Intel Announces Compute Card To Power Smart Devices

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2017 - 10:38 PM |
Tagged: vpro, SFF, kaby lake, iot, Intel, compute stick

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

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

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

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

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

What are your thoughts on Intel's Compute Card?

Source: Intel

Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 Starts Tomorrow

Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2017 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gdq

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

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

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

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

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, project neon

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

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

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

CES 2017: Symantec Announces Norton Core Router

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: symantec, router, iot, internet of things, CES 2017, CES, 802.11ac

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

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

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

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

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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

Source: Symantec

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

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2017 - 04:22 AM |
Tagged: vrr, variable refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, hdmi, g-sync, freesync, adaptive sync, 48G

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

HDMI Cable.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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Source: HDMI Forum

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

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 11:10 PM |
Tagged: wifi, D-Link, CES 2017, CES, 802.11ac

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

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

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

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

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

D-Link Covr Powerline Wi-Fi System.png

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

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

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

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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

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

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 10:02 PM |
Tagged: wireless, headphones, CES 2017, CES, bluetooth, aptX

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

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ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR7BT headphones

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

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

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SonicFuel ATH-AR3BT headphones

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

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ATH-CKS990BT and ATH-CKS550BT in-ear monitors

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

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

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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

Pioneer and Onkyo Release Dolby Atmos Soundbars

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 06:13 PM |
Tagged: soundbar, Pioneer, Onkyo, DTS:X, DTS:Neural, Dolby Atmos, CES 2017, CES, audio

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

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

Onkyo SBT-A500 RC.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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

 

CORSAIR Launches New Flagship K95 RGB Platinum

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2017 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: corsair, K95 RGB Platinum, mechanical keyboard, CES, CES 2017, Cherry MX

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

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

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

K95 RGB Platinum Specifications

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

 

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

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

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

Source: Corsair

Mass Effect 2 Is Now "On the House"

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: mass effect, pc gaming, ea, origin

Just a few months out from Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA has put Mass Effect 2 into their “On the House” promotion. As usual, this is a temporary 100%-off sale; if you get it, then it’s yours. All you need to do is log in to the Origin store, browse the “On the House” sub-section of Free Games, and add it to your library. I’m sure EA would like you to install it and get hooked on the franchise as soon as possible, but you can just leave it there for a while if you’re busy at this point in life.

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Mass Effect 2 is generally considered to be the best in the series, at least thus far, so it’s both nice and logical that EA would choose this one for the promotion. The first one had a few technical issues, and it was also the introduction to the series; the team could see what worked and what didn’t, and have the confidence to add new mechanics and so forth. Also, it was apparently designed to be welcoming to players who missed the first game.

Personally, I tried the first Mass Effect but had to reformat my PC before I got more than a couple hours into it, and I never really installed it again. This promotion might be a good excuse to get back into them if I can spare a little time, which, for Mass Effect, means quite a bit of actual time.

Source: EA (Origin)