Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2018 - 05:53 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: VR, virtual reality, Tobii, htc vive, eye tracking, CES 2018, CES
Last month in Tobii's suite at CES I was given a demonstration of a prototype VR headset that looked like any other HTC Vive - except for the ring of Tobii eye-tracking sensors inside and around each lens. While this might seem like a bit of an odd concept at first I was patient as the benefits were explained to me, and then blown away when I actually tried it myself.
As you know, if you have used a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, the basic mechanics of VR interaction involve pointing your head in the direction you want to look, reaching with your hand (and controller) to point to an object, and then pressing a button on the controller to act. I will be completely honest here: I don't like it. After a little while the fatigue and general unnatural feeling of rapid, bird-like head movements kills whatever enthusiasm I might have for the experience, and I was the last person to give high praise to a new VR product. HOWEVER, I will attempt to explain why simply adding eye tracking actually made the entire experience 1000 times better (for me, anyway).
When I put on the prototype headset, the only setup I had to do was quickly follow a dot in my field of vision as it moved up/down/left/right, like a vision test for a driver's license. That's the entire calibration process, and with that out of the way I was suddenly able to look around without moving my head, which made the head movements when they followed feel completely natural. I would instinctively look up, or to the side, with my head following when I decided to focus attention on that area. The amount of physical head movements was reduced to normal, human levels, which alone prevented me from feeling sick after a few minutes. Of course, this was not the only demonstrated feature of the integrated eye-tracking, and if you are familiar with Tobii you will know what's next.
This looks primitive, but it was an effective demo of the eye-tracking integration
The ability of the headset to know exactly where you are looking allows you to aim based on your line of sight if the game implements it, and I tried some target practice (throwing rocks at glass bottles in the demo world) and it felt completely natural. After launching a few rocks at distant bottles I instantly decided that this should be the mechanic of fantastic VR football video game - that I could throw at different receivers just by looking them down.
I also received a demo of simulated AR integration (still within the VR world), and a demo of what eye-tracking adds to a home theater experience - and it was pretty convincing. I could scroll around and select movie titles from an interface by simply looking around, and within the VR world it was as if I was looking up at a big projection screen. Throughout the different demos I kept thinking about how much more natural everything felt when I wasn't constantly moving my head around and pointing at things with my controller.
Finally, there was another side to everything I experienced - and it might have been the most interesting thing from a PC enthusiast perspective: if the VR headset can track your focus, the GPU doesn't have to render anything else at full resolution. That alone could make this something of a breakthrough addition to the current VR headset space, as performance is very expensive (even before the mining craze) and absolutely necessary for a smooth, high frame-rate experience. After 45 minutes with the headset on, I felt totally fine - and that was a change.
So what is the takeaway from all this? I'm just an editor who had a meeting with Tobii at CES, and I walked out of the meeting with a couple of business cards and nothing else. I admit that I am a VR skeptic who went into the meeting with no expectations. And I still left thinking it was the best product I saw at the show.
More information and media about the CES demos are available from Tobii on their CES blog post.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 11, 2018 - 05:20 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: snapdragon 845, Samsung, MWC, galaxy s9, galaxy, exynos 9810, CES 2018, CES
Samsung confirmed to ZDNet at CES that it plans to launch its new flagship Galaxy S smartphone at Mobile World Congress next month. The company has managed to keep a tight lid on the new devices, which are expected to be named the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, with surprisingly few leaks. Samsung will reportedly show off the smartphone and announce the official specifications along with the release date and pricing information at its MWC keynote event.
Thanks to the rumor mill, there are potential specifications floating about with a few conflicting bits of information particularly where the fingerprint scanner is concerned. Looking around there seems to be several corroborated (but still rumored) specifications on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. Allegedly the Galaxy smartphones will feature curved Super AMOLED displays with QHD+ (3200x1800) resolutions measuring 5.8" on the Galaxy S9 and 6.2" on the Galaxy S9+. Further, Smasung is equipping them with dual rear-facing cameras, USB-C, and 3.5mm headphone jack. There are conflicting rumors on the fingerprint scanner with some rumors stating it will feature a fingerprint sensor embedded in the display while other rumors claim that Samsung ran into issues and instead opted for a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
Internally, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in the US and Samsung's own Exynos 9810 SoC outside of the US. Cat 18 LTE support is present in either case with faster than gigabit download speeds possible (though less in real world situations). The Galaxy S9 will allegedly be offered with 4GB of RAM and either 64GB of 128GB of storage while the S9+ will have 6GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal flash storage.
In any case, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are set to be powerhouses with the latest SoCs and (hopefully) large batteries for those infinity displays! It seems that we will have to wait another month for official information, but it should be out within the first quarter which is actually pretty fast considering it seems like the Galaxy S8 just came out (although it was actually last March heh). Mobile World Congress 2018 is scheduled from February 26th to March 1st in Barcelona, Spain.
What are your thoughts on the Galaxy S9 rumors so far? Do you plan to upgrade? This year may be the year I upgrade my LG G3 since the display is dying, but we'll see!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 11, 2018 - 02:50 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: CES, CES 2018, Silverstone, PSU, power supply, 80 Plus Platinum, 1000W, 1200w, 140mm, atx, compact, SFF
SilverStone's Strider Platinum lineup now includes 1000 and 1200 watt models with a depth of only 140 mm. These are both fully modular ATX PSUs, and 80 Plus Platinum certified.
The compact 140 mm depth is popular with small form-factor builds - and sometimes a requirement for a fully modular PSU like this depending on the enclosure. The power density is obviously getting really high for 2018, and 1200W is likely the highest you will find at 140 mm.
Pricing and release dates have not been revealed just yet for either power supply.
Subject: Motherboards | January 11, 2018 - 01:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Zen+, x470, ryzen, gigabyte, CES 2018, CES, aorus gaming 7, aorus, amd, AM4
Gigabyte had several motherboards on display at CES including an AMD AM4 motherboard with an unreleased AMD 400-series Promontory chipset! The stealthily displayed AORUS branded motherboard was spotted by Steven Burke over at Gamer’s Nexus who then jumped at the opportunity and started taking it apart! The AORUS X470 Gaming 7 WiFi appears to check all the boxes for a high-end gaming focused motherboard and should allow enthusiasts eyeing a Ryzen or Zen+ (Ryzen 2000 series) processor to push it as far as possible.
We went hands-on with the AORUS X470 Gaming 7 WiFi
The X470-based motherboard features a six layer PCB and improved CPU power delivery in the form of a 10+2 power phase (doubled 5-phase for CPU plus 2 phases for memory) with VRMs that are cooled by a hefty copper heat-pipe and aluminum fin stack. Gamer’s Nexus reports that Gigabyte is using hardware from International Rectifier in the form of IR 3599 drivers, IR 3553 MOSFETs, and a IR 35201 PWM controller. For those interested in how motherboard VRMs and power phases works, Buildzoid has several great introductory videos on Youtube that are worth watching.
Other overclocking friendly features include an external clock generator, diagnostic LED readout, power and clear CMOS buttons on the rear IO panel, dual BIOSes, and various hybrid fan headers for air and water cooling. Gigabyte reportedly rates the motherboard at 4,000+ MHz memory overclocking which is good news for Ryzen and Ryzen 2 users since memory speeds have a big impact on performance.
The AORUS X470 Gaming 7 WiFi feeds the AM4 socket with both an 8-pin and 4-pin ATX power connectors. To the right of the processor socket sits four DDR4 DIMM slots and the accent LED along the right edge. Expansion is handled by three PCI-E x16 slots (two are wired to the CPU for graphics), two PCI-E x1 slots, and two M.2 slots that sit under black head spreaders. There are six SATA ports in the right corner. While the heatsink is covering the audio chipset, whichever solution they are using (likely Realtek as it does not appear this is a Killer-equipped board) has high end WIMA and Nichicon caps and also supports USB DAC-UP technology.
Rear I/O includes two antenna connectors for the built in Wi-Fi chipset, power and clear CMOS buttons, four USB 3.0 ports plus two more USB 3.0 ports that support USB DAC-UP, two USB 3.1 ports (one Type-C and one Type-A), a RJ45 connector (likely Gigabit Ethernet), and six audio outputs (one S/PDIF and five 3.5mm analog outputs).
It is interesting to finally see a 400-series motherboard and for Gigabyte to give AMD its Gaming 7 treatment. Also comforting is that while the new 400-series boards will offer slight connectivity benefits, users that bought into Summit Ridge and X370/B350/A320 boards aren’t missing out on too much and may actually get multiple CPUs out of one motherboard for a change. The 400-series chipsets allegedly enable a bit more bandwidth for devices hanging off of the chipset thanks to the upgrade from PCI-E 2.0 (5GT/s) to PCI-E 3.0. With this upgrade, a M.2 drive connected through the chipset would be able to hit its full speeds. While the chipset’s eight PCI-E 3.0 lanes could in theory support two nearly full speed M.2 NVMe drives, the PCI-E 3.0 x4 link between the chipset and processor would ultimately bottleneck things. At least a single drive can hit its full speeds though and bring Ryzen systems up to three total PCI-E M.2 drives running at full speed.
Oh, and did I mention there is RGB? Yep, Gigabyte has hooked the X470 Gaming 7 WIFI up with RGB LEDs around the PCI-E x16 slots, DIMM slots, over the chipset, and under the accent overlay in the top right corner. All things considered, the RGB is pretty tame in this model, which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.
What are your thoughts on Gigabyte’s upcoming motherboard and on the 400-series motherboards in general? Are you ready for Pinnacle Ridge?
Subject: Storage | January 10, 2018 - 08:17 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sm2258xt, SM2258, sata 6Gbs, sata 3, Mushkin, M.2 SATA, CES 2018, CES, 3d nand
In addition to the PCI-E based solid state drives it showed off at CES, Mushkin is adding two new SATA-based SSDs to its Triactor series. The new Triactor 3DL and Triactor 3DX are M.2 and 2.5" form factor SSDs respectively that are available in 120 GB, 250 GB, 500 GB, and 1 TB capacities and utilize 3D TLC NAND flash memory and SMI controllers. Both drives come with M.E.D.S. wear leveling and data protection algorithms and three-year warranties.
The Triactor 3DL is a M.2 2280 form factor SSD that uses a SMI SM2258XT controller with a SATA 3.1 6 Gbps interface. The SM2258XT is a four-channel controller that lacks a DRAM cache. The Triactor 3DL is rated at up to 550 MB/s sequential reads, 505 MB/s sequential writes, 73,000 random 4k read IOPS and 80,000 random 4k write IOPS. Its data protection features include LDPC ECC and algorithms for data shaping, StaticDataRefresh, and wear leveling. While not as impressive as its NVMe M.2 counterparts, it should be a good bit cheaper and compatible with more PCs especially as an upgrade path for older notebooks.
On the other hand, the Triactor 3DX is a more traditional SATA drive that comes in a 2.5" form factor (7mm thick). In this case the 3D TLC NAND flash is paired with a SMI SM2258 controller which is similar to the one above except that it can utilize a DRAM cache and supports AES encryption. The Triactor 3DX is rated at 565 MB/s sequential reads, 530 MB/s sequential writes, 100,000 random 4k read IOPs, and 91,000 random 4k write IOPS. It seems that the cache is helping performance a bit, and the drive is starting to bump up against the real-world limits of the SATA 6 Gbps interface. Since it is of the thinner 7mm type, it will be compatible with most notebooks and desktops.
The new Triactor drives are cheaper options that come in M.2 as well as traditional SATA drives. Mushkin is not talking pricing or availability just yet.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2018 - 07:38 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: tlc, ssd, slc, sata, nand, MX500, DWA, crucial, CES 2018, CES, 3d nand
Crucial showed off the upcoming M.2 variant of its MX500 product, available in capacities up to 1TB. They also announced (press release after the break) that the MX500 will be available from 250GB up to 2TB capacities.
Here is Crucial's product tour video for the MX500:
We previously tested the 1TB MX500, and Crucial passed along a 500GB model that I was able to spot check to ensure there was no performance fall-off at the smaller capacities of this line:
Looks good so far, and nearly identical to the 1TB capacity across our entire test suite. We did also speak with Crucial reps (Jon and Jon) about the TRIM speed issues noted in our previous review. They are looking into replicating our testing and may be pushing out a firmware to help improve this metric moving forward.
We also saw some sweet looking new RGB Ballistix memory, due out shortly. More to follow there! Crucial's MX500 CES announcement appears after the break.
Subject: Storage | January 10, 2018 - 07:24 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Mushkin, silicon motion, SM2262, SM2263XT, 3d nand, tlc, M.2, NVMe, CES, CES 2018
Mushkin is on site at CES where it is launching a slew of new products. On the storage front, Mushkin is showing off three new M.2 2280 form factor NVMe solid state drives aimed at various price points. The Pilot, Pilot-E, and Helix-L M.2 drives all use Silicon Motion controllers and 3D TLC NAND flash memory. Mushkin further advertises them with a three-year warranty and the company's MEDS Reliability Suite which includes technology to enable end-to-end data path protection, LDPC ECC, and global wear leveling algorithms to ensure data integrity and longevity.
At the top end of performance is the Pilot-E M.2 SSD based on SM2262EN controller which offers up eight channels for connecting all the 3D NAND. This 250 GB to 2 TB drive is able to achieve extremely speedy 3.5 GB/s sequential reads and 3.0 GB/s sequential writes along with 370K read IOPS and 300K write IOPS. Essentially, the Pilot-E M.2 should be able to easily max out the PCI-E x4 connection with the right workloads.
Stepping down a bit, the Pilot drive uses an eight channel SM2262 controller. This drive gets close to the Pilot-E in reads, but has much lower sequential write performance. Capacities for this SSD range from 120 GB to 2 TB. Specifically, the Pilot SSD is rated at 3.2 GB/s sequential reads, 1.9 GB/s sequential writes, 370K random read IOPS, and 300K random write IOPS. This drive should be cheaper than the Pilot-E and will be aimed at the consumer space where reads are more important than writes.
Finally, Mushkin's Helix-L is a lower cost SSD that uses a DRAM-less design to reduce cost as well as a cheaper four channel SM2263XT controller. Capacities range from 120 GB to 1TB. This SSD supports Host Memory Buffer architecture which allows it to use system memory as a cache to improve performance. The Helix-L is rated at 2.4 GB/s sequential reads, 1.7 GB/s sequential writes, 280K random read IOPS (140K without HMB) and 250K random write IOPS.
Mushkin has not yet revealed pricing or availability on its new NVMe 1.3 drives. You can read more about the Silicon Motion controllers used here.
Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2018 - 01:07 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wireless, kingston, hyperx, headset, headphones, gaming, Cloud Flight, CES 2018, CES, 2.4GHz
HyperX has announced their first wireless headset with the Cloud Flight, and with it the promise of a whopping 30 hours of battery life on a single charge using its 2.4 GHz connection.
"With a solid, gaming-grade wireless connection, incredible 30-hour battery life, and signature HyperX comfort, Cloud Flight allows you to play uninterrupted for longer. The closed cup design helps keep you immersed, while the durable steel slider and high-quality construction mean it’s built to withstand daily wear and tear."
The new Cloud Flight headset is compatibile with PS4/PS4 Pro as well as PC, and the optional wired connection allows use with anything that supports a 3.5 mm connection. Other features include 90° earcup rotation, adjustable lighting effects, and the detachable noise-cancelling mic is certified by TeamSpeak and Discord.
Specifications from HyperX:
- Driver: Dynamic, 50mm with neodymium magnets
- Type: Circumaural, Closed back
- Frequency response:
- Wireless: 20Hz–20,000Hz
- Analog: 15Hz–23,000Hz
- Impedance: 32 Ω
- Sound pressure level: 106dBSPL/mW at 1kHz
- T.H.D.: < 2%
- Weight: 300g; 315g with mic
- Cable length and type: USB charge cable (1m) + Detachable 3.5mm headphone cable (1.3m)
- Element: Electret condenser microphone
- Polar pattern: Noise-cancelling
- Frequency response: 100Hz-7,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: -45dBV (0dB=1V/Pa,1kHz)
- Battery life:
- LED off: 30 hours
- Breathing LED: 18 hours
- Solid LED: 13 hours
- Wireless Range: Up to 20 meters
The HyperX Cloud Flight wireless gaming headset is available now for $159.99, and our testing is already underway so expect the full review soon!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 10, 2018 - 12:40 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: CES, CES 2018, evga, power supply, PSU, 2200W, 2200 watts, mining, 80 Plus Platinum
Positioned casually amist the current and upcoming power supply lineup at EVGA's suite at CES is the SuperNOVA 2200 P2, which offers a mere 2200 watts of 80 Plus Platinum power with 183.3A from the +12V rail. I will let that sink in for a moment.
Naturally this level of power will require more than the typical 110V mains power in the US, with 220V required. It seems safe to assume that the biggest customer of such a PSU at this point would be the mining community, making the need for 220V a non-issue for the dedicated miners among us (who needs an electric range in the kitchen, anyhow?).
We didn't get specifics on release date or pricing, but this is an impressive piece of hardware - especially considering the Platinum efficiency.
Subject: Networking | January 9, 2018 - 11:44 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Wireless-AC 1550, wireless, wi-fi, Rivet Networks, networking, killer, Intel, CES 2018, CES, 802.11ac Wave 2
For their new wireless adapter Rivet Networks has partnered with Intel, producing "the worlds fastest 2x2 11ac wireless networking adapter" in the Killer Wireless-AC 1550. This new adapter supports the 802.11ac Wave 2 standard and offers up to 1.73 Gbps throughput using 160 MHz channels.
"The first product to come out of Rivet Networks’ new partnership with Intel, the Killer™ Wireless-AC 1550 is the world’s fastest 2x2 11ac wireless networking adapter. The Killer Wireless-AC 1550 has been designed to combine the speed, intelligence, and control of Killer Networking products with the power and performance of the latest Intel wireless chipset. Delivering faster than gigabit Ethernet speeds along with the gaming functionality that gamers love, the Killer 1550 is the ideal wireless networking product for competitive gamers and performance users who demand the most from their computers."
Killer Networking lists these features for the Killer Wireless-AC 1550:
- Gigabit Wi-Fi Speeds: The Killer Wireless-AC 1550, featuring 160 MHz channel support, has a theoretical max throughput speed of 1.73Gbps when connected to a router that supports 160 MHz channels. This is faster than gigabit Ethernet and twice the speed of standard 2x2 11ac products.
- MU-MIMO Support: Killer 1550 includes full MU-MIMO (Multi-User-Multiple Input and Multiple-Output) support, which dramatically increases network efficiency by working with a MU-MIMO enabled access point. MU-MIMO allows wireless access points to support multiple transmissions at the same time, versus a single transmission at a time like normal access points. This creates additional efficiencies that can provide up to 60% faster download speeds, lower latency, and a better overall connection.
- Transmit Beamforming Technology: Killer 1550 also has Transmit Beamforming technology, which allows the Killer Wireless-AC 1550 to share location information directly to your wireless access point so that the access point can better direct its signals to you. This creates stronger wireless signals at all ranges and faster data transfers.
- Complete 802.11ac functionality: Supports dual band (2.4 GHz and 5GHz), IEEE standards-based 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and includes Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.
While the big news might be the Intel co-developed hardware, as this is a Killer Networking product the software is a big component in the overall experience. Options configurable via the Killer Control Panel include Advanced Stream Detect 2.0 for automated traffic prioritization for games and streaming, along with Lag and Latency Reduction Technology and Killer DoubleShot Pro support.
The first devices with the new Killer Wireless-AC 1550 adapter are being released this month.