Microsoft Confirms Windows 10 Creators Update Game Mode

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 12:17 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, pc gaming

A few weeks ago, Windows Insiders noticed GameMode.dll was added to the Windows 10 preview builds. It was speculated by Windows Central, based on their anonymous sources, that it would allow the user to increase performance for games. Now, in an Xbox blog post, Mike Ybarra of Microsoft confirmed the existence of this feature. It will arrive with the Creators Update and, yes, it is intended to “optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming”.

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That’s about all of the detail that is mentioned explicitly in the blog post. It does make a passing reference to “Windows Insiders will start seeing some of the visual elements for Game Mode this week, with the feature being fully operational in builds shortly thereafter”. While we don’t need to wait too long to actually find out, this snippet suggests that user involvement will be required. This might be a launcher or something else entirely.

On his Twitter, he also added that Game Mode will work for both Win32 and UWP games. Assuming this isn’t a mistake, and it’s stated quite bluntly albeit on Twitter, it looks likely that Game Mode’s UI won’t be an extension of Windows Store and it will work for any game. It will probably reside elsewhere, like an Xbox App or something, but we don’t really know yet.

The Windows 10 Creators Update arrives this spring. While its version number is 1703, rumors have it set for an April release date.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft looking to lower licensing costs to compete with Chromebooks

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2017 - 07:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, licensing

Microsoft has confirmed that they will reduce the cost of Windows 10 volume licenses associated with 14.1" and smaller laptops, which is intended to help their partners to compete against Chromebooks.  We have seen low cost Chromebooks launched by Lenovo, Acer, Asustek Computer, Dell and Samsung, all of which have taken market share from models running Windows as there are no associated licensing fees.  Microsoft's Volume Licensing pricing is extremely variable, screen size and relative power of the machine changing pricing, as well as the geographic location it will be sold and the size of the manufactures account.  This means we do not know the exact price reduction, only that it will be lowered.  According to what DigiTimes have found, you can expect to see this change start on March 1st.

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"Microsoft has settled with notebook vendors on Windows 10 licensing rates for models to be launched in 2017, with costs for under 14.1-inch low-cost models lowered from 2016, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

You must be reading this on a phone, seeing as how PCs are dead

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2017 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: market share, pc sales

Once again the death knell is ringing in the peanut gallery as they claim that the demise of the PC is nigh ... still.  What the data The Inquirer references is actually something we already know, sales of PCs were down 6.2% over 2016 thanks to the fact that there was little reason to upgrade your whole system.  Intel's waltz steps do not currently provide a compelling reason to upgrade, in part because of AMD's lack of new product; the lack of which has also hurt enthusiasts hoping to upgrade their AMD systems.  As for Windows 10, we have already seen the lack of influence on the market and those picking up VR headsets only tended to upgrade their GPU, which was not captured in this particular study. 

With the upcoming launches scheduled in 2017, this year should be somewhat more interesting for system builders and hardware enthusiasts both.

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"SKYLAKE microprocessors from Intel, the sudden appearance of virtual reality (VR), and the launch of Nvidia 10-series graphics cards were insufficient to prize open wallets in the run-up to Christmas or, indeed, during much of 2016."

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Source: The Inquirer

CES 2017: Asus Chromebook Flip Runs Chrome OS and Android Apps

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2017, asus, Chromebook, convertible tablet, 2-in-1, core m

In addition to high powered gaming laptops and high end motherboards, Asus also used CES to launch its convertible chromebook now called the Asus Chromebook Flip C302. The 2-in-1 device measures 13.7mm thick and weighs in at just over 2.6 pounds (1.2kg).

Asus is pairing a 12.5” 1080p LED backlit LCD on the top pane with a chiclet keyboard (scissor switches with 1.4mm key travel) and 61 x 104.5mm trackpad on the bottom pane. A 360-degree hinge allows the user to flip the display all the way around so that the keys are behind the display and it can be used as a tablet (or any position in between). There is no digitizer pen but the display does support 10 point multitouch.

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Port selection is actually pretty good for a portable (especially a chromebook) with two USB 3.1 Type-C (5Gbps) ports, a headset jack, and a micro SD card slot. The only thing missing that other similar class notebooks have is micro HDMI but being a chromebook it should pair up with a Chromecast should you need to share your desktop or media to the TV or larger monitor. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2. There are also two side speakers rated at 87dB.

Internally, Asus is using 6th generation Core M3 or M7 processors (there is also a Pentium 4405Y SKU) depending on your configuration  Further, the Chromebook Flip comes with 4GB or 8GB of system memory and 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of solid state storage. The chromebook runs Chrome OS but it is also able to run Android apps from the Google Play Store.

Battery life from the 39Whr battery is allegedly up to 10 hours according to Asus.

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The lightweight aluminum metal body Chromebook Flip has a starting price of $500 and will be available soon. Pricing on the higher end models has not yet been announced.

In all, it looks solidly built and has good specifications for a chromebook, but the pricing is going to hold a lot of people back in my opinion. Perhaps if it had an active digitizer and ran Windows I would be more interested. I am currently trying to find a replacement to my Dell XT (yes I know it is ancient haha!) and I find myself enamored by the Lenovo Yoga Book with the halo keyboard and the question if the typing experience there being the only thing that has me on the fence (I mention this because it is $549 for the Windows version and $500 with Android so is are in similar price points).

I am all for more options in this convertible space though and look forward to the reviews. If Asus’ Chromebook Flip has a great keyboard I might be persuaded!

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

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Source: Asus

Pavonis takes a break from their Kickstarter to torment XCOM 2 fans

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: xcom 2, mod, long war, gaming

Fans of the Long War mod for XCOM: Enemy Unknown are in for a treat, though perhaps a rather sadistic one, as a teaser for the existence of Long War 2 just arrived.  This time the mod was announced by Firaxis as opposed to the mod team, though Pavonis have updated their website with a logo for the new project.  It will be interesting to see if this means that Long War 2 will be released as a free mod or as DLC with a price tag attached.  The difference may be in the amount of time Pavonis is willing to divert away from their current project Terra Invicta.  If Firaxis does invest their own resources into developing Long War 2 it would be somewhat appropriate for them to charge some money, even if many feel this is the game they should have released in the first place.  On the other hand, if they simply want to start turning third party mods into a revenue stream for themselves; we may have the start of a problem worse than preorders and paid for day one DLC. 

Pop by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for a look at the first Long War and links to the recent news.

longwar2.jpg

"Pavonis have already updated their website with a Long War 2 logo and haven’t removed info about their to-be-Kickstarted standalone game Terra Invicta. That’s an XCOM-y sort of thing, though the description suggests it’ll focus on diplomatic and political strategy rather than guns and psychics."

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Multi-monitor gaming troubles? It might not be your driver

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2017 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: patch, oops, microsoft

If you game on multiple monitors and have noticed problems recently, with screens rendering with off clipping or not a timely manner you may want to look to Microsoft.  It seems that KB3213986 which was released yesterday, may well be to blame.  As there are no serious security updates contained in this particular patch you can feel safe uninstalling it, unless you really need two keyboards and a fingerprint touchscreen attached to your system.  Cheers to The Guru of 3D for posting this first.

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"Users may experience delayed or clipped screens while running 3D rendering apps (such as games) on systems with more than one monitor."

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Source: Guru of 3D

Hack your NES Classic ... carefully

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2017 - 05:34 PM |
Tagged: Nintendo, NES Classic, hack

The newly released Nintendo NES Classic shipped with 30 classic old games baked into its retrotacular ROMs.  It has now been hacked to be able to play any old game ROM you happen to be able to get your hands on, though of course you will have to make space as the storage capacity of this console is quite limited.  There are several caveats to this of course, ROMs are called read only for a reason and rooting around in them can lead to unintended and possibly permanent consequences.  There is also the source of your ROM to be considered, they tend to come from sources which could be considered slightly less than legitimate.  If you are still interested take a peek over at The Inquirer.

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"It was Russian retro gaming community GBX and a modder called Madmonkey that cracked the rebooted console, and it was Reddit users that seized on the opportunity, to give the hack a go."

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Source: The Inquirer

Just Cause 3 Multiplayer Mod Released... No, the Other One

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 09:46 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, just cause 3

While Just Cause isn’t really on my radar, the second one in the series had a relatively popular multiplayer mod that released a few years down the road. According to PC Gamer, there was another one in development, this time for Just Cause 3, but it was canceled as the developer was hired by Avalanche Studios.

At the same time, a second mod team, called nanos GbR, has released their own version of Just Cause 3 multiplayer. Why? Just ‘cause! Also, they are promoting their multiplayer framework, which includes plug-ins for Unreal Engine and CryEngine. It sounds like they want to be integrated into commercial projects, but, try as I might, I can’t seem to find anything concrete by them besides their mods to existing video games.

The Nanos Just Cause 3 Multiplayer mod is in public beta and available for download.

Source: nanos GbR

CES 2017: Netgear Shows Off Nighthawk S8000 Semi-Managed Switch

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: networking, netgear, CES 2017, CES

Netgear introduced a new semi-managed switch under its Nighthawk brand called the Nighthawk S8000. The new gigabit switch offers eight ports and a GUI web management interface.

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The Nighthawk S8000 keeps the stealth bomber design aesthetic of its larger router brethren with clean lines, sharp angles, and a dark zinc alloy housing. The one downside to this design is that these switches are not stackable but if you need that many ports you are probably looking at a bigger single switch anyway.

Exact specifications are not yet available, but the Layer 2 GS808E switch reportedly offers per-port prioritization and QoS (Quality of Service), DoS (Denial of Service) protection, and IGMP snooping (they don't list which version though so I can't say if this would work well with AT&T Uverse and running TV and PCs on). There are reportedly three pre-set modes and two user customizable profiles that can be set for each port depending on usage: gaming, media streaming, and standard LAN. Further, there are four (Netgear’s site lists 3 in some places) levels of prioritization.

The gigabit switch does support link aggregation (port trunking) up to 4 ports for a single 4Gbps connection to devices that also support link aggregation. This can be configured as a single 4Gbps connection or as redundancy in case one port or cable fails. The use case for something like this would be multiple PCs sending and receiving large amounts of data from a NAS at the same time where the wider connection back to the switch can be meaningfully utilized.

The Nighthawk S8000 comes with a 3 year warranty and will be available in March for $99.99.

There may be better options, especially at $99.99 but fans of Netgear’s Nighthawk wireless routers might be interested. It is hard to say if it is worth the price yet as independent reviews are not out yet. For those interested, PC Gamer has more photos of the switch.

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Source: Netgear

CES 2017: Cherry Launches MX Board Silent Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 08:36 AM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX Silent, Cherry MX, cherry, CES 2017, CES

Cherry, the company behind the ever popular Cherry MX line of mechanical keyboard switches, has announced an update to its popular G80-3000 keyboard called the Cherry MX Board Silent. The refreshed keyboard comes in black and gray and uses the International / EU layout.

Cherry MX Board Silent.png

The major feature of the Cherry MX Board Silent is the inclusion of new MX Silent switches that purportedly keep noise to a minimum by using a shaped rubber pad and "2-component stem" that reduces noise at the bottom out and top out points of a key press. The switches come in two flavors: the MX Red Silent and the MX Black Silent which feature release force of 45 centinewtons and 60 centinewtons respectively.

The keyboard further features 14 key N-key rollover which allows the user to hold down up to 14 keys simultaneously without phantom key presses becoming an issue.

We will have to wait for reviews to see how the new keyboard holds up build quality wise and, more importantly, just how silent the MX Board Silent is. The keyboard will be available soon with an MSRP of $149.

Also read: Mechanical Keyboard Switches Explained and Compared

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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Source: Cherry

CES 2017: Mohu Shows Off Wireless Antenna To Stream OTA Television

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 06:37 AM |
Tagged: streaming, mohu, cord cutting, CES 2017, CES, broadcast tv, antenna

Mohu (the company behind untangle.tv) was on hand at CES 2017 to show off a new product called the Airwave that the company hopes will help people to cut the cord and ditch their cable TV subscription. The Mohu AirWave is a wireless television antenna that picks up over the air broadcast TV signals and then streams that video to any device that can run its Mohu TV app.

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The Airwave can be placed anywhere in your home (wherever it gets the best signal) and can connect to your home network over Wi-Fi or Ethernet (I'd recommend the wired connection it if at all possible). Users can then use the Mohu TV app on their smartphones (Android and iOS) and tablets as well as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Firestick streaming boxes connected to a TV. The Mohu TV app offers an electronic program guide that pulls metadata from the digital TV stream and displays it along with showing current and upcoming programs. The guide also lets users set up a list of favorite channels.

Of course, the exact channels users will be able to watch will depend on their location and what is broadcast in their market. The Mohu representative at CES indicated that the initial AirWave is an un-amplified antenna with an average range of about 30 miles though they were able to tune into channels up to 40 miles away in their testing. An amplified antenna is coming in the future for users that live further away from the city and broadcast towers. While it is unamplified, you can move it around to get the best possible number of channels and the ClearPix technology is, at least supposed to, reduce pixelation. In addition to picking up broadcast TV, the AirWave also integrates with some streaming television providers such as Newsy and Twit.tv. You can see an example of that in this video by The Streaming Advisor where he takes a look at their demo setup at CES.

Carl from Abt.com interviewed Mohu at their CES booth which you can see in the embedded video below.

The Mohu AirWave will be available this spring for around $150. In all, it looks to be an easy to use and set up product for turning into your local live TV and if that is all that is holding you back from cutting the cord this might be a solution that ends up being cheaper than something like DirectTV Now (which also doesn't have DVR functionality (yet)) or Sling TV. On the other hand, the lack of DVR might leave heavy TV watchers frustrated (who has time to watch TV live these days? heh) and they might be better served with a custom setup using OTA tuners and Plex or a box with DVR like the Tablo.

As a companion streamer or something to set and forget for the less tech savvy though this could be a good option that would save them money and hassle by not having to deal with their local cable monopoly (heh) and I'm all for that!

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: Mohu

Intel Announces Compute Card To Power Smart Devices

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 03:38 AM |
Tagged: vpro, SFF, kaby lake, iot, Intel, compute stick

Intel announced the Compute Card today, a modular small form factor compute system for smart appliances, home automation, industrial applications, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The Compute Card is a full PC in a card slightly longer than credit card at 95 x 55 x 5mm with an Intel SoC, memory, storage, wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), and standardized I/O built in. The compute card is designed the fit into an internal or external slot where it locks into place. According to Intel, the idea is to standardize the compute aspect of these smart devices so that manufacturers can reduce time to market and design costs as well as make them easier to repair. Manufacturers would design their devices with a slot for an Intel Compute Card and then choose a card that meets their performance and price requirements as the brains of the smart device whether that is your toaster, virtual assistant, IoT gateway, or security system. Outside of the home, Intel wants to sell cards to makers of digital signage, kiosks, and industrial control systems for machinery and factories.

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One of the first things that came to mind for me was its usage in smart TVs and that may happen but the hope of an upgrade-able model where I could just slap a new Compute Card in to get new features and better performance I fear will never happen if only because while that model would be good for Intel the TV manufacturers that want to sell you new TVs every year would never go for it heh.

Unfortunately, Intel has not released full specifications on the Compute Card, only saying that they would utilize 7th Generation Core vPro processors. Looking around on their website, I would make an educated guess that Intel plans to use the 4.5 watt "7th Generation Intel® Core™ vPro™ Processors" intended for mobile devices. These chips range from 1.1 GHz to 1.3 GHz and are two core / four thread processors paired with Intel HD Graphics (515, 615, or 630). There are also 15W vPro processors with faster clockspeeds but they may not do well in such a small form factor where there is not guaranteed cooling. Still, even the lower power models should offer up quite a bit of computing power for connected devices that do basic tasks.

Intel expects to release its Compute Cards in mid-2017 and has partnered with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Sharp as well as regional partners Seneca, DTx, InFocus, tabletkiosk, and Pasuntech. I notice that Samsung is missing from this list but would be a good partner to have if only because of their appliance line. The chip giant is said to be expanding that partner list though so we may yet see more appliance and home automation manufacturers pop up on there. I think that standardizing the brains of IoT is a good plan and smart on Intel's part but I am a bit skeptical whether or not it will catch on and how well it will be adopted in the targeted markets.

What are your thoughts on Intel's Compute Card?

Source: Intel

Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 Starts Tomorrow

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2017 - 07:44 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gdq

We’re a day away from a whole week of around-the-clock video game speedruns for charity. This one, Awesome Games Done Quick 2017, begins with a pre-show tomorrow at 11:30 am (EST) and the first game, Ape Escape 2 Any%, starting at noon. This will be followed by Ocarina of Time 3D All Dungeons at about 1 pm.

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This event will benefit Prevent Cancer Foundation. The last four main events pulled in between 1.2 to 1.5 million USD each, which is obviously a big chunk of change for research and public outreach against that terrible disease. As an added bonus, many donations are given alongside some of the worst puns in existence.

Awesome Games Done Quick starts tomorrow at 11:30 am EST.

Pay closer attention Microsoft; this is the year of RGB, not Neon!

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, project neon

Remember Aero Glass? Remember anyone that used it?  Well, it will be back in Redstone 3, the Windows 10 update after the upcoming update, or at least that is what The Inquirer has been told.  The headlines screaming that this is whole new Windows are a little far fetched, this is a work in progress GUI update, which one person describe as looking similar to the old Windows 8 mobile interface.  We don't have much more detail apart from the fact that once again Microsoft will be messing with the way their OS looks, again.  It can't always be a disaster, can it?

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"Project Neon, the UI upgrade for Windows 10 has had its first leak courtesy of MSPowerUser, and it's absolutely gorgeous, even if you're a Windows cynic. Probably because it looks more like Google's Material Design for Android than ever."

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Source: The Inquirer

CES 2017: Symantec Announces Norton Core Router

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: symantec, router, iot, internet of things, CES 2017, CES, 802.11ac

Symantec has recently announced the Norton Core router and the Norton Core Security Plus subscription service. The Norton branding hints that these are targeted at their home and family customers, which is accurate. The combination is designed to connect your internet-of-things devices, keeping them (and the other things on the network) from being maliciously manipulated, even if those things weren’t really created with security at the forefront.

Symantec claims that the Norton Core router is both security- and performance-minded. The router is built around a dual-core, 1.7 GHz SoC, backed with 1GB of RAM. The AC2600-listed router is capable of 4x4 MU-MIMO, utilizing both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands simultaneously, for a maximum total bandwidth of 2.5 gigabit.

This brings us to the service. One of the main goals of Norton Core Security Plus is to scan packets as they are transmitted between devices for malware, and isolate affected ones into a quarantined area. They also have a few services to make it easy for users to set up guest access and otherwise manage their network.

The Norton Core is expected to ship in the summer for $279.99 USD MSRP. Early users can get it for $199.99 on pre-order, though, with a year of Norton Core Security Plus bundled in. After the year, this service will cost about $9.99 per month.

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 http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Symantec

New HDMI 2.1 Specification Supports Higher Resolutions, Refresh Rates, and Game Mode VRR

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 09:22 AM |
Tagged: vrr, variable refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, hdmi, g-sync, freesync, adaptive sync, 48G

The HDMI Forum has introduced an update to the HDMI specification, bringing the video standard to version 2.1. The updated specification, along with its accompanying new "48G" (48 Gbps) HDMI cable, brings support for higher resolutions refresh rates, and color spaces along with new features such as dynamic HDR, a variable refresh rate "Game Mode VRR", and eARC for audio device detection and object oriented audio (e.g. Dolby Atmos). 

HDMI Cable.jpg

Specifically, HDMI 2.1 adds support for 8K resolutions at up to 60 Hz and 4K at up to 120 Hz along with HDR (high dynamic range). The specification is even a bit future looking in that it allegedly supports 10K50/60/100/120 modes! The 8K@60 and 4K@120 (and higher) profiles do require the new 48 Gbps cable though lower resolutions can still get by with the older High Speed cable. The specification also supports BT2020 color spaces with 10, 12, and 16 bits per color component which I expect Ken and Allyn will appreciate.

Perhaps the most interesting new feature though is the Game Mode VRR which appears to be HDMI's take on DisplayPort's Adaptive Sync (which AMD uses for FreeSync). At last year's CES AMD was showing off FreeSync over HDMI (video) with AMD doing FreeSync over HDMI as an extension of the specification. It now appears that HDMI is rolling some manner of that variable refresh technology into the base HDMI 2.1 specification. Variable refresh rates being supported with HDMI is a good thing as it means that future game consoles may see their own FreeSync/G-Sync like variable display output options as I do not see game consoles and living room devices (TVs, receivers, et al) adopting DisplayPort any time soon if only because of the huge install base and foothold HDMI has on that market.

Notably, HDMI 2.1 remains backwards compatible with earlier specifications, cables, and devices based on older HDMI standards including the Ethernet channel and inter-device communication. Existing devices will be able to use HDMI 2.1's 48 Gbps cables but will not be forwards compatible with all of the new features (though partial new feature support might be possible with firmware updates though in no way guaranteed).

The new specification is expected to officially drop in early Q2 2017 at which point it will be available to all HDMI Adopters for testing.

I estimate that, following the compliance testing and device QA, products using the new specification should start shipping as soon as next year (at CES 2018 perhaps!). It is harder to say when graphics cards or game consoles will start supporting the new output though. I would hope that AMD and NVIDIA would be able to sneak it in before Vega and Volta based cards launch respectively but the timing may not have lined up like that. And on the game console side of things, Microsoft and Sony have already launched their revised consoles this year save Scorpio so it might be awhile before they sport variable refresh. Perhaps JoshTekk and the crew will have some thoughts on the podcast next week!

What are your thoughts on HDMI 2.1? Will it lay the groundwork for interesting displays and better living room gaming?

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: HDMI Forum

CES 2017: D-Link Launches New Wi-Fi Routers and Extenders

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 04:10 AM |
Tagged: wifi, D-Link, CES 2017, CES, 802.11ac

D-Link recently announced two new Covr branded wireless products that promise to blanket homes in Wi-Fi and eliminate dead spots. The Covr Wi-Fi System is a D-Link DIR-883 router and DAP-1655 extender kit while the Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System is a kit with two Wi-Fi equipped DHP-W730AV Powerline Ethernet adapters. The two kits are sold separately as are additional access points and powerline adapters to extend the network further.

The Covr Wi-Fi System will use a traditional hub and spoke setup with the extenders connecting directly to the central router. However, a promised future update will allegedly add mesh networking capabilities where the extenders can speak to other extenders allowing users to, well, extend the network further (at reduced bandwidth though) and/or improve spotty coverage.

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The DIR-883 and DAP-1655 support 802.11ac with MU-MIMO. Reportedly, the kit supports Qualcomm Technologies' Wi-Fi SON (Self Organizing Network) technology along with Smart Steering which boils down to technology that allows automatic load balancing between the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, traffic prioritization, and a single SSID that allows end devices to connect to whichever router or extender offers the best signal. The router supports 4x4 802.11ac and speeds up to 1733 MHz on the 5GHz and 800 MHz on the 2.4 GHz band while the extender supports 2x2 802.11ac with speeds up to 867 MHz (5 GHz) and 400 MHz (2.4 GHz). If it follows the same modes as the existing DAP-1665, it should support access point, bridge, and repeater modes though the specifications page does not detail this yet.

The benefit to this type of setup/kit is ease of use. In fact, the router and extender come pre-paired out of the box and while you can use existing wired connections as the backhaul to extend the wireless network for best performance, if you can't do that you can use repeater mode to extend the network without needing to lay new Ethernet or use MoCA/Powerline (at reduced performance). It is also a complete kit in that it comes with the router and access point(s) in the box.

Alternatively (or in addition to if you really want to get crazy with multiple extenders and adapters say in a multi-story or long ranch style home) the Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System is a kit that you can use to extend your existing wired home network to provide Wi-Fi (and wired Ethernet) to any location in your home with an electrical outlet. The specific adapters that D-Link uses (DHP-W730AV) each have two wireless antennas and three Gigabit Ethernet ports. Using Powerline AV2 MIMO technology (it can use any two of the three electrical connections, positive, negative, groud; whichever gets the best connection), the adapters are rated at speeds up to 1300 Mbps. (Note that you will see much less than this in real world speeds, and that this is the internal Powerline throughput number, and even if it was perfect (clean wiring, no interference, ect), it would be limited by the 1000 Mbps Ethernet ports and wireless connections. That overhead is needed though, because as you add additional powerline adapters, throughput is going to drop because the internet network is hub-like rather than switched.) D-Link claims the adapters offer roaming for devices, load balancing between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and a simplified single-button security setup (though if possible you should manually create a network key rather than use the defaults).

D-Link Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System.png

The benefit to this kit is that you can bolt it onto your existing home network and/or simply pick your own router and switch if you want to unlike the other Covr kit. Using a wired backbone is also, at least in theory, more stable and performant than a wireless connection back to the router or worse an intermediary device (e.g. a true mesh setup).

As far as pricing and availability, the Covr Wi-Fi System and Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System will be available by Q2 2017 for $299.99 and $199 respectively.

Pricing seems to be okay for MSRPs and is certainly better than the $470 that D-Link wanted for the kit it announced at last year's CES! The powerline kit does seem to be on the expensive side to me but is not totally out of the ballpark of what I've seen. It is always good to have more options for home networking, and hopefully reviews will start trickling in as they get closer to launch.

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

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

CES 2017: Audio-Technica Expands Wireless Headphone Lineup with aptX Bluetooth

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 03:02 AM |
Tagged: wireless, headphones, CES 2017, CES, bluetooth, aptX

On the high-end audio side of things Audio-Technica has added to its wireless headphone lineup with both on-ear and in-ear models featuring aptX technology for high quality Bluetooth audio.

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ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT headphones

The high-end ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT are Audio-Technica's first wireless headphones with their new Pure Digital Drive system:

This new technology keeps the audio signal completely digital from the audio source to the headphones’ drivers, without the need for D/A conversion stages that typically degrade the sound quality. Traditionally, the digital signal goes through a series of steps that process and transform the wireless signal. This presents several opportunities for distortion in audio quality. Our Pure Digital Drive technology eliminates the opportunities for disruption and distortion that occur in the conversion stages, providing users with a high-quality listening experience.

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SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT headphones

Other new models include a "high-performance/high-value" offering in the SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT on-ear headphones, a compact folding design with a new dynamic driver "to deliver richly detailed sound" that the company says "sets a new value standard for high-performance on-ear wireless headphones" at its $119 MSRP.

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ATH-CKS990BT and ATH-CKS550BT in-ear monitors

In-ear options ATH-CKS990BT ($199) and ATH-CKS550BT ($119) in the Solid Bass series feature "Dual Magnetic Field drivers with Multiple-Transition diaphragms for improved sound", and will provide better wireless functionality and better controls than previous models.

All of these new wireless headphones and in-ear monitors will be available this spring.

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!

Pioneer and Onkyo Release Dolby Atmos Soundbars

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 11:13 PM |
Tagged: soundbar, Pioneer, Onkyo, DTS:X, DTS:Neural, Dolby Atmos, CES 2017, CES, audio

I really like audio.  That is one area that I think is still lacking in the PC world, but it is improving from years past.  There are some interesting and exciting developments that have been rolled out over the past year with the biggest being Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.  These audio formats so far have been limited to several dozen titles on Blu-ray and through VUDU.  The selling point of these new formats is a more three dimensional component to the audio.  Dolby Atmos requires the user to have two speakers pointing towards the ceiling at an angle towards the listener.

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Two very obvious things are needed to support these audio formats; a receiver that supports the decoding of Atmos/DTS:X, and a set of speakers that conform to the physical specifications for pointing audio towards the ceiling.  There are specialty speakers right now that feature the upward firing drivers, but they are not common.  Users could craft their own setups by utilizing speakers of their choice and positioning them at the correct angle themselves.

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Onkyo and Pioneer (a subsidiary of Onkyo) have announced two sets of soundbars that provide not only the upward firing drivers required for Atmos/DTS:X, but also the ability to have full surround without the use of rear speakers.  The Onkyo FS-EB70 and the Pioneer SBT-A500 are both three piece units which provide high quality sound in a very small package.

The units each come with their own receiver/amplifier that provides multiple inputs from a variety of sources as well as extensive wireless functionality.  They support a variety of streaming audio apps, but any kind of streaming video will require an appropriate smart TV or Blu-ray player.  The receiver is very low profile with a proprietary audio connection for the speakers.  Perhaps most impressive is that these small units have four HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI input ports.  Many midrange receivers only feature three inputs that are 4K and HDR compliant.  They also feature a handful of legacy connections for older audio gear that a user may not want to get rid of.

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The small powered subwoofer is wireless, but promises to pack a pretty decent punch.  The sound bar itself features two speakers per side and on the center channel.  The upwards firing drivers are single in their configuration per side.  The bar is very low profile so obviously the drivers are not terribly large.  It will easily fit underneath any TV and is wall mountable.

The units look essentially identical and Pioneer has their MSRP at $1,000 US.  The Onkyo version does not have a price listed, but we can expect it to be higher and probably utilize some higher end components in the receiver portion.

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Next generation PC parts are coming down the way that will feature support for higher resolutions through HDMI as well as Atmos and DTS:X.  This looks like a good set of soundbars that offer performance and expansion capabilities well beyond what other, less expensive products can provide.  Personally I can’t wait to try such a setup in my remodeled basement with a real racing rig and a 49” TV that I haven’t used in a year.  Audiophiles will likely want to create their own setups by mixing and matching components, but for those not interested in that and only want a solution that works well out of the box these look to be pretty solid implementations of the technology.

Click here to read the entire press releases with in-depth specifications.

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!

 

CORSAIR Launches New Flagship K95 RGB Platinum

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2017 - 10:19 PM |
Tagged: corsair, K95 RGB Platinum, mechanical keyboard, CES, CES 2017, Cherry MX

Corsair's new K95 RGB Platinum mechanical keyboard should not be thrown in a fit of frustration, the aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminium body will not be what breaks upon impact.  Then again it is not the body most are interested in, most prefer to focus on the Cherry nubbins and this keyboard has them!  You can choose either the CHERRY MX Speed with a mere 1.2mm of travel or Cherry MX RGB Brown if you prefer to bottom out with authority. 

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For those who need to be brought into the light this keyboard offers more than just lighting underneath the keys, it also has a 19-zone light bar called the LightEdge at the top.  All of these lighting effects are programmable through the Corsair Utility Engine, as is the functionality of the six programmable macro keys on the keyboard.  For those with a more utilitarian mindset, the detachable dual-sided soft-touch wrist rest and USB pass-through port are beneficial inclusions. 

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You should see them available online in the very near future, with an MSRP of $199.

K95 RGB Platinum Specifications

  • Aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminum frame: Built to withstand a lifetime of gaming.
  • Lightweight and rugged durability, necessary for a keyboard that’s going to see a lot of action.
  • 8MB profile storage with hardware macro and lighting playback: Allow access for up to three stored profiles on the go, independent of external software.
  • Dynamic multicolor per key backlighting with LightEdge: Adjust each key’s color and illumination level in addition to 19-zones on the LightEdge light bar for sophisticated and dramatic animations and effects.
  • 100% CHERRY RGB mechanical key switches: Unleash blistering speed with the 1.2mm actuation of CHERRY MX Speed mechanical keyswitches, or feel the tactile feedback of Cherry MX RGB Brown keyswitches.
  • Six programmable G-keys keys for in-game macros: Assign single keystrokes or complex multi-key combos to any of the six dedicated macro keys.
  • USB 2.0 pass-through port: Provides convenient access to an additional USB port for your mouse or headset.
  • Black or Gunmetal: Available in two distinctive anodized finishes, Black or Gunmetal. (Gunmetal initially only available in North America with Cherry MX Speed switch.)
  • Detachable, dual-sided soft-touch wrist rest: The comfort to enhance your gameplay during marathon gaming sessions. Choose between two different surfaces for optimal comfort.
  • Dedicated volume and multimedia controls: Control to adjust audio on the fly, without interrupting your game.
  • 100% anti-ghosting with full key rollover: No matter how fast your in-game actions are, every keypress registers correctly.
  • Fully programmable with CUE: Intuitive and powerful Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) enables sophisticated macro programming and fast, fluid dynamic multicolor illumination.
  • Windows key lock mode: Stay focused and prevent accidental Windows and Context Menu key presses.
  • FPS and MOBA keycap sets: Textured and contoured keycaps provide maximum grip and enhanced feel.

 

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 http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Corsair