CES 2016: RIOTORO Launches with Prism CR1280 Case

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, riotoro, RGB LED

Some former employees of Corsair and NVIDIA founded a new company, called RIOTORO. All they state is that they develop “innovative PC components,” so it's difficult to gauge where the intend to go in the future. Their website also lists gaming mice and keyboards. They started with a test market in Latin America, but now they feel they are ready to take on the US market.

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Their first product, the Prism CR1280, is a PC case with 256-color RGB LED lighting. Color and fan speed can be controlled by the front panel, which should mean that you don't need yet another driver panel running to change little details on your system. The case itself has the ability to mount a 360mm radiator (or up to three 120mm radiators) on the top, and an additional 240mm radiator in the front, and yet another 120mm radiator in the rear.

The RIOTORO Prism CR1280 will be available in February for $139.99. It comes with a two year warranty.

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Source: RIOTORO

CES 2016: ASUS Announces ROG GT51 Gaming Desktop

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 06:34 PM |
Tagged: asus, gaming desktop, CES, CES 2016, ROG, rog gt51

While many of our readers that are interested in high-end desktop PCs will typically assemble their own, a handful might like to get someone else to deal with the assembly and support. That's perfectly valid. You will typically spend a little more, especially if you value your free time as free labor, but that might be worth it for some.

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The ASUS ROG GT51 gaming desktop PC will be one such option. It places itself at the high end, to say the least. It has the Skylake-based Intel Core i7-6700K paired with “up to” a pair of NVIDIA GeForce TITAN X graphics cards. ASUS, like their individual components, support overclocking on the device with their tuning software. The machine also has a USB 3.1 Type-C port, which is highly sought after, even in the DIY motherboard space.

Again, no pricing or availability. I expect the top-of-the-line version will be pretty expensive though, especially with two TITAN X GPUs. It also might be a bit much, since the video cards have been out for almost a year and Pascal might arrive at any time. It might be worth it if they offer other options, like the 980 Ti, depending on your specific needs.

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Source: ASUS

CES 2016: ASUS Announces XG Station 2 External Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: external graphics, CES 2016, CES, asus

While external graphics has been a thing for quite some time, it was rarely an available thing. Several companies, such as AMD, Lucid, and others, announced products that were never sold. ASUS had their XG Station for Windows Vista that allowed laptops to plug into a GeForce 8600 GT, which was only available in Australia. Only now are we beginning to see options from Alienware, MSI, and even Microsoft that are widely available.

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ASUS is jumping back in, too. Not much is known about the XG Station 2, except that it is “specially designed for ASUS laptops and graphics cards.” This sounds like it is using a proprietary connector, similar to Alienware and MSI, to connect to ASUS laptops. Also saying it's specifically for ASUS graphics cards is a bit confusing, though. If it is an open PCIe slot, I'm not sure why or how it would be limited to ASUS cards. If the graphics cards are pre-installed, then we don't know the list of potential GPUs.

Either way, ASUS states that the dock can be disconnected without shutting down the PC. I'm interested to see how the GPU is supposed to be unplugged, as Alienware's option can only be done when the system is off, and Microsoft's Surface Book has a software detach with a hardware latch. The connector will also charge the laptop, which is an interesting add-in.

Pricing and availability varies, like the other ASUS announcements, by region.

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Source: ASUS

CES 2016: Fasetto Teases Link SSD Storage Platform

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 01:39 AM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Fasetto, Link, wifi, NAS, ssd, Samsung, vnand, 802.11ac

Fasetto is a company previously known as one of those cross-platform file-sharing web apps, but I was shocked to see them with a space at CES Unveiled. Companies without physical products tend to fall flat at this type of venue, but as I walked past, boy was I mistaken!

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To give the size a bit of perspective here, that's a business card sitting in front of the 'Link', which only measures 1.9x1.9x0.9" and weighs just under 4 ounces. That's a belt clip to the right of it. Ok, now that we have the tiny size and low weight described, what has Fasetto packed into that space?

  • Aluminum + ABS construction
  • Waterproof to 45 feet (and it floats!)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • 802.11AC dual band WiFi (reportedly 4x4)
  • 4GB RAM
  • Quad core ARM CPU
  • 9-axis compass/accelerometer/gyro
  • 1350 mAh Li battery
  • Wireless charging (Chi style)
  • Up to 2TB SSD

For a portable storage device, that is just an absolutely outstanding spec sheet! The Link is going to run an OS designed specifically for this device, and will have plugin support (simple add-on apps that can access the accelerometer and log movement, for example).

The BIG deal with this device is of course the ability to act as a portable wireless storage device. In that respect it can handle 20 simultaneous devices, stream to seven simultaneously, and can also do the expected functions like wireless internet pass-through. Claimed standby power is two weeks and active streaming is rated at up to 8 hours. Even more interesting is that I was told the internal storage will be Samsung 48-layer VNAND borrowed from their T3 (which explains why the Fasetto Link will not be available until late 2016). This is sure to be a hit with photographers, as WiFi compatible cameras should be able to stream photos to the Link as the photos are being taken, eliminating the need to offload cameras at the end of a shoot.

We will definitely be working with Fasetto to help shake out any bugs prior to the release of this little gem. I suspect it might just be the most groundbreaking storage product that we see come out of this CES.

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CES 2016: Activision Blizzard Confirms MLG Purchase

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2016 - 11:44 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mlg, esports, blizzard, Activision

On New Year's Day, rumors flew about MLG being purchased by Activision Blizzard for $46 million USD. At the time, the vast majority of available information discussed how this would affect shareholders, particularly those with lower-class stock in the eSport company. (As it turns out, very poorly.) I wondered why Activision Blizzard would want MLG's assets, especially considering their heavy involvement with ESL, afreecaTV, and others.

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According to a press release from Activision Blizzard themselves, they intend to “create the ESPN of esports.” The Activision Blizzard Media Networks division will be led by the former CEO of ESPN, Steve Bornstein, and the co-founder of MLG, Mike Sepso. The other co-founder of MLG, Sundance DiGiovanni, will remain at MLG. It was previously rumored, during the investor's leak, that he was replaced by the former CFO of MLG, Greg Chisholm. While I expect that some shuffling has occurred, DiGiovanni will apparently remain in a management role at MLG. Granted, it could be equivalent to Hideo Kojima's “holiday” last October, but that would just be silly.

As far as I can tell, other broadcasters have not commented on what this means to them.

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CES 2016: ASUS Announces ZenFone Zoom Smartphone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2016 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: zenfone zoom, zenfone, CES 2016, CES, asus

Here is another x86 smartphone from ASUS. Sebastian reviewed the ZenFone 2 in June, which he gave an Editor's Choice award to. It was a high-performance, very responsive phone with a great, IPS screen, and it was available for just $199 or $299.

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Today, they are announcing the ZenFone Zoom. This one has a 3x optical zoom using lenses from HOYA. The camera also has a laser autofocus that, ASUS claims, can adjust in three hundredths of a second. While auto modes are available, it also allows the user to override ISO gain, exposure, white balance, and “other options.” It has a dual-LED flash, which is said to generate photos with “more lifelike colors and skin tones.” No flash can overcome the physics of flooding light from a single, small point source. Any dominant light will dominate shadows, which exaggerate wrinkles, intensify oil glare, and so forth. While you will always get better photos in an environment that is lit from several, wider angles, it's good to have a flash that can make the most of a bad situation (have a good control over color, etc.).

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Two SoCs are available for this phone. The lower-end chip is the same as the ZenFone 2's higher-end one, the Intel Atom Z3580 (up to 2.3 GHz boost). A higher-end processor is available as well, the Z3590, which gives a 200 MHz bump in boost frequency (up to 2.5 GHz boost). All models are backed with 4GB of RAM, which is a huge amount for a phone. It will come in two storage sizes: 64GB or 128GB. It also includes a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 128GB. It uses the Intel LTE modem.

The ASUS ZenFone Zoom will be available in February, with prices starting at $399.

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Source: ASUS

CES 2016: LG Upgrades webOS for TVs

Subject: Shows and Expos | December 28, 2015 - 08:18 PM |
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, LG, webOS, smart tv

webOS was the final attempt by Palm to regain the smartphone market. It launched with the Palm Pre in 2009, but it failed to attract any consumer attention away from Android and iOS. It did catch HP's eye, though. Palm was purchased by that company for just over a billion dollars, which we would call “half of a Minecraft” today. After a series of unsuccessful products, they started licensing it to LG, who eventually purchased the project (minus patents).

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

Ahead of next month's CES, LG announced that a new version will be released at the show. It will be present on their new smart TVs at the show. Some sources claim that the new OS version would also be upgraded on their existing TVs. Unfortunately, this also comes alongside a wave of layoffs at the OS' development group. Former employees claim this was for cost-cutting, while LG says that they intend to consolidate user interface and product management.

We don't typically report on smart TVs, but its heritage as a mobile OS makes it interesting. It has also been used on smart watches, although that area has been silent so-far.

BENQ previews the new monitors they will show off at CES

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | December 17, 2015 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: benq, VZ2470H, freesync, XR3501, XL2730Z, 144hz, CES 2016

BENQ sent out a teaser of three of the displays they will be demonstrating at CES 2016, the VZ2470H with a slim bezel and impressive contrast ratio, the huge, curved XR3501 and the XL2730Z with VESA Standard Adaptive-Sync, the technology once known as FreeSync.

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The VZ2470H is a VA panel, with an impressive 3000:1 native contrast ratio, 4ms GTG response time and what BenQ refers to as ZeroFlicker which they claim will reduce eyestrain from LED backlight flickering.  The picture shows this 23.8" 1920 x 1080 display will have a very thin bezel, we can hope that it is not an exaggeration as it would make this a good choice for multiple monitor setups in an office or even for a lower cost gaming system.

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The BenQ XR3501 will be of far more interest to gamers, this 35" 2560 x 1080 monitor is curved to give you a great view.  It also runs at a 144Hz refresh rate with a 4ms GTG response time.  BenQ does not specifiy the panel type but it is likely to be VA as well.

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Last but not least is the BenQ XL2730Z, a 27" 2560x1440 display that is fully VESA Standard Adaptive-Sync compliant, with a top refresh rate of 144Hz.   It also has a 1ms GTG and is advertised as having no input lag, as you might expect this also means it is a TN panel, but remember, this is not the TN of a few years ago. 

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The monitor also has some other interesting tricks up its bezel, Display Mode and Smart Scaling allow you to virtually scale the monitor in a variety of sizes, 17", 19", 19"W, 21.5", 22"W, 23"W, 23.6"W and 24"W are defaults but you can create your own as well.  The Auto Game Mode feature lets you save monitor settings specific to a game profile and even to export them to a USB drive to take with you if you so desire.  All of those functions and more are controlled by the small device you can see on the stand above.

2016 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for displays.

They will also being showing off three different projectors, the HT4050, HT3050 and the budget-friendly HT2050, a portable electrostatic Bluetooth speaker called the treVolo and even even a fancy desk lamp.

Source: BENQ

Mozilla Abandons Firefox OS Smartphones

Subject: Editorial, Mobile, Shows and Expos | December 9, 2015 - 07:04 AM |
Tagged: yahoo, mozilla, google, Firefox OS, Android

Author's Disclosure: I volunteer for Mozilla, unpaid. I've been to one of their events in 2013, but otherwise have no financial ties with them. They actually weren't aware that I was a journalist. Still, our readers should know my background when reading my editorial.

Mozilla has announced that, while Firefox OS will still be developed for “many connected devices,” the organization will stop developing and selling smartphones through carriers. Mozilla claims that the reason is because they “weren't able to offer the best user experience possible.” While the statement is generic enough to apply in a lot of contexts, I'm not sure how close to the center of that region it is.

This all occurred at the “Mozlando” conference in Florida.

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Firefox OS was born when stakeholders asked Mozilla to get involved in the iOS and Android duopoly. Unlike Windows, Blackberry, and other competitors, Mozilla has a history of leveraging Web standards to topple industry giants. Rather than trying to fight the industry leaders with a better platform, and hoping that developers create enough apps to draw users over, they expanded what Web could do to dig the ground out of their competitors.

This makes sense. Mobile apps were still in their infancy themselves, so Firefox OS wouldn't need to defeat decades of lock-in or orders of magnitude performance deltas. JavaScript is getting quite fast anyway, especially when transpiled from an unmanaged language like C, so apps could exist to show developers that the phones are just as capable as their competitors.

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The issue is that being able to achieve high performance is different from actually achieving it. The Web, as a platform, is getting panned as slow and “memory hungry” (even though free memory doesn't make a system faster -- it's all about the overhead required to manage it). Likewise, the first few phones landed at the low end, due in part to Mozilla, the non-profit organization remember, wanting to use Firefox OS to bring computing to new areas of the world. A few hiccups here and there added another coat of paint to the Web's perception of low performance.

Granted, they couldn't compete on the high end without a successful app ecosystem if they tried. Only the most hardcore of fans would purchase a several-hundred dollar smartphone, and intend to put up with just Web apps. Likewise, when I've told people that phones run on the Web, they didn't realize we mean “primarily localhost” until it's explicitly stated. People are afraid for their data caps, even though offline experiences are actually offline and stored locally.

The Dinosaur in the Room

Then there's the last question that I have. I am a bit concerned about the organization as a whole. They seem to be trying to shed several products lately, and narrow their focus. Granted, all of these announcements occur because of the event, so there's plenty of room for coincidence. They have announced that they will drop ad tiles, which I've heard praised.

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The problem is, why would they do that? Was it for good will, aligning with their non-profit values? (Update: Fixed double-negative typo) Or was it bringing in much less money than projected? If it's the latter, then how far do they need to shrink their influence, and how? Did they already over-extend, and will they need to compensate for that? Looking at their other decisions, they've downsized Firefox OS, they are thinking about spinning out Thunderbird again, and they have quietly shuttered several internal projects, like their division for skunkworks projects, called “Mozilla Labs.” Mozilla also has a division called "Mozilla Research," although that is going strong. They are continually hiring for projects like "Servo," a potential new browser engine, and "Rust," a programming language that is used for Servo and other projects.

While Mozilla is definitely stable enough, financially, to thrive in their core products, I'm concerned about how much they can do beyond that. I'm genuinely concerned that Mozilla is trying to restructure while looking like a warrior for both human rights and platforms of free expression. We will not see the books until a few months from now, so we can only speculate until then. The organization is pulling inward, though. I don't know how much of this is refocusing on the problems they can solve, or the problems they can afford. We will see.

Source: Techcrunch

Rumor: Google To Host Press Briefing on September 29th

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 22, 2015 - 08:37 PM |
Tagged: Nexus, google, Android

Well, the event is apparently official. It's the contents that are rumored...

It's been a little while since Google announced new Android phones, almost a year in fact. Two phones have been rumored this year, which are allegedly named the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. I am not sure how much of the leaks are pure speculation, versus grounded in actual fact, so I will leave it as an exercise to you to read a couple of links that summarize them. A grain of salt will be necessary of course. It's not that we are afraid to look at rumors, as we do so frequently, but I'd rather not play arbitrator this time. I don't think that I can research this topic enough to arrive at a sufficient level of confidence at the moment.

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What I can say is that Google will host an event on September 29th, 2015, to announce whatever they have. The invitations have gone out to sites like CNet and it will present devices that use Android 6.0 M, which Google announced stands for “Marshmallow” last August. An updated Chromecast is also expected to be launched at the same event.

Source: CNet