Chromebook Pixel Not a Joke, Just Its Price.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 25, 2013 - 02:18 AM |
Tagged: Chromebook Pixel, Chromebook

We have covered many Chrome OS-based devices, even a pair of reviews, but we have never seen the platform attempt to target the higher-end of the price spectrum. As you could guess by my ominous writing tone, that has changed.

The Chromebook Pixel.

The development commentary video could have been an Apple advertisement. We will embed it below, but it definitely had that whimsical tone we all know and groan. The Pixel was heavily focused on design and screen quality.

The display is quite small, just under 13”, but it has a higher resolution than professional-grade 30” monitors. It leapfrogs Catleap. When trying to visualize the use case, the first thought which comes to mind is a second PC for someone to take with them. If you can get a really high resolution experience with that, then bonus. Right?

The specifications, according to their Best Buy product page, are actually quite decent for a web browser-focused device.

  • Ivy Bridge Core i5
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 32GB SSD
  • Intel HD 4000 Graphics
  • With the low cost of RAM

The downside? The price starts at $1299 USD and goes up from there. You can get a larger SSD and LTE for just 150$ more, at the $1449 price point if you can wait until April.

Once you factor in the price, and a mighty big factor that is too, it makes it really difficult to figure out who Google is targeting. The only explanation which makes sense to me is a high-end laptop which is easy for IT departments to manage for executives and students.

Lastly, 4GB of RAM is ridiculously cheap nowadays. Could it have killed them to add in a little extra RAM to get more headroom? Also, what about the lack of connectivity to external displays? (Update: Sorry, just found mini displayport on the product tech specs.)

Source: Google Blogs

Sony's Fourth Playstation (PS4) Specs Revealed

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 20, 2013 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4

We're currently in the middle of Sony's Playstation announcement and right off the bat they discussed system specifications.

(Update 2: Press conference was over a few hours ago, and we now have an official press release.)

PS4-01.png

The Playstation 4, as it will be titled, is very similar to a mid-range gaming PC. When discussing with developers, they requested for Sony to stick with a typical x86-based architecture. Of course that does not stop Sony from describing it as a “Supercharged PC architecture”. Still, they do seem to have quite a decent amount of hardware in this box.

  • 8-core x86 CPU
  • 2 Teraflops GPU integrated on same die (update: chip).
  • I did not hear AMD mentioned, but it totally is.
  • 8GB GDDR5 RAM (shared)
  • Stereo Camera on the controller with a light bar, like the Wii, to judge distance to TV.
  • Also touch sensor in the controller.
  • (Update/correction: At least a ...) Spindle-based Hard Drive

While these specifications have been sufficiently leaked in the recent past, we have not been able to pin down exactly how much RAM is provided. We found the development kit contained 8GB of system memory. The problem is that development kits require more RAM than the system it pretends to be to account for development tools and unoptimized assets.

As it turns out, the system itself will contain 8GB of GDDR5 shared between the CPU and GPU, which is quite a lot. Developers will need to finally push the PC platform past the 4GB RAM+VRAM 32-bit barrier in order to keep up with the next generation consoles.

Most of our gaming limitations were due to art assets being limited by memory constraints. Thanks to the new Sony console, PC releases could finally be taken off the 512MB-long leash of Sony and Microsoft.

(Update 2, cont.: The press release has official tech specs as below but are "subject to change")

 

Main Processor
Single-Chip Custom Processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 Teraflops, AMD next-generation Radeon(tm)-based graphics engine
Memory GDDR5 8GB
Hard Disk Drive Built-in
Optical Drive (Read-Only)
BD 6x CAV
DVD 8x CAV
I/O Ports Super-Speed USB (USB3.0), AUX
Communication
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 (EDR)
AV output
HDMI
Analog-AV out
Digital Out

So clearly Sony was slightly rounding up when they claimed it was a 2 Teraflop GPU. Still, this looks to be a healthy computer.

We now have the official confirmation we needed that AMD Jaguar cores will power the PS4. Given AMD's big wins in the console platforms, I would wonder if game developers would be able to take some of the tricks they will learn in a few years and be able to start optimizing PC gamers for AMD CPUs.

GPUs too for that matter... this could mean a lot for AMD's PC gamers.

Beat SAD with a new system build

Subject: Systems | February 13, 2013 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: DIY, econobox, sweet spot, double stuff

The Tech Report has updated their System Guide for February and added in a new SFF build as well as instructional videos on building a PC for those just joining the enthusiast crowd.  The four price points that they aim for are $600, $1,000, $1,500, and $3,000 and range from an EconoBox for basic usage up to the Double Stuff workstation and of course the new Mighty Mite system.  Head on over to see what they've assembled and feel free to contrast it with our own Hardware Leaderboard.

TR_prodigy-stock.jpg

"In the latest edition of the TR System Guide, we've tweaked our usual builds to incorporate newer components and price changes, making our recommended systems better than ever. We've also included a small-form-factor gaming build priced just under $1,000."

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Now console gamers can share with YouTube too

Subject: Systems | February 12, 2013 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: htpc, Hauppauge, HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition

Now that capturing PC gaming is so easy to do, through either software or hardware, game walkthroughs and trick videos are commonplace on YouTube but the console gamers have not had that ability until recently.  XSReviews recently took a look at the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition which is a device that sits on an HDMI connection between your console or PC and your display and is capable of either passing through or recording a 1080p signal.  Unfortunately their testing did not go smoothly and even after updating the software they had issues recording or even playing at 1080p, however at 720p the device worked as advertised.  If you are needing to record at full resolution you might want to wait for another patch as you might run into some of the same issues.

XSR_10-front.jpg

"On PC, it’s pretty easy to record footage of your games. Whether you’re using streaming software like XSplit or recording directly to your hard drive with Fraps, getting your gameplay out there is fairly well understood.

For consoles, it’s much harder – with a locked down environment devoid of third party applications, you can’t just download a program off the ‘net and start recording. Instead, you’ll need some physical hardware to do the job.

Enter the Hauppage HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition. This small cuboid is designed to make recording and even streaming your gameplay incredibly simple – just hook up a few wires and, if the back of the box is to be believed, you’ll be away.

In this review, we’ll put that to the test as we enter the exciting world of console recording and streaming!"

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Source: XSReviews

NVDIMM: Nonvolatile... Not NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech, Memory, Systems | February 10, 2013 - 03:44 AM |
Tagged: NVDIMM, micron, IMFT NAND, imft

So a RAM chip, a NAND module, and an “ultracapacitor” walk into stick...

This week Micron released a press blast for technology called, “NVDIMM”. The goal is to create memory modules which perform as quickly as DRAM but can persist without power. At this point you could probably guess the acronym: Nonvolatile Dual In-line Memory Module. It has been around for a few years now, but it is in the news now so let's chat about it.

I often like to play the game, “Was this named by an engineer or a marketer?” You can typically tell who was responsible for naming something by gauging how literally it breaks down into a simple meaning versus not having any apparent meaning at all. A good example of an engineer name is UHF, which breaks down into ultra-high frequency because it's higher than VHF, very-high frequency. A good example of a marketing name would be something like “Centrino”, which sounds like the biggest little penny-slot machine in the world. I would quite comfortable guessing that NVDIMM was named by an engineer.

NVDIMM.jpg

This is AgigA Tech's module, who provides the capacitors for Micron and their NVDIMMs.

The actual makeup of NVDIMMs is quite sensible: DIMMs are fast but die when the power goes out. You could prevent the power from going out but it takes quite a lot of battery life to keep a computer online for extended periods of time. NAND Flash is quite slow, relative to DIMMs, in normal operation but can persist without power for very long periods of time. Also, modern-day capacitors are efficient and durable enough to keep DIMMs powered for long enough to be copied to flash memory.

As such, if the power goes out: memory is dumped to flash on the same chip. When power is restored, DIMMs get reloaded and continue on their merry way.

According to the Micron press release, the first NVDIMM was demonstrated last November at SC12. That module contained twice as much NAND as it did DIMM memory: 8GB of Flash for 4GB of RAM. Micron did not specify why they required having that much extra Flash memory although my gut instinct is to compensate for write wearing problems. A two-fold increase to offset NAND that had just one too many write operations seems like quite a lot compared to consumer drives. That said, SSDs do not have to weather half of their whole capacity being written to each time the computer shuts down.

Who knows, double-provisioning might even be too little in practice.

Source: Micron

Arctic Releases MC001-XBMC HTPC Running XBMC 12

Subject: Systems | February 6, 2013 - 10:55 AM |
Tagged: xbmc 12, SFF, openelec 3.0, htpc, arctic

Arctic has released a small form factor PC that comes pre-installed with the recently-released XBMC 12 media center software. The Arctic MC001-XBMC is available in the United States and Europe. It measures 161 x 40 x 266mm with the PC attached to the stand. The MC001-XBMC comes in black or white and should fit easily into your AV rack.

The HTPC can be used to playback a variety of music and video file formats and can also be used as a network attached storage (NAS) device. On the software side of things, it comes pre-loaded with XBMC 12 “Frodo” and Openelec 3.0. It can act as a media center and television PVR.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (2).png

The HTPC is powered by a dual core Intel Atom D525 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 with 512MB of GDDR3 memory, 2GB DDR3 1333MHz system memory, and a 1TB laptop hard drive (5400 RPM). Networking is handled by a Gigabit Ethernet controller and a 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi radio.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (3).png

The front of the system includes an IR receiver, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks (headphone/mic), and a card reader. The back of the MC001-XBMC features the following IO options.

  • 6 x analog audio jacks
  • 1 x S/PDIF optical audio output
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 5 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x DVB-T connector for the ATSC tuner
  • 1 x DC power jack (19V, 60W)

The XBMC 12 UI is a Windows Media Center alternative, and while setting up TV recording features requires additional software and is more difficult to setup it is otherwise a decent media center experience. Users can control the HTPC using the included infrared remote or via apps on Android or iOS smartphones.

MC001-XBMC(US) SFF HTPC (1).png

The MC001-XBMC comes with a two year warranty and has an MSRP of $229 US or EUR 199. It is no speed demon by any means, but the SFF system is plenty of hardware to playback up to 1080p video files.

Source: Arctic

Dell Goes Private, Microsoft Loans Some Help

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | February 5, 2013 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: dell

Dell, dude, you're getting a Dell!

So it is official that Dell is going private. Michael Dell, CEO, as well as: Silver Lake, MSD Capital, several banks, and Dell itself will buy back stocks from investors 25% above the January 11th trading price. The whole deal would be worth $24.4 billion USD.

dell.jpg

Going private allows the company to make big shifts in their business without answering to investors on a quarterly basis. We can see how being a publicly traded company seems to hinder businesses after they grow beyond what a cash infusion can assist. Even Apple finds it necessary to keep an absolutely gigantic pile of cash to play with, only recently paying dividends to investors.

Also contributing to the buyback, as heavily reported, is a $2 billion USD loan from Microsoft. While it sounds like a lot in isolation, it is only just over 8% of the whole deal. All you really can pull is that it seems like Microsoft supports Dell in their decision and is putting their money where their intentions are.

Source: The Verge

Fanless MintBox PC Receives Price Cut, Makes It More-Competitive Intel NUC Alternative

Subject: Systems | February 3, 2013 - 09:32 AM |
Tagged: mintbox, mint, linux, fitpc3, compulab

The MintBox is a small form factor, fanless computer released in summer 2012. It was developed in collaboration between CompuLab and the Linux Mint project. At launch, the base model retailed for $476, but CompuLab has cut the price by almost $100 to kick off 2013.

 

mintbox_front.png

The MintBox basic is powered by a dual core AMD G-T40N APU clocked at 1.0 GHz, 4GB of RAM, an APU-integrated Radeon G290 GPU, and 250GB hard drive. The system has a aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink. It is essentially CompuLab’s fitPC3 case with a few custom tweaks to add the Linux Mint logo. Further, it comes pre-loaded with the Linux Mint 13 operating system. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 radios are included as well as two mini-PCIe cards and one mSATA connector (for an SSD).

mintbox.png

The front of the MintBox has four USB 2.0 ports surrounding the Mint logo. The rear of the MintBox includes the following connectivity options:

  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x S/PDIF
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x eSATA
  • 1 x RS232 serial port
  • 2 x external Wi-Fi antennas .

 

In many respects, the MintBox resembles a typical home wireless router, but it is actually a full PC. Before shipping and any applicatable taxes, the MintBox Basic is $379. Reportedly, 10% of the proceeds will go towards the Linux Mint project to assist with development of the open source operating system. While the hardware itself is not new, Mint and CompuLab are offering up a healthy discount which may bring it more in line with Intel’s NUC systems. It may not be as fast, but it will cost less and is pre-configured unlike the DIY NUC.

Have you been looking to get a small form factor system? What do you think about a fanless box running Linux Mint for your next PC?

Intel really needs help with the name of their new NUC, DC3217IYE just doesn't roll off the tongue

Subject: Systems | January 28, 2013 - 07:20 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, DC3217IYE

The new Intel NUC DC3217IYE is a tiny little system with a Core i3-3217U on a QS77 Express chipset with a pair of HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 ports, WiFi, ethernet and a mini PCIe slot that can handle mSATA, which is good as there is no internal storage apart from that.  Once you have purchased the NUC, all you need to do is install an mSATA drive and RAM and you have a fully functional system.  The inclusion of a Core i3 processor helps make the performance of the NUC significantly better than what it would be with an Atom and while the HD4000 is good for some applications it is not a strong gamer.  X-bit Labs likes the idea of the NUC but questions the $300 price it will command.

xbit_inside.jpg

"Intel decided to give it a shot in the ultra-compact desktop systems market. And they immediately came up with a unique product: a miniature system case only 12x11x4 cm in size based on Core i3 processor. It boasts a truly impressive combination of features, but does it make practical sense to give us a large desktop box in favor of a tiny guy like that?"

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Source: X-bit Labs

Ceton's My Media Center goes Metro

Subject: Systems | January 23, 2013 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: htpc, ceton, my media center, win8, Metro

Ceton's My Media Center is a replacement interface for Windows Media Center's UI, allowing you to control functions on a device separate from the display which is connected to your WMC.  That means that any device running the Metro interface of Win8, which is any flavour of Win8, can be set up to connect to your HTPC and allow you to control WMC even if you are out of the house and it won't interfere with anyone who happens to be using it at the time.  The Companion software is loaded onto both the HTPC and the secondary device and with a little configuration, which Missing Remote details here, you will be in full control of WMC from anywhere.

MR_cetonmetro.jpg

"Earlier today a new Windows 8 "Metro" version of Ceton's suite of applications for managing Windows Media Center joined the existing lineup of Andriod, Windows Phone and iOS companion apps priced at $4.99. As part of this effort they were rebranded from "Ceton Companion Apps" to "My Media Center". All the great functionality for browsing recordings, managing series and scheduling, and browsing the guide is still there, but this time Windows 8 tablet and desktop "Metro" users can also join the party. We had a chance to take an early spin through the updated UI, let's dig in."

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