CES 2016: New Cooler Master Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 04:02 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, cooler master, mechanical keyboard, RGB LED

Back in September, we mentioned that the CoolerMaster QuickFire XTi was launched worldwide. They have now launched three more keyboards. Two of them have Cherry MX switches and RGB LEDs, while the third uses a supposedly high-quality membrane switch.

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According to The Tech Report at the show, Cooler Master has apparently used their own LED solution, rather than just purchase Cherry MX RGB switches directly. They also say that they needed to change the housing to fit those. The MasterKeys Pro L and S are fairly minimalist keyboards. I assume L stands for long, and S stands for short, because the S is the tenkeyless version of the L (which means it is cut off to the right of the arrow keys).

The Devastator II has switches that Cooler Master calls “Mem-chanical.” They apparently created high-end membrane switches that are supposed to feel like tactile mechanical ones. I guess this means that they were trying to emulate the Cherry MX Brown force curve. This doesn't say what quality the keyboard will end up being, that said, one of the most precise keyboards I've had (according to my straight-edge test) was a Microsoft Media keyboard from the early 2000s.

The Devastator II also has an ambidextrous mouse. Not sure about pricing and availability, though. The Tech Report claims $30, which is right around what the original Devastator costs today.

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PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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CES 2016: Polaroid Phones Actually Sound Interesting

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 03:15 AM |
Tagged: southern telecom, polaroid, CES 2016, CES

Of course, the Polaroid name is a trademark used under license for these phones. According to FoneArena, Southern Telecom is the underlying manufacturer, who I don't know much about. These sorts of arrangements happen frequently, such as when Funai licenses RCA and Magnavox to sell consumer electronics in department stores. It's basically an endorsement, with maybe some cross-promotion.

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Image Credit: GSMArena

There were two types of phones at CES. I wasn't there personally, and I don't think anyone at PC Perspective saw these, so I'm not sure how they were announced at the show. Each image were product renders, so I'm guessing they weren't at a booth. Regardless, the specs are listed and they seem really good for the price.

The low-end version is called the “Polaroid Snap,” which is also the name of a previously released digital camera with an instant printer. The phone is based on a 720p, IPS panel in one of three sizes: 5-inch, 5.5-inch, or 6-inch. It has a quad-core processor of some sort with either 1GB or 2GB of RAM. They ship with Android 5.1.1, but some (not all) sources claim it will be upgraded to Android 6.0. Both front (5MP) and rear (13MP) cameras have LED flashes. The 1GB version has 8GB onboard storage (eugh!) but the 2GB one has 16GB of storage. Small, but that's all for $130 - $180 USD.

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Image Credit: GSMArena

Then we get to the Polaroid Power.

As you can guess, this is the more powerful version. It has a 6-inch, 1080p, IPS panel, which is backed by an eight-core, 64-bit processor. It has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which makes it much more interesting. The front (now 8MP) camera seems to have lost its flash, but the rear (13MP) one still has one. Again, it ships with Android 5.1.1 but definitely can be upgraded to Android 6.0. All of that hits a $250 price point.

All phones have a 3000 mAh battery, but they come with an 8000 mAh external booster.

As someone who rarely uses smartphones, this could be a decent offering for the price. In general, the mid-range smartphone ecosystem is getting quite competitive, as we've said on our year-end podcast. There is room for high-end devices to keep their mark, but at least there's a better gradient between cheap, “feature” phones and impressive, high-end devices.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

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Source: FoneArena

CES 2016: Hello Moto

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2016 - 02:01 AM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, CES 2016, CES

A little over a year ago, Lenovo purchased Motorola from Google for $2.91 billion USD. They did not acquire the vast majority of the patents, and they did not purchase Motorola Research. It was assumed that Lenovo wanted the Motorola brand and their connections with global cell carriers. Your hardware means very little without a network provider to sell, support, and connect it with their infrastructure.

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Today, Motorola / Lenovo announced that the Motorola brand will be deprecated. They will still operate within Lenovo as their own division, but the consumer-facing brand will be Lenovo, and it will run their entire mobile effort. The company will continue to make nods to Motorola, however. The stylized “M” logo will remain an identifiable trademark, and their line of high-end devices will be given the “Moto” name.

This doesn't feel like an admission of failure on Lenovo's part. I have the impression that they are trying to assimilate Motorola into their organization, but that makes me wonder what they wanted in the first place. They can use the connections and the workforce that they acquired, which is highly valuable, and they can use the brand in subtle ways (as they are). Really, I'm just confused whether Lenovo changed their mind about the Motorola brand, or if this was expected from the start.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

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Source: CNet

CES 2016: Razer Stargazer Webcam Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 09:52 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, razer, razer stargazer, webcam, Intel RealSense

Razer has announced the Stargazer webcam with a few tricks up its sleeve. Each of these has a downside or catch though, so be sure to read my commentary.

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The first advanced feature is the sensor. It supports 1080p output, which is common these days, but it can be driven at 60 FPS when dropped to 720p. For video streamers, who usually shrink their webcam to a fraction of the screen anyway, this bump in refresh rate will match that game or desktop capture. 720p is more resolution than a corner of a 1080p broadcast, so you're throwing out pixels anyway. The problem would be streamers who have a full-screen webcam shot. This is common for educational or discussion-based podcasts, which would likely need to choose between 720p60 or 1080p30. I don't think it's possible for any webcam to output both resolutions at the same time, so you'd need to release and renew the device when you switch, which isn't feasible. That said, I'm not sure if there was a major, technical reason for Razer not just shipping 1080p60. There might be.

The second feature the webcam's inclusion of Intel RealSense. This is their technology for gesture recognition, 3d scanning, and background removal. Having the camera automatically key out the background on webcam video is interesting, and probably quite accurate given that it knows 3D positional data. The ability to 3D scan would also be interesting for game and mod developers. The catch? It apparently requires a sixth-generation Core processor (Skylake). This entirely removes AMD and DDR3-era Intel processors from the equation, including the high-end Core i7-4790k. It also requires Windows 10. Note that Razer lists these requirements for the webcam in general, including the Skylake processor, but it might only apply to RealSense features. It also might apply to everything, though.

If these limitations, including the very high system requirements, don't apply to you, then look for the Razer Stargazer in Q2. It will apparently cost about $200 USD.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

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Source: Razer

CES 2016: Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA Bundle

Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 07:03 PM |
Tagged: square enix, nvidia, CES 2016, CES

NVIDIA has just announced a new game bundle. If you purchase an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, GTX 980 desktop or mobile, GTX 980 Ti, GTX 980M, or GTX 970M, then you will receive a free copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider. As always, make sure the retailer is selling the participating card. If the product has a download code, it will be specially marked. NVIDIA will not upgrade non-participating stock to the bundle.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider will go live on January 29th. It was originally released in November as an Xbox One timed exclusive. It will also arrive on the PlayStation 4, but not until “holiday,” which is probably around Q4 (or maybe late Q3).

If you purchase the bundle, then you graphics card will obviously be powerful enough to run the game. At a minimum, you will require a GeForce GTX 650 (2GB) or an AMD HD 7770 (2GB). The CPU needs are light too, requiring just a Sandy Bridge Core i3 (Intel Core i3-2100) or AMD's equivalent. Probably the only concern would be the minimum of 6GB system RAM, which also requires a 64-bit operating system. Now that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have been deprecated, 32-bit gaming will be increasingly rare for “AAA” titles. That said, we've been ramping up to 64-bit for the last decade. one of the first games that supported x86-64 was Unreal Tournament 2004.

The Rise of the Tomb Raider NVIDIA bundle starts today.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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Source: NVIDIA

Gigabyte reveals two motherboards and a Next Generation BRIX at CES 2016

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2016 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: X170-Extreme ECC, gigabyte, GA-X150M-PLUS WS, GA-X150-PLUS WS, CES, brix

Gigabyte revealed two high end LGA1151 motherboards which will support Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 processors in addition to the more common Core models purchased by enthusiasts.  The GA-X150-PLUS WS is a full sized ATX board with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 connector with transfer rates of up to 32Gb/s as well as SEx ports and a network traffic management application called cFosSpeed on the gigabit NIC to reduce latency.

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The GA-X150M-PLUS WS is a Micro-ATX version of the previous board, keeping all of the features of the larger model but sacrificing dual GPU support due to size constraints.  They also released a X170-Extreme ECC, one of the few consumer boards to support ECC memory for those who regularly use programs which can benefit from error correcting DRAM.

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For those who like their systems small and ready to go out of the box, the new Brix line up is a mere 0.46L (34.4 x 112.6 x 119.4mm) and uses the new Skylake processors, the model number indicating the processor you will find within the Brix.  They all sport an M.2 SSD slot, a pair of slots for SO-DIMM DDR3L, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs along with four USB connectors and both wired and wireless network connectivity.  These new Brix will also support Thunderbolt 3 over their USB Type-C port

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Full PR after the break.

Source: Gigabyte

CES 2016: Oculus Price Announced and Pre-Orders Open

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 10:04 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, CES, CES 2016

Oculus has finally announced that the Rift will launch on March 28th for $599 USD. If you were an original backer on Kickstarter, then this kit will be given to you for free. DK2 purchasers do not receive this gift, but I guess the company was relatively established by that point. Pre-orders have now opened, although the kit will be available (albeit at “limited locations”) through typical retail channels in April. Finally, making good on their “$1500” announcement earlier this year, systems that meet the minimum requirements, and bundle the Oculus Rift, will be available for pre-order that start at $1499.

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Okay, so let's unpack this.

The elephant in the room is the price. It's steep. If you are even moderately patient, you can pick up a GeForce 980 Ti for the same amount. (As I write this, I'm looking at a Gigabyte 980 Ti with a custom cooler for $599.99 on Amazon.) For that price, you get the headset (with its two 1080x1200 OLED screens, microphone, and headphones), an Xbox One controller, a sensor, and a newly-announced Oculus Remote. You cannot purchase the Oculus Rift without an Xbox One controller, which is unfortunate for current owners of Xbox One controllers.

Who has two thumbs and bought an Xbox One Elite controller? This guy.

The benefit of including a (regular) Xbox One controller is that Oculus Rift developers can rely on each customer having access to a solid PC gamepad. Without it, some percentage of users might (and when you deal with large sample spaces, probability increasingly becomes a distribution) have just a mouse and keyboard. I'd also expect that Microsoft would provide them a bit of a discount for at least the volume, with the ties between Microsoft and Facebook possibly coming into play, too.

Unlike the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift will not ship with its motion controller (called the “Oculus Touch”). That will be delayed until later in the year, which also means that some fraction of the user base will never have it. This is a concern for cross-compatibility between the Rift and the Vive, but not nearly as bad as it would have been if Oculus didn't have any motion control option at all. Developers would be looking at a “release on both Wii and PS2” situation, only with a (likely) much smaller install base.

And a final point: What about the other uses of Oculus?

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The Oculus Remote controls the interface and media.

This announcement is gaming-centric, to say the very least. Oculus has said that the Rift is “primarily a gaming device” and, apparently, Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, strongly believes in gaming for the device. In my opinion though, it could be very useful, especially in professional applications. If the OLED screens have sufficient color and resolution, then desktop space becomes infinite. You don't need an additional monitor to map additional virtual space to your environment. While that's probably not something that Facebook could do alone, they could encourage the parties who influence these decisions with tech demos, peripherals, and so forth.

They still don't seem to be. This could be a concern since their primary competitors, Microsoft and even Valve/HTC, already have non-zero amounts of progress in that space. I'd be curious to hear whether they have any plans at all moving forward, even if those plans are to be reactionary.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Source: Oculus

Meet the new PowerVR Series7XT Plus family of GPUs from Imagination Technologies

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: Series7XT Plus, PowerVR, hsa. GT7200 Plus, GT7400 Plus, CES

Update (Jan 7th, 2016 - Scott Michaud): Imagination sent us an updated diagram, and they wanted to clarify that there is "a 1:1 correspondance between the FP32 ALUs and the integer units." The updated diagram is just below.

PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPU - ALU architecture_2.png

Original article below

PowerVR GPUs are found in a variety of devices from the PlayStation Vita to the last couple of iPhones and at one point was the GPU in Intel APUs.  Their latest offerings are the GT7200 Plus and GT7400 Plus both of which offer quite a few improvements over their previous generations, not least of which is wholesale adoption of heterogeneous computing and its various benefits such as shared virtual memory.

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These GPUs expand their support to INT16 and INT8 data paths, keeping the legacy INT32 paths for applications that require it.  They have also adopted the OpenCL 2.0 API for heterogeneous computing as well as OpenGL ES 3.2 and even Vulkan support.  The GT7200 Plus is in a dual-cluster configuration with 64 ALU cores and the GT7400 Plus doubles that to a quad-cluster with 128 ALU cores.

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Along with the performance and feature upgrades comes a focus on upgrading the machine vision capabilities of the Rogue GPUs to be able to  identify thousands of objects directly from the camera input stream in real-time.  Check out their blog entry for more information on the new chips and if you want a refresher on the technology in these GPUs you can refer back to Ryan's article here.

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Intel Announces Core m Skylake and Cherry Trail Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, core m5, core m3, compute stick, Cherry Trail, CES 2016, CES

First up on the meeting block with the official opening of CES 2016 was Intel and its NUC and Compute Stick division. You should remember the Intel Compute Stick as a HDMI-enabled mini-computer in the shape of a slightly over sized USB drive. The first iteration of it was based on Bay Trail Atom processor and though we could see the benefits of such a device immediately, the follow through on the product lacked in some key areas. Performance was decent but even doing high bit rate video streaming seemed like a stretch and the Wi-Fi integration left something to be desired.

Today though Intel is announcing three new Compute Stick models. One is based on Cherry Trail, the most recent Atom processor derivative, and two using the Intel Core m processors based on the Skylake architecture.

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Old Compute Stick on top, new on the bottom

The Intel STK1AW32SC uses the Cherry Trail Atom x5 processor, the x5-Z8300 quad-core CPU with a 1.44 GHz base clock and a 1.84 GHz Turbo clock. This CPU only has a 2 watt SDP so power consumption remains in line with the design we saw last year. Other specifications include an updated 802.11ac 2x2 wireless data connection (nice!), 32GB of internal eMMC storage, 2GB of DDR3-1600 memory and Bluetooth 4.0 support. Intel claims this configuration will offer about 2x the graphics performance of the previous model though CPU changes will be less noticeable. Still, we should see much improved 1080p streaming video performance without the dropped frames that were a problem last generation.

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For connectivity, Intel has moved from a single USB port to a pair, one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. There is still a requirement for external power via the micro USB port on the side.

The design is definitely more refined and feels higher quality than the original Compute Stick concept. This model is shipping today and should have an MSRP of $159 on the market.

More interesting are the pair of new Core-based Compute Sticks. There are two different models, one with a Core m3-6Y30 and another with a Core m5-6Y57 and vPro support. These devices get a nice bump to 64GB of internal eMMC storage, which Intel promises has better performance to take advantage of the USB 3.0 ports, along with 4GB of DDR3-1833 memory to keep things running smoothly.

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The processor differences are noteworthy here – the Core m5-6Y57 has a sizeable advantage in peak boost clock, hitting 2.8 GHz versus only 2.2 GHz on the Core m3-6Y30. Base clocks are 1.1 GHz and 900 MHz, respectively, so I am curious how much time these devices will spend in the higher clocked modes in this form factor. As with the original Compute Stick, all three of the new models include an active fan cooling system.

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The build quality on the Core variants of the Compute Stick are very similar to the Atom Cherry Trail model, though with a couple of unique changes to the I/O. On the device itself you have just a single USB 3.0 port and a single USB 3.0 Type-C connection used for both power and data.

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On the wall power connector though, Intel has smartly integrated a USB 3.0 hub, giving us two more USB ports available at the wall, moving data to the Compute Stick itself through the Type-C cable. It’s really neat design idea and I can easily see this moving toward more connectivity on the power device in the future – maybe additional displays, audio outputs, etc.

The STK2M3W64CC, the Core m3-6Y30 variant that has Windows 10 pre-installed, will MSRP for $399. A version without Windows (STK2M364CC) will sell for around $299. Finally, the Core m5-6Y57 model, the STK2M3W64CC, is going to be $499, without an OS, targeted at the business markets. All three will be shipping in February.

We have a Cherry Trail Compute Stick in our hands already for testing but I am very curious to see how both the Core m3 and Core m5 version of the device improve on it with performance and usability. It’s very possible that these 4.5 watt parts are going to be more than enough for a large portion of the market, making truly headless computing a viable solution for most workloads.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

MSI and HTC team up for Vive support as well as two tools for streamers

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: vive, nahimic, msi, dragon eye, CES

Along with the hardware that MSI is teasing us with at CES comes a project worthy of note.  It would seem that MSI has been working with HTC to provide out of the box support for the Vive, assuming you buy components with the power to push that many pixels at the necessary speed.  There is little meat as to the specifics but any work done before the product is released which gives first adopters a helping hand is a valuable thing when it comes to sales.

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For those gamers who love to livestream their gaming sessions or record them for editing and later publication should take a peek at Dragon Eye and Nahimic 2, two new software tools MSI will be releasing.  Nahimic 2 is an HD Audio Recorder to ensure captured or broadcasted audio is of high quality and also includes Sound Tracker which will give you graphic indications of noise sources in games, assuming you would stoop that low.  Dragon Eye is for video and its usage is also quite different from Nahamic2.  It will allow you to easily use its picture-in-picture feature to watch Youtube videos and other streams in a small window while you are gaming. 

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At the very least it will be handy to see your team mates screen or to watch a walkthrough while playing a game, again assuming a certain moral turpitude on the part of the player.

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Source: MSI