Friday, July 20th 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Memory
Motherboards
NAS
Networking
Notebooks
Storage
Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM Fan

Noctua NF-A12x25 PWM Fan

Noctua's long awaited NF-A12x25 fan hits the market with a bang in more ways than one. With more features than I can count with my fingers, all of which have been used to optimize performance and acoustics, it is a fan that makes no excuses about the lack of RGB lighting as it puts up a great showing against the competition.

Samsung to Increase NAND Production Capacity in 2019, Upping Investment to $9 billion

Samsung is reportedly looking to increase its investment in the NAND space with a $2.6 billion increase to its annual NAND budget. The increase, which will bring the company's investment up to $9 billion, aims to increase production volume in what is building up to be the actual technology of choice for key players in the storage market.

Remember that for all the investment in increasing density and declining price per GB of competing mechanical solutions, we've just had notice of an HDD fabrication plant that's shutting down. Most of the funding will reportedly go into increasing production volume of 3D NAND memory. Should demand stay relatively stable, the (eventual) additional influx of memory chips to the market should help drive costs even lower - provided there's no funny business in price setting, of course.

Riding on Strong Azure Performance, Microsoft Crushes Estimates, Jumps 4% in Stock Valuation

Following Microsoft's Earnings report last Thursday, the company enjoyed a smooth uphill with its stock value in after-hours trading. Riding on the strong of greater than expected Microsoft Azure Cloud earnings, Microsoft beat all estimates by a margin: earnings per share were announced at $1.14, versus $1.08 expected (GAAP), and revenue was declared at $30.1 billion, versus $29.2 billion expected. That's an extra billion dollars in revenue for all intents and purposes - and stock pricing increased by more than the additional revenue did, with investors expressing confidence on "strong guidance".

Productivity and Business Processes, with Microsoft Office, was up 13% from the year-ago period, to $9.7 billion. Intelligent Cloud, which encompasses the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform and related technologies, was up 23%, to $9.6 billion. And More Personal Computing, which includes Windows, the Xbox, and the Surface hardware business, was up 17%, to $10.8 billion (7% up in the Windows business alone). The Azure folder was the one with the most growth, by far: it saw revenue growth of 89% from the same period in 2017. LinkedIn revenue went up 37% from the same time last year, and gaming revenue saw a 39% increase - a boost not related to hardware, but Xbox software and services, which accounted for 36% of that figure. The Surface business is up 25% from this time last year, something Microsoft credits to both a strong hardware lineup this year and a less than stellar 2017 performance.

Battle Royale? More Like Profit Royale: Fortnite Reportedly Tops $1 billion in Revenue

A report from analyst firm Superdata has put in perspective the craze regarding Battle Royale-type games. Fortnite, developed by EPIC, is now estimated to have earned more than $1 billion in revenue since its launch last year. And it all seems to be going uphill - the game earned some $304 million in May alone solely on its in-game microtransactions, a 4% increase over the still impressive $296 million figure in April. Consider that EPIC only added the Battle Royale game mode last September, and the voracious pace of revenue increase becomes obvious - just the months of May and April account for more than half of the $1 billion being reported here.

Make no mistake: like in all things, there will be an inevitable tumble in popularity and revenue as the game ages, even if it has just now entered its fifth season. However, the rhythm at which funds are flowing into EPIC's coffers will surely enable an even bigger, more impressive experience come Fortnite's successor, which you can bet will be ready to pick up the slack once revenue slows down. It becomes hard not to justify developers' options towards developing these kinds of games over others - it really does seem to be this is where most money's at.

Intel Starts Producing 3D QLC NAND Flash Based PCIe SSDs for Data-Centers

Intel announced that it started mass-production of PCI-Express SSDs for data-centers that implement the latest-generation 3D QLC NAND flash memory. The new QLC (4 bits per cell) NAND flash memory enables 33% increases in densities over TLC NAND flash, and with 3D (stacks), the density per chip is further multiplied. Built in the 15 mm-thick 2.5-inch form-factor with U.2 interface, the drive is built for the rigors of "warm storage" (data that isn't hot, but isn't cold/archival, either). Such drives can be slower than "hot data" drives based on faster MLC or even SLC NAND flash, but almost always up; and faster than HDDs. The first 3D QLC NAND-based SSD, which probably uses the same chips as this drive, is the Micron 5210 ION, which was launched in May.

Toshiba Develops 96-layer BiCS FLASH with QLC Technology

Toshiba Memory Corporation, the world leader in memory solutions, today announced that it has developed a prototype sample of 96-layer BiCS FLASH, its proprietary 3D flash memory, with 4-bit-per-cell (quad level cell, QLC) technology that boosts single-chip memory capacity to the highest level yet achieved.Toshiba Memory will start to deliver samples to SSD and SSD controller manufacturers for evaluation from the beginning of September, and expects to start mass production in 2019.

The advantage of QLC technology is pushing the bit count for data per memory cell from three to four and significantly expanding capacity. The new product achieves the industry's maximum capacity of 1.33 terabits for a single chip which was jointly developed with Western Digital Corporation. This also realizes an unparalleled capacity of 2.66 terabytes with a 16-chip stacked architecture in one package. The huge volumes of data generated by mobile terminals and the like continue to increase with the spread of SNS and progress in IoT, and the need to analyze and utilize that data in real time is expected to increase dramatically. That will require even faster than HDD, larger capacity storage and QLC products using the 96-layer process will contribute a solution.

Thermaltake Releases Riing Trio 12 RGB: A Fan that Responds to Alexa

Thermaltake launches the latest Riing Trio 12 LED RGB Radiator Fan TT Premium Edition (3-Fan Pack) today. A brand new flagship fan series and newly added member of the TT RGB PLUS Ecosystem. The Riing Trio provides LED lighting and fan speed customization via Thermaltake's patented TT RGB PLUS Software and TT AI Voice Control. Starting from the end of the third quarter of 2018, the Riing Trio will be officially Amazon Alexa supported. With the support of the Amazon Alexa Voice Service, users can sync the Riing Trio RGB lighting effects with local or international weather conditions.

In terms of the fan structure, the Riing Trio features a PWM controlled 120mm high-static pressure fan and 3 independent 16.8 million colors LED rings that are pre-installed with 30 addressable LEDs in total. Furthermore, the long-life hydraulic bearing and compression fan blade design guarantees excellent cooling performance and quiet operation.
Thursday, July 19th 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Desktop PC
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Memory
Monitors
Motherboards
Notebooks
PSUs
Speakers
Corsair Hydro Series H100i PRO

Corsair Hydro Series H100i PRO

Corsair is expanding their latest Hydro Series lineup with the H100i PRO. Geared towards a quiet operation, this latest revision replaces the ever-popular H100i V2. Packing magnetic levitation fans, RGB LEDs, and a boatload of features, this latest generation looks to go head to head with the best the competition can offer.

Corsair Launches New Hydro Series H100i Pro Liquid CPU Cooler

Corsair, a world leader in PC gaming peripherals and enthusiast components, today launched a new addition to its bestselling line of Hydro Series liquid CPU coolers, the CORSAIR Hydro Series H100i PRO RGB 240mm Liquid CPU Cooler. Equipped with a vibrant RGB LED-lit pump head and two high-performance ML120 PWM magnetic levitation bearing fans, the H100i PRO is ready to cool today's most demanding high-performance CPUs, with precise fan and lighting control powered by CORSAIR iCUE software.

The H100i PRO's pair of ML120 fans are tuned to produce the airflow and static pressure needed to excel when driving air through a radiator, in addition to boasting ultra-low friction magnetic levitation bearings that allow them to spin significantly quieter at higher RPMs. PWM connection allows for precise speed control across a wide range, from 400 RPM to 2,400 RPM, or even the ability to stop the fans entirely using Zero RPM fan profiles at lower temperatures.

ASUS Intros a Pair of C246 Based Workstation Motherboards

ASUS introduced a pair of new workstation motherboards based on the new C246 chipset, designed for Xeon E-2100 series socket LGA1151 processors. These include the WS C246 Pro (ATX form-factor) and WS C246 M Pro (micro-ATX). Both boards also support 8th generation Core, Pentium, and Celeron "Coffee Lake" processors. The cornerstone of both boards is a zero-bling design that focuses on features relevant to workstations. The WS C246 Pro draws power from a combination of 24-pin ATX, 8-pin EPS, and an optional 6-pin PCIe power. An 8-phase VRM conditions power for the CPU, which is wired to four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 64 GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory with ECC support. Expansion slots include two reinforced PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots (x8/x8 with both populated), two additional x16 slots that are electrical gen 3.0 x4 and wired to the PCH; and two gen 3.0 x1 slots.

Storage connectivity on the WS C246 Pro includes eight SATA 6 Gbps, an two M.2 slots with PCIe gen 3.0 x4 wiring, each. USB connectivity includes two USB 3.1 gen 2 (one each type-A and type-C), and four USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel. Two USB 3.0 ports are put out as internal headers. There's also an internal type-A USB 3.0 port meant for USB TPMs and security keys. Display outputs include one each of D-Sub, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. There are two 1 GbE interfaces, both driven by Intel-made controllers. 8-channel HD audio makes for the rest of it.

TechPowerUp GPU-Z v2.10.0 Released

TechPowerUp today released a major update to GPU-Z, our graphics sub-system information, monitoring, and diagnostic utility that no PC enthusiast can leave home without. Version 2.10.0 introduces a slew of changes. To begin with, we have added CPU temperature monitoring, supported on all Intel processors 2nd generation Core and newer; and AMD Ryzen. The graph drawing code for the "Sensors" tab has been improved for faster rendering and reduced CPU usage. The "Reset" button in this tab can be used to clear all graphs with a click. Various under the hood improvements work to avoid error messages with Query External. GPU-Z now reports Override limits on the ATI/AMD BIOS Advanced view page.

Support has been added for the GDDR6 memory type. Among the new GPUs supported are AMD Vega M GH, Vega M GL, WX 4130, WX 4150, WX 8100, Radeon Pro Vega 56, Pro SSG; AMD Vega Graphics in Ryzen 3 2200U, Ryzen 3 2300U, Ryzen 3 Pro 2200GE, Ryzen 5 2400GE, Ryzen 7 2400U; Intel UHD 605, UHD 610, UHD 630, P580; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB, GTX 1050 3 GB, GTX 1050 2 GB (GP106), GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q, MX110, MX130, GTX 750 Ti (GM107B); Quadro GV100, P600 Mobile, P620, P2000, P3200, P4200, Grid M3-3020; and Tesla V100, V100-PCIE-32GB, M4, P106-090, P5200, P6, P40, P100 SXM2, P100 PCIe 12 GB.
DOWNLOAD: TechPowerUp GPU-Z 2.10.0

The change-log follows.

MSI Drops First Hint of AMD Increasing AM4 CPU Core Counts

With Intel frantically working on an 8-core socket LGA1151 processor to convincingly beat the 8-core AMD Ryzen 2000 series processor, AMD could be working on the next cycle of core-count increases for the mainstream-desktop platform. Motherboard maker MSI may have dropped the first hint that AMD is bringing >8 cores to the socket AM4 mainstream-desktop platform by mentioning that its upcoming motherboards based on the AMD B450 chipset support 8-core "and up" CPU in a marketing video.

AMD will get its next opportunity to tinker with key aspects of its CPU micro-architecture with "Zen 2," being built on the 7 nm silicon fabrication process. If it decides to stick with the CCX approach to multi-core processors, the company could increase per-CCX core counts. A 50 percent core-count increase enables 12-core processors, while a 100 percent increase brings 16-cores to the AM4 platform. MSI video confirms that these >8-core processors will have backwards-compatibility with existing 400-series chipsets, even if they launch alongside newer 500-series chipset.
The video follows.

BIOSTAR Introduces H310MHC Entry-level Motherboard

BIOSTAR introduces an essential micro-ATX motherboard for home/office computing with the BIOSTAR H310MHC; a motherboard which uses the Intel H310 single chipset architecture to support the latest socket LGA1151 8th generation Intel Core processors and DDR4-1866/2133/2400/2666, USB3.1 Gen. 1 and HDMI output. The BIOSTAR H310MHC is a good choice for running every day applications such as office applications, web browsing, video and photo editing and basic gaming.

The BIOSTAR H310MHC offers the essential features and performance for home/office computing with its dual DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of 2600MHz DDR4 memory and a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 and two PCI-E 2.0. x1 slots. As for connectivity, the H310MHC has a Realtek RTL8111H - 10/100/1000 Controller along with four USB 3.1 Gen1 ports (2 on rear I/Os and 2 via internal header) and 6 x USB2.0 ports (2 on rear I/Os and 4 via internal header).
Wednesday, July 18th 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Memory
Monitors
Mouse
Notebooks
Processors
SSD
Toshiba OCZ RC100 480 GB

Toshiba OCZ RC100 480 GB

The Toshiba OCZ RC100 is one of the most affordable M.2 NVMe drives on the market. It comes in a super compact form factor barely half as long as normal M.2 drives. The RC100 is also highly integrated, using a single IC that combines SSD controller and NAND flash, but lacks DRAM.

World of Warcraft Engine Updated to Support DX12, Adds 21:9 Cinematic Rendering

The folks at Blizzard have taken it into their hands to update the eons-old, but still running strong, World of Warcraft. Some back-end improvements have been made, and were essentially lost within the latest patch notes - as in, not even mentioned - that included this update to the latest API. The game now supports DX11 and DX12, but there's a caveat - only AMD users should use the DX12 implementation. Players using an NVIDIA graphics card will see an immediate performance hit from going to the more modern renderer. For now, the change is virtual - there doesn't seem to have been any particular work for performance improvements.

Other changes include ditching Exclusive Fullscreen (now only windowed and borderless windowed modes are available), improving the cinematic renderer for 21:9 ratio support, and changing graphical options. The performance presets of low, medium and high have been swapped with 1-10 sliders (a change prior to this patch), which allow for more granular control of graphics options - and improved performance, since more rendering variables are now affected. The game really does run extremely well nowadays, however; it seems a little counter intuitive to devote the resources to add DX12 support for barely any real improvement, so this could be the herald of future changes.

Antitrust: European Commission Fines Google for Record €4.34 billion for Illegal Practices

It's a record-setting fine: the European Commission has officially ruled that Google must pay a fine of €4.34 billion for breaking antitrust laws, specifically related to the implementation of its services within the Android ecosystem. The three key areas within which the EC has found wrongdoings pertain to bundling of its search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system; blocking phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android (claiming, without proof, that these versions would offer more security risks), and "made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators" to exclusively bundle the Google Search app on handsets.

Google now has 90 days to comply with the EC's decision (notwithstanding payment of the fine), which Google, obviously, has already announced will appeal the decision. In a statement to The Verge, a Google representative said that "Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation, and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition," and that Google "(...) will appeal the Commission's decision." The idea here seems to be to stop Google from forcing manufacturers to bundle their app and search software stacks - many times in a seemingly unremovable way. You can check the press release in the source link, but some of the more interesting snippets have been collated after the break.

Code of Conduct: Texas Instruments CEO Brian Crutcher Resigns

Texas Instruments today announced the resignation of Brian Crutcher as president, CEO and a member of the TI board. The board has named Rich Templeton, the company's chairman, to reassume the roles of president and CEO on an ongoing, indefinite basis, in addition to continuing as chairman. Templeton's appointment is not temporary, and the board is not searching for a replacement.

Crutcher resigned due to violations of the company's code of conduct. The violations are related to personal behavior that is not consistent with our ethics and core values, but not related to company strategy, operations or financial reporting.

German Retailer Caseking Sold to Gilde Buy Out Partners

Funds advised by Equistone Partners Europe, one of Europe's leading mid-market private equity investors, have agreed to sell a majority stake in Caseking, one of the leading European suppliers of PC gaming, eSports and tech products, to funds advised by Gilde Buy Out Partners. Equistone acquired Caseking in March 2014 and has subsequently supported the company's growth strategy. Caseking's founders and management will retain a stake in the business. The financial terms of the deal are undisclosed and completion of the sale is subject to the approval of the relevant competition authorities.

Cooler Master Improves Deals on Newegg's "Fantastech Sale"

Newegg has its "Fantastech Sale" going on, which has some interesting deals in all manner of tech. These deals include a number of brands and products, so you'd better shop around if you have something on your wishlist and would like to take advantage of discounts. Some interesting deals and prices, for instance, can be found on a Gigabyte GTX 1080, which can be had for just$ 449.99 after all discounts have been applied (never thought I'd see such a price ever again in this generation); Gigabyte's X470 AORUS Ultra Gaming can be had for just $109.99, down from the $139.99 asking price; the CORSAIR TX-M Series TX550M power supply can be had for just $34.99, down from its usual $79.99 pricing; and Cryorig's H7 tower cooler is down by 44% to just $27.99.

Western Digital Shuts Down Hard Drive Factory - Just not Enough Demand

With the advent of solid-state storage in pretty much every device you can think of, demand for mechanical HDDs has gone down, because users prefer fast and compact SSD storage over the mechanical dinosaurs. HDD manufacturers have been trying to stop the inevitable by coming out with new technologies to increase capacity - faster than SSD pricing can drop, but it seems they can't prevent the inevitable.

Now The Register UK reports that Western Digital will close its HDD factory near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is one of the company's first factories, operating since 1973. After the shutdown of the Malaysia plant, WD will be left with only two factories in Thailand, and is now trying to gain more share in the SSD market.

Ubisoft Reports Apr-Jun 2018 Financials - $461 Million in Sales, PS4 more than 2x that of PC

Today, Ubisoft released its sales figures for the first quarter of fiscal 2018-19, i.e. the three months ending on June 30, 2018.

Yves Guillemot, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, stated "We had a record first quarter, which exceeded our expectations. This performance was fueled by steady growth for our back-catalog and an excellent momentum for PRI, once again confirming the increasingly recurring profile of our business and the ever-greater success of our digital transformation.

Our teams are continuing to deliver on our strategic plan of ramping up our franchises. Assassin's Creed Odyssey and The Division 2 were very well received at E3, confirming their full potential in a highly competitive environment. Our new creation, Skull & Bones, also made a very good impression due to its innovative gameplay combining naval battles with a multi-player experience.

AMD Shares to Jump 25% in Wake of PC Market Growth: Stifel

Analyst Kevin Cassidy, responsible for AMD shares rating with Stifel, has revised expected AMD growth in the wake of expected (and already verified) PC market growth. Following the news at the end of last week, AMD shares jumped by 5% on Friday, and increased by another 2% on Monday. This marks an increase of 61.3% YTD (year-to-date.) Looking at this trend, the analyst increased his 12-month price target on the stock to $21 from $17, a nearly 27% upside from Monday close.
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