Podcast #428 - Khronos Group, Enterprise SSDs/HDDs, Water-cooled Cases, Mechwarrior

Subject: Editorial | December 8, 2016 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: podcast, Thrustmaster, thermaltake, tablet, snapdragon, razer, nvidia, microsoft, Mechwarrior, Khronos, Intel, hp, evga, Deepcool, AUKEY

PC Perspective Podcast #428 - 12/8/16

Join us this week as we discuss Khronos Group, Enterprise SSDs, Water cooled cases  and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:13:35

  1. Join our spam list to get notified when we go live!
  2. Patreon
  3. Win a White Special Edition Corsair RM1000i Power Supply!
  4. Week in Review:
    1. 0:04:16 AUKEY KM-G3 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review
    2. 0:08:06 Thrustmaster TMX Review: Budget FFB for Xbox One and PC
    3. 0:15:16 Deepcool GamerStorm GENOME Liquid-Cooled Case Review
    4. 0:23:06 EVGA SuperNOVA 550W G3 Power Supply Review
    5. 0:28:01 Qualcomm and Microsoft Bring Full Windows 10 to Snapdragon Devices
  5. News items of interest:
    1. 0:32:07 Razer Joins The Khronos Group
    2. 0:36:54 Thermaltake Launches Water Cooling Friendly E-ATX Tower 900 Series Case
    3. 0:39:32 Intel Z270 Express and H270 Express Chipsets Support Kaby Lake, More PCI-E 3.0 Lanes
    4. 0:42:12 MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Announced on Unreal Engine 4
    5. 0:46:10 HP Launches Ruggedized Apollo Lake Powered Convertible Tablet For Students
    6. 0:47:33 Micron Launches 5100 Series Enterprise SSDs - 3D TLC up to 8TB!
    7. 0:52:12 WD and HGST Refresh Enterprise SSDs to Include 8TB, Push HDDs to 12TB and Beyond
    8. 1:02:37 NVIDIA Releases GeForce 376.19 Drivers (and Two Contests)
    9. 1:04:14 The Khronos Group Announces VR Standard Initiative
  6. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Uber, but boats  … CanUber
    2. Jeremy: PRUSA i3 MK2 printer Store link
    3. Josh: Hitting low cost per GB!
    4. Allyn: iRoller
  7. http://pcper.com/podcast
  8. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  9. Closing/outro

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: The Khronos Group

Maybe Good that Valve Called their API OpenVR?

Update, December 6th, 2016 @ 2:46pm EST: Khronos has updated the images on their website, and those changes are now implemented on our post. The flow-chart image changed dramatically, but the members image has also added LunarG.

Original Post Below

The Khronos Group has just announced their VR initiative, which is in the early, call for participation stage. The goal is to produce an API that can be targeted by drivers from each vendor, so that applications can write once and target all compatible devices. The current list of participants are: Epic Games, Google, Oculus VR, Razer, Valve, AMD, ARM, Intel, NVIDIA, VeriSilicon, Sensics, and Tobii. The point of this announcement is to get even more companies involved, before it matures.

khronos-2016-vr-members-2.png

Image Credit: The Khronos Group

Valve, in particular, has donated their OpenVR API to Khronos Group. I assume that this will provide the starting point for the initiative, similar to how AMD donated Mantle to found Vulkan, which overcomes the decision paralysis of a blank canvas. Also, especially for VR, I doubt these decisions would significantly affect individual implementations. If it does, though, now would be the time for them to propose edits.

In terms of time-frame, it’s early enough that the project scope hasn’t even been defined, so schedules can vary. They do claim that, based on past experiences, about 18 months is “often typical”.

That’s about it for the announcement; on to my analysis.

khronos-2016-vr-perpectives-2.png

Image Credit: The Khronos Group, modified

First, it’s good that The Khronos Group are the ones taking this on. Not only do they have the weight to influence the industry, especially with most of these companies having already collaborated on other projects, like OpenGL, OpenCL, and Vulkan, but their standards tend to embrace extensions. This allows Oculus, Valve, and others to add special functionality that can be picked up by applications, but still be compatible at a base level with the rest of the ecosystem. To be clear, the announcement said nothing about extensions, but it would definitely make sense for VR, which can vary with interface methods, eye-tracking, player tracking, and so forth.

If extensions end up being a thing, this controlled competition allows the standard as a whole to evolve. If an extension ends up being popular, that guides development of multi-vendor extensions, which eventually may be absorbed into the core specification. On the other hand, The Khronos Group might decide that, for VR specifically, the core functionality is small and stable enough that extensions would be unnecessary. Who knows at this point.

Second, The Khronos Group stated that Razer joined for this initiative specifically. A few days ago, we posted news and assumed that they wanted to have input into an existing initiative, like Vulkan. While they still might, their main intentions are to contribute to this VR platform.

Third, there are a few interesting omissions from the list of companies.

microsoft-2016-hololens-hero.png

Microsoft, who recently announced a VR ecosystem for Windows 10 (along with the possibly-applicable HoloLens of course), and is a member of the Khronos Group, isn’t part of the initiative, at least not yet. This makes sense from a historical standpoint, as Microsoft tends to assert control over APIs from the ground up. They are, or I should say were, fairly reluctant to collaborate, unless absolutely necessary. This has changed recently, starting with their participation with the W3C, because good God I hope web browsers conform to a standard, but also their recent membership with the Khronos Group, hiring ex-Mozilla employees, and so forth. Microsoft has been lauding how they embrace openness lately, but not in this way yet.

Speaking of Mozilla, that non-profit organization has been partnered with Google on WebVR for a few years now. While Google is a member of this announcement, it seems to be mostly based around their Daydream initiative. The lack of WebVR involvement with whatever API comes out of this initiative is a bit disappointing, but, again, it’s early days. I hope to see Mozilla and the web browser side of Google jump in and participate, especially if video game engines continue to experiment with cross-compiling to Web standards.

It's also surprising to not see Qualcomm's name on this list. The dominant mobile SoC vendor is a part of many Khronos-based groups including Vulkan, OpenCL, and others, so it's odd to have this omission here. It is early, so there isn't any reason to have concern over a split, but Qualcomm's strides into VR with development kits, platform advancements and other initiatives have picked up in recent months and I imagine it will have input on what this standard becomes.

And that’s all that I can think of at the moment. If you have any interests or concerns, be sure to drop a line in the comments. Registration is not required.

Razer Joins The Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2016 - 12:58 AM |
Tagged: VR, razer, osvr, Khronos

The Khronos Group is the standards body that maintains OpenGL, Vulkan, OpenCL, along with several other APIs and formats. They are made up of several members, which include companies of various sizes along with educational institutions, with a couple of tiers where members of the higher level, Promoter, get board nomination rights.

khronos-group-logo.png

The lower level, Contributor, has just received a new member: Razer. The Khronos Group published a little statement to their front page, but didn’t provide a way to permanently link it and the Read More just directs to Razer’s homepage. Also, Razer didn’t provide a press release on their website, at least by the time this news was published, so I included the statement below to prevent it from getting buried in a few days:

The Khronos Group is proud to announce that Razer has joined as a Contributor Member. Razer is a world leader in connected devices and software for gamers. Its award-winning design and technology span systems, peripherals, audio and wearable technologies. Razer co-founded OSVR, an open-source platform that integrates VR, AR and mixed reality hardware and software APIs that support a universal VR ecosystem.

Based on this, it’s easy to speculate that Razer is looking to have a say and a vote in how graphics APIs evolve, nudging it as needed for OSVR, their co-founded virtual reality platform. Basically every other VR developer worth mentioning is already a member, including Google, Microsoft, Oculus VR, Samsung, Sony, and Valve. Likewise, Vulkan is undergoing rapid development, and the next version, codenamed Vulkan Next, has VR as one of its “top priorities”. It seems like a good time for Razer to get involved.

Otherwise? Not much to speak of here. Razer is a fairly big company that wants to be active in technology development, and it can easily afford the Khronos Group membership fee. I mean, the amount they spent on USB ports with a specific shade of green would cover about twenty years of membership to the Khronos Group, so it seems within their reach.

Valve Adds Support for OSVR

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 08:51 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, VR, osvr, razer, sensics

There’s a few competing VR standards at the moment. Obviously, mobile has a bunch of them; Google technically has two of their own. On the PC, the top two are Oculus and SteamVR. A third one, Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR), was co-founded by Razer and Sensics.

Valve has now added their platform to Steam, including the tools that users will need to filter compatible content for that headset.

osvr-2016-hdk-2-hero.png

OSVR is an interesting initiative. For instance, when they released their second developer’s kit, HDK2, they also released an upgrade kit for the original. Currently priced at $220, it upgrades the screen to 2160x1200. They also have a Leap Motion upgrade, although that’s currently listed as “coming soon”. It has also been added to Unreal Engine 4 for the last few versions, so engine developers are considering it worthy of first-party support.

Source: OSVR

A wee little wireless mouse and keyboard combo from Razer, the Turret

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2016 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: input, razer, turret, wireless mouse, wireless keyboard

The picture below give you a good idea of the size of these two couch combat kits, the Lapdog above it is obviously much larger but is intended for the same use.  The Turret is 7x121x11.6mm and the mousepad portion of the keyboard folds under for easy storage.   The mouse resembles a miniaturized Orochi, a mere 100x66x35mm, which may be a bit small for some hands, Legion Hardware did quickly get used to the size though.  The Turret is not great for hardcore gaming because of its size, but for surfing from the couch or playing casual games it is sufficient and is far easier to store than the Lapdog when not in use.  Check out the review here.

Image_02.jpg

"On hand or rather in lap is Razer’s new Turret gaming mouse and lapboard, designed for kicking back and relaxing in the living room for some casual PC gaming. The Turret is an all in one solution that provides a quick and easy setup so you can spend more time playing, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s find out..."

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Upcoming Mini ITX Antec Cube – Designed by Razer Launched At PAX West

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 6, 2016 - 09:28 PM |
Tagged: antec, mini ITX, SFF, water cooling, razer, PAX

At PAX West, Antec, in a partnership with Razer, showed off a new small form factor case for Mini ITX systems called the Antec Cube – Designed By Razer. The new case is an angular forward leaning design with an all-black finish complemented by green LEDs and darkened acrylic windows on the sides and top. It sports a green power button, green triple snake Razer logo, front IO on the top edge of the front panel with green USB 3.0 ports, and green LED under-glow strips on the left and right bottom sides. Needless to say, this is the case for fans of the color green (heh).

Antec Cube Designed By Razer.jpg

Internally, the Antec Cube – Designed By Razer (Why must this have such a long name?) can accommodate Mini ITX motherboards, ATX power supplies, three expansion slots, one 3.5” hard drive, and up to four 2.5” drives. It has decent component support with room for GPUs up to 350mm (~13.77”) with front intake fans removed and CPU coolers up to  190mm (~7.48”) tall. The motherboard is installed upside down so GPUs will be closest to the top of the case. The power supply is hidden in the bottom of the case by a shroud that allows you to hide your rats nest of cables (heh) as well.

As for cooling, the small form factor case has support for up to a 140mm rear exhaust fan and two 120mm intake fans in the front (or a 240mm water cooling radiator).

I think that this case would be a good fit for a custom water cooling loop as an air cooled GPU may have a hard time being up top with little ventilation, especially if it is not of the blower style design and is dumping heat out into the top of the case. Also, it would look cooler (heh). Actually, Antec showed off a water cooled system using the case at PAX West which you can see in this video thanks to Steve Burke over at Gamer’s Nexus who was at the show. It does have some nice features including a removable PSU dust filter and a new click system for the side panels that reportedly make them easy to remove and install.

Antec Razer Cube.png

The case will be sold individually as well as in pre-built systems in the US while in China it will be sold exclusively with pre-built PCs from OEMs. Production is slated to begin next month with availability by the end of the year. There is no word yet on pricing, unfortunately.

What do you think about the new SFF case? And those green LEDs?

Source: Antec

Razer Announces Ornata Line of Mecha-Membrane Gaming Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | September 5, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: razerzone, Razer Chroma, razer, Ornata, Mecha-Membrane, keyboard, gaming

Razer has annouced a new line of gaming keyboards called Ornata, which feature the company's "Razer Mecha-Membrane" technology, which is described as a cross between membrane, and mechanical-switch keyboards.

RZR_OrnataChroma_V04WristRest.jpg

"Designed to combine the most desirable traits of membrane rubber dome design with the merits of mechanical keyboard technology, the Razer Mecha-Membrane delivers both a soft, cushioned touch and a crisp, tactile click with each keystroke.   

Traditionally, users choose membrane rubber dome keyboards for comfort, while mechanical switches are favored for fast actuations and distinct tactile feedback. The Razer Mecha-Membrane is a unique mid-height keycap hybrid that provides a comfortable and efficient typing experience unlike any key type on the market."

RZR_OrnataChroma_V03.jpg

Two versions will be available, beginning with the Razer Ornata Chroma, which offers individually-backlit keys with Razer Chroma RGB color effects.

"Gamers can choose from 16.8 million colors and a variety of effects. Custom settings can be created using the Razer Synapse software platform and shared with millions of other Razer software users via the Razer Chroma Workshop. In-game Razer Chroma lighting profiles are also integrated into popular game titles, including “Overwatch,” "Call of Duty®: Black Ops III," "Blade and Soul" and more."

The second version is the Razer Ornata, which does not include Chroma effects, instead offering green backlighting behind the keys.

RZR_Ornata_V01_WristRest.jpg

The Razer Ornata Chroma is priced at $99.99, with the Razer Ornata priced at $79.99. Both keyboards are available immediately at the company's razerzone.com store, with worldwide availablity slated for October.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Razer

Razer Updates Blade and Blade Stealth Laptops

Subject: Systems | September 3, 2016 - 12:10 AM |
Tagged: razer, blade, blade stealth, kaby lake, pascal

The Razer Blade and the Razer Blade Stealth seem to be quite different in their intended usage. The regular model is slightly more expensive than its sibling, but it includes a quad-core (eight thread) Skylake processor and an NVIDIA GTX 1060. The Stealth model, on the other hand, uses a Kaby Lake (the successor to Skylake) dual-core (four thread) processor, and it uses the Intel HD Graphics 620 iGPU instead of adding a discrete part from AMD or NVIDIA.

razer-2016-newlaptops.png

The Stealth model weighs about 2.84 lbs, while the regular model is (relatively) much more heavy at 4.1 - 4.3 lbs, depending on the user's choice of screen. The extra weight is likely due in part to the much larger battery, which is needed to power the discrete GPU and last-generation quad-core CPU. Razer claims that the Stealth's 53.6 Wh battery will power the device for 9 hours. They do not seem to make any claims about how long the non-Stealth's 70Wh battery will last. Granted, that would depend on workload anyway.

This is where the interesting choice begins. Both devices are compatible with the Razer Core, which allows externally-attached desktop GPUs to be plugged into Razer laptops. If you look at their website design, the Razer Blade Stealth promotes the Core more prominently, even including a “Buy Now” button for it on the header. They also advertise 100% AdobeRGB color support on the Stealth, which is useful for graphics designers because it can be calibrated to either sRGB (web and video) or print (magazines) color spaces.

To me, the Stealth seems more for a user who wants to bring their laptop to work (or school) on a daily basis, and possibly plug it into a discrete GPU when they get home. Alternatively, the Razer Blade without a suffix is for someone who wants a strong, powerful PC that, while not as fast as a full desktop, is decently portable and even VR ready without external graphics. The higher resolution choices, despite the slower internal graphics, also suggests that the Stealth is more business, while the Blade is more gaming.

Before we go, Razer has also included a license of Fruity Loops Studio 12 Producer Edition. This is a popular piece of software that is used to create music by layering individual instruments and tracks. Even if you license Adobe Creative Cloud, this is one of the areas that, while Audition technically can overlap with, it's really not designed to. Instead, think GarageBand.

The Razer Blade Stealth is available now, from $999.99 (128GB QHD) to $1999.00 (1TB 4K).

The Razer Blade is also available now, from $1799.99 (256GB 1080p) to $2699.99 (1TB QHD+).

Source: Razer

Razer Announces BlackWidow X Tournament Edition

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2016 - 05:45 PM |
Tagged: razer, mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX

Well this is interesting. Razer has announced the BlackWidow X Tournament Edition, which is a new tenkeyless mechanical keyboard that uses Cherry MX Blue switches. This is interesting, because it does not use Razer's own switches -- not even as a customization (like the BlackWidow X Ultimate). You must use Cherry MX Blue. It's an interesting change, and I'm not sure why they did that, but they did.

razer-2016-blackwidowxte.png

Beyond that, it's a fairly standard keyboard. It doesn't have a number pad, but it does have a button to record macros on it. I personally do not like those ever since my original Razer BlackWidow. I would accidentally press the button, not realize it, then have everything I typed get spammed out for the next half hour, including passwords. I would assume Razer has fixed that issue in the last four-or-so years, but I haven't used their keyboards in a while. There might have even been an option to prevent it back then, but I never found it. Also, for some, a macro button is probably a nice feature, seeing as they've consistently included it.

The talk about Cherry Switches and Macro Keys aside, the keyboard seems like a pretty decent value. The Razer BlackWidow X Tournament Edition costs $69.99 and ships next week.

Source: Razer

A new Razer Black Widow Ultimate for 2016

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: razer, input, gaming keyboard, black widow ultimate

Razer has been pushing out updates to their Black Widow lineup of gaming keyboards and this years model just arrived at Kitguru.  This year they are introducing a new type of mechanical switch for their keys, the model reviewed used their Green switches which click when depressed, there is a Razer Orange model for those who prefer to see their keyboard and not hear it.  This is not an RGB keyboard but you can set effects such as wave, ripple, starlight and reactive through the Razer software.  If you are looking for a new mechanical keyboard and want something a little different you should check out the full review.

razer-front-page.jpg

"The Razer Black Widow has become very popular over the years, often being touted as one of the finest gaming keyboards around. Today, we are looking at the brand new 2016 edition, using Razer’s own high specification mechanical switches – could this be the best option for gamers in 2016?"

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Source: Kitguru