Introduction and Specifications
Dell's premium XPS notebook family includes both 15 inch and 13 inch variants, and ship with the latest 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors and all of the latest hardware. But the screens are what will grab your immediate attention; bright, rich, and with the narrowest bezels on any notebook courtesy of Dell's InfinityEdge displays.
Since Ryan’s review of the XPS 13, which is now his daily driver, Dell has added the XPS 15, which is the smallest 15-inch notebook design you will find anywhere. The XPS 13 is already "the smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet", according to Dell, giving their XPS series a significant advantage in the ultrabook market. The secret is in the bezel, or lack thereof, which allows Dell to squeeze these notebooks into much smaller physical dimensions than you might expect given their display sizes.
But you get more than just a compact size with these XPS notebooks, as the overall quality of the machines rivals that of anything else you will find; and may just be the best Windows notebooks you can buy right now. Is this simply bluster? Notebooks, like smartphones, are a personal thing. They need to conform to the user to provide a great experience, and there are obviously many different kinds of users to satisfy. Ultimately, however, Dell has produced what could easily be described as class leaders with these machines.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | July 27, 2016 - 07:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, Nintendo, nintendo nx, tegra, Tegra X1, tegra x2, pascal, maxwell
Okay so there's a few rumors going around, mostly from Eurogamer / DigitalFoundry, that claim the Nintendo NX is going to be powered by an NVIDIA Tegra system on a chip (SoC). DigitalFoundry, specifically, cites multiple sources who claim that their Nintendo NX development kits integrate the Tegra X1 design, as seen in the Google Pixel C. That said, the Nintendo NX release date, March 2017, does provide enough time for them to switch to NVIDIA's upcoming Pascal Tegra design, rumored to be called the Tegra X2, which uses NVIDIA's custom-designed Denver CPU cores.
Preamble aside, here's what I think about the whole situation.
First, the Tegra X1 would be quite a small jump in performance over the WiiU. The WiiU's GPU, “Latte”, has 320 shaders clocked at 550 MHz, and it was based on AMD's TeraScale 1 architecture. Because these stream processors have single-cycle multiply-add for floating point values, you can get its FLOP rating by multiplying 320 shaders, 550,000,000 cycles per second, and 2 operations per clock (one multiply and one add). This yields 352 GFLOPs. The Tegra X1 is rated at 512 GFLOPs, which is just 45% more than the previous generation.
This is a very tiny jump, unless they indeed use Pascal-based graphics. If this is the case, you will likely see a launch selection of games ported from WiiU and a few games that use whatever new feature Nintendo has. One rumor is that the console will be kind-of like the WiiU controller, with detachable controllers. If this is true, it's a bit unclear how this will affect games in a revolutionary way, but we might be missing a key bit of info that ties it all together.
As for the choice of ARM over x86... well. First, this obviously allows Nintendo to choose from a wider selection of manufacturers than AMD, Intel, and VIA, and certainly more than IBM with their previous, Power-based chips. That said, it also jives with Nintendo's interest in the mobile market. They joined The Khronos Group and I'm pretty sure they've said they are interested in Vulkan, which is becoming the high-end graphics API for Android, supported by Google and others. That said, I'm not sure how many engineers exist that specialize in ARM optimization, as most mobile platforms try to abstract this as much as possible, but this could be Nintendo's attempt to settle on a standardized instruction set, and they opted for mobile over PC (versus Sony and especially Microsoft, who want consoles to follow high-end gaming on the desktop).
Why? Well that would just be speculating on speculation about speculation. I'll stop here.
Prefer your GTX 1060 to arrive packaged in a full system? Overclockers UK can do that with the Titan Neutron
Subject: Systems | July 19, 2016 - 06:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gtx 1060, gainward, GTX 1060 Dual, micro ATX, Overclockers UK, Titan Neutron
Gainward chose a confusing name for their new card, the GTX 1060 Dual, which seems to refer to either the two fans or the two slots it occupies; it is not a secret SLI version. The Micro ATX system is built in a Raijintek Styx Classic case with a Core i5-6400, 8GB DDR-4 2400MHz and strangely a hybrid 1TB Seagate 7200rpm drive with and 8GB MLC cache. On the other hand the packaging material includes some Haribo candies. Kitguru tested it out for performance as well as sound, being a Micro ATX system after all and found that for the price of £900 it was not a bad deal at all. Check out the Overclockers UK Titan Neutron if you are on that side of the pond, or keep the specs in mind if you are shopping around over here in North America.
"The exponential evolution of gaming graphics shows no signs of abating. We have already seen a plethora of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 cards (most recently from MSI), our first taste of the more modestly specified GTX 1060 comes installed in a complete system from Overclockers UK, the Titan Neutron Micro-ATX Gaming PC."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- ECS LIVA Core Mini-PC @ techPowerUp
- PC Specialist Hyperion Master @ Kitguru
- Fierce PC eSports Imperial Overlord @ Kitguru
Introduction and Specifications
Lenovo made quite a splash with the introduction of the original X1 Carbon notebook in 2012; with its ultra-thin, ultra-light, and carbon fiber-infused construction, it became the flagship ThinkPad notebook. Fast-forward to late 2013, and the introduction of the ThinkPad Yoga; the business version of the previous year's consumer Yoga 2-in-1. The 360-degree hinge was novel for a business machine at the time, and the ThinkPad Yoga had a lot of promise, though it was far from perfect.
Now we fast-forward again, to the present day. It's 2016, and Lenovo has merged their ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad Yoga together to create the X1 Yoga. This new notebook integrates the company's Yoga design (in appearance this is akin to the recent ThinkPad Yoga 260/460 revision) into the flagship ThinkPad X lineup, and provides what Lenovo is calling "the world's lightest 14-inch business 2-in-1".
Yoga and Carbon Merge
When Lenovo announced the marriage of the X1 Carbon notebook with the ThinkPad Yoga, I took notice. A buyer of the original ThinkPad Yoga S1 (with which I had a love/hate relationship) I wondered if the new X1 version of the business-oriented Yoga convertible would win me over. On paper it checks all the right boxes, and the slim new design looks great. I couldn't wait to get my hands on one for some real-world testing, and to see if my complaints about the original TP Yoga design were still valid.
As one would expect from a notebook carrying Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 branding, this new Yoga is quite slim, and made from lightweight materials. Comparing this new Yoga to the X1 Carbon directly, the most obvious difference is that 360° hinge, which is the hallmark of the Yoga series, and exclusive to those Lenovo designs. This hinge allows the X1 Yoga to be used as a notebook, tablet, or any other imaginable position in between.
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (base configuration, as reviewed)|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-6200U (Skylake)|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 520|
|Screen||14-in 1920x1080 IPS Touch (with digitizer, active pen)|
|Storage||256GB M.2 SSD|
|Camera||720p / Digital Array Microphone|
|Wireless||Intel 8260 802.11ac + BT 4.1 (Dual Band, 2x2)|
3x USB 3.0
Audio combo jack
|Dimensions||333mm x 229 mm x 16.8mm (13.11" x 9.01" x 0.66")
2.8 lbs. (1270 g)
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
|Price||$1349 - Amazon.com|
Subject: Systems | June 13, 2016 - 04:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nuc, Intel, NUC6i5SYK, Skylake
The new NUC6i5SYK may look like the previous generations but the innards represent a huge step forward. At the base is a Skylake Core i5-6260U which brings with it support for DDR4 and more importantly NVMe SSDs. Connectivity includes Ethernet, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi, miniDP 1.2 and proper HDMI CEC 1.4b output. The barebones kit will run $380USD, not bad for this type of design. Missing Remote put the new NUC through its paces; check out the results here.
"Updated with an Intel Core i5-6260U with Intel Iris Graphics 540, support for NVMe SSD, and DDR4, the system has the opportunity to fix the shortcomings in the previous generation (cough, CSH). The sleek looks and features will not be as much of a bargain as the plug-in-and-go Intel Pentium based NUC5PGYH. Intel is asking $380/£335 for the barebones kit, but with quite a bit more performance, better networking, and features on tap, it could well be worth the extra dosh."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- PC Specialist LS-M02 Custom Watercooled System @ Kitguru
- PC Specialist Liquid Series LS-E01 Gaming PC @ eTeknix
- MSI Vortex G65 6QF Gaming PC @ eTeknix
- Overclockers UK 8Pack Asteroid System @ Kitguru
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | June 4, 2016 - 05:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: gaming keyboard
Wooting, a start-up that is currently running an already-funded Kickstarter, is looking to produce a keyboard with analog inputs. This is not exactly an entirely-new concept. Ben Heck created one back in 2012 by modifying the WASD cluster to include Hall Effect sensors, which were attached to the guts of an Xbox 360 controller to signal thumbstick offsets. The further you press the key, the more intense of an input would be sent to the PC.
The Wooting One, which, again, is a Kickstarter campaign, does it a bit more... professionally. The keyboard uses the “Flaretech” switch, which I've never heard of before now, from Taiwanese manufacturer Adomax. Unlike Ben Heck's Hall Effect sensors, this one measures offset with light sensing. This raises a petty, pedantic argument about whether it's technically a mechanical keyboard, since the activation isn't performed by a direct, mechanical process, but users typically equate “mechanical keyboard” with its quality and feel, which could be achieved with non-mechanical processes. Semantics aside, the light-sensing mechanism allows precise measurement of how far down the key is. From there, it's just a matter of mapping that distance to an input.
This is where the Wooting One looks quite interesting. The firmware and driver will communicate under XInput and apparently other Gamepad APIs, functioning under most games that allow simultaneous gamepad + keyboard input for a single player. They are also expecting to create an open-source system, with an API, that allows games to access the analog input of apparently all keys on the board. This is interesting, because XInput has fairly restrictive limitations of about six axises of analog input (although the two axises corresponding to the triggers are lower precision and, with the Xbox One controller, joined into a single axis). A new API can circumvent all of this for gaming going forward, and it will be required for analog keyboards to get off the ground. It's not a difficult task itself, as there is quite a bit of bandwidth in external IO connections these days, but getting and entire industry's worth of vendors to agree could be a task (unless you're, like, Microsoft). Hopefully it's open, with a permissive license, and a few, big-name engine vendors add support to push it forward.
And, let's be honest -- XInput is limiting. A new API could be good for obscure gamepads, too.
Outside of analog gaming, they are also milking this “know how far down the key is” feature as much as they can. For instance, they are also allowing users to choose the activation distance in digital mode. Users can set their balance between rejecting partial presses and speed of input based on their ability to touch type.
It's a European Kickstarter, and the lowest backer tier that includes the keyboard ships in November and is worth 100 Euro, ~$115 USD. which apparently includes tax and shipping for North America and Europe. That doesn't correlate to a retail price, if the product even gets off the ground, but it's a data point however reliable. Tax-in and free shipping sounds a bit... sketchy for a crowdfunding campaign... but that could just be a sign that they're more affiliated with an existing company (and its supply chain) than they're letting on, rather than business naivety.
Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2016 - 04:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, gaming desktop, computex 2016, aegis x, aegis
MSI has released more information about their new non-backpack model systems, the Aegis Gaming Desktops. There will be two models, the basic with a B150 motherboard, a Silent Storm 2 air cooling system and support for Intel CPUs of up to 65W TDP. The Aegis X will sport a Z170 motherboard and Silent Storm 2 Pro watercooling, with support for up to 95W TDP processors such as the 6700K.
Both support M.2 SSDs along with 2.5/3.5" drives and sport a USB 3.1 Type-C connector, although only the Aegis X has the second generation port. The two systems support both wired, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, the base model uses Intel and Realtek while the X uses a Killer product for both wired and wireless. With base prices of $400 and $500 respectively you get a decent deal for a motherboard, a 600W 80 PLUS Gold PSU and a decent looking case with some impressive features.
The Aegis X also comes with one touch overclocking, aka the Dragon OC button which boost speeds by 15%. MSI's Mystic Light LED system is on both systems, the second most popular thing at this year's Computex is the ability to offer 16 million different colours with different modes and patterns.
The Aegis X features the most popular feature at the conference, it is VR Ready. In this particular case, since both are bare bones products is that there is a front mounted HDMI and USB 3.1 support. This feature is handy for those of us with head mounted displays but it is quickly approaching the point where toasters and Josh's favourite wand will be advertised as VR Ready.
Click to read through the original PR.
Subject: Motherboards, Systems | June 1, 2016 - 01:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Z170, X99, Ultra Gaming, Intel H170, gigabyte, designare, brix
Gigabyte is showing off new X99, B150 and Z170 motherboards, the Ultra Gaming series and the Designare series which they describe as being optimized for content creators, designers, and artists. The Ultra Gaming series will add Ambient Surround LEDs, found on the motherboard and Pinstripe Headers so that you can have a lightshow while you game.
Also new is Hybrid Fan Control which will allows the motherboard headers to support Voltage Calibration and Pulse Width Modulation fans and pumps. M.2 and U.2 support is of course also added to the new boards. The new boards include the GA-X99-Ultra Gaming, GA-X99-Phoenix SLI, GA-Z170X-Ultra Gaming, GA-Z170-UD3 Ultra and GA-B150-Gaming TH.
The Designare series is a bit different, with a focus on storage speed. USB 3.1 ports offer quick transfer speeds for your external storage and support for three NVMe drives in RAID-0 ensure that the speed of your internal storage does not slow your creative flow down. This series features the GA-X99-Designare EX, GA-Z170X-Designare and GA-H170-Designare.
They also offered a teaser as to their new BRIX lineup. The BRIX Gaming UHD will be tiny, less than 2.6L and less than 2kg but will support Core i5 and i7 processors. As we well there will be a new GIGABYTE PC which will be slightly larger at about 10L and will support full sized graphics cards.
Click for the full press release.
Subject: Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 12:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ECS, leet gaming, liva pro, Z170-LIGHTSABER, computex 2016
It must have been quite a fight for ECS to be able to call their new motherboard the Z170-LIGHTSABER but that is exactly what they have done. The motherboard features the usual lineup of Z170 features, three 16x PCIe 3.0 slots with an additional 1x, 7.1 sound from an onboard ALC1150 codec and an OPAMP, a pair of USB 3.1 ports along with over a dozen legacy USB ports and support for an M.2 drive. In addtion higher end Nichicon caps were used, there is an E2400 Killer NIC onboard and seven colour LEDs to make it shine. They also discuss a brand new USB power supply for use with devices that draw a lot of power, it will be interesting to see if this has the impact on VR devices they imply.
They have also announced the new LIVA Pro based on the new SFX motherboard standard. The brochure has a good example of what this new form factor is and how it compares to others.
The LIVA Pro will support any 6th generation Skylake Intel processor with a TDP of 65W or less and a pair DDR4 SO-DIMMs of up to 32GB. Internal storage is handled by an M.2 drive and the 1.3L case has an external 2.5" drive dock built into it for additional storage. For external interfaces you have a USB 3.0 Type C port, three USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0, HDMI and DisplayPort. There is a second M.2 port which is populated by a WiFi/Bluetooth combo card.
Click on through to read the PR.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Systems, Shows and Expos | May 30, 2016 - 08:04 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: crazy people, concept, computex 2016, computex, avalon, asus
If you expected Computex to be bland and stale this year, ASUS has something that is going to change your mind. During the company's Republic of Gamers press conference, it revealed a concept PC design it has been working on dubbed Avalon. The goal of this project was to improve on the fundamental design of the PC; something that hasn't changed for decades. ASUS wanted to show that you could build a platform that would allow DIY machines to be "more modular, easier to build, and more tightly integrated."
The result is a proof of concept design that looks more like a high end turntable than a PC. In reality, you are looking at a machine that has been totally redesigned, from the power supply to motherboard and case integration to cooling considerations and more. ASUS has posted a great story that goes into a lot of detail on Avalon, and it's clear this is a project the team has been working on for some time.
The brainchild of Jonathan Chu, the Avalon concept takes a notebook-like approach to desktop design. The motherboard is designed in conjunction with the chassis to enable more seamless cooperation between the two.
The first example of changes to Avalon is something as simple as the front panel connectors on a case. Connecting them to your motherboard is the same today, basically, as it has ever been. But if you are the manufacturer or designer of both the chassis and the motherboard itself, it is trivial to have the buttons, lights and even additional capabilities built into a specific location on the PCB that matches with access points on the case.
Re-thinking the rear IO panel was another target: making it modular and connected to the system via PCI Express means you can swap connectivity options based on the user's needs. Multiple Gigabit NICs a requirement? Done. Maximum USB capability? Sure. Even better, by making the back panel IO a connected device, it can host storage and sound controllers on its own, allowing for improved audio solutions and flexible data configurations.
ASUS even worked in a prototype power supply that is based on the SFX form factor but that uses a server-style edge connector, removing wires from the equation. It then becomes the motherboard's responsibility to distribute power through the other components; which again is easy to work through if you are designing these things in tandem. Installing or swapping a power supply becomes as simple as pulling out a drive tray.
This is all made possible by an internal structure that looks like this:
Rethinking how a motherboard is built, how it connects to the outside world and to other components, means that ASUS was able to adjust and change just about everything. The only area that remains the same is for the discrete graphics card. These tend to draw too much power to use any kind of edge connector (though the ASUS story linked above says they are working on a solution) and thus you see short run cables from a break out on the motherboard to the standard ROG graphics card.
The ASUS EdgeUp story has some more images and details and I would encourage you to check it out if you find this topic compelling; I know I do. There are no prices, no release dates, no plans for sampling yet. ASUS has built a prototype that is "right on the edge of what’s possible" and they are looking for feedback from the community to see what direction they should go next.
Will the DIY PC in 2020 be a completely different thing than we build today? It seems ASUS is asking the same question.