ASUS Launches the Tinker Board in North America

Subject: Systems | April 19, 2017 - 08:26 PM |
Tagged: tinker board, iot, asus

The ASUS Tinker Board is a full system in a tiny form factor, similar to Raspberry Pi or Arduino's products to name a few competitors in the now busy market.  At its heart is the Rockchip RK3288, four ARM Cortex-A17 CPU cores running at 1.8GHz with a Mali-T764 GPU at 600MHz.  They are available now for slightly more than the announced $54.99 and will run a Debian based OS called ASUS TinkerOS.

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Inside are an array of options for add-ins, including a 40-pin GPIO header, a 15-pin MIPI DSI and a15-pin MIPI CSI as well as a2-pin contact point for PWM or S/PDIF signals.  Externally you will have four USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI and a 3.5mm audio jack to give you flexibility in how you utilize your Tinker Board.  For connectivity there is a wired NIC as well as 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.  You can read the full PR below.

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Fremont, CA (April 19, 2017) -- ASUS, maker of the world’s best-selling, most award-winning motherboards, is excited to launch the ASUS Tinker Board in North America today. Imagine the freedom to make your ideas come alive, the ability to invent an IoT device for a connected home or just having fun creating an entertainment hub for the family or powering your DIY robot project at school. With Tinker Board, the possibilities to create personalized devices are endless. Tinker Board is a single-board computer (SBC), which makes it the ideal foundation for makers, hobbyists, educators, and electronic DIY enthusiasts to develop and build low-cost, great-performing computers.

Features & Functionality
ASUS Tinker Board offers class-leading performance, robust multimedia support, IoT connectivity, and enhanced DIY design and compatibility with a wide range of leading SBC chassis and accessories. The result is a near credit card sized computer that offers people the freedom to tinker and apply their ingenuity to create platforms for a wide variety of uses.

Key features of Tinker Board include:

  • CPU: 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288 SoC quad-core processor
  • GPU: Mali-T764 GPU Video:
  • HD/UHD video playback support – including H.264/H.265 decoding Audio: 192kHz/24-bit audio support
  • Memory: 2GB of dual-channel LPDDR3
  • Storage: Micro SD(TF) slot features SD 3.0 support
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth° 4.0 + EDR and on-board 802.11b/g/n WiFi
  • Networking: 1Gb Ethernet
  • Ports: (4) USB2.0 ports, (1) HDMI 1.4 out port, (1) 3.5mm audio jack
  • I/O Ports: (1) 40-pin GPIO interface header, (1) 15-pin MIPI DSI, (1) 15-pin MIPI CSI, (1) 2-pin contact point for PWM and S/PDIF signals
  • Power: Suggested 5V/2A AC adaptor via the micro-USB port (power adaptor not included)
  • OS: (Debian-based Linux) & Android Support
  • Dimensions/Weight: 85.60mm x 56mm x 21mm, 45g without included heatsink
Source: ASUS

Lenovo Announces the Flex 11 Chromebook

Subject: Systems, Mobile | April 19, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: notebook, Lenovo, laptop, Flex 11, convertible, Chromebook, 2-in-1

Lenovo’s Flex 11 is a 2-in-1 convertible notebook design powered by a 2.1 GHz quad-core ARM processor and running Google’s Chrome OS. It features an 11.6-inch IPS multi-touch HD display, up to 10-hour battery life, and a weight under 3 lbs.

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"Packing the fun of a tablet with the power punch of a PC, and designed with Android apps in mind, the Flex 11 is a 2-in-1 laptop optimized for entertainment and productivity. Its 360° hinge and 11.6" multi-touch display gives users the flexibility to shift between four dynamic modes (watch, tent, laptop, and tablet) for any combination of work and play activities."

Lenovo says the Flex 11's hardware is designed to be rugged, with drop and liquid spill resistance including a water-resistant keyboard (up to 1 cup) with “channels beneath the keyboard to drain liquid, keeping it away from sensitive electrical components”. In addition to Chrome apps the Flex 11 will support the Google Play store (Lenovo says this is "coming soon").

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I/O includes USB 3.0, USB Type-C, HDMI, a mic/audio jack, and an SD card slot. As to pricing/availability, the Flex 11 Chromebook starts at $279 and will be available this month.

Source: Lenovo

Spring has sprung, the system guide is riz

Subject: Systems | April 13, 2017 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: system guide

Sebastian posted a systems guide to inspire you this spring and the HWLB is slowly getting a refresh but we are not the only ones who are twitterpated.  The Tech Report also published a brand new System Guide, timed to include Ryzen in their picks.  As is their habit, they've broken the recommendations int Budget, Sweet Spot and High end systems, with a couple of bonus system builds at the end of the article.  Get some great ideas for your next system right here.

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"AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs and Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card have arrived, and that means it's time for a new edition of The Tech Report's System Guide. Join us as we explore how to build the best PCs with these shiny new components."

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Never mind the Bulldog! Here's the One from Corsair

Subject: Systems | March 23, 2017 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: corsair, CORSAIR ONE, CORSAIR ONE PRO, core i7 7700k

Today Corsair announce a family of new pre-built systems, the Corsair One series.  Two of the systems will be available for purchase at your favourite retailers and two will be exclusive to Corsair's web store. 

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All models have aluminium cases and an an integrated liquid-cooling system for both the i7-7700k as well as the GPU, be it a GTX 1070, 1080 or 1080Ti.  All systems are built on a custom MSI Z270 Mini-ITX motherboard, a Corsair FORCE LE SSD with a HDD for extra storage, 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR4-2400 and an 80 PLUS GOLD rated SFX PSU.

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They will hit stores later this March and will come with a two year warranty which includes dedicated technical support, 24 Hour Phone support and an included suite of self-diagnostic tools.  You can read the full PR below the fold.

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Source: Corsair

Eurocom's Sky X9E3 Is a Fully Upgradable Gaming Laptop

Subject: Systems, Mobile | March 17, 2017 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: Sky X9E3, nvidia, notebook, MXM, modular, laptop, Intel Core i7, geforce, gaming, eurocom

Fancy a desktop processor in your laptop? How about dual MXM graphics card slots? While such a machine is likely not as 'portable' as the laptop designation would make it seem, it is interesting to see a notebook product built specifically for upgradability, and that is exactly what Eurocom has done with the Sky X9E3.

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"The Sky X9E3 is an SLI Ready and VR capable super high-performance supercomputer laptop. With an upgradeable desktop CPU and two upgradeable desktop GPUs cooled with high-quality copper heatsinks and IC Diamond thermal paste, and controlled by an unlocked system BIOS for the ultimate in overclocking capability."

One of the things detractors of gaming laptops will point out is the limited lifespan of a product that is often far more expensive than a high-end gaming desktop. Granted, gaming laptops generally do not follow the soldered memory trend from thin-and-light machines, allowing users to swap SODIMMs for more memory down the road, and storage is generally upgradable as well. But what about the most expensive parts of a laptop, namely CPU and (even more expensive) GPU? The use of desktop CPUs in the X9E3 is novel, and translates to ready availability for future upgrades; but MXM graphics is still a very expensive route, though I have ended up at Eurocom's website when researching MXM GPU upgrades in the past, so they are at least readily available.

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What are the specifications? Eurocom sells the machine configured to order, and lists basic specs as follows:

  • Chipset: Intel Z270 Express (Kaby Lake)
  • Processor: socketed desktop LGA1151 CPU, up to Intel i7 7700K
  • Memory: up to 64GB; DDR4-2400/2666/3000/3200; 4 RAM Sockets
  • VGA Technology: NVIDIA Pascal GeForce GTX 1080 8GB DDR5X and GeForce GTX 1070 8GB DDR5; single or Dual SLI; two MXM 3.0 slots; up to 190W per slot
  • Display Technology: supports total of 4 displays including LCD via 2x DP 1.3, 1x HDMI 2.0 and 1x HDMI 2.0 or DP1.2 (via USB 3.1 type C port); Nvidia Surround View
  • Storage: up to 14TB or storage with 5 drives; 2x HDD/SSD (SATA3) + 3x M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4/SATA3; RAID 0/1/5; supports NVMe SSDs
  • Communications: two 1GbE Killer E2400 RJ45 ports + M.2 WLAN/Bluetooth; Killer DoubleShot X3
  • Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows: 10, 8.1 and 7
  • Card Reader: 6-in-1 MMC/RSMMC/SD/miniSD/SDHC/SDXC up to UHS-II
  • Keyboard: Illuminated, backlit with customizable 7-colours
  • Security: TPM 2.0, Fingerprint and Kensington Lock
  • Audio System: Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5; external 7.1CH audio output; headphone out, microphone in, S/PDIF and Line-in port; two built-in FOSTER Speakers (2W)+ Subwoofer (2.5W)
  • Ports: 2x USB 3.1 type C (HDMI 2.0/DP 1.3/Thunderbolt 3); 2x miniDP 1.3; 1x HDMI 2.0; 5x USB 3.0 (1x Powered USB AC/DC); S/PDIF; Headphone; Mic; Line-in; 2x RJ45 (LAN)
  • Weight and dimensions: 5.5kg / 12.1lbs; WxDxH 428x308x47.2mm / 17.12x12.32x1.88-inch

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Pricing begins at $2499, which makes this a hefty proposition at the outset. But for someone looking for desktop experience in a notebook, and wants the ability to purchase faster CPUs and GPUs down the road, it may be worth it.

Source: Eurocom

EVGA Announces SC17 1070 4K G-SYNC Laptop

Subject: Systems | March 17, 2017 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: evga, g-sync, gtx 1070, laptop

The updated EVGA SC17 laptop, announced on Thursday, is headlined by a 17.3-inch, 4K, IPS panel with NVIDIA G-SYNC. The panel will have a 60 Hz refresh rate, so, while games will be able to cleanly dip below the 60 FPS threshold via G-SYNC, you will not have the smooth mouse movement in productivity applications like you would on a 100+ FPS monitor. Speaking of productivity, the color gamut (coverage of sRGB and Adobe RGB) is also unlisted.

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But, for our many readers that are interested in performance, EVGA has made this beefy.

Again, this is a 17.3-inch laptop, so don’t expect it to be ultra-portable by today’s standards. Weighing in at about 9 lbs, this desktop replacement is based around an unlocked Intel Core i7-6820HK processor with an NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card. While the CPU is a little over a year old, based on Skylake, it has four cores (eight threads) that can boost up to 3.6 GHz. Being that I’m running a Core i7-4790k on my production machine, this level of performance is pretty good. It even contains 32 GB of RAM.

If you're a multi-monitor type of person, it also has three display outputs: 1x HDMI 2.0b and 2x Mini DisplayPort (unclear which version level).

The EVGA SC17 1070 with NVIDIA G-SYNC is available now for $2799.99, although there’s currently a $250-off instant rebate (~$2550 USD).

Source: EVGA

MSI's Trident 3 ballistic mini-system

Subject: Systems | March 10, 2017 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: msi, Trident 3, kaby lake, i7-7700, gtx 1060

MSI's Trident 3 is much smaller than an Ohio class submarine, measuring roughly the same size as a PS4 Pro, albeit with a very different look.  Inside you will find a Kaby Lake i7-7700, 16GB of DDR4-2400 and a GTX 1060 with storage consisting of a 256GB Kingston M.2 SATA SSD and a 1TB Hitachi Travelstar.  It does lack USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt as the USB Type-C port you see is USB 3.0, it is also worth mentioning the front HDMI port will not function without the included HDMI passthrough connected on the back.  The Tech Report tested it against a similar machine, the Zotac Magnus EN1070 which features a much more powerful mobile GTX 1070.  On the other hand the $1300 Trident 3 comes ready to play, whereas the Zotac lacks a Windows license, storage and memory so even though it sells at $100 less than the MSI system, it may cost you more in the long run.

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"MSI's Trident 3 compact PC houses a desktop Core i7-7700 CPU and a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB graphics card in a case no larger than many of today's consoles. We put that tantalizing combo to the test to see whether MSI has achieved small-form-factor gaming nirvana."

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NVIDIA, Microsoft, Ingrasys (Foxconn) Announce HGX-1

Subject: Systems | March 9, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, microsoft, hgx-1, GP100, dgx-1

When NVIDIA announced the Pascal architecture at last year’s GTC, they started with the GP100 architecture that was to be initially available in their $129,000 DGX-1 PC. In fact, this device contained eight of those “Big Pascal” GPUs that are connected together by their NVLink interconnection.

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Now, almost a full year later, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Ingrasys have announced the HGX-1 system. It, too, will contain eight GP100 GPUs through eight Tesla P100 accelerators. On the CPU side of things, Microsoft is planning on utilizing the next generation of x86 processors, Intel Skylake (which we assume means Skylake-X) and AMD Naples in these "Project Olympus" servers. Future versions could also integrate Intel FPGAs for an extra level of acceleration. ARM64 is another goal of theirs, but in the more distant future.

At the same time, NVIDIA has also announced, through a single-paragraph statement, that they are joining the Open Compute Project. This organization contains several massive players in the data center market, spanning from Facebook to Rackspace to Bank of America.

Whenever it arrives, the HGX-1 will be intended for cloud-based AI computations. Four of these machines are designed to be clustered together at high bandwidth, which I estimate would have north of 160 TeraFLOPs of double-precision (FP64) or 670 TeraFLOPs of half-precision (FP16) performance in the GPUs alone, depending on final clocks.

Source: NVIDIA

ARMing the Cloud; Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 Platform will power Microsoft Azure instances

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 8, 2017 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, OCP, microsoft, falkor, centriq 2400, azure, arm, 10nm

Last December Qualcomm announced plans to launch their Centriq 2400 series of platforms for data centres, demonstrating Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux as well as a Java demo.  They announced a 48 Core design based on ARM v8 and fabbed with on Samsung's 10nm process, which will compete against Intel's current offerings for the server room.

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Today marks the official release of the Qualcomm Falkor CPU and Centriq 2400 series of products, as well as the existence of a partnership with Microsoft which may see these products offered to Azure customers.  Microsoft has successfully configured a version of Windows Server to run on these new chips, which is rather big news for customers looking for low powered hosting solutions running a familiar OS.  The Centriq 2400 family is compliant with Microsoft's Project Olympus architecture, used by the Open Compute Project Foundation to offer standardized building blocks upon which you can design a data centre from scratch or use as an expansion plan.

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Enough of the background, we are here for the specifications of the new platform and what can be loaded onto a Centriq 2400.  The reference motherboard supports SOCs of up to 48 cores, with both single and dual socket designs announced.  Each SOC can support up to six channels of DDR4 in either single or dual channel configurations with a maximum of 768GB installed.  Falkor will offer 32 lanes of PCIe 3.0, eight SATA ports and a GbE ethernet port as well as USB and a standard 50Gb/s NIC.  NVMe is supported, one design offers 20 NVMe drives with a PCIe 16x slot but you can design the platform to match your requirements.  Unfortunately they did not discuss performance during their call, nor any suggested usage scenarios.  We expect to hear more about that during the 2017 Open Compute Platform US Summit, which starts today.

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The submission of the design to Open Compute Project ensures a focus on compatibility and modularity and allows a wide variety of designs to be requested and networked together.  If you have a need for HPC performance you can request a board with an HPC GPU such as a FirePro or Tesla, or even drop in your own optimized FPGA.  Instead of opting for an impressive but expensive NVME storage solution, you can modify the design to accommodate 16 SATA HDDs for affordable storage.

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Qualcomm have already announced Windows 10 support on their Snapdragon, but the fact that Microsoft are internally running Windows Server on an ARM v8 based processor is much more impressive.  Intel and AMD have long held reign in the server room and have rightfully shrugged of the many times in which companies have announced ARM based servers which will offer more power efficient alternatives.  Intel have made huge advances at creating low power chips for the server room; AMD's recently announced Naples shows their intentions to hold their market share as well.

If the submission to the OPC succeeds then we may see the first mainstream ARM based servers appear on the market.  Even if the Windows Server instances remain internal to Microsoft, the Centriq series will support Red Hat, CentOS, Canonical and Ubuntu as well as both GCC and LLVM compilers. 

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(click to seriously embiggen)

ARM may finally have reached the server market after all these years and it will be interesting to see how they fare.  AMD and Intel have both had to vastly reduce the power consumption of their chips and embrace a diametrically opposite design philosophy; instead of a small number of powerful chips, servers of the future will consist of arrays of less powerful chips working in tandem.  ARM has had to do the opposite, they are the uncontested rulers of low powered chips but have had to change their designs to increase the processing capabilities of their chips in order to produce an effective product for the server room.  

Could Qualcomm successful enter the server room; or will their ARMs not have the necessary reach?

Source: Qualcomm

GamersNexus Tears Down a Nintendo Switch

Subject: Systems, Mobile | March 4, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, teardown, switch, nvidia, Nintendo

Here at PC Perspective, videos of Ryan and Ken dismantling consoles on their launch date were some of our most popular... ever. While we didn’t do one for the Nintendo Switch, GamersNexus did, and I’m guessing that a segment of our audience would be interested in seeing what the device looks like when dismantled.

Credit: GamersNexus

As he encounters many chips, he mentions what, if anything, is special about them based on their part numbers. For instance, the NVIDIA SoC is listed as A2, which is apparently different from previous Maxwell-based Tegra X1 SoCs, but it’s unclear how. From my perspective, I can think of three possibilities: NVIDIA made some customizations (albeit still on the Maxwell architecture) for Nintendo, NVIDIA had two revisions for their own purposes and Nintendo bought the A2, or the A2 shipped with NVIDIA's Maxwell-based Shield and my Google-fu is terrible.

Regardless, if you’re interested, it should be an interesting twenty-or-so minutes.

Source: GamersNexus