Brazos 2.0 powered ZBOX AD06 Plus

Subject: Systems | March 4, 2013 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: SFF, htpc, zotac, zbox ad06 plus, E2-1800

Zotac's ZBOX AD06 plus puts some graphical zip into a tiny package using an AMD E2-1800 1.7GHz and 2GB MHz DDR3-1333 with 320GB of local storage on a 5400RPM HDD.  They've included a VESA mount so it is quite possible to attach this device to the back of a display and control most functions with the included remote control.  Heat should not be an issue, when displaying 1080P clips it only pulls 16.8W, 27.7W when under full loads such as transcoding.  The benchmark results that TechPowerUp saw might not measure up to a full desktop system but they are certainly at the top of the pile when it comes to similar systems.  You can expect to pay just under $300 for the full system when it becomes available, or about $200 without RAM or HDD if you happen to have some handy.

TPU_inner.jpg

"The Zotac ZBOX AD06 utilizes the newest generation of AMD APUs, while the Plus model comes fully configured with a 320 GB hard drive and pre-installed memory."

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Source: TechPowerUp
Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Sony

An AIO and Tablet Design

When new and interesting architectures and technology are developed, it enables system designers to build creative designs and systems for consumers.  With its renewed focus on power efficiency as well as performance, Intel has helped move the industry towards new form factors like the Next Unit of Computing and the evolution of the All-in-One design.

Today we are taking a look at the new Sony VAIO Tap 20 system, an AIO that not only integrates a 10-point touch screen on a 20-in 1600x900 resolution display and an Ivy Bridge architecture ultra low voltage processor, but also a battery to make the design semi-mobile and ripe for inclusion in high-tech homes. 

Check out our quick video overview below and then follow that up with a full pictorial outline and some more details!

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This isn't Sony's first foray into all-in-one PCs of course but it is among the first to combine this particular set of features.  In what is essentially an Ultrabook design with a large screen, the Tap 20 combines an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 750GB hard drive.  Here is the breakdown:

 

Sony VAIO Tap 20 System Setup
CPU Intel Core i5-3317U
Memory 4GB DDR3-1600 (1 x SODIMM)
Hard Drive 750GB XXRPM HDD (2.5-in)
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card Intel HD 4000 Processor Graphics
Display 1600x900 20-in touch screen (10 point)
Power Supply External
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n WiFi
I/O 2 x USB 3.0
SD / Memory Stick card reader
Headphone / Mic connection
Operating System Windows 8 x64

 

IMG_9546.JPG

The display is pretty nice with a 1600x900 reoslution though I do wish we had seen a full 1080p screen for HD video playback.  As with most touch screens, the display quality is under that of a non-touch IPS monitor but even up close (as you tend to use touch devices) you'll be hard pressed to find any imperfections.  Viewing angles are great as well which allows for better multi-person usage. 

IMG_9547.JPG

On the left we find the power connection and a hard wired Ethernet connection that compliments the integrated 802.11n WiFi.

Continue reading our review of the Sony VAIO Tap 20 AIO!!!

Unreal Engine 4 Demo for PS4, Reduced Quality?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 26, 2013 - 08:07 PM |
Tagged: ps4, unreal engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 was present at Sony's Playstation 4 press conference, but that is no surprise. Epic Games has been present at several keynotes for new console launches. Last generation, Unreal Engine 3 kicked off both Xbox 360 and PS3 with demos of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 2007, respectively. The PS4 received a continuation of the Elemental Demo first released at the end of E3 last June.

All I could think about when I watched the was, “This looks pretty bad. What happened?”

If you would like to follow along at home, both demos are available on Youtube:

As you can see from the animated GIF above, particle count appears to have been struck the worst. The eyes contain none of the particle effects in the PS4 version. There appears to be an order of magnitude or two more particles on the PC version than the PS4. There are no particle effects around the eyes of the statue. Whole segments of particles are not even rendered.

UE4_2_PCvPS4.jpg

In this screenshot, downsampled to 660x355, the loss of physical detail is even more apparent. The big cluster of particles near the leg are not present in the PS4 version and the regular cluster is nowhere near as densely packed.

And the lighting, oh the lighting.

On the PS4 everything looks a lot higher contrast without a lot of the subtle lighting information. This loss of detail is most apparent with the volcano smoke and the glow of the hammer but are also obvious in the character model when viewed in the video.

Despite the 8GB of RAM, some of the textures also seem down-resolution. Everything appears to have much more of a plastic look to it.

Still, while computers still look better, at least high-end PC gaming will still be within the realm of scalability for quite some time. We have been hampered by being so far ahead of consoles that it was just not feasible to make full use of the extra power. At least that is looking to change.

Happy 0th Birthday Firefox OS

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 26, 2013 - 04:19 AM |
Tagged: Firefox OS, mozilla, firefox, MWC, MWC 13

Mobile World Congress is going on at Barcelona and this year sees the official entry of a new contender: Firefox OS.

Mozilla held their keynote speech the day before the official start to the trade show. If there is anything to be learned from CES, it would be that there is an arms race to announce your product before everyone else steals media attention while still being considered a part of the trade show. By the time the trade show starts, most of the big players have already said all that they need to say.

firefoxos.jpg

If you have an hour to spare, you should check it out for yourself. The whole session was broadcast and recorded on Air Mozilla.

The whole concept of Firefox OS as I understand it is to open up web standards such that it is possible to create a completely functional mobile operating system from it. Specific platforms do not matter, the content will all conform to a platform of standards which anyone would be able to adopt.

I grin for a different reason: should some content exist in the future that is intrinsically valuable to society, its reliance on an open-based platform will allow future platforms to carry it.

Not a lot of people realize that iOS and Windows RT disallow alternative web browsers. Sure, Google Chrome the app exists for iOS, but it is really a re-skinned Safari. Any web browser in the Windows Store will use Trident as its rendering engine by mandate of their certification rules. This allows the platform developer to be choosey with whichever standards they wish to support. Microsoft has been very vocally against any web standard backed by Khronos. You cannot install another browser if you run across a web application requiring one of those packages.

When you have alternatives, such as Firefox OS, developers are promoted to try new things. The alternative platforms promote standards which generate these new applications and push the leaders to implement those standards too.

And so we creep ever-closer to total content separation from platform.

Source: Mozilla

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