Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 18, 2014 - 02:27 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: LIVA, ECS, case mods, case mod contest
ECS USA is holding a competition for North American users to design mods for the LIVA mini PC kit. The contest consists of three phases and round one, whose winners will advance to the second phase, ends on September 30th. If you want to enter in the contest, you will need to submit your first phase entry before then to be eligible for the second phase. Check out Morry's post for a second opinion.
What are the phases?
Round 1 (Ends September 30th): You will need to publish the "soft copy" of your design draft to Facebook. This will consist of six illustrations: Front, Rear, Left Side, Right Side, Top, and 45-degree 3D illustration. See the image below for an example. The top ten participants, based on Facebook likes, will be provided with a white LIVA mini PC kit to modify in Round 2.
Round 2 (Ends October 31st): The winners of Round 1 will, using the provided LIVA kits and your design draft, implement their customizations. Photographs of these modified cases will be sent to ECS (I assume by Facebook) for a team of judges to rank them first, second, third, or runner-up.
Round 3 (November 7th): Sit back, relax, and wait for the judges to select winners. The Champion will receive $1000 USD for their trouble, second place will get $500 USD, and third will get $300 USD. The honorable mentions will get various swags.
The contest is open to residents of the USA and Canada. Do it fast! It's less than two weeks and, as I understand it, the later you enter, the less time you will have to accumulate Facebook likes.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft
Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.
Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.
I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android
To some extent...
This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.
From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?
Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor
A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.
Image Credit: Liliputing
Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.
What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 9, 2014 - 10:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: toshiba, Chromebook, chromebook 2
Somehow, I heard about Toshiba's $120, Windows 8.1 tablet but not their Chromebook 2. This ChromeOS-based laptop will have a choice between one of two 13.3-inch displays. The entry level is standard HD while the premium model is upgraded with a 1080p, IPS monitor. Prices range from $249.99 to $329.99. It is expected to be available on October 5th.
On the low end, you are looking at a browser-only device with 2GB of RAM, and Intel Celeron processor, 802.11ac, HDMI out, an HD webcam, two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), and an SD card slot. The higher-end device is the same, except with the better screen and double the RAM (4GB). At $330, that is a pretty good deal if you can live in Google Chrome day-in and day-out. Of course, this raises concerns about browser lock-in because you are buying a device with only one choice. That said, you are doing the same if you buy iOS, FirefoxOS, or Windows RT devices, so it is not a complaint about ChromeOS, specifically.
As stated, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 will be available October 5th, starting at $249.99.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:49 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, asus, core m, broadwell-y, Broadwell, 14nm, ultrabook
This will probably be the first of many notebooks announced that are based on Core M. These processors, which would otherwise be called Broadwell-Y, are the "flagship" CPUs to be created on Intel's 14nm, tri-gate fabrication process. The ASUS ZenBook UX305 is a 13-inch clamshell notebook with one of three displays: 1920x1200 IPS, 1920x1200 multi-touch IPS, or 3200x1800 multi-touch IPS. That is a lot of pixels to pack into such a small display.
While the specific processor(s) are not listed, it will use Intel HD Graphics 5300 for its GPU. This is new with Broadwell, albeit their lowest tier. Then again, last generation's 5000 and 5100 were up in the 700-800 GFLOP range, which is fairly high (around medium quality settings for Battlefield 4 at 720p). Discrete graphics will not be an option. It will come with a choice between 4GB and 8GB of RAM. Customers can also choose between a 128GB SSD, or a 256GB SSD. It has a 45Wh battery.
Numerous connectivity options are available: 802.11 a, g, n, or ac; Bluetooth 4.0; three USB 3.0 ports; Micro HDMI (out); a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack; and a microSD card slot. It has a single, front-facing, 720p webcam.
In short, it is an Ultrabook. Pricing and availability are currently unannounced.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 06:03 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: toshiba, tablet, cheap tablet, cheap computer, x86, Windows 8.1
While you should only get a cheap PC if you have a need for one, Toshiba is selling a $120 tablet with Windows 8.1 and a quadcore, Intel Atom processor. It also includes a single year of Office 365 Personal, which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, an 1TB of OneDrive storage (normally $69 or twelve installments of $7/mo).
While RAM has not been announced, it contains 16GB of storage, expandable with a microSDXC card of up to 128 GB. It is based on a 7-inch, 1024x600 multi-touch display. Of course, 16GB of internal storage is about as low as you can have Windows 8.1 be installed within. In fact, it is the minimum requirements for 32-bit (64-bit requires 20 GB). You will not be fitting too many applications on your main drive.
The tablet also has a front-facing webcam and a back-facing 2 megapixel camera for photos and video.
The Toshiba Encore Mini is available now for an MSRP of $119.99.
Subject: Systems | September 4, 2014 - 03:42 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: y70 touch, Lenovo, haswell, gaming notebook, gaming, Erazer
Yesterday, Lenovo unveiled two new gaming systems at IFA in Berlin. The new Y70 Touch is a 17-inch gaming notebook while the Erazer X310 and Erazer X315 are mid-tower desktops. All three systems will be available later this month.
The Y70 Touch is Lenovo's first desktop replacement notebook with a touchscreen. The 25.9mm thick notebook features a 17.3" 1080p display, backlit keyboard, and JBL-powered stereo speakers (with subwoofer). It can be configured with up to an Intel Haswell i7 processor, NVIDIA GTX 860M GPU with 4GB RAM, 16GB of DDR3 system memory, and 1TB solid state drive (SSD). (Storage options include 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB SSD options.) Lenovo is including an external disc drive with the gaming PC which was left out of the chassis itself to maintain its slim form factor and to reduce weight.
The Y70 Touch gaming notebook starts at $1,299 and will be available in the US later this month.
If desktops are more your style, Lenovo is now offering up the Erazer X310 and X315 mid-tower PCs. The X310 and X315 will share the same black mid-tower chassis but will use different internal hardware. the X310 with Intel Haswell CPUs will be available worldwide while the AMD APU-powered X315 will be exclusive to North America.
The ERAZER X310/X315 case is all black with a stealthy angular front panel design that hosts two 5.25" bays and a blue LED-backlit power button. The X310 can be configured with up to an Intel Haswell i7 CPU while the X315 supports AMD "Kaveri" APUs up to the A10 series (e.g. A10 7850K). Users can choose up to a NVIDIA GTX 760 (2GB) or AMD Radeon R9 255 (2GB) graphics card. The mid-tower has four PCI slots and in theory could support further DIY upgrades but GPU length would be limited and the power supply may need to be upgraded as well. Further, both systems feature up to 32GB system memory and a maximum of 4TB mechanical hard drive, 2TB hybrid hard drive or 256GB solid state storage.
The new ERAZER X310 and X315 desktops will be available shortly starting at $599.
For those interested in the APU-powered desktop, the following articles might be of interest.
- AMD A8-7600 Kaveri APU and R7 250 Dual Graphics Testing - Pacing is Fixed!
- Fully Enabling the A10-7850K while Utilizing a Standalone GPU
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 3, 2014 - 07:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: fanless, htpc, windows, Android
Because fanless and cheap PCs are awesome, MINIX is launching the Neo Z64. Priced at $129 USD, it will contain an Intel Atom Z3635F SoC with 2GB of DDR3L and 32GB of eMMC internal storage. The device will ship loaded with Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) but is compatible with Windows 8.1, if you have a license for it.
Externally, the device features a microSD card slot (maximum size not specified), one 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, an IR receiver (with remote), and HDMI 1.4. Note that HDMI is the only audio outputs on this device, which could be tricky if you want to run it as something other than a home theater PC (if you do not have a USB sound card that is compatible with your chosen OS). Lastly, it also has 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless support.
This is still a significant price premium over some other devices, like a Roku, but could be useful for some. The lack of any SteamOS mention is a bit disconcerting, given that the free OS could be applied to turn the device into an In-Home Streaming target (or host of simple, Linux-compatible games, like Super Meat Boy). Hopefully, future products will consider Valve's home theater platform.
The MINIX Neo Z64 will be available in October for $129.
Subject: Systems | September 3, 2014 - 02:39 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: X99, puget systems, Puget, pre-built, Intel, Haswell-E, gaming
Puget Systems has joined the X99 fray with its Deluge XL gaming PC. The new system joins the existing Deluge which is based around Haswell and the Z97 chipset. This high end, liquid cooled, PC starts at $3,920.67 and is available now.
The Deluge XL features a Fractal Design Define XL R2 chassis, ASUS X99 Deluxe motherboard, up to an Intel Core i7 5960X processor, 16GB DDR4-2133 memory, single and multi-GPU options from NVIDIA and AMD, multiple storage options that include SSDs and mechanical drives, and a bottom mounted EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1,000W power supply to drive it all. Both the CPU and graphics card(s) are liquid cooled in a custom water loop comprised of a Koolance PMP-400 pump, 3/8" clear tubing (with an in-line flow meter), Koolance CPU-380 processor waterblock, and Koolance GPU waterblock(s). Users can further elect to upgrade the thermal paste to Arctic Cooling MX-2 and upgrade and/or add additional case fans. A blue LED lighting kit is available as an optional add-on along with other accessories. The Deluge XL can be configured with the Ubuntu Linux 14.04, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7 operating system.
The base model comes with a GTX 780 graphics card and 500GB mechanical hard drive which does leave something to be desired. The motherboard is one of the highest end Haswell-E models out there and the PSU is up to the task of running almost any hardware, however. Switching out the above mentioned GPU and HDD for an AMD Radeon R9 290 and a 250GB Samsung 840 EVO respectively brings the price up to $4,087.10.
It's not cheap, but it is powerful and for some enthusiasts the simplified support along with not needing to spend time researching and building (and doing good cable management!) makes a pre-built system worth it. Puget is not the only game in town though, and other boutique system builders are rolling out their own X99-based PCs as well. Keep an eye on PC Perspective for more news!