Now that's a NUC of a different colour, the NUC6i5SYK

Subject: Systems | June 13, 2016 - 08:03 PM |
Tagged: nuc, Intel, NUC6i5SYK, Skylake

The new NUC6i5SYK may look like the previous generations but the innards represent a huge step forward.  At the base is a Skylake Core i5-6260U which brings with it support for DDR4 and more importantly NVMe SSDs. Connectivity includes Ethernet, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi, miniDP 1.2 and proper HDMI CEC 1.4b output.  The barebones kit will run $380USD, not bad for this type of design.  Missing Remote put the new NUC through its paces; check out the results here.

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"Updated with an Intel Core i5-6260U with Intel Iris Graphics 540, support for NVMe SSD, and DDR4, the system has the opportunity to fix the shortcomings in the previous generation (cough, CSH). The sleek looks and features will not be as much of a bargain as the plug-in-and-go Intel Pentium based NUC5PGYH. Intel is asking $380/£335 for the barebones kit, but with quite a bit more performance, better networking, and features on tap, it could well be worth the extra dosh."

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Systems

Computex 2016: Wooting One Analog Keyboard

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | June 4, 2016 - 09:39 PM |
Tagged: gaming keyboard

Wooting, a start-up that is currently running an already-funded Kickstarter, is looking to produce a keyboard with analog inputs. This is not exactly an entirely-new concept. Ben Heck created one back in 2012 by modifying the WASD cluster to include Hall Effect sensors, which were attached to the guts of an Xbox 360 controller to signal thumbstick offsets. The further you press the key, the more intense of an input would be sent to the PC.

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The Wooting One, which, again, is a Kickstarter campaign, does it a bit more... professionally. The keyboard uses the “Flaretech” switch, which I've never heard of before now, from Taiwanese manufacturer Adomax. Unlike Ben Heck's Hall Effect sensors, this one measures offset with light sensing. This raises a petty, pedantic argument about whether it's technically a mechanical keyboard, since the activation isn't performed by a direct, mechanical process, but users typically equate “mechanical keyboard” with its quality and feel, which could be achieved with non-mechanical processes. Semantics aside, the light-sensing mechanism allows precise measurement of how far down the key is. From there, it's just a matter of mapping that distance to an input.

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This is where the Wooting One looks quite interesting. The firmware and driver will communicate under XInput and apparently other Gamepad APIs, functioning under most games that allow simultaneous gamepad + keyboard input for a single player. They are also expecting to create an open-source system, with an API, that allows games to access the analog input of apparently all keys on the board. This is interesting, because XInput has fairly restrictive limitations of about six axises of analog input (although the two axises corresponding to the triggers are lower precision and, with the Xbox One controller, joined into a single axis). A new API can circumvent all of this for gaming going forward, and it will be required for analog keyboards to get off the ground. It's not a difficult task itself, as there is quite a bit of bandwidth in external IO connections these days, but getting and entire industry's worth of vendors to agree could be a task (unless you're, like, Microsoft). Hopefully it's open, with a permissive license, and a few, big-name engine vendors add support to push it forward.

And, let's be honest -- XInput is limiting. A new API could be good for obscure gamepads, too.

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Outside of analog gaming, they are also milking this “know how far down the key is” feature as much as they can. For instance, they are also allowing users to choose the activation distance in digital mode. Users can set their balance between rejecting partial presses and speed of input based on their ability to touch type.

It's a European Kickstarter, and the lowest backer tier that includes the keyboard ships in November and is worth 100 Euro, ~$115 USD. which apparently includes tax and shipping for North America and Europe. That doesn't correlate to a retail price, if the product even gets off the ground, but it's a data point however reliable. Tax-in and free shipping sounds a bit... sketchy for a crowdfunding campaign... but that could just be a sign that they're more affiliated with an existing company (and its supply chain) than they're letting on, rather than business naivety.

MSI AEGIS, the World's Fiercest Mobile Gaming Barebone PC Series

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2016 - 08:26 PM |
Tagged: msi, gaming desktop, computex 2016, aegis x, aegis

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MSI has released more information about their new non-backpack model systems, the Aegis Gaming Desktops.  There will be two models, the basic with a B150 motherboard, a Silent Storm 2 air cooling system and support for Intel CPUs of up to 65W TDP.  The Aegis X will sport a Z170 motherboard and Silent Storm 2 Pro watercooling, with support for up to 95W TDP processors such as the 6700K. 

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Both support M.2 SSDs along with 2.5/3.5" drives and sport a USB 3.1 Type-C connector, although only the Aegis X has the second generation port. The two systems support both wired, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, the base model uses Intel and Realtek while the X uses a Killer product for both wired and wireless.  With base prices of $400 and $500 respectively you get a decent deal for a motherboard, a 600W 80 PLUS Gold PSU and a decent looking case with some impressive features.

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The Aegis X also comes with one touch overclocking, aka the Dragon OC button which boost speeds by 15%.  MSI's Mystic Light LED system is on both systems, the second most popular thing at this year's Computex is the ability to offer 16 million different colours with different modes and patterns. 

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The Aegis X features the most popular feature at the conference, it is VR Ready.  In this particular case, since both are bare bones products is that there is a front mounted HDMI and USB 3.1 support.  This feature is handy for those of us with head mounted displays but it is quickly approaching the point where toasters and Josh's favourite wand will be advertised as VR Ready.

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Click to read through the original PR.

Source: MSI

GIGABYTE Showcases New Motherboards and BRIX at Computex 2016

Subject: Motherboards, Systems | June 1, 2016 - 05:50 PM |
Tagged: Z170, X99, Ultra Gaming, Intel H170, gigabyte, designare, brix

Gigabyte is showing off new X99, B150 and Z170 motherboards, the Ultra Gaming series and the Designare series which they describe as being optimized for content creators, designers, and artists.  The Ultra Gaming series will add Ambient Surround LEDs, found on the motherboard and Pinstripe Headers so that you can have a lightshow while you game. 

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Also new is Hybrid Fan Control which will allows the motherboard headers to support Voltage Calibration and Pulse Width Modulation fans and pumps.  M.2 and U.2 support is of course also added to the new boards.  The new boards include the GA-X99-Ultra Gaming, GA-X99-Phoenix SLI, GA-Z170X-Ultra Gaming, GA-Z170-UD3 Ultra and GA-B150-Gaming TH.

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The Designare series is a bit different, with a focus on storage speed.  USB 3.1 ports offer quick transfer speeds for your external storage and support for three NVMe drives in RAID-0 ensure that the speed of your internal storage does not slow your creative flow down.  This series features the GA-X99-Designare EX, GA-Z170X-Designare and GA-H170-Designare.

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They also offered a teaser as to their new BRIX lineup.  The BRIX Gaming UHD will be tiny, less than 2.6L and less than 2kg but will support Core i5 and i7 processors.  As we well there will be a new GIGABYTE PC which will be slightly larger at about 10L and will support full sized graphics cards.

Click for the full press release.

Source: Gigabyte

ECS launches brand new LEET GAMING motherboard & LIVA mini PC

Subject: Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 04:31 PM |
Tagged: ECS, leet gaming, liva pro, Z170-LIGHTSABER, computex 2016

It must have been quite a fight for ECS to be able to call their new motherboard the Z170-LIGHTSABER but that is exactly what they have done.  The motherboard features the usual lineup of Z170 features, three 16x PCIe 3.0 slots with an additional 1x, 7.1 sound from an onboard ALC1150 codec and an OPAMP, a pair of USB 3.1 ports along with over a dozen legacy USB ports and support for an M.2 drive.  In addtion higher end Nichicon caps were used, there is an E2400 Killer NIC onboard and seven colour LEDs to make it shine.  They also discuss a brand new USB power supply for use with devices that draw a lot of power, it will be interesting to see if this has the impact on VR devices they imply.

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They have also announced the new LIVA Pro based on the new SFX motherboard standard.  The brochure has a good example of what this new form factor is and how it compares to others.

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The LIVA Pro will support any 6th generation Skylake Intel processor with a TDP of 65W or less and a pair DDR4 SO-DIMMs of up to 32GB.  Internal storage is handled by an M.2 drive and the 1.3L case has an external 2.5" drive dock built into it for additional storage.  For external interfaces you have a USB 3.0 Type C port, three USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0, HDMI and DisplayPort.  There is a second M.2 port which is populated by a WiFi/Bluetooth combo card.

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Click on through to read the PR.

Source: ECS

ASUS Avalon concept PC merges desktops and DIY with cable-free mindset

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 12:04 PM |
Tagged: crazy people, concept, computex 2016, computex, avalon, asus

If you expected Computex to be bland and stale this year, ASUS has something that is going to change your mind. During the company's Republic of Gamers press conference, it revealed a concept PC design it has been working on dubbed Avalon. The goal of this project was to improve on the fundamental design of the PC; something that hasn't changed for decades. ASUS wanted to show that you could build a platform that would allow DIY machines to be "more modular, easier to build, and more tightly integrated."

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The result is a proof of concept design that looks more like a high end turntable than a PC. In reality, you are looking at a machine that has been totally redesigned, from the power supply to motherboard and case integration to cooling considerations and more. ASUS has posted a great story that goes into a lot of detail on Avalon, and it's clear this is a project the team has been working on for some time.

The brainchild of Jonathan Chu, the Avalon concept takes a notebook-like approach to desktop design. The motherboard is designed in conjunction with the chassis to enable more seamless cooperation between the two.

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The first example of changes to Avalon is something as simple as the front panel connectors on a case. Connecting them to your motherboard is the same today, basically, as it has ever been. But if you are the manufacturer or designer of both the chassis and the motherboard itself, it is trivial to have the buttons, lights and even additional capabilities built into a specific location on the PCB that matches with access points on the case. 

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Re-thinking the rear IO panel was another target: making it modular and connected to the system via PCI Express means you can swap connectivity options based on the user's needs. Multiple Gigabit NICs a requirement? Done. Maximum USB capability? Sure. Even better, by making the back panel IO a connected device, it can host storage and sound controllers on its own, allowing for improved audio solutions and flexible data configurations. 

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ASUS even worked in a prototype power supply that is based on the SFX form factor but that uses a server-style edge connector, removing wires from the equation. It then becomes the motherboard's responsibility to distribute power through the other components; which again is easy to work through if you are designing these things in tandem. Installing or swapping a power supply becomes as simple as pulling out a drive tray.

This is all made possible by an internal structure that looks like this:

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Rethinking how a motherboard is built, how it connects to the outside world and to other components, means that ASUS was able to adjust and change just about everything. The only area that remains the same is for the discrete graphics card. These tend to draw too much power to use any kind of edge connector (though the ASUS story linked above says they are working on a solution) and thus you see short run cables from a break out on the motherboard to the standard ROG graphics card.

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The ASUS EdgeUp story has some more images and details and I would encourage you to check it out if you find this topic compelling; I know I do. There are no prices, no release dates, no plans for sampling yet. ASUS has built a prototype that is "right on the edge of what’s possible" and they are looking for feedback from the community to see what direction they should go next.

Will the DIY PC in 2020 be a completely different thing than we build today? It seems ASUS is asking the same question.

Source: ASUS EdgeUp

MSI at Computex, a peek before the show

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 25, 2016 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: msi, computex 2016, GS63 Stealth Pro

MSI offered a sneak peek at the lineup you can expect to see them showcase at Computex and the list is quite long, with some interesting new additions.

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For laptops you can expect to see the new GS63 Stealth Pro, with a Core i7 6700HQ and GTX970M inside.  The cooling system is also new, a five heatpipe system called the Cooler Boost Trinity with Whirlwind Blades pushing hot air out the exhaust ports.  We should hear more about what this system actually is during the show.

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The GT83 and GT73 Titan SLI laptops are built with VR in mind, as well as supporting output to multiple monitors and 4K resolutions; though perhaps not both at once.  The GT83 contains desktop class GTX 980s while the GT73 uses the mobile versions, the GTX 980M or a single desktop GTX 980 if you prefer.

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The GS73 focuses on a slimmed down design while still incorporating a GTX970M and the aforementioned Cooler Boost Trinity system.  It will also sport a SteelSeries gaming keyboard, an ESS SABRE HiFi headset AMP and Nahimic 2.0 sound system.

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Something far more unique is the 'Backpack PC', allowing you to strap a Core i7 and GTX 980 to your back so that you are not tied to a desk when using VR.  With that amount of power you will still need mains power as the weight of the battery required to power that system for more than a few minutes would be prohibitive.  On the other hand the cables from your VR headset and controllers would be connected to the backpack which would theoretically direct the cables out of your way.

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The Aegis Gaming Desktop is a far more familiar desktop machine, though it too offers a nod towards VR usage by locating an HDMI connection at the front of the 19.6L case.  It will also have a Dragon Button, reminiscent of the old Turbo button from the original 8086 processor, which will boost your 'speed and performance' by 15%.  Likely this is an overclocking preset which one assumes can be enabled on the fly.

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The Vortex G65 SLI desktop is a little less plain, a round case which is a mere 6.5L in volume but still contains two GTX 980s and an i7-6700K, with their proprietary Silent Storm Cooling system.  MSI continues the pattern of building systems around VR compatibility with the Vortex.

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Continuing on to their Cubi 2 Plus, a SFF system powered by a Skylake-S class processor a wee 5x5" mini-STX motherboard.  The CPU is not BGA and so can be upgraded and there is enough space in the system for a 2.5" SSD upgrade, albeit just barely.

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On to their motherboards, first up is the X99A GAMING PRO CARBON which offers a few new features to tempt users to upgrade.  Not only does it have USB Type-C connectors but they are described as being located at the front, presumably on a header. It also sports Audio Boost 3, Turbo M.2 32 Gb/s, SEx ports and Dynamic Mystic Light, an LED systems with software that supports more than 16.8 million colors.

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For those more concerned with overclocking than having an impressive light show, the X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM features Military Class 5 components and a specially designed thermal system to ensure a solid overclock.  It also has support for U.2 32Gb/s drives.

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The last of the trio of motherboards will be the Z170A MPOWER GAMING TITANIUM, similar to the X99A model apart from the socket. You will get all the features of the TITANIUM series for your LGA1151 processors.

Expect to see much more information about these products and others once Computex gets underway.

Source: MSI

Quiet PC Launches Stylish Fanless Intel NUC-Based PC

Subject: Systems | May 25, 2016 - 06:26 AM |
Tagged: UK, SFF, quiet pc, nuc, iris, Intel Skylake, hd graphics

Quiet PC (a UK-based retailer for PCs and components) recently launched a small form factor fanless PC based on Intel’s Skylake NUC platform. The new PC is aptly named the Ultra NUC Pro 6 and combines an Intel Skylake-based Core i5 processor with a fanless chassis from Aleutia (the R50) that results in a quiet and stylish PC.

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The understated case is built from a single block of aluminum using a CNC machine and 5-axis drill. It is primarily black although the center of the case reveals bare copper plates (that direct contact the CPU) used help facilitate cooling the 15W TDP Core i5-6260U CPU. The front panel hosts two USB 3.0 ports, an analog audio port, and IR receiver while the rear I/O includes two more USB 3.0 ports, one Wi-Fi antenna connector, Kensington lock, Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45), AC power, and mini DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4b video outputs.

Internally, you are able to configure this particular fanless NUC with either a Core i3 clocked at 2.3 GHz or a Core i5 clocked at 1.8 GHz base and up to 2.9 GHz Turbo Boost. Both 14nm chips have a 15W TDP and are dual cores with HyperThreading (2 core / 4 thread), but they differ in the GPU portion. The Core i3 hosts Intel HD Graphics 520 while the Core i5 has Intel’s Iris Graphics 540. Beyond the processor, users can configure the PC with up to 32GB of dual channel DDR4, a single M.2 form factor SSD (up to a 512GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD), and a pre-installed Wi-Fi module (Intel Wireless-AC 8260).

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This new NUC measures 160 x 37 x 110mm and comes with a 2 year warranty. Quiet PC currently offers the base model at £575.83 (~$841.33) sans OS. The model with Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and Windows 10 Pro is £776.76 which translates to about $1135.23.

That is the major drawback of this nearly half liter PC: the price. Despite it’s neat industrial design, this PC is essentially priced out of the home market perhaps save for certain fanless enthusiasts like our friends at FanlessTech (hehe). Industrial customers that need a decently powerful PC without moving parts and an internal case that can gather dust, metals, wood, and whatever other factory and workshop conditions it might be subjected to would be interested in this however. Quiet PC further indicates that this fanless PC is aimed at marine and healthcare customers. Aleutia claims that at ambient temperatures of 21°C (69.8°F) the PC maxed out at 51°C (123.8°F) under 100% CPU load and the PC can be used in environments with ambient temperatures up to 50°C (122°F).

Do you think our friends on the other side of the pond have a nice quiet PC option or is the price of silence too much?

Also watch: Intel NUC5i5RYK SFF System Review - Broadwell NUC

Source: Quiet PC

April showers bring May flowers; cash spent means new growth in your PC

Subject: Systems | May 2, 2016 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: build guide

Though this post did not quite make it in time for the title, the components are not going to be any different in The Tech Reports April System's Guide.  Similar to our own HWLB, The Tech Report breaks out their recommendations into several price points to accommodate those who are on a budget as well as those for whom the sky is not the limit.  In most cases there are two recommendations for each level of spending, GPUs are certainly an exception as the market is incredibly crowded at the moment and discounts often impact a buyers final decision.  Pop on over to take a look at the components they chose for those of you doing some spring cleaning inside your PCs.

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"In this edition of The Tech Report's System Guide, we examine the CPUs, graphics cards, memory, cases, power supplies, and other parts that system builders will need to power Oculus' Rift and HTC's Vive VR headsets."

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Systems

Nintendo Announces NX Launch Window

Subject: Systems | April 27, 2016 - 07:51 AM |
Tagged: Nintendo, amd

Not a whole lot to go off for this announcement. I mean, hints have been dropped, partners have made announcements, and leaks have surfaced for over a year at this point. The only thing that today brings is a release window: March 2017. The final name, exact specifications, and even whatever the thing is that makes this console different, are all currently unknown. Given that E3 2016 will be the last E3 before release, though, I expect that we will find out all about it in June.

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Speaking of announcement dates, though, today is an odd one. Midnight (PST) on a seemingly random Wednesday in April doesn't hold any significance to me. Sure, it aligns with their earnings report for investors. Maybe a release date would help raise their stock price (or buffer its potential fall) but it doesn't mean a whole lot for its fans. Does that matter, though? Maybe not.

While this site is PC-oriented, we do touch on console coverage. When the WiiU launched, Ryan disassembled the console over the course of a five-hour livestream, which was archived YouTube. (He dismantled the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well.) We are also interested in how AMD benefits from this whole arrangement. That company is one of the few sources for x86 processors, which gaming consoles have been flocking to, as well as high-end graphics. Combine the two, and you can get a relatively cheap system that is quite competent (for not having a discrete, add-in graphics card) at gaming workloads. According to AMD's previous earnings call, they secured multiple design wins, but we'll need to wait and see whether this is one, and whether it includes the CPU this time. As an aside, Nintendo also recently joined the Khronos Group, so that could eventually be interesting for our readers, too... or not.