Pioneer Announces First UHD Blu-ray Optical Drives

Subject: Storage | January 26, 2017 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: Ultra HD, UHD, Pioneer, optical, drive, disc, blu-ray, BDR-S 11 J-X, BDR-S 11 J-BK, 5.25, 4k

Pioneer has announced a pair of new 5.25-inch optical drives (via their Japanese site), and both offer support for UHD Blu-ray playback. These (SATA III) drives are the BDR-S 11 J-BK and BDR-S 11 J-X, and their Ultra HD capability represents a "world's first" for a BD burner, according to Pioneer.

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Image credit: Anandtech

There has been much discussion about support for UHD Blu-ray on the PC in the past year, and the technical capabilities of existing BDXL-compatible drives seemed to offer support for the current crop of UHD media. Unfortunately, the DRM requirements seem to involve the entire chain, and these new Pioneer optical drives support the required AACS 2.0 decryption. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with system requirements, as Anandtech lists what you will actually need to play back UHD Blu-rays on your computer:

  • A PC that supports AACS 2.0 and Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX)
  • An appropriate optical disk drive
  • Software that handles UHD BD playback
  • Windows 10
  • A GPU that has an HDMI 2.0a output with HDCP 2.2 (and AACS2 supported by its driver, which eliminates current-gen standalone GPUs)
  • A 4K TV/display that has an HDMI 2.0a input with HDCP 2.2

The software playback requirements are apparently handled via the included software, which Pioneer lists as PowerDVD 14 - though even the latest commercial version (PowerDVD 16) does not support UHD playback yet. It is possible that a custom version, or one previously unavailable to the public, has been included; as Pioneer specifically states that this included PowerDVD 14 software will allow you to "play Ultra HD Blu-ray such as movies, animation, music, Blu-ray, DVD-Video on your computer".

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Image credit: Anandtech

The two models are differentiated by a more premium audio focus for the BDR-S 11 J-X (and correspondingly higher price, based on reported pricing, below), with this model offering the following audiophile-oriented enhancements:

"BDR-S 11 J-X​ displays the playback quality of the audio CD to be played back in four levels, and in the case of low quality, it carries the "audio CD check function" which displays the coping method such as setting change of this machine It is suitable for applications such as CD ripping and music playback. In addition, by applying the coating adopted also for high-end audio equipment to the disc tray to improve the vibration isolation performance, it also enhances heat dissipation by applying special paint to the interior and exterior of the enclosure, realizing high quietness and reliability..."

Pricing was not included in the official announcement, though Anandtech's report quotes (Japanese-language) PC Watch with pricing roughly equivalent to $200 US (BDR-S 11 J-BK) and $300 US (BDR-S 11 J-X) for the drives. Availability begins in late February in Japan.

Source: Anandtech

Razer's Triple-Screen Laptop Prototype Reportedly Stolen from CES

Subject: Displays, Systems | January 10, 2017 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: triple-screen, theft, stolen, report, razer, Project Valerie, multi-display, laptop, igzo, gaming, CES 2017, CES, BBC, 4k, 3-screen

While Razer did not name any particular product when first publicly posting about a theft (see FaceBook screencap below) from their booth at CES, the BBC is now reporting that "the stolen prototypes" in question were indeed the Project Valerie triple-screen laptop introduced last week.

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"Two prototype models of an unusual gaming laptop with three screens have been stolen at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, according to PC maker Razer. The concept device boasts three 4K screens and is said to be the first portable laptop of its kind. Razer said the laptops had gone missing from its booth at the tech show on Sunday.

The incident was being taken 'very seriously', said chief executive Min-Liang Tan. A Razer spokesman said it was offering $25,000 (£20,600) for any 'original information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction' of those allegedly involved in the crime."

Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan initially posted news of stolen prototypes from his FaceBook page:

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One would expect that the security in place at CES, including many security cameras, should produce some more information as the investigation unfolds.

Source: BBC News

CES 2017: First 4K TVs Powered by Amazon Fire TV Announced

Subject: Displays | January 5, 2017 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: Westinghouse, Ultra HD, UHD, tv, television, seiki, FireTV, Element, CES 2017, CES, amazon, Alexa, 4k

In a market packed with UHD TVs, a trio of budget television manufacturers have introduced new Amazon Fire TV-powered 4K televisions at CES, with new models announced from Seiki, Westinghouse, and Element. These TVs are "the world’s first 4K Ultra HD Smart TVs with Amazon Fire TV built in", with remotes supporting Alexa voice commands.

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Quoting the press release, the new models from Seiki, Westinghouse, and Element will all offer the following features:

  • Sizes: 43", 50", 55" and 65"
  • 4K Ultra HD 3,840 by 2,160 panel resolution on all models
  • The latest Amazon Fire TV user interface, including easy access to over-the-air TV programming (separate HD antenna required), simple TV input setup, and component switching
  • Through the included voice remote with Alexa, customers can search for content and programming, control TV inputs and settings, and access Alexa skills to play music, get the news, check weather, sports scores, and more
  • Voice remote with Alexa enabled control of smart home devices from multiple brands, including Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Wink, Insteon, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, TP-Link, Ecobee and more
  • Access to more than 7,000 channels, games, apps and Alexa skills, including over 300,000 TV episodes and movies from Amazon Video, HBO NOW, Hulu and more
  • Amazon Prime customers get unlimited access to Prime Video, featuring thousands of movies and TV episodes at no additional cost to their membership. Plus, with Amazon Channels, Prime members can now get HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, PBS KIDS, and over 100 more services. They only pay for the channels they want—no cable required, no additional apps to download, and easy online cancellation.
  • 3 GB memory and 16 GB internal storage
  • Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet connectivity
  • Streaming resolution at 4K Ultra HD (2160p), 1080p, 720p up to 60 fps
  • One-year limited warranty and great customer support

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We have seen a similar idea with Roku TVs from Hisense, TCL, and others, as budget TV makers look to differentiate themselves; and the integration of the popular Amazon Fire TV for the OS may help position Seiki and company more favorably. Hopefully improvements in backlighting tech and UHD panel production cost reductions will result in a "trickle-down" effect for better picture quality for TVs selected on cost alone, but for now improved user interface design can go a long way in making these budget TVs pleasant to use.

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!

Source: PR Newswire

LG to Introduce Their First HDR Computer Monitor at CES

Subject: Displays | December 14, 2016 - 05:46 PM |
Tagged: monitor, LG, ips, high dynamic range, hdr, display, 4k

Ahead of CES 2017 LG has announced their upcoming monitor lineup, which features an HDR (high dynamic range) model. The 32UD99 is a 32-inch, 3840 x 2160 IPS display that offers 95% DCI-P3 color and HDR10 support. (Specifics as to peak brightness, rated black levels have not been released.)

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From LG's press release (pdf):

“As the availability of HDR (high dynamic range) content continues to expand across a wide range of categories, from movies to games, LG is leading the way in bringing this enhancement to desktop monitors,” said to Tim Alessi, head of product marketing at LG Electronics USA. “The enhanced picture quality offered by HDR technology is instantly recognizable to even the most casual user, and manufacturers are already pushing this promising technology to its fullest potential. From high-resolution displays compatible with HDR technology, to UltraWide monitors optimized for multitasking and gaming, LG is committed to delivering the most state-of-the-art and premium monitors in the industry today.” 

HDR is a somewhat complex standard, incorporating requirements for bit depth and supported color space, brightness level, and black levels for the display - along with compatibility with one of the HDR standards; HDR10 or Dolby Vision. The fact that LG is using IPS for their new montior seems problematic given the high black levels associated with IPS (unless sophisticated local dimming is employed, such as with LG's Infinia televisions of a few years ago), as most HDR sets employ a VA panel of some kind. Of note, rival Panasonic only recently announced their work on very high native contrast IPS panels, but there is no indication that LG has developed a similar technology at this point.

HDR is all the rage in the 4K television world, and for gaming both Sony and Microsoft's latest consoles support the more common HDR10 implementation - with compatible games, UHD Blu-ray, and streaming content, that is. It was inevitable that HDR would make its way into the computer display space, and presumably more and more PC games will be offering support going forward (Shadow Warrior 2 was the first title to support HDR on PC). A quick primer on HDR (with respect to the "Premium" standard from the UHD Alliance) can be found here, and only time will tell if the HDR10 standard will win out over Dolby Vision, though at this point it seems likely.

Source: LG

Acer's Predator XB321HK, the highest resolution G-SNYC monitor you can hope for until DP 1.3?

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: g-sync, Predator XB321HK, acer, 4k, ips

Thanks to DisplayPort 1.2's bandwidth being limited to a maximum of 17.28Gbit/s, shoppers looking for a high end variable refresh rate gaming monitor have a tough choice to make.  Leave aside aspect ratio, colour depth and panel type for the immediate question; do you prefer the higher definition of a 4K display but with a limited maximum refresh rate or will you be satisfied by 1440p or 1080p with a refresh rate that can hit upwards of 200Hz?  The Predator XB321HK chooses path of greater resolution, offering 3840x2160 but with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, on an IPS screen with 4ms grey to grey response time.  If you prefer an MVA ultra-widescreen with a higher resolution, perhaps investigate the Acer Z35, if the XB321HK is closer to what you are looking for check Hardware Canucks full review here.

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"With a sensible 4K form factor, a G-SYNC module and a stunning IPS panel, Acer's Predator XB321HK is the stuff gaming monitor dreams are made of. Unfortunately its refresh rate is limited by today's interface technology."

Here are some more Display articles from around the web:

Displays

The 4K version of the MSI GS73 6RF Stealth Pro

Subject: Mobile | November 7, 2016 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: msi, GS73 6RF Stealth Pro, 4k, GTX 1060M

You have two choices of display when purchasing an MSI GS73 6RF Stealth Pro, a 120Hz 1080p which is neither FreeSync nor GSYNC or a 4K display.  It is the 4K version which Kitguru has reviewed, powered by the mobile version of the GTX 1060, an i7-6700HQ and 16GB of DDR4-2400.  Storage is handled by a PCIe based M.2 SSD as well as a HDD for extra storage.  Kitguru loved the look of the panel but unfortunately the 1060M just doesn't have the power to game at that resolution; it also came with more third party software than they would have liked but that did not ruin it for them.  Check out the full review here.

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"MSI have been producing a fine line of gaming-oriented laptops for the last couple of years and today we look at their latest super slimline 17 inch model which features a Core i7 processor, Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, and a 4k IPS panel along with Steelseries keyboard and Killer networking."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

Source: Kitguru

Google Shows Off $69 4K HDR Capable Chromecast Ultra at #madebygoogle Event

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: google, chromecast, media streaming, 4k, hdr, google home

During Google's #madebygoogle event (embedded below), the company introduced a number of new pieces of hardware including a new Chromecast. The Chromecast Ultra is aimed at owners of 4K televisions and supports both 4K Ultra HD and HDR content from the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and other apps. Like previous models, the Chromecast takes input from Android, iOS, Mac OSX, and Windows devices that "cast" media to the TV. Additionally, it can be paired with Google Home where users can use voice commands such as "Ok, Google. Play the sneezing panda video on my TV."

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The Chromecast Ultra is a small circular puck with a Micro USB port and a short flexible flat HDMI cable that is permanently attached to the device. The Micro USB port is used for both power and data. One neat feature about the new Chromecast Ultra is that the power adpater has an Ethernet port on it so that users can hook the streaming device up to their wired network for better performance (important for streaming 4K content). Not to worry if you rely on WiFi though because it does support dual band 802.11ac.

Google has not yet revealed what hardware is under the hood of its new 4k capable Chromecast, unfortunately. They did release pricing information though: the Chromecast Ultra will be $69 and is "coming soon". If you are interested you can sign up to be notified when it becomes available.

Source: Google

ASUS Announces the ROG GX800 4K G-SYNC Gaming Laptop with GTX 1080 SLI

Subject: Mobile | August 19, 2016 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: UHD, ROG, Republic of Gamers, notebook, laptop, GX800, GTX 1080, gaming, g-sync, asus, 4k

ASUS has announced perhaps the most impressively-equipped gaming laptop to date. Not only does the new ROG GX800 offer dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics in SLI, but these cards are powering an 18-inch 4K display panel with NVIDIA G-SYNC.

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Not enough? The system also offers liquid cooling (via the liquid-cooling dock) which allows for overclocking of the CPU, graphics, and memory.

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"ROG GX800 is the world’s first 18-inch real 4K UHD gaming laptop to feature the latest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 in 2-Way SLI. It gives gamers desktop-like gaming performance, silky-smooth gameplay and detailed 4K UHD gaming environments. The liquid-cooled ROG GX800 features the ROG-exclusive Hydro Overclocking System that allows for extreme overclocking of the processor, graphics card and DRAM. In 3DMark 11 and Fire Strike Ultra benchmark tests, a ROG GX800 equipped with the Hydro Overclocking System scored 76% higher than other gaming laptops in the market.

ROG GX800 comes with NVIDIA G-SYNC technology and has plug-and-play compatibility with leading VR headsets to allow gamers to enjoy truly immersive VR environments. It has the MechTAG (Mechanical Tactile Advanced Gaming) keyboard with mechanical switches and customizable RGB LED backlighting for each key."

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Specifics on availability and pricing were not included in the announcement.

Source: ASUS

Thecus Announces N4810 4-Bay NAS with 4K Video Output

Subject: Storage | August 3, 2016 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: UHD, Thecus, storage, NAS, N4810, N2810PRO, htpc, hdmi, DisplayPort, 4k, 4-Bay

Thecus has announced their newest NAS with the N4810, an 4-bay design based on the existing N2810PRO 2-bay model. The N4810 offers up to 40 TB of hard drive storage support, and an Intel Celeron N3160 (quad-core) processor with 4GB of RAM, which can be expanded to 8GB.

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Image credit: Thecus

"With the N4810 built on the hardware of its little brother, the N2810PRO, users are equipped with the same immersive multimedia experience. Delivering superb sharpness and colour contrasts in 4K resolution playback, accessed through the HDMI output or DisplayPort output, guaranteeing that the picture quality from movies is just as the director envisioned.

Connection to your digital sound system via a SPDIF output is available, providing crystal clear audio for music and movies. A new USB 3.0 Type-C port has been added to the three already equipped USB 3.0 ports. This Type-C connector is the size of a microUSB and has a reversible plug allowing cables to be conveniently plugged in either direction."

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Image credit: Thecus

The NAS is geared toward the living room, with HDMI output along with DisplayPort, and display output up to UHD/4K. We took a look at the 2-bay N2560 NAS a couple of years ago, and on paper this new model offers a substantial upgrade as an entertainment/HTPC solution. Availability is set for this month.

Source: Thecus
Subject: Systems, Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Introduction and Specifications

Dell's premium XPS notebook family includes both 15 inch and 13 inch variants, and ship with the latest 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors and all of the latest hardware. But the screens are what will grab your immediate attention; bright, rich, and with the narrowest bezels on any notebook courtesy of Dell's InfinityEdge displays.

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Since Ryan’s review of the XPS 13, which is now his daily driver, Dell has added the XPS 15, which is the smallest 15-inch notebook design you will find anywhere. The XPS 13 is already "the smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet", according to Dell, giving their XPS series a significant advantage in the ultrabook market. The secret is in the bezel, or lack thereof, which allows Dell to squeeze these notebooks into much smaller physical dimensions than you might expect given their display sizes.

But you get more than just a compact size with these XPS notebooks, as the overall quality of the machines rivals that of anything else you will find; and may just be the best Windows notebooks you can buy right now. Is this simply bluster? Notebooks, like smartphones, are a personal thing. They need to conform to the user to provide a great experience, and there are obviously many different kinds of users to satisfy. Ultimately, however, Dell has produced what could easily be described as class leaders with these machines.

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Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 13 and 15 notebooks!!