Computex 2014: ASUS Announces ROG G20 Compact Gaming Desktop and ROG GR8 Gaming Console PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2014 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: ROG, gaming pc, computex 2014, computex, asus

Gaming PCs are often misunderstood. Many of our viewers will probably build their own from their personal selection of parts. If you would like to have someone else handle it, then an oft dismissed option is going through a system builder. If you find an option that is in your budget and has the performance you desire, then it is perfectly acceptable to buy it.

ASUS has just announced two offerings, branded Republic of Gamers (ROG), for you to consider.

ASUS_ROG_G20_Compact_Gaming_Desktop_PC.jpg

The ROG G20 Gaming Desktop can be customized with options which range up to an Intel Core i7 with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780. It is designed to be quiet, with expected noise at around 23-25 dbA (it is unclear whether this is measured idle or under load). While it has two fans, it also uses "natural convection" cooling, a process which uses the excess heat to make hot air rise, which is replaced by cool air that cools the components.

Yup, the PC cools itself with the air motion caused by its own heat.

After customizations, the ROG G20 Gaming Desktop is expected to retail for $800-$1700, depending on what options the user selects, and be available in late Q3, for North Americans.

ASUS_ROG_GR8_Gaming_Console_PC.jpg

The other PC is the ROG GR8 Gaming Desktop. This device will include an Intel Core i7 and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti. Despite its form factor, a side panel allows user access to RAM and storage. It has Gigabit Ethernet and built-in 802.11ac wireless. While it obviously has HDMI outputs, it also includes DisplayPort.

ASUS does not currently have an expected price range, but it will also be available Q3, for North Americans.

Source: ASUS

Zotac Announces ZBOX Sphere OI520 and OI520 Plus

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 21, 2014 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox

Zotac has announced the ZBOX Sphere OI520 in two forms. The Plus version comes with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive while the standard version leaves the choice (and installation) up to the user. At the very least, that means it is user-serviceable. Its real draw is its "orb form factor" with decent, albeit laptop, performing components.

ZBOX_OI520_PLUS_3.jpg

The ZBOX OI520, from behind.

Its actual system specifications are:

  • Intel Core i5 4200U
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 (GT2)
  • HDMI and DisplayPort
  • Wireless AC (802.11ac), Gigabit Ethernet, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • 3x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC Card Reader
  • Supports up to 16GB of RAM (2xDDR3L)
  • Supports one 2.5-inch HDD/SSD
  • Apparently, no OS pre-installed.

Pricing and availability are not yet announced. Obviously, that will be the biggest factor in someone looking for a barebones PC, like this one. Also, Intel graphics support on Linux is not the most pleasant, kind-of famously. Zotac claims full support for Windows 7 and Windows 8, of course, but you will probably need to factor that price in if that is the direction you want to go.

Source: Zotac

MSI Launches AG270 2PC and 2PE Gaming All-in-Ones

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 16, 2014 - 09:06 PM |
Tagged: msi, all-in-one, AIO, gtx 880m

The MSI AG270 is an All-in-One (AIO) PC built in a 27-inch, 1920x1080, multi-touch display. The series is split into two models, the AG270 2PC and the higher-end AG270 2PE. Both are billed as gaming devices and, with a GeForce GTX 870M (2PC) or a GeForce GTX 880M (2PE), they fit the bill. The 880M, for instance, is basically a desktop GeForce 680 with 8GB of frame buffer (!!) and a slight underclock.

msi-ag270-back.png

Two processor options are available, the i7-4860HQ and the i7-4700HQ. MSI does not state whether one (or both) models has a choice, or if the higher-end processor (4860HQ) is always in the higher-end PC (AG270 2PE) and the lower-end processor (4700HQ) is always in the lower-end PC (AG270 2PC). Users will get 2TB of storage and "up to" 3 mSATA SSDs. Yamaha will provide the two 5W speakers. BigFoot (owned by Qualcomm) provides the Ethernet and Wireless N through their Killer DoubleShot network adapter. It also has a DVD and BluRay reader/writer built-in.

MSI does not discuss pricing and availability, directly, and instead point to their retail partners.

Source: MSI

Bigger than a toaster but far more powerful, the CyberPowerPC Zeus Mini-I 780

Subject: Systems | May 15, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: CyberPowerPC, Zeus Mini-I 780, i7-4770k, gtx 780

If you are looking for a tiny system that you don't have to assemble yourself then CyberPowerPC is a good source as they have released their Zeus Mini-I 780.  Measuring a mere 13" tall, 4.4" wide and 17.4" deep (33x11x44cm) this system is rather tiny and tightly packed for as the name suggests it does contain a EVGA GeForce GTX 780.  You will also find an i7-4770K a Gigabyte Z87N-WiFi and 16GB of G.SKILL Ripjaws X DDR3-1866; pretty hefty stats for such a small box.  As you might expect Custom PC Review saw the CPU get quite toasty, a maximum of 96ºC was recorded under synthetic load though the system stayed stable while running at that temperature.  Check out the full review to see how it performed.

cyberpowerpc-zeus-mini-i-780-gaming-pc-custom-pc-review-4.jpg

"Today we’ll be reviewing the CyberPowerPC Zeus Mini-I 780, which is a brand new system from CyberPowerPC that was unveiled for the first time at CES earlier this year. Unlike most CyberPowerPC systems that simply use off the shelf parts, CyberPowerPC decided to up the ante with the Zeus Mini by not only making the..."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

"NVIDIA test model(SHIELD)" with Tegra K1 on AnTuTu

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 27, 2014 - 03:30 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, sheild, shield 2, AnTuTu

VR-Zone is claiming that this is the successor to NVIDIA's SHIELD portable gaming system. An AnTuTu benchmark was found for a device called, "NVIDIA test model(SHIELD)" with an "NVIDIA Gefroce(Kepler Graphics)" GPU, typos left as-is. My gut expects that it is valid, but I hesitate to vouch the rumor. If it even came from NVIDIA, which the improper spelling and capitalization of "GeForce" calls into question, it could easily be an internal prototype and maybe even incorrectly given the "SHIELD" (which is properly spelled and capitalized) label.

nvidia-shield-antutu.jpg

Image Credit: AnTuTu.com

As far as its camera listing, it would make sense for the SHIELD to get one at standard definition (0.3MP -- probably 640x480). The fact that the original SHIELD shipped without any, at all, still confuses me. The low resolution sensor still does not make sense, seeming like an almost pointless upgrade, but it could be used by NVIDIA for a specific application or built-in purpose.

Or, it could be an irrelevant benchmark listing.

Either way, there are rumors floating around about a SHIELD 2 being announced at E3 in June. It is unlikely that NVIDIA will give up on the handheld any time soon. Whether that means new hardware, versus more software updates, is anyone's guess. The Tegra K1 would have been a good launching SoC for the SHIELD, however, with its full OpenGL 4.4 and compute support (the hardware supports up to OpenCL 1.2 although driver support will apparently be "based on customer needs". PDF - page 8).

Waiting. Seeing. You know the drill.

Source: VR-Zone

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Released.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 18, 2014 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: canonical, ubuntu, ubuntu 14.04

Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution, has been on a steady six-month release schedule for eight years. Every four versions, that is, once every two years, one is marked as Long Term Support (LTS). While typical (non-LTS) releases are supported for around 9 months, LTS versions are provided with five years of updates. Of course, each version, LTS or not, is free. The choice to stay on a specific branch is something else entirely.

ubuntu-1404-laptop.jpg

For most home users, it will probably make sense to pick up the latest version available on your update manager. Of course, each new release will change things and that can be a problem for some users. That said, given that releases come in six-month intervals, it does make sense to keep up with the changes as they happen, rather than fall behind and have a real shock in five years. Enterprise customers, on the other hand, would love to adopt an operating system which never changes, outside of security updates. Windows XP is a recent example of where enterprise customers will actually pay to not upgrade. These customers will benefit most from LTS.

So, why 14.04 LTS?

First and foremost, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, wants to catch the wave of PC users who are looking to upgrade from Windows XP and Windows 7. It is free, it has a web browser and an office suite, it is stable and secure, and they suggest that it will be easy to deploy and manage for governments and other institutions.

The interface is Unity7, although users will have the option to try Unity8. The latter version is Canonical's attempt to cover all form factors: phones, tablets, TVs, and desktops.

They probably could have chosen a different number, if only for the jokes.

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is available now at their website. It is free. If you want it, go get it unless you already have it.

Source: Canonical

Intel Haswell-based NUCs on Sale for $329 and $265

Subject: Systems | April 17, 2014 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: nuc, i5-4250u, amazon, 4250U

Back in September we posted a review of the latest Intel NUC device (next unit of computing), a tiny 4-in x 4-in barebones computer developed and sold by Intel directly. As a couple of readers pointed out to me today, these units are being discounted by as much as $70 today over at Amazon.com

These units share a lot of the same feature set but they differ in the processor actually embedded in them. The Core i5-4250U comes with the more expensive model and that includes the faster Intel HD 5000 graphics configuration as well. This is the same processor found in the MacBook Air and many shipping Ultrabooks. For the lower priced model you get the Core i3-4010U that runs at a static 1.7 GHz clock speed. The 4250U scales up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost technology.

nuc1.jpg

Both are based on the Haswell architecture and pack a lot of processing punch in a tiny little form factor.

Keeping in mind these are barebones units, you'll still have to add memory, storage in the form of an mSATA SSD, wireless modules (unless you want to use the Gigabit Ethernet) and a power cord. If you are looking for some suggestions from us on those components, check out the lists and pricing below.

  Core i5-4250U System Core i3-4010U System
Barebones System NUC D54250WYK - $329 NUC D34010WYK - $265
Memory Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40 Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40
Storage Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109 Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109
Wireless Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32 Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32
Power Cord 6 ft 3-slot - $4 6 ft 3-slot - $4
Total (Amazon) $514 on Amazon.com $450 on Amazon.com

If you are really on a budget and want to save some more cash, you could go with a smaller and less expensive mSATA SSD like the ADATA Premier Pro 32GB option for as low as $39.99 but you are going to be REALLY limited on local storage space. 

nuc2.jpg

Still, for $514 you are getting most of the component technology of a high end Ultrabook but in a desktop form factor, ready to be used as your primary PC or connected to your TV for a home theater setup. I built one for my dad for Christmas to play a flight simulator on and its still going strong and he's loving it!

Going to take Intel and Amazon up on these prices? Already have a unit of your own? If so, let me know in the comments what you currently, or plan to, use it for. Happy SFF building!

Source: Amazon.com

Non-Replaceable, Defective Batteries in Sony VAIO Fit 11A

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 15, 2014 - 08:48 PM |
Tagged: vaio, sony, battery issue

So it turns out that Sony, after releasing their last VAIO PC refresh before the division is sold to Japan Industrial Partners, have found an issue with Panasonic's custom lithium battery packs. The VAIO Fit 11A models, released February 2014, have the potential to overheat and catch fire, burning itself and the PC. They are in the process of creating a refund, repair, or exchange program but, in the mean time, request users stop using the devices for their safety.

15-Kaz.jpg

In head-crushing formation. #HandsCheck

The affected products fall under the model number, "SVF11N1XXXX", where Xs are, of course, some random letter or number. This information is printed underneath the display, accessible using the "release-lock" latch when the laptop is open.

Of course, this is all just unfortunate for Sony. The last product they create under their VAIO brand requires what basically amounts to a safety recall -- for a third-party component. Beyond that, Panasonic asserts that the flaw only seems to exist in the batteries that were customized for Sony. Panasonic, like many manufacturers, introduces slight modifications to existing products for a specific customer's needs. They do not believe that their other batteries, even of the same model, is defective outside of the shipment that Sony received.

At some point, you just need to feel bad for them...

Source: Sony

AAEON's SoC is an impressive implementation of Bay Trail

Subject: Systems | April 10, 2014 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: linux, mini-itx, AAEON, EMB-BT1, Bay Trail, SFF, htpc

You may not recognize the name AAEON but you will recognize its parent company, ASUS.  AAEON makes low power small form factor single board SoCs and with the introduction of Bay Trail they may become more common.  The EMB-BT1-A10-3825 sports a quad-core Atom E3845 @ 1.33GHz and Ivy Bridge era Intel HD graphics with support for up to 4GB of DDR3-1067.  It has a total TDP of 6W but unfortunately Phoronix's WattsUp meter was busy on another system so you will need to wait for an update on total power consumption.

The connectivity on this SoC is incredible, mSATA for an SSD, two SATA 6Gbps ports and two SATA-2 ports, dual gigabit LAN ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, COM, and audio jacks.  You could configure this as a small media server or as it supports dual displays it would serve wonderfully as an HTPC.

aaeon.jpg

"For those after a low-cost mini-ITX board for use within an HTPC, SOHO file server, or other low-power situations, AAEON has out an interesting board called the EMB-BT1, or more formally the AAEON EMB-BT1-A10-3825. This mini-ITX motherboard has onboard an Intel Atom E3825 "Bay Trail" SoC for delivering decent performance out of the six Watt SoC and having open-source-friendly graphics under Linux."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Phoronix

NAB 2014: Thunderbolt Networking Announced for Windows

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: NAB, NAB 14, Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt

Video professionals are still interested in Thunderbolt in probably much the same way as Firewire needed to be pried from their cold, dead hands. It is a very high bandwidth connector, useful for sending and receiving 4K video. Also, it was originally exclusive to Apple so you can guess which industries were first-adopters. Intel has focused their Thunderbolt announcements on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. This year, Thunderbolt Networking will be available for Windows via a driver. This will allow any combination of Macs and Windows PCs to be paired together by a 10 Gigabit network.

Intel-Thunderbolt2-Networking.jpg

Of course, this is not going to be something that you can plug into a router. This is a point-to-point network for sharing files between two devices... really fast. Perhaps one use case would be a workstation with a Mac and a Windows PC on a KVM switch. If both are connected with Thunderbolt 2, they could share the same storage pool.

While this feature already exists on Apple devices, the PC driver will be available... "soon".

Source: Intel