Monday, February 19th 2018

Today's Reviews

Accessories
Cases
Cooling
Graphics Cards
Headphones
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Memory
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Motherboards
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Processors
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FSP CMT510

FSP CMT510

The FSP CMT510 utilizes nothing but steel and glass and comes jam-packed with four RGB fans - all at quite the intriguing price point. With its ability to switch up the color hue and a simple but functional interior with plenty of room, the CMT510 turns out to be quite a worthy chassis in the crowded mid-range market.

AMD's PlayReady 3.0 In Polaris, Vega GPUs, APUs to Enable 4K HDR Streaming on PC

In the wake of increased requirements when it comes to digital copy protection mechanisms in consumable media (be it in the streaming or disc-type), AMD is looking to allow users of its products to keep up with the increasing demands of content distributors. Besides hardware encode/decode capabilities, hardware DRM support such as HDCP 2.2 or Microsoft's PlayReady 3.0 has become a necessity for high-quality content viewing, and is required for Netflix 4K and HDR streaming on PCs.

AMD themselves have said that they plan on enabling these features for their products via a driver release, thus turning the most recent Ryzen + Vega APUs into even more desirable HTPC-environment solutions. In the Ryzen Desktop APU Reviewers' Guide, the company specifically said, "Please note that HDCP 1.4/2.2 are supported for the purposes of streaming 4K+HDR content. AMD intends to have a production PlayReady 3-capable graphics driver in early Q2". The company thus joins Intel and NVIDIA in developing solutions that allow users to take advantage of 4K and HDR content on their PC solution via, for example, Netflix. The steps are still very convoluted, though; just look at the Netflix requirements for your PC after the break. It's mind-boggling.

Ruckus Signs Strategic OEM Deal with Dell

Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company, today announced it has signed a global original equipment manufacturing (OEM) agreement with Dell EMC to deliver Ruckus' broad portfolio of wireless solutions, including access points (APs), controllers, virtualized and data analytics assets, and Cloudpath secure network access software-along with Ruckus IoT and CBRS LTE products-as Dell-branded solutions. This agreement gives Dell EMC's networking sales team and end-user customers access to Ruckus' award-winning portfolio of secure wireless connectivity solutions and strong brand presence not available through alternative suppliers. The agreement is effective immediately and encompasses a range of sales, marketing and customer support programs in international markets, including APAC, EMEA and the Americas.

"Delivering innovative wireless networking solutions to our partners is key to address the insatiable demand for high-performance wireless networking in the enterprise," said Dan Rabinovitsj, president, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company. "The Dell EMC brand and market reach is complementary to our own and represents a significant path for growth for both companies across a range of vertical markets, including education, public infrastructure, the federal government and service providers. We view Dell EMC's strength in storage and scalable computing platforms as critical to collaboration where complete bundled solutions are required to compete and win."

Lucasfilm Rumored to Ditch EA for a New Game Publisher

Rumors are going around that Lucasfilm isn't too happy with how the Star Wars franchise is turning out ever since they handed the license over to Electronic Arts in 2013. Up to now, EA has produced a total of two titles under the Star Wars: Battlefront sub-series. Their first Star Wars: Battlefront game was released in 2015 as a reboot of the previous games. Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) was highly criticized for its lack of a single player campaign. EA's solution to keep die-hard Star Wars fans happy was to release a multitude of free expansions and paid DLC packs to add more content to the game. And then came Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2017, a sequel that received even harsher backlash because of the over aggressive loot-crate system that was implemented into the game. EA responded by temporarily eliminating microtransactions from the game. But to make matters even worse, EA closed Visceral Games, the studio was working on Star Wars: Project Ragtag, last year.

EA's relationship with Lucasfilm hangs on a thin thread right now. The gaming giant's lackluster record of releasing two games in a five year period has
allegedly forced Lucasfilm to explore other options. Ubisoft and Activision have been mentioned so far. If the rumors were true, who would you rather have working on the next Star Wars game?

Intel Unveils Discrete GPU Prototype Development

Intel is making progress in its development of a new discrete GPU architecture, after its failed attempt with "Larrabee" that ended up as an HPC accelerator; and ancient attempts such as the i740. This comes in the wake of the company's high-profile hiring of Raja Koduri, AMD's former Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) head. The company unveiled slides pointing to the direction in which its GPU development is headed, at the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. That direction is essentially scaling up its existing iGPU architecture, and bolstering it with mechanisms to sustain high clock speeds better.

The company's first 14 nm dGPU prototype, shown as a test-chip at the ISSCC, is a 2-chip solution. The first chip contains two key components, the GPU itself, and a system agent; and the second chip is an FPGA that interfaces with the system bus. The GPU component, as it stands now, is based on Intel's Gen 9 architecture, and features a three execution unit (EU) clusters. Don't derive numbers from this yet, as Intel is only trying to demonstrate a proof of concept. The three clusters are wired to a sophisticated power/clock management mechanism that efficiently manages power and clock-speed of each individual EU. There's also a double-clock mechanism that doubles clock speeds (of the boost state) beyond what today's Gen 9 EUs can handle on Intel iGPUs. Once a suitable level of energy efficiency is achieved, Intel will use newer generations of EUs, and scale up EU counts taking advantage of newer fab processes, to develop bigger discrete GPUs.
More slides follow.

EK Announces Monoblock for MSI X399 Motherboards

EK Water Blocks, the Slovenia-based premium computer liquid cooling gear manufacturer is releasing a new Socket TR4 based monoblock made for several MSI X399 motherboards. The EK-FB MSI X399 Gaming RGB Monoblock has an integrated 4-pin RGB LED strip which makes it compatible with MSI Mystic Light, thus offering a full lighting customization experience.

This is a complete all-in-one (CPU and motherboard) liquid cooling solution for two MSI AMD X399 Chipset based motherboards that support AMD Socket TR4 AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors. This monoblock is compatible with the following MSI motherboards:
  • MSI X399 Gaming Pro Carbon AC
  • MSI X399 SLI Plus

Spire Intros SP-ATX-2000W-BTC ETH PSU for Mining Rigs

Spire rolled out the SP-ATX-2000W-BTC/ETH, an ATX/PS2 power-supply for GPU-based crypto-currency mining rigs. With 2000W power on tap, the PSU bears a no-frills design to keep costs low. The design focus is not just on the number of PCIe power connectors, but also the length of the PCIe power cables, so you can have a multitude of graphics cards popping out through risers. The PSU comes with a total of eighteen PCIe power connectors, of which ten are 6-pin, and eight 6+2 pin. You also get a surprisingly high thirteen SATA power connectors, a 4+4 pin EPS, and a 24-pin ATX.

Under the hood, the Spire SP-ATX-2000W-BTC/ETH features a single +12V rail design with so-called "85 Plus Gold" efficiency; APFC, common electrical protection mechanisms against over/under-voltage, overload, short-circuit, and overheat. Two 80 mm fans (one on each end) are used to keep the unit cool. Taking into account its target audience, Spire is rating its life-expectancy at 100,000 hours, and is backing it with a 2-year warranty. It is priced at USD $219.99 a piece Stateside, or 199.95€ a piece in the EU. Currently, the company is only selling it on B2B platforms such as Alibaba, in 200-unit minimum orders.

Kickstart and Burn: System Shock Remaster Put on Hold After Collecting $1.3M

Kickstarter has had some amazing success stories; but it's also had quite the number of unbelievable fails. And the failures to deliver are usually much more impressive, and generate much more press, than the actual success stories - that's just the way of the beast. Now, gamers waiting for the eventual remaster of what this editor has been told is one of the most groundbreaking games of its time - System Shock - have been left in a somewhat spacey environment, as the developer has come out to say that the game has been put on hold - but not cancelled. Nightdive Studios sold its vision to 21,625 Kickstarter backers, which collectively donated more than $1.3M - and some 21,331 extra backers on Backerit, which donated $107,199.83 more to the cause.

Nightdive Studios' CEO Stephen Kick, in a campaign update, revealed that at some point along the way, the vision for the game veered from a remaster to what would essentially become a whole new game. The decision to also change the development engine from Unity to Unreal Engine 4 - which the developers say they don't regret - has also shaved much time and resources from the original intended development effort. Here's hoping this isn't a full 180 on the game's development, and that we do see the light of day for this project - in a way that makes all the backers feel as if their hard-earned money - and the journey they've gone to to see the remaster come to fruition - hasn't been in vain. I, for one, would love to play a modern rendition of System Shock. Look after the break for some of the core ideas in Nightdive Studios' CEO Stephen Kick message to backers.

HDPlex H3 V2 Fanless Chassis Pictured

Here are some of the first pictures of HDPlex H3 V2 fan-less HTPC chassis. The H3 sits between the tiny H1 and deck-sized H5. It has the height of the H5 and the width of the H1. The case measures 270 mm x 264 mm x 93 mm (WxDxH), weighing in at 5.5 kg. Its main chamber can house mini-ITX motherboards, and a half-height add-on card that's no more than 1-slot thick. As with most fan-less cases, the chunky, ridged aluminium body of the H3 V2 doubles up as heatsink for the CPU/SoC, and can handle thermal loads of up to 80W. The CPU block uses eight 6 mm-thick copper heat pipes to transport heat to the body. The case also has room for up to four 7 mm-thick 2.5-inch drives. Available now, it is priced at USD $240.

CD Projekt Red Opens Up Regarding Loot Box Integration in Games

In an interview to PC Gamer, CD Projekt Red's CEO Adam Kiciński approached the subject of loot boxes and their integration in videogames as ways of increasing companies' bottom line. And as has been the case in nearly every move CD Projekt has ever made, the CEO's - and the company's - posture is one of respect and frankly, overwhelming candure as to how to conduct a respectable business. When inquired on where the company that developed the Witcher games stands on the microtransactions and lootbox conversation, Adam Kiciński was very clear: far and away from a "milking customers" position.

"'Conversation' sounds way too nice to describe what was happening last year. I would rather call it community backlash," says Kiciński. "And this time around, it wasn't just the hardcore community, there were a lot of really pissed off gamers out there and they decided to speak up. Where we stand is quite simple and you could see it with all of our past releases-most recently The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and GWENT. If you buy a full priced game, you should get a big, polished piece of content, which gives you many, many hours of fun gameplay."
Friday, February 16th 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Headphones
Keyboards
Motherboards
Mouse
SSD
Storage
Kingdom Come: Deliverance Benchmark Performance Analysis

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Benchmark Performance Analysis

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the first surprise hit of 2018. It puts you in the shoes of a low-skilled peasant who has to endure tough adventures in the middle ages. We tested the game on 15 graphics cards at four resolutions, looked at VRAM usage, and checked on how the game scales on the CPU.

Windows 10 UWP Protection Kicks the Bucket

2018 has been an exciting year for the Warez scene so far. First, Italian group CPY circumvented Ubisoft's deadly triple protection (Uplay, Denuvo, and VMProtect) that was present in Assassin's Creed Origins. And now, the word on the street is that CODEX has successfully cracked Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) protection found in Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection. Unlike Denuvo's unimpressive track record for protecting games for a few months, UWP actually did a stellar job in keeping multiple Microsoft games safe for over a year. So, what's Microsoft's secret winning formula? Stick as many layers of DRM into the game as humanly possible. According to CODEX's NFO file, Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection had as many as five different DRMs (MSStore, UWP, EAppX, XBLive, and Arxan) which made the game a pain in the neck to crack. At this moment, it's unknown whether other Microsoft titles like Forza Motorsport 7 or Gears of War 4 possess the same number of protection layers. But now that CODEX has initiated the domino effect, we'll find out soon enough.

ARCHOS Unveils the Vision 215 All-in-One PC

Fitting in an ultra slim design, with a 21.5 inches Full HD display, almost without edges, the ARCHOS Vision 215 embeds the essential components of a PC, a keyboard and a mouse, a complete connectivity set, and the Home edition of Microsoft Windows 10. This all-in-one PC comes in elegant design, easy to install at the heart of a home to be enjoyed by all members of the household, in order to use online services, interact with their favorite content, texts, music tracks, photos, videos or to achieve main tasks for school or the office. Unveiled at the MWC 2018 (Hall 6 - Stand B60), the ARCHOS Vision 215 will be available from May 2018, priced at 299.99 € all taxes included.

In its sleek design, less than 7 mm thick, the ARCHOS Vision 215 fits easily into any home. Space saver, with its tilting screen, it finds its place anywhere in the house, and becomes a real entertainment platform, in the living room, kitchen or bedroom. Featuring a Full HD 21.5-inch screen, almost borderless, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels in 16:9, combined with the Intel HD Graphics 400 graphics, it displays an ideal surface, realistic and bright colors to view photos and videos or read texts, alone or in a group.

Compulab Launches the Airtop2 Fanless PC with a Xeon CPU & Quadro Graphics Card

Compulab is introducing Airtop2 - a high-performance ruggedized fanless PC for edge computing and industrial applications that require deployment in harsh conditions. Based on Intel Xeon Processor E3-1275 v6 with an optional NVIDIA Quadro P4000 - both passively cooled using Compulab proprietary Natural Airflow technology and with a volume of just 7.5 liter - Airtop2 redefines the performance level of compact fanless PCs.

Other remarkable features of Airtop2 are up to 64 GB DDR4, high-performance storage sub-system with 2x NVMe + 4x 2.5" SATA SSDs / HDDs, tool-free service and a broad selection of FACE Module extensions. Airtop2 is available at an industrial temperature range of -40°C to 70°C and ships with 5 year warranty.

Coinbase Commerce is a New Cryptocurrency Payment Program for Vendors

Coinbase, one of the world's largest - and more transparent, in legal terms - cryptocurrency exchanges, has announced the start of a new cryptocurrency payment program. Coinbase Commerce is a new service that enables merchants to accept multiple cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin) directly into a user-controlled wallet as payment for services rendered or products acquired. Coinbase Commerce can be directly integrated into a merchant's checkout flow or added as a payment option on an e-commerce platform with just an email address and a phone.

This is another step to cryptocurrency world domination, and one of the most important steps towards widespread adoption of these as actual stores of value. The difficulty of translating cryptocurrency into real world value and products - which has seen better days, but has since seen key players withdraw from accepting these as payments - is one of the remaining walls towards widespread, mainstream adoption, and could provide a window for crypto in general to abandon its actual relevance as mere speculative investment. Some platforms already exist - TenX and BitPay come to mind, for instance. however, Coinbase as an exchange has some of the more solid footings in the cryptocurrency industry - and financial markets as well - so this is definitely a high-impact move that could help cement a future based in cryptocurrency trades.

Lunar Sale, Wishlist Tweaks Hit Valve's Steam Platform

Valve yesterday announced the begin of yet another wallet-burning sale to appeal to our consumerist bones. The Lunar Sale, as it is being called, is live from February 15th through February 19th, so, a mere four days with tons (thousands) of games under heavy discounts that can sometimes go up to 90%. On this front, it's business as usual - buy all those games you've been wanting at a fire-sale price, and then look at them guiltily as they collect virtual dust on your backlog.

Other, somewhat more relevant changes that have been made by valve to the overall Steam experience also look towards making it easier for customers to part with their hard-earned currency of choice (or not so hard-earned, it's all good for Valve, really.) Namely, there are some changes to the wishlist which now allow users to place items on their shopping cart directly from their wishlist page - which is nice, since before, you had to enter the games' own store page, and then add it to your cart). Of course, for items that are sold in packages or where there's a bundle, customers will be invited to peruse "Details" on the package, via the relevant store page. There's also the ability to sort your wishlist gamers through those that have the higher discount percentage - a handy tool for bargain-bin hunters. There's also tag search, and filtering options to exclude games such as W"Early Access" titles that aren't currently finished - and that may, or may not, be finished in the future.

AMD Ryzen 2000-series "Pinnacle Ridge" CPUs Get Soldered IHS

AMD's second-generation Ryzen 2000-series "Pinnacle Ridge" processors, which succeed the company's first Ryzen "Summit Ridge," reportedly feature soldered integrated heatspreaders (IHS), according AMD spokesperson "AMD_Robert" on Reddit. This would make the chips different from the Ryzen 2000G-series "Raven Ridge" APUs launched earlier this week, which come with a thermal paste between the IHS and the die. Soldered heatspreaders are generally known to have better heat transfer between the IHS and die, when compared to packages with thermal pastes between the two; and are more expensive to manufacture. They remove the need to "de-lid" the processor (remove the IHS). Ryzen 2000-series processors are expected to debut in April 2018.

EK Announces Monoblock for GIGABYTE X399 Motherboards

EK Water Blocks, the Slovenia-based premium computer liquid cooling gear manufacturer is releasing a new Socket TR4 based monoblock made for several GIGABYTE X399 motherboards. The EK-FB GA X399 GAMING RGB Monoblock has an integrated 3-pin RGB Digital LED strip which makes it compatible with GIGABYTE Fusion, thus offering a full lighting customization experience.

This is a complete all-in-one (CPU and motherboard) liquid cooling solution for two GIGABYTE AMD X399 Chipset based motherboards that support AMD Socket TR4 AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors. This monoblock is compatible with the following GIGABYTE motherboards:
  • GIGABYTE X399 Aorus Gaming 7 (rev.1.0)
  • GIGABYTE X399 Designare EX (rev.1.0)

Microsoft Adding "Ultimate Performance Mode" To Windows 10

In a blog post, Microsoft detailed some new features that have become available for Microsoft's Insider Program Fast Ring users, of which the titular "Ultimate Performance Mode" certainly wrings the most attention. The Ultimate Performance Mode is really a performance plan integrated into Windows, which basically throws all power saving features out the Window to make sure that the underlying hardware is always running at its peak performance. Microsoft says that latencies and microstutters should be reduced as much as possible, thus allowing users to wring "ultimate performance" from their systems.

Microsoft says this is focused on the Workstation market, and should be especially deployed in mission critical scenarios where every second counts (wait, doesn't gaming qualify by this measure?) As a result of this re-balancing on idle and power states, power consumption goes up; the main reason why Microsoft isn't making this feature available for battery-powered devices - at least for now. The consumer side of the equation is being left out in the cold, for now, when it comes to this Ultimate Performance Mode; but users should remain optimistic. There's no reason why Microsoft would leave this option to Workstation environments only, so a consumer-focused release (be it in the Insider Fast Ring or on the regular Windows 10 update cycles) is still out in the open.

ASUS Launches Gladius II Origin Gaming Mouse

ASUS has launched the third iteration of their Gladius gaming mouse, the Gladius II Origin (a missed chance for a Gladius III, uh?) There's a 12,000 DPI optical sensor under the hood (unclear if it's a PixArt solution), and the switches are both Omron-developed, though two different ones at that - there's an Omron D2FC-F-K switch and an Omron D2F-01F, with different clicking resistances, likely to incentivize sensitivity in the left mouse button. All in all, there are five buttons on this mouse (there's a DPI selector button and two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse).

Other features include detachable, replaceable rubber and braided cables; RGB lighting with ASUS' Aura Sync support for the RGB zones (bottom, scroll wheel, and ROG logo); and support for ASUS' Armoury app. The Gladius II Origin weighs in at 110 g (sans cable), and has dimensions of 126 x 67 x 45 mm, and is available now from select etailers and retailers for $99.

Intel "Ice Lake-U" Gen 11 iGPU Features 48 Execution Units

Intel's next generation "Ice Lake" processor could integrate a significantly faster integrated graphics solution (iGPU), if a SiSoft SANDRA online database entry is to be believed. A prototype "Ice Lake" chip was benchmarked, with its iGPU being described by the database as "Intel UHD Graphics" based on the company's Gen 11 graphics architecture, which succeeds the current Gen 9.5 architecture implemented on "Coffee Lake" and "Kaby Lake." This iGPU is endowed with 48 execution units (EUs), which work out to 384 unified shaders; against 24 EUs and 192 shaders on Intel UHD 620. SANDRA also describes the iGPU as being able to share up to 6 GB of memory from the system memory; and featuring 768 KB of dedicated cache. Its reference clock is 600 MHz, double that of the UHD 620, although its boost clock remains a mystery. "Ice Lake" is being built on Intel's new 10 nm+ silicon fabrication process, so it's understandable for the company to significantly enlarge its iGPU.

GIGABYTE Outs Aorus Z370 Ultra Gaming 2.0 with Improved VRM

GIGABYTE released a major revision of Aorus Z370 Ultra Gaming motherboard. This isn't just marked "Rev 2.0" in some obscure corner of the PCB, but is part of the model name - Z370 Ultra Gaming 2.0. It replaces the 7-phase CPU VRM of the original with a new 11-phase setup that uses stronger ferrite-core chokes that don't whine when stressed. The company is also including one M.2 SSD heatsink for the upper M.2-22110 slot, which the original lacks.

Besides these, the Aorus Z370 Ultra Gaming 2.0 is identical to the original, including its RGB LED diffusers, multiple RGB headers governed by GIGABYTE RGB Fusion software, two reinforced PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots (x8/x8 when both are populated) with NVIDIA SLI support, one gigabit Ethernet interface driven by an Intel i219-V controller, and a premium onboard audio solution with a headphones amplifier and 120 dBA SNR CODEC (Realtek ALC1220); and a price ranging between $150-$170.
Thursday, February 15th 2018

Today's Reviews

Cases
Cooling
Desktop PC
Gaming PC
Graphics Cards
Headphones
Keyboards
Mouse
Processors
PSUs
SSD
Zhiyun Crane 2 Gimbal

Zhiyun Crane 2 Gimbal

A gimbal is a filming stabilizer, to ensure a precise filming result. Zhiyun offers a plethora of gimbals for entry-level users and professionals alike. The Crane 2 is Zhiyun's top product, offering a rich feature set and top performance along with great responsiveness for the shooting of pro-level video if combined with a suitable camera.

Intel Reimagines Data Center Storage with New 3D NAND SSDs

Today, Intel announced the Intel SSD DC P4510 Series for data center applications. The P4510 Series uses 64-layer TLC Intel 3D NAND to enable end users to do more per server, support broader workloads and deliver space-efficient capacity. The P4510 Series enables up to four times more terabytes per server and delivers up to 10 times better random read latency at 99.99 percent quality of service than previous generations. The drive can also deliver up to double the input-output operations per second (IOPS) per terabyte. The 1 and 2TB capacities have been shipping to cloud service providers (CSPs) in high volume since August 2017, and the 4 and 8TB capacities are now available to CSPs and channel customers. All capacities are in the 2.5-inch 15 mm U.2 form factor and utilize a PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4 connection.

To accelerate performance and simplify management of the P4510 Series PCIe SSDs and other PCIe SSDs, Intel is also delivering two new technologies that work together to replace legacy storage hardware. Intel Xeon Scalable processors include Intel Volume Management Device (VMD), enabling robust management such as surprise insertion/removal and LED management of PCIe SSDs directly connected to the CPU. Building on this functionality, Intel Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) uses Intel VMD to provide RAID to PCIe SSDs. By replacing RAID cards with Intel VROC, customers are able to enjoy up to twice the IOPs performance and up to a 70 percent cost savings with PCIe SSDs directly attached to the CPU, improving customer's return on their investments in SSD-based storage.
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