Wednesday, June 28th 2017

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Keyboards
Memory
Motherboards
Mouse
Networking
Notebooks
Processors
PSUs
SSD
Storage

AMD Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition Unboxed, Benchmarked

A lucky customer has already gotten his hands on one of these coveted, sky-powered AMD graphics cards, and is currently in the process of setting up his system. Given the absence of review samples from AMD to any outlet - a short Vega Frontier Edition supply ensured so - there isn't any other real way to get impressions on this graphics card. As such, we'll be borrowing Disqus' user #define posts as a way to cover live pics and performance measurements of this card. Expect this post to be updated as new developments arise.

After some glamour shots of the card were taken (which really are justified by its unique color scheme), #define mentioned the card's build quality. After having installed the driver package (which, as we've covered today, includes both a developer and gaming path inside the drivers, granting increased performance in both workloads depending on the enabled driver profile, he is now about to conduct some testing on SPECViewperf and 3DMark, with both gaming and non gaming profiles.

Intel Intros SSD 545s Mainstream SATA SSD

Intel today announced the SSD 545s line of mainstream SATA solid-state drives. Built in the 7 mm-thick 2.5-inch form-factor with SATA 6 Gbps interface, the drives combine new 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory by IMFlash Technology, with a Silicon Motion SMI SM2259 controller, and a custom firmware by Intel. For now, the drive is only available in one capacity, 512 GB. It offers sequential transfer speeds of up to 550 MB/s, with up to 500 MB/s sequential writes; 4K random read performance of up to 75,000 IOPS, 4K random write performance of up to 85,000 IOPS, and endurance of at least 144 TBW. Besides common SSD features such as NCQ and TRIM, the drive offers native 256-bit AES encryption. Available now, and backed by a 3-year warranty, the SSD 545s 512 GB is priced at USD $179.99.

AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition Launched: Starting at $999

It's here. The Radeon Vega that's not for gamers, that is. After what seems like a year of waiting forward to AMD's next generation GPU architecture, so it has finally appeared. As we all knew was going to be the case, Vega's first foray in the market is geared at the more profitable professional sector of the market. The good news for professionals: the pricing is lower than previously reported. Instead of the expected $1,199 and $1,799 for an air cooled or water-cooled version of the card respectively, AMD is commanding a much less demanding price tag of $999 for the air cooled version (available now) and $1,499 for the water-cooled one (to be available in Q3.)

One thing that deserves to be placed before the break is a software feature of the new Vega Frontier Edition graphics cards: AMD has changed their driver scheme into a single-package installer (available in the source), with both the professional-geared drivers, and the gaming ones as well. This means that after all that Raja Koduri told us to wait for AMD's consumer, gaming-oriented RX Vega graphics cards, these will probably work just as well for gaming as for professional workloads.

Toshiba Files Lawsuit Against Western Digital Corporation

Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO:6502) and Toshiba Memory Corporation ("TMC") today filed a petition with the Tokyo District Court against Western Digital Corporation, a U.S. company, and its subsidiary Western Digital Technologies, Inc. (collectively, "WD") (NASDAQ: WDC), seeking a provisional disposition order for an injunction against acts of unfair competition, and also brought suit for a permanent injunction, damages and payment of 120 billion yen, alleging violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, among other things.

The lawsuit states, as detailed in Toshiba's June 2, 2017 press release, "Update on Status of Third-party Investment in the Memory Business," that WD has continually interfered with the bid process related to the sale of TMC.

Citing joint venture agreements between Toshiba and SanDisk LLC (including its affiliates, "SanDisk"), the lawsuit also says that WD has exaggerated its consent right - in both public statements and private communications to bidders and others involved in the sale process - in order to interfere with the sale of TMC which does not hold the ownership interests in joint venture companies co-owned with SanDisk. The complaint goes on to state that proceeding with the sales process for TMC does not violate any consent rights held by WD; WD's claims are false, designed only to interfere with the sale process, and have damaged Toshiba and TMC.

Toshiba Develops World's First 4-bit Per Cell QLC NAND Flash Memory

Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC) today announced the latest generation of its BiCS FLASH three-dimensional (3D) flash memory. The newest BiCS FLASH device features 4-bit-per-cell, quadruple-level cell (QLC) technology and is the first 3D flash memory device to do so. Toshiba's QLC technology enables larger (768 gigabit) die capacity than the company's third-generation 512Gb 3-bit-per-cell, triple-level cell (TLC), and pushes the boundaries of flash memory technology.

Toshiba's new QLC BiCS FLASH device features a 64-layer stacked cell structure and achieves the world's largest die capacity (768Gb/96GB). QLC flash memory also enables a 1.5-terabyte (TB) device with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package - featuring the industry's largest capacity. This is a fifty percent increase in capacity per package when compared to Toshiba's earlier announcement of a 1TB device with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package - which also offered the largest capacity in the industry at the time.
Tuesday, June 27th 2017

Today's Reviews

Cooling
Graphics Cards
Harddisks
Headphones
Keyboards
Monitors
Motherboards
Mouse
Networking
Processors
Speakers

MSI Z270 GAMING M7

MSI's high-end gaming motherboard for Kaby Lake CPUs is here. The Z270 GAMING M7 has all the bells and whistles, including something you never really thought of: dual audio chips. With a crazy automatic overclock profile that promises 5.2 GHz, we check out MSI's new enthusiast motherboard.

Adesso AKB-636UB Typewriter Keyboard

Adesso has a typewriter-inspired USB mechanical keyboard now, with round keycaps, a black and silver trim, and Outemu Blue clicky switches. Priced below $100, this also has novel twist-style feet to appeal to typists both old and new.

More Ryzen Gaming Performance Patches: ~28% Gain in ROTR on Medium/High Presets

AMD's Ryzen has been generally well received as a gaming processor, but it has always had a small Achilles Heel in one area; gaming performance. While some may argue the obviously correct statement that it is "good enough" for many situations, it was obviously not up the level of awesome the rest of the architecture seemed to be at.

It would now appear it may simply be a lack of optimization to blame more than an inherent architectural issue. AMD has seen a major performance patch in one game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, that has netted it around 28% higher average FPS in the medium and high presets, which just so happen to be more CPU bound than higher settings. When asked how these performance improvements were attained, developer Crystal Dynamics had the following to say on the matter:

"Rise of the Tomb Raider splits rendering tasks to run on different threads... By tuning the size of those tasks - breaking some up, allowing multi-core CPUs to contribute in more cases, and combining some others, to reduce overheads in the scheduler - the game can more efficiently exploit extra threads on the host CPU."

Several Critical Ukrainian Targets Hit by "Petya" Ransomware, Fear of Outbreak

After last month's WannaCry outbreak (which persisted in its effects as recently as last week), we now have a new variant of ransomware infecting PCs across Europe. The outbreak seems centered in Ukraine, where several government facilities and critical pieces of infrastructure have been shutdown due to the attacks. The Ukrainian government seemed almost defiantly optimistic, posting this decidedly awesome response to twitter during the attack.

Samsung 850 Pro SSD Reaches End of Life With 9100 TB Written

No, that isn't a major typo on this article's headline. According to print magazine c't, who conducted a test bench consisting of two pieces each of OCZ's TR150, Crucial's BX 200, Samsung's 750 Evo, Samsung's 850 Pro, SanDisk's Extreme Pro and SanDisk's Ultra II, the last SSD to actually give out the last breath was Samsung's 256 GB 850 Pro, with a staggering 9100 TB (that's 9.1 Petabytes) written. This is well beyond Samsung's suggested longevity for this particular SSD, which stands at 150 TBW.

The first particular model to give out was one of Crucial's BX 200, at 187 TBW (still more than twice over the manufacturer's 80 TBW). The second model to fail was the second Crucial BX 200, at 280 TBW. The remaining SSDs apparently died after a power peak (unclear whether a surge or a spike), save for the Pro models, in the form of SanDisk's Extreme Pro and Samsung's 850 Pro (it seems those Pro-oriented features do serve some purpose, eh?.) One of these SanDisk Extreme Pro models lasted for about 2,200 TBW, the same amount of writes the first Samsung 850 Pro model endured. However, the second Samsung 850 Pro broke through all records with its total 9,100 TB written. Naturally, these are interesting and impressive overall results, but they can't really be counted upon as being statistically significant; two models each aren't enough to achieve a representation of the tested SSD models' endurance. However, this also probably means that save a defect on your SSD's manufacturing, you can count on it for a considerable amount of writes.

Sources: Tweakers.net, Thanks @ P4-630!

It's Coffee Lake Again: Intel Six-Core Processor Surfaces on Geekbench

After rearing its head on SiSoft Sandra, it seems that an engineering sample of Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs has appeared again - this time on Geekbench. Coffee Lake is supposed to be Intel's version of a core-count democratization. It is expected that the company will introduce six-core CPUs to their i7 line of processors (since apparently the i9 moniker is now limited to the company's HEDT solutions). This should bring about a reshuffle of Intel's CPU line-up, though it remains to be seen how the company will go about that way.

Moving on to the actual Geekbench scores, Intel's 6-core, 12-thread CPU delivers a 4,619 single-core score, and a 20,828 multi-core score. This is more or less inline with AMD's Ryzen 5 1600X 6-core, 12-thread processor. However, AMD's solution is clocked higher than this particular engineering sample was (3.6 GHz on the Ryzen 5 vs 3.2 GHz on the Intel Coffee Lake sample, a 400 MHz difference.) This probably means that finalized Intel silicon with come with higher clocks, and therefore, a more commanding performance.

Source: Hot Hardware

Be Quiet! Announces Silent Loop 360 Liquid CPU Cooler

Be Quiet!, the market leader in PC power supplies in Germany for eleven consecutive years, is introducing the newest addition to the Silent Loop family, Silent Loop 360 mm. With last September's introduction of the Silent Loop product line, be quiet! brought its first All-in-One water cooler to the forefront. Built out of high-quality materials, Silent Loop's whisper-quiet reverse-flow pump design ensured the product line made a big impact in the water cooling market.

A full copper radiator with a length of 360 millimeters sets Silent Loop 360 mm apart from the rest of the Silent Loop series. It fits in be quiet!'s Dark Base 900, Dark Base Pro 900 and Pure Base 600 chassis. Silent Loop 360 mm uses three Pure Wings 2 120 mm PWM fans with airflow-optimized and load-regulated fan blades, producing quiet and efficient operation while offering high static pressure at extremely low noise levels.

European Commission Fines Google in €2.42 billion for Antitrust Violations

Another year, another European Commission fine for an antitrust violation. This time, the target of the fine is none other than Google. In what could be the most important antitrust ruling in recent years (which overshadows even Microsoft's 2004 browser fine), the EC has found that Google has systematically worked towards increasing prominence in search results to those displayed by the company's own comparison shopping service, dubbed "Google Shopping". "Google Shopping" started in 2004, when Google entered the comparison shopping market in Europe, with a product that was initially called "Froogle", renamed "Google Product Search" in 2008 and since 2013 has been called "Google Shopping".

However, it would seem that Froogle wasn't all that successful. When Google entered the comparison shopping markets with Froogle, there were already a number of established players, which dampened the company's market foray. The EC states that Google was aware that Froogle's market performance was relatively poor, pointing to one internal document from 2006 that stated, quite plainly, that "Froogle simply doesn't work".

Adesso and TechPowerUp Announce Ergonomic Giveaway

TechPowerUp and Adesso, makers of ergonomic keyboards and mice, announce a unique opportunity to feel the difference ergonomics brings to your everyday computing. We are giving away three of its most popular input devices. One lucky winner gets an EasyTouch 636 (AKB-636UB) retro-design mechanical keyboard with a typewriter-simulating keyset and mechanical switches with good tactile feedback. Two lucky winners get an EasyTouch 635 mechanical keyboard, each. This keyboard features a more contemporary design. Three lucky winners get an iMouse E10 Wireless mouse, each. In all, there will be six lucky winners. All you have to do is fill a short form to help us contact you, if you win. This giveaway is open worldwide, and closes on July 4. Good Luck!

For more information, and to participate, visit this page.

Sapphire Makes Mining-Oriented Graphics Cards Available for Pre-Order

Ah mining. The revival of an old craze. Who doesn't want to make their room's temperature increase to insane levels over the summer in order to cash in on the mining wagon? Who doesn't want to pull their hardware by the ankles and wrists, stretching it in utilization so as to maintain the PoW (proof of Work) cryptographic security in cryptocurrencies? Apparently, a not insignificant number of users and would-be miners does want that. That has, in turn, placed a whole lot of pressure on the graphics card market from both AMD and NVIDIA, with prices climbing and skyrocketing for graphics cards in the $200-$400 price ranges, as you know. It remains to be seen whether the flow of new miners decreases somewhat now, considering the recent market correction (read: dip) in the cryptocurrency market value (down around 42% from the all-time high of 357€ [~$400] of June 12th.)

After ASUS, it would seem like it's Sapphire's time to try and sway miners from their consumer-oriented, gaming graphics cards, through the launch of five different graphics cards models especially geared for mining. These are currently available for pre-order on Overclockers UK, and there are five different products in total, one based of RX 560 silicon, and four different takes on the RX 470 silicon (no, that's not a typo; it really is the 400 series.)

BIOSTAR Announces the TB250-BTC PRO Motherboard with 12 Slots

Cryptocurrency mining has once again found revitalized value thanks to skyrocketing cryptocurrency prices now reaching record highs. GPU-based mining has long-been the most cost-effective and most accessible way of entering this field and BIOSTAR has been one of the foundations that helped many enthusiasts as well as investors in creating platforms for this industry. BIOSTAR since the H81A and TB85 series have been favorites by miners for its balance of price and scalability offering support up to six graphics cards for maximum board utilization.

Thanks to years of professional experience in mining backed by feedback from customers as well as internal R&D, BIOSTAR has debuted its most innovative mining platform yet. Making its debut during COMPUTEX 2017, motherboards that support up to 8 graphics cards were showcased by BIOSTAR in its booth receiving positive feedback from the people present. Today BIOSTAR has just up the ante with the announcement of it's the world's first motherboard that can support up to 12 graphics cards simultaneously with the global announcement of the TB250-BTC PRO specialized cryptocurrency mining motherboard.

Cooler Master Launches Enthusiast PBT Keycap Mechanical Keyboards

Cooler Master, a leader in design and manufacturing computer components and peripherals today announced the launch of two new keyboards, the MasterKeys S and MasterKeys L. Both additions come fully equipped with Genuine Cherry MX switches, on-the-fly- adjustment capabilities, iconic minimalistic bezel design, and PBT keycaps.

The MasterKeys PBT series is everything you like about the MasterKeys line, enhanced for a superior typing experience. It has the build-in hybrid N-key rollover, and genuine German Cherry MX switches we all know and love for their durability, accuracy, and tactile satisfaction. Cooler Master has added extra thick 1.5mm PBT keycaps, the king of all keycaps. Wear and tear, smoothing, or fading of keys are a thing of the past thanks to these durable PBT keycaps. And for the gamers out there, there is a pack of 7 extra red keycaps included to accent the 'gaming' keys. Additionally, with Cooler Master's exclusive on-the-fly system, you can switch layouts, from QWERTY, Dvorak or Wokrman and even switchable OS Modifiers from Windows, Mac or Linux. All through the use of simple On-the-Fly key shortcuts that do not require supplemental software.
Monday, June 26th 2017

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Game Controllers
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Memory
Motherboards
Mouse
Notebooks
Processors
PSUs
Speakers
Storage

Bykski FOUR CPU Waterblock

Bykski is a watercooling brand that has been operating in Asia thus far, but recently made strides to go global. Their new FOUR series of CPU waterblocks offer five color customization options, a metal top cover on an acrylic top, a massive nickel-plated copper cold plate, and installation all from the back for a clean look when installed.

GIGABYTE Intros the AB350N-Gaming WiFi Mini-ITX Socket AM4 Motherboard

GIGABYTE introduced the AB350N-Gaming WiFi, its first socket AM4 motherboard in the mini-ITX form-factor, with support for the entire Ryzen "Summit Ridge" processor family, the 7th generation "Bristol Ridge" A-series APUs, and the upcoming Ryzen "Raven Ridge" APUs. The board draws power from a combination of 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS power connectors, and conditions it for the AM4 SoC with a 6-phase VRM. The motherboard is based on AMD B350 chipset.

The AM4 SoC is wired to two DDR4 DIMM slots, supporting up to 32 GB of dual-channel memory, the lone PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot, a 32 Gb/s M.2 slot on the reverse side of the PCB, two out of four of the board's SATA 6 Gb/s ports, and two out of six of the board's USB 3.0 ports. Other USB connectivity includes two USB 3.0 ports from the B350 chipset, and two 10 Gb/s USB 3.1 ports (both type-A). Networking includes a WLAN card with 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.2, and gigabit Ethernet. 8-channel HD audio driven by a 120 dBA SNR CODEC makes for the rest of it. The company didn't reveal pricing.

Critical Flaw in HyperThreading Discovered in "Skylake" and "Kaby Lake" CPUs

A critical flaw was discovered in the way Intel implemented its simultaneous multi-threading technology, HyperThreading, on "Skylake" and "Kaby Lake" processors. Being a micro-architecture specific flaw, this could affect all implementations, from low-power mobile chips, to mainstream desktop, high-end desktop, and perhaps even enterprise-segment Xeon processors. At this time, there are no security implications of this flaw.

Intel chronicled this flaw in its micro-architecture errata "SKZ7/SKW144/SKL150/SKX150/SKZ7/KBL095/KBW095," and described it as follows: "Under complex micro-architectural conditions, short loops of less than 64 instructions that use AH, BH, CH or DH registers as well as their corresponding wider register (e.g. RAX, EAX or AX for AH) may cause unpredictable system behavior. This can only happen when both logical processors on the same physical processor are active." As an implication, Intel goes on to note that Due to this erratum, the system may experience unpredictable system behavior."

Vega Frontier Ed Beats TITAN Xp in Compute, Formidable Game Performance: Preview

PC World posted a preview of an AMD Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition graphics card, and reported some interesting observations about the card ahead of its review NDA. The tech publication compared the air-cooled Pro Vega Frontier Edition against NVIDIA's fastest consumer graphics card, the TITAN Xp. It did reveal performance numbers of the two cards in two compute-heavy tests, SPECViewPerf 12.1 and Cinebench R15 (OpenGL test), where the Vega FE significantly outperforms the TITAN Xp. This shouldn't come as a shocker because AMD GPUs tend to have a strong footing with GPU compute performance, particularly with open standards.

It's PC World's comments on the Vega card's gaming performance that might pique your interest. In its report, the publication comments that the Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition offers gaming performance that is faster than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080, but slightly slower than its GTX 1080 Ti graphics card. To back its statement, PC World claims to have run the Vega Frontier Edition and TITAN Xp in "Doom" with Vulkan API, "Prey" with DirectX 11, and "Sniper Elite 4" with DirectX 12. You must also take into account that the Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition could command a four-figure price, in the league of the TITAN Xp; and that gamers should look forward to the Radeon RX Vega series, bound for a late-July/early-August launch, at price-points more appropriate to their competitive positioning. The RX Vega is also expected to have 8 GB of memory compared to 16 GB on the Frontier Edition. Watch PC World's video presentation in the source link below.
Sources: PC World, VideoCardz

GIGABYTE Gives Away Up to €80 Worth Steam Credit with X299 Motherboards

GIGABYTE TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd, is pleased to announce a new promotion event starting on the June 26th, 2017 until August 31th, 2017. Any one that buys selected GIGABYTE AORUS X299 motherboards will receive up to €80 in Steam Wallet Codes totally free. Steam Wallet codes work just like gift cards which can be redeemed on your personal Steam account for Steam credit and used for the purchase of games, in game content, software and any other item you can available in the Steam store.

To participate in this new promotion, simply purchase one of the selected boards below and register on the micro-site. Please note that this promotion is open to residents of Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Iceland.

Falcon Northwest Tiki with Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition Pictured

Gaming PC builder Falcon Northwest teased a picture of its upcoming Tiki compact high-performance desktop built on the AMD Radeon theme. The silver-bodied beast shows off a Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition graphics card through an acrylic cutout on its side, and will be one of the first pre-built desktops you can buy with the $1,000-ish air-cooled Radeon Pro Vega Frontier Edition. Not much else is known about this variant of the Tiki. Looking at its prominent AMD branding, it's entirely possible that the side-panel hides a mini-ITX socket AM4 motherboard with a Ryzen 7 series chip; or maybe not, and it sticks with a Core i7 "Kaby Lake" with a 200-series chipset mini-ITX motherboard.

Source: Reddit

MSI Intros the B350M/A320M Pro-VD Motherboards

MSI introduced the B350M Pro-VD and A320M Pro-VD socket AM4 motherboards. Built in the slim micro-ATX form-factor, the two boards are nearly identical, and differ only with the chipset (AMD B350 and A320). The boards draw power from a combination of 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS power connectors; conditioning it for the AM4 SoC with a 6-phase VRM. The APU socket is wired to two DDR4 DIMM slots, supporting up to 32 GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory; a PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot, and both of the boards' PCIe x1 slots. Two of the four SATA 6 Gbps ports on the boards come from the AM4 SoC. Display outputs include DVI and D-Sub. Gigabit Ethernet and 6-channel HD audio make for the rest of them. The only feature the B350M Pro-VD offers over its A320-based twin is support for CPU overclocking. The two could feature sub-$80 price-points.
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