Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 21, 2014 - 10:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zotac, zbox
Zotac has announced the ZBOX Sphere OI520 in two forms. The Plus version comes with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive while the standard version leaves the choice (and installation) up to the user. At the very least, that means it is user-serviceable. Its real draw is its "orb form factor" with decent, albeit laptop, performing components.
The ZBOX OI520, from behind.
Its actual system specifications are:
- Intel Core i5 4200U
- Intel HD Graphics 4400 (GT2)
- HDMI and DisplayPort
- Wireless AC (802.11ac), Gigabit Ethernet, and Bluetooth 4.0
- 3x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC Card Reader
- Supports up to 16GB of RAM (2xDDR3L)
- Supports one 2.5-inch HDD/SSD
- Apparently, no OS pre-installed.
Pricing and availability are not yet announced. Obviously, that will be the biggest factor in someone looking for a barebones PC, like this one. Also, Intel graphics support on Linux is not the most pleasant, kind-of famously. Zotac claims full support for Windows 7 and Windows 8, of course, but you will probably need to factor that price in if that is the direction you want to go.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 17, 2014 - 01:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: msi, all-in-one, AIO, gtx 880m
The MSI AG270 is an All-in-One (AIO) PC built in a 27-inch, 1920x1080, multi-touch display. The series is split into two models, the AG270 2PC and the higher-end AG270 2PE. Both are billed as gaming devices and, with a GeForce GTX 870M (2PC) or a GeForce GTX 880M (2PE), they fit the bill. The 880M, for instance, is basically a desktop GeForce 680 with 8GB of frame buffer (!!) and a slight underclock.
Two processor options are available, the i7-4860HQ and the i7-4700HQ. MSI does not state whether one (or both) models has a choice, or if the higher-end processor (4860HQ) is always in the higher-end PC (AG270 2PE) and the lower-end processor (4700HQ) is always in the lower-end PC (AG270 2PC). Users will get 2TB of storage and "up to" 3 mSATA SSDs. Yamaha will provide the two 5W speakers. BigFoot (owned by Qualcomm) provides the Ethernet and Wireless N through their Killer DoubleShot network adapter. It also has a DVD and BluRay reader/writer built-in.
MSI does not discuss pricing and availability, directly, and instead point to their retail partners.
Subject: Systems | May 15, 2014 - 06:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: CyberPowerPC, Zeus Mini-I 780, i7-4770k, gtx 780
If you are looking for a tiny system that you don't have to assemble yourself then CyberPowerPC is a good source as they have released their Zeus Mini-I 780. Measuring a mere 13" tall, 4.4" wide and 17.4" deep (33x11x44cm) this system is rather tiny and tightly packed for as the name suggests it does contain a EVGA GeForce GTX 780. You will also find an i7-4770K a Gigabyte Z87N-WiFi and 16GB of G.SKILL Ripjaws X DDR3-1866; pretty hefty stats for such a small box. As you might expect Custom PC Review saw the CPU get quite toasty, a maximum of 96ºC was recorded under synthetic load though the system stayed stable while running at that temperature. Check out the full review to see how it performed.
"Today we’ll be reviewing the CyberPowerPC Zeus Mini-I 780, which is a brand new system from CyberPowerPC that was unveiled for the first time at CES earlier this year. Unlike most CyberPowerPC systems that simply use off the shelf parts, CyberPowerPC decided to up the ante with the Zeus Mini by not only making the..."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- AWD Ignis Aqua 290X 250D Mini ITX PC @ Kitguru
- Braebo Computers ‘Titan’ Budget AMD Gaming System @ eTeknix
- OverclockersUK ‘Infinity Vesuvius’ R9 295X2 QuadXFire System @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte BRIX Pro Mini-PC Review @ Madshrimps
- Gigabyte Brix Pro GB-BXi7-4770R Ultra Compact Barebones System @ eTeknix
- Building a New Dual Intel/AMD Triple 2560×1440 Display 5Ft High PC System @ The SSD Review
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 27, 2014 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, sheild, shield 2, AnTuTu
VR-Zone is claiming that this is the successor to NVIDIA's SHIELD portable gaming system. An AnTuTu benchmark was found for a device called, "NVIDIA test model(SHIELD)" with an "NVIDIA Gefroce(Kepler Graphics)" GPU, typos left as-is. My gut expects that it is valid, but I hesitate to vouch the rumor. If it even came from NVIDIA, which the improper spelling and capitalization of "GeForce" calls into question, it could easily be an internal prototype and maybe even incorrectly given the "SHIELD" (which is properly spelled and capitalized) label.
Image Credit: AnTuTu.com
As far as its camera listing, it would make sense for the SHIELD to get one at standard definition (0.3MP -- probably 640x480). The fact that the original SHIELD shipped without any, at all, still confuses me. The low resolution sensor still does not make sense, seeming like an almost pointless upgrade, but it could be used by NVIDIA for a specific application or built-in purpose.
Or, it could be an irrelevant benchmark listing.
Either way, there are rumors floating around about a SHIELD 2 being announced at E3 in June. It is unlikely that NVIDIA will give up on the handheld any time soon. Whether that means new hardware, versus more software updates, is anyone's guess. The Tegra K1 would have been a good launching SoC for the SHIELD, however, with its full OpenGL 4.4 and compute support (the hardware supports up to OpenCL 1.2 although driver support will apparently be "based on customer needs". PDF - page 8).
Waiting. Seeing. You know the drill.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 18, 2014 - 06:39 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: canonical, ubuntu, ubuntu 14.04
Ubuntu, the popular Linux distribution, has been on a steady six-month release schedule for eight years. Every four versions, that is, once every two years, one is marked as Long Term Support (LTS). While typical (non-LTS) releases are supported for around 9 months, LTS versions are provided with five years of updates. Of course, each version, LTS or not, is free. The choice to stay on a specific branch is something else entirely.
For most home users, it will probably make sense to pick up the latest version available on your update manager. Of course, each new release will change things and that can be a problem for some users. That said, given that releases come in six-month intervals, it does make sense to keep up with the changes as they happen, rather than fall behind and have a real shock in five years. Enterprise customers, on the other hand, would love to adopt an operating system which never changes, outside of security updates. Windows XP is a recent example of where enterprise customers will actually pay to not upgrade. These customers will benefit most from LTS.
First and foremost, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, wants to catch the wave of PC users who are looking to upgrade from Windows XP and Windows 7. It is free, it has a web browser and an office suite, it is stable and secure, and they suggest that it will be easy to deploy and manage for governments and other institutions.
The interface is Unity7, although users will have the option to try Unity8. The latter version is Canonical's attempt to cover all form factors: phones, tablets, TVs, and desktops.
They probably could have chosen a different number, if only for the jokes.
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is available now at their website. It is free. If you want it, go get it unless you already have it.
Back in September we posted a review of the latest Intel NUC device (next unit of computing), a tiny 4-in x 4-in barebones computer developed and sold by Intel directly. As a couple of readers pointed out to me today, these units are being discounted by as much as $70 today over at Amazon.com
These units share a lot of the same feature set but they differ in the processor actually embedded in them. The Core i5-4250U comes with the more expensive model and that includes the faster Intel HD 5000 graphics configuration as well. This is the same processor found in the MacBook Air and many shipping Ultrabooks. For the lower priced model you get the Core i3-4010U that runs at a static 1.7 GHz clock speed. The 4250U scales up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost technology.
Both are based on the Haswell architecture and pack a lot of processing punch in a tiny little form factor.
Keeping in mind these are barebones units, you'll still have to add memory, storage in the form of an mSATA SSD, wireless modules (unless you want to use the Gigabit Ethernet) and a power cord. If you are looking for some suggestions from us on those components, check out the lists and pricing below.
|Core i5-4250U System||Core i3-4010U System|
|Barebones System||NUC D54250WYK - $329||NUC D34010WYK - $265|
|Memory||Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40||Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40|
|Storage||Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109||Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109|
|Wireless||Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32||Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32|
|Power Cord||6 ft 3-slot - $4||6 ft 3-slot - $4|
|Total (Amazon)||$514 on Amazon.com||$450 on Amazon.com|
If you are really on a budget and want to save some more cash, you could go with a smaller and less expensive mSATA SSD like the ADATA Premier Pro 32GB option for as low as $39.99 but you are going to be REALLY limited on local storage space.
Still, for $514 you are getting most of the component technology of a high end Ultrabook but in a desktop form factor, ready to be used as your primary PC or connected to your TV for a home theater setup. I built one for my dad for Christmas to play a flight simulator on and its still going strong and he's loving it!
Going to take Intel and Amazon up on these prices? Already have a unit of your own? If so, let me know in the comments what you currently, or plan to, use it for. Happy SFF building!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 16, 2014 - 12:48 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vaio, sony, battery issue
So it turns out that Sony, after releasing their last VAIO PC refresh before the division is sold to Japan Industrial Partners, have found an issue with Panasonic's custom lithium battery packs. The VAIO Fit 11A models, released February 2014, have the potential to overheat and catch fire, burning itself and the PC. They are in the process of creating a refund, repair, or exchange program but, in the mean time, request users stop using the devices for their safety.
In head-crushing formation. #HandsCheck
The affected products fall under the model number, "SVF11N1XXXX", where Xs are, of course, some random letter or number. This information is printed underneath the display, accessible using the "release-lock" latch when the laptop is open.
Of course, this is all just unfortunate for Sony. The last product they create under their VAIO brand requires what basically amounts to a safety recall -- for a third-party component. Beyond that, Panasonic asserts that the flaw only seems to exist in the batteries that were customized for Sony. Panasonic, like many manufacturers, introduces slight modifications to existing products for a specific customer's needs. They do not believe that their other batteries, even of the same model, is defective outside of the shipment that Sony received.
At some point, you just need to feel bad for them...
Subject: Systems | April 10, 2014 - 06:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, mini-itx, AAEON, EMB-BT1, Bay Trail, SFF, htpc
You may not recognize the name AAEON but you will recognize its parent company, ASUS. AAEON makes low power small form factor single board SoCs and with the introduction of Bay Trail they may become more common. The EMB-BT1-A10-3825 sports a quad-core Atom E3845 @ 1.33GHz and Ivy Bridge era Intel HD graphics with support for up to 4GB of DDR3-1067. It has a total TDP of 6W but unfortunately Phoronix's WattsUp meter was busy on another system so you will need to wait for an update on total power consumption.
The connectivity on this SoC is incredible, mSATA for an SSD, two SATA 6Gbps ports and two SATA-2 ports, dual gigabit LAN ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, COM, and audio jacks. You could configure this as a small media server or as it supports dual displays it would serve wonderfully as an HTPC.
"For those after a low-cost mini-ITX board for use within an HTPC, SOHO file server, or other low-power situations, AAEON has out an interesting board called the EMB-BT1, or more formally the AAEON EMB-BT1-A10-3825. This mini-ITX motherboard has onboard an Intel Atom E3825 "Bay Trail" SoC for delivering decent performance out of the six Watt SoC and having open-source-friendly graphics under Linux."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Acer DA241HL Android all in one @ The Inquirer
- MSI Nightblade Barebone System Review @ Modders-Inc
- Cyberpower Zeus Mini - Review! @ Bjorn3D
- Cube Gaming PC Core i7 Overclocked Assassin /w MSI GTX 770 @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 07:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: NAB, NAB 14, Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt
Video professionals are still interested in Thunderbolt in probably much the same way as Firewire needed to be pried from their cold, dead hands. It is a very high bandwidth connector, useful for sending and receiving 4K video. Also, it was originally exclusive to Apple so you can guess which industries were first-adopters. Intel has focused their Thunderbolt announcements on the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. This year, Thunderbolt Networking will be available for Windows via a driver. This will allow any combination of Macs and Windows PCs to be paired together by a 10 Gigabit network.
Of course, this is not going to be something that you can plug into a router. This is a point-to-point network for sharing files between two devices... really fast. Perhaps one use case would be a workstation with a Mac and a Windows PC on a KVM switch. If both are connected with Thunderbolt 2, they could share the same storage pool.
While this feature already exists on Apple devices, the PC driver will be available... "soon".
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | April 8, 2014 - 05:11 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: BUILD 2014, microsoft, windows, winRT
A few days ago, I reported on the news from BUILD 2014 that Windows would see the return of the Start Menu and windowed apps. These features, which are not included with today's Windows 8.1 Update 1, will come in a later version. While I found these interface changes interesting, I reiterated that the user interface was not my concern: Windows Store certification was. I did leave room for a little hope, however, because Microsoft scheduled an announcement of changes. It was focused on enterprise customers, so I did not hold my breath.
And some things did change... but not enough for the non-enterprise user.
Microsoft is still hanging on to the curation of apps, except for "domain-joined" x86 Enterprise and x86 Pro PCs; RT devices and "not domain-joined" computers will only allow sideloaded apps with a key. This certificate (key) is not free for everyone. Of course, this does not have anything to do with native x86 applications. Thankfully, the prospect of WinRT APIs eventually replacing Win32, completely, seems less likely now. It could still be possible if Windows Store has a major surge in popularity but, as it stands right now, Microsoft seems to be spending less effort containing x86 for an eventual lobotomy.
If it does happen, it would be a concern for a variety of reasons:
Governments, foreign or domestic, who pressure Microsoft to ban encryption software.
Internet Explorer's Trident would have no competition to adopt new web standards.
Cannot create an app for just a friend or family member (unless it's a web app in IE).
When you build censorship, the crazies will come with demands to abuse it.
So I am still concerned about the future of Windows. I am still not willing to believe that Microsoft will support x86-exclusive applications until the end of time. If that happens, and sideloading is not publicly available, and web standards are forced into stagnation by a lack of alternative web browsers, then I can see bad times ahead. I will not really feel comfortable until a definitive pledge to allow users to control what can go on their device, even if Microsoft (or people with some form of authority over them) dislikes it, is made.
But I know that many disagree with me. What are your thoughts? Comment away!