Qualcomm joins in VR fun, designs VR820 reference platform and HMD

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 1, 2016 - 10:30 AM |
Tagged: VR, snapdragon 820, snapdragon, qualcomm

After Google's unveiling of its pending VR platform, it would follow that the major players in the technology field would toss various hats into the ring. We saw Intel announce a reference head mounted VR system at IDF last month called Project Alloy. Today Qualcomm takes the covers off its own reference head unit, creatively called VR820.

The reference platform is built on exactly what you would expect: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC with the Adreno 530 graphics subsystem in place to handle 3D rendering. Thanks to the heterogeneous computing capability of the QC platform, the VR820 integrates an impressive array of data input including the standard gyro and accelerometer. VR820 adds in dual front-facing cameras to allow for spacial tracking and 6-degrees of freedom for movement (left/right, up/down and forward/backward, pitch, yaw and roll) and to integrate see-through or augmented reality applications. Most interesting to me is that the VR820 is among the first platforms to integrate internal eye tracking, ostensibly to allow for tricks like foveated rendering that allow the system to dynamically change quality levels based on where the users' eyes are actually focused. 

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The VR820 is a reference platform so you'll likely never see a Qualcomm-branded device on the market. Instead VR820 will be available to OEM out for product and resale as early as Q4 of this year, meaning there is a SLIGHT chance you'll see something based on this for the holiday.

Despite being built on what is essentially a smartphone, the VR820 will allow for higher performance on the CPU and GPU courtesy of the looser thermal constraints and the larger battery that will be built into the device. Qualcomm stated that they expect the device to allow for "a couple of hours" of use in it's current implementation. That doesn't mean a partner wouldn't decide to implement a larger battery to expand that time frame.

The current display in this device is a 2560x1440 single screen, though the SD820 and Adreno 530 could address two independent displays should a partner or future reference design call for it. Looks like Qualcomm switched up and implemented a 1440x1440 display per eye in this reference platform. It is an AMOLED display so you should see amazing color depth though I am a bit concerned by the 70Hz refresh rate it peaks at. Both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift are targeting 90Hz as the minimum acceptable frame rate for a smooth and high quality user experience. Though I will need hands-on time with the product to decide either way, I am wary of Qualcomm's decision to back off from that accepted standard.

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That being said, with the low latency AMOLED screen, Qualcomm tells me the VR820 will have an 18ms "motion to photon" latency which comes in under the theoretical ~20ms maximum for an immersive experience. 

The current iteration of VR820 is running Android, though other operating systems like Microsoft's Holographic OS should be compatible if the ecosystem buys in. 

It's clear that the goal of untethered VR/AR is the target for mass market experiences. I personally have doubts about the capability of something like VR820 or Intel's Project Alloy to really impact the VR gaming market without being attached to much higher end processing like we see with the Rift and Vive today. More mainstream activities like movies, conferencing and productivity are within the grasp of a processor like the Snapdragon 820. But how well will it handle games that try to emulate Job Simulator or Eve: Valkyrie? Will eye tracking capability allow for higher effective resolution gaming?

There is still a lot to learn about Qualcomm's entry into the dedicated VR space with the VR820, and though pricing will obviously depend on the specifics of the OEM that licenses the design and what modifications may occur, QC thinks the reference platform as we see it here should be in the $500 ballpark.

Check out Qualcomm's full press release after the break!

Source: Qualcomm

Lenovo Announces Yoga Book 2-in-1 Tablet with Halo Keyboard and Create Pad

Subject: Systems, Mobile | August 31, 2016 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Yoga Book, windows, wacom, notebook, Lenovo, Halo Keyboard, Create Pad, Android

Lenovo has unveiled the Yoga Book, a 2-in-1 design with a unique touch-based lower half below a conventional 1920x1200 IPS touch display. Lenovo is calling the Yoga Book "the world’s thinnest and lightest 2-in-1", with a 9.6mm thickness and weight of 1.52 pounds.

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This lower section is a hybrid design, combining Lenovo's "Halo Keyboard" virtual keyboard with a surface called "Create Pad"; allowing the lower half to be used for pen writing (with handwriting recognition) and drawing. The "Real Pen" (which is a dual-use ink pen and stylus) offers 2,048 pressure levels and 100-degree angle detection, according to Lenovo, and promises a precise experience when writing and creating artwork.

"The Halo Keyboard re-imagines the possibilities of a modern keyboard, while providing the technology platform for all other standout Yoga Book productivity-driven features, such as the Create Pad and Real Pen. It appears to the user as a full, backlit virtual keyboard with shortcut keys for a typing experience that matches that of a physical keyboard, easily overcoming the challenges of typing on a tablet screen."

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"The lack of physical keys also allows the Halo Keyboard’s flush surface to house the Create Pad. For the artists and free hand note-takers, the Create Pad converts into a virtual notepad that instantly digitizes everything from doodles and to-do lists to web page annotations and on-screen notes, using the Real Pen and our Note Saver app."

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The Yoga Book is available in both Android and Windows versions, with the Android version offering a custom interface called "Book UI". As to hardware, both versions are powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor (quad-Core, up to 2.4 GHz) with 4GB of LPDDR3 memory and 64GB of onboard storage (expandable via microSD cards up to 128GB in size).

What about pricing? This might be surprising for a high-concept device like this, as Lenovo has chosen to compete in the $500 tablet space. The Android-powered Yoga Book starts at $499, with the Yoga Book with Windows at $549. Both will be available starting in October.

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Full press release after the break.

Source: Lenovo

Acer Announces the Predator 21 X Curved Screen Gaming Notebook

Subject: Systems, Mobile | August 31, 2016 - 10:33 AM |
Tagged: 2560x1080, ips, Predator 21 X, notebook, laptop, gaming, curved, acer, kaby lake, GTX 1080, sli

Acer has announced "the world's first notebook with a curved screen", and this panel happens to be attached to a very high-end gaming laptop in the Predator 21 X.

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In addition to the 2560x1080 curved 21-inch display, the new machine also offers Tobii eye-tracking technology, Intel 7th Generation "Kaby Lake" processors, and (last but not least) dual NVIDIA GTX 1080 GPUs in SLI.

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"The Predator 21 X takes the flagship spot in Acer’s gaming notebook series and is advanced beyond anything on the market today. It’s the world’s first notebook to offer a curved 21-inch IPS display (2560 x 1080), and when combined with wide-angle viewing, it delivers a truly immersive gaming experience.

To bring gameplay immersion to the next level, the notebook also integrates Tobii eye-tracking technology for a new method of control that’s more intuitive and natural. Built-in eye-tracking hardware (infrared sensors and software) unlocks a completely new facet in gaming. By tracking a gamer’s eye with software, the notebook introduces new interactions like aiming, identifying enemies and taking cover simply by gazing at objects on the screen. Eye tracking also enhances the experience by providing infinite views whilst navigating treacherous paths and roads in a game."

Other features of the Predator 21 X include a keyboard with Cherry MX key switches, a unique design for the numeric keypad "that allows it to be flipped over and turned into a Precision Touchpad", a 5-fan cooling system, and a 4-speaker, dual-subwoofer premium sound system.

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Pricing and availability have not been revealed.

Source: Acer

Gigabyte BRIX Gaming UHD Combines 2.6L Chassis with Discrete GPU

Subject: Systems | August 17, 2016 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: UHD, SFF, IDF 2016, idf, gigabyte, gaming, brix

While wandering around the exhibit area at this year’s Intel Developers Forum, I ran into our friends at Gigabyte a brand new BRIX small form factor PC. The BRIX Gaming UHD takes the now-standard NUC/BRIX block shape and literally raises it up, extending the design vertically to allow for higher performance components and the added cooling capability to integrate them.

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The design of the BRIX Gaming UHD combines a brushed aluminum housing with a rubber base and bordering plastic sections to create a particularly stunning design that is both simple and interesting. Up top is a fan that pulls air through the entire chassis, running over the heatsink for the CPU and GPU. This is similar in function to the Mac Pro, though this is a much more compact device with a very different price point and performance target.

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Around the back you’ll find all the connections that the BRIX Gaming UHD supplies: three (!!) mini DisplayPort connections, a full size HDMI output, four USB 3.0 ports, a USB 3.1 connection, two wireless antennae ports, Gigabit Ethernet and audio input and output. That is a HUGE amount of connectivity options and is more than many consumer’s current large-scale desktops.

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The internals of the system are impressive and required some very custom design for cooling and layout.

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The discrete NVIDIA graphics chip (in this case the GTX 950) is on the left chamber while the Core i7-6500HQ Skylake processor is on the left side along with the memory slot and wireless card.

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Gigabyte measures the size of the BRIX Gaming UHD at 2.6 liters. Because of that compact space there is no room for hard drives: you get access to two M.2 2280 slots for storage instead. There are two SO-DIMM slots for DDR4 memory up to 2133 MHz, integrated 802.11ac support and support for quad displays.

Availability and pricing are still up in the air, though early reports are that starting cost will be $1300. Gigabyte updated me and tells me that the BRIX Gaming UHD will be available in October and that an accurage MSRP has not been set. It would not surprise me if this model never actually saw the light of day and instead Gigabyte waited for NVIDIA’s next low powered Pascal based GPU, likely dubbed the GTX 1050. We’ll keep an eye on the BRIX Gaming UHD from Gigabyte to see what else transpires, but it seems the trend of small form factor PCs that sacrifice less in terms of true gaming potential continues.

HP's Latest Omen Desktop Puts a Gaming System in a Cube

Subject: Systems | August 17, 2016 - 04:25 PM |
Tagged: PC, Omen 900, Omen, hp, gaming, desktop, cube, computer

HP has introduced a new pre-built gaming desktop, and while the Omen series has existed for a while the new Omen offers a very different chassis design.

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This Omen isn't just cube-like, it's actually a cube (Image credit: HP)

Inside the specifications look like the typical pre-built gaming rig, with processors up to an Intel Core i7 6700K and graphics options including AMD's Radeon RX 480 and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080. Configurations on HP's online store start at $1799 for a version with a GTX 960, a 1TB spinning hard drive, and a single 8GB DIMM. (Curiously, though reported as the "Omen X", the current listing is for an "Omen 900".)

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A look inside an AMD Crossfire configuration (Image credit: HP via The Verge)

HP is certainly no stranger to unusual chassis designs, as those who remember the Blackbird 002 (which Ryan stood on - and reviewed - here) and subsequent Firebird 803 systems will know. The Verge is reporting that HP will offer the chassis as a standalone product for $599, itself an unusual move for the company.

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(Image credit: HP)

The new Omen desktop goes on sale officially starting tomorrow.

Source: The Verge

GIGABYTE Announces GeForce GTX 10 Series Gaming Laptops

Subject: Systems, Mobile | August 16, 2016 - 11:39 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, nvidia, notebook, laptop, Intel Core i7, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gigabyte, gaming

GIGABYTE has refreshed their gaming laptop lineup with NVIDIA's GTX 10 series graphics, announcing updated versions of the P55 & P57 Series, and thin-and-light P35 & P37.

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"GIGABYTE offers a variety of options based on preference while providing the latest GeForce® GTX 10 series graphics and the latest 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor for the power and performance to meet the growing demands of top tier applications, games, and Virtual Reality. With the superior performance GIAGBYTE also includes industry leading features such as M.2 PCIe SSD, DDR4 memory, USB 3.1 with Type-C connection, and HDMI 2.0."

The notebooks retain 6th-gen Intel (Skylake) Core processors, but now feature NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 GPUs.

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Here's a rundown of the new systems from GIGABYTE, beginning with the Performance Series:

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The GIGABYE P57 Gaming Laptop

"The new 17” P57 is pulling no punches when it comes to performance, including the all-new, ultra-powerful NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1070 & 1060 Graphics. With a fresh GPU, come fresh ID changes. Along with its subtle style, curved lines and orange accents, comes all-new additional air intake ventilation above the keyboard to improve thermal cooling. The backlit keyboard itself supports Anti-Ghost with 30-Key Rollover. The Full HD 1920x1080 IPS display provides vivid and immersive visuals, while a Swappable Bay is included for user preference of an optical drive, an additional HDD, or weight reduction."

Next we have the thin-and-light ULTRAFORCE Gaming models:

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The ULTRAFORCE P35

"The new 17.3” P37 reiterates what ULTRAFORCE is all about. Despite being a 17” model, the P37 weights under 2.7kg and retains an ultra-thin and light profile being less than 22.5mm thin. Paired with extreme mobility is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. The display comes in both options of 4K UHD 3840x2160 and FHD 1920x1080, achieving high-res gaming thanks to the performance boost with the new graphics.

The P37 includes a hot-swappable bay for an additional HDD, ODD, or to reduce weight for improved mobility, forming a quad-storage system with multiple M.2 PCIe SSDs and HDDs. The Macro Keys on the left, together with the included Macro Hub software, allows up to 25 programmable macros for one-click execution in any games and applications

Powerful yet portable, the thinnest gaming laptop of the series, the 15.6” P35, also has either a UHD 3840x2160 or FHD 1920x1080 display, delivering perfect and vivid colors for an enhanced gameplay experience. Included in the Ultrabook-like chassis is the powerful all-new NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. The P35 also features the iconic hot-swappable bay for flexible storage and the quad-storage system."

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The P37 keyboard features macro keys

We will update with pricing and availability for these new laptops when known.

Source: GIGABYTE

Lenovo Announces the IdeaCentre Y910 AIO Gaming Desktop

Subject: Systems | August 16, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: PC, nvidia, Lenovo, Intel Core i7, IdeaCentre Y910, GTX 1080, gaming, desktop, all in one, AIO

Lenovo has announced a new all-in-one gaming desktop, and the IdeaCentre Y910 offers up to a 7th-generation 6th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics behind its 27-inch QHD display.

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But this is no ordinary all-in-one, as Lenovo has designed the Y910 to be "effortlessly upgradeable":

"Designed to game, engineered to evolve, the IdeaCentreTM AIO Y910 is easy to upgrade –
no special tools needed. Simply press the Y button to pop out the back panel, for effortless swapping of your GPU, Memory or Storage."

The specs include a 7th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, and if that's not a typo we're talking about Intel Kaby Lake here. Specs have been corrected as 6th-gen Intel Core processors up to an i7. Exactly what SKU might be inside the Y910 isn't clear just yet, and we'll update when we know for sure. It would be limited to 65 W based on the specified cooling, and notice that the CPU isn't on the list of user-upgradable parts (though it could still be possible).

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Here's a rundown of specs from Lenovo:

  • Processor: Up to a 6th-generation Intel Core i7 Processor
  • Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8 GB
  • Memory: Up to 32 GB DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 2 TB HDD + 256 GB SSD
  • Display: 27-inch QHD (2560x1440) near-edgeless
  • Audio: Integrated 7.1 Channel Dolby Audio, 5W Harmon Kardon speakers
  • Webcam: 720p, Single Array Microphone
  • Networking: Killer DoubleShot WiFi / LAN
  • Rear Ports:
    • 2x USB 2.0
    • LAN
    • HDMI-in / HDMI-out
  • Side Ports:
    • 3x USB 3.0
    • 6-in-1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MS, MS-Pro) Headphone, Microphone
  • Cooling: 65 W
  • Dimensions (W x L x H): 237.6 x 615.8 x 490.25 mm (9.35 x 24.24 x 19.3 inches)
  • Weight: Starting at 27 lbs (12.24 kg)

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Update: The IdeaCentre Y910 starts at $1,799.99 for a version with the GTX 1070, and will be available in October.

Source: Lenovo

Lenovo IdeaCentre Y710 Cube: Small Form-Factor Gaming with Desktop Power

Subject: Systems | August 16, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: small form-factor, SFF, nvidia, Lenovo, Killer Networking, Intel, IdeaCentre Y710 Cube, GTX 1080, gaming, gamescom, cube

Lenovo has announced the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube; a small form-factor system designed for gaming regardless of available space, and it can be configured with some very high-end desktop components for serious performance.

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"Ideal for gamers who want to stay competitive no matter where they play, the IdeaCentre Y710 Cube comes with a built-in carry handle for easy transport between gaming stations. Housed sleekly within a new, compact cube form factor, it features NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX graphics and 6th Gen Intel Core processors to handle today’s most resource-intensive releases."

The Y710 Cube offers NVIDIA GeForce graphics up to the GTX 1080, and up to a 6th-generation Core i7 processor. (Though a specific processor number was not mentioned, this is likely the non-K Core i7-6700 CPU given the 65W cooler specified below).

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Lenovo offers a pre-installed XBox One controller receiver with the Y710 Cube to position the small desktop as a console alternative, and the machines are configured with SSD storage and feature Killer Double Shot Pro networking (where the NIC and wireless card are combined for better performance).

Specifications include:

  • Processor: Up to 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home
  • Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080; 8 GB
  • Memory: Up to 32 GB DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 2 TB HDD + 256 GB SSD
  • Cooling: 65 W
  • Networking: Killer LAN / WiFi 10/100/1000M
  • Connectivity:
    • Video: 1x HDMI, 1x VGA
    • Rear Ports: 1x USB 2.0 1x USB 3.0
    • Front Ports: 2x USB 3.0
  • Dimensions (L x D x H): 393.3 x 252.3 x 314.5 mm (15.48 x 9.93 x 12.38 inches)
  • Weight: Starting at 16.3 lbs (7.4 kg)
  • Carry Handle: Yes
  • Accessory: Xbox One Wireless Controller/Receiver (optional)

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The IdeaCentre Y710 Cube is part of Lenovo's Gamescom 2016 annoucement, and will be available for purchase starting in October. Pricing starts at $1,299.99 for a version with the GTX 1070.

Source: Lenovo

MSI Updates Gaming Laptops with NVIDIA Pascal Graphics

Subject: Systems, Mobile | August 16, 2016 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: pascal, nvidia, notebook, msi, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gaming laptop, gaming

MSI has updated their gaming notebook lineup with the new NVIDIA Pascal mobile GPUs, with the GTX 1080, GTX 1070, and GTX 1060 now available across the board. MSI says the new GPUs will provide up to 40% better performance than the company’s previous GT, GS, and GE models.

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“MSI’s GT83/73VR Titan series now showcases an even more commanding design with sports car inspired exhausts and MSI’s Cooler Boost Titan, featuring multiple exhausts and dual whirlwind blade fans to guarantee the best performance even under the most stress.  Available in 3 different sizes and 17 unique configurations, including with SLI graphics, 4K panels and Tobii’s eye-tracking technology, MSI’s GT series is the optimum laptop for serious gamers.”

Positioned at the top of the heap is the mighty Titan series, which naturally offers the highest possible specs for those who can afford the price tag.

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Notice anything about the top-end GT83 model in the chart above? The GT83VR Titan SLI indeed contains not one, but two NVIDIA GTX 1080 graphics chips, making this $5099 gaming machine a monster of a system - though its 1080p screen real estate means a connected VR headset will be more likely to use all of that available GPU power.

Moving down to the GT72/GT62 series, we see a move to the GTX 1070 GPU accross the board:

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Next up is the GS73, which offers (in addition to Pascal graphics) MSI's "Cooler Boost Trinity", which is the company's advanced cooling system for thin notebook designs.

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“MSI’s redesigned GS73/63 VR Stealth Pro series now comes with MSI’s Cooler Boost Trinity, a temperature control system featuring three ultra-thin whirlwind blade fans, and a 5-pipe thermal design optimized for ultra-slim gaming notebooks.  Available in 17-inch, 15-inch, and 14-inch options, MSI’s GS series gives power mobile gaming a new meaning with the performance of larger systems while measuring less than 1-inch thick.”

The more modest GTX 1060 powers the <1 inch thick notebooks in the series, and both the GS73 and GS63 VR Stealth Pro are equipped with 4K resolution IPS screens (with the GS43VR Phantom Pro at 1080p).

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Next we have the VR Apache series, with another approach to cooling called "Cooler Boost 4":

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“MSI’s GE72/62 VR Apache series now features MSI’s Cooler Boost 4 technology, an enhanced cooling system with multiple exhausts to keep temperatures low even during the most headed battles.  Starting at $1,649, the VR-ready GE series comes in two different sizes and is the ideal unit for gaming enthusiast looking for a powerful and reliable unit.”

These lower-cost gaming machines are still equipped with Intel Core i7 processors, and offer GTX 1060 graphics for both models.

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As a very interesting addition to the news of these new laptops, MSI has also announced that select machines equipped with NVIDIA GTX 10 Series graphics will feature 120Hz IPS panels with a 5ms response time.

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We should have more imformation on availability soon.

Source: MSI

Time for fresh system recommendations?

Subject: Systems | August 15, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: system guide

The Tech Report have released their recommended system components for this summer, which you can check out right here.  They have maintained their previous format, offering a choice of several components at the Budget, Sweet Spot and High End levels, wrapping up with example builds.  They recommend holding off on building a budget machine for the nonce, at the time of publishing they recommended the RX 480 4GB but we have now seen the release of cards more suitable for this level of build.  The Sweet Spot is VR Ready and the High End machine remains Broadwell-E, much as with our own Hardware Leaderboard they cannot recommend moving from the reigning champ.

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"In this edition of The Tech Report System Guide, we account for the choices that AMD's Radeon RX 480 and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 afford builders in the under-$300 graphics card market."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems