PC: for all your Xbox gaming needs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | July 11, 2011 - 05:57 PM |
Tagged: xbox, pc gaming

Last week we reported on Microsoft rolling their Games for Windows initiative into Xbox.com and I essentially said that unless Microsoft is trying to roll their now established Xbox brand into Windows that they are missing the point of PC gaming. This week we hear rumors that, in fact, Microsoft may be trying to roll their now established Xbox brand into Windows. According to Insideris, Windows 8 will allow you to play Xbox 360 games on your PC. That said, despite speculation as a result of this news, it does not state whether it will be the complete catalog or a subset of 360 games that are compatible with the PC.

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Which came first? The console or the Newegg?

What does this mean for PC gaming? I am unsure at this point. A reasonable outcome would be that Xbox becomes a user-friendly brand for Microsoft’s home theatre PC initiatives which adds a whole lot more sense to the Windows 8 interface outside of the tablet PC space. This is a very positive outcome for the videogame industry as a whole since it offers the best of Xbox for those who desire it and the choice of the PC platform.

This however opposes Microsoft’s excessively strict stance on closed and proprietary video gaming platforms. Could Microsoft have been pushing their proprietary platform to gut the industry norms knowing that at some point they would roll back into their long-standing more-open nature of Windows? Could Microsoft be attempting to lock down PCs, meeting somewhere in the middle? We will see, but my hopes are that proprietary industry will finally move away from art. After all, why have a timeless classic if your platform will end-of-life in a half-dozen years at best?

Source: Insideris

A PC Macbook Air: Can Intel has?

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Systems | July 10, 2011 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: Intel, ultrabook

Intel has been trying to push for a new classification of high-end, thin, and portable notebooks to offset the netbook flare-up of recent memory. Intel hopes that by the end of 2012, these “Ultrabooks” will comprise 40% of consumer notebook sales. What is the issue? They are expected to retail in the 1000$ range which is enough for consumers to buy a dual-core laptop with 4 GB of RAM and a tablet. Intel is not fazed by this and has even gone to the effort of offering money to companies wishing to develop these Ultrabooks; the OEMs are fazed, however, and even with Intel’s pressing there is only one, the ASUS UX21, slated to be released in September.

Asus sticking its neck out. (Video by Engadget)

For the launch, Intel created three processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture: the i5-2557M, the i7-2637M, and the i7-2677M. At just 17 watts of power, these processors should do a lot on Intel’s end to support the branding of Ultrabooks having long battery life and an ultra-thin case given the lessened need for heat dissipation. Intel also has two upcoming Celeron processors which are likely the same ones we reported on two months ago. Intel has a lot to worry about when it comes to competition with their Ultrabook platform though; AMD will have products that appeal to a similar demographic for half the price and tablets might just eat up much of the rest of the market.

Do you have a need for a thousand dollar ultraportable laptop? Will a tablet not satisfy that need?

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Source: ZDNet

Step into the HTPC arena to witness the battle for iGPU dominance

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: htpc, llano, sandybridge; a3850; i3 2100, amd, Intel, APU

In one corner is the $140 AMD A8-3850 and in the other is the $135 Intel Core i3-2100T, with matching motherboards both about $100.  We have seen how the new Llano chips stack up in computation and gaming but their use in HTPC systems is also important and requires different benchmarks.  Bjorn3D takes a look at the two chips ability to properly render Blu-ray at the proper 23.976 fps naturally as well as taking advantage of Direct X Video Acceleration.  Take a look to see how AMD's new APU can handle a role as an HTPC.

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"In addition to being a capable mainstream APU, the Llano and the new Lynx platform have the potential to be a perfect match for a more capable HTPC system. In this article we are taking a look at the HTPC capabilities of the A3850 and a Gigabyte A75 motherboard, and contrasting it to a comparable Intel system with a Core i3-2100T and an ASRock H67 motherboard."

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Source: Bjorn3D

Putting together a silent and powerful mATX system

Subject: Systems | July 5, 2011 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: Silverstone, Fortress FT03S, zotac, Z68-ITX Wi-Fi, mATX

Using the Silverstone Fortress FT03S, an mATX case measuring 235mm x 284mm x 487mm (9.25" x 11.18" x 19.17") Hardware Heaven crafted a great machine for HTPC use or for those wanting a quiet and diminutive work station.  Inside is a Zotac Z68 board, a Core i3 2100, an Intel 80GB X25-M SSD, two 4GB Corsair Vengenace DDR3 DIMMs, a Sony Blu-Ray drive, an Asus Essence STX Sound Card and the Sapphire Ultimate HD6670 as a discrete GPU.  All of that seems a fairly tight fit, but Hardware Heaven shows that even more powerful parts could be contained within.  Check out the full build process here.

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"Last month we took a look at building a Fusion based HTPC which was based around an m-ITX motherboard and silent case. This system offered good media playback and decent general computing however there are consumers who require more performance from a compact system. Therefore today we are going to look at building a compact, stylish system based on Intel's Z68 chipset in ITX form (The Zotac Z68-ITX) and the Core i3-2100."

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It's not a fan controller, it's an Antec Veris multimedia controller that sits in your 5.25" bays

Subject: Systems | June 29, 2011 - 03:11 PM |
Tagged: Veris Multimedia Station Premier, htpc, antec

Antec has released a product which can help turn a PC in to an HTPC.  It sits in the same place a fan controller would, taking over two 5.25" bays and looking a bit like a high end car stereo.  The Veris Multimedia Station Premier comes with a remote as well as the main unit which allows you control over the machine while you are sitting on the couch, including being able to turn the machine off.  After eTechnix downloaded the latest version of the software they delved into the many features and settings that are available which they found a little overwhelming initially.  Check out their full review here.

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"Antec Inc was founded 25 years ago. They aimed their high-performance computer components and accessories products at the gaming, PC upgrade and DIY markets. Over the last 25 years Antec has built up a very good reputation and are now best known for their PC cases and power supplies. As they have moved into the HTPC case market it makes sense to expand on that segment to release other products which might give them an advantage in the market over their competitors.

They now produce a range of media component products from hard drive enclosures to multimedia stations. Today we take a look at the Antec Veris Multimedia Station Premier which is designed to be a complete solution for home theatre PC builders or those users looking to enhance the media experience of their PC.

The Antec Veris Multimedia Station Premier fits into two 5.25" drive bays and provides access to your PC using the supplied remote control as well as providing information on its inbuilt LCD display."

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Source: eTechnix

Pick up the Habey EMC-600B HTPC case for under $100

Subject: Systems | June 24, 2011 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mITX, htpc, case

One challenge when building an HTPC is finding an enclosure that won't end up being half of the cost of building the machine.  You could use a cheap SFF case but it will look a little gauche when sitting beside your other home theatre equipment.  Habey now offers a choice with a $70 case and 120W PSU combo that would blend seamlessly into a living room with the new EMC-600B.  There were compromises made in the design to keep the costs low, the most important of which is the lack of anywhere to put an optical drive which is exacerbated by the lack of any extra USB ports on the case.  If that doesn't completely deter you then check out Missing Remote's full review.

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"The Wesena ITX7, HDPlex H10.ODD and Vidabox vCase3 are all great cases with a direct focus on HTPC aesthetics and each has their pros and cons. The one con almost always present when discussing HTPC chassis is PRICE--SFF chassis with home theater A/V focused designs are frequently over the $100 price range, not including the power supply. What Habey is offering in their EMC-600B enclosure is a stylish aluminum SFF chassis for mini-ITX only that occupies a tiny footprint with a nice appearance to fit just as appropriately in your A/V stack as in your bedroom--and it includes a power supply, all for under $70."

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Intel Hopes For Exaflop Capable Supercomputers Within 10 Years

Subject: Systems | June 21, 2011 - 03:52 AM |
Tagged: supercomputing, mic, larrabee, knights corner, Intel

Silicon Graphics International and Intel recently announced plans to reach exascale levels of computational power within ten years. Exascale computing amounts to computers that are capable of delivering 1,000+ petaflops (One exaflop is 1000 petaflops) of computational horsepower to process quintillions of calculations. To put that in perspective, today’s supercomputers are just now breaking into the level of single-digit petaflop performance, with the fastest supercomputer delivering 8.16 petaflops. It is capable of this thanks to many thousands of eight core CPUs, whereas other top 500 supercomputers are starting to utilize a CPU and GPU combination in order to achieve petaflop performance.

The Aubrey Isle Silicon Inside Knights Corner

This partnering of Central Processing Unit (CPU) and GPU (or other accelerator) allows high performance supercomputers to achieve much higher performance than with CPUs alone. Intel CPUs power close to 80% of the top 500 Supercomputers; however, they have begun to realize that specialized accelerators are able to speed up highly parallel computing tasks. Specifically, Intel plans to combine Xeon processors with successors to their Knights Corner Many Integrated Core accelerator to reach exascale performance levels when combined with other data transfer and inter-core communication advancements. Knights Corner is an upcoming successor to the Knights Ferry and Larrabee processors.

Computer World quotes Eng Lim Goh, the CTO of SGI, in stating that “Accelerators such as graphics processors (GPUs) are currently being used with CPUs to execute more calculations per second. While some accelerators achieve desired results, many are not satisfied with the performance related to the time and cost spent porting applications to work with accelerators.”

Knights corner will be able to run x86 based software and features 50 cores based on a 22nm manufacturing process.  Each core will run four threads at 1.2 GHz, have 8 MB of cache, and will be supported by 512 bit vector processing units.  It’s predecessor, Knights Ferry is based on 32 45nm cores and eight contained in a Xeon server and are capable of 7.4 teraflops. Their MIC chip is aimed directly at NVIDIA’s CUDA and AMD’s OpenCL graphics processors, and is claimed to offer performance in addition to ease of use as they are capable of running traditional x86 based software.

It looks like the CPU-only supercomputers will be seeing more competition from GPU and MIC accelerated supercomputers, and will eventually be replaced at the exascale level. AMD and NVIDIA are betting heavily on their OpenCL and CUDA programmable graphics cards while Intel is going with a chip capable of running less specialized but widely used x86 programmable chips.  It remains to be seen which platform will be victorious; however, the increased competition should hasten the advancement of high performance computing power.  You can read more about Intel’s plan for Many Integrated Core accelerated supercomputing here.

Japanese Supercomputer Takes First Place Crown On Top 500 List

Subject: Systems | June 20, 2011 - 11:34 PM |
Tagged: supercomputing, petaflop

 Residing in the Riken Advanced Institute For Computational Science in Kobe, a Japanese supercomputer capable of 8.16 petaflops of computational power has reclaimed the number one supercomputer spot on the Top 500 list. The last time Japan held the number one spot was in 2004 with their Earth Simulator. Dubbed the K Computer, the new Japanese machine has handily widened the gap between the now second place Chinese Tianhe 1A, which delivers close to a fourth of the computational power at 2.57 petaflops.

 

The K Computer Setup at Riken AICS.

What makes the new supercomputer especially interesting is that it uses only CPUs to deliver all 8.16 petaflops, and eschews any graphics processors or other accelerators. Specifically, the K Computer is comprised of 68,544 eight core SPARC64 VIIIfx processors, which amounts to 548,352 processing cores. When the supercomputer enters service at the Riken AICS, it will be capable of even more performance. Specifically, it will deliver more than 10 petaflops using 80,000 of the eight core SPARC CPUs (640,000 cores).

One of the K Computer's racks.

Unfortunately, this top level computational power comes at a price, specifically the amount of power required to run the machine. While running the Linpack benchmark, the machine drew 10 megawatts of power, which is slightly more than twice the average power consumption of the other top 10 systems at 4.3 megawatts.

If the CPU-only design is capable of delivering greater than 10 petaflops once the K Computer is put into operation, it will be a very noteworthy feat. On the other hand, the climbing power requirements are an issue, and the competition is unlikely to surpass the K Computer without further breakthroughs in power-efficient processor and memory designs. Erich Strohmaier, the head of the Future Technology Group of the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was quoted by Computer World as stating "Even if it is not desirable, we can adapt to 10 MW for the very largest systems, but we cannot allow power consumption to grow much more." You can read more about the new system over at Computer World.

CiragoTV aims for the new platinum standard for HTPCs

Subject: Systems | June 17, 2011 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: htpc, cirago

The CiragoTV Platinum Network Multimedia device comes in three flavours ranging from a $179 500GB to a $299 2TB version, all of which are identical apart from storage capacity.  It is not really a true HTPC as it does not include a TV Tuner, but it does offer a little more than a plain network multimedia platform since it has a Bittorrent client inside.  Legit Reviews tried it out and found Blu-ray ISO files to play perfectly and the device was capable of passing through DTS and Dolbly 7.1 digital sound to the receiver they used.  As well, as long as you are feeding it signal through a cable box it can record TV, though the ability to download shows makes that feature slightly redundant. 

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"At $279.99, the 2TB CiragoTV CMC3200 has to be close to extraordinary especially when you match it up against the competition that is on the market today. The picture and video quality of the CMC3200 is very good – even excellent. The fact that we can record from a source and use a BitTorrent client makes the unit even more impressive. The sticker price is the biggest issue here..."

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Wii U Revealed To Contain Last Gen PC DirectX 10.1 Capable AMD Radeon GPU

Subject: Systems | June 14, 2011 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: Wii U, radeon, r770, Nintendo, amd

While the current Nintendo console’s internals are very underpowered compared to the competition from the Xbox 360 and PS3, the company looks to leapfrog those consoles in the graphics department with the upcoming Wii U console. According to Engadget, the new Nintendo offering will come equipped with a GPU much like that of AMD’s 4800 series. The custom R770 chip is DirectX 10.1 and multi-display capable, allowing the console to output up to four SD video streams.

While the proposed chip is last-generation in terms of PC gaming, on the console front it will be the current highest-end GPU, with the Xbox 360 using a custom ATI X1900 GPU and the PS3 employing a custom RSX (”Reality Synthesizer”) graphics chip based on NVIDIA’s 7800GTX PC graphics card.

What do you think about Nintendo’s move to employ the AMD GPU?

Source: Engadget