Subject: Systems | April 9, 2013 - 12:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ubuntu 12.04 lts, ubuntu, linux, dell, alienware x51
Dell has been one of the biggest (major OEM) supporter of the open source Ubuntu Linux operating system, and it seems the Linux love is trickling down to the company's boutique Alienware PC lineup as well. A new version of the Alienware X51, a small form factor gaming PC, is now available with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS pre-installed. Quite possibly the closest thing (so far) to a Steam Box, the Alienware X51 can run the Steam for Linux client along with all of the Linux games available on Valve's digital distribution service. Granted, the Ubuntu version cannot tap into the relatively-massive Windows game library out of the box, but it is also $100 cheaper than the X51 pre-installed with Windows due to Linux being free, and thus costing Dell less.
The Alienware X51 hardware is decent for a small form factor system, though it maxes out at a NVIDIA GTX 660 in the highest-end SKU. For $600, you can get an X51 will a dual-core Intel Core i3-3220 processor clocked at 3.3GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 645 1GB graphics card, 6GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. On the other end fo the part configuration is the highest-end $1049 option, with a quad-core Core i7-3770 CPU clocked at 3.4GHz, a NVIDIA GTX 660 1.5GB GPU, 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz memory, and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive.
The Alienware X51 chassis measures 12.5" x 12.5" x 3.74" and should fit into most entertainment centers (if you can get past the significant-other approval factor, that is). The PC comes equipped with Dell's 1506 802.11g/n Wi-Fi card as well, for situations where Ethernet or Powerline Ethernet is not an option.
It is nice to see Dell continuing to support Linux in some small way. Hopefully as Valve pushes for further Steam for Linux adoption, we will see more Linux-compatible games and OEMs will take notice and support the open source OS more openly in consumer lineups (a geek can dream...)!
You can find more information on the Alienware X51 at alienware.com/ubuntu/.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | April 7, 2013 - 07:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: DirectX, DirectX 12
Microsoft DirectX is a series of interfaces for programmers to utilize typically when designing gaming or entertainment applications. Over time it became synonymous with Direct3D, the portion which mostly handles graphics processing by offloading those tasks to the video card. At one point, DirectX even handled networking through DirectPlay although that has been handled by Games for Windows Live or other APIs since Vista.
AMD Corporate Vice President Roy Taylor was recently interviewed by the German press, "c't magazin". When asked about the future of "Never Settle" bundles, Taylor claimed that games such as Crysis 3 and Bioshock: Infinite keep their consumers happy and also keep the industry innovating.
Keep in mind, the article was translated from German so I might not be entirely accurate with my understanding of his argument.
In a slight tangent, he discussed how new versions of DirectX tends to spur demand for new graphics processors with more processing power and more RAM. He has not heard anything about DirectX 12 and, in fact, he does not believe there will be one. As such, he is turning to bundled games to keep the industry moving forward.
Neowin, upon seeing this interview, reached out to Microsoft who committed to future "innovation with DirectX".
This exchange has obviously sparked a lot of... polarized... online discussion. One claimed that Microsoft is abandoning the PC to gain a foothold in the mobile market which it has practically zero share of. That is why they are dropping DirectX.
Unfortunately this does not make sense: DirectX would be one of the main advantages which Microsoft has in the mobile market. Mobile devices have access to fairly decent GPUs which can use DirectX to draw web pages and applications much smoother and much more power efficiently than their CPU counterparts. If anything, DirectX would be increased in relevance if Microsoft was blindly making a play for mobile.
The major threat to DirectX is still quite off in the horizon. At some point we might begin to see C++Amp or OpenCL nibble away at what DirectX does best: offload highly-parallel tasks to specialized processing units.
Still, releases such as DirectX 11.1 are quite focused on back-end tweaks and adjustments. What do you think a DirectX 12 API would even do, that would not already be possible with DirectX 11?
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 26, 2013 - 03:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, GTC 2013, BOXX, 3dboxx 8950
Boxx Technologies recently launched a new multi-GPU workstation called the 3DBoxx 8950. It is aimed at professionals that need a fast system with beefy GPU accelerator cards that they can design and render at the same time. The 8950 is intended to be used with applications like Autodesk, Dassault, NVIDIA iray, and V-Ray (et al).
The Boxx 3DBoxx 8950 features two liquid cooled Intel Xeon Ed-2600 processors (2GHz, 16 cores, 32 threads), up to 512GB of system memory (16 DIMM slots), and seven PCI-E slots (four of which accept dual slot GPUs, the remaining three are spaced for single slot cards). A 1250W power suppy (80 PLUS Gold) powers the workstation. An example configuration would include three Tesla K20 cards and one Quadro K5000. The Tesla cards would handle the computation while the Quadro can power the multi-display ouput. The chassis has room for eight 3.5" hard drives and a single externally-accessible 5.25" drive. The 8950 workstation can be loaded with either the Windows or Linux operating system.
Rear IO on the 8950 workstation includes:
- 5 x audio jacks
- 1 x optical in/out
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x serial port
- 2 x RJ45 jacks, backed by Intel Gigabit NICs
The system is available now, with pricing available upon request. You can find the full list of specifications and supported hardware configurations in this spec sheet (PDF).
Subject: Systems | March 25, 2013 - 10:14 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, calxeda, Boston Viridis
Perhaps the most telling part of AnandTech's review of the Calxeda Boston Viridis server was the statement that "It's a Cluster, Not a Server" as that paints a different picture of the appliance in many tech's heads. When you first open the chassis you are greeted by 24 2.5” SATA drive bays and a very non-standard looking motherboard full of PCIe slots, each of which can hold a EnergyCard which consists of four quad-core ARM SoCs, each with one DIMM slot and 4 SATA ports with the theoretical limit being 4096 nodes interconnected by physical, distributed layer-2 switches not virtualized switches which use CPU cycles. Check out the results of AnandTech's virtual machine testing and a deeper look at the architecture of the cluster in the full article.
"ARM based servers hold the promise of extremely low power and excellent performance per Watt ratios. It's theoretically possible to place an incredible number of servers into a single rack; there are already implementations with as many as 1000 ARM servers in one rack (48 server nodes in a 2U chassis). What's more, all of those nodes consume less than 5KW combined (or around 5W per quad-core ARM node). But whenever a new technology is hyped, it's important to remain objective. The media loves to rave about new trends and people like reading about "some new thing"; however, at the end of the day the system administrator has to keep his IT services working and convince his boss to invest in new technologies."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- MESH Slayer 3770K OC System @ Kitguru
- Apple iMac 27 inch 2012 review: Core i7, GTX 680MX and Fusion Drive @ Hardware.info
- ARIA Gladiator Warbird 660 i5-3570K GTX660 SLI OC @ Kitguru
- Digital Storm Bolt Desktop Gaming PC @ Tweaktown
- Gateway One ZX4970G-UW308 Review @ TechReviewSource
Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 24, 2013 - 12:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 8, Blue, windows blue
It was only a matter of time before Windows Blue was leaked, like just about every other version of the operating system in recent memory. Internally, Blue is a transition for Microsoft into an annual release schedule for Windows products; externally, Blue is the first feature-release for Windows.
Yes, Sean Bean, win'ders has come.
Zac from WinBeta, embed above, got hold of the operating system, apparently leaked today, and played around with the changes for all of YouTube to see.
New split-screen App options. (Unclear whether multi-monitor app support is fixed)
- Minor clarifications for user instruction.
- New tile sizes.
- Swipe up from Start Screen to access list of apps.
- More personalization options.
- Picture frame mode.
- New App: Calculator.
- New App: Alarm.
- New App: Sound Recorder.
- New App: Movie Moments... apparently a new, confidential, video editing application.
- Internet Explorer updated to version 11.
Personally, despite sticking with Windows 7 for political reasons, the new App options seem like they would be the most engaging feature for Windows Blue. For being such a core segment of the "modern" Windows experience, apps are surprisingly annoying to manage as they currently exist on Windows 8. If you have two or more monitors then you are probably having a nightmare with anything outside of Windows 8's desktop mode.
We now know that app support is being looked at, so there is some hope that multiple monitor users will be considered too.
Subject: Systems | March 15, 2013 - 01:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, PIVOS, XIOS DS Media Play, android 4.0, xmbc
The XIOS DS Media Play is an Android 4.0 device powered by a Cortex-A9 and Mali-400 graphics, capable of streaming local and online media content including HTML5 and Flash to a TV. Not quite a full HTPC in some ways but certainly more than a cable box at only 4" square and 0.6" tall it can be hidden in plain sight. Overclockers Club tried out the functionality of both the native OS and the XBMC as well as using a variety of apps from the Google Play store, all with great success. For a mere $110 they feel it is a great value; check out the full review for a longer list of compatible media and tricks you can do with local storage.
"The XIOS DS Media Play looks sleek and has a very small footprint but packs some interesting features. The Android OS will bring new life to your TV and the thousands available apps in the Google Play Store translate into an impressive potential of fun, productivity, and entertainment. The box provides a great experience as is but PIVOS went the extra mile and collaborated with the XBMC Media Center development team to bring the software with hardware decoding to the Android OS. Add the connectivity capabilities of the unit and we have a serious threat to those fancy HTPC systems at a mere asking price of $115. Built around the ARM CORTEX-A9 CPU and a MALI-400 MP GPU, the XIOS DS Media Play has what it takes to satisfy the needs of the majority of media lovers."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Sapphire EDGE VS8 @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire Mini Edge HD4 review: mini Celeron PC
- Western Digital WD TV Play Media Player Review @ Legit Reviews
- HDPLEX H5.TODD Fanless HTPC Case @ SPCR
- Antec ISK 110 VESA Case @ Kitguru
- Rosewill Ultra-Slim "RedMere" HDMI Cables Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- How To Update The Firmware Of Your Astro Byond Decoder @ TechARP
Subject: Systems | March 5, 2013 - 01:16 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: shuttle, SFF, PC, Intel, ds47, celeron
If various sources are to be believed, Shuttle will be launching a new small form factor PC in April called the DS47. The new PC will be powered by an Intel Celeron 847 processor and features a fan-less design.
The Shuttle DS47 measures 200mm x 29.5mm x 165mm and weighs in at 2.05 kg. The internals include a motherboard with UEFI BIOS, dual core Intel Celeron 847 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz (2MB cache, 18W TDP), HD 2000 processor graphics, up to 16GB of RAM via two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and a 2.5” HDD or SSD. The motherboard supports SATA 3 6Gbps, and there is space for a single laptop-sized internal drive. The system also includes a Mini-PCI-E slot for half-size cards and a mSATA port for an SSD.
For such a small PC, it packs quite a bit of port options. The Shuttle DS47 includes the following external IO:
- 1 x SD card reader
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet jacks
- 2 x RS232 connections
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 2.1 channel analog audio output
The DS47 has a nice feature set, and the dual Ethernet ports opens up the possible applications. Thanks to the DS47 opting for the Celeron over an Atom processor, it could easily operate as a file server, NAS, firewall, router, HTPC, or simply a low power desktop computer for example.
Pricing will be where the DS47 succeeds or fails as it aims to strike a balance between the Intel NUC and Atom-powered PCs. Unfortunately, there is no word on just how much this SFF PC will cost. It is rumored for an April launch, however so expect to see official pricing announced shortly.
Read more about small form factor systems at PC Perspective!
Subject: Systems | March 4, 2013 - 01:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Zotac ZBOX ID83 Plus Mini PC Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Gateway SX2380-UR318 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Sapphire EDGE VS8 Barebones Model @ Kitguru
- High-End Meets Small Form Factor: GeForce Titan in Falcon Northwest's Tiki @ AnandTech
- iBuyPower Revolt System Review: Closing the Boutique and Opening the Store @ AnandTech
- PCSpecialist Vanquish Z11 @ Kitguru
- Building a DIY All-in-One PC with GIGABYTE's H77TN Thin Mini-ITX @ Tweaktown
- Apple Mac mini (2012) @ Hardware.info
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!
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)|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD 4000 Processor Graphics|
|Display||1600x900 20-in touch screen (10 point)|
2 x USB 3.0
SD / Memory Stick card reader
Headphone / Mic connection
|Operating System||Windows 8 x64|
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.
On the left we find the power connection and a hard wired Ethernet connection that compliments the integrated 802.11n WiFi.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 26, 2013 - 05:07 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
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