Zotac steps up their Zbox game

Subject: Systems | October 3, 2017 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, Magnus EN1080K, GeForce GTX 1080, i7-7700, SFF, water cooler

The newest Zbox from Zotac is also the most powerful one they have made, which does make it a bit of a different beast than other Zotac SFF products.  With an i7-7700 paired with a GTX 1080, along with 16GB of DDR4-2400 and a WD Black 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD the Magnus offers more power than you find in many a mid-range system.  The heat produced in the tight confines of the system, 8.9x8x5" (23 x 20 x 13cm), is handled by a custom built watercooling system which cools both the CPU and GPU.  This does make the system significantly larger than previous Zbox products and it is much more power hungry, with two power adapters required to run it.  The Tech Report loved the performance but did encounter some significant issues with the Zbox, which they overcame with quick and effective support from Zotac.  Check this one out for the impressive build design as well as it's impressive gaming abilities.

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"Zotac's Zbox Magnus EN1080K pairs Intel's Core i7-7700 CPU with a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card in an impressively dense liquid-cooled package. We ran some of our favorite games on this system to see how it stacks up in the small-form-factor pantheon."

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AMD Bundles Adobe Creative Cloud (2 Months) with PCs

Subject: Systems | October 1, 2017 - 10:41 PM |
Tagged: amd, Adobe

AMD is bundling two months of Adobe Creative Cloud with a selection of PCs, ranging from Ryzen-enabled desktops to APU-enabled laptops and all-in-ones. There are also two other bundles available: ~$40 of Square Enix Collective indie games, and a 3-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography (Photoshop and Lightroom). This started a couple of months ago, but it looks like AMD didn’t make too big of a deal out of it, so I decided that a late post is better than none.

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The PCs that are eligible vary from bundle to bundle, so check each of the three links.

As for the value of the deal? Eh. Two months of Creative Cloud is quite good from a value perspective -- about a hundred US dollars. That said, a free trial from Adobe is a month, and that's on a per-application basis, so you could also see it as “just a double-length free trial”. (Possibly a triple-length if you can use the free trial first, then redeem the Creative Cloud subscription for an extra two. I’m not sure, though, but the redemption period ends on December 31st so it might be possible.)

The list of applicable products and OEMs, as well as other terms and conditions, is available on AMD’s website.

Source: AMD

ASUS' Tinker can be tailored for Soldiers and Spies

Subject: Systems | September 25, 2017 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: asus, tinker, SoC, Rockchip, rk3288, Mali-T760, Cortex-A17

ASUS' take on single board computers is the new Tinker Board, powered by a 1.8 GHz Cortex-A17 based Rockchip RK3288 and a 600MHz Mali-T760 GPU which share 2 GB of LPDDR3.  Storage is handled by a microSD slot, or the four USB 2.0 ports and the Tinker offers Gigabit wired connectivity as well as optional WiFi.  You have a choice of operating systems, either Marshmallow flavoured Android or the Debian based Tinker OS, depending on which you prefer. 

The Tech Report tested out the Tinker Board and found the hardware to outpace competitors such as Raspberry Pi, however the lack of software and documentation hamstrung the Tinker Board badly enough that they do not recommend this board.  This may change in time but currently ASUS needs to do some work before the Tinker Board becomes an actual competitor in this crowded market.

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"Asus' Tinker Board single-board computer wants to challenge the Raspberry Pi 3's popularity with a more powerful SoC and better networking, among other improvements. We put it to the test to see whether it's a worthy alternative to the status quo."

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EPYC headed for the top of the charts!

Subject: Systems | September 19, 2017 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: 7351P, amd, EPYC

Patrick Kennedy of Serve The Home has just published his server-centric test EPYC test results and in his own words, "while AMD is very competitive at the high-end, its mainstream offerings are competing with de-featured Xeon Silver CPUs and absolutely obliterate what Intel is offering."

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The EPYC 7351P, which should sell for roughly $750 was tested against Intel's Xeon Silver 4108 which runs about $440 in various server applications such as GROMACS, OpenSSL and even a chess benchmark.  The tests were done with single socket EPYCs, the "P" series, which are offered at a significant discount when compared to AMD's dual socket family; benchmarked against Intel's Xeon Silver in both single and dual socket configurations.  The only time that the Xeon's performance came close to the single socket 7351P were when they were configured in dual socket systems, even then AMD's EPYC chip came out on top, often by a significant margin.

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Raw performance is not the only advantage AMD offers on EPYC, the feature sest also far outstrips the somewhat watered down Xeon Silver family.  The single socket 7351P offers 128 PCIe lanes while a dual socket Xeon Silver can only offer 96 and EPYC can handle up to 2TB of DDR4-2666 in its eight channel memory controller whereas Intel is limited to 1.5TB DDR4-2400 in a dual socket server nor can it support dual AVX-512 nor Omni-Path fabric.

Intel does have some advantages that come with the maturity of their platform, including superb NVMe hotswap support as well as QuickAssist and they do have higher end Xeon Gold chips which include the aforementioned features that the Xeon Silver line lacks, however they are also significantly more expensive than EPYC. 

You can expect more tests to appear in the future as STH invested a lot of money in new hardware to test and as the tests can take days to complete there will be some delay before they have good data to share.  It is looking very positive for AMD's EPYC family, they offer an impressive amount of value for the money and it will be interesting to see how Intel reacts.

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Intel Releases Dawson Canyon NUCs With 15W Kaby Lake CPUs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 13, 2017 - 07:29 PM |
Tagged: SFF, nuc, kaby lake, Intel

Following last year’s Baby Canyon NUC kits, Intel is launching its Dawson Canyon NUCs powered by 15W Kaby Lake processors. Despite Dawson Canyon sounding more dramatic than Baby Canyon (which sounds more like a creek), the new NUCs are lower powered and ditch Iris Graphics and USB 3.1 Type C.

Specifically, Intel is launching six new models that will come in three flavors: barebones board, slim case kit, and a taller kit with room for a 2.5” drive. Each type of NUC kit will come with either a Core i3 or Core i5 processor. Dawson Canyon further supports Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) and Optane memory.

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Processor options include the Core i3 7100U (2.4 GHz) and Core i5 7300U (2.6 GHz base, 3.5 GHz boost) which are both dual core processors with HyperThreading, 3 MB cache, Intel HD Graphics 620 GPUs, and 15W TDPs.

Internal I/O includes two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, two M.2 slots (one full length (80mm) and one 30mm slot for Wi-Fi adapters such as the included Intel 8265 with is included in the kits with cases but not the bare board kits.), one SATA port, and headers for serial, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports.

External I/O consists of four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and two HDMI outputs (one protected UHD).

Dawson Canyon NUCs will be available towards the end of the year (Q4’17) with pricing yet to be released. For the fanless, ahem, fans Fanless Tech reports that Simply NUC will be offering NUCs with custom fanless cases. These are likely to be cheaper than Baby Canyon and be popular with businesses wanting monitor mounted thin clients or low power workstations for office users that just need to run productivity applications.

Source: FanlessTech

Benchmarking a beast of a box, a dual Xeon Scalable Gold Server

Subject: Systems | August 30, 2017 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: linux, xeon, Xeon Gold 6138, dual cpu, LGA-3647, Intel

The core counts and amount of RAM on enthusiast systems is growing quickly, especially with Threadripper, but we won't be seeing a system quite like this one under our desks in the near future.  The server which Phoronix tested sports dual Xeon Gold 6138 for a total of 40 physical cores and 80 threads, with each CPU having 48GB of RAM for a total of 96GB of DDR4-2666.  Not only did Phoronix run this system through a variety of tests, they did so on eight different Linux distros.   Can any benchmark push this thing to its limits?  Was there a clear winner for the OS?  Find out in the full review.

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"While we routinely run various Linux distribution / operating system comparisons at Phoronix, they tend to be done on desktop class hardware and the occasional servers. This is our look at the most interesting enterprise-focused Linux distribution comparison to date as we see how Intel's Xeon Scalable platform compares on different GNU/Linux distributions when using the Tyan GT24E-B7106 paired with two Dual Xeon Gold 6138 processors."

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Source: Phoronix
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Design

The ECS LIVA Z Plus is a mini-PC with far more capable processors than the non-Plus variants of the current LIVA family, and we have for review a version with the top-end Intel Core i5-7300U CPU option, along with a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. These specs position the LIVA Z Plus against similarly-powered Intel NUC mini-PCs, and the LIVA has the advantage of being ready to go out of the box (just add an OS).

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We recently took a look at the entry-level ECS LIVA mini-PC, which is a fanless device equipped with a low-power Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 in its base configuration (as reviewed). The performance was merely 'okay' for most desktop computing, and that entry-level LIVA Z was more of a need-specific choice, useful for some applications such as a DIY router as it includes dual NICs in addition to the wireless networking on board. But I kept wishing I had more CPU power the entire time I was testing out the base LIVA Z, and the Plus version seemed like the perfect solution. There is just one catch: it isn't fanless. (Gasp!) Was this an issue? Was it even audible? How were thermals with a 15W Intel Core i5 processor inside such a small enclosure, even it is was being actively cooled? Read on to find out!

First, a look at the specs from ECS:


Specifications:

  • Platform:
    • Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7300U SOC
    • Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7200U SOC
    • Intel Kaby Lake Core i3-7100U SOC
    • Intel Kaby Lake Celeron 3965U SOC
  • Memory:
    • DDR4 Up to 32GB
    • 2x SO-DIMM Memory Slots
  • Storage Support: 1x M.2 2242 SSD (SATA / PCIE)
  • Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 1x Digital Mic
  • LAN: 2x Gigabit LAN (1x Intel LAN)
  • USB:
    • 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Ports
    • 1x USB 3.0 Type-C port
  • Video Output:
    • 1x HDMI Port (HDMI 1.4)
    • 1x mDP Port
  • Wireless: Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0
  • PCB Size: 115 x 111 mm
  • Dimension: 117 x 128 x 33 mm
  • VESA Support: 75 mm / 100 mm (bracket included)
  • Adapter: Input AC 100-240V, Output DC 19V / 3.42A
  • OS Support: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Windows 10
  • Accessories:
    • 1x Power adapter
    • 1x VESA Bracket
    • 6x VESA Mount Screws
    • Quick Guide & Driver DVD

  • ECS LIVA Z Plus: $489 MSRP

Package contents are identical to that of the non-Plus LIVA, as we are presented with the LIVA Z Plus, power adapter, and VESA mount.

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The LIVA Z Plus is externally identical to the LIVA Z, with the same complement of three USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, and 3.5 mm audio jack on the front, and dual NICs, HDMI 1.4, and mini DisplayPort on the back.

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The side panels are also identical to the passively-cooled LIVA Z, with vented sides that in this case allow for intake and exhaust for the small internal fan.

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If you think this LIVA Z Plus looks like the standard LIVA Z, you're right. Externally, the two are identical:

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Next we'll take a look inside and then see how it performed with a few benchmarks.

Continue reading our review of the ECS LIVA Z Plus!!

Beep beep VROOOM! A remote starter for your PC

Subject: Systems | August 4, 2017 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: remote starter, microcontroller, DIY

The Tech Report have an interesting project for those interested in building their own electronic gadgets and doohickeys.  They have created a project which uses a NodeMCU open source microcontroller for IoT devices to allow you to remotely power cycle your PC via an RF signal.  The build will teach you about creating your own IoT device, a bit about how to secure said device and insight into the signals which tell your PC to power on or off or to go into sleep mode.  For those already familiar with the components and processes utilized by this project, it is a quick and easy way to design a device that retails for $25, for a lot cheaper.  Take a peek here.

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"Commercially-available remote power switches make turning a PC on and off from a distance a simple task, but our resident microcontroller enthusiast thought of a few ways such a product might be improved. Join us as we see whether those ideas could be implemented for about $10 in parts."

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Microsoft reSurfaces their Studio so they can show off a puck

Subject: Systems | June 21, 2017 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, surface studio

Microsoft's Studio Surface is quite a change from the usual Studio notebooks, instead of a tiny screen this system is built into a 28" display with some seriously impressive specs.  The display has a resolution of 4500x3000 which translates to 192ppi, perfect for getting the most detail out of your artistic creations; gaming may be troublesome as the top end model comes with a GTX 980M that has 4GB of GDDR5.  The Surface Dial would also present control difficulty for gamers but for artists it offers a new way to control a wide variety of options in your software.  Aso worth noting is that you can swivel the screen to an angle where it can be used as a sketching board, the stand will even support a reasonable amount of weight if you lean into your drawings.  The Inquirer did have some areas in which they thought Microsoft could make some improvements but overall they were quite impressed.  Check it out here.

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"IT'S ALL CHANGE over at Microsoft with not one, but two entirely new product categories sporting the Surface name. The first is a traditional form-factored laptop with some fuzzy touchy-feely plush elements. The second, the Surface Studio is a powerful all-in-one with a giant display, stacks of power and one funky, optional knob."

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Source: The Inquirer

iFixit: Microsoft Surface Laptop Gets a Zero on Repairability

Subject: Systems | June 18, 2017 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: ifixit, recycling, microsoft, surface laptop

It’s no surprise that many devices have been sacrificing user-serviceability in favor of small, light, and fast. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see device manufacturers forego even the ability to recycle them when they’re done, even if their components are theoretically made out of recyclable materials. (It doesn’t matter if it’s mostly metal and glass if they’re all glued together in a way that takes forever to separate.)

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In this case, the new Microsoft Surface Laptop gets a big zero from iFixit. For context, the iPad 3, which stirred a bit of controversy a few years ago, scored a two out of ten. Two major points that they made against it are “You can’t get inside without inflicting a lot of damage” and “The battery is difficult and dangerous to replace”. Yikes.

To be clear, sacrificing user-serviceability isn’t necessarily a bad thing (although I’d argue that recyclable components should always be installed in a recyclable way). As long as the user is aware that they are trading-off the ability to fix or upgrade the thing they purchase, then they can make the value decision for themselves.

And now potential customers know.

Source: iFixit