Subject: Systems | February 10, 2016 - 11:01 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: VR, rift, preorder, Oculus, gaming pc
Oculus has announced an upcoming pre-order date for 'Oculus Ready PCs' from mainstream manufacturers, and these will be bundled with the Rift VR headset (and everything that comes with it).
(Image credit: Oculus)
“Today we’re excited to introduce the first Oculus Ready PCs from ASUS, Alienware, and Dell! These PCs have been battle tested and certified by Oculus to deliver an incredible Rift experience. We’re also thrilled to announce that starting February 16 at 8am Pacific Time, you can pre-order Oculus Ready PC and Rift bundles from Best Buy, Amazon, and theMicrosoft Store, starting at $1499 USD for a limited time only.
All bundles include an Oculus-certified PC and everything that comes with Rift – the headset, sensor, remote, an Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack, and Lucky’s Tale!
Pre-orders for Oculus Ready and Rift bundles will ship in limited quantities to select countries and regions from retail partners starting in April.”
So what kind of gaming system are you getting for $1499? Of the ‘Oculus Ready’ PCs, the baseline specs across the board are an Intel Core i5-6400 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 GPU, along with 8 GB of system memory. This is in keeping with Oculus’ published specifications from last summer: “The recommended PC specification is an NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590, and 8GB RAM."
Including the Rift VR bundle makes the price tag sound a lot nicer for what is otherwise a pretty basic gaming setup, as Rift costs $599 on its own. Still, is it worth $900 for a Core i5/GTX 970 gaming system? Factoring in a Windows license and all parts it's not a terrible value proposition, though most early adopters of this VR tech will likely not be starting completely from scratch.
A quick check on Amazon for the first system bundle listed shows “Currently Unavailable”, as pre-orders begin February 16 at 8:00am PST. You’ll be waiting even longer to have product in hand as the actual release date is April 23.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | February 9, 2016 - 10:16 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Tobii, notebook, msi, laptop, GT72S G Tobii, gaming laptop, g-sync, eye-tracking
MSI has released their GT72S G Tobii gaming notebook (first announced way back at Computex), which features NVIDIA G-Sync and eye-tracking technology that promises a more immersive gameplay experience.
“The world’s most advanced gaming laptop, the GT72S G Tobii with eye-tracking technology immerses gamers into a hands-free dimension by allowing them to switch targets in a game, select objects on the floor or even automatically pause a game by simply focusing or looking away.
Available immediately, MSI’s GT72S G Tobii will be bundled with Tom Clancy’s The Division and currently supports a variety of gaming titles, including Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, ArmA III, Elite Dangerous and more.”
Ryan took a look at the laptop at CES, and the video is imbedded below:
So how does the eye-tracking work?
“By going through a 15-second set-up process, users can securely log into their computers using a personalized glance; highlight, select or delete items with one look; seamlessly zoom and center maps without scrolling; and even sift through Windows, folders and its applications without lifting a finger.”
The notebook boasts some impressive specs, including:
- Tobii Eye Tracking Technology
- 17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS display
- 6th Generation Intel Core i7 6820HK (2.70 GHz)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M with 8 GB GDDR5
- 32 GB Memory
- 256 GB SSD (PCIe Gen3 x4)
- 1 TB HDD
- BD Burner
- Killer Networking
- Dimensions: 16.85" x 11.57" x 2.30"; 8.50 lbs
The GT72S G Tobii retails for $2599.99 and is now available with an exclusive launch at Newegg.com, and the laptop includes a free copy of Tom Clancy: The Division.
Subject: Systems | February 6, 2016 - 11:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: msi, gs72, gaming laptop, laptop
This laptop was announced at CES, but barely. They have now released full specifications, including options, which are actually quite interesting. The 4K panel, in particular, has a color gamut that fully covers AdobeRGB (100%). This means that, if the hardware and software are properly calibrated, it is compatible with the color spaces that both video and print professionals tend to target. The latter is quite difficult, because magazine publishers actually have a large palette. Even the Wacom Cintiq 22HD only covers around 72% AdobeRGB.
Outside of this, the laptop has one processor choice: a Skylake-based Intel Core i7-6700HQ backed with up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM. There are three choices in GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 965M, and 970M. This could be disappointing for those hoping for desktop-class performance, although the 970M is pretty close to a GTX 680. It should handle games like Just Cause 3 and Rainbow Six Siege at around 50-60 FPS in 1080p mode. Basically, you are going to be dropping the 4K resolution down to about 1080p in games, but it's also a laptop and 4K in professional applications is quite nice. It also uses M.2 SSDs with PCIe 3.0 x4 bandwidth that communicates in the NVMe standard. They didn't say which one, or how large, but they claim read speeds of about 2.2GB/s.
They did not state pricing or availability. Its headlining feature is thickness -- just 1.99cm for a 17-inch display. This explains the GPU, but also suggests a premium price.
That Depends on Whether They Need One
Ars Technica UK published an editorial called, Hey Valve: What's the point of Steam OS? The article does not actually pose the question in it's text -- it mostly rants about technical problems with a Zotac review unit -- but the headline is interesting none-the-less.
Here's my view of the situation.
The Death of Media Center May Have Been...
There's two parts to this story, and both center around Windows 8. The first was addressed in an editorial that I wrote last May, titled The Death of Media Center & What Might Have Been. Microsoft wanted to expand the PC platform into the living room. Beyond the obvious support for movies, TV, and DVR, they also pushed PC gaming in a few subtle ways. The Games for Windows certification required games to be launchable by Media Center and support Xbox 360 peripherals, which pressures game developers to make PC games comfortable to play on a couch. They also created Tray and Play, which is an optional feature that allows PC games to be played from the disk while they installed in the background. Back in 2007, before Steam and other digital distribution services really took off, this eliminated install time, which was a major user experience problem with PC gaming (and a major hurdle for TV-connected PCs).
It also had a few nasty implications. Games for Windows Live tried to eliminate modding by requiring all content to be certified (or severely limiting the tools as seen in Halo 2 Vista). Microsoft was scared about the content that users could put into their games, especially since Hot Coffee (despite being locked, first-party content) occurred less than two years earlier. You could also argue that they were attempting to condition PC users to accept paid DLC.
Regardless of whether it would have been positive or negative for the PC industry, the Media Center initiative launched with Windows Vista, which is another way of saying “exploded on the launch pad, leaving no survivors.” Windows 7 cleared the wreckage with a new team, who aimed for the stars with Windows 8. They ignored the potential of the living room PC, preferring devices and services (ie: Xbox) over an ecosystem provided by various OEMs.
If you look at the goals of Steam OS, they align pretty well with the original, Vista-era ambitions. Valve hopes to create a platform that hardware vendors could compete on. Devices, big or small, expensive or cheap, could fill all of the various needs that users have in the living room. Unfortunately, unlike Microsoft, they cannot be (natively) compatible with the catalog of Windows software.
This may seem like Valve is running toward a cliff, but keep reading.
What If Steam OS Competed with Windows Store?
Windows 8 did more than just abandon the vision of Windows Media Center. Driven by the popularity of the iOS App Store, Microsoft saw a way to end the public perception that Windows is hopelessly insecure. With the Windows Store, all software needs to be reviewed and certified by Microsoft. Software based on the Win32 API, which is all software for Windows 7 and earlier, was only allowed within the “Desktop App,” which was a second-class citizen and could be removed at any point.
This potential made the PC software industry collectively crap themselves. Mozilla was particularly freaked out, because Windows Store demanded (at the time) that all web browsers become reskins of Internet Explorer. This means that Firefox would not be able to implement any new Web standards on Windows, because it can only present what Internet Explorer (Trident) draws. Mozilla's mission is to develop a strong, standards-based web browser that forces all others to interoperate or die.
Remember: “This website is best viewed with Internet Explorer”?
Executives from several PC gaming companies, including Valve, Blizzard, and Mojang, spoke out against Windows 8 at the time (along with browser vendors and so forth). Steam OS could be viewed as a fire escape for Valve if Microsoft decided to try its luck and kill, or further deprecate, Win32 support. In the mean time, Windows PCs could stream to it until Linux gained a sufficient catalog of software.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
This is where Steam OS gets interesting. Its software library cannot compete against Windows with its full catalog of Win32 applications, at least not for a long time. On the other hand, if Microsoft continues to support Win32 as a first-class citizen, and they returned to the level of openness with software vendors that they had in the Windows XP era, then Valve doesn't really have a reason to care about Steam OS as anything more than a hobby anyway. Likewise, if doomsday happens and something like Windows RT ends up being the future of Windows, as many feared, then Steam OS wouldn't need to compete against Windows. Its only competition from Microsoft would be Windows Store apps and first-party software.
I would say that Valve might even have a better chance than Microsoft in that case.
Subject: Systems | January 23, 2016 - 02:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, surface, surface pro 4, surface book
The Microsoft Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 launched back in October, and Ryan published a review of them in December. He didn't really make reference to it, but the highest-end model of each were unavailable until a later date. As it turns out, that time is roughly now. I say “roughly” because, while Microsoft has launched the devices, Amazon's landing page doesn't list them, and searching for the product directly shows a price tag of just under $10,000. I assume Amazon hasn't pushed the appropriate buttons yet.
The only real improvement that you will see, versus the second-highest SKU, is a jump in SSD capacity from 512GB to 1TB. This extra storage will cost roughly 1$/GB, but this is also a very fast NVMe SSD. If 512GB was too small, and you were holding out for availability of the 1TB model, then your wait should (basically) be over.
Although, since you waited this long, you might want to hold off a little longer. Microsoft is supposed to be correcting (some say) severe issues with upcoming firmware. You may want to see whether the problems are solved before dropping two-and-a-half to three grand.
Subject: Systems, Storage | January 19, 2016 - 09:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: M.2 SATA, M.2, LIVA, ECS
Back in November, Sebastian reviewed the ECS LIVA X2. While the device always had an M.2 slot, its storage options were soldered eMMC chips with capacities of their 32GB or 64GB. They were also pretty slow, with 150MB/s reads and 40MB/s writes in his testing. To exceed that, you need to install your own M.2-based SSD, which was a bit of a difficult process.
According to Links International, via FanlessTech, we are now seeing options that include M.2 SSDs without eMMC. In this case, they are using an Intel-based, 120GB drive. Its signal is M.2 SATA though, which is slower than M.2 PCIe, but a device with this performance characteristic will probably not care about that extra bump in performance. You probably couldn't do much high-bandwidth data crunching with the Braswell processor, and just about every other way on or off of the device is limited to less than or equal to a gigabit of bandwidth. You might be able to find a use case, but it's unlikely to affect anyone interested in this PC.
The jump from eMMC, on the other hand, might.
Subject: Systems | January 13, 2016 - 02:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, raspberry pi zero, jetson tk1, JetsonTX1
If you are curious how the various ARM powered boards currently on the market compare to each other then the gang over at Phoronix has a real treat for you. They have assembled a plethora of systems including the ODROID C1+, Raspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 2, Orange Pi Plus, Orange Pi PC, Banana Pi M2 as well as the Jetson TK1, and Jetson TX1 for comparison purposes. Most of the systems use a Cortex A7 though you will also see an A5 as well as an A57. The tests are varied as it can be difficult to determine what performance should be benchmarked on these systems although some like the OpenSSL test are obvious. Since part of the reason you would choose a low power ARM system is the price, they wrap up with a performance-per-dollar rating to help you choose the best valued system for what you need it to do.
"For those interested in small, low-power ARM single-board computers, up for your viewing pleasure today are benchmarks of several different boards from the Raspberry Pi Zero to the Banana Pi M2."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- MSI Nightblade MI2 GAMING PC @ techPowerUp
- With Skylake Out, It's Becoming Easier To Build A Cheap Haswell Xeon Linux System @ Phoronix
A true digital equivalent to paper is moving closer to reality with LG’s new flexible OLED display. Still in an early prototype stage, the company had a working flexible display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas last week. Measuring 18” diagonally, the OLED display is able to be rolled up and bent with ease while the display remains on.
LG is hoping its bendable display will be used in future televisions that can be rolled out to a massive size and then easily rolled up and stored in a closet or cabinet out of sight when not being used. Of course, this flexible display will also have uses in smaller products like portable computer monitors and tablets in new form factors.
Image credit: BBC.com
Currently, this flexible OLED is not without its limitations. It can be rolled up or bent, but not folded flat. Further, the model on display at CES was only able to be rolled up in a one specific direction (from the bottom left corner to the top right). LG claimed that while it is possible to roll it up in other directions, it is more complicated due to the way the circuitry is positioned and the display is at greater risk of being damaged.
Speaking of damage, BBC reporter Dave Lee notes that the prototype had several noticeable dead pixels likely resulting from repeated bending and excessive handling of the display. This display, it seems, is rather fragile for a display much less one meant to be regularly manipulated.
Image credit: BBC.com
With that said, this prototype is a promising step towards a viable bendable display. OLED technology is really what is making this possible since the pixels themselves are emitting light and LG does not have to worry about integrating a separate backlight. Final products are still a ways out, and there are definitely more roadblocks and kinks to iron out, but I'm interested in seeing where LG and other manufacturers take this technology!
If you're interested in this display, you can find more photos and a hands-on video on this BBC news article.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | January 9, 2016 - 03:40 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, mini-pc, LIVA One, LIVA, ECS, Core i3-6100T, CES 2016, CES
The newest member of the LIVA family is here, and this time we have a larger footprint but a thinner device with significantly upgraded internals. Teased back in December by ECS, we now have all the details about this new LIVA One.
Powered by an Intel Core i3-6100T, a 35W 2 core/4 thread part that operates at 3.20 GHz, the LIVA One is a big step up from previous versions including the LIVA Core, which used the 4.5W Intel Core M-5Y10c. The new LIVA One also uses M.2 storage and comes with an 80GB Intel SSD in its default configuration, along with 4 GB of DDR3 SoDIMM memory.
Full specifications from ECS (default configuration):
- Processor: Intel Core i3-6100T
- Chipset: H110
- Memory: 4GB SO-DIMM DDR3
- Expansion Slot: 1x SATA; supports 2.5” HDD
- Storage: Intel 80GB M.2 SSD
- Audio: 1x Combo Jack
- 1x Gigabit LAN
- 1x Wireless Combo Card
- 1x USB 3.1 Type-C Port
- 4x USB 3.0 Ports
- Video Output:
- 1x HDMI Port
- 1x D-Sub Port
- 1x DP Port
- Wireless: Intel Wi-Fi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0
- Dimension: 173 x 176 x 33 mm
- Card Reader: MicroSDXC
- Adapter Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 19V / 4.74A
- OS Support:
- Windows 7
- Windows 8.1
- Windows 10
- Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
The LIVA One can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 16 GB of memory, and storage up to 4 TB from the SATA 2.5-inch expansion bay (though no 4 TB drives are yet available at 2.5"). The M.2 storage used for the One's OS drive offers up to 1 GB/s of transfer speeds according to ECS.
ECS says LIVA Core is "one-liter of book size" computer
The LIVA One also offers Intel WiDi, USB 3.1 Type-C, is VESA mountable, and has a native microSDXC reader built in. Pricing and availability was not announced, and the One has yet to appear on Amazon/Newegg.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | January 9, 2016 - 11:12 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: zbox, small form factor, radeon, R9 M365X, i3-6100T Skylake, CES 2016, CES, amd
Zotac had several new ZBOX small form-factor PCs on display at CES, and among these was a new E series system featuring a pairing of an Intel Skylake i3 with an AMD Radeon R9 GPU.
The Radeon in question is the R9 M365X, a discrete mobile part with 640 stream processors, up to 925 MHz core clock, and 2 GB of dedicated 128-bit GDDR5 memory running at up to 1125 MHz (72 GB/s max bandwidth). This is running on a very capable platform powered by a 6th-gen Intel Core i3-6100T, a 35W 2 core/4 thread part running at 3.20 GHz.
Here is a rundown of the specifications:
- Processor: Intel Core i3-6100T (Skylake) dual-core, 3.20 GHz
- Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 M365X with 2 GB GDDR5
- Memory: 2x DDR3L-1600 SoDIMM slots
- Storage: 2.5-inch SATA 6.0 Gbps; M.2 SSD slot
- USB: 2x USB 3.0; USB 3.0 Type-C
- Networking: 2x Gigabit LAN; 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
- Display output: 3x DisplayPort
Good to see a discrete AMD GPU option in one of these small form-factor ZBOX units, as previous E-series models offered only NVIDIA or Intel solutions. Unfortunately no release date or price was announced.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!