ZOTAC Injects Palm-Sized ZBOX nano XS with Double Dose of Performance

Subject: Systems | October 1, 2014 - 01:29 PM |
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.

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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.

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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.

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Source: Zotac

HP Releases Cheaaaaaap PCs and Windows Tablets

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 30, 2014 - 04:15 AM |
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.

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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.

The four devices (Stream 7 - $99, Stream 8 -$149, Stream 11 - $199, Stream 13 - $229) are coming soon.

Source: HP

Europeans: Atlast! Has Haswell-based Fanless NUCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 06:41 PM |
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.

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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.

Check out results of The Tech Report's hardware survey

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: survey, components

The Tech Report have compiled the data from their survey of readers machines and the data is now posted in this article.  You can see how your build compares to the major trends that they observed, from the number and type of monitors that you use to the amount of RAM you have installed.  The most interesting page covers the odd facts which were revealed such as the overwhelming predominance of ATX boards and cases that are being used despite the fact that 75% of respondents having only a single card installed in their systems.  It is also interesting to note a mere 10% of those responding use more than one GPU.  Check out the findings here.

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"Typical PC enthusiasts may spend more on their PCs than you might think—and by the looks of it, their taste for high-end hardware isn't just limited to core components. Those are two of the main takeaways from the TR Hardware Survey 2014, in which we invited readers to answer 26 questions about their PCs. Around 4,000 of you participated over a period of about a week and a half, and the results paint an enlightening picture of current trends in the hobbyist PC realm. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

MSI KingBox MS-9A66 for Their Industrious... Fans

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 27, 2014 - 02:16 AM |
Tagged: msi, kingbox, ms-9a66, fanless, industry, ruggedized

This is not usually a category of computer that we report on, but MSI has just released a fanless, embedded desktop for industrial applications. Silent PCs seem to be talked about more and more frequently, and I am not sure how much of it is industry trends (as opposed to me just paying more attention). Their focus on this design is performance while remaining rugged and, as mentioned a few times, fanless.

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Note that it supports CPUs with a maximum of 35W TDP. This leaves room for MSI to include up to a Core i7-4785T in the device, but we do not know if this is actually offered. It has four expansion bays, one PCIe x16 and three regular PCI slots. It does not have an ISA slot, though. I am sure this will be disappointing to some enterprises, and Josh. He probably still has a graphics card for it. You might think I would be joking. I am, but sadly I also am not.

For power, the device can accept anywhere from 9 to 36V DC. Basically, it seems to be based on laptop components with expansion slots for add-in boards. You can also purchase a fan "module" for it if, for one reason or another, it is still the best PC for the job even if it wasn't fanless.

Pricing and specific availability are not provided, but it is apparently released.

Source: MSI

Samsung Stops Selling Laptops and Chromebooks in Europe

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 24, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, Chromebook, laptop

This does not apply to our North American readers, although it is good for them to know. To our European fans: Samsung has pulled out of the laptop market, for devices running either Windows or ChromeOS, in your region. The company is not commenting on how many jobs will be lost as a result of this decision. Samsung is not halting operations in any other region and this decision "is not necessarily reflective of conditions in other markets".

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Parallels are drawn with Sony and its VAIO division, but this is significantly different. Sony sold its PC business to Japanese Industrial Partners who, in July, relaunched the brand in Japan. Samsung has not sold any division although there is rumors of upcoming restructuring. While Samsung will retain their brand and continue to develop products for the other regions, pulling away is always concerning for customers. It really could be a geographic anomaly, like Xbox was in Japan, or it could be a warning tremor. We simply do not know.

Source: PC Advisor

Tranquil MonoOne Is a Fanless All-in-One

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 23, 2014 - 08:34 PM |
Tagged: transquil, monoone, all-in-one, fanless

This announcement does not have too much information to go on, but Tranquil PC is launching their MonoOne all-in-one PC at the end of the month. It will be fanless and milled out of solid aluminum. This solid chunk of metal helps keep the device cool. It is a large mass of metal with fins cut out of it for extra surface area.

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Specifications are not listed. We do not even know the screen resolution, processor, drive, I/O ports, or RAM. Current speculation is that it will use a low power Core-level CPU. It looks like it has a removable metal stand and a VESA mount for the wall. In fact, it looks like the stand is attached by the bottom two wall-mount points but I cannot see for sure.

The MonoOne launches at the end of September.

Source: Tranquil

ECS "Design Your Own LIVA" Competition Is Almost Over!

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 18, 2014 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: LIVA, ECS, case mods, case mod contest

ECS USA is holding a competition for North American users to design mods for the LIVA mini PC kit. The contest consists of three phases and round one, whose winners will advance to the second phase, ends on September 30th. If you want to enter in the contest, you will need to submit your first phase entry before then to be eligible for the second phase. Check out Morry's post for a second opinion.

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What are the phases?

Round 1 (Ends September 30th): You will need to publish the "soft copy" of your design draft to Facebook. This will consist of six illustrations: Front, Rear, Left Side, Right Side, Top, and 45-degree 3D illustration. See the image below for an example. The top ten participants, based on Facebook likes, will be provided with a white LIVA mini PC kit to modify in Round 2.

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Round 2 (Ends October 31st): The winners of Round 1 will, using the provided LIVA kits and your design draft, implement their customizations. Photographs of these modified cases will be sent to ECS (I assume by Facebook) for a team of judges to rank them first, second, third, or runner-up.

Round 3 (November 7th): Sit back, relax, and wait for the judges to select winners. The Champion will receive $1000 USD for their trouble, second place will get $500 USD, and third will get $300 USD. The honorable mentions will get various swags.

The contest is open to residents of the USA and Canada. Do it fast! It's less than two weeks and, as I understand it, the later you enter, the less time you will have to accumulate Facebook likes.

Source: ECS

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Is Selling Out?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM |
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft

Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.

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Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.

I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?

Source: Microsoft

ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

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From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google