this, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports are a premium feature as well.

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There's a lot going on back here - the rear I/O of the ZOTAC SN970

Here's the rundown of features and specs from ZOTAC:

Key Features

  • SteamOS preloaded
  • NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970M MXM graphics
  • 4 x HDMI 2.0, supports 4K UHD @ 60Hz

Specifications

  • 6th Gen Intel Processor
  • NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5
  • 8GB DDR3 SODIMM
  • 64GB M.2 SSD
  • 1 x HDMI in
  • 2D/3D NVIDIA Surround
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • 4 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x 2.5” 1TB HDD
  • 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Mic-In, Stereo Out
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC Card Reader

The release for this new Steam Box isn't specified, but we will be doubtless be hearing more from Valve and their partners tomorrow so stay tuned!

Source: ZOTAC

MWC 15: HP Spectre x360 Has Broadwell Core i5 and i7

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 11:07 PM |
Tagged: spectre x360, spectre, mwc 15, MWC, hp, Broadwell

HP announced their updated Spectre x360 at Mobile World Congress. Like the Lenovo Yoga, it has a hinge that flips the entire way around, allowing the laptop to function as a 13.3-inch tablet with a 1080p, IPS display. There are two stages between “tablet” and “laptop”, which are “stand” and “tent”. They are basically ways to prop up the touch screen while hiding the keyboard behind (or under) the unit. The stand mode is better for hands-free operation because it has a flat contact surface to rest upon, while the tent mode is probably more sturdy for touch (albeit rests on two rims). The chassis is entirely milled aluminum, except the screen and things like that of course.

The real story is the introduction of Core i-level Broadwell. The 12.5-hour battery listing in a relatively thin form-factor can be attributed to the low power requirements of the CPU and GPU, as well as its SSD (128GB, 256GB, or 512GB). RAM comes in two sizes, 4GB or 8GB, which will depend slightly on the chosen processor SKU.

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Which pun would be more annoying?
"Case closed" or "I rest my case"...?

Prices start at $899 and most variants are available now at HP's website.

Source: HP

Looking for a second opinion on the Intel NUC5i5RYK?

Subject: Systems | February 23, 2015 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: nuc5i5ryk, nuc, next unit of computing, Intel, Broadwell, 5i5ryk, 5250u

Ryan just polished off his review of the next generation of Intel NUC, the Broadwell powered NUC5i5RYK in both video and written form but perhaps you still have some questions.  If so, or if you are wise enough to prefer a second opinion then you should make time to visit The Tech Report who also received a unit for review.  They covered the performance of several indie games, which ran quite well as well as CS:GO which could handle 1600x900 at medium settings.  Their conclusion matched Ryan's, not only is this a great HTPC and light gaming machine but for most office purposes this is a perfect solution to present to your users.

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"Thanks to the Broadwell-U silicon inside, Intel's new NUC promises better performance and power efficiency than the previous generation. There are other improvements under the hood, too, including the addition of an M.2 storage slot and a built-in Wi-Fi controller."

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Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Intel Pushes Broadwell to the Next Unit of Computing

Intel continues to invest a significant amount of money into this small form factor product dubbed the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC. When it was initially released in December of 2012, the NUC was built as an evolutionary step of the desktop PC, part of a move for Intel to find new and unique form factors that its processors can exist in. With a 4" x 4" motherboard design the NUC is certainly a differentiating design and several of Intel's partners have adopted it for products of their: Gigabyte's BRIX line being the most relevant. 

But Intel's development team continues to push the NUC platform forward and today we are evaluating the most recent iteration. The Intel NUC5i5RYK is based on the latest 14nm Broadwell processor and offers improved CPU performance, a higher speed GPU and lower power consumption. All of this is packed into a smaller package than any previous NUC on the market and the result is both impressive and totally expected.

A Walk Around the NUC

To most poeple the latest Intel NUC will look very similar to the previous models based on Ivy Bridge and Haswell. You'd be right of course - the fundamental design is unchanged. But Intel continues to push forward in small ways, nipping and tucking away. But the NUC is still just a box. An incredibly small one with a lot of hardware crammed into it, but a box none the less.

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While I can appreciate the details including the black and silver colors and rounded edges, I think that Intel needs to find a way to add some more excitement into the NUC product line going forward. Admittedly, it is hard to inovate in that directions with a focus on size and compression.

Continue reading our review of the Intel NUC NUC5i5RYK SFF!!

Xenon Flashes Make a Case for a Raspberry Pi 2 Case

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: raspberry pi 2, Raspberry Pi

It did not take long to find a problem with the Raspberry Pi 2. As it turns out, the Pi 2 contains a power regulator chip that is susceptible to bright sources of light. The light will force electrons to move when a metal is struck by enough photons with the correct, per-photon energy, which is its frequency/color, and that will be perceived as a voltage (because it actually does cause a voltage).

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In the Raspberry Pi 2, this manifests as a voltage drop and the device immediately powers down. This was first discovered by Peter Onion on the Raspberry Pi forums while he was taking photographs of his Raspberry Pi 2. He noticed that each time he snapped a photo, the Pi would shut down. Liz Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation promptly confirmed the issue and wrote a long blog post explaining what actually happens. She borrows Peter's joke from the forum thread, that the Pi 2 is camera shy, and explains that “everyday light sources” will not cause this to happen. She then explains the photoelectric effect, the role of the above pictured U16 chip, and the issue itself.

I definitely appreciate Liz Upton and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, founded on the premise of education, taking the time to explain their bugs from an educational standpoint. That said, it is easy to lose sight of your goal when you have a product to defend, and I am glad that it did not get in the way.

A final note: this will not damage the Pi 2, just cause it to crash and power down. The only real problem is that shutting down your device mid-task will crash your task. If that is a write to the SD card, that will likely corrupt that write.

Free Intel Edison Meetup in Phoenix, AZ, February 19th, 2015

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | February 11, 2015 - 09:07 PM |
Tagged: Intel, edison, meetup

This is just a quick note for a small subset of our audience. If any of our developer-minded readers are in the Phoenix, Arizona region on February 19th, Intel will be hosting a meetup at UAT (the University of Advancing Technology). The processor vendor will perform a technical presentation about the Edison Internet-of-Things (IoT) developer kit. Shortly after the presentation, the group will move to Aunt Chilada's for a social event.

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The presentation will take place in the theatre (there is only one as far as I can tell) at 6:30pm. Admission is free and there will be 10 Intel Edison kits to be raffled. Food and beverages will be provided by Intel (at Aunt Chilada's restaurant).

Source: Intel

Microsoft Filed for "Windows 365" Trademark in Late January. Jeremy Prepares to File for Windows 340 through 364?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 10, 2015 - 12:55 AM |
Tagged: windows 365, windows 10, windows, office 365, microsoft

While it is trivial for a large corporation to file for a trademark, there are fairly strict guidelines with how they are used (or, more accurately, not-used). Because trademarks can be forever, the law outlines numerous procedures that can classify them as abandoned, which lets Coca Cola be a known, legitimate source of Coca Cola for as long as Coca Cola makes Coca Cola, while preventing businesses from being created that do nothing but license names.

Patents! I'm looking at you!

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So the news is that Microsoft filed for the trademark, “Windows 365”. Knowing their trademark on Office 365, people are assuming that this will lead to a subscription version of Windows. The trademark filing is then compared to the statements made by Terry Myerson about Windows as a Service and the free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.x for a year. You can see where this is headed.

But I have another idea. Perhaps this is intended to lead into their not-yet-disclosed enterprise licensing arrangement for Windows 10 (and related services)? Despite its consumer sound, Office 365 seems to have a fairly large adoption rate with business and education customers. As an example, which is not statistically relevant but is still interesting, the local public school board where I live has licensed a non-commercial, 5-PC license for every staff and student in their organization. This concept has a lot of potential for those customers.

If, of course, they give us a per-device and system builder license option, too.

Source: USPTO

Preparing a Broadwell powered NUC for Linux

Subject: Systems | February 6, 2015 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: linux, nuc, Broadwell

After the great experience Phoronix had setting up the X1 Carbon with both Fedora and Ubuntu, they purchased a new Broadwell based NUC to experiment with. This model uses the Core i3 5010U with an onboard 900MHz HD Graphics 5500, support for 2 DIMMs of up to 64GB of DDR3-1866, an M.2 SSD card and a 2.5" HDD or SSD.  Intel has stated that Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora, and openSUSE will all be compatible so Phoronix has a bit of testing ahead of them.  There are no benchmarks as of yet but you can see their teardown of this new NUC here.

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"With wrapping up my Core i7 5600U Broadwell Linux tests using the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon in the next few days, fortunately the Intel BOXNUC5I3RYH just arrived as the first available NUC Kit shipping with a Broadwell processor. The NUC5i3RYH features a Broadwell Core i3 processor, HD Graphics 5500, and support for a M.2 SSD card and 2.5-inch HDD/SSD."

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Source: Phoronix
Author:
Manufacturer: Gigabyte

SFF PCs get an upgrade

Ultra compact computers, otherwise known as small form factor PCs, are a rapidly increasing market as consumers realize that, for nearly all purposes other than gaming and video editing, Ultrabook-class hardware is "fast enough". I know that some of our readers will debate that fact, and we welcome the discussion, but as CPU architectures continue to improve in both performance and efficiency, you will be able to combine higher performance into smaller spaces. The Gigabyte BRIX platform is the exact result that you expect to see with that combination.

Previously, we have seen several other Gigabyte BRIX devices including our first desktop interaction with Iris Pro graphics, the BRIX Pro. Unfortunately though, that unit was plagued by noise issues - the small fan spun pretty fast to cool a 65 watt processor. For a small computer that would likely sit on top of your desk, that's a significant drawback. 

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Intel Ivy Bridge NUC, Gigabyte BRIX S Broadwell, Gigabyte BRIX Pro Haswell

This time around, Gigabyte is using the new Broadwell-U architecture in the Core i7-5500U and its significantly lower, 15 watt TDP. That does come with some specification concessions though, including a dual-core CPU instead of a quad-core CPU and a peak Turbo clock rate that is 900 MHz lower. Comparing the Broadwell BRIX S to the more relevant previous generation based on Haswell, we get essentially the same clock speed, a similar TDP, but also an improved core architecture.

Today we are going to look at the new Gigabyte BRIX S featuring the Core i7-5500U and an NFC chip for some interesting interactions. The "S" designates that this model could support a full size 2.5-in hard drive in addition to the mSATA port. 

Let's dive in and take a look!