Don't say we didn't warn you ... the Ultrabook is arriving in just over a month

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2011 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook

Lenovo will be the first to release an Ultrabook and the least of the bad news is that it doesn't seem to have a brushed aluminium exterior.  The specs look great, a 13.3" screen gives enough size for most eyes to comfortably view movies and the web and the 14.9mm thick body will see it slip into even the tightest of spaces.  A total reported weight of 1.32kg (2.9lbs) is also very attractive, making it both lighter and slimmer than a popular portable fruit-based alternative.

The technical specs also measure up to the promise of the ultrabook, with a Core i7 and 4GB of DDR3 providing rather decent processing and graphics power for such a small note net portable computer.  The promise of 'instant on' is met with either a 128 or 256GB SSD of indeterminate origin as the storage medium as well as something known as Rapiddrive SSD which will boot to you to the desktop in just 10 seconds, presumably from a cold start.

With all this good news you might wonder what the warning was for?  As has been mentioned by the manufacturers and as Intel attempted to refute, price is the key for this form factor.  The Ultrabook is attempting to enter a market that has already been totally wrapped up by a well loved and mature product.  The Macbook Air has been selling to those who want a full fledged laptop in an ultramobile form factor for quite a while now, and those in this target market probably already own a Macbook Air.  In order to pull people away from Apple you need to at least match them in everything they do and better them in some way. 

How does the Ultrabook do on those accounts?  Apple will sell you an Air for $1299 which sports an SSD and a Core i5 processor, while Lenovo's new U300s will have the same specifications and according to The Inquirer it will cost around $1200, which is likely to actually be $1299.  That puts the two machines on almost equal footing with a slight CPU benefit to be claimed in the Intel camp, which brings us to maturity.  The Air works, we know this to be true as it has been on the market for long enough to work out any bugs.  The Ultrabook is an unknown; the first generation of any new form factor will go through teething issues which might be serious or perhaps be negligible but you will see them.

So, with the price being equal as well as the hardware, at least for most actual usage; would you pick up the new guy or go with the incumbent?

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"CHINESE LAPTOP MAKER Lenovo has announced its super thin and high performance U300s Ultrabook laptop.

The U300s will come with a 13.3in screen and Intel's second generation Core i5 or Core i7 processor. Lenovo gave a general availability of mid October and a price of around $1,200."

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Source: The Inquirer

The trouble with writing a Deus Ex review is that you have to stop playing it

Subject: General Tech | August 31, 2011 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: gaming, deus ex 3

The release of Deus Ex Human Revolution was a scary time for PC gamers.   The main worries were twofold, with the multiple platforms it was released on there was a very good chance that the game would suffer from severe consolitis and with the memory of the second game still giving us nightmares there was a concern that the new game would follow in the footsteps of the second game, not the first.

Thankfully both worries are laid to rest in the first half hour of game play.  There is no coddling for those with gamepads, a couple of shots and you are dead and there is no auto-aim function present in the PC version.  The hacking mini-game is certainly design such that a mouse is a more efficient interface, especially once the computer catches on to the fact that you are hacking it.  There is also far more reading than you would expect in a console game.  If you need more convincing, The Tech Report is more than happy to provide.

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"It's now 9PM. My plan was to start writing this post three hours ago, but that didn't pan out. Instead of writing, I found myself running around in circa-2027 Hengsha Island, China, splitting up my time between sleuthing, sneaking, and breaking bones. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is just one of those games—the kind that has you persuading yourself to stop after just one more mission... before playing for another three hours and wondering where your evening went."

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AMD's sequel; we hope Trinity does better at the box office than Neo did

Subject: General Tech | August 31, 2011 - 11:34 AM |
Tagged: amd, comal, virgo, trinity, piledriver, bulldozer, orochi, southern islands, dragon

AMD is showing off their stuff down in Texas right now and there are reports of what is being shown off slowly appearing.  First to the plate is SemiAccurate with a slide detailing the next generation of Bulldozer as well as a new variant called Piledriver.  The new Orochi Bulldozers are said to offer a 35% increase in the performance of server tasks and many techs will be glad to hear it is a drop in upgrade, no hours of reconfiguration needed.

The enthusiast will be more interested in Piledriver which is a renovated Bulldozer core, finessing the existing architecture to squeeze half again as many gigaflops out of Comal and Virgo when compared to Llano.  They've also included the HD7000 family, aka the Southern Islands family of GPUs into the announcement as well.  We know that the new generation of APUs are well ahead of schedule and we can hope that the GPU side has also at least kept up with expectations if the scarcity of the HD6950 and HD6970 mean what we hope it means.  Drop by for the specs on the GPUs and more at SemiAccurate.

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"It looks like Trinity, aka the next generation big APU, is going to be everything the rumors suggest. At Global Foundries GTC conference today, they foundry confirmed many of the rumors that are floating."

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Source: SemiAccurate
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Cooler Master

True 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

Cooler Master is a household name in the PC case world, and an established player in the cooling industry.  Not content with those two areas, Cooler Master has expanded into power supplies, keyboards, mousepads, and a plethora of other accessories where they apparently make a tidy bundle.  Coolermaster is now moving into a new area; gaming audio.  Under the “CM Storm” brand, Coolermaster is releasing its own set of cans.

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We were sent a production quality sample, but it did not come in the retail box that is availble now.

Cooler Master is hoping to deliver a profound audio experience to users with their CM Storm Sirus (not Sirius mind) True 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headphones.  The design and packaging certainly look impressive, but what counts in the end is the sound emanating from these products.

Read the entire article here.

Windows 8 Will Support Mounting ISO and VHD Files Natively

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2011 - 08:50 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, VHD, microsoft, ISO

The Microsoft blog “Building Windows 8” reported today that the company’s next operating system, Windows 8, will support natively mounting ISO and VHD files. As a bit of background, ISO files are all the folders and files included on a CD or DVD encapsulated into a single file. Similarly VHD files are all the files and folders on a hard drive encapsulated into a single file. These VHD files are used primarily by Virtual Machine and imaging backup programs. Just as the OS did not support zip files out of the box for many iterations, ISO mounting has always required third party tools like Daemon Tools and SlySoft’s Virtual Clone Drive. However, it looks like the time has finally come for Microsoft to roll ISO mounting into the operating system. Steven Sinofsky stated that managing ISO and VHD files continue to be important for businesses and power users and that “we know even more support for VHD is a big request, so stay tuned.”

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Rajeev Nagar, the group program manager on the Storage and File Systems Team, detailed how the ISO and VHD mounting will work in the upcoming Windows OS. For ISO files, users need only to select the ISO and choose the mount option in the Windows Explorer ribbon interface. Windows will then create a virtual CD/DVD drive with the files contained in the ISO available. The drive will also be able to eject the ISO file from the ribbon interface with a single click.

On the VHD, or Virtual Hard Drive, front, it is only a matter of double clicking on the VHD and allowing Windows to assign a drive letter and presenting users with all the files and folders contained in the VHD file. User will be able to interact with the virtual drive just as they would with a “normal” hard drive.

One issue with the ISO and VHD support in Windows 8 is that while users will be able to mount and interact with ISO and VHD files, they will not be able to create the files from scratch. Makers of ISO burning and VHD creating utilities are likely to appreciate still being relevant. Still, its a welcome step in the right direction for power users.

More information on Windows 8's native ISO and VHD support, including a video of it in action, is available on the MSDN blog.

Source: MSDN

It's not a gaming mouse, the Microsoft Touch Mouse works for a living

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2011 - 04:51 PM |
Tagged: input, mouse, gestures

With so many companies focusing on gaming peripherals, the mouse you use at your day job really hasn't changed very much.  You can see the design is very plain but that has the added benefit of making the mouse equally comfortable for lefties and righties.  It is wireless, using two AA batteries to power it and it is able to transmit up to 10' away from the receiver and work on most surfaces.  TechReviewSource mention several of the gestures that will work with the mouse, from minimizing and maximizing to acting as an alternative to ALT-TAB.  If you are looking to give your desk at work something special, check out the review here.

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"The Microsoft Touch Mouse combines a traditional mouse with multitouch gestures to make navigating and using Windows 7 on a desktop computer just like a notebook with a touchpad. While a little expensive, it is very responsive, comfortable to use and intuitive."

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GLOBALFOUNDRIES 20nm tape out

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2011 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: tape out, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, 20nm

When then discussion turns to a chip taping out, we are referring to an obsolete practice where a chip would be designed on a large scale and then reduced through photolithography.  Originally, once a chip design was finalized on paper it went to the artwork stage where an engineer would literally tape out and glue the design to create a photomask which would allow light through in a variety of ways or utterly block it.  That light was focused to create a smaller version, which then was used to make an even smaller version ... until it was of a size to etch the physical components of the chip onto the wafer and with a bit of luck and a lot of skill you would end up with a chip that worked to the specs you expected.

You can't exactly do that anymore, as the current generation of chips coming out of GLOBALFOUNDRIES uses a 20nm process, smaller than even extreme UV wavelengths and the magnitude of size reduction would be insurmountable.  Thankfully there is CAD and many other more mature ways of creating chips than the old cut and paste method.  This puts AMD in a good position to transfer to a 20nm process in the future, smaller than Intel's 22nm process but lacking the Tri-Gate three dimensional transistors that Intel will be implementing.  Drop by The Inquirer for more.

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"CHIPSHOP Globalfoundaries has announced that it taped out a test chip using its 20nm process node.

Globalfoundaries, best known for being the main chip fab partner of AMD, has been working to get its 28nm and 20nm process nodes up and running. For Globalfoundaries and its customers - in particular, AMD - having a mature 20nm process is desirable to show it has possibilities for die-shrinkage in the near future."

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Source: The Inquirer

Turtle Beach is still alive and kicking bass

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2011 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: audio, headset, turtle beach, DPX21, 7.1

Old time techies will remember Turtle Beach fondly, as there was once a time when they were the only choice in sound cards other than Creative.  ASUS blew that market wide open and now we see many other manufacturers releasing sound cards, even if the majority of users now depend on onboard codecs.  Turtle Beach does still make sound cards, the Riviera being their current model, but they've also expanded into headsets.  The newest Turtle Beach headset is the DPX21 which is a package containing the PX 21 headset and the Ear Force DSS controller which allows you different connection choices as well as a host of controls.  The Ear Force has separate volume controls for the game and chat, and bass tuning, there are also two controls that tbreak suggests you avoid, one which is a sound ‘expander’ and an option to force Dolby-esque surround sound.  If you leave those two controls alone though, tbreak loudly proclaims their love of the virtual 7.1 surround sound and feel it is worth the $150 investment .

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"While the name may evoke imagery of cute turtles and soft sunny beaches, for the techie among us, the name Turtle Beach only evokes one picture: kick-ass surround sound gaming headsets. And what a lovely picture that is. Turtle Beach have been at the game for a long time, making a name for themselves by churning out impressive, high quality headsets for the current gen consoles."

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Source: tbreak

Cedar Trail preview, can it keep Intel's netbook lineup alive?

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2011 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: cedar trail, Intel, Atom N2800

If you haven't run across them yet, VR-Zone just released a sneak peek at Intel's new ultramobile chip lineup, which we know as Cedar Trail.  The benchmarks that they found are a little odd, consisting of 3DMark 2006 and PCMark 2005 so the results need to be taken with that context in mind.  Still the Atom N2800 manages to triple the performance of the previous Atom generation so there have been some noticeable improvements.  The problem is the netbook form factor its self, as tablets and even smart phones can replicate the tasks that the netbook was intended for.  That could mean that no matter how good Cedar Trail is, the form factor it is set to dominate may be going extinct.  They do offer HDMI out now though.

VR_Z_CedarTrail_benchmarks.jpg

"We're not sure how much life there's left in the netbook market, but considering that Intel is looking to offer some very affordable next gen Atom processors, its upcoming Cedar Trail processors might just be what the netbook market space needs to catch a second wind. VR-Zone can exclusively unveil the first benchmark figures for Intel's upcoming mobile Atom processors and although they're unlikely to blow anyone's mind, they're a huge improvement over the previous generation."

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Source: VR-Zone

Happy Birthday Rick Hansen

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2011 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: friday

Even we at PC Perspective have been hit with data loss, for instance quiet a few of the older podcast recordings were sent to silicon heaven when Ryan's RAID array bit the big one, which is why it is always nice to see new options for backing up data safely and securely. You can read about a new option in the Networking and Security forum which one member has had experience with.  Head to the Motherboard Forum for a different members in depth analysis of the Gigabyte A75M-D2H which will prove a perfect base for a Llano build. 

The Overclocking Forum is seeing some action as well, with two different members writing about their experiences overclocking their systems, one of whom even provides pictures.  Not as many pictures as in this system build though

If you are more in the mood for socializing, the Fragging Frogs would love to have you join them for a gaming session so that you will be fresh for the arrival of Battlefield 3 or you could vist The Lightning Round for battle of a different type. You can chat with the Folding Frogs or the Killer Frogs BOINC team as well as donate your spare CPU cycles to a good cause or just poke through the Trading Post to see what kit you can pick up from fellow members.  As well don't forget this weeks podcast, where we don't talk about Steve Jobs.