Huzzah! Delayed reboots are returning to Win10 Home

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

If you are using Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you may have already disabled the automatic reboot function after updates are installed but for Home users after the Anniversary update, that has not been possible.  It turns out there are a lot of users quite upset with unplanned reboots, especially those who leave their computers running overnight or while they are away.  Microsoft have accepted this feedback and will return the ability to delay reboots to owners of the Home Edition in their next update.  In the meantime, The Register describes a way in which you can regain a little more control over automatic reboots with your current build.

snooze.jpg

"Since the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in 2016, there is no way to prevent Windows 10 [Home] from automatically installing updates and rebooting your PC," fumed one vulture fan, John, who added that a group policy can be set on W10 Pro and Enterprise editions to prevent automated restarts."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

GDC 2017: zSpace Joins OpenXR Working Group

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, Khronos

About a year before I joined PC Perspective, I acquired a degree in Education, which involved teaching at a local high school. Even though that was just five years after graduating high school, the amount of available technology has exploded in that time. SmartBoards were relevant enough to be taught at my teacher’s college just in case you got one. Contrast this to when I was a high school student, where “overhead projector” was assumed to mean “transparent paper and erasable marker”.

Why do I mention this? Well, basically everyone in the tech industry has been investigating the potential of VR and AR for the last couple of years, and education is a very obvious and practical application of it.

In this case, zSpace reached out and informed that they just joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group. They hope to guide the specification from the educational technology perspective. From what I can see on their website, their products are basically like Wacom Cintiqs, except that the pen can function the volume of air in front of the screen, and glasses with markers adjust the output image to make it look like objects are floating between you and the display.

If you’re in the education sector, then be sure to check out what zSpace is doing, if only to be aware of the teaching tools that are available in the world. Every teacher I knew enjoyed browsing Staples, looking through the various bits of stationary for ideas, like recipe cards for cheap, impromptu student polls and challenges.

As for the rest of us? The more mainstream VR and AR is, the more innovation will occur, especially when they contribute back to open standards; win win.

Source: zSpace

Ryzen shine! It is time for your AMD roundup

Subject: Processors | March 2, 2017 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: Ryzen 1700X, Zen, x370, video, ryzen, amd

Having started your journey with Ryan's quick overview of the performance of the 1800X and anxiously awaiting our further coverage now that we have both the parts and the time to test them you might want to take a peek at some other coverage. [H]ard|OCP tested the processor which many may be looking at due to the more affordable pricing, the Ryzen 1700X.  Their test system is based on a Gigabyte A370-Gaming 5 with 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3600 which ran at 2933MHz during testing; Kyle reached out to vendors who assured him an update will make 3GHz reachable will arrive soon.  Part of their testing focused on VR performance, so make sure to check out the full article.

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"Saying that we have waited for a long time for a "real" CPU out of AMD would be a gross misunderstatement, but today AMD looks to remedy that. We are now offered up a new CPU that carries the branding name of Ryzen. Has AMD risen from the CPU graveyard? You be the judge after looking at the data."

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Processors

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Wondering about upgrading your cooler mounts for Ryzen?

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling | March 2, 2017 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: AM4, ryzen, nzxt, fractal design, scythe

We have some good news from several companies about compatibility with that AM4 board you are hoping to set up.  NXZT have announced a program in which you can request a free AM4 mounting kit for your Kraken X62, X52, X42, X61, X41 or Kraken X31.  Just follow this link to apply for one, they will ship world wide starting on the 15th of March.  You will need to provide proof of purchase of both your AM4 motherboard and Kraken cooler.

nzxt.png

Fractal Design have a similar offer for owners of of their Kelvin series of coolers.  You can email their Support team for a bracket for your Kelvin T12, S24 or S36, make sure to attach proof of purchase of either a Ryzen processor or AM4 board.

fractals.jpg

Scythe is doing things a litle differently.  If you reside in Europe, they are offering free mounting kits to owners of their Mugen 5 cooler, simply reach out them via this link, again attaching a receipt for the cooler and either a Ryzen CPU or AM4 motherboard.  Owners of a Katana 3 or 4, Kabuto 3, Shuriken Rev. B, Tatsumi “A”, Byakko, or Iori cooler need not even go through that process, your coolers mount is already compatible.  For owners of other coolers you can reach out to Scythe via the previous link to order a bracket for  3,99€, to ship out sometime in May or later.  We will let you know when we hear from the NA branch.

scythe.jpg

"Coinciding with the new AMD Zen-based Ryzen CPUs, and the new AM4 socket, NZXT will be providing a free retention bracket for all current Kraken users. NZXT believes in providing high-quality components to our customers, in addition to exceptional customer service no matter where they reside and we will continue that support alongside the launch of Ryzen."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: NZXT

Podcast #439 - GTX 1080 Ti, Radeon RX Vega, and Ryzen

Subject: Editorial | March 2, 2017 - 11:37 AM |
Tagged: Vega, ryzen, podcast, fcat, 1080Ti, 1080

PC Perspective Podcast #439 - 03/02/17

Join us for GTX 1080 Ti, Radeon RX Vega, Ryzen 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: Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom

Program length: 1:41:49

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Casper Ad
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 0:36:35 Ryzen News
  4. Closing/outro

Source:

AMD responds to 1080p gaming tests on Ryzen

Subject: Processors | March 2, 2017 - 11:29 AM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, gaming, 1080p

By far one of the most interesting and concerning points about today's launch of the AMD Ryzen processor is gaming results. Many other reviewers have seen similar results to what I published in my article this morning: gaming at 1080p, even at "ultra" image quality settings, in many top games shows a deficit in performance compared to Intel Kaby Lake and Broadwell-E processors. 

I shared my testing result with AMD over a week ago, trying to get answers and hoping to find some instant fix (a BIOS setting, a bug in my firmware). As it turns out, that wasn't the case. To be clear, our testing was done on the ASUS Crosshair VI Hero motherboard with the 5704 BIOS and any reports you see claiming that the deficits only existed on ASUS products are incorrect.

hitman.png

AMD responded to the issues late last night with the following statement from John Taylor, CVP of Marketing:

“As we presented at Ryzen Tech Day, we are supporting 300+ developer kits with game development studios to optimize current and future game releases for the all-new Ryzen CPU. We are on track for 1000+ developer systems in 2017. For example, Bethesda at GDC yesterday announced its strategic relationship with AMD to optimize for Ryzen CPUs, primarily through Vulkan low-level API optimizations, for a new generation of games, DLC and VR experiences.

Oxide Games also provided a public statement today on the significant performance uplift observed when optimizing for the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 CPU design – optimizations not yet reflected in Ashes of the Singularity benchmarking. Creative Assembly, developers of the Total War series, made a similar statement today related to upcoming Ryzen optimizations.

CPU benchmarking deficits to the competition in certain games at 1080p resolution can be attributed to the development and optimization of the game uniquely to Intel platforms – until now. Even without optimizations in place, Ryzen delivers high, smooth frame rates on all “CPU-bound” games, as well as overall smooth frame rates and great experiences in GPU-bound gaming and VR. With developers taking advantage of Ryzen architecture and the extra cores and threads, we expect benchmarks to only get better, and enable Ryzen excel at next generation gaming experiences as well.

Game performance will be optimized for Ryzen and continue to improve from at-launch frame rate scores.” John Taylor, AMD

The statement begins with Taylor reiterating the momentum of AMD to support developers both from a GPU and a CPU technology angle. Getting hardware in the hands of programmers is the first and most important step to find and fixing any problem areas that Ryzen might have, so this is a great move to see taking place. Both Oxide Games and Creative Assembly, developers of Ashes of the Singularity and Total War respectively, have publicly stated their intent to demonstrate improved threading and performance on Ryzen platforms very soon.

Taylor then recognizes the performance concerns at 1080p with attribution to those deficits going to years of optimizations for Intel processors. It's difficult, if not impossible, to know for sure how much weight this argument has, but it would make some logical sense. Intel CPUs have been the automatic, defacto standard for gaming PCs for many years, and any kind of performance optimizations and development would have been made on those same Intel processors. So it seems plausible that simply by seeding Ryzen to developers and having them look at performance as development goes forward would result in a positive change for AMD's situation.

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For buyers today that are gaming at 1080p, the situation is likely to remain as we have presented it going forward. Until games get patched or new games are released from developers that have had access and hands-on time with Ryzen, performance is unlikely to change from some single setting/feature that AMD or its motherboard partners can enable. 

The question I would love answered is why is this even happening? What architectural difference between Core and Zen is attributing to this delta? Is it fundamental to the pipeline built or to the caching structure or to how SMT is enabled? Does Windows 10 and its handling of kernel processes have something to do with it? There is a lot to try to figure out as testing moves forward.

If you want to see the statements from both Oxide and Creative Assembly, they are provided below.

“Oxide games is incredibly excited with what we are seeing from the Ryzen CPU. Using our Nitrous game engine, we are working to scale our existing and future game title performance to take full advantage of Ryzen and its 8-core, 16-thread architecture, and the results thus far are impressive. These optimizations are not yet available for Ryzen benchmarking. However, expect updates soon to enhance the performance of games like Ashes of the Singularity on Ryzen CPUs, as well as our future game releases.” - Brad Wardell, CEO Stardock and Oxide
 
"Creative Assembly is committed to reviewing and optimizing its games on the all-new Ryzen CPU. While current third-party testing doesn’t reflect this yet, our joint optimization program with AMD means that we are looking at options to deliver performance optimization updates in the future to provide better performance on Ryzen CPUs moving forward. " – Creative Assembly, Developers of the Multi-award Winning Total War Series

Source: AMD

GDC 2017: $200 Off Oculus Rift and Touch

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2017 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, VR, pc gaming

Alongside the release of Robo Recall from Epic Games, which is free of you own an Oculus Rift and the Oculus Touch controllers, Oculus has changed up how you can purchase the Oculus Rift. As was the case since the Touch controllers shipped, the Oculus Rift is bundled with these motion controllers. The difference is that, now, the bundle will cost $598 USD. This is a $200 reduction in price compared to someone who purchased the headset and the controllers separately last week. The controllers, alone, are now $99 USD.

So this is interesting.

According to recent statements by Gabe Newell, who is obviously in the HTC Vive camp, the VR market doesn’t have “a compelling reason for people to spend 20 hours a day in VR”. This assertion was intended to dispel the opinion that a price cut would help VR along. From his perspective, VR will have a huge bump in resolution and frame rate within one or two years, and current headsets are basically the minimum of adequacy.

So, from both a software and technology standpoint, VR can benefit from more time in the oven before tossing it down the garbage disposal. I see that point and I agree with it, but only to a point. A price reduction can still help in several ways. First, the games industry has made some drastic shifts toward the individual. Free tools, from IDEs to AAA-quality game engines, seem to be picking up in adoption. A high entry fee for a segment of that mind share will push those with creative ideas elsewhere.

But, probably more importantly, even if the market is small, pulling in more users makes it grow. The more lead users that you can acquire, the more risk can be attempted, which will make an even better situation for whenever we need to start considering mass market. Imagine if a factor of two increase in user base would be enough for Microsoft (or Linux distros) to consider virtual desktops for VR. If we reach that threshold a year or two sooner, then it will have a more significant impact on the value for mainstream users whenever the technology catches up to their interest.

And yes, this is coming from the guy who is currently surrounded by four monitors...

Anyway, rant aside, Oculus has jumped in to a significant price reduction. This should get it into the hands of more people, assuming the injunction order doesn’t get accepted and drop on them like a hammer.

Source: Oculus

YouTube Launching Its Own $35 Per Month Live TV Streaming Service With Cloud DVR

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2017 - 12:16 AM |
Tagged: youtube red, youtube, live tv, cord cutting, cloud dvr, broadcast tv

YouTube is jumping into the streaming TV market with the launch of YouTube TV. The new "over the top" streaming service is aimed at cord cutters and users that want to watch live and recorded TV on their mobile devices. YouTube TV joins AT&T's DirecTV Now, Dish Network's Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue with a streaming package of ~40 channels for $35 per month that is reportedly the result of licensing negotiations and deals two years in the making.

The streaming platform, which is reportedly coming in the next weeks to months (depending on the market and local market licensing), will come out swinging with two main advantages over the existing competition: YouTube TV will allow more simultaneous streams (six accounts with up to 3 streams going at the same time) and have DVR functionality with unlimited storage and unlimited simultaneous recordings where episodes will be saved for 9 months.

YouTube TV.jpg

Unfortunately, YouTube TV suffers the same main drawback of these over the top TV streaming services which is channel selection. Due to licensing issues, YouTube TV will have a collection of 40 channels at launch including access to ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, E!, CW, FX, USA, Freeform, FS1, Disney Channel, and more. However, it lacks the cable-only networks like AMC and Viacom (also no MTV, CNN, TNT, TBS, Comedy Central, HGTV, or Food Network). Showtime is available for an extra monthly fee though.

The sports channels are nice to see and are sure to be appreciated, but due to Verizon's exclusivity deal NFL games are restricted to PCs and can not be streamed on mobile devices using YouTube TV.

For those interested, CNET has a full list of the channels here. YouTube TV will reportedly also allow access to YouTube Red programming, but the TV programming will still have ads (of course).

Excepting the NFL streams, users can watch live and recorded TV on their PCs, smartphones, tablets, and Chromecasts. Google Home support is currently in development as well and will eventually allow you to tune into a channel on your Chromecast using your voice.

I am a excited to see another major player enter this IP TV streaming space, and with a working DVR it will have a leg up over the competition (here's looking at you, DirecTV Now). With Google backing the venture I am hopeful that it can flex its considerable capital muscle to work out further deals with the stubborn cable networks and eventually (maybe) we will see a truly a la carte TV streaming service!

What are your thoughts on YouTube TV? Is it enough to get you to cut the cord, or are you too into The Walking Dead?

Source: YouTube

Delidded Ryzen 7 1700 Confirms AMD Is Using Solder With IHS On Ryzen Processors

Subject: Processors | March 1, 2017 - 09:17 PM |
Tagged: solder, Ryzen 1700, ryzen, overclocking, IHS, delid, amd

Professional extreme overclocker Roman "der8auer" Hartung from Germany recently managed to successfully de-lid his AMD Ryzen 7 1700 processor and confirmed that AMD is, in fact, using solder as its thermal interface material of choice between the Ryzen die and IHS (integrated heat spreader). The confirmation that AMD is using solder is promising news for enthusiasts eager to overclock the new processors and see just how far they are able to push them on air and water cooling.

Delidded Ryzen 7 1700 Die.JPG

Image credit: Roman Hartung. Additional high resolution photos are available here.

In a video on his YouTube channel, der8auer ("The Farmer") shows the steps involved in delidding the Ryzen 7 1700 which involve using razor blades, a heating element to get the IHS heated to a temperature high enough to melt the indium (~170°C on the block with the indium melting around 157°C), and a whole lot of courage. After using the razor blades to cut the glue around the edges, he heated up the IHS enough to start melting the solder and after a cringe-worthy cracking sound he was able to lift the package away from the IHS with the die and on-package components intact!

He does note that the Ryzen using PGA rather than the LGA method Intel has moved to makes the CPU a bit harder to handle as the pins are on the CPU rather than the socket and are easily bent. Compared to the delidding process and possibility of cracking the die or ripping off some components and killing the $329 CPU though, bent pins are nothing and can usually be bent back heh. He reportedly went through two previous Ryzen CPUs before getting a successful de-lid on the third attempt after all.

It seems that AMD is using two small pads of Indium solder along with some gold plating on the inside of the IHS to facilitate heat transfer and allow the solder to mate with the IHS. Because AMD is using what seems to be high quality solder TIM, delidding and replacing the TIM does not seem to be necessary at all; however, Roman "der8auer" Hartung speculates that direct die cooling could work out very well for those enthusiasts brave enough to try it since the cooler does not need to put high amounts of pressure onto the CPU to hold it into place unlike an LGA socket. 

If you are interested in seeing the overclocking benefits of de-lidding and direct die cooling a Ryzen CPU, keep an eye on his YouTube channel for a video over the weekend detailing his testing using a Ryzen 7 1800X.

I am really looking forward to seeing how far enthusiasts are able to push Ryzen (especially on water), and maybe we can convince Morry to de-lid a Ryzen CPU!

Happy Overclocking!

Also read:

Source: der8auer

GDC 2017: The Khronos Group (re-)Announces OpenXR

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2017 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: VR, pc gaming, openxr, Khronos

While the Vulkan update headlines the Khronos Group’s presence at GDC 2017, they also re-announced their VR initiative, now called OpenXR. This specification wraps around the individual SDKs, outlining functionality that is to be exposed to the application and the devices. If a device implements the device layer, then it will immediately support everything that uses the standard, and vice-versa.

khronos-2017-openxr-logo.png

OpenVR was donated by Valve, leading to OpenXR...
... because an X is really just a reflected V, right?

Like OpenGL and Vulkan, individual vendors will still be allowed to implement their own functionality, which I’m hoping will be mostly exposed through extensions. The goal is to ensure that users can, at a minimum, enjoy the base experience of any title on any device.

They are aiming for 2018, but interested parties should contribute now to influence the initial release.

Report: AMD to Launch Radeon RX 500 Series GPUs in April

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 1, 2017 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: video card, RX 580, RX 570, RX 560, RX 550, rx 480, rumor, report, rebrand, radeon, graphics, gpu, amd

According to a report from VideoCardz.com we can expect AMD Radeon RX 500-series graphics cards next month, with an April 4th launch of the RX 580 and RX 570, and subsequent RX 560/550 launch on April 11. The bad news? According to the report "all cards, except RX 550, are most likely rebranded from Radeon RX 400 series".

Polaris10.jpg

AMD Polaris 10 GPU (Image credit: Heise Online)

Until official confirmation on specs arrive, this is still speculative; however, if Vega is not ready for an April launch and AMD will indeed be refreshing their Radeon lineup, an R9 300-series speed bump/rebrand is not out of the realm of possibility. VideoCardz offers (unconfirmed, at this point) specs of the upcoming RX 500-series cards, with RX 400 numbers for comparison:

videocardz_chart_1.png

Chart credit: VideoCardz.com

The first graph shows the increased GPU boost clock speed of ~1340 MHz for the rumored RX 580, with the existing RX 480 clocked at 1266 MHz. Both would be Polaris 10 GPUs with otherwise identical specs. The same largely holds for the rumored specs on the RX 570, though this GPU would presumably be shipping with faster memory clocks as well. On the RX 560 side, however, the Polaris 11 powered replacement for the RX 460 might be based on the 1024-core variant we have seen from the Chinese market.

videocardz_chart_2.png

Chart credit: VideoCardz.com

No specifics on the RX 550 are yet known, which VideoCardz says "is most likely equipped with Polaris 12, a new low-end GPU". These rumors come via heise.de (German language), who state that those "hoping for Vega-card will be disappointed - the cards are intended to be rebrands with known GPUs". We will have to wait until next month to know for sure, but even if this is the case, expect faster clocks and better performance for the same money.

Source: VideoCardz

Nintendo Switches out spinach green and almost black for 720p

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2017 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, Nintendo Switch, Joy-Con, gaming

The Nintendo Switch has arrived for those who feel that mobile gaming is lacking in analog joysticks and buttons.  The product sits in an interesting place, the 720p screen is nowhere near the resolution of modern phones though those phones lack a dock which triggers an overclocked mode to send 1080p to a TV.  The programming team behind Nintendo also has far more resources than most mobile app developers and they can incorporate some tricks which a phone simply will not be able to replicate.  Ars Technica took the Switch, its two Joy-Cons and the limited number of released games on a tour to see just how well Nintendo did on their new portable gaming system.  There are some improvements that could be made but the Joy-Cons do sound more interesting than the Gameboy Advanced.

newswitch-1-1440x960.jpg

"With the Switch, Nintendo seems to be betting that the continued drum beat of Moore's Law and miniaturization has made that dichotomy moot. The Switch is an attempt to drag the portable gaming market kicking and screaming to a point where it's literally indistinguishable from the experience you'd get playing on a 1080p HDTV."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: Ars Technica

MWC: BlackBerry KEYone Is Solid Mid-Range Smartphone Priced Too High

Subject: Mobile | March 1, 2017 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 625, opinion, MWC, keyone, enterprise, Cortex A53, blackberry, Android 7.1, Android

February is quite the busy month with GDC, MWC, and a flurry of technology announcements coming out all around the same time! One of the more surprising announcements from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona came from BlackBerry in the form of a new mid-range smartphone it is calling the KEYone. The KEYone is an Android 7.1 smartphone actually built by TCL with an aluminum frame, "soft touch" plastic back, curved edges, and (in traditional CrackBerry fashion) a full physical QWERTY keyboard!

BlackBerry KEYone.jpg

The black and silver candy bar style KEYone (previously known as "Mercury") measures 5.78" x 2.85" x 0.37" and weighs 0.39 pounds. The left, right, and bottom edges are rounded and the top edge is flat. There are two bottom firing stereo speakers surrounding a USB Type-C port (Type-C 1.0 with USB OTG), a headphone jack up top, and volume, power, and convenience key buttons on the right side. The front of the device, which BlackBerry has designed to be comfortable using one handed, features a 4.5" 1620 x 1080 LCD touchscreen (434 PPI) protected by Gorilla Glass 4, a front facing camera with LED flash, and a large physical keyboard with straight rows of keys that have a traditional BlackBerry feel. The keyboard, in addition to having physical buttons, supports touch gestures such as swiping, and the spacebar has a fingerprint reader that early hands on reports indicate works rather well for quickly unlocking the phone. Further, every physical key can be programmed as a hot key to open any application with a long press (B for browser, E for email, ect).

i1.jpg

On the camera front, BlackBerry is using the same sensor found in the Google Pixel which is a Sony IMX378. There is a 12MP f/2.0 rear camera with dual LED flash and phase detect auto focus on the back as well as a front facing 8MP camera. Both cameras can record 1080p30 video as well as support HDR and software features like face detection. Android Central reports that the camera software is rather good (it even has a pro mode) and the camera is snappy at taking photos.

Internally, BlackBerry has opted to go with squarely mid-range hardware which is disappointing but not the end of the world. Specifically, the KEYone is powered by a Snapdragon 625 (MSM8953) with eight ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2GHz and an Adreno 506 GPU paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Wireless support includes dual band 802.11ac, FM, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, and GSM/HSPA/LTE cellular radios. The smartphone uses a 3,505 mAh battery that is not user removable but at least supports Quick Charge 3.0 which can reportedly charge the battery to 50% in 36 minutes. Storage can be expanded via MicroSD cards. The smartphone is running Android 7.1.1 with some BlackBerry UI tweaks but is otherwise fairly stock. Under the hood however BlackBerry has hardened the OS and includes its DTEK security sftware along with promising monthly updates.

Not bad right? Looking at the specifications and reading/watching the various hands-on reports coming out it is really looking like BlackBerry (finally) has a decent piece of hardware for enterprise customers, niche markets (lawyers, healthcare, ect), and customers craving a physical keyboard in a modern phone. At first glance the BlackBerry KEYone hits all the key marks to a competitive Android smartphone... except for its $549 price tag. The KEYone is expected to launch in April.

i6.jpg

No scroll ball? Blasphemy! (hehe)

Unfortunately, that $549 price is not a typo, and is what kills it even for a CrackBerry addict like myself. After some reflection and discussion with our intrepid smartphone guru Sebastian, I feel as though BlackBerry would have a competitive smartphone on its hands at $399, but at $549 even business IT departments are going to balk much less consumers (especially as many businesses embrace the BYOD culture or have grown accustomed to pricing out and giving everyone whatever basic Android or iPhone they can fit into the budget).

While similarly specced Snapdragon 625 smartphones are going for around $300, (e.g. Asus ZenPhone 3 at $265.98), there is some precedent for higher priced MSM8953-based smartphones such as the $449 Moto Z Play. There is some inherent cost in integrating a physical keyboard and BlackBerry has also hardened the Android 7.1.1 OS which I can see them charging a premium for and that business customers (or anyone that does a lot of writing on the go) that values security can appreciate. It seems like BlackBerry (and hardware partner TCL) has finally learned how to compete on the hardware design front in this modern Android-dominated market, and now they must learn how to compete on price especially as more and more Americans are buying unlocked and off-contract smartphones! I think the KEYone is a refreshing bit of hardware to come out of BlackBerry (I was not a fan of the Priv design) and I would like to see it do well and give the major players (Apple, Samsung, LG, Asus, Huawei, ect) some healthy competition with the twist of its focus on better security but in order for that to happen I think the BlackBerry KEYone needs to be a bit cheaper.

What are your thoughts on the KEYone and the return of the physical keyboard? Am I onto something or simply off my Moto Rokr on this?

Source: BlackBerry

Tearing open a Tesla; a look at the Model S battery

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2017 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: tesla motors, battery

Hack a Day posted a video of a teardown of the battery that powers the Tesla Model S, for those curious about how it is set up.  This is not recommended for you to try at home, not only are there a huge number of bolts and Torx screws, it seems that each has a specific torque amount which must be adhered to.  Inside are 16 battery packs, each of which contain 444 cells with a total of 24V, for a sum of 5.3 kWh.  Do not test the charge on these batteries with your tongue!  Click on through to watch the video.

tesla-teardown-featured.jpg

"Tesla famously build their battery packs from standard 18650 lithium-ion cells, but it’s safe to say that the pack in the Model S has little in common with your laptop battery. Fortunately for those of a curious nature, [Jehu Garcia] has posted a video showing the folks at EV West tearing down a Model S pack from a scrap car, so we can follow them through its construction."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Hack a Day

NVIDIA Announces GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Graphics Card, $699, Available Next Week

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 28, 2017 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: pascal, nvidia, gtx 1080 ti, gp102, geforce

Tonight at a GDC party hosted by CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, NVIDIA announced the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, coming next week for $699. Let’s dive right into the specifications!

card1.jpg

  GTX 1080 Ti Titan X (Pascal) GTX 1080 GTX 980 Ti TITAN X GTX 980 R9 Fury X R9 Fury R9 Nano
GPU GP102 GP102 GP104 GM200 GM200 GM204 Fiji XT Fiji Pro Fiji XT
GPU Cores 3584 3584 2560 2816 3072 2048 4096 3584 4096
Base Clock 1480 MHz 1417 MHz 1607 MHz 1000 MHz 1000 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz up to 1000 MHz
Boost Clock 1600 MHz 1480 MHz 1733 MHz 1076 MHz 1089 MHz 1216 MHz - - -
Texture Units 224 224 160 176 192 128 256 224 256
ROP Units 88 96 64 96 96 64 64 64 64
Memory 11GB 12GB 8GB 6GB 12GB 4GB 4GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 11000 MHz 10000 MHz 10000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 500 MHz 500 MHz 500 MHz
Memory Interface 352-bit 384-bit G5X 256-bit G5X 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit 4096-bit (HBM) 4096-bit (HBM) 4096-bit (HBM)
Memory Bandwidth 484 GB/s 480 GB/s 320 GB/s 336 GB/s 336 GB/s 224 GB/s 512 GB/s 512 GB/s 512 GB/s
TDP 250 watts 250 watts 180 watts 250 watts 250 watts 165 watts 275 watts 275 watts 175 watts
Peak Compute 10.6 TFLOPS 10.1 TFLOPS 8.2 TFLOPS 5.63 TFLOPS 6.14 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 8.60 TFLOPS 7.20 TFLOPS 8.19 TFLOPS
Transistor Count 12.0B 12.0B 7.2B 8.0B 8.0B 5.2B 8.9B 8.9B 8.9B
Process Tech 16nm 16nm 16nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP (current) $699 $1,200 $599 $649 $999 $499 $649 $549 $499

The GTX 1080 Ti looks a whole lot like the TITAN X launched in August of last year. Based on the 12B transistor GP102 chip, the new GTX 1080 Ti will have 3,584 CUDA core with a 1.60 GHz Boost clock. That gives it the same processor count as Titan X but with a slightly higher clock speed which should make the new GTX 1080 Ti slightly faster by at least a few percentage points and has a 4.7% edge in base clock compute capability. It has 28 SMs, 28 geometry units, 224 texture units.

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Interestingly, the memory system on the GTX 1080 Ti gets adjusted – NVIDIA has disabled a single 32-bit memory controller to give the card a total of 352-bit wide bus and an odd-sounding 11GB memory capacity. The ROP count also drops to 88 units. Speaking of 11, the memory clock on the G5X implementation on GTX 1080 Ti will now run at 11 Gbps, a boost available to NVIDIA thanks to a chip revision from Micron and improvements to equalization and reverse signal distortion.

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The TDP of the new part is 250 watts, falling between the Titan X and the GTX 1080. That’s an interesting move considering that the GP102 was running at 250 watts with identical to the Titan product. The cooler has been improved compared to the GTX 1080, offering quieter fan speeds and lower temperatures when operating at the same power envelope.

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Performance estimates from NVIDIA put the GTX 1080 Ti about 35% faster than the GTX 1080, the largest “kicker performance increase” that we have seen from a flagship Ti launch.

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Pricing is going to be set at $699 so don't expect to find this in any budget builds. But for the top performing GeForce card on the market, it's what we expect. It should be on virtual shelves starting next week.

(Side note, with the GTX 1080 getting a $100 price drop tonight, I think we'll find this new lineup very compelling to enthusiasts.)

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NVIDIA did finally detail its tiled caching rendering technique. We'll be diving more into that in a separate article with a little more time for research.

One more thing…

In another interesting move, NVIDIA is going to be offering “overclocked” versions of the GTX 1080 and GTX 1060 with +1 Gbps memory speeds. Partners will be offering them with some undisclosed price premium.

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I don’t know how much performance this will give us but it’s clear that NVIDIA is preparing its lineup for the upcoming AMD Vega release.

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We’ll have more news from NVIDIA and GDC as it comes!

Source: NVIDIA

GDC: NVIDIA Announces GTX 1080 Price Drop to $499

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 28, 2017 - 10:55 PM |
Tagged: pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, GDC

Update Feb 28 @ 10:03pm It's official, NVIDIA launches $699 GTX 1080 Ti.

NVIDIA is hosting a "Gaming Celebration" live event during GDC 2017 to talk PC gaming and possibly launch new hardware (if rumors are true!). During the event, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang made a major announcement regarding its top-end GTX 1080 graphics card with a price drop to $499 effective immediately.

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The NVIDIA GTX 1080 is a pascal based graphics card with 2560 CUDA cores paired with 8GB of GDDR5X memory. Graphics cards based on this GP104 GPU are currently selling for around $580 to $700 (most are around $650+/-) with the "Founders Edition" having an MSRP of $699. The $499 price teased at the live stream represents a significant price drop compared to what the graphics cards are going for now. NVIDIA did not specify if the new $499 MSRP was the new Founders Edition price or an average price that includes partner cards as well but even if it only happened on the reference cards, the partners would have to adjust their prices downwards accordingly to compete.

I suspect that NVIDIA is making such a bold move to make room in their lineup for a new product (the long-rumored 1080 Ti perhaps?) as well as a pre-emptive strike against AMD and their Radeon RX Vega products. This move may also be good news for GTX 1070 pricing as they may also see price drops to make room for cheaper GTX 1080 partner cards that come in below the $499 price point.

If you have been considering buying a new graphics card, NVIDIA has sweetened the pot a bit especially if you had already been eyeing a GTX 1080. (Note that while the price drop is said to be effective immediately, at the time of writing Amazon was still showing "normal"/typical prices for the cards. Enthusiasts might have to wait a few hours or days for the retailers to catch up and update their sites.)

This makes me a bit more excited to see what AMD will have to offer with Vega as well as the likelihood of a GTX 1080 Ti launch happening sooner rather than later!

Source: NVIDIA

Overclockers Push Ryzen 7 1800X to 5.2 GHz On LN2, Break Cinebench Record

Subject: Processors | February 28, 2017 - 09:06 PM |
Tagged: Zen, Ryzen 1800X, ryzen, overclocking, LN2, Cinebench, amd

During AMD’s Ryzen launch event a team of professional overclockers took the stage to see just how far they could push the top Zen-based processor. Using a bit of LN2 (liquid nitrogen) and a lot of voltage, the overclocking team was able to hit an impressive 5.20 GHz with all eight cores (16 threads) enabled!

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In addition to the exotic LN2 cooling, the Ryzen 7 1800X needed 1.875 volts to hit 5.20 GHz. That 5.20 GHz was achieved by setting the base clock at 137.78 MHz and the multiplier at 37.75. Using these settings, the chip was even stable enough to benchmark with a score of 2,363 on Cinebench R15’s multi-threaded test.

According to information from AMD, a stock Ryzen 7 1800X comes clocked at 3.6 GHz base and up to 4 GHz boost (XFR can go higher depending on HSF) and is able to score 1,619 in Cinebench. The 30% overclock to 5.20 GHz got the overclockers an approximately 45% higher CInebench score.

Further, later in the overclocking event, they managed to break a Cinebench world record of 2,445 points by achieving a score of 2,449 (it is not clear what clockspeed this was at). Not bad for a brand-new processor!

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The overclocking results are certainly impressive, and suggest that Ryzen may be a decent overclocker so long as you have the cooling setup to get it there (the amount of voltage needed is a bit worrying though heh). Interestingly, HWBot shows a Core i7 6900K (also 8C/16T) hitting 5.22 GHz and scoring 2,146 in CInebench R15. That Ryzen can hit similar numbers with all cores and threads turned on is promising.

I am looking forward to seeing what people are able to hit on air and water cooling and if XFR will work as intended and get most of the way to a manual overclock without the effort of manually overclocking. I am also curious how the power phases and overclocking performance will stack up on motherboards using the B350 versus X370 chipsets. With the eight core chips able to hit 5.2, I expect the upcoming six core Ryzen 5 and four core Ryzen 3 processors to clock even higher which would certainly help gaming performance for budget builds!

Austin Evans was able to get video of the overclocking event which you can watch here (Vimeo).

Also read:

Source: Hexus

AMD Unveils Next-Generation GPU Branding, Details - Radeon RX Vega

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2017 - 05:46 PM |
Tagged: amd, Vega, radeon rx vega, radeon, gdc 2017, capsaicin, rtg, HBCC, FP16

Today at the AMD Capsaicin & Cream event at GDC 2017, Senior VP of the Radeon Technologies Group, Raja Koduri officially revealed the branding that AMD will use for their next generation GPU products.

While we usually see final product branding deviate from their architectural code names (e.g. Polaris becoming the Radeon RX 460, 470 and 480), AMD this time has decided to embrace the code name for the retail naming scheme for upcoming graphics cards featuring the new GPU – Radeon RX Vega.

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However, we didn't just get a name for Vega-based GPUs. Raja also went into some further detail and showed some examples of technologies found in Vega.

First off is the High-Bandwidth Cache Controller found in Vega products. We covered this technology during our Vega architecture preview last month at CES, but today we finally saw a demo of this technology in action.

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Essentially, the High-Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC) allows Vega GPUs to address all available memory in the system (including things like NVMe SSDs, system DRAM and network storage.) AMD claims that by using the already fast memory you have available on your PC to augment onboard GPU memory (such as HBM2) they will be able to offer less expensive graphics cards that ultimately offer access to much more memory than current graphics cards.

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The demo that they showed on stage featured Deus Ex: Mankind Divided running on a system with a Vega GPU running with 2GB of VRAM, and Ryzen CPU. By turning HBCC on, they were able to show a 50% increase in average FPS, and a 100% increase in minimum FPS.

While we probably won't actually see a Vega product with such a small VRAM implementation, it was impressive to see how HBCC was able to dramatically improve the playability of a 2GB GPU on a game that has no special optimizations to take advantage of the High-Bandwidth Cache.

The other impressive demo running on Vega at the Capsaicin & Cream event centered around what AMD is calling Rapid Pack Math.

Rapid Pack Math is an implementation of something we have been hearing and theorizing a lot about lately, the use of FP16 shaders for some graphic effects in games. By using half-precision FP16 shaders instead of the current standard FP32 shaders, developers are able to get more performance out of the same GPU cores. In specific, Rapid Pack Math allows developers to run half-precision FP16 shaders at exactly 2X the speed of traditional standard-precision FP32 shaders.

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While the lower precision of FP16 shaders won't be appropriate for all GPU effects, AMD was showing a comparison of their TressFX hair rendering technology running on both standard and half-precision shaders. As you might expect, AMD was able to render twice the amount of hair strands per second, making for a much more fluid experience.

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Just like we saw with the lead up to the Polaris GPU launch, AMD seems to be releasing a steady stream of information on Vega. Now that we have the official branding for Vega, we eagerly await getting our hands on these new High-end GPUs from AMD.

 

The X370s aren't here yet so take a gander at the fancy X270 from GIGABYTE

Subject: Motherboards | February 28, 2017 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: intel z270, Aorus Z270X Gaming 9, gigabyte

What an interesting time it will be with Intel slinging Z270's at the same time AMD's Z370 arrives on the scene; there is no possible way some people could get confused.  It will also make the next generation of board names interesting as the two companies fight for numbering rights.  GIGABYTE's Aorus Z270X Gaming 9 comes with an impressive price tag of $500, so it will be interesting to see if [H]ard|OCP finds the feature set on the board worth of that investment.  The four 16x PCIe 3.0 slots will support four GPUs simultaneously and there are both a pair of M.2 and U.2 slots, to say nothing of the onboard SoundBlaster.  Head on over to read through the full review.

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"GIGABYTE’s Z270X Gaming 9 is one of the most feature rich and ultra-high end offerings you’ll see for the Z270 chipset this year. We were super fond of last year’s similar offering and as a result, the Z270X Gaming 9 has very large shoes to fill. With its massive feature set and overclocking prowess, it is poised to be one of the best motherboards of the year."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The Microsoft Store's unintentional cash back offer

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2017 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, oops, Lawsuit

If you purchased anything from the Microsoft store between November 2013 and February 24 of this year and live in the USA you could be eligible for up to $100 in cash damages.  It seems that the credit card information they provided on receipts contained more than half of your credit card numbers which is in violation of a law implemented in 2003 which states that no more than five numbers can be shown on receipts.  Now that the judgment against Microsoft is in, the proposed settlement for Microsoft to set aside $1,194,696US for customers who were affected by this issue.  The settlement needs to be approved by the judge so you cannot claim your money immediately, keep an eye out for more new.  The Register have posted links to the original lawsuit as well as the judgment right here.

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"On Friday, the Redmond giant agreed to give up roughly seven minutes of its quarterly revenue to a gaggle of Microsoft Store customers who claimed that their receipts displayed more of their payment card numbers than legally allowed."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register