|The curtain comes up on AMD's Vega architecture||155|
|Aorus' Z270X-Gaming 5 motherboard reviewed||22|
|Nvidia unveils its GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti for laptops||16|
The latest batch of AMD's Radeon drivers, version 17.1.1, is now out in the wild. The new version packs support for the upcoming release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, along with fixes for a raft of minor issues.
AMD says that crashes in Dishonored 2 and flickering in Epic's Paragon should both be fixed. That's about it for game-related fixes. Systems using AMD XConnect would previously experience a blue screen when audio drivers were loaded. XConnect should no longer cause Solidworks CAD software to misbehave, too.
Some users were seeing black screens after installing the 16.12.1 drivers, while others were experiencing display corruption after applications woke from a display timeout. AMD says both of those issues should be fixed in this driver version. Finally, the company says that crashing issues with its ReLive software in multi-GPU configurations have been resolved.
Meanwhile, some problems still exist with flickering in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and World of Warcraft. CrossFire systems may hang in Shadow Warrior 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. AMD notes that games running in Borderless Fullscreen mode with FreeSync enabled may experience problems in certain scenarios.
The company is still addressing a number of issues with its ReLive software. Unplugging a secondary display can cause ReLive to hang. Users with graphics cards with 4GB of RAM may see UI flicker in Battlefield 1 when recording with, while games using the Vulkan API may hang. On systems using AMD APUs, the ReLive software may not install correctly, can cause a system hang, or fail to record.
The Radeon 17.1.1 drivers and the full release notes can be found right here.NexDock offers a home for Intel Compute Cards
NexDock is probably a new name to a lot of our readers. The company's first product was a crowd-funded $120 device that made a 14" laptop-of-sorts out of pretty much anything with an HDMI output. Now the company is back with a second revision that can also turn one of Intel's recently-announced Compute Cards into a hybrid tablet-laptop device with a touchscreen.
The device is shaped like a conventional tablet with a bulge in the chassis, where the Compute Card is inserted. The company cleverly calls this bulge an ergonomic hand grip. Instead of the old Micro HDMI plug, the second-generation NexDock uses a USB Type-C port that allows a connected device to provide brains for the screen while simultaneously being charged.
The potential of a device like this is easy enough to recognize. The NexDock offers easy-to-understand functionality for the average user. A particularly active person who is tough on hinges and screens could keep a couple NexDocks on hand and easily swap his computer or smartphone from chassis to chassis. Frequent upgraders can easily reuse the docking unit as they move to newer devices, too.
NexDock says a crowdfunding campaign for the new docking unit with Intel Compute Card compatibility will begin in mid-2017.Imagination Technologies freshens up mid-range PowerVR GPUs
Remember how friend-of-TR David Kanter established that Nvidia's GPUs since Maxwell have used tile-based rendering? And how AMD Vega is moving in that same sort of direction? The guys in charge of Imagination Technologies' PowerVR GPUs are probably smirking to themselves right now because they were doing tile-based rendering before it was cool. The company is still using that technique in its latest mobile GPUs, the Series8XE Plus family.
There are three 8XE Plus designs launching today: the GE8320, GE8325, and GE8340. As you probably could expect from the "Plus" moniker, these processors are upgraded versions of the base Series8XE GE8300 design. Imagination emphasizes the compute performance of the new designs, and says that the GE8320 and 8325 have double the per-clock shader throughput of the GE8300. Meanwhile, the GE8340 should offer quadruple the per-clock shader throughput of the base model. That kind of performance could have the GE8340 nipping at the heels of the top-end PowerVR XT-series models.
Besides the new designs, Imagination is releasing a couple of updates to existing GPUs: the ultra-low-end GE8100 and the high-powered GE8430. The GE8100 is basically half of a Series8XE GE8200. At the far opposite end of the product stack, the GE8430 is a monster of a mobile GPU that Imagination says can handle 4K displays. These two versions apparently include the "micro-architectural enhancements" found in the other Series8XE Plus GPUs, whatever those may be.
Imagination expects these designs to find their way not only to the SoCs in smartphones and tablets, but also to smart TVs and set-top boxes. The company is insistent that 1080p will be the most commonly-used resolution in every market segment through at least 2020, and says these GPUs are primed to power devices with that resolution.Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 flaunts a quad-core SoC
The original Raspberry Pi was originally intended to be a low-powered, easily-extensible computer to help children learn computer science concepts. Those traits made the unit popular with all kinds users, including retro video game enthusiasts, IoT developers, and embedded systems designers. Back in 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released the Pi Compute Module variant, a single-board computer with 4GB of integrated eMMC storage and a smaller footprint. The Foundation has now released a refreshed Compute Module 3, sporting the same quad-core SoC and 1GB of RAM as the latest Raspberry Pi 3. The CM3 is intended for use in embedded applications and IoT devices.
The Module 3's quad-core Soc is based on a Cortex A53 design running at 1.2 GHz. This spec bump results in a claimed ten-fold boost to computing power when compared to the the original Compute Module's single-core 700 MHz SoC. The new model ships with 4GB of eMMC storage, and there's a slightly-cheaper "Lite" version available with no onboard flash.
The CM3 fits into the same type of physical slot as before, which provides all the I/O connectivity. Users will need additional hardware like the Compute Module IO Board V3 (CMIO3) development board to add Ethernet jacks, USB ports, and GPIO pins. Both the CM3 and CMIO3 lack the integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities of the Raspberry Pi 3, too. Although it's possible to use the CM3 in place of an older Compute Module board, the CM3's larger dimensions and higher power consumption might throw a couple wrinkles into the upgrade process.
The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 is available now for $30 with 4GB of onboard storage or $25 without. Most buyers will want at least one development breakout board, which sells for about $120 (or £96). The CM3 can be used with the Pi Foundation's Raspbian operating system or Microsoft's Windows 10 IoT Core.be quiet! unveils entry-level Pure Base 600 chassis
The silence seekers at be quiet! have been toiling away at making computer components less audibly-noticeable for over a decade. The company's Pure Base 600 ATX chassis seemingly takes that approach and applies it to the visual aspect, by eschewing the contrasting trim and side-panel windows of some of its brethren. The new case retains many traits from its larger brothers, including modular drive bays and noise-dampening panels.
The Pure Base 600 is designed to accommodate motherboards up to ATX size. Power supplies as long as 8.3" (21 cm) can go in the respective mount, which doesn't come with the shroud that's so popular in contemporary case designs. There are mounting options for a total of three 3.5" hard drives, and up to eight 2.5" drives. Users clinging to hardware that fits in 5.25" external bays will appreciate the pair of slots that be quiet! saw fit to integrate into the Pure Base 600.
The case will take in graphics cards up to 16.7" (42.5 cm) long if the removable 3.5" drive cages are taken out, or 11" (28 cm) with the hard drive bays in place. External dimensions ring in at 18.5" x 19.4" x 8.7" (47 cm x 49.2 cm x 22 cm).
Owners can cram a ton of cooling hardware into the Pure Base 600. The top and front mounts can accommodate up to 360-mm radiators, and an additional 120-mm radiator can be mounted to the case's rear panel. The case comes with one 140-mm Pure Wings fan installed in the front panel and a similar 120-mm spinner fitted in the back. The front panel can fit another 140-mm fan, and two 140-mm or three 120-mm units can be attached to the top panel. CPU coolers as tall as 167mm can go into the Pure Base 600. be quiet! added front and bottom dust filters, along with a three-step fan controller than can deal with up to three spinners.
The Pure Base 600's top, front, and side panels are lined with noise-insulation mats. The power supply and hard drives have what the company calls anti-vibration decoupled mounts, which we guess are rubberized.
be quiet! says the Pure Base 600 will sell for $90, making this case the new point of entry into the company's lineup of PC chassis. The case should be available immediately, though it isn't appearing at any of our favorite e-tailers just yet.Sapphire launches Radeon RX 460 with 1024 SPs in China
Some users have had luck in unlocking the disabled shader cores in standard AMD Radeon RX 460 cards, taking the Polaris 11 GPU from 896 SPs up to its full unlocked harem of 1,024. The rumor mongers over at WCCFTech report that Sapphire will be launching a graphics card with a factory-unlocked Polaris 11 GPU. Proving that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, Sapphire's Chinese website has a product page for the "蓝宝石RX460 1024SP 4G D5 超白金 OC," a name that translates to "Sapphire RX460 1024SP 4G D5 Super Platinum OC." The name is a mouthful, but its verbosity leaves little room for misinterpretation. We should note that this card appears to be offered exclusively to the Chinese market for now, much like the AMD Radeon RX 470D and its 1,792 SPs.
The 1024SP card looks a lot like Sapphire's current Nitro Radeon RX 460 card, and sports the same port cluster with DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI-D connectors. Both cards have an identical 4GB of GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit memory bus. Sapphire's website lists the fully-enabled card's core clock as 1250 MHz. We suspect this refers to the core's boost clock, as the 896-SP Nitro card has a 1175 MHz base clock speed and 1250 MHz boost clock.
Assuming everything else is equal, the unlocked card has the potential to be up to 14 percent faster than other RX 460 cards at the same clock speed. We'd expect the memory speed to be equally unchanged. Both cards have 6-pin PCIe power connectors, suggesting that their power consumption goes a tad over the slot-provided 75W.
Sapphire doesn't have any information about pricing or availability of the 1024SP in the US. As reference, the 896-SP Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 460 currently sells for $120 at Newegg. If the card eventually lands on these shores, it will have to stick close to that price to have any appeal next to the $170 Radeon RX 470 and its 2,048 SPs.Google RAISR upsamples thumbnails for massive bandwidth savings
When we're browsing the web with our phones, bandwidth is usually at a premium. Even carriers that promise unlimited bandwidth often pin an asterisk to the end of that statement that reminds us that they don't really mean that. Google's new image compression tool might just help save you some of those precious 4G bytes. I'd like to introduce you to Google's most recent application of its machine-learning technology RAISR, or Rapid and Accurate Image Super-Resolution.
RAISR upsampling takes a thumbnail of an image and uses machine-learning algorithms to try and figure out what detail went into the original, larger version. This in turn allows Google to serve upsampled images that use up to 75% less bandwidth of the original, while still retaining most the visual detail.
Right now, Google is only applying the technology to its Google+ service, and even then only to a subset of the images on the service. This will change as Google starts to roll the technology out to more of its services "in the coming weeks."
If you've been watching HBO's Silicon Valley, this looks a bit like life imitating art. There's no word if Google is going to keep this technology for itself or release it to the public like Brotli, but it'd be neat to see it used in other image-heavy services like Facebook and Amazon.Biostar's Z270 boards race to the finish
Biostar skipped the CES rush and let us know today about its high-end offerings for Kaby Lake CPUs using the Z270 chipset. The company is sticking with its Racing theme for the new boards, and is releasing three variants: the Z270GT8, Z270GT6, and Z270GT4.
The Racing Z270GT8 is the top-of-the-range model. The board boasts six physical PCIe x16 slots, although Biostar doesn't specifically list support for SLI or CrossFire. The GT8 thankfully skips the questionably-useful SATA Express connector in favor of an M.2 socket and two U.2 ports. The M.2 socket has its own dedicated heatsink, too. The mobo has USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports on the back panel, and supports quick-charging standards from both Qualcomm and Apple. Networking connectivity comes by way of an Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet controller.
Biostar is clearly targeting the Z270GT8 at tweakers and tuners, as the board comes with a plethora of overclocking features including debug LEDs and a hardware dual-BIOS switch. The board even has a special switch to allow it to boot at temperatures below zero. There's also a handy "GT Touch" panel that lets users power on and reset the board, as well as select Speed or Eco presets. The audio circuitry is powered by a high-end Realtek ALC1220 codec. Biostar also includes RGB LED lighting (under the "Vivid LED DJ" moniker) and a 5050 connector for additional LED strips.
The Racing Z270GT6 is a slight step-down from the GT8 board. It drops down to three physical PCIe x16 slots, one U.2 connector, and zero USB 3.1 connectors. The USB quick-charge functionality also goes away, and the audio codec gets downgraded to the Realtek ALC892. The GT6 does have a USB 3.0 Type-C port to make up for those cuts. Aside from those changes, this model is very similar to the GT8, down to the debug LEDs and GT Touch panel.
Finally, the Racing Z270GT4 could be described as the microATX version of the GT6, as it shares most of its bigger brother's feature set. There's no heatsink on the M.2 slot this time around, and due to its size, there naturally aren't as many PCIe slots. However, where the GT6 only has DVI and HDMI outputs, the GT4 board actually has DVI, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort connectors.
Biostar says the Racing Z270GT8 board will come as a bundle with a 256GB Intel 600p NVMe SSD for $330. The company bundles one of its own 240GB G300 SSDs with the Z270GT6 board for a final price of $210. The Z270GT4 instead gets a Vivid LED DJ-enabled fan as its bundled item, and will go for $130.Synology RT2600ac offers up speedy Wi-Fi and tight controls
Synology is a company best known for its NAS devices, but it's also been building up a family of routers. The company has now launched the RT2600ac, a wireless router aimed at homes and small businesses, packing 802.11ac Wave 2 support with MU-MIMO and beamforming capabilities.
The RT2600ac is capable of delivering up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz radio. The router packs dual WAN ports with failover and load-balancing capabilities. Synology says the machine's VPN feature has support for the SSTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP protocols. Additionally, the RT2600ac offers QoS and file-sharing functionality.
The Synology Router Manager mobile app (available on iOS and Android) provides traffic control and monitoring and can displaying application-specific usage, along with the bandwidth consumed by individual devices. Built-in Google SafeSearch integration should enable for easy-to-use web filtering and parental controls. Synology also provides a number of add-on software packages that can expand the router's functionality.
Synology backs the RT2600ac with a two-year warranty. United States buyers can grab one now at Newegg for $230. Our friends around the world can use Synology's availability tool to find a nearby outlet.Deals of the week: a gaming monitor and system components
Seasons's greetings, gerbils. 'Tis the season of upgrading, after Intel's recent release of its desktop Kaby Lake CPUs. You know what that means: deals everywhere. We've trimmed the fat, tucked the tummy, and extracted the best from the deals out there. Here's what we found.
That's it for today, folks! If you come across any juicy deals that we missed, help out your fellow gerbils and post it in the comments section below.
There's a chance you're looking for something we haven't covered. If that's the case, you can help The Tech Report by using the following referral links when you're out shopping: not only do we have a partnership with Newegg, but we also work with Best Buy, Adorama, Rakuten, Walmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at the Microsoft Store, the HP Store, and Das Keyboard's shop.Nintendo reveals Switch launch date, pricing, and initial line-up
We knew a few things about Nintendo's upcoming Switch hybrid home-handheld hybrid console after the first reveal back in October, and the rumor mill speculated on additional things like screen resolution and details on the Nvidia-sourced SoC. Yesterday, the house that Mario built offered more details about the Switch, including a release date, a list of launch titles, and pricing for the system and its first-party accessories.
Nintendo will launch the Switch worldwide on March 3. The base system includes the Switch tablet console, a left-right pair of detachable Joy-Con controllers, wrist straps for each of those pieces, grips to link the pair of Joy-Cons into a single handheld controller, and the requisite AC adapter and HDMI cable. The 6.2" built-in screen has a resolution of 1280x720, as the rumor mill predicted.
The Mario-maker says that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and display-less party game 1-2 Switch will be available on launch day. Has-Been Heroes, I Am Setsuna, Just Dance 2017, Skylanders: Imaginators, Snipperclips, and Super Bomberman R are expected before the end of March. Meanwhile, Super Mario Odyssey is scheduled for a holiday 2017 release. Nintendo says that 1-2 Switch, Snipperclips, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild are Switch-exclusive titles.
The company adds that 80 titles are in development, from a range of in-house and third-party development studios. Fans of imported games will be delighted to learn that the Switch will have no region-locking, too.
The Switch console package will cost $300 when it launches on March 3, and it can be preordered right away. Buyers interested in connecting it to multiple televisions and playing multiplayer games may want to consider buying two consoles, as the dock will sell for $90, matched pairs of Joy-Cons will cost $80, and individual Joy-Cons will command $50. The more conventional Nintendo Switch Pro Controller will set buyers back $70.
If you're following along, assuming one intends to purchase an extra dock and pair of Joy-Cons, the second console would then cost only an additional $130. Nintendo has all the information about the console and first-party accessories for your perusal here.Consumer Reports approves MacBook Pros after retesting
Consumer Reports (CR) has generally been a fan of the build quality and performance of Apple's computers. However, the consumer watchdog recently cautioned its readers against purchasing Apple's newest MacBook Pro due to discrepancies between Cupertino's published battery life specifications and the figures CR derived in its lab.
Apple and CR were eventually able to pin down and correct a bug related specifically to CR's testing methods, and the nonprofit agreed to rerun its tests. The results of the second round of tests are right in line with Apple's claims. One of CR's test machines even turned a battery life of over 18 hours with the corrections. With the new results in hand, CR now recommends the latest MacBook Pros to consumers.
For the unfamiliar, the issue arose from the fact that Consumer Reports disables browser caching on all machines it tests for battery life. That scenario inadvertently triggered a bug in Safari, which Apple has now fixed. Apple still doesn't believe that CR's testing methods are representative of real-world use, but it seems the sparring partners can at least expect mutually agreeable results from the testing firm's methods for now.
Having had to issue a mea culpa regarding test results ourselves last year, we'd hope this experience leads CR to exercise more caution about presenting wildly variable test numbers as conclusive evidence. Though the initial controversy may have led to a large upswell of interest, it ultimately seems harmful to CR's reputation for rigorous and data-driven testing. Perhaps this fiasco will result in a more conservative approach for the consumer watchdog in the future.Report: Desktop PC market shows signs of stabilization
After four years of decline, the desktop PC market is starting to stabilize, according to analyst firm IDC. While 2016 started out slowly for the industry, things started to move in the second half of the year. A total of 70.2 million desktop computers shipped in the Q4 2016, a year-on-year decline of just 1.5%. Total annual sales reached 260 million, a decline of 5.7% compared to 2015.
Lenovo was the best-performing of the big players in the market and grew 1.7%, though IDC notes that HP wasn't far behind and increased its shipments by 6.6%. Dell Technologies sat in third for the year, but grew in every region for a total increase of 8.2%. Apple moved back into fourth place thanks to the MacBook Pro, at the expense of Asus, now in fifth.
IDC says the sharper decline in the beginning of last year was caused by a combination of high inventory, the free upgrade to Windows 10, and difficulties encountered by consumers when comparing hardware to 2014 models. Partway through the year, though, things began to stabilize. Shortages of components like SSDs, displays, and memory helped the industry by letting the big players, in IDC's words, "move to lock up supply." Growth in the tablet and smartphone markets also slowed, providing another boost to the desktop market.
While markets across the world performed differently, the overall result is reasonably positive. Japan and Canada continued growing, while the combined regions of Europe, Middle East, and Africa remained stable. Desktop shipments in the US declined slightly, but still performed better than the global average. The Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) saw a slight decline, but is likewise showing improvement. The only area that doesn't seem to be on the upswing is Latin America, which "continued to experience significant contraction."
IDC's analysts see room for growth in both the consumer and business segments. Neha Mahajan of Devices & Displays noted that "the U.S. PC market was able to pull of a strong last quarter of the year with impressive growth in the retail PC segment that surpassed expectations." She added that it remains to be seen whether the growth will remain or was simply a result of the holiday rush. Loren Loverde, VP of Personal Computing Trackers & Forecasting, added that we may see further recovery in the PC market as users begin to update outdated computers.
Analysts have fretted for years about the future of the PC market, but things seem to be turning around, and we're all for it.Chnano RGB LED gloves put some flash on your fingers
RGB LED-illuminated products were the most conspicuous new additions to many products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Though they may not have been on the show floor, we recently got our hands into one of the warmest new RGB products to bring you gerbils a mini-review just in time for the coldest part of winter. We present to you the Chnano LED gloves.
Chnano offers the gloves in a one-size-fits-most-adults form factor that just barely fits over my large manly paws. I have to stretch the fingers just a little bit to sneak my hands inside. The gloves don't come with any sort of label identifying their constituent materials, but they seem to be some kind of stretchy nylon material. Color choices for the Chnanos are limited to black hands and white finger portions. Additional color options are available from other, similarly mysterious manufacturers.
The LEDs are discrete red, green, and blue units that are not clustered together the way that PC component RGB LEDs are. The gloves do offer six different color modes: all colors flashing, slow fade from red to green to blue, all colors on, red-only, green-only,and blue-only flashing modes. The lighting is selectable via a momentary push button integrated into the opisthenar part of the glove. The color modes are individually addressable on each glove. Regretfully, no automatic syncronization is available, so users will have to rely on manual control and precise timing to get the gloves to flash simultaneously and in the same mode. Power is provided by one replaceable CR2016 3V battery in each glove. Perhaps the next version can include synchronization over Bluetooth and wireless charging.
The stretchy fabric of the gloves provide moderate protection from extreme temperatures. The fabric is breathable, at the expense of any kind of water resistance. We tested the gloves in conjunction with a mechanical keyboard with Kailh switches and found no performance benefit to having lights on our fingers. Key feel was diminished by the cushioning of the fabric material, and typing accuracy was slightly reduced due to the increase of effective individual finger thickness.
The gloves were unsuitable for gaming because the fabric was somewhat slippery against the game controller, and gamepads without rubber inserts repeatedly slipped from our hands. The gloves do not feature fingertip inserts for compatibility with capacitive touchscreens, so gaming on a smartphone or tablet is almost impossible, besides titles that rely on gyroscopic input. We performed this testing for a long time while writing many news posts and articles, so any typographical errors you may have noticed on the web site recently were almost certainly the fault of these gloves.
The one place where the gloves did offer benefits during computer-centric pursuits was in the handling of hot system components. The gloves provided adequate thermal protection when handling computer components only slightly cooled after intense gaming sessions.
We give the Chnano LED gloves a thumbs-up for handling of warm computer components and general insulative duties, but we wouldn't recommend them as performance-enhacers for typing or gaming. The gloves cost less than a meal at a fast-casual restaurant, and they'll leave you with a longer-lasting feeling of satisfaction and warmth. What's not to like?Samsung Galaxy Note 7 pre-flight warnings to end
Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 and the flames it left in its wake received considerable attention. The FAA banned Note 7 handsets from passenger flights and from transit as air cargo back in October after a deflagration onboard a Southwest flight on October 5. At the same time, the agency decreed that all airlines must notify passengers of the ban before boarding. Between the attention paid to the Note 7's problems by news outlets, wireless network operators, and Samsung itself, the FAA feels that the pre-flight warnings about the Note 7 are no longer necessary.
The ban on Note 7 handsets on passenger and cargo aircraft is still in effect, so any gerbils clinging to their incendiary phablets aren't yet allowed to take them on an airplane. The FAA sasy the main reason for dropping the pre-flight warnings is the phone's high return rate in the wake of Samsung's recall efforts. According to the company, more than 96% of the devices sold in the United States have been returned. Wireless providers have also done their part in pushing firmware updates that cripple the handsets.
Fans of Samsung's Note series in general might be pleased by rumors that the company plans to introduce a Note 8 handset later this year. The rumor mill goes on to suggest that the Note 8 may introduce an artificial intelligence assistant named "Bixi," just a few short months after Samsung's acquisition of Viv Labs.NZXT Noctis 450 case gets ROG-certified
Folks looking for stealth-fighter design in their computer case could do a lot worse than the NZXT Noctis 450. However, the original model lacked the RGB LEDs that the gamers of 2017 demand. The new ROG-certified version of the Noctis 450 amends that omission with Aura-compatible RGB lighting. It comes in the standard ROG color (called "Gunmetal Grey"), and includes a special backlit ROG-Certified logo on the top-right corner of the left-side panel.
Aside from those changes and some vaguely electronic-circuit-like styling on the side panel, the new version of the chassis appears to be identical to the standard Noctis 450. That means the Noctis 450 ROG is a steel-and-plastic ATX mid-tower chassis with room for six 3.5" spinners or eight 2.5" drives. The case will accept graphics cards up to 11.6"long (or 29.4 cm). Removing the drive cage allows for fitting graphics cards up to 16" in length (40.6 cm).
The Noctis 450 doesn't have any 5.25" drive bays, and that leaves the entire front panel available for cooling fans. NZXT includes three 120-mm fans in the front, and a 140-mm fan in the back. Builders can stick another three 120-mm spinners in the top of the case, or a pair of 140-mm units. Alternatively, the case has room for liquid-cooling radiators in 360-mm sizes at the front and top, plus a 140-mm radiator in the back. NZXT is taking pre-orders on the new case now at $180, and expects them to ship in late February.HTC U Ultra handset offers two screens in a pretty package
The prolonged demise of Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 has left something of a vacuum in the high-end Android smartphone arena. HTC seeks to fill that empty ecological niche with its U Ultra smartphone and its 2560x1440, 5.7" display. The phone courageously omits the headphone jack, but packs HTC's new Sense Companion AI assistant and a second 2" screen above the primary screen, in a similar fashion to the Touch Bar on Apple's newest Mac Pro laptops.
The Sense Companion is HTC's competitor to Apple's well-established Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant artificial intelligence helpers. HTC says it can do things like remind the you to leave early for work if the weather forecast calls for snow, or make restaurant recommendations when it knows you'll be taking a trip out of town.
The second screen idea is not an entirely new concept for a smartphone—LG's V10 and V20 handsets have already sported this feature. The smaller display is intended to show things like frequently accessed contacts, messages, and alerts. If the second screen isn't enough to scratch the "looks cool" itch, the phone also sports a "Liquid Surface" design with a glass back and aluminum side panels.
Additional usability features include a quartet of always-on microphones that help the Sense Companion react instantly to voice commands. HTC says the phone learns the users' voice and can be unlocked by voice alone. The Ultra also packs the audio playback enhancement features from last year's HTC Bolt.
The U Ultra is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC. The phone packs 4GB of system memory and 64GB of onboard storage. Storage capacity can be increased by adding a microSD card or waiting for the upcoming special edition with a Sapphire glass screen and 128GB of integrated flash. The primary camera has a 12MP sensor with optical image stabilization. The 16MP forward-facing camera can take wide-angle self-portraits. The handset's battery has a capacity of 3000 mAh, and can be replenished quickly thanks to support for QuickCharge 3.0.
The HTC U Ultra is available for pre-order today, but worldwide shipments are not expected to begin until March. The price is set at a commanding $750, and buyers get the choice of blue, black, pink, and white finishes.Eurocom's Tornado F5 laptops offer up Kaby Lake and Pascal
Kaby Lake's the hottest act in town, and everyone wants a piece of the action. Eurocom, a developer of upgradable notebooks, has refreshed its Tornado F5 notebook with the latest Intel Core processors. Since it's in the upgrading mood, the company also took the opportunity to add Nvidia's top-end graphics cards to the mix.
The new processor options for the Tornado F5 include Intel's Core i7-7700K, Core i7-7700, and Core i5-7600K units. Those two unlocked K-series CPUs might seem like odd choices for a notebook, but Eurocom lets users mess with the overclocking options in the UEFI. For graphics horsepower, buyers can fill the machine's MXM 3.0 graphics slot with Nvidia's GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 cards, or go retro with the previous-generation GTX 970M or GTX 980M.
Those components fit into a 15.6" laptop that's 1.59" (4 cm) thick and weighs 6.5 lbs (or 2.9 kg). The base model of the Tornado F5 comes with a 1920x1080 display, upgradeable to a 4K monitor for an additional $100. Both displays support Nvidia's G-Sync technology. The notebook has four memory slots that can take as much as 64GB of DDR4 clocked as high as 3200 MT/s. For storage, the Tornado F5 has two M.2 slots and room for a 2.5", 9.5-mm-tall drive.
Prices for Eurocom's Tornado F5 can vary quite a bit based on its many configuration options, but go as low as $1,330 for a model with a Core i5-7600K and a GTX 970M. A model with a Core I7-7700K and a GTX 1070 can be had for just about $2,000.Rumor: AMD Ryzen CPUs to launch before March 3
AMD has a lot riding on Ryzen. The company's CPUs and SoCs haven't been able to compete with the performance of Intel's mainstream desktop offerings in most workloads for some time, and competition with the blue team's high-end desktop and server chips has been further out of the question. To say that the red team has a lot riding on Ryzen would be something of an understatement. Anandtech reports that the description of a presentation that AMD will give at the Game Developer Conference gives away a launch date some time before the end of of the conference on March 3.
GDC is scheduled to begin on February 27 and end on March 3. Anandtech has a screen capture of the presentation description that reads, in part: "Join AMD Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU followed by advanced optimization topics." The page has since been altered to remove the phrase "recently launched." If Ryzen CPUs do in fact launch before March 3, the launch will have taken place well in advance of the end of AMD's first fiscal quarter at the end of March.
AMD fans and anyone looking to put together a machine for content creation has been looking forward to the new chip's launch ever since the company first put the new architecture on its roadmap back in mid-2015. AMD CEO Lisa Su has been promising a Q1 2017 launch for chips based on the Zen architecture since an announcement in the shadow of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in August.Early deal of the week: an RX 480 4GB for $185 or less
Need a solid graphics card upgrade? We have just the thing. Newegg is selling MSI's Radeon RX 480 Armor 4G OC graphics card for just $184.99, making it the cheapest RX 480 4GB card on the site right now. A $25 mail-in rebate could bring that price tag into RX 470 territory, too.
The 4GB RX 480 is appealing for 1920x1080 gaming of all stripes or a jump into the 2560x1440 waters. Its fully-enabled Polaris 10 GPU is a nice step up over the cut-down version in the RX 470, and its RAM allocation should serve just fine for a while to come. MSI's high-quality aftermarket cooler should make for quiet running, too. At this price, we see nothing to dislike about this card. Act fast, though, because this deal ends at 11:59 PT this evening.
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