Xbox Division has a Leader: Julie Larson-Green

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | July 15, 2013 - 02:09 AM |
Tagged: xbox, xbox one

Two weeks have passed since Steve Ballmer informed all Microsoft employees that Don Mattrick would disembark and pursue a career at Zynga for one reason or another. Initially, Ballmer himself was set to scab the void for an uncertain amount of time, further unsettling the upcoming Xbox One launch without a proper manager to oversee. His reign was cut short, best measured in days, when he appointed Julie Larson-Green as the head of Microsoft Devices and Studios.

... because a Christmas gift without ribbon would just be a box... one X box.

Larson_web.jpg

Of course the internet, then, erupted with anxiety: some reasonable concerns, even more (predictably) inane. Larson-Green has a long list of successfully shipped products to her name but, apart from the somewhat cop-out of Windows 7, nothing which resonates with gamers. Terrible sexism and similarly embarrassments boiled over the gaming community, but crazies will always be crazy, especially those adjacent to Xbox Live subscribers.

Operating Systems will be filled by Terry Myerson, who rose to power from the Windows Phone division. This could be a sign of things to come for Windows, particularly as Microsoft continues to push for convergence between x86, RT, and Phone. I would not be surprised to see continued pressure from Microsoft to ingrain Windows Store, and all of its certification pros and woes, into each of their operating systems.

As for Xbox, while Julie is very user experience (UX)-focused, division oversight passed to her long after its flagship product's lifetime high-level plans have been defined. If Windows 7 is any indication, she might not stray too far away from that which has been laid out prior her arrival; likewise, if Windows 8 is any indication, a drastically new direction could just spring without notice.

Source: Microsoft

CompuLab Launches SFF Utilite PC Powered By Quad Core ARM Processor

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 14, 2013 - 11:51 PM |
Tagged: utilite, ubuntu, silent, SFF, linux, fanless, cortex-a9, compulab, arm, Android

CompuLab has announced a new fanless, small form factor PC called the Utilite. This new PC comes from the same company that engineered the MintBox, MintBox 2, and Fit PC series. The Utilite is a low-power desktop PC powered by a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor and runs either Ubuntu Linux or Google’s Android operating system.

The upcoming Utilite measures 5.3” x 3.9” x 0.8”(135 x 100 x 21mm) and consumes anywhere between 3W and 8W of power depending on the particular hardware configuration. It is designed to be a quiet desktop replacement with plenty of IO.

Compulabs Utilite ARM Desktop PC.jpg

CompuLab will provide single core, dual core, and quad core CPU SKUs. Specifically, the Utilite is powered by a Freescale i.MX6 ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor that is clocked at up to 1.2 GHz. Users will be able to further configure the system with up to 4GB of DDR3 1066 MHz memory and a 512GB mSATA SSD. Storage can be further expanded using Micro SD-XC cards (maximum of 128GB per card). The GPU in the SoC is compatible with OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 as well as OpenVG 1.1 and OpenCL EP. It is capable of hardware decoding multi-stream 1080p video in a variety of common formats.

Wireless functionality includes an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card and Bluetooth 3.0.

Compulabs Utilite ARM Desktop PC Cortex-A9 MPCore.jpg

The Utilite has a dark gray case with silver front and rear bezels.

The front of the Utilite PC features the following IO options in addition to the power button and indicator LEDs.

  • 1 x USB OTG (Micro USB)
  • 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
  • 1 x Micro SD card slot
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x 3.5mm audio jacks (line in, line out)

The rear of the PC hosts:

  • 1 x DC power input
  • 1 x Wi-Fi antenna
  • 1 x RS232 (ultra mini serial connector)
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 jacks
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs

According to fanless PC guru FanlessTech, CompuLab will be releasing the ARM-powered Utilite mini PC next month with a starting price of $99 and a variety of SKUs with varying amounts of CPU cores, memory, and storage. The Utilite PC is a bit on the expensive side, but this is a system for industrial and enterprise use as well as consumers, and Olivier from FanlessTech notes that build quality should be on par with those goals/industry aims.

Source: Utilite
Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Lenovo

A 27-in Table PC

While foraging through the land that is Las Vegas during the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show, we ran into Lenovo and they showed us a unique PC design they were calling the "Table PC".  The Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon is a 27-in All-in-One design that is finally available in the market and brings some very interesting design decisions and use cases.

IMG_9738.JPG

At its heart, the IdeaCentre Horizon is a 27-in 1920x1080 display with an AIO PC design that includes some pretty standard Intel-based Ultrabook-style hardware.  That includes an Intel Core i5-3337U dual-core processor, a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX GT620M graphics processor, a 1TB 5400 RPM HDD and 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory. 

But this computer is much more important than simply the hardware it is built around.  Built to switch between a standard AIO configuration but allows for a fold-down, multi-user interface with custom software for interaction, the Horizon attempts to bring life to low-cost computers built for more than one user at a time. 

From a physical perspective, the IdeaCentre Horizon has the normal and expected design cues.  There is an HD webcam up top for Skype calls, touch-based buttons for volume and brightness, indicator lights for drive usage, power states, etc. 

The 1920x1080 10-point touch screen on the Horizon was nice, but not great.  For a 27-in display that you are going to be interfacing with very closely, the pixel density is definitely lower than our 1080p 21-in touch screen AIO floating around the office.  There were some minor glare issues as well, even with the Lenovo "anti-glare coating" while using the Horizon in the fully laid down, flat position.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27-in All-in-One Table PC!!

Zotac Launches New Ivy Bridge-Powered ZBOX Nano SFF PCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | July 12, 2013 - 02:26 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, Nano, Ivy Bridge, Intel, hd 4000

Zotac has announced three new ZBOX Nano SKUs that utilize Intel’s 3rd Generation “Ivy Bridge” processors and HD 4000 processor graphics. The new SKUs include base and PLUS models of ID63, ID 64, and ID65 mini PCs.

Zotac ZBOX Nano with USB 3.jpg

The tiny PCs continue to use the ZBOX Nano form factor of approximately 5 x 5 x 1.8 inches. The front of the small form factor (SFF) PC holds two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, two audio jacks, LEDs, and a power button. The rear of the ZBOX Nano PCs features an external antenna for Wi-Fi along with the following IO.

  • 4 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x eSATA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet

The PC comes with a VESA 75/100 mount for wall mounting or attaching to the back of a monitor.

Internal specifications include an Intel Core i3 3227U (dual core at 1.9GHz), Core i5 3337U (dual core at 1.9GHz base, 2.7GHz turbo), or Core i7 3537U (dual core at 2.0GHz base, 3.1GHz turbo) processor depending on the specific SKU. The base barebones ZBOX Nano PCs support a single DDR3 SO-DIMM (up to 8GB 1600MHz) and a single 2.5” hard drive.

Zotac ZBOX Nano with nanoRAID RAID adapter.jpg

Zotac’s ZBOX Nano Plus units bundle in 4GB of DDR3 and a 500GB hard drive. Zotac also includes a “nanoRAID” adapter that will allow users to switch out a traditional 2.5” storage drive for two mSATA drives. The adapter supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 options as well.

Pricing and availability for the new ZBOX Nano SKUs has not been announced yet, but the mini PCs should be up for sale soon.

The decision to release new models with Ivy Bridge processors instead of Intel's latest Haswell CPUs is a bit strange, but the SFF PCs have likely been in the making and testing phase for a while. I expect Haswell-powered versions to be released at some point in the future but for now the Ivy Bridge models will offer up more performance than previous ZBOX Nano units.

Source: Zotac

New Ultrathin ThinkPad T440S Appears On Lenovo Website

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | July 9, 2013 - 06:40 AM |
Tagged: laptop, Lenovo, Thinkpad, haswell, Intel, windows 8

A new ultrathin laptop for business users has appeared on Lenovo’s website. Called the Lenovo ThinkPad T440S, it is an Intel 4th Generation Core "Haswell"-powered machine running Windows 8.

The ThinkPad T440S features a magnesium and carbon fiber chassis that is 21mm thick. It has a full size, spill resistant, keyboard with multimedia function keys, a TrackPoint, and a multi-touch trackpad. The T440S has a 14” display with optional multi-touch and a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

Lenovo ThinkPad T440S.jpg

This laptop will start at 3.5 pounds. It can be configured with two 3-cell batteries with one internal and one removable battery. In this configuration, users can swap out the removable battery for a spare without powering down the system (a technology Lenovo calls Power Bridge). Other features include a 720p webcam with dual noise canceling mics.

IO includes three USB 3.0 ports, one Mini DisplayPort and one VGA video output, and a SD card reader. The T440S also comes equipped with an NFC radio.

Unfortunately, additional specifications and pricing data is not yet listed on the Lenovo site. If you are a business user in need of a thin and light laptop, keep a lookout on this product page for more information as the laptop gets closer to release.

Source: Lenovo

The Tech Report's summertime build recommendations

Subject: Systems | July 3, 2013 - 04:30 PM |
Tagged: system guide, system build

The PCPer Hardware Leaderboard is not the only system guide to get a summer refresh, The Tech Report have recently updated their recommended builds to include new pricing and more importantly the new hardware that has been launched.  The Econobox is powered by an i3-3220 and a GTX 650 Ti with an estimated cost of $600, with an alternative AMD system that could be configured.  The Sweet Spot has a Core i5-4430 on ASUS' Z87-K with an HD 7870 for a hair over $1000 while the Editor's Choice is about $1500 and sports better hardware all around.  For the real beast you need to read through to the Double Stuff workstation which sports the best of the best; check them all out here.

TR_money.jpg

"Over a few short months, we've seen the arrival of Intel's Haswell processors, AMD's Richland APUs, and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 700 series. In this latest edition of the TR system guide, we've revamped our builds to take these launches—and other pricing and availability changes—into account."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

PVC Load Letter? The Crap Does That Mean?

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 28, 2013 - 03:11 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, MakerBot, BUILD 2013, BUILD

Even Microsoft believes that 3D printing is a cool movement.

Windows 8.1 will include native support for the 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutting devices. According to a stage demo at BUILD, Microsoft expects printing in 3D will be as easy as printing in 2D. It might be hard to think of more than a few practical applications for a home user to have access to such hardware, but often people will not realize when they avoid what could have been easily solved with the right tools.

makerbot-replicator-2.jpg

Windows 8.1 will add the following features for its implementation:

  • A standardized driver model for 3D Printers, CNC machines, and laser cutting devices
  • APIs for apps to interface with the above drivers
  • Device apps and extensions through the Windows Store
  • Job spooling and queuing
  • Easy ways to query what the device and its capabilities

The reliance upon the Windows Store might tell the larger tale. It appears that Microsoft is giving the nod to the maker community, not out of excitement, but to enable app developers to interface with these devices. Could the "modern" Windows APIs provide enough flexibility for 3D printing apps to exist without Microsoft's support? What about the next classification of peripherals?

All pondering aside...

The demo involved Antoine Leblond, of Microsoft, printing a vase from a MakerBot Replicator 2. According to TechCrunch, MakerBot will not only invade Windows 8.1 but also be stocked at Microsoft Stores. This is a solid retail win for the maker movement, giving users a chance throw one of these in the back seat of the car and drive it home from the store.

Source: TechCrunch

The Titan's Overthrown. Tianhe-2 Supercomputer New #1

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | June 26, 2013 - 10:27 PM |
Tagged: supercomputing, supercomputer, titan, Xeon Phi

The National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho, China, will host the the world's fastest supercomputer by the end of the year. The Tianhe-2, English: "Milky Way-2", is capable of nearly double the floating-point performance of Titan albeit with slightly less performance per watt. The Tianhe-2 was developed by China's National University of Defense Technology.

tianhe-2-jack-dongarra-pdf-600x0.jpg

Photo Credit: Top500.org

Comparing new fastest computer with the former, China's Milky Way-2 is able to achieve 33.8627 PetaFLOPs of calculations from 17.808 MW of electricity. The Titan, on the other hand, is able to crunch 17.590 PetaFLOPs with a draw of just 8.209 MW. As such, the new Milky Way-2 uses 12.7% more power per FLOP than Titan.

Titan is famously based on the Kepler GPU architecture from NVIDIA, coupled with several 16-core AMD Opteron server processors clocked at 2.2 GHz. This concept of using accelerated hardware carried over into the design of Tianhe-2, which is based around Intel's Xeon Phi coprocessor. If you include the simplified co-processor cores of the Xeon Phi, the new champion is the sum of 3.12 million x86 cores and 1024 terabytes of memory.

... but will it run Crysis?

... if someone gets around to emulating DirectX in software, it very well could.

Source: Top500

What's new on the Hardware Leaderboard?

Subject: Systems | June 20, 2013 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: hwlb, Richland, haswell

It has been quite a long time since we have seen new processors on the HWLB, Ivy Bridge has enjoyed a long reign as the most powerful consumer chip for high end and mid-range machines and the A10 -5800K Trinity has been on the Low End machine since its initial release.  All three system recommendations have now change with the release of Haswell and Richland.

lowend.png

Starting with the most affordable machine, the $455 Low End machine is now powered by the brand new AMD A8-6600K Richland, not the fast chip but a good compromise if you insist on picking up a discrete GPU for hybrid Crossfire.  If you skip that GPU you can opt to spend $30 for the A10-6800K and reduce the total cost of the system by $35.  MSI's FM2-A85XA-G65 motherboard will provide a stable platform to run on but please update the BIOS to take full advantage of Richland's new features.

midrange.png

The Mid-Range system has moved up to Haswell, perhaps not a great upgrade from an existing Ivy Bridge system but perfect for a new build.  The i5-4670K is the lowest priced unlocked chip from Intel, a good choice considering the lockdown on overclocking on the non-K parts.  MSI's Z87-G43 was chosen for the flexibility of output ports but it does only sport a single 16x PCIe slot, if you expect to upgrade to a system with dual GPUs the 4670K would be a bottleneck and you are better off saving your pennies for the High End system.  Also new is the XFX Double D HD 7870 GHz and Block Edition which sports a custom cooling solution to go with its hefty factory overclock.  This system offers you a lot of ways to tweak performance and if you are just starting to dabble in overclocking this system would be a great place to start.

highend.png

Intel has finally dethroned the i7-3770K which lasted longer than just about any other part has on the HWLB, the new i7-4770K is now available with the wide variety of new features offered by Haswell.  The chip also needs a new home and the very impressive, and golden, ASUS Z87-EXPERT is perfect for this chip as it sports a huge amount of SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0, and audio ports along with PCIe 16x and Thunderbolt.  Also new this month is NVIDIA's GTX770 which will offer you all the performance of the GTX680 but at the same price as the previous pick, the GTX 670.

The Dream system remains mostly unchanged for now, Ivy Bridge E just offers more power for the truly extreme user.  Keep your eye out for updates though, there are more releases scheduled this year that could make it onto the PCPer HWLB!

Giada D2308 Is a SFF Router-Sized Mini PC With Haswell CPU and a Discrete GPU

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | June 20, 2013 - 12:42 AM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell, gtx 650, giada

Giada Technology has launched a new small form factor desktop PC with its upcoming D2308. The successor to the Giada D2305, the D2308 is a tiny PC that can be used for a variety of workloads. The mini PC, with up to a 70W system TDP, features an Intel "Haswell" processor and a discrete NVIDIA GPU (most likely mobile parts), which makes it a fairly powerful machine for the size!

The D2308 is enclosed in a black chassis with curved edges. Three Wi-Fi antennas stick up from the back of the PC. It looks rather like a home router or the mintBox PC, actually.

Giada D2308 SFF Mini PC.jpg

Internally, the Giada D2308 uses an Intel Core-i5 or Core i7 Fourth Generation Core CPU, a NVIDIA GTX 650 GPU with 1GB of video memory, up to 16GB DDR3 memory (in two SODIMM slots), a Realtek ALC662 5.1 HD audio codec, TPM module support, and two mini-PCI-E connectors for things like wireless cards or storage drives. The SFF PC can also accommodate a single 2.5" mechanical hard drive or SSD.

According to eTeknix, external IO includes two USB 2.0 ports, three USB 3.0 ports, a SD card reader, two HDMI video outputs, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and analog audio outputs. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced.

I have reached out to Giada for more information on the small form factor PC, but did not hear back from them in time for publication. I will update this post if the company responds to our questions. Although the D2308 is not a fan-less PC, it appears to have good hardware and would do well at a variety of HTPC, desktop, or office PC tasks.

Update: A Giada PC representative responded to our request for more information to let us know that the SFF PC uses the fourth generation Core i5/i7 processors and HM87 chipset along with NVIDIA GTX 650 graphics. It should be available towards the end of July.

Source: ETeknix