Falcon Northwest Offering X99 Based PCs In Three Form Factors

Subject: Systems | August 31, 2014 - 10:06 PM |
Tagged: X99, system builder, SFF, Intel, Haswell-E, falcon northwest

Haswell-E is official and components supporting the new X99 platform are flooding the market (or at least your news feed!). Intel's latest chip is not just for the DIY crowd, however. Boutique system builders have started announcing their refreshed lineups. First up is Falcon Northwest which has refreshed its product lineups to feature Haswell-E in small form factor (Micro ATX), mid-tower, and full tower systems.

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Falcon Northwest has updated the Mach V, Talon, and FragBox PCs to include Haswell-E, updated X99 chipset motherboards, up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, and the latest connectivity options such as at least six USB 3.0 ports and up to 10 SATA III 6Gbps ports. 

Users will be able to configure the refreshed models with any of Intel's launch CPUs: the six core i7 5820K, hexacore i7 5930K, and flagship 8-core i7 5960X (our review). All three processor options will come with a liquid cooler and optional overclock.

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A tray of Intel Core i7 5930K Haswell-E Processors. Photo Courtesy Falcon Northwest.

Per the press blast, Falcon Northwest President Kelt Reeves had the following to say about Intel's new enthusiast desktop platform:

“In our 23 years of building high-end PCs, I can’t ever remember seeing this much new tech hitting at the same time.” said Kelt Reeves, president of Falcon Northwest. “Our fall desktop lineup of Intel X99-based systems with 8-core CPUs, 10 SATA ports, 12 USB 3.0 ports, and 64 gigs of DDR4 memory make the systems we built even a year ago look like antiques. Intel X99 is that big of a leap forward.”

The new systems can be configured with various storage, graphics card, and case/aesthetical options much like their predecessors. The newer platform which supports more processor power, 40 PCI-E 3.0 lanes, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, and DDR4 (which uses less power and offers up more bandwidth versus DDR3) is the notable factor here.

The small form factor (and LAN party friendly) FragBox PC starts at $2,313. The mid-tower Talon and full tower Mach V start at $2,330 and $3,021 respectively. You can find the updated custom built boxes on the Falcon Northwest website.

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While I would not go as far as Mr. Reeves, I do think Haswell-E noticeably improves upon Ivy Bridge-E and it brings hardware to bear that will be most welcomed by professionals in workstations and servers that can take advantage of the power. For enthusiasts and gamers, it also represents a much waited-for trickle down of technology from the Xeon lineup of an Intel chip with 8 physical cores to consumers at a price that is relatively affordable (heh).

Are you excited for Haswell-E? Will you be upgrading or carrying on with your current setup? Here's hoping Broadwell-E (or whatever the next generation ends up being called, of course) brings the 8 core monster to the $400 space so my i7 860 can finally rest and graceful Linux test box retirement before I end up killing it from too much time overclocked and over-volted ;).

A Haswell powered ZBox

Subject: Systems | August 28, 2014 - 10:46 AM |
Tagged: SFF, zotac, zbox, zbox ID92. haswell

The Zotac Zbox ID92 is not quite as small as the PI320 pico at 7.4" x 7.4" x 2" (188 x 188 x 51 mm) nor as inexpensive as it ships for $486 sans memory, storage and OS.  However with a 2.9GHz Core i5-4570T is significantly more powerful and the HD4600 GPU will allow you to enjoy some light gaming and to enjoy 4K content with an appropriate display.  With both SATA and mSATA the storage subsystem is more agile and also upgradeable as are the two SO-DIMM slots.   The Tech Report quite liked this device for media but suggest those intending to spend more time gaming spend an extra $100 on the Zbox EN760 with its GTX860M.

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"In recent months, we've reviewed two Gigabyte mini-PCs with Haswell inside. In light of those experiences, we figured we'd take a look at one of Zotac's newest Zbox systems: a 7.4" x 7.4" x 2" machine with a 35W Haswell processor, room for dual storage devices, and generous connectivity."

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ASUS Quietly Refreshes Its Transformer T100 Tablet With New Hardware and Color Options

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 28, 2014 - 10:30 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, transformer t100, Intel, Bay Trail, Atom Z3775, asus

Following rumors earlier this summer, ASUS has quietly refreshed its Transformer T100 tablet. ASUS is now offering T100 tablet versions in multiple colors with a faster Intel Bay Trail processor as well as a version that retains the original SoC but adds a 500GB hard drive to the keyboard dock. I have been keeping an eye on the T100 since it first launched almost a year ago at IFA 2013, and have been eagerly waiting for the rumored refresh. Fortunately, that wait is now over because the updated Transformer T100s are finally starting to appear and be available for purchase on retailers' websites (first at Tiger Direct, then Amazon, and others now).

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The T100 is now available in red and white as well as the original gray. The red and white SKUs feature a higher end Bay Trail SoC while the updated gray SKU comes with a 500GB mechanical hard drive nested inside the keyboard dock. The table below lists the model numbers for the new tablets. I should note that there are conflicting specifications at different retailers for the model numbers listed, which makes this under-the-radar refresh so frustrating, but after a bit of digging I believe the specifications to be accurate and any conflicting information to simply be errors on the part of those retailers.

New ASUS Transformer T100 Tablet SKUs (T100 Refresh)
Model Numbers Processor Internal Storage Color Price (Amazon) Price (MSRP)
T100TA-C1-WH(S) Intel Z3775 64GB eMMC White $394.99 $399
T100TA-C1-RD(S) Intel Z3775 64GB eMMC Red $388.99 $399
T100TA-C1-GR(S) Intel Z3775 64GB eMMC Gray $329.99 $399
T100TA-H2-GR Intel Z3740 64GB eMMC + 500GB HDD Gray $449.99 $?
T100TA-H1-GR Intel Z3740 32GB eMMC + 500GB HDD Gray $369.00 $399

The new colors are nice (I'm partial to the red T100), but the upgraded processor is the truly interesting bit about this Windows tablet (which won PC Perspective's "Best Hardware of 2013" award). The original T100 launched with an Intel Atom Z3740 SoC an the refreshed Transformer T100 uses a higher clocked Atom Z3775. The Z3775 is a higher-end Intel Bay Trail processor with four Silvermont CPU cores clocked at 1.46GHz that can boost to as high as 2.39GHz. The HD Graphics GPU retains the same base clockspeed as the Z3740 but has a higher turbo frequency of 778MHz (versus 667MHz on the Z3740). The table below lists the specifications of the two chips. The new SoC has significantly higher CPU clocks and a decent boost to potential GPU horsepower (thermals permitting).

Intel Atom SoC Z3740 Z3775
CPU Cores 4 x "Silvermont" Cores 4 x "Silvermont" Cores
CPU Clockspeeds (Base/Boost) 1.33GHz / 1.86GHz 1.46GHz / 2.39GHz
HD Graphics GPU Clockspeeds (Base/Boost) 311MHz / 667MHz 311MHz / 778MHz
L2 Cache 2MB 2MB
Memory Support 4GB 1066MHz 4GB 1066MHz
SDP 2W 2W
Process Node 22nm 22nm
Tray Price $32.00 $35.00

The refreshed T100 has an MSRP of $399 USD for the red and white versions with 64GB eMMC storage and gray SKU with 32GB internal storage and 500GB keyboard dock though retail prices are slightly less than that at the time of writing. The Transformer T100 with 64GB eMMC and additional 500GB hard drive has a retail price of around $450 but the MSRP is unknown.

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If you have been holding off, now is a good time to pick up an updated version for a small price premium (or an older version at a discount!). However, if you already own a T100, the relatively minor update will is a hard to justify upgrade (you would likely be better off waiting on Cherry Trail-based devices with better battery life or other improvements as possible upgrades).

Broadwell Intel NUCs Being Developed. Rumored Q1 2015?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 27, 2014 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: Intel, nuc, Broadwell

The Intel NUC is their small computing form factor, packing what is equivalent to an Ultrabook into a chassis that is smaller than a CD spool. The first release came with Ivy Bridge and it was refreshed with Haswell about a year later. FanlessTech has got a hold a... semi-redacted (?)... slideshow presentation that outlines various models and features. Six models are expected, spread out between Q4 2014 (Haswell), Q1 2015 (Broadwell Core iX), and Q2 2015 (Broadwell Celeron).

Note that a typical Intel NUC contains fans, although the company has released a fanless Bay Trail-based model (and third parties have made their own, custom cooled models based on the form factor). I expect that FanlessTech covers it for those two reasons; it does not mean that these models will be passively cooled. In fact, the product matrix claims that none of these new products will be.

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The six models are broken into three code names.

Both Maple Canyon and Rock Canyon cover the Core i3 and i5 processor segments. Both include NFC, an optional 2.5" drive, four external USB 3.0 ports, LAN, a SATA 3 port, and so forth. They begin to diverge in terms of display outputs, however. Rock Canyon, which is targeted at home theater, home office, and gaming, includes one mini HDMI (1.4a) and one mini DisplayPort (1.2) output. Maple Canyon, on the other hand, includes two mini DisplayPort (version unknown, probably also 1.2) connections. While I do not have a slide for Maple Canyon, replacing the mini HDMI for a mini DisplayPort suggests that it will be targeted more at kiosks and other situations where monitors, rather than TVs, will be used.

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One Haswell Core i5-based Maple Canyon NUC is expected for Q4 2014. Maple Canyon with Broadwell Core i3, Maple Canyon with Broadwell Core i5, Rock Canyon with Broadwell Core i3, and Rock Canyon with Broadwell Core i5 are all expected in Q1 2015. All models will accept up to two DIMMs of memory (16 GB max).

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Only one Pinnacle Canyon model is listed. It will be based on Broadwell Celeron, allow up to 8 GB of memory (1 DIMM), and include four USB 3.0 ports (external). Its display configuration is significantly different from Rock Canyon and Maple Canyon, however. It will have one, full-sized HDMI (1.4a) and one VGA output. It will launch in Q2 2015.

For more information, check out the slides at FanlessTech.

Source: FanlessTech

ZOTAC Shrinks Mini-PC Further with New Pocket- Sized ZBOX PI320 pico

Subject: Systems | August 27, 2014 - 10:08 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, PI320 pico, baytrail, win 8.1, htpc

Zotac's tiny new ZBOX PI320 pico should arrive in stores towards the end of September for $200, which includes not only the hardware but Win 8.1 meaning you can simply plug it in and start using it.  At 115.5mm x 66mm x 19.2mm (4.5" x 2.6"x 0.75") it is smaller than your average Galaxy smartphone and every bit as capable.

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HONG KONG – Aug. 27, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards and mini-PCs, today shrinks the mini-PC further with the pocket-sized ZBOX PI320 pico. The new ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico delivers a superb quad-core Windows 8.1 with Bing computing experience in a compact and versatile form factor.

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“ZOTAC is a major innovator when it comes to miniaturizing the traditional PC. We began our push towards smaller and smaller mini-PCs with the ZBOX nano form factor and followed up with the ZBOX nano XS,” said Tony Wong, CEO, ZOTAC International. “Now with the all-new ZBOX PI320 pico, we have created our smallest mini-PC that can fit in your pocket.”

The pocketable form factor measures in at 115.5mm x 66mm x 19.2mm, which is roughly the same size as a small smartphone. Thanks to the tiny size, the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico is the perfect mini-PC for any room in a house, specialized installations, and for seasoned travelers on the go.

At the heart of the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico is an Intel Baytrail quad-core processor with Intel HD Graphics technology for snappy system responsiveness and stunning high-definition video playback capabilities. The very energy-efficient processor is cooled with a fan-less heatsink that generates zero noise for an excellent silent computing experience.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 with Bing is preinstalled on the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico mini- PC for instant out-of-box use. Just unbox the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico, plug it in, connect peripherals, and power it on.

The ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico ships with 2GB of DDR3L memory and 32GB solid-state storage with a micro SDXC slot to instantly increase storage up to 128GB. External expansion is available via three USB 2.0 ports on the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico.

A single HDMI output that’s capable of up to 1080p resolution enables the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico to easily connect to most LCD monitors and displays. High-speed 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 technologies ensure the ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 pico delivers fast networking performance with and without wires.

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Source: Zotac

Scratching the Surface 2 (in the Price Tag). $100 Off.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 26, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, Surface 2

While the Surface Pro 3 has just been released, the latest Windows RT version is still the Surface 2. It is powered by Tegra 4 and contains 2GB of RAM. It also cannot run anything, unless it comes from Windows Store, it is a Windows Update, or it is a website that runs in Internet Explorer 11. If what you are looking for is Microsoft Office 2013 RT (included), Netflix, Halo: Spartan Assault, and so forth, then all Surface 2 models are currently reduced in price by $100 at the Microsoft Store.

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Of course, the launch of the Surface Pro 3 without a corresponding Surface 3 suggests that this sale is a way to clear up-to year-old stock for a product refresh. In January, there were rumors circulating that a Surface 3 would appear with a Tegra K1 processor. Of course, with the first two RT-based Surface tablets containing Tegra SoCs, that could just be pattern recognition (rather than concrete information). Other rumors claim that Microsoft is interested in Qualcomm's chips, if only for a "mini" variant.

Either way, you can get a Tegra 4-powered tablet for $349 USD (32 GB), $449 USD (64 GB), or $579 USD (64 GB with LTE from AT&T). Previously, they were $449, $549, and $679, respectively.

HP Readies 14" Notebook Powered By AMD Mullins APU

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 22, 2014 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, notebook, netbook, Mullins, hp, amd, A4 Micro-6400T

According to internal support documents unearthed by Liliputing, HP is preparing to launch a new budget notebook powered by an AMD "Mullins" APU. The HP 14Z-z000, which will also be known as the HP Stream Notebook, is a 14-inch netbook running the full version of Windows 8.1 weighing 3.9 pounds and measuring 13.5" x 9.5" x 0.7". The Stream will be the second device from HP to utilize AMD's latest mobile "Mullins" APUs (the first device being the $250 10-inch Pavilion 10z).

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HP's Stream notebook is a traditional laptop-style design that uses a hinged 1366x768 display, full keyboard, trackpad, 720p webcam, and four Beats Audio speakers. However, internally, the Stream resembles tablet hardware more than laptops because the internal storage, processor, and RAM are not upgradeable. Physical IO ports include one HDMI, one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and a SDXC card slot.

Internally, the Stream uses an AMD A4 Micro-6400T processor, 2GB of RAM, either 32GB or 64GB of eMMC storage, a 802.11n+Bluetooh 4.0 radio, and a 32Whr battery. The A4 Micro-6400T processor is the interesting bit here, as it is a solution that has not seen many design wins yet. This APU is part of AMD's "Mullins" family which is the successor to Temash. The 28nm HKMG chip features four Puma+ cores (improved Jaguar) clocked at 1.6GHz, a 128 core GCN GPU clocked at 350MHz, 2MB of L2 cache, and support for DDR3L 1333MHz memory. The Micro-6400T is rated at 2.8W SDP (Scenario Design Power) and 4.5W TDP (Thermal Design Power). Further, it features TrustZone technology and new power management features that allow it to boost (or downclock) clockspeeds in certain situations with an emphasis on extending battery life.

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HP is bundling the Stream with 100GB of Microsoft OneDrive which is free for two years.

The Stream should be available shortly with a starting price of $199 from HP. I do wish HP was less stingy with batteries in these low power systems (here's looking at you HP X360), but this Mullins-powered netbook should at least be performance competitive with existing Bay Trail based notebooks according to these Mullins APU benchmarks. I would like to see how this midrange APU (The Micro 6700T is actually the top end Mullins) stacks up to the newer Z3770 Atom.

Are you interested in this new generation of budget notebooks?

Also read: AMD Unveils Beema and Mullins: A Greater than Expected Refresh of Kabini

Source: Liliputing

Viva the LIVA sale; ECS' barebone HTPC

Subject: Systems | August 22, 2014 - 10:44 AM |
Tagged: SFF, sale, LIVA, htpc, fanless, ECS

The ECS LIVA is currently on sale at NewEgg for $165 after instant rebate and you can knock another $33 of that price until August 31st with the code LIVADISC. 

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This tiny little machine contains a Bay Trail-M N2807 @ 1.58GHz, 2GB of DDR3L and 32GB eMMC storage with 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 thanks to the NGFF card installed in the M.2 slot.   As you can see below it has both HDMI and D-Sub ports which can be used simultaneously and has onboard stereo audio thanks to the Realtek ALC282.  It only draws 15W and is completely fanless, making it a perfect HTPC.  You can get the full specs from ECS here.

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Source: NewEgg

Falcon Northwest Tiki-Z Special Edition Crams Titan Z And Liquid Cooled i7-4790K CPU Into A Stylish Micro Tower

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 15, 2014 - 10:40 PM |
Tagged: titan z, tiki-z, gtx titan z, gk110, falcon northwest, dual gpu

The Tiki-Z Special Edition is the latest custom PC from boutique vendor Falcon Northwest. This high-end enthusiast system, which starts at $5,614 manages to pack a dual GPU graphics card, liquid cooled CPU, 600W power supply, and up to 6TB of storage into a stylish micro tower that measures a mere 4” wide and 13” tall.

Falcon Northwest has taken the original Tiki chassis and made several notable tweaks to accommodate NVIDIA’s latest dual GPU card: the GeForce GTX TITAN Z which we reviewed here. The case has a custom (partial) side window that shows off the graphics card. This window can be green glass or smoke tinted acrylic with customizable laser cut venting. A ducted intake feeds cool air to the graphics card and vents at the rear and front of the case exhaust hot air. The exterior of the case can be painted in any single color of automobile paint for free or with a fully customized paint scheme with artwork at an additional cost.

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In addition to the Titan Z with its 5,760 CUDA cores, 12GB of memory, and 8.1 TFLOPS of peak compute power, Falcon Northwest has packed a modular small form factor 600W PSU from SilverStone, an ASUS Z97I Plus motherboard, Intel Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” CPU with liquid cooler, up to 16GB of DDR3 1866MHz memory from G.Skill, and up to 6TB of storage (two 1TB SSDs and one 4TB Western Digital Green hard drive). The i7-4970K comes stock clocked at 4GHz (4.4GHz max turbo), but can be overclocked by Falcon Northwest upon request.

Needless to say, that is a lot of hardware to cram into a PC that can easily sit next to your monitor at your desk or in your living room!

The engineering, artwork, and support of this high end system all come at a price, however. The new Titan Z powered boutique PC starts at $5,614 USD and is available now from Falcon Northwest. To sweeten the deal, for a limited time Falcon Northwest is including a free ASUS PB287Q 4K monitor (3820x2160, 60Hz, 1ms response time, see more specification in our review) with each Tiki-Z purchase.

This system is an impressive feat of engineering and it certainly looks sharp with the artwork, custom side panel, and compact form factor. My only concern from a usability standpoint would be noise from the cooling systems for the GPU, CPU radiator, and PSU. One also has to consider that the Titan Z graphics card by itself is priced at $3,000 which puts the Tiki Z pricing back into the somewhat sane world of boutique PC pricing (heh at about $2,600 for the system minus the GPU). No question, this is not going to be a system for everyone and will even be a niche product within the niche market of those enthusiasts interested in pre-built gaming systems. Even so, if noise levels can be held in check it will make for one powerful little gaming box!

There is a GTX 760 in Gigabyte's Brix

Subject: Systems | August 8, 2014 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, gigabyte brix, brix, BXi5G-760

This particular Brix is a lot more powerful than most with an i5-4200H and what they refer to as a GeForce GTX 760 with 6GB of GDDR5.  The GTX 760 is not quite the same as the desktop version, with 1344 shaders as opposed to 1152 and a slightly lower clock at 967MHz Boost for the GPU and 1250MHz for the RAM.  The storage and RAM are left up to you, with the assumption that an SSD will be installed like it was in The Tech Report's review model.  The small system was capable of 1080p gaming at medium to high resolution which is rather impressive considering the heat constraints.

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"Gigabyte's Brix Gaming BXi5G-760 is a mini-PC on steroids, with a discrete Nvidia GPU and a dual-core Haswell CPU inside. Can it hang with traditional gaming PCs? We put it through some tough tests to find out."

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