Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | June 4, 2011 - 10:42 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: x79, fusion, ECS, e-350, computex, 990fx
ECS, aka Elitegroup, had a large booth at Computex that focused more on its ODM aspects than consumer aspects, but there were still a couple of interesting designs to look at.
The board we spotted was the new A990FXM-A motherboard that is of course based on the latest 990FX chipset from AMD. Supporting the AM3+ processor socket and thus the pending AMD Bulldozer processors, the 990FX is going to be a long term product rather than a short term. One interesting addition to the board is found on the chipset heatsink that has a temperature reactive plastic on it that will turn from grey to orange-ish as the ambient case temperature increases. This could be a great feature to easily gauge the heat level inside a windowed case.
Also an interesting move, ECS has elongated the receptacle on the 8-pin CPU power connection to make it easier to plug in and to remove. If you have ever experienced a pinched finger or sliced finger nail from trying to reach down and unplug an ATX connector, you will see this as a nice addition.
ECS also had its X79 motherboard variant on display, showing the company's readiness for the pending Sandy Bridge-E release.
Also on the motherboard wall was the upcoming A75F-A with support for the AMD Llano Fusion-based processors that should be ready later in the summer.
Finally, a motherboard that we have just recently received for review purposes, the HDC-I is an AMD E-350 or E-240 Zacate platform mini-ITX form factor. This solution might be a great option for users looking to build an HTPC box so be sure you check out our full review coming shortly.
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2011 - 12:15 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: performance series, p280, computex, antec
Upstairs at the Antec booth at Computex 2011, a new case sat awaiting our eyes and cameras called the Performance Series P280. A successor to the long-adored P180 case, the P280 will offer a host of tweaks and new features while maintaining a price point of about $130 on the street.
The fit and finish of the P280 should look familiar to anyone that has laid eyes on the P180. This time Antec has added two internal USB 3.0 ports in addition to a pair of USB 2.0 ports on the front panel.
The door on this case has the same over-swing as the P180 to completely fold away on the side if needed. There are three 5.25-in bays and a dual fan removable filter.
On the top of the case are pair of fans that use the newer rubber grommet style connection to lessen any kind of noise or rattle from them.
Both doors (and the top) of the P280 are lined with a very heavy compressed plastic that is used as a sound dampening device. Antec claims this is more effective than the foam insulation siding that many case vendors are currently using or that Antec uses on the P180.
Hit the "Read More" link for more photos and details on Antec's P280!!
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2011 - 11:59 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: windows 8, computex
There is a lot of buzz after the unveiling of Window 8 to a select few at Computex. VR-Zone has a nice series of pictures as well as about 20 minutes of video footage from the preview event. AnandTech focused on the ARM version and the new filesystem, while Engadget were content to delve even deeper into the ARM support offered by Win8. ExtremeTech was more interested in the browser side, examining IE10 and the future Java and HTML5 as well as looking at the touch interface abilities.
"VR-Zone was in attendance for this historic Windows 8 unveiling event to selected partners and press at W Hotel Taipei, COMPUTEX 2011. Microsoft showed off its new Windows 8 UI design and a few x86/ARM prototype devices from its partners."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Bulldozer delayed and not delayed @ SemiAccurate
- Qualcomm Uplinq 2011 Day One Keynote - Mobile is King @ AnandTech
- Texas Instruments announces a dual-core 1.8GHz OMAP4 system-on-chip @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft postpones IDP for 2 weeks to re-consult with chip players @ DigiTimes
- Creative Labs' Pure Wireless Modularity Event Coverage @ Tweaktown
- Computex 2011 - Shuttle PC @ TechwareLabs
- Computex Highlights - Day 2 @ Ninjalane
- G.Skill & ASUS Live Extreme Overclocking at Computex @ VR-Zone
- ZiiLABS demos JAGUAR 7 and JAGUAR 10 Honeycomb Tablets @ VR-Zone
- AMD E-450 APU Spotted At Computex @ VR-Zone
- Hardware firms are tight-lipped on Acer’s 'troublesome Microsoft' comments @ The Inquirer
- The crooks who created modern wiretapping law @ Ars Technica
- Wave of Trojans breaks over Android @ The Register
- A Chance to Win a Gigabyte GTX 560 Overclock @ Bjorn3D
- Memorial Day Giveaway @Hi Tech Legion
Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2011 - 05:13 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: X58, overclocking, gigabyte, computex
Releasing a motherboard based on the X58 chipset at this point might seem odd, but when you can offer a unique take on the overclocking market you might just find a niche. Gigabyte is hoping that is the case with the new X58A-OC model that is going to be priced very competively thanks in large part to the removal of many features.
The orange and black color scheme on the board is actually pretty unique while the layout is setup in a way for quad-GPUs - you are going to need that to break those overclocking records.
In the top right hand corner there are a host of overclocking specific features. The "4G" button will automatically overclock basically any Nehalem processor to something above 4.0 GHz while the Gear button will decrease the size of the increments available to the user on voltage to the processor. The ratio and frequency +/- buttons are going to be of great use for overclocking a system on the fly without having to go through the trouble of entering a BIOS. Don't forget you have your power and reset buttons and voltage monitoring leads here too.
Where Gigabyte saves a bit of money is with the non-overclocking features; things like eSATA and high-end audio are left out so that the even the classic external connection space is pretty bare.
You will also notice near the SATA data connections some SATA-style power connectors as well. These are used to supply extra voltage to the PCI Express connections for overclocking and pushing quad graphics cards.
Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2011 - 04:52 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ssd, socket 2011, llano, intel ssd, gigabyte, computex, APU
We stopped by the Gigaybte booth during Computex 2011 this week and found a host of new motherboards that range from the mainstream to the ultra-extreme.
First up is the A75-UD4H that supports the new AMD FM1 socket and the upcoming AMD Llano processor. Even though the APU will have integrated graphics on die, the Gigabyte board support AMD Dual Graphics technology and CrossFire multi-GPU solutions in conjunction with 8 USB 3.0 ports.
The board will include output connections of VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort along with size USB ports, four of which are USB 3.0.
The Z68XP-UD3 motherboard is one that will be offered in two different ways: one with an SSD and one without. The "iSSD" model will actually include an mSATA Intel 20GB SLC SSD and should come in at a cost of under $250. Considering the Larson Creek drive will cost you anywhere from $90-110 on its own, the combination of a Z68 motherboard and SSD is actually very price competitive. Plus, you get the convenience of having the SSD on the motherboard without it taking up a 3.5-in or 2.5-in drive bay.
For those that choose to get the lower cost board without the included Intel SSD you will be able to choose from several other newcomers to the mSATA form factor including Kingston and OCZ.
Of course we had to take a look at the Socket 2011 motherboard, the X79A-UD3 with support for the upcoming Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor. According to the slide information this will include a new version of the SSD caching technology called RSTe (Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise) with support for USB 3.0 and quad-channel DDR3 memory.
For those that haven't seen, here is a close up of the Socket 2011 in all its glory - that's a lot of pins!!
Subject: Processors, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2011 - 09:28 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: trinity, llano, fusion, computex, bulldozer, APU, amd
While talking up the new 900-series of chipset and the branding for the upcoming AMD Llano APU launch, AMD did surprise us by showing off a bit more of the future than typical. Rick Bergman, general manager of the AMD Product Group, pulled a Trinity-based APU out of his pocket to demonstrate the conviction of staying on a "one-APU-per-year" cycle in the years to come.
While it looks just like any other AMD processors from a distance, this Trinity APU is based on the Bulldozer x86 architecture (which will see the first release as a CPU only later this year) and combines some amount of SIMD-units (aka Radeon cores) for a CPU/GPU combo. This will be the part that succeeds Llano, due out in a few short days.
This roadmap shows the cadence of once a year will be the norm for AMD going forward and that AMD plans to introduce an APU for the tablet market sometime in 2012. It will be interesting to see how late to the game AMD is in this arena and if they can compete with what ARM is doing or even what Intel will be doing with Medfield.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2011 - 08:58 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: computex, asus, gputweak, overclocking, oc
While perusing the ASUS booth for notebooks and graphics cards and motherboards, we also spotted some new overclocking software that looked kind of interesting.
ASUS GPUTweak will ship with ASUS graphics cards starting later this year but they did indicate that it will be available as free download for users of ANY brand of graphics card; which is a nice way to gain some street cred. The software combines a monitoring application, overclocking application and custom version of GPU-Z in a single interface to allow users to really push their GPUs beyond stock settings.
Besides the semi-standard options of frequency (both GPU and memory), voltages and fan speeds, ASUS GPUTweak software will allow users of ASUS Matrix / ROG graphics cards to modify the timings on their GPU memory as well, something that is unique to its offerings.
The software will also allow you "burn" settings into your Matrix cards BIOS so that they will boot at the overclocked settings regardless of the any installed software or operating system. There is a Safety button on all Matrix cards to revert back to the original settings in case of an emergency...
It is nice to see ASUS jumping into the ring here with some competent software and I am curious to see how it will be welcomed after we have seen MSI's Afterburner application become such a hit with gamers.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2011 - 08:37 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ssd, revodrive, ocz, hybrid, computex
OCZ is definitely pushing its SSD products to the consumer and it was no different when we stopped by the OCZ suite at Computex 2011. The most interesting devices came in the form of PCI Express based SSDs including the pending RevoDrive 3 model that upgrades the SSD controllers to SandForce 2200 models and gets some pretty hefty performance boosts because of it.
The RevoDrive 3 includes a pair of SF-2200 controllers and was rated at 900 MB/s read and 700 MB/s write using the PCIe x4 interface. The 240GB model is apparently only going to have a $599 price tag and it should be available in a matter of a short few weeks. The X2 model adds another module to the mix and doubles the controller count to four and improves performance to as high as 1500 MB/s read and 1200 MB/s write. Obviously these types of devices are only for those that REALLY need to push the envelope in storage performance.
Also, more good news: OCZ has implemented a newer firmware feature on the RevoDrive 3 (and other newer PCIe based models) that will enable support for features like TRIM natively. This is done by hiding the multiple controllers from the operating system and passing on / delegating the TRIM commands as needed. Allyn will have more on this when we get a sample later this month.
Another new PCIe-based SSD was the new Z-Drive R4 that fits more into the enterprise market with insanely high IOPS and performance.
OCZ actually showed a server running a pair of the R4 88 models that were able to achieve a 1 million IOPS rating on random 4K.
Another option for consumers was the new RevoDrive Hybrid that is exactly what it sounds like it is - a combination of a PCI Express SSD and a standard 2.5-in spindle based drive on a single unit. This will bring the performance benefits of not only an SSD but a PCIE SSD to consumers that want to have the appearance of a single large hard drive inside their system. It will use SandForce SF-2200 controllers and is rated at 575 MB/s read and 500 MB/s writes with several models planned for production. The SSD portion that acts as the cache will be available in either 60GB of 120GB capacities while the HDD will start at 500GB and go up from there. Pricing will apparently start at $400 for the 60GB/500GB version and will definitely be appealing for enthusiasts. Now everyone can get the advantages of hybrid storage without being locked into the Z68 chipset or even an Intel platform at all.
This implementation does not use any kind of Intel technology at all and instead is based on a firmware option from NVELO called Dataplex. Based on the marketing numbers we saw the implementation that OCZ has created with the PCIe-based SSD will outperform Intel's SATA-based SRT technology by a noticeable margin, at least in benchmarks. We can't wait to get our hands on one to see for ourselves.
Finally, OCZ is going to throw their hat into the ring with the mSATA offering called the Devena 2 that runs on a SandForce SF-2181/2141 controller. Expect to see this marketed as an option even for Intel SRT. It looks like the rest of 2011 will be very busy for Allyn and our storage test bed.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2011 - 07:57 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: computex, msi, pcie, x79, 990fx, z68
MSI had quite a showing at this year's Computex starting with a host of new motherboards based on the Z68 chipset. The most interesting of which was the new Z68A-GD80 (G3) that in addition to including all the features of the Sandy Bridge processor, SLI, CrossFire, Lucid Virtu and things like OC Genie II and Military Class Components II, is the first motherboard we have seen that integrates support for the PCI Express 3.0 specification.
MSI was able to do this by simply adhering to the already existing PCIe 3.0 specifications and claims the performance doubles from 8 GB/s up to 16 GB/s (for a x16 connection). Even though there are no PCIe 3.0 accessories or graphics cards on the market today, MSI has seen performance improvements when testing PCI Express based solid state drives like the OCZ Revo. We are eager to get this board in the hands of our storage guru and see what advantages it offers users today.
Next up is the new MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboard based on AMD's latest 990FX chipset. We actually have one of these in the office and should have a review up shortly. With support for today's Phenom processors and tomorrow's Bulldozer-core based designs, I think the 990FX chipset will find its way into a lot of users machines.
Even further out into the future, we saw a glimpse of an MSI engineering sample for the pending Socket 2011 processors from Intel, the MSI X79A-GD65. Supporting the upcoming Sandy Bridge-E processor family and a new quad-channel memory controller, you can clearly see the 2011 socket is HUGE and requires the memory slots to be divided up on either side of it. A lot will change more than likely between now and this boards release but it is cool to see a preview of what is in store for us!
Finally, MSI did have another card in the Lightning series to show off, the N580GTX Lightning Xtreme Edition. This card has all the same engineering features of the previous Lightning models but adds in a couple of unique features called Smart Temp Sensor and Dust Removal.
The Smart Temp Sensor is actually a coating on the fan that changes from blue to white in appearance as the ambient temperature increases. If the inside of your chassis hits the 45C mark then the fans will be completely white and should give you an indication of system stability. My only concern is that even users with windows on their cases will have trouble seeing the fans on the graphics card cooler posted at a right angle.
The Dust Removal feature is more interesting in that it runs the fans on the Xtreme Edition in the reverse direction for the first 30 seconds of the power cycle and then return to the proper direction for cooling the heatsinks. The idea is that the 30 second reverse interval will help clear out dust from the heatsink and from the fan blades itself saving users in the long run.
Another interesting feature coming very soon to Android phone users is the ability to monitor and overclock your MSI graphics cards via an Afterburner app for your phone. This will be available this month or early in July for Android and *maybe* by the end of the year for iPhone.
AMD and Virtual Vsync for Lucid Virtu
Lucid has grown from a small startup that we thought might have a chance to survive in the world of AMD and NVIDIA to a major player in the computing space. Its latest and most successful software architecture was released into the wild with the Z68 chipset as Lucid Virtu - software that enabled users to take advantage of both the performance of a discrete graphics card and the intriguing features of the integrated graphics of Intel's Sandy Bridge CPU.
While at Computex 2011 in Taiwan we met with the President of Lucid, Offir Remez, who was excited to discuss a few key new additions to the Virtu suite with the new version titled "Virtu Universal". The new addition is support for AMD platforms including current 890-based integrated graphics options as well the upcoming AMD Llano (and more) APU CPU/GPU combinations. It is hard to see a reason for Virtu on current AMD platforms like the 890 series as there are no compelling features on the integrated graphics on that front but with the pending release of Llano you can be sure that AMD is going to integrate some of its own interesting GP-GPU features that will compete with the QuickSync technology of Sandy Bridge among other things. To see Lucid offer support for AMD this early is a good sign for day-of availability on the platform later this year.
The second pillar of Lucid's announcement with Virtu Universal was the addition of support for the mobile space, directly competing with NVIDIA and AMD's own hardware-specific switchable graphics solutions. By far the most successful this far has been NVIDIA's Optimus which has filtered its way down basically into all major OEMs and in most of the major notebook releases that include both integrated and discrete graphics solutions. The benefit that Lucid offers is that it will work with BOTH Intel and AMD platforms simplifying the product stack quite a bit.
Read on for more information and some videos of Virtual Vsync in action!