Microsoft Introduces Surface Studio AiO Desktop PC

Subject: Systems | October 26, 2016 - 04:31 PM |
Tagged: workstation, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, GTX 980M, GTX 965M, desktop, DCI-P3, core i7, core i5, all-in-one, AIO, 4000x3500

Microsoft has announced their first all-in-one PC with the Surface Studio, and it looks like Apple has some serious competition on their hands in the high-end AIO workstation space. Outfitted with the highest resolution display this side of Cupertino, 6th-generation Intel Skylake processors, and discrete NVIDIA graphics, there is plenty of power for most users (though gamers will clearly be looking elsewhere). Make no mistake, this new AIO from Microsoft is not going to replace a standard desktop for most people due to the $2999+ price tag, but for creative professionals and other workstation users it is a compelling option.


"Expanding the Surface family, Surface Studio is a new class of device that transforms from a workstation into a powerful digital canvas, unlocking a more natural and immersive way to create on the thinnest LCD monitor ever built.1 With a stunning ultra-HD 4.5K screen, Surface Studio delivers 63 percent more pixels than a state-of-the-art 4K TV. Surface Studio works beautifully with pen, touch and Surface Dial — a new input device designed for the creative process that lets you use two hands on the screen to compose and create in all new ways."

The star of the show is the 28-inch PixelSense display, which boasts a massive 4500x3000 resolution for a pixel density of 192 ppi, and the taller 3:2 aspect ratio will be welcomed by some users as well. Microsoft is using 10-bit panels for this premium AIO offering, and color reproduction should be outstanding with the Surface Studio thanks to "individually color calibrated" displays. Another advantage for creative customers is the display's multi-touch capability and 1024 pressure-level Surface Pen, which makes this a very nice option for digital artists - especially at 28 inches/192 ppi.


Touchscreen desktops need display placement flexibility to be useful, and here Microsoft has a "zero gravity" hinge to allow for easy movement. The design looks stable thanks to a pair of arms connecting the display to the base, and this lower half is what actually houses the PC components. What's inside? Here's a look at the official specs:

  • Display
    • Screen: 28” PixelSense™ Display
    • Resolution: 4500 x 3000 (192 PPI)
    • Color settings: Adobe sRGB and DCI-P3, individually color calibrated
    • Touch: 10 point multi-touch
    • Aspect Ratio: 3:2
    • Supports Pen enabled and Zero Gravity Hinge
  • Processor: 6th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 or i7
  • Memory: 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB RAM
  • Graphics
    • i5 Intel 8GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory
    • i7 Intel 16GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory
    • i7 Intel 32GB: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5 memory
  • Storage
    • Rapid Hybrid Drive options: 1TB or 2TB
  • Connections & expansions:
    • 4 x USB 3.0 (one high power port)
    • Full-size SD ™ card reader (SDXC) compatible
    • Mini DisplayPort
    • Headset jack
    • Compatible with Surface Dial on-screen interaction*
    • 1 Gigabit Ethernet port  
  • Cameras, video and audio:
    • Windows Hello1 face sign-in camera
    • 5.0 MP camera with 1080p HD video (front)
    • Autofocus camera with 1080p HD video (rear)
    • Dual microphones
    • Stereo 2.1 speakers with Dolby® Audio™ Premium
    • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Wireless:
    • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking, IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible
    • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
    • Xbox Wireless built-in
  • Security:
    • TPM chip for enterprise security
    • Enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello2 face sign-in
  • Warranty: 1-year limited hardware warranty
  • Dimensions/Weight
    • Display: 637.35 mm x 438.90 mm x 12.5 mm (25.1” x 17.3” x 0.5”)
    • Base: 250.00 mm x 220.00 mm x 32.2 mm (9.8” x 8.7” x 1.3”)
    • Product weight: 9.56 kg max (21 lbs max)

The Surface Studio is currently available for pre-order at with prices ranging from $2999 to $4199, depending on configuration.

Source: Microsoft

So you find yourself in need of an AMD board right this moment?

Subject: Motherboards, Systems | October 25, 2016 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: amd, A68N-5200, biostar

Something awful happened and you can no longer wait for Zen to arrive; you need a low cost motherboard and chip ASAP.  Your memory, storage and PSU are all good, you just need something to plug them into and you really don't want to spend a lot upgrading with new silicon just around the corner.  Alternatively, perhaps you have some components lying around and need a system capable of basic tasks and again, you don't want to spend a lot to get it up and running. 

The BioStar A68N-5200 eTeknix just tested might just be what you need, up to 16GB DDR3, a single PCIe 16x slot, a pair of SATA 6.0Gb/s slots, two USB 3.0 slots and four USB 2.0 along with other connectors and an quad-core A6-5200 with HD8400 graphics onboard.  You won't win any benchmarking contests but it is a decent start for $60.


"Despite a lot of the media focus being on Kaby Lake and AMD’s fabled Zen architecture, it’s important to remember that some users require a new motherboard as a matter of urgency and cannot wait for upcoming solutions. Not only that, in low-end scenarios such as a home office system or HTPC, modern processors provide more than enough performance."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:


Source: eTeknix

Planning a Fall refresh for your system?

Subject: Systems | October 14, 2016 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: system build

Drop by The Tech Report for their take on the best system components available to build a system at a variety of price points.  They take you through the components you will need, from the CPU and cooler right up to the version of OS you could choose.  At the end they offer suggestions on entire PC builds if you are not comfortable picking and choosing each component separately, or if you want to compare your dream machine to theirs.

Don't forget we have our own Hardware Leaderboard as well.


"In this edition of the TR System Guide, we examine the effects of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 family and AMD's Radeon RX 460 and RX 470 on the PC-building marketplace."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:


The BRIX Gaming UHD, balancing size and performance

Subject: Systems | September 29, 2016 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, BRIX Gaming UHD

Gigabyte did not have a lot of space to fit components into the BRIX Gaming UHD, let alone cooling, as it is 220x110x110mm in size or 2.6L in volume.  Into this tiny tower you will find an i7-6700HQ with 16GB of dual channel DDR4-2400 and a 512GB Samsung 950 PRO with two M.2 slots for storage expansion, the third is on wireless duty.  Gigabyte chose a 4GB GTX 950 to power the video, not new by any means but able to fulfill gaming duties at 1080p and allows the system to be powered by a 180W power brick.  4k gaming is a bit of a stretch for this but it is impressively designed, check out the benchmarks at Kitguru to see its performance in games.


"Gigabyte’s BRIX line of barebones PCs are typically small and low-powered – at least, when compared with a mini-ITX desktop system, for example. However, the new BRIX Gaming UHD aims to change all of that."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Kitguru

It's not a Proton Pack, it's the MSI VR One backpack PC

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 12, 2016 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: VR One, msi, VR, backpack, htc vive

MSI released some more images of their VR One backpack PC designed to give you more freedom of movement when playing around in VR and to make it easier to cart around to show off to friends and relations.  We know very little about the internals as of yet, it will have an unspecified overclocked CPU and a GTX 10 series graphics card and will weigh 2.2kg empty, 3.6kg with a batteries installed; it ships with two which are hot-swappable.  At 1.5 lbs each, it will be very interesting to see which storage cell technology they used to reach the estimated 1.5 hours of full speed gameplay.  It also ships with an adapter so you can utilize mains power.


The VR One is HTC VIVE optimized though in theory an Oculus should work as the connectivity includes an HDMI port, MiniDP and one ultra-speed Thunderbolt 3 port, aka USB 3.1 Type-C as well as four USB 3.0 ports.   Cooling is provided by two 9cm ultra blade fans and 9 heat pipes which should only produce noise 41dBA which is good as the system will be on your back while you are using it.


Not all the flashing lights on the backpack are for show, LEDs will tell you the status of your battery to let you know when to swap it out.  This can be achieved without shutting the system down, presumably there is a physical switch on the armoured shell of the backpack to allow this feat as it would not accomplish much simply doing it in VR.  You can pop by MSI for more information on the MSI Dragon Center system software and the SHIFT Technology, aka the fan controller.


Source: MSI

Sony Wins PC Crapware Lawsuit

Subject: Systems | September 9, 2016 - 04:36 AM |
Tagged: eu, crapware, sony, Lawsuit

Back in 2008, a customer purchased a laptop from Sony, but refused to accept its end-user license agreement due to its pre-installed software. The customer contacted Sony, demanding to be reimbursed for the junkware. Sony, instead, offered a refund for the PC. The customer, instead of taking the refund, sued Sony for about 3000 Euros.

According to The Register, the EU's highest court has just ruled against the customer.


Honestly, this makes sense. The software was around when they purchased the computer, and Sony offered a refund. Yes, companies should offer crapware-free versions of their laptops, even for a slight fee. If adware-free version existed at all, then there might be an issue, but that would belong with Microsoft (or whoever owns the actual platform). It shouldn't be a burden for the individual system builders, unless collusion was involved.

It's also funny to think that, since the laptop was purchased in 2008, we are probably talking about a Vista-era device. Interesting to think about the difference in speed between the legal system and the tech industry.

Source: The Register

Razer Updates Blade and Blade Stealth Laptops

Subject: Systems | September 3, 2016 - 12:10 AM |
Tagged: razer, blade, blade stealth, kaby lake, pascal

The Razer Blade and the Razer Blade Stealth seem to be quite different in their intended usage. The regular model is slightly more expensive than its sibling, but it includes a quad-core (eight thread) Skylake processor and an NVIDIA GTX 1060. The Stealth model, on the other hand, uses a Kaby Lake (the successor to Skylake) dual-core (four thread) processor, and it uses the Intel HD Graphics 620 iGPU instead of adding a discrete part from AMD or NVIDIA.


The Stealth model weighs about 2.84 lbs, while the regular model is (relatively) much more heavy at 4.1 - 4.3 lbs, depending on the user's choice of screen. The extra weight is likely due in part to the much larger battery, which is needed to power the discrete GPU and last-generation quad-core CPU. Razer claims that the Stealth's 53.6 Wh battery will power the device for 9 hours. They do not seem to make any claims about how long the non-Stealth's 70Wh battery will last. Granted, that would depend on workload anyway.

This is where the interesting choice begins. Both devices are compatible with the Razer Core, which allows externally-attached desktop GPUs to be plugged into Razer laptops. If you look at their website design, the Razer Blade Stealth promotes the Core more prominently, even including a “Buy Now” button for it on the header. They also advertise 100% AdobeRGB color support on the Stealth, which is useful for graphics designers because it can be calibrated to either sRGB (web and video) or print (magazines) color spaces.

To me, the Stealth seems more for a user who wants to bring their laptop to work (or school) on a daily basis, and possibly plug it into a discrete GPU when they get home. Alternatively, the Razer Blade without a suffix is for someone who wants a strong, powerful PC that, while not as fast as a full desktop, is decently portable and even VR ready without external graphics. The higher resolution choices, despite the slower internal graphics, also suggests that the Stealth is more business, while the Blade is more gaming.

Before we go, Razer has also included a license of Fruity Loops Studio 12 Producer Edition. This is a popular piece of software that is used to create music by layering individual instruments and tracks. Even if you license Adobe Creative Cloud, this is one of the areas that, while Audition technically can overlap with, it's really not designed to. Instead, think GarageBand.

The Razer Blade Stealth is available now, from $999.99 (128GB QHD) to $1999.00 (1TB 4K).

The Razer Blade is also available now, from $1799.99 (256GB 1080p) to $2699.99 (1TB QHD+).

Source: Razer

Build Log, in VR!

Subject: Systems | September 1, 2016 - 05:43 PM |
Tagged: system build, htc vive, oculus rift, VR

Over at The Tech Report is a new build log, taking you through the steps of building a VR Ready machine.  The intent is to build a machine capable of giving you very good performance on a Rift or Vive, while leaving you with enough money to purchase said headset and accoutrements.  If money is no object then by all means pick up a couple of Titans or 1080s, but you don't necessarily need to.  As with our guides the components included are to give you a guide as to what you will need, if you have a preferred vendor you can substitute all you desire.


"The arrival of Oculus' Rift and HTC's Vive VR headsets is as good an occasion as any to build a brand-new PC, so we tapped MSI and Corsair to help us assemble a system worthy of those headsets' stiff system requirements. See how it all came together in our build log."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:


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. 


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.


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.


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."


"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."


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.


Full press release after the break.

Source: Lenovo