When Intel revealed their miniature PC platform in 2012, the new “Next Unit of Computing” (NUC) was a tiny motherboard with a custom case, and admittedly very little compute power. Well, maybe not so much with the admittedly: “The Intel NUC is an ultra-compact form factor PC measuring 4-inch by 4-inch. Anything your tower PC can do, the Intel NUC can do and in 4 inches of real estate.” That was taken from Intel’s NUC introduction, and though their assertion was perhaps a bit premature, technology does continue its rapid advance in the small form-factor space. We aren’t there yet by any means, but the fact that a mini-ITX computer can be built with the power of an ATX rig (limited to single-GPU, of course) suggests that it could happen for a mini-PC in the not so distant future.
With NUC the focus was clearly on efficiency over performance, and with very low power and noise there were practical applications for such a device to offset the marginal "desktop" performance. The viability of a NUC would definitely depend on the user and their particular needs, of course. If you could find a place for such a device (such as a living room) it may have been worth the cost, as the first of the NUC kits were fairly expensive (around $300 and up) and did not include storage or memory. These days a mini PC can be found starting as low as $100 or so, but most still do not include any memory or storage. They are tiny barebones PC kits after all, so adding components is to be expected...right?
It’s been a couple of years now, and the platform continues to evolve - and shrink to some startlingly small sizes. Of the Intel-powered micro PC kits on today’s market the LIVA from ECS manages to push the boundaries of this category in both directions. In addition to boasting a ridiculously small size - actually the smallest in the world according to ECS - the LIVA is also very affordable. It carries a list price of just $179 (though it can be found for less), and that includes onboard memory and storage. And this is truly a Windows PC platform, with full Windows 8.1 driver support from ECS (previous versions are not supported).
Subject: Systems | October 20, 2014 - 09:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: LIVA, silvermont
Yes, you read that right; this system can be powered by a USB power source, as long as it can provide a minimum of 2.1 amps. It runs Windows 8.1 on a Silvermont generation Atom, with 64GB of local storage and 2GB of RAM and it is amazingly small, instead of showing you the exterior you can see the size of the board in comparison to the Atom and the VGA port. It has a UEFI BIOS, certainly pared down in comparison to a high end motherboard but with more than enough options for what this device needs to do. Check out the MadShrimps review here and be ready for another review to appear on our front page.
"The mini PC kit ECS has offered is shipped in a DIY format, and incorporates a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. The footprint of the product allows us to carry it anywhere and it can be even powered by an USB powerbank, if it can deliver at least 2.1 A"
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Giada D2308U Mini-PC Review @ Madshrimps
- PCSpecialist Predator X99 System @ Kitguru
- iconBIT Toucan 4K Android Mini-PC Review @ Madshrimps
- Build your first PC: Step by step video guide with KitGuru TV
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 07:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, mac mini, mac, Intel, haswell, apple
I was not planning to report on Apple's announcement but, well, this just struck me as odd.
So Apple has relaunched the Mac Mini with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, after two years of waiting. It is the same height as the Intel NUC, but it also almost twice the length and twice the width (Apple's 20cm x 20cm versus the NUC's ~11cm x 11cm when the case is included). So, after waiting through the entire Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?
((Note: The editorial originally said "two-year-old architecture". I thought that Haswell launched about six months earlier than it did. The mistake was corrected.))
I wonder if, following the iTunes U2 deal, this device will come bundled with Limp Bizkit's "Nookie"...
The price has been reduced to $499, which is a welcome $100 price reduction especially for PC developers who want a Mac to test cross-platform applications on. It also has Thunderbolt 2. These are welcome additions. I just have two, related questions: why today and why Haswell?
The new Mac Mini started shipping yesterday. 15-watt Broadwell-U is expected to launch at CES in January with 28W parts anticipated a few months later, for the following quarter.
Subject: Systems | October 16, 2014 - 08:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: all-in-one, msi, gtx 900m, AG270 2QC, AG270 2QE
Who says All-in-One PCs can't be high end machines? MSI just updated their 27" lineup with some rather impressive components. One definite benefit to these machines is the matte display, which has been updated with a new feature called Anti-Flicker which reduces the amount of blue light generated by the display. The base model is $1800 so you are paying a premium for the form factor but you do get an impressive looking and fully functional system for that price.
City of Industry, Calif. – October 22, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp announces the availability of their lineup of 27-inch All-in-One gaming computers featuring NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900M graphics cards. MSI’s lineup of gaming AIOs are powered by Intel Core i7 processors, up to 16 GB DDR3L memory, Killer E2200 Game Networking, and MSI’s Super RAID technology.
MSI’s upgraded gaming AIOs feature NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900M GPUs, the world’s fastest and most powerful mobile gaming graphics card. NVIDIAs latest GPU packs the power of a high-end performance graphics card into the silhouette of a mobile unit through a Maxwell architecture that delivers up to 35% increase in 3DMark11 performance.
“Gamers crave performance and our new lineup of 27-inch gaming AIOs will leave them breathless,” says Andy Tung, CEO of MSI Pan America. “The outstanding combination of state-of-the-art components, including NVIDIA’s latest GPU, deliver the most immersive gaming experience available and is guaranteed to outperform any other unit on the market.”
MSI complements the GPU with other cutting-edge components, including Intel Core i7 processor and Super RAID technology for ultra-fast storage speed with dual mSATA SSD’s in RAID 0, Killer E2200 Game Networking for lighting fast and lag-free connectivity, and dual Yamaha speakers and amplifier for an incredible sound experience. Yamaha speakers feature a built-in full-range monomer and an independent subwoofer to create a 2-way speaker system that pumps out intense explosions, clear footsteps and piercing screams.
To ensure a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience, even in prolonged battle sessions, MSI equipped the AIOs with an anti-glare matte display with Anti-Flicker technology. MSI’s proprietary Anti-Flicker technology generates 75% less blue light by stabilizing the electrical current on the display, thus preventing flickering and decreasing eye fatigue.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 9, 2014 - 07:41 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, yoga tablet, Windows 8.1, windows, Thinkpad, lenovo yoga, Lenovo, haswell, Broadwell
At a press event in London (watch the livestream), Lenovo showed off two new convertible PCs – the Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 – aimed at the consumer and business markets respectively that each incorporate evolutionary improvements over their predecessors. The Windows 8.1 PCs will be available at the end of October.
The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is the company's new flagship multi-mode system, and features build quality and internal processing power enhancements over the Yoga 2 Pro while being 17% thinner (0.5") and 14% lighter (2.62 lbs). Lenovo attributes the size and weight reductions to its new watchband hinge which is uses 800 pieces of aluminum and steel to achieve a thin yet flexible hinge with six focus points that resembles a metal watchband. Additionally, Lenovo has updated the display to a 13.3" multi-touch panel with (QHD+) 3200x1800 resolution. Other external features include JBL stereo speakers, a 720p webcam, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 and DC-input port, one micro HDMI output, and one audio combo jack.
Lenovo's new hand-constructed watchband-style hinge with six focus points.
Internally, Lenovo is using the Intel Core M-70 (Broadwell) processor, up to 8GB of DDR3L memory, and a 256GB SSD. Lenovo claims up to 9 hours of battery life, depending on usage. The PC will be available in Clementine Orange, Platinum Silver, or Champagne Gold.
Lenovo also announced the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14. While it does not have the kinds of form factor and hinge design improvements as the Yoga 3 Pro, it does maintain the useful Lift 'n Lock keyboard and feature welcome internal upgrades. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 measures 13.3" x 9.4" x 0.82" and weighs 4.1 pounds. The magnesium alloy frame holds a 14" 1920x1080 IPS display with 10-point multi-touch, a 720p webcam, dual microphones with noise cancelation, stereo speakers, a backlit Lift 'n Lock keyboard (which, when in tablet mode, raises the frame flush with the keys which lock in place), full keyboard, trackpad, and trackpoint nub.
This PC is noticeably bulkier and heavier than the Yoga 3 Pro, but it trades bulk for processing power, storage, and external I/O. Externally, the PC has one full HDMI video out (which is preferable to having to remember a micro HDMI adapter on the road or to meetings), two USB 3.0 ports, one combo USB 2.0/DC power/OneLink docking connector, one SD card slot, and one audio combo jack. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 is powered by an Intel Core i5 (Haswell) processor, NVIDIA GeForce 840M GPU, either 4GB or 8GB of DDR3L memory, and 1TB hard drive paired with 16GB flash for caching purposes. It comes with Windows 8.1 and "all day" battery life of up to eight hours.
In all, it has some useful updates over last year's model which we reviewed here.
Pricing and Availability:
The Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 will be available at the end of October from Lenovo.com or Best Buy. The Yoga 3 Pro has an MSRP of $1,349 while the ThinkPad Yoga 14 starts at $1,149.
Both systems continue the Yoga family forward, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Broadwell-powered Yoga 3 Pro performs in particular. I do wish the Lift 'n Lock keyboard technology had trickled down to the consumer models even understanding it would add additional weight and thickness. Obviously, Lenovo felt the tradeoff was not worth it though.
If there is one message that I get from NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 900M-series announcement, it is that laptop gaming is a first-class citizen in their product stack. Before even mentioning the products, the company provided relative performance differences between high-end desktops and laptops. Most of the rest of the slide deck is showing feature-parity with the desktop GTX 900-series, and a discussion about battery life.
First, the parts. Two products have been announced: The GeForce GTX 980M and the GeForce GTX 970M. Both are based on the 28nm Maxwell architecture. In terms of shading performance, the GTX 980M has a theoretical maximum of 3.189 TFLOPs, and the GTX 970M is calculated at 2.365 TFLOPs (at base clock). On the desktop, this is very close to the GeForce GTX 770 and the GeForce GTX 760 Ti, respectively. This metric is most useful when you're compute bandwidth-bound, at high resolution with complex shaders.
The full specifications are:
|GTX 980M||GTX 970M||
|Memory||Up to 4GB||Up to 3GB||4GB||4GB||4GB/8GB|
|Memory Rate||2500 MHz||2500 MHz||7.0 (GT/s)||7.0 (GT/s)||2500 MHz|
As for the features, it should be familiar for those paying attention to both desktop 900-series and the laptop 800M-series product launches. From desktop Maxwell, the 900M-series is getting VXGI, Dynamic Super Resolution, and Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA). From the latest generation of Kepler laptops, the new GPUs are getting an updated BatteryBoost technology. From the rest of the GeForce ecosystem, they will also get GeForce Experience, ShadowPlay, and so forth.
For VXGI, DSR, and MFAA, please see Ryan's discussion for the desktop Maxwell launch. Information about these features is basically identical to what was given in September.
BatteryBoost, on the other hand, is a bit different. NVIDIA claims that the biggest change is just raw performance and efficiency, giving you more headroom to throttle. Perhaps more interesting though, is that GeForce Experience will allow separate one-click optimizations for both plugged-in and battery use cases.
The power efficiency demonstrated with the Maxwell GPU in Ryan's original GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 review is even more beneficial for the notebook market where thermal designs are physically constrained. Longer battery life, as well as thinner and lighter gaming notebooks, will see tremendous advantages using a GPU that can run at near peak performance on the maximum power output of an integrated battery. In NVIDIA's presentation, they mention that while notebooks on AC power can use as much as 230 watts of power, batteries tend to peak around 100 watts. Given that a full speed, desktop-class GTX 980 has a TDP of 165 watts, compared to the 250 watts of a Radeon R9 290X, translates into notebook GPU performance that will more closely mirror its desktop brethren.
Of course, you probably will not buy your own laptop GPU; rather, you will be buying devices which integrate these. There are currently five designs across four manufacturers that are revealed (see image above). Three contain the GeForce GTX 980M, one has a GTX 970M, and the other has a pair of GTX 970Ms. Prices and availability are not yet announced.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 6, 2014 - 11:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: restructure, layoffs, hp inc, hp, hewlett-packard enterprise
HP's restructure initiative has been ongoing for years, leading to tens of thousands of layoffs. This occurred in several phases, with low-margin businesses grouped alongside highly profitable ones. Originally, HP considered spinning off PC devices but later paired it with its highly profitable printing products.
Today, HP announced plans to split into two companies: HP Inc., the aforementioned PC and printing division, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which will handle servers, networking, and other infrastructure as well as enterprise software and services. Shareholders will receive stock in both companies in an "intended to be tax-free" transaction. Obviously, that may vary by jurisdiction.
The reasons are fairly straight-forward. Print and PC are not heavily growing markets, especially not compared to their enterprise division. These two companies are roughly equal in size, so separating them highlights each side's strengths and weaknesses, and allows new investors to bet on one without giving money to the other. While Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is expected to be the higher-growth company, HP Inc. is expected to get into 3D printing as a consumer service. It will also inherit the logo, likely because it is something that consumers still identify with.
Current CEO, Meg Whitman, will be CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Chair of HP Inc.
The "transaction" for shareholders is expected by the end of FY15. It will also align with the loss of 5000 jobs, resulting in 55,000 layoffs since Whitman joined the company. I have yet to hear anything about where these cuts will occur.
Subject: Systems | October 1, 2014 - 05:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, SFF, nano xs, MI521, Core i3 4030U
ZOTAC is releasing the new MI521 nano XS model using the Haswell Core i3 4030U with HD4400 graphics with support for mSATA SSDs and two DDR3 slots capable of handling up to 16GB of RAM. The two models listed below are the same, in one case you do not have to supply your own RAM and SSD, the other comes with only the processor inside. The branding is skewed more towards the multimedia capabilities but these could also function quite well for office work, with support for 4K workspaces and perhaps a little entertainment once you've polished off that Word doc.
HONG KONG – Oct. 1, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards and mini-PCs, today injects the palm-sized ZBOX nano XS chassis with a double dose of performance from a 4th Generation Intel Core i3 processor. The new ZOTAC ZBOX MI521 nano XS series delivers a dual-core punch and expansive connectivity in an extra small size for an excellent mini-PC experience.
“ZOTAC is a pioneer when it comes to packing as much performance as possible into the smallest form factor possible. Our latest ZBOX MI521 nano XS series takes that same formula and gives it more performance and connectivity to create a mini-PC that’s perfect for office productivity or multimedia tasks,” said Tony Wong, CEO, ZOTAC International.
New to the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series is a very efficient and capable Intel Core i3 4030U dual-core processor with Intel HD Graphics 4400. The new processor enables dual display capabilities on the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series with standard HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs for maximum work productivity.
A suite of Intel technologies including Clear Video HD, InTru 3D and Quick Sync Video transforms the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series into the perfect HTPC for high quality HD video playback, including CPU-intensive Hi10P formats. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi technologies round out the ZBOX MI521 nano XS series features to provide compatibility with popular input devices and high-speed network connectivity to wireless home networks.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 30, 2014 - 08:15 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows 8.1, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer
Before I get into the devices, the $149 HP Stream 8 tablet and certain models of the HP Stream 13 laptop (the ones with an optional 4G modem) includes "free 4G for life" for customers in the USA. Reading in the fine print, the device company apparently signed a deal with T-Mobile for 200MB/mo of 4G service. Of course, 200MB will barely cover the Windows Update regimen of certain months, but you have WiFi for that. It is free, and free is good. I can guess that T-Mobile is crossing their fingers that dripping a drop of water on the tongues of the thirsty will convince them to go to the fountain.
If it works? Great. That is just about the most honest way that I have ever seen a telecom company attract new customers.
Back to these devices. Oh right, they're cheap. They are so cheap, they barely have any technical specifications. The $199.99 HP Stream 11 laptop has an 11-inch display. The $229.99 HP Stream 13 laptop has a 13-inch display and can be configured with an optional 4G modem. Both are passively cooled (more fanless PCs...) and run on a dual-core processor. Both provide a year of Office 365 Personal subscriptions. Both are available in blueish-purple or pinkish-purple.
The two tablets (7-inch Stream 7 and 8-inch Stream 8) are a similar story. They run an x86 processor with full Windows 8.1 and a year's subscription to Office 365. Somehow, the tablets are based on Intel quad-core CPUs (rather than the laptop's passively cooled dual-cores) despite being cheaper. Then again, they could be completely different architectures.
While HP is interested in, you know, selling product, I expect that Microsoft's generous licensing terms (see also the Toshiba alternative we reported earlier) is an attempt to push their cloud services. They know that cheaper device categories cannot bare as much royalties as a fully-featured laptop, and not having a presence at those prices is conceding it to Google -- and conceding that to Google is really giving up on cloud services for those customers. The simple solution? Don't forfeit those markets, just monetize with your own cloud service. I doubt that it will harm their higher-end devices.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 10:41 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: fanless, nuc, haswell
The Akasa Newton X is a fanless case for the NUC form factor that was announced in May and released a couple of months ago. Now, we are beginning to see system builders (albeit in Europe) integrate it in some higher-end devices. This one, from Atlast! Solutions, is built around the Intel Core i5-4250U, up to 1.5TB of SSD storage (512GB Crucial M550 mSATA + 1TB 840 EVO SATA), and up to 16GB of RAM. It can also be configured with up to two-antenna Wireless AC.
The Core i5-4250U is a dual-core (four threads) processor that is rated for 15W TDP. Its on-chip GPU is the Intel HD Graphics 5000 with a peak, theoretical compute throughput of 704 GFLOPS. This makes it a little under three-times the graphics performance of an Xbox 360. In terms of PC games, you are looking at Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on low at 1024x768 (or basically whatever your home server can do if used as a stream-to target).
Prices currently start at £449.00 for 4GB of RAM and 60GB of mSATA SSD, including VAT.
Thanks to FanlessTech for covering this story.