Faster than a speeding Gigabyte, the Aorus GTX 1080 XE

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 20, 2017 - 02:54 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 1080 Xtreme Edition, GTX 1080, gigabyte, aorus

Gigabyte created their Aorus line of products to attract enthusiasts away from some of the competitions sub-brands, such as ASUS ROG.  It is somewhat similar to the Gigabyte Xtreme Edition released last year but their are some differences, such as the large copper heatsink attached to the bottom of the GPU.  The stated clockspeeds are the same as last years model and it also sports the two HDMI connections on the front of the card to connect to Gigabyte's VR Extended Front panel.  The Tech Report manually overclocked the card and saw the Aorus reach the highest frequencies they have seen from a GP104 chip, albeit by a small margin.  Check out the full review right here.

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"Aorus is expanding into graphics cards today with the GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G, a card that builds on the strong bones of Gigabyte's Editor's Choice-winning GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming. We dig in to see whether Aorus' take on a GTX 1080 is good enough for a repeat."

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Graphics Cards

Jack Sprat would approve of the third incarnation of the ASUS Zenbook

Subject: Mobile | February 20, 2017 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: zenbook 3, UX390UA, ultrabook, kaby lake, asus. zenbook

We caught a glance at the new ASUS ZenBook 3 at CES and today Kitguru provides a full review of one, albeit a slightly different model.  The UX3901UA model contains a Kaby Lake i5-7200U with HD 620 graphics, 8GB LPDDR3-2133 and a 512GB M.2 SATA SSD.  The 12.5" screen is 1080p with no adaptive graphics or other tricks.  Where things seem to go off the rails is when you look at the thickness of the Zenbook, at its thickest it is 11.9mm (0.46").  This means you get no ethernet nor USB type A plugs as they simply would not fit and you have to content yourself with a single Type C plug.  For some the sacrifice is worth it; if you are one who likes petite sized computers you should head over for the full review.

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"What has really caught my eye about the ZenBook 3 is its physical dimensions – it measures just 11.9mm thick, while it weighs a mere 910g. With Kaby Lake hardware inside, as well as the promise of a crisp 1080p display and Harman Kardon speakers, could this be our new ultrabook of choice?"

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Source: Kitguru

Monday morning penguins

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2017 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: linux, linux 4.10

The new week brings a new Linux kernel to users, with some additions which will interest fans of low powered computing as well as those of high powered machines.  The new kernel brings support for the Snapdragon 808 and 810 for those who are working with Linux on those SOCs.  For the high powered crew, added support for L2 and L3 cache on Intel processors, there is now support for virtual GPUs and The Inquirer mentions that AMD cards should get a bit of a boost.  So much for skipping straight to 4.11.

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"On the whole, 4.10 didn't end up as small as it initially looked.After the huge release that was 4.9, I expected things to be pretty quiet, but it ended up very much a fairly average release by modern kernel standards. So we have about 13,000 commits (not counting merges - that would be another 1200+ commits if you count those)."

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Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Blizzard Cutting Support for Windows XP and Vista

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2017 - 05:07 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, blizzard, windows, EoL

Most companies have already abandoned Windows XP and Vista, including Microsoft once Vista leaves extended support in April, but Blizzard is known for long-term support. This is the company that is still selling Diablo 2, even producing retail disks for it last I checked, almost seventeen years after it was released (including a patch last year).

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Later this year, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm will no longer support Windows XP or Vista. This will not all happen at once, even though it would actually make less sense if they did. I mean, why would they coordinate several teams to release a patch at the same time and maximize annoyance to the affected users who cannot schedule or afford an upgrade at that specific time?

Although, if that’s you, then you should probably get around to it sooner than later.

Source: Blizzard

Living in VIVO 24K, a unique looking PSU

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 17, 2017 - 06:13 PM |
Tagged: modular psu, VIVO, VIVO 24K, 650W, 80 Plus Gold

VIVO is certainly not a top of mind brand name, which is part of the reason [H]ard|OCP were interested in reviewing their 24K 650W PSU.  The top, front and back of the PSU feature a honeycombed design which not only give it a unique look but also help with ventilation.  The test results from this newcomer were a pleasant surprise; it measured up to the established competition, offering good power delivery and deserving of the advertised 80 PLUS Gold rating.  It is nice to see a new product measure up straight out of the gates, it will be worth keeping an eye on VIVO in the future.

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"VIVO is likely not a brand name that you are familiar with when it comes to enthusiast-level computer power supplies. We were not familiar with the VIVO name assuredly and its single PSU offering. All the more reason to put it through our PSU testing gauntlet when VIVO asked us to. Will VIVO regret putting its value brand PSU to the test?"

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CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The Genius SP-925BT bluetooth speaker, the sound is larger than the price tag

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: audio, SP-925BT, genuis, Bluetooth Stereo Speaker

If you are looking for an inexpensive bluetooth speaker that you won't worry about taking to the beach or other places it is at risk of harm, the $30 Genius SP-925BT is not a bad choice.  It features two 50mm speakers and a passive sub-woofer, with a 1500mAh battery.  In addition to Bluetooth 4 connectivity there is also a 3.5mm jack to connect devices without a radio.  Modders Inc tried a variety of audio sources and found the quality and volume perfect for sharing you music with a crowd of people.

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"Bluetooth technology is rendering wires passé in a world where using a mobile phone is an essential part of daily life. Staying connected no longer requires continuous tethering of devices to cables, so why shouldn’t audio listening enjoy the same freedom as well?"

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Audio Corner

 

Source: Modders Inc

Good news everybody! Those 30 second Youtube ads are going the way of the dodo

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 03:35 PM |
Tagged: youtube

Perhaps someone at Youtube noticed that most people flip to another tab or browser window during those unskippable ads that are frequently played at the beginning of videos.  Whatever the cause of the sudden outbreak of common sense, as of 2018 there will no longer be 30 second long ads which are unskippable.  This does not mean you will be free of ads, there will instead be unskippable ads of 15-20 seconds for you to ignore and you will still have ads in the middle of long videos.  They do have to sell more Red subscriptions after all.  Slashdot has linked to the original statement if you seek confirmation.

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"We're committed to providing a better ads experience for users online. As part of that, we've decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers," Google said."

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Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 378.72 Hotfix (Bonus: a Discussion)

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 17, 2017 - 07:42 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

Just a couple of days after publishing 378.66, NVIDIA released GeForce 378.72 Hotfix drivers. This fixes a bug encoding video in Steam’s In-Home Streaming, and it also fixes PhysX not being enabled on the GPU under certain conditions. Normally, hotfix drivers solve large-enough issues that were introduced with the previous release. This time, as far as I can tell, is a little different, though. Instead, these fixes seem to be intended for 378.66 but, for one reason or another, couldn’t be integrated and tested in time for the driver to be available for the game launches.

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This is an interesting effect of the Game Ready program. There is value in having a graphics driver available on the same day (or early) as a major game releases, so that people can enjoy the title as soon as it is available. There is also value in having as many fixes as the vendor can provide. These conditions oppose each other to some extent.

From a user standpoint, driver updates are cumulative, so they are able to skip a driver or two if they are not affected by any given issue. AMD has taken up a similar structure, some times releasing three or four drivers in a month with only, like, one of them being WHQL certified. For these reasons, I tend to lean on the side of “release ‘em as you got them”. Still, I can see people feeling a little uneasy about a driver being released incomplete to hit a due-date.

But, again, that due-date has value.

It’s interesting. I’m personally glad that AMD and NVIDIA are on a rapid-release schedule, but I can see where complaints could arise. What’s your opinion?

Source: NVIDIA

Microsoft Cancels February's Monthly Cumulative Update

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Don’t worry if you didn’t receive cumulative Windows Updates this month.

At first, Microsoft showed no love for Valentine’s Day when they delayed the update that was supposed to roll out to the public. No explanation was provided. Two days later, Microsoft decided to write off the whole month. Everything that has been fixed since January 10th will be delayed until March 14th.

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This is quite the wait. Peter Bright of Ars Technica notes that “off-cycle updates are also unpopular”. Yes, IT professionals hate it when software vendors are difficult to schedule around. I’m not sure how much that had to do with this decision, though. On the one hand, when a new build launches to the public, it’s not uncommon to have an update (or more) per week over the first couple of months. On the other hand, it would be reasonable for Microsoft to assume that customers, those who carefully test patches before deploying them, would not have ingested a huge, nebulous feature release into their network just weeks after launch. Still, out-of-band updates happen, and it’s interesting that it didn’t happen in this circumstance.

One thing that this patch should have fixed, however, is delayed or clipped display output in games (and other 3D applications) on multi-monitor systems. While not as critical as security, it is probably annoying for anyone affected to need to wait another 28 days. Microsoft claims it will be fixed then, though.

Source: Microsoft

Need an AMD processor right this instant? Perhaps Ashes of the Singularity Escalation with it?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2017 - 07:25 PM |
Tagged: amd, newegg, ashes of the singularity

Do you have a desperate need for a new processor, which precludes waiting for Ryzen to arrive?  Newegg and AMD have launched a giveaway you might be interested in, a free copy of Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation with the purchase of certain 6 or 8 core AMD FX processors

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Models include the AMD FX-8370 with Wraith cooler, FX-8350 BE, FX-8320, FX-8300, FX-6350 and FX-6300.  They may not be the newest chips on the block but they didn't cost very much and they lasted a long while; plus they are currently on sale.  The giveaway lasts until May 7, 2017, or when the keys run out, so you can keep an eye on pricing if you want even better pricing.

 

Source: AMD

MSI's wee AERO ITX family of NVIDIA graphics cards

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2017 - 03:35 PM |
Tagged: msi, AERO ITX, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gtx 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, SFF, itx

MSI have just release their new series of ITX compatible GPUs, covering NVIDIA's latest series of cards from the GTX 1050 through to the GTX 1070; the GTX 1080 is not available in this form factor.  The GTX 1070 and 1060 are available in both factory overclocked and standard versions.

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All models share a similar design, with a single TORX fan with 8mm Super Pipes and the Zero Frozr feature which stops the fan to give silent operation when temperatures are below 60C.  They are all compatible with the Afterburner Overclocking Utility, including recordings via Predator and wireless control from your phone. 

The overclocked cards run slightly over reference, from the GTX 1070 at 1721MHz boost, 1531MHz base with the GDDR5 at 8GHz to the GTX 1050 at 1518MHz boost, 1404MHz base and the GDDR5 at 7GHz.  The models which do not bear the OC moniker run at NVIDIA's reference clocks even if they are not quite fully grown.

Source: MSI

BOINC on your phone?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2017 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: boinc, fast radio bursts

If you are not familiar with the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networked Computing, aka BOINC, then hopefully it is because you devote your spare processing power to Folding@Home.  If you are still unfamiliar, it is a way to divvy up huge data sets and associated calculations to numerous local clients, install by volunteers who are willing to donate spare processing cycles; the most famous is SETI@Home.

The story at the The Register describes something similar, though instead of performing the calculations, you would capture the data.  The idea is to utilize the radio receivers in mobile devices and software defined radio kits to capture the mysterious fast radio bursts that astronomers have detected emanating from far off galaxies.  The researchers have a lot of work ahead of them as the 1GHz signals can be swamped by terrestrial sources and the periodicity of the signals is not clear.  It will be interesting to watch how this project unfolds.

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"Friends, take out your mobiles in the name of science! Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are trying to look for fast radio bursts in the Milky Way galaxy with “low-cost radio receivers.” And by that, they mean, your smartphones."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #437 - EVGA iCX, Zen Architecture, Optane, and more!

Subject: Editorial | February 16, 2017 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: Zen, Z170, webkit, webgpu, podcast, Optane, nvidia, Intel, icx, evga, ECS, crucial, Blender, anidees, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #437 - 02/16/17

Join us for EVGA iCX, Zen Architechure, Intel Optane, new NVIDIA and AMD driver releases, 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, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom

Program length: 1:32:21

Source:

Just Picked Up: Google Daydream View

Subject: Mobile | February 16, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: zte, VR, google, daydream

As I mentioned last week, my ZTE Axon 7 has just received Android 7.0 Nougat, which also unlocked Google Daydream VR. I wasn’t able to pick up Google’s VR headset at the time, but now I can, so I did, and I spent a couple of hours messing around with it.

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First, I have to say I am very glad that Google made one headset (and controller) that works with all Daydream-compatible phones. That wasn’t entirely clear when I ordered my Axon 7 last summer, and I feared it would lead to a lot of waiting for my OEM to release a specific headset that may or may not be as good as any another vendor’s, especially sight unseen. I don’t really know how they properly align the screens, across all possible phones and accounting for user-error, but it seems to accept my phone perfectly without really any fiddling. Maybe it’s a simpler problem than I am envisioning, but, either way, the one viewer works with my ZTE Axon 7 -- it’s not just for the Pixel.

My second point is that the phone gets very hot, very quick. I’m sure ZTE knows about this, and the phone is designed around it, but it doesn’t just get warm, it borders on hot-to-the-touch at times. To be safe, I’m removing the case each time I insert it into the Daydream View, although the device seems to work either way. The battery does drain quickly, relative to other workloads, but a single, hour-or-so VR sitting took about 25% off (~75% remaining). Despite the heat and the quick battery drain, you will probably be done with a VR sitting before the device is, so I consider those aspects to be all-around positive.

As for the YouTube app, I’m glad that the virtual screen for standard video can be adjusted in pretty much any way. You can make it bigger or smaller with the track pad, pull it in any direction with motion controls, and adjust whether it’s flat or curved (so all points are equidistant) in the settings. If you want to lay on your back in bed and watch movies “on the ceiling”, then you can... and without holding the phone over your face while your arms go numb.

Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

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As for games? Eh... about the only thing that caught my eye is maybe “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”. I’m pleasantly surprised it’s there, but it’s about the only thing that is. I knew there wasn’t a whole lot of apps, and that’s fine for me, but you probably shouldn’t get too excited outside of video.

Also, it’d be nice to see Google Chrome in VR. Get on that, Google! A virtual void would make a good place to keep my many, many tabs. It will apparently support WebVR content very soon, but in a “browse, click the Daydream button, mount it in the View, and put it on your head, then undo all that when you’re done” sort of way. It’d be nice to just... stay in the headset to browse.

Anywho, I have it, and those are my thoughts. It’s early, but it seems to work pretty well. I haven’t tried an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive yet, though, so I can’t make any comparisons there.

Source: Google

Intel Quietly Launches Official Optane Memory Site

Subject: Storage | February 15, 2017 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, memory, Intel, cache

We've been hearing a lot about Intel's upcoming Optane memory over the past two years, but the information had all been in the form of press announcements and leaked roadmap slides.

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We now have an actual Optane landing page on the Intel site that discusses the first iteration of 'Intel Optane Memory', which appears to be the 8000p Series that we covered last October and saw as an option on some upcoming Lenovo laptops. The site does not cover the upcoming enterprise parts like the 375GB P4800X, but instead, focuses on the far smaller 16GB and 32GB 'System Accelerator' M.2 modules.

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Despite using only two lanes of PCIe 3.0, these modules turn in some impressive performance, but the capacities when using only one or two (16GB each) XPoint dies preclude an OS install. Instead, these will be used, presumably in combination with a newer form of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology driver, as a caching layer meant as an HDD accelerator:

While the random write performance and endurance of these parts blow any NAND-based SSD out of the water, the 2-lane bottleneck holds them back compared to high-end NVMe NAND SSDs, so we will likely see this first consumer iteration of Intel Optane Memory in OEM systems equipped with hard disks as their primary storage. A very quick 32GB caching layer should help speed things up considerably for the majority of typical buyers of these types of mobile and desktop systems, while still keeping the total cost below that for a decent capacity NAND SSD as primary storage. Hey, if you can't get every vendor to switch to pure SSD, at least you can speed up that spinning rust a bit, right?

Source: Intel

What's so bright about the Genius Scorpion M8-610?

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: input, genius, scorpion M8-610, gaming mouse, ambidextrous

The symmetrical design of the Genius Scorpion M8-610 will ensure comfort no matter what your chirality is, something that is seemingly more uncommon in gaming mice these days.  The Avago ADNS-9800 laser sensor can provide between 800 to 8200 DPI and all the buttons are Omron D2FC-F-7N, not bad for a mouse that runs less than $40.  Modders Inc took a look at the mouse and the software suite which accompanies it in their latest review; take a look at what they thought right here.

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"While it is easy to get lured by fancy colors and flashy design when looking for a gaming mouse, it always comes down to functional consistency above all else. Aside from the keyboard, the mouse allows users to communicate with the computer and to the wider world online."

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Tech Talk

Source: Modders Inc

50GB of high resolution Fallout, finally a use for that 8GB of VRAM?

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: gaming, fallout 4

[H]ard|OCP took a look into the effect on performance the gigantic high resolution texture pack has on system performance in their latest article.  For those who want the answer immediately, the largest amount of VRAM they saw utilized was a hair over 5GB, in most cases more than double the usage that the default textures use.  This certainly suggests that those with 4GB cards should reconsider installing the texture pack and that a 6GB card shouldn't see performance impacts.  As for the performance deltas, well we can't provide spoilers for their entire review!

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"Bethesda has released its official High Resolution Texture Pack DLC for Fallout 4. We will look at performance impact, VRAM capacity usage levels, and compare image quality to see if this High Resolution Texture Pack might be worthy of your bandwidth in actually improving the gameplay experience."

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Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Vulkan is not extinct, in fact it might be about to erupt

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Intel, Intel Skylake, kaby lake

The open source API, Vulkan, just received a big birthday present from Intel as they added official support on their Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs under Windows 10.  We have seen adoption of this API from a number of game engine designers, Unreal Engine and Unity have both embraced it, the latest DOOM release was updated to support Vulkan and there is even a Nintendo 64 renderer which runs on it.  Ars Technica points out that both AMD and NVIDIA have been supporting this API for a while and that we can expect to see Android implementations of this close to the metal solution in the near future.

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"After months in beta, Intel's latest driver for its integrated GPUs (version 15.45.14.4590) adds support for the low-overhead Vulkan API for recent GPUs running in Windows 10. The driver supports HD and Iris 500- and 600-series GPUs, the ones that ship with 6th- and 7th-generation Skylake and Kaby Lake processors."

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Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 378.66 Drivers with New Features

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 14, 2017 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: opencl 2.0, opencl, nvidia, graphics drivers

While the headline of the GeForce 378.66 graphics driver release is support for For Honor, Halo Wars 2, and Sniper Elite 4, NVIDIA has snuck something major into the 378 branch: OpenCL 2.0 is now available for evaluation. (I double-checked 378.49 release notes and confirmed that this is new to 378.66.)

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OpenCL 2.0 support is not complete yet, but at least NVIDIA is now clearly intending to roll it out to end-users. Among other benefits, OpenCL 2.0 allows kernels (think shaders) to, without the host intervening, enqueue work onto the GPU. This saves one (or more) round-trips to the CPU, especially in workloads where you don’t know which kernel will be required until you see the results of the previous run, like recursive sorting algorithms.

So yeah, that’s good, albeit you usually see big changes at the start of version branches.

Another major addition is Video SDK 8.0. This version allows 10- and 12-bit decoding of VP9 and HEVC video. So... yeah. Applications that want to accelerate video encoding or decoding can now hook up to NVIDIA GPUs for more codecs and features.

NVIDIA’s GeForce 378.66 drivers are available now.

Source: NVIDIA

Crucial expands their MX300 line of SSDs all the way up to 2TB

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2017 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: tlc, slc, MX300, micron, imft, Dynamic Write Acceleration, DWA, crucial, 3DNAND, 3d nand

Last June Al took a look at the Crucial MX300 750GB and its ability to switch its cache dynamically from TLC to SLC, helping Crucial improve how they implemented this feature along the way.  It proved to be a great value for the money; not the best performing drive but among the least expensive on the market.  Crucial has since expanded the lineup and Hardware Canucks took a look at the 2TB model.  This model has more than just a larger pool of NAND, the RAM cache has been doubled up to 1GB and the dynamic cache has more space to work in as well.  Take a look at this economy sized drive in their full review.

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"Crucial's newest MX300 series continues to roll on with a new 2TB version. This SSD may be one of the best when it comes to performance, price and capacity all combined into one package."

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Storage