Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems | May 21, 2013 - 05:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox
Almost exactly three months have passed since Sony announced the Playstation 4 and just three weeks remain until E3. Ahead of the event, Microsoft unveiled their new Xbox console: The Xbox One. Being so close to E3, they are saving the majority of games until that time. For now, it is the box itself as well as its non-gaming functionality.
First and foremost, the raw specifications:
- AMD APU (5 billion transistors, 8 core, on-die eSRAM)
- 8GB RAM
- 500GB Storage, Bluray reader
- USB 3.0, 802.11n, HDMI out, HDMI in
The hardware is a definite win for AMD. The Xbox One is based upon an APU which is quite comparable to what the PS4 will offer. Unlike previous generations, there will not be too much differentiation based on available performance; I would not expect to see much of a fork in terms of splitscreen and other performance-sensitive features.
A new version of the Kinect sensor will also be present with all units which developers can depend upon. Technically speaking, the camera is higher resolution and more wide-angle; up to six skeletons can be tracked with joints able to rotate rather than just hinge. Microsoft is finally also permitting developers to use the Kinect along with a standard controller to, as they imagine, allow a user to raise their controller to block with a shield. That is the hope, but near the launch of the original Kinect, Microsoft filed a patent to allow sign language recognition: has not happened yet. Who knows whether the device will be successfully integrated into gaming applications.
Of course Microsoft is known most for system software, and the Xbox runs three lightweight operating environments. In Windows 8, you have the Modern interface which runs WinRT applications and you have the desktop app which is x86 compatible.
The Xbox One borrows more than a little from this model.
The home screen, which I am tempted to call the Start Screen, for the console has a very familiar tiled interface. They are not identical to Windows but they are definitely consistent. This interface allows for access to Internet Explorer and an assortment of apps. These apps can be pinned to the side of the screen, identical to Windows 8 modern app. I am expecting there to be "a lot of crossover" (to say the least) between this and the Windows Store; I would not be surprised if it is basically the same API. This works both when viewing entertainment content as well as within a game.
These three operating systems run at the same time. The main operating system is basically a Hyper-V environment which runs the two other operating systems simultaneously in sort-of virtual machines. These operating systems can be layered with low latency, since all you are doing is compositing them in a different order.
Lastly, they made reference to Xbox Live, go figure. Microsoft is seriously increasing their server capacity and expects developers to utilize Azure infrastructure to offload "latency-insensitive" computation for games. While Microsoft promises that you can play games offline, this obviously does not apply to features (or whole games) which rely upon the back-end infrastructure.
And yes, I know you will all beat up on me if I do not mention the SimCity debacle. Maxis claimed that much of the game requires an online connection due to the complicated server requirements; after a crack allowed offline functionality, it was clear that the game mostly operates fine on a local client. How much will the Xbox Live cloud service offload? Who knows, but that is at least their official word.
Now to tie up some loose ends. The Xbox One will not be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games although that is no surprise. Also, Microsoft says they are allowing users to resell and lend games. That said, games will be installed and not require the disc, from what I have heard. Apart from the concerns about how much you can run on a single 500GB drive, once the game is installed rumor has it that if you load it elsewhere (the rumor is even more unclear about whether "elsewhere" counts accounts or machines) you will need to pay a fee to Microsoft. In other words? Basically not a used game.
Well, that has it. You can be sure we will add more as information comes forth. Comment away!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems, Mobile | May 14, 2013 - 03:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: haswell, nec
While we are not sure when it will be released or whether it will be available for North America, we have found a Haswell laptop. Actually, NEC will release two products in this lineup: a high end 1080p unit and a lower end 1366x768 model. Unfortuantely, the article is in Japanese.
IPS displays have really wide viewing angles, even top and bottom.
NEC is known for their higher-end monitors; most people equate the Dell Ultrasharp panels with professional photo and video production, but their top end offers are ofter a tier below the best from companies like NEC and Eizo. The laptops we are discussing today both contain touch-enabled IPS panels with apparently double the contrast ratio of what NEC considers standard. While these may or may not be the tip-top NEC offerings, they should at least be putting in decent screens.
Obviously the headliner for us is the introduction of Haswell. While we do not know exactly which product NEC decided to embed, we do know that they are relying upon it for their graphics performance. With the aforementioned higher-end displays, it seems likely that NEC is intending this device for the professional market. A price-tag of 190000 yen (just under $1900 USD) for the lower end and 200000 yen (just under $2000 USD) for the higher end further suggests this is their target demographic.
Clearly a Japanese model.
The professional market does not exactly have huge requirements for graphics performance, but to explicitly see NEC trust Intel for their GPU performance is an interesting twist. Intel HD 4000 has been nibbling, to say the least, on the discrete GPU marketshare in laptops. I would expect this laptop would contain one of the BGA-based parts, which are soldered onto the motherboard, for the added graphics performance.
As a final note, the higher-end model will also contain a draft 802.11ac antenna. It is expected that network performance could be up to 867 megabits as a result.
Of course I could not get away without publishing the raw specifications:
LL850/MS (Price: 200000 yen):
- Fourth-generation Intel Core processor with onboard video
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 1TB HDD w/ 32GB SSD caching
- BDXL (100-128GB BluRay disc) drive
- IEEE 802.11ac WiFi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0
- SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, 2x2W stereo Yamaha speakers
- 1080p IPS display with touch support
- Office Home and Business 2013 preinstalled?
LL750/MS (Price: 190000 yen):
- Fourth-generation Intel Core processor with onboard video
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 1TB HDD (no SSD cache)
- (Optical disc support not mentioned)
- IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0
- SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, 2x2W stereo Yamaha speakers
- 1366x768 (IPS?) touch-enabled display
Power and Value
We have seen our fair share of mini-ITX cases and system builds over the last six months, including rigs from Digital Storm and AVADirect. They attempt to offer a balance between performance, power, noise and size and some do it better than others. With the continued development of the mini-ITX form factor more users than ever are realizing you can get nearly top-end performance for gaming in a smaller package.
Today we are taking a look at the iBuyPower Revolt, in particular the Revolt R770, the highest end base offering of the system. Built around a small, but not tiny, PC chassis iBuyPower is able to include some pretty impressive specifications:
- Intel Core i7-3770K processor
- Custom built Z77 mini-ITX motherboard
- NZXT CPU water cooler
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 2GB graphics cards
- 8GB DDR3-1600 memory
- 120 GB Intel 320 Series SSD
- 1TB Western Digital Blue hard drive
You get all of this in a case that is only 16-in x 16-in x 4.5-in built with a glossy black and white color scheme. The company claims that the Revolt was "designed to be a gaming system for any location" including a home theater, a dorm room or in your study. It includes "vents and air channels positioned precisely to deliver cool ambient air exactly where it is needed" and "integrated atmospheric lighting system is customizable in color."
Check out or quick video review below and then follow on to the full post for more photos of the system and a quick check of performance!
Subject: Systems | May 9, 2013 - 12:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Sometimes it is much easier to buy a complete gaming system than to build one yourself for a variety of reasons, perhaps one good reason would be a two year warranty so you won't have to worry about spending your quality time with a recalcitrant PC. The Alienware X51 sports some nice components for the price tag such as a Core i7-3770 @ 3.4GHz, 8GB DDR3, a 2TB SATA III Hard Drive, and Blu-ray. Perhaps the only possible letdown is the GeForce GTX 660 1.5GB, but consider the price and the form factor before you dismiss the system. Also worth noting, it ships with Win7 64bit, not Win8.
1. Start here at Dell Home direct store
2. Configure as per needs (optional), click Review & Buy button at the top
3. Add to cart
4. Apply coupon code: BHW1L0MX0D?MCX in shopping cart and proceed to final checkout/payment
Subject: Systems | May 8, 2013 - 03:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, zotac, zbox id88, zbox id89
HONG KONG – May 8, 2013 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and leading manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today supercharges the ZBOX mini-PC with desktop Intel Core i5 and i3 processors for outstanding performance that can match and outpace larger full-size desktop PCs. The new 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors ushers in a new era of performance to the mini-PC form factor.
“Users demanded the same performance as larger desktop PCs from our ZBOX but the small size made it virtually impossible to deliver the same performance as desktop PCs. After many months of engineering and fine tuning, we came up with a solution that enables us to install desktop LGA1155 socket Intel Core i5 and i3 processors without sacrificing size, noise or power consumption that will make our end users very happy,” says Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International.
Users have two choices of processor with the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors. Casual users seeking great performance for everyday computing can opt for the dual-core Intel Core i3 3220T-equipped ZBOX ID88 series while more demanding users can step up to the Intel Core i5 3470T-equipped ZBOX ID89 series.
The Intel Core i5 3470T processor adds Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology to intelligently increase clock speeds of individual processor cores up to 3.6 GHz depending on computing demands of the operating system and applications. Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d) enhances virtualization capabilities on the Intel Core i5 3470T for superior performance for virtualization uses.
Intel HD Graphics 2500 graphics processing transforms the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors into powerhouse HTPCs with Intel Quick Sync Video technology for lightning fast video conversions, Intel InTru 3D technology for stunning and smooth Blu-ray 3D playback with advanced audio technologies, and Intel Clear Video HD technology for hardware-accelerated high-definition video playback.
It’s time to play with the 3rd Generation ZOTAC ZBOX with Intel Core Processors.
ZBOX ID88 series
Intel Core i3 3220T (dual-core, 2.8 GHz)
ZBOX ID89 series
Intel Core i5 3470T (dual-core, 2.9 GHz, up to 3.6 GHz Turbo)
Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology
PLUS models available with preinstalled memory and hard drive
HDMI & DVI-I outputs
802.11n Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0 w dual external WiFi antennas
Dual Gigabit Ethernet
High-amperage USB charging capable (yellow ports)
Bundled MCE-compatible remote w USB IR receiver
Bundled VESA75100 mount
Subject: Systems | May 6, 2013 - 04:06 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Lenovo, IdeaCentre B540, win8, all in one
Lenovo's IdeaCentre B540 is an all in one PC, built into a 23" 1080p touchscreen that should make using Win8 a little more user friendly. The specs are not up to gaming, the Core i3-3220 @ 3.3GHz only has Intel HD2500 graphics but with 6GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD it should serve well as a light workstation or home PC. TechReviewSource does mention a higher end model containing a Core i5 CPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU but with the heat constraints of this type of form factor you are still going to have troubles playing the newest FPSes. Check out their preview here.
"The stylish design of the Lenovo IdeaCentre B540 is one that catches our eye in tandem with its budget price tag. The 23-inch 1080p touch screen works well with Windows 8 and looks great for multimedia viewing. Performance is good, especially for the price, but it does make a slight compromise with a Core i3 CPU."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- The Tech Report's April 2013 System Guide
- Dell XPS 18 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Dell XPS One 27 Review: affordable large screen all-in-one @ Hardware.info
- Acer Aspire A5600U-UB13 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Gateway DX4870-UB17 Review @ TechReviewSource
- BUYPOWER Revolt SFF Desktop Gaming PC @ Tweaktown
- Raspberry Pi Review @ Tech-Reviews.co.uk
- PC Specialist Vanquish X200 Gaming Rig @ eTeknix
Subject: Systems | April 24, 2013 - 06:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sapphire, htpc, edge VS8
Sapphire continues to improve their Edge mini-PCs, the VS8 sports an quad core A8-4555M @ 1.6GHz with HD 7600G, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB 2.5-inch SATA hard drive, not the most powerful GPU on the planet but more than enough for an HTPC. The entire system is 19.7x18.2x3.1cm, about the size of a 5.25" drive and has both WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity. For outputs you can choose between Mini Display Port and HDMI for video and optical and line out for audio as well as a line in if you need that connectivity. TechSpot really liked this machine but they would like to see a more expensive model with an SSD inside to really make the system snappy.
"While full-sized desktop computers are still around, tablets and smartphones have proven that technology has come far enough to essentially cram a fully capable computer into a space that is suitable for your pants pocket, a purse, or a small backpack. This idea of shrinking hardware hasn’t been overlooked by manufacturers as several now feature space-saving designs based on mobile hardware.
Such is the case with Sapphire’s new Edge VS8 mini-PC powered by AMD’s A8 APU. The system is hardly any larger than an external optical drive, while still packing 4GB of DDR3 memory, Radeon HD 7600G graphics, a 500GB SATA HDD, built-in support for Bluetooth 3.0 as well as 802.11 b/g/n wireless and a bevy of rear I/O connections."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ASRock VisionX HTOC 321B Ivy Bridge mini-PC @ techPowerUp
- CompuLab Intense PC System Review: Fanless Ivy Bridge @ AnandTech
- Pivos XIOS DS Media Player @ Bjorn3D
- Pivos Xios DS Media Player Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Pivos XIOS DS Media Box @ Funky Kit
- Roku 3 Review @ TechReviewSource
- WD TV Play Review @ TechReviewSource
- Belkin @TV Plus review: TV always, everywhere @ Hardware.info
- Pivos Technology XIOS DS Media Play Smart TV Companion Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 22, 2013 - 06:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Kickstarter, oculus rift, Virtuix Omni
Even if you no-one watches you game, this device would probably be difficult to store in a closet.
Team Fortress 2 is a fun game and one of the first with support for the Oculus Rift VR headset. But why stop there? The Omni is an omnidirectional treadmill which allows users to move within the device and have that motion translate into computer input. This means that running, strafing, and apparently jumping in your containing vessel will control a videogame character.
How the heck they expect to Scout double-jump? Beats me.
The company is currently in preparation for a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. Under the assumption that no trickery is going on, this could be a leap forward for VR.
Perhaps a small-business arcade might like to get a few gaming PCs set up? To me, it sounds like an interesting novelty previously reserved for theme parks and traveling mall demonstrations. If it works as planned, it might even be a better technology.
Still no word on price or predicted availability, but I expect that will come soon.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | April 20, 2013 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, start button, Metro
The latest rumors, based on registry digging and off-the-record testimony, claims that Windows 8.1 will including the option of booting directly into the desktop. A bold claim such as this requires some due diligence. Comically, the attempts to confirm this rumor has unearthed another: the start button, but not necessarily the start menu, could return. On the record, Microsoft also wants to be more open to customer feedback. Despite these recent insights into the future of Windows, all's quiet with the worst aspect of modernization.
Mary Jo Foley, contributor to ZDNet and very reliable bullcrap filter for Microsoft rumors, learned from a reliable source that the Start Button might have a place in the modern Windows. Quite the catch while fishing to validate a different rumor; she was originally investigating whether Microsoft would consider allowing users to boot direct to desktop via recently unearthed registry keys. Allegedly both are being planned for at least some SKUs of Windows 8.1, namely the Professional and Enterprise editions.
But, as usual for Microsoft, the source emphasized, "Until it ships, anything can change." No-one was clear about the Start Button from a functional standpoint: would it be bound to display the Start Screen? Would it be something more?
Personally, I liked the modern Windows interface. Sure, it is messed up on the modern-side when it comes to multiple monitor support, but that can easily be fixed. As you will note, I am still actively boycotting everything beyond Windows 7 and this news will not change my mind. We are bickering over interface elements when the real concern is the deprecation of user control. Outside of the desktop: the only applications you can use are from the Windows Store or Windows Update; the only websites you can browse are ones which Internet Explorer can render; and the only administrator is Microsoft.
Imagine if Microsoft is told by a government that its citizens are not allowed encryption applications.
The Windows Store is clearly modeled by, and about as messed up as, the Xbox Marketplace. Even if your application gets certified, would Microsoft eventually determine that certification fees should be the burden of the developer? That is how it is on the Xbox with each patch demanding a price tag of about $40,000 after the first-one-free promotion. That would be pretty hard to swallow for an open-source application or a cute game that a teenage woman makes for her significant other as a Valentine's gift.
Microsoft's current Chief Financial Officer, Peter Klein, stated in his third quarter earnings release that Windows Blue, "Further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback." Despite how abrupt this change would seem, the recent twitchy nature should not come as a surprise; Microsoft has had a tendency to completely change course on products for quite some time now. Mary Jo mentioned how Microsoft changed course on UAC but even that is a bad example; a better one is how Microsoft changed from its initial assertions that Windows 8 Developer Preview would not be shaped by customer feedback.
A lot has changed between Developer Preview and RTM.
Then again, we can hope that Microsoft associates this pain with love for the desktop. I would be comfortable with the modern Windows if we were given a guarantee that desktop x86 applications would forever be supported. I might even reconsider using and developing applications if they allow loading uncertified metro-style applications and commit to never removing that functionality.
I can get used to a new method of accessing my applications. I can never get used to a middle-man who only says "no". If Microsoft is all ears, I hope we make this point loud and clear.
Subject: Systems | April 19, 2013 - 03:56 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: servers, project moonshot, microserver, hp, arm, Applied Micro Circuits, 64-bit
A recent press release from AppliedMicro (Applied Micro Circuits Corporation) announced that the company’s X-Gene server on a chip technology would be used in an upcoming HP Project Moonshot server.
An HP Moonshot server (expect the X-Gene version to be at least slightly different).
The X-Gene is a 64-bit ARM SoC that combines ARM processing cores with networking and storage offload engines as well as a high-speed interconnect networking fabric. AppliedMicro designed the chip to provide ARM-powered servers that will reportedly reduce the Total Cost of Ownership of running webservers in a data center by reducing upfront hardware and ongoing electrical costs.
The X-Gene chips that will appear in HP’s Project Moonshot servers feature a SoC with eight AppliedMicro-designed 64-bit ARMv8 cores clocked at 2.4GHz, four ARM Cortex A5 cores for running the Software Defined Network (SDN) controller, and support for storage IO, PCI-E IO, and integrated Ethernet (four 10Gb Ethernet links). The X-Gene chips are located on card-like daughter cards that slot into a carrier board that has networking fabric to connect all the X-Gene cards (and the SoCs on those cards). Currently, servers using X-Gene SoCs require a hardware switch to connect all of the X-Gene cards in a rack. However, the next-generation 28nm X-Gene chips will eliminate the need for a rack-level hardware switch as well as featuring 100Gb networking links).
The X-Gene chips in HP Project Moonshot will use relatively little power compared to Xeon-based solutions. AppliedMicro has stated that eh X-Gene chips will be at least two-times as power efficient, but has not officially release power consumption numbers for the X-Gene chips under load. However, at idle the X-Gene SoCs will use as little as 500mW and 300mW of power at idle and standby (sleep mode) respectively. The 64-bit quad issue, Out of Order Execution chips are some of the most-powerful ARM processors to date, though they will soon be joined by ARM’s own 64-bit design(s). I think the X-Gene chips are intriquing, and I am excited to see how well they fare in the data center environment running server applications. ARM has handily taken over the mobile space, but it is still relatively new in the server world. Even so, the 64-bit ARM chips by AppliedMicro (X-Gene) and others are the first step towards ARM being a viable option for servers.
According to AppliedMicro, HP Project Moonshot servers with X-Gene SoCs will be available later this year. You can find the press blast below.
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