Terra Invicta; X-COM gone intergalactic, planetary

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2017 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: Terra Invicta, x-com, long war, Pavonis Interactive, Kickstarter, gaming

Pavonis Interactive, the development team behind the wonderfully torturous Long War mods for the new X-COM series sat down with Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN to talk about their current project, a full game entitled Terra Invicta.  It will encompass the defence of Earth against an alien invasion force, similar to X-COM but will be their first game designed from the ground up with a Kickstarter campaign soon to get underway.  With two huge and impressive mods under their belt, the team should have what it takes to make this game very interesting.  For instance, they plan to have the battlefield encompass not just Earth, but to allow you to eventually take the fight to the stars.   Check out the full interview here.

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“It’s a little like what you might imagine the XCOM spokesman’s job to be,” Pavonis head John Lumpkin tells me, “trying to unify Earth’s nations against an alien threat.” And then it moves to cover the entire solar system."

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Gaming

 

Yet another obituary announcement for Moore's Law

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2017 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: moores law, nvidia, jen-hsun huang

You've heard this one before, though not from Jen-Hsun Huang of NVIDIA who has a vested interest in seeing Moore's Law finally be relegated to computing history.  NVIDIA is pushing GPUs as a better alternative to CPUs for a variety of heavy computational lifting.  Volta has been adopted by many large companies and he also just announced TensorRT3 a programmable inference accelerator with applications in self-driving cars, robotics and numerous other tasks previously best done with a CPU.  DigiTimes quotes Jen-Hsun as saying "while number of CPU transistors has grown at an annual pace of 50%, the CPU performance has advanced by only 10%", more or less accurate in broad strokes but certainly not a death rattle yet.

Intel has a different opinion of course, reporting Moore's Law to be perfectly healthy just last Tuesday.

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"Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang has said that with the emergence of GPU computing following the decline of the CPU era, Moore's Law has come to an end, stressing that his company's GPU-centered ecosystem has won support from China's top-five AI (artificial intelligence) players."

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Source: DigiTimes

Svelte yet powerful, Gigabyte's Aero 15 gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | September 26, 2017 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, aero 15, gaming laptop, gtx 1060, i7-7700hq

Gigabyte's Aero 15 gaming notebook is a mere 19.9mm (0.78") at its thickest point and weighs in at 2.1 kg (4.62lbs), yet it manages to hold respectable components inside.  Intels Core i7-7700HQ along with a proper 6GB GTX 1060, a Samsung 512 GB PCIe SSD and 16GB of DDR4-2400.  That list of parts will set you back $1900, about what you should expect from a gaming laptop; if you want to play Prey and Doom on the road you do have to pay.  Check out The Tech Report's full review to see how it handled a variety of other games.

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"Gigabyte's Aero 15 notebook brings together one of Intel's most powerful mobile CPUs and Nvidia's GTX 1060 6GB graphics chip in a chassis that's well under an inch thick. We put the Aero 15 to the test to see if it can keep its cool under the most demanding workloads."

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Gigabyte's Aorus AX370 Gaming 7 will help you push that Ryzen chip to its limits

Subject: Motherboards | September 26, 2017 - 02:53 PM |
Tagged: x370, gigabyte, AX370 Gaming K7, aorus

The current state of naming conventions continues to confound, AMD's X370 chipset appeared at the same time Intel offers a Z370 in a testament to the troubled mental state of PR flacks.  Ignoring that particular matter in order to focus on the technical specifications of Gigabyte's new Gaming K7, we direct you to [H]ard|OCP's review of the motherboard.  It offers six PCIe slots, two of which are 16x PCIe 3.0, support for up to 64GB of DDR4-3600MHz, both an M.2 and U.2 port and even a pair of SEx ports looking for something compatible to plug into them.  With four USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one of which is Type-C as well as 10 USB 3.1 Gen. 1 ports you are not going to have issues with peripherals.  Check out the full performance and overclocking results of this Silver Award winning board for all the details.

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"GIGABYTE’s AX370 Gaming K7 is in many ways the motherboard the AX370 Gaming 5 should have been. GIGABYTE has a habit of creating multiple SKUs with differences that are so minor that one can’t help but wonder why two separate models exist when they are almost indistinguishable from one another."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

GIGABYTE Introduces Z370 AORUS Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | September 26, 2017 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: Z370 Ultra Gaming, Z370 Gaming 7, Z370 AORUS, Z370, gigabye

Gigabyte released some information about their new Aorus Z370 motherboards, though we still do not have full technical specifications yet.  We do know the boards will support DDR4 of up to 4400MHz and feature familar extras such as ESS Sabre DAC, Smart Fan 5 and RGB Fusion.

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The boards feature updated VRM and PWM designs which can drive up to 60 amps per power phase as well as 10K Ultra Durable Black capacitors.  Smart Fan 5 will incorporate a small fan positioned near the VRMs which can be enabled to offer airflow for water cooled systems.  M.2 Thermal Guards serve a similar purpose at a lower decibel level.  There is support for a variety of R's, G's and B's, in addition to the integrated ones there are 4-pin headers which support either 5v or 12v LED strips.

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City of Industry, California, September 25th, 2017 – GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd, a leading manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards, has unveiled the new Z370 AORUS motherboards based on the Intel Z370 chipset. These supercharged motherboards are equipped with a server-grade digital power design which fully support 8th generation Intel Core processors. Performance tuned, the Z370 AORUS Motherboards are compatible with memory modules rated for 4400MHz. With unique features like an ESS Sabre DAC, Smart Fan 5 and RGB Fusion, there’s no doubt why gamers turn to AORUS for the ultimate gaming motherboard.

“Following Intel‘s release of the Z370 chipset platform, GIGABYTE has designed a new, groundbreaking motherboard,” said Vincent Liu, Senior Associate Vice President of GIGABYTE’s Motherboard Business Unit. “GIGABYTE Z370 AORUS motherboards are designed for gamers who value powerful, yet highly durable motherboards. With our new digital power design, not only will Z370 AORUS motherboards unleash the power of the 8th generation Intel Core processors’ they will easily fulfill gamers’ demands.”

Designed with 14nm technology, the 8th gen Intel Core processors range from 4-Cores and 4 threads to 6-Cores and 12 threads each performing better than its predecessor. Z370 AORUS Motherboards deliver the highest video quality, 4K UHD, and uninterrupted streaming to users through the use of HDCP 2.2 Technology, a HEVC 10-bit decoder, as well as a VP9 hardware decoder.

Efficient Power Delivery
The Z370 AORUS Motherboards utilize a new VRM and PWM design which is able to drive 60 amps per power pwm.jpgphase as well as strengthen the signal between the processor and voltage regulator. Through the use of server-grade 10K Ultra Durable Black™ capacitors GIGABYTE is able to increase durability while reducing excess electrostatic charge on the PWMs, improving efficiency between the CPU. With its intricate power design the Z370 AORUS Motherboards are still able to meet the standards of the California Energy Commision (CEC) as a low power and high efficiency motherboard.

Immersive Audio Experience with an ESS Sabre DAC
Paired with an ESS Sabre DAC and the Creative Sound BlasterX 720° software the Z370 AORUS Gaming 7 offers unrivaled audio performance. This synergy of hardware and software allows users a distinct advantage in multiplayer online games. Through Scout Radar gamers can obtain visual cues to where enemies or opponents are giving them an edge in-game. For audiophiles this duo has comprehensive tools backed by leading technology and algorithms to enrich the audio experience whether users are listening to music, watching movies, or streaming.

Beat the Heat with Smart Fan 5 with Fan Stop Technology
Smart Fan 5 has been a sought after feature for gamers and PC enthusiasts. As it continues to evolve Smart Fan 5 has incorporated features like Fan Stop Technology which allows fans to actively shut off to reduce ambient noise when thermal thresholds are not met. With the flagship Z370 AORUS Gaming smart fan.jpg7, Smart Fan 5 introduces active cooling. Active cooling integrates a unique fan positioned near the VRMs for systems built with AIO liquid coolers where airflow is not present. These technologies allow for users to prolong the life of their gaming pc and squeeze the limits of performance from their Motherboard through the use of overclocking.

Other technologies that can be found on Z370 AORUS Motherboards are M.2 Thermal Guards which cool down those next generation form factors for storage. AORUS Thermal Guards reside on M.2 slots ensuring that gamers and power users will receive the most optimal transfer speeds from their top of the line storage devices.

Show Your True Colors with RGB Fusion and Digital LEDs
RGB Fusion is more powerful than ever, now with support for Digital LEDs in either 5v or 12v, RGBz370 aorus gaming 7.jpg Fusion can be customized with individually addressable LED strips, arrays, and even matrices. The Z370 AORUS Motherboards offer RGB Pin Headers on both the bottom and top of the board to ensure convenience for modders and the everyday PC builder. With a 4-pin header that can be reconfigured to be compatible with almost all RGBW strips on the market, RGB Fusion is the most versatile platform for all RGB accessories.

 

Source: Gigabyte

The retro Ataribox comes with new AMD hardware

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: atari, ataribox, amd, Indiegogo

Atari have released a tiny trickle of new information about their somewhat mysterious Ataribox; it will run some flavour of Linux on AMD hardware and cost somewhere between $250 to $300.  They describe their upcoming product as equivalent to a mid-range PC, not quite up to running AAA games but able to handle Minecraft or Terraria in addition to classic Atari games.  This will make it somewhat more expensive than an NVIDIA Shield and more on par with a current generation gaming console; somewhat apt as they too rely on AMD hardware.

Atari will be launching an Indiegogo campaign this fall to fund the Ataribox, with an expected release 12 months after that launch date.  While the idea is intriguing, for who doesn't want to play old Atari games on a nice looking machine; one wonders if Atari can honestly refer to themselves as struggling entrepreneurs in need of assistance in launching a product.  Drop by The Inquirer for more.

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"The Ataribox will be based on PC tech, and as such won't be tied to any one ecosystem. Now, usually this would send us screaming for the hills, but we know this one is going to get funded, so we're not sweating about sharing some more info."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Inquirer

What's New, Plexycat? Plex News Adds Customized News Clips to Your Media Library

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2017 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: plex server, plex pass, plex news, plex, news

Plex has always been an excellent way to organize the movies, TV shows, and other media that you already have, but one area in which it has traditionally lacked is outside content. The Plex team has taken steps to address this in recent years, first with the introduction of DVR support in late 2016 and followed by the ability to watch live TV this past June. Now Plex has set its sights on another area of outside content: news.

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Plex today announced Plex News, a new service that aggregates recent video clips from over 190 global and local news publishers and integrates them "seamlessly and beautifully" into your media library. The initiative is based upon Watchup, a personalized news aggregation service that Plex acquired last January. Users can choose the topics and sources of news they prefer, and Plex will create custom video feeds containing each day's news. "AI and machine learning" will then learn the type of content each users prefers and automatically adapt the user's news feed as new videos and content sources are added.

Plex News is especially exciting to us because it follows a progression we started with Live TV and DVR where we’re bringing you great media from outside your library in a way which integrates seamlessly and beautifully. This makes it easier than ever to start using Plex if you’re new, and gives you another universe of content to explore outside of your own media, without ever leaving Plex.

In addition to clips from expected sources like CNN and the CNET, Plex claims that it has reached a deal to provide users with local news in more than 80 percent of U.S. markets as well, which positions Plex as a unique source for both enjoying your on-demand content library and keeping up with important events in the "real world."

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Plex News is launching as a free ad-supported service and will roll out to all users over the next two days, starting first with Plex Pass subscribers. It is available at launch for Android TV (including NVIDIA SHIELD), Apple TV, Roku, Android Mobile, and iOS, with support for other platforms to follow.

Source: Plex Blog

Imagination Technologies Announces PowerVR 2NX NNA

Subject: Mobile | September 25, 2017 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, deep neural network

Imagination Technologies is known to develop interesting, somewhat offbeat hardware, such as GPUs with built-in ray tracers. In this case, the company is jumping into the neural network market with a Power VR-branded accelerator. The PowerVR Series2NX Neural Network Accelerator works on massively parallel, but low-precision tasks. AnandTech says that the chip can even work in multiple bit-depths on different layers in a single network, from 16-bit, down to 12-, 10-, 8-, 7-, 6-, 5-, and 4-bit.

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Image Credit: Imagination Technologies via Anandtech

Imagination seems to say that this is variable “to maintain accuracy”. I’m guessing it doesn’t give an actual speed-up to tweak your network in that way, but I honestly don’t know.

As for Imagination Technologies, they intend to have this in mobile devices for, as they suggest, photography and predictive text. They also state the usual suspects: VR/AR, automotive, surveillance, and so forth. They are suggesting that this GPU technology will target Tensorflow Lite.

The PowerVR 2NX Neural Network Accelerator is available for licensing.

Intel Core i9-7980XE Pushed to 6.1 GHz On All Cores Using Liquid Nitrogen

Subject: Processors | September 25, 2017 - 09:36 PM |
Tagged: skylake-x, overclocking, Intel Skylake-X, Intel, Cinebench, 7980xe, 3dmark, 14nm

Renowned overclocker der8auer got his hands on the new 18-core Intel Core i9-7980XE and managed to break a few records with more than a bit of LN2 and thermal paste. Following a delid, der8auer slathered the bare die and surrounding PCB with a polymer-based (Kryonaut) TIM and reattached the HIS to prepare for the extreme overclock. He even attempted to mill out the middle of the IHS to achieve a balance between direct die cooling and using the IHS to prevent bending the PCB and spread out the pressure from the LN2 cooler block, but ran into inconsistent results between runs and opted not to proceed with that method.

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Using an Asus Rampage VI Apex X299 motherboard and the Core i9-7980XE at an Asus ROG event in Taiwan der8auer used liquid nitrogen to push all eighteen cores (plus Hyper-Threading) to 6.1 GHz for a CPU-Z validation. To get those clockspeeds he needed to crank up the voltage to 1.55V (1.8V VCCIN) which is a lot for the 14nm Skylake X processor. Der8auer noted that overclocking was temperature limited beyond this point as at 6.1 GHz he was seeing positive temperatures on the CPU cores despite the surface of the LN2 block being as low as -100 °C! Perhaps even more incredible is the power draw of the processor as it runs at these clockspeeds with the system drawing as much as 1,000 watts (~83 amps) on the +12V rail with the CPU being responsible for almost all of that number! That is a lot of power running through the motherboard VRMs and the on-processor FIVR!

For comparison, at 5.5 GHz he measured 70 amps on the +12V rail (840W) with the chip using 1.45V vcore under load.

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For Cinebench R15, the extreme overclocker opted for a tamer 5.7 GHz where the i9-7980XE achieved a multithreaded score of 5,635 points. He compared that to his AMD Threadripper overclock of 5.4 GHz where he achieved a Cinebench score of 4,514 (granted the Intel part was using four more threads and clocked higher).

To push things (especially his power supply heh) further, the overclocker added a LN2 cooled NVIDIA Titan Xp to the mix and managed to overclock the graphics card to 2455 MHz at 1.4V. With the 3840 Pascal cores at 2.455 GHz he managed to break three single card world records by scoring 45,705 in 3DMark 11, 35,782 in 3DMark Fire Strike, and 120,425 in 3DMark Vantage!

Der8auer also made a couple interesting statements regarding overclocking at these levels including the issues of cold bugs not allowing the CPU and/or GPU to boot up if the cooler plate is too cold. On the other side of things, once the chip is running the power consumption can jump drastically with more voltage and higher clocks such that even LN2 can’t maintain sub-zero core temperatures! The massive temperature delta can also create condensation issues that need to be dealt with. He mentions that while for 24/7 overclocking liquid metal TIMs are popular choices, when extreme overclocking the alloy actually works against them because the sub-zero temperatures reduce the effectiveness and thermal conductivity of the interface material which is why polymer-based TIMs are used when cooling with liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, or TECs. Also, while most people apply a thin layer of thermal paste to the direct die or HIS, when extreme overclocking he “drowns” the processor die and PCB in the TIM to get as much contact as possible with the cooler as every bit of heat transfer helps even the small amount he can transfer through the PCB. Further, FIVR has advantages such as per-core voltage fine tuning, but it also can hold back further overclocking from cold bugs that will see the processor shut down past -100 to -110 °C temperature limiting overclocks whereas with an external VRM setup they could possibly push the processor further.

For the full scoop, check out his overclocking video. Interesting stuff!

Also read:

Source: der8auer

ASUS' Tinker can be tailored for Soldiers and Spies

Subject: Systems | September 25, 2017 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: asus, tinker, SoC, Rockchip, rk3288, Mali-T760, Cortex-A17

ASUS' take on single board computers is the new Tinker Board, powered by a 1.8 GHz Cortex-A17 based Rockchip RK3288 and a 600MHz Mali-T760 GPU which share 2 GB of LPDDR3.  Storage is handled by a microSD slot, or the four USB 2.0 ports and the Tinker offers Gigabit wired connectivity as well as optional WiFi.  You have a choice of operating systems, either Marshmallow flavoured Android or the Debian based Tinker OS, depending on which you prefer. 

The Tech Report tested out the Tinker Board and found the hardware to outpace competitors such as Raspberry Pi, however the lack of software and documentation hamstrung the Tinker Board badly enough that they do not recommend this board.  This may change in time but currently ASUS needs to do some work before the Tinker Board becomes an actual competitor in this crowded market.

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"Asus' Tinker Board single-board computer wants to challenge the Raspberry Pi 3's popularity with a more powerful SoC and better networking, among other improvements. We put it to the test to see whether it's a worthy alternative to the status quo."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

 

Double the price; not so much performance though ... Skylake-X versus ThreadRipper

Subject: Processors | September 25, 2017 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: skylake-x, Skylake, Intel, Core i9, 7980xe, 7960x

You cannot really talk about the new Skylake-X parts from Intel without bringing up AMD's Threadripper as that is the i9-7980XE and i9-7960X's direct competition.   From a financial standpoint, AMD is the winner, with a price tag either $700 or $1000 less than Intel's new flagship processors.  As Ryan pointed out in his review, for those whom expense is not a consideration it makes sense to chose Intel's new parts as they are slightly faster and the Xtreme Edition does offer two more cores.  For those who look at performance per dollar the obvious processor of choice is ThreadRipper; for as Ars sums up in their review AMD offers more PCIe lanes, better heat management and performance that is extremely close to Intel's best.

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"Ultimately, the i9-7960X raises the same question as the i9-7900X: Are you willing to pay for the best performing silicon on the market? Or is Threadripper, which offers most of the performance at a fraction of the price, good enough?"

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Processors

Source: Ars Technica

Skimmer Scanner, a start to protecting yourself at the pump

Subject: General Tech | September 25, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: skimmer scanner, security, bluetooth

If you haven't seen the lengths which scammers will go to when modifying ATMs to steal your bank info you should really take a look at these pictures and get in the habit of yanking on the ATM's fascia and keyboard before using them.  Unfortunately as Hack a Day posted about last week, the bank is not the only place you have to be cautious, paying at the pump can also expose your details.  In this case it is not a fake front which you need to worry about, instead a small PIC microcontroller is attached to the serial connection between card reader and pump computer, so it can read the unencrypted PIN and data and then store the result in an EEPROM device for later collection.  The device often has Bluetooth connectivity so that the scammers don't need to drive right up to the pump frequently.

There is an app you can download that might be able to help stop this, an app on Google Play will detect Bluetooth devices utilizing the standard codes the skimmers use and alert you.  You can then tweet out the location of the compromised pump to alert others, and hopefully letting the station owner and authorities know as well.  The app could be improved with automatic reporting and other tools, so check it out and see if you can help improve it as well as keeping your PIN and account safe when fuelling up. 

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"It would be nice to think that this work might draw attention to the shocking lack of security in gas pumps that facilitates the skimmers, disrupt the finances of a few villains, and even result in some of them getting a free ride in a police car. We can hope, anyway."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Hack a Day

Noctua Focused on Ryzen with NH-L9a-AM4 and NH-L12S Low-Profile Coolers

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 25, 2017 - 10:43 AM |
Tagged: ryzen, noctua, low-profile, htpc, cooler, APU, amd, AM4, air cooling

AMD's popularity with Ryzen CPUs (and upcoming APUs) has made waves across the industry, and Noctua have jumped in with a pair of low-profile offerings that update previous designs for cramped case interiors.

First up is the new version of the NH-L9a:

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"The new NH-L9a-AM4 is an AM4-specific revision of Noctua’s award-winning NH-L9a low-profile CPU cooler. At a height of only 37mm, the NH-L9a is ideal for extremely slim cases and, due to its small footprint, it provides 100% RAM and PCIe compatibility as well as easy access to near-socket connectors, even on tightly packed mini-ITX motherboards."

Next is the new NH-L12S:

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"The new S-version of the renowned NH-L12 not only adds AM4 support but also gives more flexibility and improved performance in low-profile mode. Thanks to the new NF-A12x15 PWM slim 120mm fan, the NH-L12S provides even better cooling than the previous model with its 92mm fan. At the same time, the NH-L12S is highly versatile: with the fan installed on top of the fins, the cooler is compatible with RAM modules of up to 45mm in height. With the fan installed underneath the fins, the total height of the cooler is only 70mm, making it suitable for use in many compact cases."

Noctua says that these new coolers now shipping "and will be available shortly", with an MSRP of $39.90 for the NH-L9a-AM4 and $49 for the NH-L12S.

Source: Noctua

Intel Announces 8th Gen Core Architecture, Coffee Lake

Subject: Processors, Chipsets | September 24, 2017 - 11:03 PM |
Tagged: Z370, Intel, coffee lake

The official press deck for Coffee Lake-S was leaked to the public, so Intel gave us the go-ahead to discuss the product line-up in detail (minus benchmarks). While the chips are still manufactured on the 14nm process that Kaby Lake, Skylake, and Broadwell were produced on, there’s more on them. The line-up is as follows: Core i3 gets quad-core without HyperThreading and no turbo boosting, Core i5 gets six-core without HyperThreading but with Turbo boosting, and Core i7 gets six-core with HyperThreading and Turbo boosting.

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While the slide deck claims that the CPU still has 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, the whole platform supports up to 40. They specifically state “up to” over and over again, so I’m not sure whether that means “for Z370 boards” or if there will be some variation between individual boards. Keep in mind that only 16 lane of this are from the processor itself, the rest are simply a part of the chipset. This unchanged from Z270.

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Moving on, Intel has been branding this as “Intel’s Best Gaming Desktop Processor” all throughout their presentation. The reasoning is probably two-fold. First, this is the category of processors that high-end, mainstream, but still enthusiast PC gamers target. Second, gaming, especially at super-high frame rates, is an area that AMD has been struggling with on their Ryzen platform.

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Speaking of performance, the clock rate choice is quite interesting compared to Kaby Lake. In all cases, the base clock had a little dip from the previous generation, but the Turbo clock, if one exists, has a little bump. For instance, going from the Core i7-7700k to the Core i7-8700k, your base clock drops from 4.2 GHz to just 3.7 GHz, but the turbo jumps up from 4.5 GHz to 4.7 GHz. You also have a little more TDP to work with (95W vs 91W) with the 8700k. I’m not sure what this increase variance between low and high clock rates will mean, but it’s interesting to see Intel making some sort of trade-off on the back end.

(Editor's note: the base clock is only going to be a concern when running all cores for a long period of time. I fully expect performance to be higher for CFL-S parts than KBL-S parts in all workloads.)

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The last thing that I’ll mention is that, of the two i3s, the two i5s, and the two i7s, one is locked (and lower TDP) and one is unlocked. In other words, Intel has an unlocked solution in all three classifications, even the i3. Even though it doesn’t have a turbo clock setting, you can still overclock it by hand if you desire.

Prices range from $117 to $359 USD, as seen in the slide, above. They launch on October 5th.

EFF Leaves the W3C over DRM Decision

Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: w3c, eff, DRM

On September 18th, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, announced that they were leaving the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, due to its stance on DRM, effective immediately. This was published in the form of an open letter from Cory Doctorow, which is available on the EFF’s website.

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There’s several facets to the whole DRM issue. In this case, Cory Doctorow seems focused mostly on the security side of things. Creating an architecture to attach code that manipulates untrusted data is sketchy, at a time that browser vendors are limiting that attack surface by killing as many plug-ins as possible, and, in this case, a legal minefield is layered atop it due to copyright concerns. Publishers are worried about end-users moving data in ways that they don’t intend... even though every single time that content is pirated before its release date is a testament that the problem is elsewhere.

We can also get into the issue of “more control isn’t the same as more revenue” again, some other time.

As for the consequences of this action? I’m not too sure. I don’t really know how much sway the EFF had internally at the W3C. While they will still do what they do best, fight the legal side of digital freedom, it sounds like they won’t be in a position to officially guide standards anymore. This is a concern, but I’m not in a position to quantify how big.

Source: EFF

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 385.69 Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 24, 2017 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, nvidia, graphics drivers

New graphics drivers for GeForce cards were published a few days ago. Unfortunately, I became a bit reliant upon GeForce Experience to notify me, and it didn’t this time, so I am a bit late on the draw. The 385.69 update adds “Game Ready” optimizations for a bunch of new games: Project Cars 2, Call of Duty: WWII open beta, Total War: WARHAMMER II, Forza Motorsport 7, EVE: Valkyrie - Warzone, FIFA 18, Raiders of the Broken Planet, and Star Wars Battlefront 2 open beta.

We’re starting the holiday games rush, folks!

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There isn’t really any major new features of this driver per se. It’s a lot of game-specific optimizations and a whole page of bug fixes, ranging from flickering in DOOM to preventing NVENC from freaking out at frame rates greater than 240 FPS.

One open issue is that GeForce TITAN (which I’m assuming refers to the original, Kepler-based one) cannot be installed on a Threadripper-based motherboard in Windows 10. The OS refuses to boot after the initial install. I’m guessing this has been around for a while, but in case you’re planning on upgrading to Threadripper (or buying a second-hand TITAN) it might be good to know.

If you haven’t received notification to update your drivers yet, poke GeForce Experience to make sure that it’s running and checking. Or, of course, you can download them from NVIDIA’s website.

Source: NVIDIA

New NVIDIA SHIELD TV SKU: 16GB with Remote for $179

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 10:29 PM |
Tagged: SHIELD TV, pc gaming, nvidia

NVIDIA is adding a third SKU to their SHIELD TV line-up, shaving $20 off the price tag by including just a media remote, rather than the current low-end SKU’s media remote and a gamepad. This makes the line-up: SHIELD (16GB, Remote Only) for $179.00, SHIELD (16GB, Remote + Gamepad) for $199.99, and SHIELD PRO (500GB, Remote + Gamepad) for $299.99.

All SKUs come with MSI levels of uppercase brand names.

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This version is for those who are intending to use the device as a 4K media player. If you are not interested in gaming, then that’s $20 in your pocket instead of a controller that you will never use on your shelf. If, however, you want to game in the future, then the first-party SHIELD CONTROLLER is $59.99 USD, so buying the bundle with the gamepad now will save you about $30 (Update, Sept 24th @ 5:45pm: $40... I mathed wrong.) That leaves a little bit to think about, but the choice can now be made.

The new bundle is now available for pre-order, and it ships on October 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Imagination Technologies Agrees to Canyon Bridge Offer

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 23, 2017 - 09:59 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies

Canyon Bridge, a private investment LLC and a believable codename for an Intel processor architecture, has just reached an agreement with Imagination Technologies to acquire most of their company. This deal is valued at £550 million GBP and does not include MIPS Technologies, Inc., which Imagination Technologies purchased on February 8th of 2013.

According to Anandtech, however, MIPS Technologies, Inc. will be purchased by Tallwood Venture Capital for $65 million USD.

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The reason why Imagination Technologies is expected to be split in two like this is because purchasing CPU companies places you under national security review with the United States, and Canyon Bridge is backed by the Chinese government. As such, they can grab everything but the CPU division, which lets another party swoop in for a good price on the leftover.

That said, it is currently unclear what either company, Canyon Bridge Capital Partners or Tallwood Venture Capital, wants to do with Imagination Technologies or MIPS Technologies, Inc., respectively. When Canyon Bridge attempted to purchase Lattice Semiconductor last year, they mentioned that they were interested in their FPGAs, their “video connectivity” products (HDMI, MHL, etc.), and their wireless products (60 GHz, etc.). I would assume that they’re just picking up good technology deals, but it’s also possible that they’re looking into accelerated compute companies in particular.

There’s still a few barriers before the sale closes, but it’s looking like we’re not going to end up with Imagination just merging into an existing player or something.

Source: Reuters

Apparently Kaby Lake Is Incompatible with Z370 Chipsets

Subject: Processors, Chipsets | September 23, 2017 - 06:52 PM |
Tagged: Z370, z270, kaby lake, Intel, coffee lake

According to the Netherlands arm of Hardware.info, while Kaby Lake-based processors will physically fit into the LGA-1151 socket of Z370 motherboards, they will fail to boot. Since their post, Guru3D asked around to various motherboard manufacturers, and they claim that Intel is only going to support 8th Generation processors with that chipset via, again, allegedly, a firmware lock-out.

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Thankfully, it's not Chocolate Lake.
Image credit: The Red List

If this is true, then it might be possible for Intel to allow board vendors to release a new BIOS that supports these older processors. Guru3D even goes one step further and suggests that, just maybe, motherboard vendors might have been able to support Coffee Lake on Z270 as well, if Intel would let them. I’m... skeptical about that last part in particular, but, regardless, it looks like you won’t have an upgrade path, even though the socket is identical.

It’s also interesting to think about the issue that Hardware.info experienced: the boot failed on the GPU step. The prevailing interpretation is that everything up to that point is close enough that the BIOS didn’t even think to fail.

My interpretation of the step that booting failed, however, is wondering whether there’s something odd about the new graphics setup that made Intel pull support for Z270. Also, Intel usually supports two CPU generations with each chipset, so we had no real reason to believe that Skylake and Kaby Lake would carry over except for the stalling of process tech keeping us on 14nm so long.

Still, if older CPUs are incompatible with Z370, and for purely artificial reasons, then that’s kind-of pathetic. Maybe I’m odd, but I tend to buy a new motherboard with new CPUs anyway, but I can’t envision the number of people who flash BIOSes with their old CPU before upgrading to a new one is all that high, so it seems a little petty to nickel and dime the few that do, especially at a time that AMD can legitimately call them out for it.

There has to be a reason, right?

Source: Guru3D

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview Published to Epic Launcher

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: ue4, epic games, pc gaming

Epic Games has released a preview build of Unreal Engine 4.18. This basically sets a bar for shipped features, giving them a bit of time to crush bugs before they recommend developers use it for active projects. This version has quite a few big changes, especially in terms of audio and video media.

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WebAssembly is now enabled by default for HTML5.

First, we’ll discuss platform support. As you would expect, iOS 11 and XCode 9 are now supported, and A10 processors can use the same forward renderer that was added to UE4 for desktop VR, as seen in Robo Recall. That’s cool and all, but only for Apple. For the rest of us, WebAssembler (WASM) is now enabled by default for HTML5 projects. WASM is LLVM bytecode that can be directly ingested by web browsers. In other words, you can program in C++ and have web browsers execute it, and do so without transpiling to some form of JavaScript. (Speaking of which, ASM.js is now removed from UE4.) The current implementation is still single-threaded, but browser vendors are working on adding multi-threading to WASM.

As for the cool features: Epic is putting a lot of effort in their media framework. This allows for a wider variety of audio and video types (sample rates, sample depths, and so forth) as well as, apparently, more control over timing and playback, including through Blueprints visual scripting (although you could have always made your own Blueprint node anyway). If you’re testing out Unreal Engine 4.18, Epic Games asks that you pay extra attention to this category, reporting any bugs that you find.

Epic has also improved their lighting engine, particularly when using the Skylight lighting object. They also say that Volumetric Lightmaps are also, now, enabled by default. This basically allows dynamic objects to move through a voxel-style grid of lighting values that are baked in the engine, which adds indirect lighting on them without a full run-time GI solution.

The last thing I’ll mention (although there’s a bunch of cool things, including updates to their audio engine and the ability to reference Actors in different levels) is their physics improvements. Their Physics Asset Editor has been reskinned, and the physics engine has been modified. For instance, APEX Destruction has been pulled out of the core engine into a plug-in, and the cloth simulation tools, in the skeletal mesh editor, are no longer experimental.

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview can be downloaded from the Epic Launcher, but existing projects should be actively developed in 4.17 for a little while longer.

Source: Epic Games