Wednesday, March 1st 2017

Today's Reviews

Accessories
Cases
Cooling
Game Controllers
Gaming PC
Graphics Cards
Keyboards
Motherboards
NAS
Notebooks
Storage

NVIDIA Working on a Major DirectX 12 Focused Driver Update

NVIDIA is reportedly working on a major driver update that improves performance across the board on games that take advantage of DirectX 12. The company is working with major game studios to improve DirectX 12 performance by up to 16 percent on recent AAA titles, such as "Gears of War 4," "Hitman" (2016), "Rise of the Tomb Raider" and "Tom Clancy's The Division." Even "Ashes of the Singularity" is getting a performance improvement.

At its GeForce GTX 1080 Ti launch event, NVIDIA revealed that its "Pascal" and "Maxwell" GPU architectures are capable of tile-based rendering, a feature that significantly improves video memory bandwidth utilization, leaving open the possibility that the company will enable the feature on other GeForce GTX 900 series and 10-series GPUs, through driver updates. With the GTX 1080 Ti going on sale later this month, one can expect NVIDIA to release new drivers. It remains to be seen if Tiled Rendering is delivered to all compatible GPUs.

Source: OC3D

Gainward Intros the GeForce GTX 1060 IceSoul 6GB Liquid Cooled Graphics Card

Gainward introduced the GeForce GTX 1060 IceSoul graphics card, prepped out of the box for DIY liquid-cooling, with a factory-fitted full-coverage water block. This nickel-plated copper block with its clear acrylic top features LED mounts. The block is mated to a custom-design PCB that draws power from a combination of 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connectors, and employs a strong 8-phase VRM to drive out of the box clocks of 1620 MHz core, and 1847 MHz GPU Boost (vs. 1506/1709 MHz reference), with an untouched 8.00 GHz (GDDR5-effective) memory. This is the 6 GB variant of the GTX 1060, with 1,280 CUDA cores. The card features dual-BIOS, with a push-type toggle at the rear I/O. Outputs include three DisplayPort 1.4, and one each of HDMI 2.0b and DVI. Launched in the mainland Chinese market, the card is priced at RMB ¥2,399.

Source: Expreview

Whatever Happened to the GTX 980 Ti to GTX 1080 Ti Step-up Programme

Just before Holiday 2016 (December), we were intrigued by a curious line in a LinkedIn job-posting, which at the time confirmed that NVIDIA is working on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and more importantly, that existing users of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti would have a priority in a pre-order queue, or a "Step Up Offer." A step-up offer is that in which GTX 980 Ti users would have the ability to trade-in their GTX 980 Ti cards for new GTX 1080 Ti cards, at a price significantly lower than buying a brand-new GTX 1080 Ti card. From the looks of it, there is no sign of such an offer.

The other, more scary detail about the GTX 1080 Ti, which was doing rounds at the time, was its fabled $999 price-tag, with fears of NVIDIA price-gouging with the new card so as to not cannibalize inventory of premium GTX 1080 cards in stock, some of which are still priced over the $700 mark. Alas, the GTX 1080 Ti launched at $699, a price we're sure NVIDIA partners with unsold super-premium GTX 1080 cards won't take kindly, and the GTX 1080 got its price cut to $499. NVIDIA is taking no chances with its market preparation for AMD's next-generation Radeon RX Vega.

EK Water Blocks Announces GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Compatibility

EK Water Blocks, the world renowned premium liquid cooling manufacturer, is pleased to announce that the existing EK-FC Titan X Pascal series water blocks are compatible with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, NVIDIA's new flagship gaming GPU. In order to simplify the search for suitable and compatible water block EK has already added NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card to EK Cooling Configurator database.

These water blocks are made in Slovenia, Europe and are available for purchase through EK Webshop. Aesthetic retention backplates, which also cool the backside (memory IC and VRM) of the circuit board, are also available.

QNAP Announces the Robust TS-1685 16-bay Tower NAS

QNAP Systems, Inc. today announced the new business-class TS-1685 desktop 16-bay Xeon D Super NAS that supports twelve 3.5" hard drives and four 2.5" SSDs, provides six M.2 SSD slots, and features a powerful Intel Xeon D processor to deliver outstanding performance with high-capacity storage. Designed to optimize enterprise IT infrastructure, the TS-1685 comes with three PCIe slots that support 10GbE/40GbE NIC, PCIe NVMe SSD, graphics cards, and USB 3.1 expansion cards to provide a complete business-ready storage solution incorporating security and scalability.

The TS-1685 leverages the high-performance Intel Xeon D multi-core processor and up to 128 GB DDR4 RAM to reach read speeds up to 2,339 MB/s with a dual 10GbE configuration. The dedicated four 2.5" SSD slots and six M.2 SATA 6Gb/s SSD slots excel in cache acceleration, and coupled with Qtier Technology the TS-1685 can continuously optimize storage efficiency across M.2 SSD, SSD, high-capacity SATA drives, and the optional PCIe NVMe SSD.

BIOSTAR Announces AMD B350 RACING Series Lineup

BIOSTAR is proud to announce its expanded AMD AM4 motherboard series lineup as it welcomes the new AMD B350 products in the RACING Series family of motherboards. Offering an amazing balance of value, features, quality and performance, the BIOSTAR RACING Series B350 motherboard lineup is designed for gamers who want a jump-off point for their gaming system using the latest AMD RYZEN processors at an affordable price.

Featuring support for the latest AMD RYZEN processors, the BIOSTAR RACING Series B350 motherboard will deliver performance for the next-generation of games while providing a quality platform for unhindered gaming. The BIOSTAR RACING B350 motherboards come with BIOSTAR exclusive VIVID LED DJ and 5050 LED Fun Zone customization feature as well as FLY.NET network optimization software for maximum gaming fun with less lag. The RACING B350GT5 comes bundled with a free BIOSTAR VIVID LED Fan and will have an MSRP of $129. The RACING B350GT3 will have an MSRP of $109.

Khronos Group Announces OpenXR Initiative - Bridging Virtual Reality

The OpenXR working group - previously known as the Khronos VR Initiative - is creating an open and royalty-free standard for VR and AR applications and devices.

The Problem:
Without a cross-platform standard, VR applications, games and engines must port to each vendors' APIs. In turn, this means that each VR device can only run the apps that have been ported to its SDK. The result is high development costs and confused customers - limiting market growth.

The Solution
The cross-platform VR standard eliminates industry fragmentation by enabling applications to be written once to run on any VR system, and to access VR devices integrated into those VR systems to be used by applications.

NVIDIA's AIB Partners to Launch GTX 1080, 1060 With Faster GDDR5, GDDR5X Memory

At their GDC event yesterday, NVIDIA announced a change to how partners are able to outfit their GTX 1080 and GTX 1060 6 GB models in regards to video memory. Due to improvements in process and scaled-down costs, NVIDIA has decided to allow partners to purchase 11 Gbps GDDR5X (up from 10 Gbps) and 9Gbps (up from 8 Gbps) GDDR5 memory from them, to pair with the GTX 1080 and GTX 1060 6 GB, respectively. These are to be sold by NVIDIA's AIB partners as overclocked cards, and don't represent a change to the official specifications on either graphics card. With this move, NVIDIA aims to give partners more flexibility in choosing memory speeds and carving different models of the same graphics card, with varying degrees of overclock, something which was particularly hard to do on conventional 10 Gbps-equipped GTX 1080's, which showed atypically low memory overclocking headroom.

Antec to Offer Cooler Upgrade Kits For AMD's Ryzen and AM4 Platform

Antec Inc., a leading provider of high-performance computer components and accessories for the gaming, PC upgrade and Do-It-Yourself market, officially announced that they will provide users of their CPU coolers with mounting upgrade kits for the new AM4 socket of AMD's upcoming Ryzen architecture.

The upgrade kits will be available for Antec's CPU cooler models H600 Pro, H1200 Pro, C400, C40 as well as A40 Pro and will be part of the scope of delivery with all new and coming CPU coolers. In order to obtain the kits via Antec's Support Team (Europe.RMA@antec.com), users are required to fill in a form, upload a proof of purchase (electronic version, scan or photo of the invoice) of an AM4 motherboard or AM4 CPU as well as an eligible Antec retail CPU cooler.

On NVIDIA's Tile-Based Rendering

Looking back on NVIDIA's GDC presentation, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects approached was the implementation of tile-based rendering on NVIDIA's post-Maxwell architectures. This has been an adaptation of typically mobile approaches to graphics rendering which keeps their specific needs for power efficiency in mind - and if you'll "member", "Maxwell" was NVIDIA's first graphics architecture publicly touted for its "mobile first" design.

This approach essentially divides the screen into tiles, and then rasterizes the entire frame in a per-tile basis. 16×16 and 32×32 pixels are the usual tile sizes, but both Maxwell and Pascal can dynamically assess the required tile size for each frame, changing it on-the-fly as needed and according to the complexity of the scene. This looks to ensure that the processed data has a much smaller footprint than that of the full image rendering - small enough that it makes it possible for NVIDIA to keep the data in a much smaller amount of memory (essentially, the L2 memory), dynamically filling and flushing the available cache as possible until the full frame has been rendered. This means that the GPU doesn't have to access larger, slower memory pools as much, which primarily reduces the load on the VRAM subsystem (increasing available VRAM for other tasks), whilst simultaneously accelerating rendering speed. At the same time, a tile-based approach also lends itself pretty well to the nature of GPUs - these are easily parallelized operations, with the GPU being able to tackle many independent tiles simultaneously, depending on the available resources.
Tuesday, February 28th 2017

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Motherboards
Mouse
Sound Cards
SSD
Storage

Rosewill RK-9300 Keyboard

The RK-9300 is Rosewill's latest keyboard built with function, form, and pricing all kept in mind. It uses genuine Cherry MX mechanical switches mounted on an aluminum plate and has a minimal bezel incorporating a clean look on to a sturdy peripheral. Add in dynamic backlighting, doubleshot ABS keycaps, and a sub-$100 price point and the RK-9300 is an attractive package to consider.

NVIDIA Announces Public Ansel SDK, Developer Plugins

NVIDIA, Ansel, a framework for doing real-time screenshot filters and photographic effects, has seen the release of a public SDK and a few developer plugins to boot. Unreal Engine and Unity have both gained plugins for the technology, and the tech is reportedly coming to Amazon's Lumberyard engine as well. This should most assuredly aid in the adoption of the technology, as well as open it up to new markets where it was previous unavailable, such as indie game development. The public SDK is presently available for download from NVIDIA directly at developer.nvidia.com/ansel

NVIDIA Announces DX12 Gameworks Support

NVIDIA has announced DX12 support for their proprietary GameWorks SDK, including some new exclusive effects such as "Flex" and "Flow." Most interestingly, NVIDIA is claiming that simulation effects get a massive boost from Async Compute, nearly doubling performance on a GTX 1080 using that style of effects. Obviously, Async Compute is a DX12 exclusive technology. The performance gains in an area where NVIDIA normally is perceived to not do so well are indeed encouraging, even if only in their exclusive ecosystem. Whether GCN powered cards will see similar gains when running GameWorks titles remains to be seen.

Shadowplay Now Automagically Records Your Greatest Moments

NVIDIA has announced a new SDK for its products known as Shadowplay Highlights. Shadowplay Highlights augments the existing recording game technology of NVIDIA Shadowplay to automatically capture hot moments in your favorite videogame. Whether it's your latest Triple Kill or a particular daring jump on the race track, if the game engine tells the SDK it's significant, Shadowplay spins up, combining previously recorded gameplay with live recordings, to create a perfect video of your glory moment. You can then edit the footage from within the game and directly upload it to a number of social networks.

The technology includes many options for quality or diskspace saving, and anything in-between. Of course, as with all things Shadowplay, the technology certainly will require a GeForce branded graphics card and support from game developers as well. A video demonstrating the technology follows after the break.

NVIDIA Announces the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Graphics Card at $699

NVIDIA today unveiled the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, its fastest consumer graphics card based on the "Pascal" GPU architecture, and which is positioned to be more affordable than the flagship TITAN X Pascal, at USD $699, with market availability from the first week of March, 2017. Based on the same "GP102" silicon as the TITAN X Pascal, the GTX 1080 Ti is slightly cut-down. While it features the same 3,584 CUDA cores as the TITAN X Pascal, the memory amount is now lower, at 11 GB, over a slightly narrower 352-bit wide GDDR5X memory interface. This translates to 11 memory chips on the card. On the bright side, NVIDIA is using newer memory chips than the one it deployed on the TITAN X Pascal, which run at 11 GHz (GDDR5X-effective), so the memory bandwidth is 484 GB/s.

Besides the narrower 352-bit memory bus, the ROP count is lowered to 88 (from 96 on the TITAN X Pascal), while the TMU count is unchanged from 224. The GPU core is clocked at a boost frequency of up to 1.60 GHz, with the ability to overclock beyond the 2.00 GHz mark. It gets better: the GTX 1080 Ti features certain memory advancements not found on other "Pascal" based graphics cards: a newer memory chip and optimized memory interface, that's running at 11 Gbps. NVIDIA's Tiled Rendering Technology has also been finally announced publicly; a feature NVIDIA has been hiding from its consumers since the GeForce "Maxwell" architecture, it is one of the secret sauces that enable NVIDIA's lead.

NVIDIA Cuts Price of its GeForce GTX 1080 Graphics Card: $499

In the wake of its $699 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti enthusiast-segment graphics card launch, NVIDIA lowered the pricing of its previous GeForce "Pascal" flagship, the GeForce GTX 1080, which is now down to USD $499, from its launch price of $599 (custom-design baseline pricing). The GTX 1070 is unflinched for now, from its $349 baseline pricing. This launch should turn up the heat on AMD, with its HBM-powered Radeon RX Vega pricing, much in the same way the GTX 980 Ti steered pricing of the Radeon R9 Fury X.

AMD Names Radeon "Vega" Product Line as Simply Radeon RX Vega

AMD's hottest announcement from its Capsaicin & Cream event is the brand unveil for consumer graphics products based on the "Vega" architecture. The lineup will be called simply Radeon RX Vega (likely with brand extensions to denote tiers and model numbers). The company also unveiled the "V" (for Vega) logo we've seen from CEO Lisa Su's presser from last week. The product unveil video illustrates how "Vega" will span across the consumer-graphics, pro-graphics, and Radeon Instinct data-center GPU lines.

AMD Announces Long Term Strategic Relationship with Bethesda

Building on the success made with Doom's implementation of Vulkan, and the overall through-the-roof performance levels for that title considering its graphical quality, AMD today announced a long term strategic partnership with Bethesda, a major game publisher ("The Elder Scrolls" series, "Doom," and "Dishonored," etc.) This, according to AMD's Raja Koduri, will see Bethesda optimize its entire library of games (at least the recent ones), for AMD Ryzen 8-core processors, and the upcoming Radeon "Vega" GPU architecture. The first product of this new partnership will be the 2017 release of "Prey," the hotly anticipated survival-horror game.

AMD's Raja Koduri and RX 480 Multi-GPU - 100% Scaling On Sniper Elite 4

At GDC's AMD Capsaicin Event, AMD's Raja Koduri reaffirmed Radeon's commitment to Multi-GPU setups by remembering his RX 480 launch event claim on a RX 480 dual setup beating their competition's high-end solutions. Then, Rebellion's Chris Kingsley took stage, who attributed the fact that his team was able to get Sniper Elite 4 to run with 100% scaling on a RX 480 dual GPU setup to Rebellion's previous work with Mantle. Next to it, for perspective, AMD showed a dual-GPU RX 480 system running the same game and settings at virtually double the frame rate - a perfect, 100% scaling. Rebellion's Chris Kingsley also elaborated on the importance of DX 12 and Vulkan on making such a thing even possible in the first place, reiterating the software and coding investment necessary to make that happen.

AMD Unveils VR Asynchronous Reprojection and Forward Rendering Tech

AMD today at its Capsaicin & Cream event unveiled a new VR technology: Asynchronous Reprojection. This technology was achieved in partnership with HTC, makers of the HTC Vive VR HMD, and Valve, promoters of SteamVR. The company also stressed how forward-rendering engines (technology that makes the GPU predict and render ahead of user input), are to be sen as a cornerstone of future VR development, particularly as it stands to its ability to cushion performance drops. Watch this space for more.

AMD and LiquidSky Intro GeForce Now-rivaling Game Rendering Service

AMD introduced a remote rendering service rivaling NVIDIA GeForce Now, which it developed in partnership with LiquidSky, a company which will operate the service using AMD Radeon "Vega" based remote GPUs, that can stream to a variety of devices including low-power notebooks, tablets, and handhelds. The company will launch the service at prices competitive with GeForce Now. Watch this space for more.

What sets LiquidSky apart from GeForce Now is its pricing. The basic plan is ad-supported, and is hence practically free, with a pay-as-you-go plan starting at $4.99, and monthly plans starting at $9.99.

AMD "Vega" High Bandwidth Cache Controller Improves Minimum and Average FPS

At its Capsaicin & Cream event today, AMD announced that its High Bandwidth Cache Controller (HBCC), a feature introduced by its "Vega" GPU architecture to improve memory management, will increase game performance tangibly. The company did a side-by-side comparison between two sessions of "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided," in which a HBCC-aware machine purportedly presented 2x better minimum FPS, and 1.5x better average FPS scores, than a non-HBCC-aware system (though the old, trusty frame-rate counter was conspicuously absent from both demos).

AMD also went on to show how HBCC seemingly halves memory requirements, by deliberately capping the amount of addressable memory on the HBCC-aware system to only 2 GB - half of the 4 GB addressable by the non-HBCC-aware system, while claiming that even so, the HBCC-enabled system still showed "the same or better performance" through its better memory management and bandwidth speeds. If these results do hold up to scrutiny, this should benefit implementations of "Vega" with lower amounts of video memory, while simultaneously reducing production costs and overall end-user pricing, since smaller memory pools would be needed for the same effect.

CORSAIR is Ready for AMD Ryzen

CORSAIR, a world leader in enthusiast memory, high-performance gaming hardware and PC components, today announced its extensive compatibility for the groundbreaking new range of AMD Ryzen processors and the AM4 platform. With a completely new CPU architecture, chipset and CPU socket, AMD Ryzen demands the latest in performance PC hardware. With a wide range of compatible DDR4 memory, liquid CPU coolers and PSUs, CORSAIR has everything enthusiasts need to make AMD Ryzen CPUs run to the full extent of their abilities.

"CORSAIR is uniquely positioned for the launch of AMD Ryzen, with an outstanding range of not just high-performance DDR4 memory, but liquid CPU cooling and power supplies as well," said Travis Kirsch Director, Product Management, Client at AMD. "CORSAIR offers everything system builders need to get the absolute best performance from AMD Ryzen and the new AM4 platform."

Kingston Announces the DCP-1000 PCI-Express NVMe SSD

Kingston today announced the DCP-1000 line of high-performance PCI-Express SSDs, targeted at enterprises, particularly at data-centers with high bandwidth demands, the drives come in the half-height add-on card form-factor, and take feature a PCI-Express 3.0 x8 host interface (64 Gbps), and takes advantage of the NVMe protcol. It puts this interface bandwidth to good use, belting out sequential transfer rates in excess of 6,800 MB/s. The drive comes in capacities of 800 GB, 1600 GB, and 3200 GB.

All three models offer sequential read speeds of up to 6,800 MB/s. The 800 GB variant writes at speeds of up to 5,000 MB/s, while the other two models write at up to 6,000 MB/s. The 4K random access performance of the 800 GB variant is 900,000/145,000 IOPS (reads/writes); with the 1600 GB variant belting out 1,100,000/200,000 IOPS, and the 3200 GB variant 1,000,000/180,000 IOPS. The drives come with full-length heatsinks cooling the MLC NAND flash chips and controller; and a bank of capacitors that provide power-outage data-loss mitigation.

Cooler Master Unveils the MasterKeys Pro S & MasterKeys Pro M RGB

Cooler Master, a leader in design and manufacturing computer components and peripherals is pleased to announce the launch of two new keyboard selections for dedicated and hardcore gamers, thus completing their keyboard portfolio. The MasterKeys Pro S produces a crisp, clearer white that an RGB keyboard cannot deliver, while the MasterKeys Pro M RGB radiates over 16.7 million colors adding to user customization. Both mechanical keyboards are equipped with profile support, on-the-fly customization to save macros and settings hassle free without the use of software. Multiple lighting modes including color wave and breathing, anti-ghosting technology, and 50 million keystroke lifespan CHERRY MX switches available in red, brown, blue, and silver.

"With the addition of these two keyboards, we're able to complete our entire MasterKeys Pro portfolio to make choosing a keyboard even easier," says Carter Salley Peripheral Product Manager. "Pick a size, pick a color. As simple as that. Small, medium or large, white LEDs or RGB. No matter your size preference or lighting choice, we have the perfect match for those looking for sleek, minimalistic keyboards."

LG Electronics Looks to Take a Share of the VR HMD Market

LG Electronics has just made one of the most cryptic, devoid-of-any-real-information announcements we've seen in recent years. The company will apparently enter the VR HMD field, and is looking to unveil its first prototype at this year's GDC in San Francisco, CA. LG will make use of Valve's GDC booth to showcase an HMD capable of delivering "a high fidelity, next generation VR experience".

That's about all the information we were given at face value. However, some other tidbits serve to paint a picture on how premature this announcement may have been: LG will purportedly be meeting with developers to "collect feedback and impressions as part of its effort to define the first commercial units". This means that the HMD is likely still in a proof of concept phase, early enough in development to cater to developers' expertise, needs and suggestions, which means it's probably still far removed from retail to be of any real import in the grand scheme of things. However, it Is a confirmed dip from another tech giant in the fully-fledged, high-performance VR HMD game. And judging by the proximity with Valve, we would expect LG's unit to borrow heavily from that company's input and vision for VR.

Is DirectX 12 Worth the Trouble?

We are at the 2017 Game Developers Conference, and were invited to one of the many enlightening tech sessions, titled "Is DirectX 12 Worth it," by Jurjen Katsman, CEO of Nixxes, a company credited with several successful PC ports of console games (Rise of the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex Mankind Divided). Over the past 18 months, DirectX 12 has become the selling point to PC gamers, of everything from Windows 10 (free upgrade) to new graphics cards, and even games, with the lack of DirectX 12 support even denting the PR of certain new AAA game launches, until the developers hashed out support for the new API through patches. Game developers are asking the dev community at large to manage their expectations from DirectX 12, with the underlying point being that it isn't a silver-bullet to all the tech limitations developers have to cope with, and that to reap all its performance rewards, a proportionate amount of effort has to be put in by developers.

The presentation begins with the speaker talking about the disillusionment consumers have about DirectX 12, and how they're yet to see the kind of console-rivaling performance gains DirectX 12 was purported to bring. Besides lack of huge performance gains, consumers eagerly await the multi-GPU utopia that was promised to them, in which not only can you mix and match GPUs of your choice across models and brands, but also have them stack up their video memory - a theoretical possibility with by DirectX 12, but which developers argue is easier said than done, in the real world. One of the key areas where DirectX 12 is designed to improve performance is by distributing rendering overhead evenly among many CPU cores, in a multi-core CPU. For high-performance desktop users with reasonably fast CPUs, the gains are negligible. This also goes for people gaming on higher resolutions, such as 1440p and 4K Ultra HD, where the frame-rates are low, and the performance tends to be more GPU-limited.
Monday, February 27th 2017

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Motherboards
Mouse
NAS
Notebooks
Processors
PSUs

Biostar Racing Z270GT4

Everyone likes saving a buck or two on their technology purchases, and Biostar is all about providing you with those options. For all you mATX lovers on a budget who want a bit more for features, but not a bigger price, Biostar's Gaming Z170GT4 just might be exactly what you are looking for.

AMD's Ryzen CPU Series will Need Modern Linux Kernel for Proper Support

So, it's not just Windows that will be pulling the "you need the latest version" card when it comes to Ryzen CPU support. Apparently, Linux will need kernel version 4.9.10 or better to enable a lot of features, SMT included. If you really want good support, the "newer the better" is generally the way to go.

Operating below that version won't necessarily stop Ryzen from functioning as a CPU, but several notable features, most notably SMT, will be completely "broken" according to the article at Phronix.

Phronix notes that the fix landed in early February. It notes in the commit message:
After: a33d331761bc ("x86/CPU/AMD: Fix Bulldozer topology") our SMT scheduling topology for Fam17h systems is broken, because the ThreadId is included in the ApicId when SMT is enabled. So, without further decoding cpu_core_id is unique for each thread rather than the same for threads on the same core. This didn't affect systems with SMT disabled. Make cpu_core_id be what it is defined to be.
So there it is, for you techno-wizards. Apparently, microcode actually is relevant to support features, and Microsoft's claims have some degree of merit.

Source: Phronix

Microsoft Adds Ability to Block Win32 Apps from Install on Windows 10

In a story headline that is sure to ruffle some reader's feathers, Microsoft has done exactly that: Added the ability to block installation of any app using the oldest remaining major API in Windows: Win32.

But hold on to your nerd-battlewagons, brave tech warrior. Microsoft is not enabling this feature by default. It is currently only in an experimental build, and per MS, it will not be on by default in any mainline build ever produced. It's simply there for "added security."

And yet, is this not a sort of admission of Win32's supposed inferiority from Microsoft? The fact that you can block this and not block the Windows Universal apps is in a way saying "here, these are safe. No, win32 is not."

Oh, and yes, if there is any question, this is an editorial in the fullest sense of the word. Enjoy.

AMD Ryzen 7 Initial Inventory Looks Healthy

On the 2nd of March, AMD Ryzen processors hit the shelves in three high-end models, the $499 Ryzen 7-1800X, the $399 Ryzen 7-1700X, and the $329 Ryzen 7-1700. The question on everyone's minds is whether there will be enough units to reach their friendly neighborhood PC hardware stores. According to Taiwan-based industry observer DigiTimes, AMD is planning a healthy inventory of Ryzen chips.

AMD's initial shipment of Ryzen processors, which go on sale on the 2nd March, will be backed by a worldwide inventory of 1 million units. Think about that for a moment - AMD's bean-counters are confident it can sell 1 million $329-$499 processors. A more or less equal number of socket AM4 motherboards are expected to be in supply, with there being about 80 models of socket AM4 motherboards to choose from.

Source: DigiTimes

AMD Ryzen 7-1800X Cracks 5.20 GHz OC with LN2 and All Eight Cores Enabled

AMD's upcoming Ryzen series processors promise to be an overclocker's treat. A PC enthusiast with access to a Ryzen 7-1800X sample managed to achieve an extreme overclock of 5.20 GHz with liquid-nitrogen cooling, and more importantly, not having to disable any cores to stabilize the OC. The 5201.07 MHz overclock, achieved by cranking the base-clock up to 137.78 MHz, and the multiplier up to 37.75X, backed by a core voltage of 1.875V, was even tested to be bench-stable, scoring 2,363 points in Cinebench R15. This also reveals that you should be able to finely crank up the base-clock multiplier in steps of 0.25X, (as opposed to 0.5X). The Ryzen 7-1800X will be available on the 2nd of March, 2017, priced at $499.
Sources: Hexus.net, TweakTown

XFX Intros the Radeon RX 480 Crimson Edition

XFX introduced the Radeon RX 480 Crimson Edition 8 GB graphics card (model: RX-480P8LFR6). Based mostly on the board design of the RX 480 Double Dissipation card the company launched its RX 480 lineup with, this card features red LED illumination for the two fans, and the XFX logo on the top side of the cooler. As with the Double Dissipation, the Crimson Edition card features detachable, hard-swappable fans that stay off when the GPU is idling.

The card is clocked at 1288 MHz core, and 8.00 GHz (GDDR5-effective) memory, a minor core overclock against 1266 MHz reference. The card draws power from a single 8-pin PCIe power connector. Display outputs include three DisplayPorts, and one each of DVI and HDMI 2.0b. A full-length back-plate comes included. The company didn't reveal pricing. The company also plans to launch "Crimson Edition" variants of its RX 480 4 GB and RX 470 graphics cards.

Western Digital Transforms the Mobile Experience with New iNAND 7350

Western Digital Corp. today introduced the iNAND 7350 storage solution, the company's most advanced and highest capacity embedded flash drive (EFD) to date. Leveraging Western Digital's 3D NAND and unique and highly intelligent, fourth-generation SmartSLC technology, iNAND 7350 delivers up to 256 gigabytes (GB) of reliable and responsive embedded storage that is ideal for data-rich applications and next-generation mobile experiences.

"Our new 256GB iNAND 7350 is the highest capacity embedded storage device available today on e.MMC, the industry's most proven interface," said Christopher Bergey, vice president of Embedded and Integrated Solutions with Western Digital. "By combining our 3D NAND technology and latest application-aware architecture, we have built the iNAND 7350 storage device to deliver an exceptional balance of performance, capacity and cost-efficiency. This can enable smartphone manufacturers to introduce mainstream devices that offer the high capacity consumers crave and deliver outstanding application experiences - from high-quality 4K Ultra HD video playback to next-generation augmented reality (AR)."

GIGABYTE Announces AM4 Ryzen Support

GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd, a leading manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards, is proud to announce the rise of the AORUS Gaming Series Motherboards on the New AM4 Ryzen Platform from AMD. The AM4 Platform will host the X370, B350 and A320 Chipsets which all support the Ryzen CPUs. GIGABYTE will have all three chipsets available, each fully optimized for CPUs with 8-Cores and 16 Threads, for consumers who are interested in any segment of the platform. With user-centric features exclusive to GIGABYTE, consumers will find RGB Fusion, Smart Fan 5 and Dual Audio Chips that provides a solution like no other.

With anticipation building for the new platform, GIGABYTE has made no compromises with its innovative technologies. The fully customizable RGB LEDs from RGB Fusion will allow users to customize their system exactly the way they want. Smart Fan 5, an intuitive user interface, works in tandem with hybrid fan headers for optimum cooling performance and system protection. Moreover, RGB Fusion has made its way onto many accessories and peripherals already in the market. RGB Fusion Ready devices allow enthusiasts to control all of their RGB lit products from a single interface.
Sunday, February 26th 2017

Intel Plays Dirty Over Ryzen, Attempts to Manipulate Ryzen Reviews?

Intel is rattled with AMD Ryzen. Its 10-year old Nehalem CPU architecture that has been shrunk and incrementally updated over the years, is finally coming across as dated in the wake of AMD's "Zen" architecture. What to do when a competitor with 1/50th your R&D budget threatens to wreck your next annual appraisal? Play dirty and arm-twist the media of course! And playing dirty Intel is, according to a TweakTown report.

Apparently, Intel has scrambled its PR department to call in favors with the press in return for "guidelines" on how to review AMD Ryzen. Intel's PR emails allegedly ask reviewers to "call us before you write." The guidelines are worded more to make it sound like Intel wants its chips to be reviewed "fairly" against Ryzen, but the underlying objective is clear.Source: TweakTown

ASRock Announces Motherboards for AMD Ryzen Processors

The leading global motherboard manufacturer, ASRock, is pleased to announce the launch of its series of AMD AM4 socket based X370 and B350 motherboards - celebrating AMD's return to the CPU arena with the all-new, high-performance Ryzen processor. ASRock has created distinctive X370 motherboards to match all your needs, with unique features and a full range of products for gamers, power users, tech geeks and even DIY beginners.

Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming: The world's first AMD X370 motherboard with ultra-fast 5 Gb/s LAN support, ASRock's Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming motherboard is endorsed by professional gaming legend, Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel. The built-in Aquantia 5Gb/s LAN is no need to upgrade cables - just plug in existing Cat 5e cables with 5 Gb/s switching hub, and you can instantly get 5x more network capacity. The IR digital PWM 16 phase power supply design ensures rock solid stability and consistent performance, even with power-hungry loading scenarios. ASRock's signature PCI-E Steel Slots feature extra enhanced quality that prevent signal interference affecting graphics cards, ensuring glitch-free gaming and heavy graphics cards to be well installed. Key on-board features include 802.11ac WiFi, and the gamer's must-have audio solution, Creative SoundBlaster Cinema 3, to enhance gaming sound with stunning audio realism, intuitive positional accuracy, punch and dynamics.

Following Ryzen's Launch, Intel's CPUs Likely to See Price-Cuts

Let's quietly approach the elephant in the room: Intel's pricing structure will hardly stand the onslaught of AMD's Ryzen, which, if early benchmarks are to be believed, has apparently caught Intel with its pants down. Even purely from the leaks that have been following us non-stop in the last several months, it's obvious that AMD managed to outdo itself in the best way possible, managing to develop an architecture which offers up to 52% more performance than their previous one. Intel, which was enjoying the sun-shaded comfort of carrying a virtual, high-performance x86 monopoly, grew stagnant in innovation, ensuring it would stretch its bottom-line by way of minimal R&D investment - just enough to be able to name their improvements as a "new generation" of processors each year.

This in turn has led to an interesting outlook in the high-performance x86 market: customers aren't blind, and they see when a company is stretching its fingers in their pockets. A stagnant performance increase on Intel's customer processors with almost a decade of single-digit increments and paralyzed core-counts to an (admittedly strong) architecture have taken away a lot of customers' goodwill towards Intel. That Intel still has strong brand cognition is a no-brainer, but it doesn't have as much brand credit these days, on account of the low performance gains, and tick-tock falter, than it did in the days of Athlon 64. AMD has the benefit of being the underdog, of coming up with something new, fresh and performant (with headlines claiming it is the latest revival of a sleeping giant)... and those are all points that put pressure on Intel to reignite interest on its products.
Saturday, February 25th 2017

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Keyboards
Memory
Monitors
Motherboards
NAS
Networking
Notebooks
Processors
PSUs
SSD

Synology Announces Official Release of DiskStation Manager 6.1

Synology Inc. today announced the official release of DiskStation Manager (DSM) 6.1 and comprehensive packages, delivering a more secure, productive, and unified NAS experience. The award-winning DSM is constantly evolving to help businesses tackle new challenges. This time, it delivers better IT efficiency with Active Directory Server, enhances performance with instant SMB server-side copy, ensures reliability with file self-healing, provides stability and security enhancements, and more.

"The release of DSM 6.1 is another major leap on the advanced NAS operating system in terms of security and productivity. The newly introduced features help Synology NAS serve as your office's all-in-one server and become a central piece of your IT strategy," said Vic Hsu, CEO of Synology Inc.

Mad Catz Ships Tritton ARK 100 Wired 7.1 Headset for PC

Mad Catz Interactive, Inc., a global provider of innovative entertainment products, today announced that it has commenced shipment of its new Tritton ARK 100 Wired 7.1 Headset for PC to its retail customers. Connecting via USB, the ARK 100 for PC features advanced audio customization software, which places the gamer center stage and fully in control of the audio environment. The 7.1 surround sound is delivered through 60 mm and 10 mm drivers in each earcan, providing a full 360 degrees of positional awareness, while a boom microphone with dual chat mic system works to cancel out background noise and improve the clarity of the player's voice and communications with teammates and other players.

"The ARK 100 for PC raises the bar for PC gaming headset audio quality, durability and comfort," said Andrew Young, Chief Technology Officer at Mad Catz. "Whether it be the unique comfort resulting from Audionomics, the superior audio performance of R:Drive, or the customizability provided by Kameleon lighting, the ARK 100 for PC is designed to deliver the comfort, audio quality and customization that PC gamers seek for optimum performance and gameplay enjoyment."

ZOTAC Intros Low-profile GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 Graphics Cards

ZOTAC today introduced a pair of low-profile graphics cards based on the GeForce GTX 1050 series, the GTX 1050 Ti LP (model: ZT-P10510E-10L), and the GTX 1050 LP (model: ZT-P10500E-10L). The two cards are based on a common board design, with a half-height 14.4 cm long PCB, and a 2-slot thick cooling solution that features a chunky aluminium mono-block heatsink that's ventilated by a pair of 40 mm fans. Both cards rely on the PCI-Express bus for power, stick to NVIDIA reference clock speeds, and feature the same display outputs - one each of Displayport 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, and dual-link DVI. Low-profile I/O brackets come included. The company didn't reveal pricing.

ASUS Unveils the TinkerBoard to Rival Raspberry Pi and Intel Edison

As the world's number one PC motherboard manufacturer by volume, it would be a shame if ASUS didn't pander to the budding engineers and electronics hobbyists among you with a product that rivals the Raspberry Pi and Intel Edison. That product is the TinkerBoard, a card-sized single-board computer with a ton of I/O, including support for 4K Ultra HD displays. At the heart of this board is a Rockchip RK3288 SoC, which embeds a 32-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A17 CPU, and a Mali T764 GPU. This chip is topped off by 2 GB of dual-channel memory. The most prominent Raspberry Pi competitor to this board is the Pi 3 Model B, with its 64-bit Broadcom BCM2837 chip, and a starting price of just $35.

Other features of the TinkerBoard include a GPIO that rivals Raspberry Pi, 4K Ultra HD H.264 video decode capability, gigabit Ethernet, SDIO 3.0, 24-bit/192 kHz HD audio, and a swappable antenna for its 802.11 b/g/n WLAN. While the specifications check out well in favor of the TinkerBoard, it all comes down to pricing. Hobbyists working on robotics projects, for example, purchase Raspberries Pi by the dozens thanks to their low price. ASUS should do well to keep that in mind when pricing this board.
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