Friday, June 22nd 2018

Today's Reviews

Cooling
Graphics Cards
Keyboards
Memory
Monitors
Motherboards
Speakers
SSD
Storage

Corsair Launches New K70 RGB MK.2 and STRAFE RGB MK.2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

CORSAIR , a world leader in PC gaming peripherals and enthusiast components, today announced the release of the new CORSAIR K70 RGB MK.2 and CORSAIR STRAFE RGB MK.2 range of mechanical gaming keyboards. Equipped with 100% Cherry MX high-quality mechanical keyswitches, the K70 RGB MK.2 RGB and STRAFE RGB MK.2 offer gamers a huge variety of switch type, including Cherry MX Red, MX Brown, MX Blue, Rapidfire MX Speed or MX Silent keyswitches.

Whichever switch you pick, the K70 RGB MK.2 RGB and STRAFE RGB MK.2 both offer the comprehensive set of features that gamers demand; per-key RGB backlighting, 8MB of onboard profile storage and dedicated media keys are just the start, all powered by new CORSAIR iCUE software to synchronize lighting and control across all your CORSAIR iCUE compatible devices. Staying true to the CORSAIR legacy for quality and choice, the K70 RGB MK.2 RGB and STRAFE RGB MK.2 are ready to make their mark.

Transcend Releases JetDrive 855/850 PCIe NVMe SSD Upgrade Kit for Mac Computers

Transcend Information Inc. (Transcend ), a leading manufacturer of storage and multimedia products, is proud to announce the release of the JetDrive 855/850 PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) upgrade kit for Mac computers. The JetDrive 850 features read and write speeds of up to 1,600MB/s and 1,300MB/s, and is made of the latest 3D NAND flash. The JetDrive 855 includes a sleek aluminum Thunderbolt enclosure for a simple upgrade experience. Both models are the perfect upgrade for a MacBook Pro , MacBook Air , Mac mini , or Mac Pro .

PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe interface allows transfer speeds of up to 1,600MB/s
Transcend's JetDrive 850 features the PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe interface, meaning four lanes are used to transmit and receive data simultaneously. The result is compelling performance of up to 1,600MB/s read and 1,300MB/s write. Crafted of 3D NAND flash memory, the JetDrive 850 is reliable, highly compatible, and brings a whole new level of performance to Mac computers.

NETGEAR Announces the Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band WiFi Mesh Extender

NETGEAR , Inc., the leading provider of networking devices that power today's smart home, is introducing the Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band WiFi Mesh Extender (EX7700) as the latest member to the Nighthawk family of WiFi Mesh Extenders. This new Nighthawk mesh extender provides powerful whole home WiFi by extending the range of your existing router using patented Fastlane3 technology. With a dedicated 866Mbps 5GHz band for extending internet speeds to all of your connected devices, the EX7700 is one of the most advanced Tri-Band WiFi mesh extenders available.

Nighthawk X6 joins the existing family of Nighthawk Mesh extenders which employ a dedicated WiFi link to provide an uninterrupted flow of data between the primary router and the extender. Nighthawk Mesh allows the same WiFi network name to be used as your primary router to provide seamless connectivity with Smart Roaming. Smart Roaming enables your mobile devices to connect intelligently for optimal WiFi connection from router to the extender or vice versa delivering exceptional streaming when you move throughout your home. Powerful features such as MU-MIMO and Smart Connect ensure every device is assigned a fast WiFi connection.

Amber is the World's First Hybrid Cloud Storage Platform

Latticework, Inc. today introduced Amber: the world's first personal hybrid cloud storage platform. Amber is a multimedia storage and streaming device that gives users complete control over their digital assets, offering the convenience of the cloud in the privacy of their own homes. With Amber, users' life memories and digital files are always secure, while Amber's companion app ensures that they are always within reach to access, relive and share. Amber is the debut product from Latticework, Inc., a company founded by storage pioneer and Marvell co-founder, Dr. Pantas Sutardja, to tackle escalating consumer storage and bandwidth use. Watch this video to learn more about Amber.

Amber offers security and convenience without compromising digital data, privacy or peace of mind. "Your personal data and memories are just that - yours. Why would you want to give complete strangers or cloud providers access to your data?" said Dr. Pantas Sutardja, founder & CEO, Latticework, Inc. "Amber makes storage personal, enabling you to protect, control and secure your digital life, while seamlessly allowing you to relive and share life's memories with only the people you choose."

Grab a Copy of Shadowrun Returns Deluxe For Free from the Humble Bundle Store

The Humble Bundle Store is giving away a copy of the excellent Shadowun Returns, in its ultimate, Deluxe form. The cyberpunk, turn-based tactical RPG made a splash on its release, bringing about a much needed lease of life to the series, with an interesting setting and storytelling chops. Developed by Harebrained Schemes, which have, in the meantime, been acquired by Paradox Interactive, the Deluxe edition features the base game, The Shadowrun Returns Anthology DLC, and a free Soundtrack download. This offer ceases in one day and four hours, so make sure to make your tactical move now. Don't waste your turn.

Alphacool Announces Its Eissturm Watercooling Sets

With the new Eissturm sets you get all the components you need to start into the world of water cooling. The sets are not only for beginners but also for professionals and enthusiasts alike. All the components that are used are matched for optimal compatibility and performance and come from Alphacools high-end series. Alphacool makes no compromises when it comes to materials and relies on pure copper or brass for all metals ensuring fantastic cooling performance. With the Eissturm sets, you can easily cool your CPU and thanks to the enclosed quick-release fastener you can also integrate any graphics card cooler into the loop also.

NVIDIA's Next Gen GPU Launch Held Back to Drain Excess, Costly Built-up Inventory?

We've previously touched upon whether or not NVIDIA should launch their 1100 or 2000 series of graphics cards ahead of any new product from AMD. At the time, I wrote that I only saw benefits to that approach: earlier time to market -> satisfaction of upgrade itches and entrenchment as the only latest-gen manufacturer -> raised costs over lack of competition -> ability to respond by lowering prices after achieving a war-chest of profits. However, reports of a costly NVIDIA mistake in overestimating demand for its Pascal GPUs does lend some other shades to the whole equation.

Write-offs in inventory are costly (just ask Microsoft), and apparently, NVIDIA has found itself in a miscalculating demeanor: overestimating gamers' and miners' demand for their graphics cards. When it comes to gamers, NVIDIA's Pascal graphics cards have been available in the market for two years now - it's relatively safe to say that the majority of gamers who needed higher-performance graphics cards have already taken the plunge. As to miners, the cryptocurrency market contraction (and other factors) has led to a taper-out of graphics card demand for this particular workload. The result? NVIDIA's demand overestimation has led, according to Seeking Alpha, to a "top three" Taiwan OEM returning 300,000 GPUs to NVIDIA, and "aggressively" increased GDDR5 buying orders from the company, suggesting an excess stock of GPUs that need to be made into boards.

US: The Tax Man Cometh After Online Sales Tax Following Supreme Court's Decision

A Supreme Court decision last Thursday may be just what the doctor ordered for states' ability to collect taxes on online sales from a much wider variety of businesses. The decision, passed with 5-4 votes from the Justices involved, overrules previous understandings regarding the physical presence rule: essentially, that a business was only forced to collect sales tax and send it to the State it's operating if it had some sort of physical presence (be it warehouses or some such) in that particular state. If not, taxes were still due - but shoppers had to take the initiative of delivering their taxable amount to the state. That, naturally, very rarely happened, which led to reported billion dollar losses in tax revenue for a variety of US states.

Now, states have essentially been given the green light to pass laws requiring out-of-state sellers to collect the state's sales tax from customers and send it to the state. More than a dozen states have already adopted such laws even ahead of the court's decision, confident in the decision's direction, said state tax policy expert Joseph Crosby.

EK Expands Its Liquid Cooling Kits with EK-KIT RGB 240 and EK-KIT RGB 360

EK Water Blocks, the premium liquid cooling gear manufacturer, is expanding its portfolio of kits with two new RGB versions. The EK-KIT RGB 240 and 360 are ultimate fully RGB customizable liquid cooling kits that are built on the existing Performance line of kits which are dedicated to all users who seek the best price-performance ratio on the market. The kit contains everything you need to assemble your first high-end custom liquid cooling loop.

The EK-KIT RGB 240 and EK-KIT RGB 360 are using EK-CoolStream PE radiators that hit the sweet spot regarding thickness, performance, and low noise operation. The square housing of the radiator is evenly coated with black matte paint, and the fins themselves feature a super thin layer of black coating for a totally non-intrusive clean look.

HDR10+ Licensing Begins, Royalty-Free Alternative to Dolby Vision

HDR10+ Technologies, LLC announced the start of the new licensing and logo certification program for HDR10+ technology. HDR10+ is the royalty-free, open standard dynamic metadata platform for High Dynamic Range (HDR), which optimizes picture quality for 4K Ultra HD displays and improves the viewing experience for all audiences.

The new HDR10+ technology optimizes picture quality for 4K Ultra HD displays by using dynamic tone mapping to reflect frame to frame or scene to scene variations in brightness, color saturation, and contrast. The resulting enhanced viewing experience can now be easily provided on a wide range of displays bringing the viewing experience much closer to the original creative intent for the content.

Microsoft Releases Updates for Older Windows 10 Builds

While not much happened during June's Microsoft Patch Day, the company is now pushing out updates for earlier builds of Windows 10, namely for the Anniversary Update (1607), Creators Update (1703), Fall Creators Update 1709). There is no updates for the latest Windows 10 April 2018 Update (1803).
The change logs are below. You will receive those updates via Windows Update.
Thursday, June 21st 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Keyboards
Memory
Monitors
NAS
PSUs
SSD
Synology DS718+ 2-Bay NAS

Synology DS718+ 2-Bay NAS

The Synology DS718+ is a high-end 2-bay NAS with good performance, silent operation, and low power consumption. Its strong advantage is that its storage capacity can easily be expanded with five additional drives (seven in total) since it is compatible with the optional DX513 expansion unit.

be quiet! Opens Service Center in the United States

be quiet!, the market leader in PC power supplies in Germany for twelve consecutive years, recently introduced the Dark Base 700, Dark Rock 4, Dark Rock Pro 4, and the Straight Power 11 series to the U.S. market. be quiet! is now announcing the opening of its U.S. based service center. Customers buying premium products expect premium service. be quiet! does its best to ensure their shipped products have zero defects, but when a customer needs help, it is of the utmost importance that they are assisted as quickly as possible.

"The L.A. based service center is a commitment to our U.S. based customers," said Stanislav Minkin, be quiet! General Manager. "With local technicians, be quiet! can provide support directly to the end-user, minimizing repair times and offering fast solutions to customers' problems and claims"

NEC Announces the 27-Inch MultiSync PA271Q Color-Critical Monitor

NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc., a leading provider of commercial LCD displays and projectors, today announced the launch of the MultiSync PA271Q, a new professional 27-inch wide color gamut monitor.

"The MultiSync PA271Q replaces the PA272W, one of our most popular professional wide color gamut desktop displays," said Art Marshall, Senior Product Manager for Desktop Displays at NEC Display Solutions. "It provides much better black levels and contrast, and new cutting-edge features have been added to provide improved color coverage to meet the color-critical needs of the print production, digital photography, photo editing, and video production markets, among others."

Samsung, Micron, and Hynix Reportedly Slapped with Colossal Antitrust Fines

China's Anti-Monopoly Bureau of Ministry of Commerce visited Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and Micron Technology last year to express its concerns over the high prices of DRAM. Unfortunately, these meetings yielded no results as DRAM prices continued to skyrocket in the first quarter of this year. With their patience exhausted, Chinese antitrust regulators finally launched an investigation into Samsung, Micron, and Hynix, which collectively owns 90% of the global DRAM pie. The three DRAM vendors are allegedly cooperating with the Chinese authorities to shed some light into the whole DRAM price fixing matter. If found guilty, they could face fines between $800 million to $8 billion. The estimated fines were calculated based on the companies' DRAM sales in China between 2016 and 2017.

Whether you believe in coincidence or not, Samsung, Micron, and Hynix have a long history of being partners in crime. The trio, along with Infineon and Elpida Memory, conspired to fix prices on DRAM in the United States from April 1999 and June 2002. Infineon pleaded guilty in 2004 and was fined $160 million. Hynix cracked shortly afterwards and paid $185 million in fines. Elpida got off the hook easy with a $84 million fine, while Samsung took the biggest hit paying up to $300 million. Curiously, Infineon called it quits shortly after the incident, and Micron later acquired Elpida. In other news, China aims to become self-sufficient in the IC department by supporting local manufacturers like Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC).

MSI Showcases Upcoming Four-Way M.2 PCIe Expansion Card Based on GPU Cooling Tech

MSI showcased their upcoming overkill solution for users that want to have a dedicated PCIe x16 expansion card - and one that brings the true and final cooling solution to end all thermal throttling. Basically, the company appropriated its Aero cooler, which is used for some of their graphics cards, and applied it to a 4x M.2 expansion card. The result? Up to 50 W of cooling capability with this solution - which can go up to 75 W if users connect the additional 6-pin power connector for the fan to go into overdrive.

It's almost as if MSI was giving users a "yes we can" shout on designing this cooling solution, with the amount of overkill this has. No amount of thermal throttling should occur here - ever. Maybe overcompensating for the M.2 Shield debacle? Whatever the reason, this is certainly a competent cooling solution, and it will be included inside their Threadripper X399 MEG Creation motherboard - an outrageous motherboard, with an outrageous M.2 cooling solution. Balance is brought back to the world. Naturally, the company also has plans to offer their expansion M.2 card as a standalone product.

ASUS Gets First Dibs On 144 Hz/3 ms Narrow-Bezel Panels from AU Optronics

ASUS's upcoming ROG GL504 Scar II, Hero II, and Zephyrus GM501 gaming laptops have one thing in common - 144 Hz/3 ms narrow-bezel panels. A source within the company confirmed that ASUS had partnered with AU Optronics to produce the new panel exclusively for its gaming laptops. The Taiwanese manufacturer even funded a portion of the panel's research and development. As a result, ASUS has exclusive rights to the 144 Hz/ 3 ms panel for at least a year. Gaming laptop competitors such as Gigabyte and MSI will have to wait it out or look elsewhere.

Certainly there are many display panel manufacturers in the likes of BOE Display, LG Philips, Samsung, and Sharp. Unfortunately, they don't offer a panel that is able to rival the 144 Hz/ 3 ms panel from AU Optronics, which is already in mass production. Consumers who aren't after a gaming laptop with a 144 Hz/ 3 ms panel have other viable options. The current offering on the market includes the MSI GS65 and Gigabyte Aero 15X that feature a 144 Hz panel with a slightly higher response time of 7 ms. And there's also the MSI GS63VR that comes with a 120 Hz/ 3 ms panel.

Your 1440p Monitor Could Be Using a 4K Panel

German site Prad.de reports that sources close to monitor panel manufacturers told them that the production cost of a 27" 4K 3840x2160 panel is lower or at least equal to that of a 27" 2560x1440 QHD panel. This drives monitor manufacturers to use 4K panels in monitors that are specified as QHD - when panel supply is low, or monitor demand is high.

The sources did not mention any specific monitor manufacturer or model, but it's highly probable that some 1440p monitors in the hands of customers today use a 4K panel. Obviously you're not gonna get 4K resolution when paying for a QHD monitor. Rather the panel firmware is configured to report its maximum capability as 1440p, and internally scale the input signal accordingly, which may result in reduced image quality.

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang Gives Away 20 "CEO Edition TITAN V" To Titans of the AI Industry

During the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang pulled a PR stunt eased by NVIDIA's currently entrenched position in the AI-acceleration market. The new TITAN V graphics card being given away under the "CEO Edition" tag feature more than double the amount of HBM memory - up to 32 GB of HBM 2 memory compared to the original Titan V's 12 GB.

This is, essentially, a Titan-branded Quadro GV100 accelerator, made all the more exotic for the limited-edition branding. It features the GV100 graphics processor - a large chip with a die area of 815 mm² and 21,100 million transistors. It features 5120 shading units, 320 texture mapping units and 128 ROPs. Also included are 640 tensor cores which help improve the speed of machine learning applications.

Micron Ready With 96-Layer Flash & 1Y nm DRAM in 2H 2018

In their recent earnings call, Micron commented that they have 96-layer 3D NAND technology on track for volume shipments in the second half of 2018. Most of today's SSDs typically use 32-layer technology, with 64-layer flash chips used in some recent releases like the Crucial MX500. 96-layer is the third generation of 3D NAND and increases storage capacity per chip even further which allows smaller and more energy efficient mobile devices to be built. Of course it will be cheaper too, compared to current-generation 64 layer NAND, which should bring SSD pricing down even more, and of course generally help pricing of consumer products which use flash memory.

The second important note from the presentation is that Micron expects 1X nm (18 nm) DRAM production to exceed that of previous generations before the end of this year. Their next-generation 1Y nm (15/16 nm) DRAM is on track to begin production shipments in the second half of 2018, too. As they noted in a previous event, their product and process roadmap for DRAM 1z looks solid and 1-alpha development programs already under way.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Resigns - For Having Sex With Colleague

Intel Corporation today announced the resignation of Brian Krzanich as CEO and a member of the board of directors. The board has named Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan interim chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Intel was recently informed that Mr. Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel's non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel's values and adhere to the company's code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr. Krzanich's resignation.

Ready, Set - Steam Summer Sale Kicking Off Today

(UPDATE: And It's On!)

This years' Steam Summer Sale is kicking off today, as per the one-month-old leak - and warning - we gave our users. I hope you either finished your spending plans; are finalizing them as we speak; or are fortunate enough not to have to plan your spending in these trying, tempting times. Either way, be ready for increased lists of waiting games starting at 5 pm UTC, 10 am PDT (and 6 pm on my own little corner of Europe, Portugal).

AMD Marries Cooler Master for Wraith Ripper: Threadripper 2-Designed Mega Cooler

AMD has partnered with Cooler Master to deliver a Threadripper 2-specific cooler. Dubbed the Wraith Ripper (as per AMD's Wraith stock coolers and their Threadripper 2, up to 32-core, 64-thread HCC CPUs), this is a behemoth of a mega cooler that can dissipate Threadripper 2's (perhaps the Threadripper 2990X's) 250 W TDP.

The cooler features addressable RGB lighting that can be app-controlled, and Cooler Master says this cooler has been designed to offer full memory compatibility. The height between the baseplate and the heatsink's fins does seem tall and tidy for the tallest RAM sticks you can find, for sure - even with the eight pairs of heatpipes that drive the heat away from your most precious silicon component. Check our COMPUTEX 2018 pics of this behemoth below.

AMD to Rename "FreeSync 2" To "FreeSync 2 HDR", Increase Minimum HDR Requirement

The guys over at PC Perspective conducted an interesting interview with AMD, during which a company representative talked about impending changes to AMD's FreeSync program. Essentially, the company found that there is some consumer confusion regarding what features exactly FreeSync 2 delivers over its first-gen counterpart. As such, they feel renaming the technology to FreeSync 2 HDR conveys the focus on the new feature-set: LFC (Low Framerate Compensation) and the FreeSync 2 HDR fast-lane for tone-mapping improvements.

The AMD representative further clarified what specs are required for a monitor to receive FreeSync 2 HDR certification: support for at least HDR600, coverage of 99 percent of BT.709 and 90 percent of the DCI P3 color spectrum. Also mentioned was a minimum response time, though the exact value remains unknown. An interesting point that can be gleaned from AMD's change, though, is that this one is more than just cosmetic: AMD's first FreeSync 2 certification program required displays to only be able to adhere to HDR400. There are some examples of announced, FreeSync 2 monitors that only support that standard (and others that don't support even that but were certified all the same), instead of the aforementioned HDR600 the company will apparently start enforcing alongside the renewed "FreeSync 2 HDR" program. Here's hoping for a stricter certification program from AMD in this regard, since HDR400 was a push in itself towards being true HDR (it isn't...) - and FreeSync 2 already has all the market support and recognition it needs to now start increasing its requirements for quality support instead of mainly quantity.

OpenBSD Turns Off Hyper-Threading to Combat Intel CPU Security Issues

Lead developer for OpenBSD Mark Kettenis has announced that OpenBSD will no longer enable Hyper-Threading on Intel processors by default. This move is intended to mitigate security exploits from the Spectre ecosystem as well as TLB and cache timing attacks, because important processor resources are no longer shared between threads. Their suspicion is that some of the unreleased (or yet unknown) attacks can be stopped using this approach.

This move is supported by the fact that most newer motherboards no longer provide an option to disable Hyper-Threading via BIOS. OpenBSD users who still want to use Hyper-Threading can manually enable support for it using the sysctl hw.smt. The developers are also looking into expanding this feature to other CPUs from other vendors, should they be affected, too.

TEAMGROUP Releases 3600 MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM for Gaming Laptops

With the rapid growth of the global eSports economy, the gaming laptop market is getting hotter and hotter. TEAMGROUP's gaming brand, T-FORCE releases VULCAN DDR4 3600 MHz memory module exclusively for gaming laptop. The clock frequency is as high as the maximum performance of DDR4 3600 MHz. The capacity of the memory module is up to 32 GB (16 GBx2), which allows gamers to possess high speed performance and master the key to winning every gaming battle.

Samsung Introduces 8 TB NVMe SSD For Data Centers

Samsung Electronics, the world leader in advanced memory technology, today announced that it has launched the industry's highest capacity NVMe solid state drive (SSD) based on the incredibly small Next-generation Small Form Factor (NGSFF) - an eight-terabyte (TB) NF1 SSD. The new 8TB NVMe NF1 SSD has been optimized for data-intensive analytics and virtualization applications in next-generation data centers and enterprise server systems.

"By introducing the first NF1 NVMe SSD, Samsung is taking the investment efficiency in data centers to new heights," said Sewon Chun, senior vice president of Memory Marketing at Samsung Electronics. "We will continue to lead the trend toward enabling ultra-high density data centers and enterprise systems by delivering storage solutions with unparalleled performance and density levels."

Samsung & SK Hynix 18 Nanometer DRAM Yields Plagued By Technical Problems

Digitimes reports that Korean memory manufacturers Hynix and Samsung have both been hit by unstable yield rates for their 18 nm server DRAM production.

While the yields are claimed to be sufficient for notebook and desktop PC production, they are not good enough for server memory, which has higher quality requirements. Due to the shortage, Chinese enterprises like Alibaba, Huawei, Lenovo and Tencent are now switching to use 20 nanometer DRAM for their servers, which is in better supply. Other vendors have even requested that no more 18 nm chips are shipped by these Korean suppliers, in a bid to improve quality, which might take several months, but shouldn't have a significant impact on overall DRAM prices.

First Crucial MX500 Firmware Update Released

Crucial has released the first new firmware for their smash-hit MX500 Series SSD, which is among the fastest and most affordable drives on the market (our reviews: 500 GB, 1 TB, 1 TB M.2).

The Crucial website lists the following improvements in the changelog:
  • Improved ready time from DEVSLP low-power state.
  • Improved TRIM and Wear Leveling performance.
  • Improved SATA error handing.
  • Improved compatibility with some TCG Opal 2.0 third-party encryption utilities (this change does not affect MS BitLocker).

Lootboxes: Valve Disables Trading for CS:GO and Dota 2 in Netherlands

Not long ago, the Netherlands ruled that loot boxes in games are gambling, and have been designed to get people addicted, in order to spend more money. Gaming companies had until June 20 (yesterday) to either change their game mechanics accordingly or to apply for a gambling license.

This has now caused Valve to disable trading of items on CS:GO and Dota 2, as the current interpretation of the law has a little loophole that considers loot boxes as gambling only, when the in-game goods are transferable between players.

Basemark Launches Free Multiplatform GPU Benchmark

Basemark launched today Basemark GPU, a new graphics performance evaluation tool for systems with Vulkan 1.0, OpenGL 4.5 or OpenGL ES 3.1 graphics APIs. This tool enables the industry to objectively and reliably quantify and compare graphics performance of next generation mobile, automotive and desktop processors.

"We have poured all of our soul and expertise in making this product. The work started two and half years ago and this massive project has culminated in today's launch of a true state-of-the-art product," said Arto Ruotsalainen, CEO of Basemark. "We believe Basemark GPU will become an essential tool for anyone tasked to evaluate graphics performance in systems ranging from smart phones, smart TVs and cars to PCs."
Wednesday, June 20th 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Keyboards
Memory
Mouse
Notebooks
Speakers
SSD

Steam Releases 'External Funds Used' Tool

Have you ever wondered how much money you've invested into your entire Steam collection? Well, now you can! Valve has recently added a nifty feature called 'External Funds Used' that allows Steam users to see the total amount of money spent at the Steam store. All users have to do is sign into their Steam account at this link. Do note that the tool doesn't take into account key activations. So, games that have been purchased through third-party stores like GOG, Green Man Gaming, Humble Bundle, G2A, and etc. will not contribute to the grand total. The "OldSpend" field equals to the amount of money that was spent before the Limited User Account policy was implemented in 2015. The "PWSpend" is related to purchases made on games operated by Perfect World Entertainment. a Chinese company that runs CS:GO and DOTA 2 in China. So, how much have you spent? Let us know in the comments below.

Plantronics Announces New RIG 500 PRO Series Gaming Headsets

Plantronics, an audio pioneer and communications technology leader, today announced the RIG 500 PRO Series of gaming headsets, created to deliver high-fidelity audio in an ultra-lightweight design for the truly competitive gamer. RIG 500 PRO Series are the first gaming headsets to feature an exoskeleton earcup design with isolated inner acoustic chambers to reduce distortion, creating the ideal audio solution for today's high-resolution gaming platforms.

Premium 50 mm drivers deliver wide-range frequency response while dual-material ear cushions provide the combination of noise reduction and comfort competitive gamers need for long, focused sessions. In addition, the Xbox and PlayStation officially licensed editions come with the patent-pending RIG Game Audio Dial, a 3.5 mm connector with integrated volume control for wireless game controllers. Console gamers can now adjust volume directly from the controller without lifting their hands. PC models feature an inline volume slider.

Synology Releases Virtual Machine Manager Pro

Synology Inc. announced the official release of Virtual Machine Manager Pro to cater to professional users with services suitable to their needs. VMM Pro enables Synology NAS to run multiple virtual machines like Windows, Linux, Virtual DSM. It assists users to integrate and manage multiple Synology NAS via its virtualized cluster, flexibly distributes hardware resources, migrates virtual machines between hosts without any interruption, and conducts regular snapshots and replications to back up virtual machines, for the ultimate goal of building a efficient and safe virtualization environment.

Synology is dedicated to making powerful yet intuitive solutions for users. "Virtual Machine Manager has garnered wide acclaims with its latest version, and more than 130,000 Synology NAS have downloaded and installed it over the course of one year. This clearly shows how this product has been endorsed worldwide, which is very motivating to our development team. With the extremely flexible cluster in Virtual Machine Manager Pro, we are able to help IT personnel to easily build a professional and efficient virtualization environment on NAS servers. As this application improves your work efficiency, it protects critical virtual machines, as well." said Chen Feng Wang, Product Manager of virtualization at Synology.

AUO Reportedly Shipping Mini-LED Panels for Gaming Monitors in 4Q18

According to a report by DigiTimes, panel-maker AU Optronics is looking to ship gaming panels with built-in mini-LED technology going into the 4Q 2018. This isn't a new display tech, and shouldn't be confused with Micro LED tech, which is hailed as the great coming of an OLED killer. Despite that, mini-LED remains a very interesting, likely crucial piece of technology in enabling much increased color accuracy and contrast ratios of current panel technology - thus also bettering HDR implementations.

Usually, a given monitor or TV features Edge-lit LED technology to achieve the backlighting necessary for image display (or in the case of OLED, there's no need for any of that, since it's a self-emissive technology). In recent times, contrast ratios have been increased by the introduction of local dimming (essentially, there are multiple LED lighting units across the entirety of the monitor or TV, which can be singularly controlled to achieve desired lighting ratios). Mini-LED technology brings this a leap further, allowing for an enormous increase in lighting zones - up to the tens of thousands, compared, for example, to the 384 local dimming units present on the recently released 4K, 144 Hz G-Sync monitors - of which AUO did sample specification-like panels but with this added mini-LED tech. Of course, these "tens of thousands" still pale in comparison to an OLED panel's pixel-count-like dimmable LEDs. As a bonus, panel thickness can also be reduced with mini-LED tech.

Graphics Card Shipments Fall On Weak Mining Demand in 2H18; Prices to Remain Hiked

According to DigiTimes, the entire AIB partner and graphics card supply channel is gearing up to an expected demand decrease for graphics cards in the second half of 2018. This marks an expectation on the continuation of the downward trend since December 2017, a time where Bitcoin (and as such, alternate cryptocurrencies) were at all-time highs. As profits decrease, difficulty increases, and mining players offload their graphics cards to still-interested buyers of their hardware, the market's ability to trade existing graphics cards and absorb new inventory is dwindling. Naturally, this reduced demand means that prices for new graphics cards have also been decreasing and somewhat stabilizing towards pre-mining boom prices.

However, producers of graphics cards obviously don't want to give away their record-high profits in their entirety; and they're showing some reluctance, some "pricing memory" on their graphics cards, maintaining gross margins in the 20% area, double that of pre-mining pricing. As such, graphics card makers are again abandoning the mining boom as a source of stable revenue, looking to other solutions (such as servers, datacenter acceleration and such, DigiTimes reports in the case of TUL). Another thing that would certainly help graphics card manufacturers in keeping up high demand and profits, of course, would be the impending release of a new NVIDIA architecture... At least for those that have AIB status with the company.

Take Two: News of Single Player Games' Death Is Greatly Exaggerated

With so many games either a) adding a tacked-on multiplayer component with lootboxes or other monetization ingredients; and b) single-player games turning into multiplayer experiences (look no further than the expected Fallout 76's always-on multiplayer approach, of which I'm still reeling from), it's the little things, the little draughts of single player respect that keep us lone gaming wolves sane. Take Two, publishers of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 (and a company best known for its affiliation with single-player experiences, thankfully), has said that single player games are going nowhere.

In an interview with Venture Beat, Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick voiced his support for single-player experiences as anchors for player engagement with all aspects of a game - including its multiplayer components, or paving the way for online-only efforts such as GTA Online, the most lucrative title ever in the history of entertainment. Zelnick said that "(...) there are also people saying that it won't work if it's not a free-to-play battle royale. People really are saying that, and not even tongue-in-cheek. I don't buy that. Single-player, in my opinion, is not dead, not even close. Companies that feel like they'll just avoid the hard work of building a story and characters and go right to where the money is in multiplayer, I don't think that's going to work. I'd be surprised.

NVIDIA's Next-Gen Graphics Cards to Launch in Q3 2018, Breadcrumb Trail Indicates

We the media and you enthusiasts are always getting scare jumps every time a high-profile launch is announced - or even hinted at. And few product launches are as enthusing as those of new, refined graphics cards architectures - the possibilities for extra performance, bang for buck improvements, mid-tier performance that belonged in last generation's halo products - it's all a mix of merriment and expectation - even if it sometimes tastes a little sour.

Adding to the previous breadcrumbs neatly laid-out regarding NVIDIA's Hot Chips presentation on a new "Next Generation mainstream GPU", the source for et another piece of bread that would make Grettel proud comes from Power Logic, a fan supplier for numerous AIB partners (company representative holding an EVGA graphics card below), who have recently said they expected "Q3 orders to be through the roof". Such an increase in demand usually means increased orders as AIB partners stock up on materials to produce a substantial enough stock for new product launches, and does fall in line with the NVIDIA Hot Chips presentation in August. Q3 starts in July, though, and while the supply-chain timings are unknown, it seems somewhat tight for a July product launch that coincides with the increased fan orders.

Raja Hires Larrabee Architect Tom Forsyth to Help With Intel GPU

A few months ago we reported that Raja Koduri has left AMD to work at Intel on their new discrete GPU project. Looks like he's building a strong team, with the most recent addition being Tom Forsyth who is the father of Larrabee, which was Intel's first attempt at making an x86-based graphics processor. While Larrabee did not achieve its goal and is considered a failure by many, it brought some interesting improvements to the world, for example AVX512, and is now sold under the Xeon Phi brand.

Tom, who has previously worked at Oculus, Valve, and 3DLabs posted on Twitter that he's joining Intel in Raja's group, but he's "Not entirely sure what he'll be working on just yet." At Oculus and Valve he worked on Virtual Reality projects, for example he wrote big chunks of the Team Fortress 2 VR support for the Oculus Rift. Taking a look at Tom's papers suggests that he might join the Intel team as lead for VR-related projects, as that's without a doubt one of Raja's favorite topics to talk about.

GameStop is Talking to Potential Buyout Firms

GameStop, which is one of the largest video game retailers, confirmed that they are in discussion with third parties for a potential buyout. To facilitate that, they have hired a financial advisor to help navigate talks. Who they are talking to and in what stages these discussions are was not revealed. The equity firm Sycamore Partners, which among others is invested in Staples, does seem interested in buying GameStop.

The company operates over 7,200 stores in 14 countries, and has been plagued by bad news recently. They had a data breach last year and had to shut down more than 100 store locations. With a net loss of $106 million reported for the year 2017, their stock has slid over 30% bringing the company's worth down to $1.4 billion.

PUBG Has Sold 50 Million Copies, 400 Million Players Total

PUBG Corp. just announced that they have reached the incredible number of 50 million units sold on the platforms PC and Xbox One. When including PUBG Mobile, they have over 400 million registered players world-wide, with over 87 million of them playing PUBG every single day.

To celebrate this epic milestone, they have decided to have the first ever sale of PUBG, at a price of $17.99, until July 5th. Could be that sales are going down, possibly driven by Epic's Fortnite, which has a bigger player base now, and is available for more platforms.
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