TOP NEWS
Gigabyte shows off its thin Aero laptops and Aorus RGB Fusion Keyboard
— 2:57 PM on May 27, 2016

In preparation for the Computex 2016 rush, Gigabyte has announced its new 14" Aero series laptops and the Aorus RGB Fusion Keyboard. The new Aero laptops are of the thin-and-light variety, and will be available in three colors: safety orange, lime green, and dark gray. Meanwhile, the Aorus RGB Fusion Keyboard carries on the trend of gaming laptops with RGB-LED-backlit keyboards. It will be fitted into the Aorus X7 DT, which will be on display at Computex.

Gigabyte is advertising the Aero series to a dual-use audience with both "for work" and "for game" labels. For that purpose, Gigabyte fitted the Aero with Nvidia's Optimus technology to switch from the integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 to a discrete Nvidia card. Buyers will have a choice between a GeForce GTX 965M or GTX 970M for rendering graphics on the Aero's matte 2560x1440 IPS display.

The machine is powered by an Intel quad-core Core i7-6700HQ with 2.6GHz base 3.5GHz turbo clocks. There's support for up to 32GB of RAM, with the base configuration requiring a choice of either 8GB or 16GB of 2133MHz DDR4 memory. The storage section comprises two M.2 PCIe x4 slots, which Gigabyte says offer a "dual storage system."

The Aero line stays trim at 0.78" (19.9 mm) thin and weighs in at just under 4.2 lbs (1.9 kg). The dimensions keep the device brief-casable at 9.9" deep and 13.2" wide (25.1 cm by 33.5 cm). The notebook packs all the I/O connectivity we've come to expect these days: 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 for wireless networking, three USB 3.0 Type-A ports and one USB 3.1 Type-C port for peripherals, and HDMI 2.0 and a mini-DisplayPort for video. There's also a card reader thrown in for good measure, too. According to Gigabyte, the 94.24-Wh battery should be good for a whole day under a "productivity" usage pattern.

Let's look at the Aorus X7 DT's colors, previously announced at CES earlier this year. Its Aorus RGB Fusion Keyboard offers independent RGB LED lighting for each key, which Gigabyte claims is a first for any laptop keyboard. That translates to a fully programmable color palette of 16.8 million colors. In addition to color programming, the accompanying software offers full macro recording and shortcut functionality, which could come in handy for complicated Excel spreadsheets or MMO hotkey sequencing.

6 comments — Last by Anonymous Coward at 1:43 AM on 05/28/16

Friday Shortbread
— 12:24 PM on May 27, 2016

Eight is Enough

  1. Reuters: HP Inc profit beats Street
    amid weak market for PCs, printers
  2. DigiTimes: Lenovo suffers net loss of $128 million for fiscal 2015
  3. The Escapist: Nvidia's GTX 1080 goes
    on sale, promptly sells out everywhere
  4. WCCFtech: Full 'Nvidia Pascal' PCI
    device ID list published by AIDA64
  5. VideoCardz shares rumor: AMD Radeon logo to receive a face lift
  6. Neowin: Microsoft releases Windows 10 for PCs
    build 14352 to the Fast Ring - here's what's new
  7. LinuxPlanet: Linux 4.7 set to boost live
    patching, security and power management
  8. Neowin: Microsoft develops full version of its
    Remote Desktop Universal app for Windows 10

Read more...

12 comments — Last by Srsly_Bro at 11:13 PM on 05/27/16

Deals of the week: 25% off Das Keyboard 4 and more
— 12:05 PM on May 27, 2016

Greetings, gerbils, and welcome to our three-day-weekend Friday deals of the week! This week we've got a nice range of gear to get you through Computex next week. Take a look.

  • First up we have a bit of an unusual entrant. Das Keyboard, mechanical keyboard maker extraordinaire, is having a rare Memorial Day sale. The company is offering 25% off of its headline Das Keyboard 4 units, including its tenkeyless compact design. It is worth noting, though, that the compact designs use switches made by Greentech rather than the old standby Cherry MX switches that the full-sized models use.
     
  • Heading back to more familiar deal-of-the-week fare, Newegg is offering the Mushkin Enhanced ECO3 480GB SSD for $97.99 after promo code ESCEJGK25. The ECO series is Mushkin's budget alternative to its often-featured Reactor series SSD, which we recently tested.
     
  • Speaking of SSDs, SanDisk's 1TB X400 SSD is on sale at Newegg Flash for $227. The X400 is SanDisk's lineup for performance SSDs, for just a few cents per GB more than the Mushkin model.
     
  • Next up we have a couple of high-end displays to fit a range of needs. Acer's XB280HK 28" 4K display is on sale at Newegg for $599.99 with promo code MAYEJGL38. This 60 Hz TN-paneled display is tricked out with G-Sync variable refresh rate technology for you Nvidia users. Display connectivity is limited to single DisplayPort input, but the XB280HK packs a four-port USB 3.0 hub. As a matter of fact, this is the very display that stares back at me as I write to you this morning, oh gerbils.
     
  • For those of you who are looking for more accurate color, rather than higher resolution, Newegg Flash has a nifty pre-calibrated Asus Professional PA279Q 27" display up for $689.99 right now. Asus says that its pre-calibration on the PA279Q yields 99% Adobe RGB accuracy and 100% sRGB accuracy. Asus goes to the other extreme of the Acer above on ports for this display, offering a DisplayPort input, a daisy-chain DisplayPort output, an HDMI connector, and a dual-link DVI port. It also includes a 9-in-1 card reader and no fewer than six USB 3.0 ports.
     
  • Finally, we have the hexa-core Haswell-E Core i7-5820K that Newegg is offering up for $374.39 after promo code MAYEJGL22. This is an unlocked processor with 15MB of L3 cache, a 3.3GHz base frequency, and a 3.6GHz turbo clock. Although this chip only has 28 PCIe lanes, compared to 40 on its Haswell-E brethren, it could still be a good choice for a single-GPU workstation or gaming build. While the well-known Skylake Core i7-6700K will probably outshine it at stock clocks in gaming performance, the i7-5820K shrugs that off with its larger cache, two extra cores, quad-channel memory. 

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, Walmart, Rakuten, 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.

That's all for this week, folks! If we missed any exciting deals out there, be sure to let us know in the comments!

4 comments — Last by duke_sandman at 10:51 PM on 05/27/16

Everyone and their gran announces non-reference GTX 1080s
— 11:06 AM on May 27, 2016

In case you've been in a coma the last couple of weeks, the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition launches today, bearing Nvidia's latest Pascal architecture. That, apparently, was the cue for Nvidia's board partners to unveil their own versions of the new GeForce front-runner. Everyone from Asus to Zotac has announced a non-reference GTX 1080.

Speaking of Zotac, that company is announcing the GTX 1080 AMP Edition and AMP Extreme to go alongside its announced, released, and sold-out Founders Edition card. Both cards have Zotac's customizable "Spectra" lighting, aluminum backplates, and require dual 8-pin power connectors. The regular AMP card wears an IceStorm dual-fan cooler, while the AMP Extreme is a bit larger, and has a triple-fan cooler. 

EVGA will surely launch a number of GTX 1080s, but for now we have word of the GTX 1080 SuperClocked Gaming and the GTX 1080 FTW Edition. The SuperClocked card appears to pair the reference board with EVGA's ACX 3.0 cooler and only requires a single 8-pin plug. Meanwhile, the FTW edition is built on a custom PCB like the Zotac boards above, and draws power from two 8-pin connectors.

Asus ROG is announcing the Strix version of the GTX 1080 today, too. Like the rest of the Strix line, the ROG Strix GTX 1080 is focused on silent running. It makes use of the company's DirectCU III cooler and has a boost clock of 1936MHz, versus the 1733MHz of the reference card. Asus says the card does this while being "three times" quieter than the reference design. The ROG Strix GTX 1080 includes two four-pin chassis fan headers for Asus FanConnect, which allows the GPU to ramp up system fans in response to GPU activity, instead of just CPU activity. RGB lighting and an extra HDMI 2.0 port further distinguish the ROG offering from its peers.

MSI wins the variety award though, with four new GTX 1080s to show off. The Twin Frozr design will be familiar to most TR readers, though the Twin Frozr VI has a new fan design that MSI claims will improve cooling performance and noise output. In case black and red isn't your thing, MSI is also launching a GTX 1080 Armor edition with a black and white cooler. The most interesting of the new designs is the GTX 1080 Sea Hawk, which includes a closed-loop liquid cooler alongside a rear-exhaust radial fan. The Sea Hawk is the result of a collaboration with Corsair, and MSI says it will have "vastly increased" clock speeds. Curiously, MSI is also offering an Aero edition, which features the blower design from the Sea Hawk without the water cooler.

There are a number of smaller GPU vendors that we don't hear about much over here in the 'States, and they're all launching GTX 1080s, too. Inno3D is launching a GamingOC edition and an iChill edition, the latter of which is pictured above. Palit also announced two custom 1080s, the GameRock and Super JetStream, but didn't provide many details. Colorful is showing off the iGameGTX1080 X-TOP-8G, with a distinctive modular and customizable cooler design. Finally, Gainward is launching the GTX 1080 Phoenix Edition, which offers dual firmware chips, which should save the user from a bad flash.

Rumors are flying around about pricing and availability but there's not a lot of concrete information yet. EVGA's website briefly showed a price of $649.99 for the SuperClocked Gaming this morning, though it appears to be down at this time. Given that the Founders Edition GTX 1080s are already sold out everywhere, we expect it may yet be a bit yet before these cards hit the market. Look forward to hearing about it here when they do.

30 comments — Last by ronch at 1:20 AM on 05/28/16

AMD FirePro S7100X is ready to virtualize blade-server graphics
— 8:55 AM on May 27, 2016

Virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, is a hot market for graphics processors right now. AMD's FirePro S7150 and S7150 X2 were the company's first thrust into that market a couple months ago, and now its FirePro S7100X brings the company's Multiuser GPU technology to dense blade servers where even a single- or dual-slot graphics card would occupy too much space.

The FirePro S7100X puts 8GB of GDDR5 RAM and an unspecified AMD GPU on an MXM expansion card with a board power of 100W. Like the FirePro S7150, this passively-cooled card can support up to 16 virtual users. The S7100X also offers the same flexibility in provisioning, all-user OpenGL support, and freedom from per-user licenses as AMD's other FirePro graphics-virtualization products. System administrators can begin purchasing FirePro S7100Xes on board HP Enterprise's ProLiant WS640c Gen9 blade servers now.

5 comments — Last by tipoo at 1:58 PM on 05/27/16

Thermaltake Pacific water coolers gain hard tube option
— 8:00 AM on May 27, 2016

Despite water cooling's reputation as an endeavor reserved exclusively for the hard-core, there are a plethora of ready-made kits for semi-custom water cooling. Thermaltake, whose line of Pacific radiators we covered last year, already offers complete kits for the RL360 and RL240 radiators with flexible tubing. As hard-tube water cooling is becoming more popular, the company is expanding its offerings to include a couple of kits with clear plastic tubing. 

The Pacific RL360 D5 and RL240 D5 are simply hard-tube versions of the previous RL360 and RL240 kits, and as such include the same W1 waterblock and D5 pump-reservoir combo. Thermaltake provides two 120mm red-LED fans on the RL240, while the RL360 gets a trio of RGB LED fans for that legit gamer flavor. The kits also include four clear plastic pipes, six compression fittings, and all of the necessary mounting hardware, plus opaque coolant. Thermaltake didn't provide any information on availability or pricing, but we expect to see these units after Computex.

9 comments — Last by Generic at 7:51 PM on 05/27/16

Rumor: Google shames partners into updating Android
— 7:00 AM on May 27, 2016

It's no secret that non-Nexus Android phones have a reputation for receiving OS updates late, if at all. Failing to address this issue has left a large portion of the Android user base using versions of the OS that are outdated and potentially insecure. According to Bloomberg, Google is adding a new tool to get manufacturers to update—shame. The company is apparently making a list of vendors' update record and using the threat of making it public to convince the companies to release Android patches.

In July of last year, the Stagefright bug shone the spotlight directly on the issue of Android OS fragmentation. The bug allowed remote code execution on the majority of Android devices through an exploit in the libstagefright component baked into the OS. Google quickly patched the affected software, but not all Android device makers were so quick to act. Since then, Google started releasing monthly security updates for the OS, but most OEMs have been slow to deploy them. Bloomberg reports that the cost of testing updates is the biggest reason for the delay and that Google is trying to persuade companies to do reduced testing on the monthly update packs to reduce cost.

36 comments — Last by sweatshopking at 8:10 PM on 05/27/16

First GeForce GTX 1080 driver out with new VRWorks features in tow
— 6:10 PM on May 26, 2016

If you're one of the lucky b... er, few that have a GeForce GTX 1080 on preorder, you're in luck. The first official driver for the GTX 1080, version 368.25, is out now in preparation for the card's launch, and carries a WHQL certification badge.

The new driver is essentially similar to the 368.22 release we covered recently, but doesn't just add "GTX 1080" to its list of supported cards. Nvidia's new VRWorks features are now enabled in systems using the new graphics card.

What are those features, you say? Well, first there's Lens Matched Shading, which Nvidia says will offer a "substantial" pixel shading performance improvements by rendering to a surface that more closely matches the final warped version that your eye(s) will see.

Then there's Single Pass Stereo, which avoids having the GPU process the same geometry twice just because there are two viewports instead of one. According to Nvidia, Single-Pass Stereo ought to cut down the GPU's geometry workload in half when compared to current VR geometry shading techiques, as tesselation and vertex shading will only have to be done once for the whole scene.

Proud parents of GTX 1080 babies can download the new release here for Windows 10, or here for Windows 7 and 8.

28 comments — Last by Bensam123 at 3:49 PM on 05/27/16

AOC set to release quantum-dot-flavored monitor
— 4:32 PM on May 26, 2016

It seems quantum-dot monitors are starting to be a thing. We reported on Philips' 276E6ADSS a while back, and now AOC is looking to get in on the action with the stateside release of its first quantum-dot display.

AOC didn't mention the model name in its PR, but we believe this model to be the I2771F9, which was announced last year. The model name may not be fancy, but the display has some enticing specifications. The monitor measures 27" across its diagonal, and has a resolution of 1920x1080.

While the resolution may seem a little low, the color gamut should make up for it. AOC says the panel covers 98% of the Adobe RGB color space, with a delta-E of under three across the board. Unsurprisingly, AOC mentions photography work as a use case for the new model. Connectivity options include VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports.

AOC is using QD Vision's Color IQ technology, which purportedly offers "50% better color performance than a typical monitor." QD Vision says that its quantum-dot technology is superior to all competing solutions, while having a "much lower overall cost." AOC offered no pricing information for its display, but as a point of reference, the similarly-specced Philips 276E6ADSS is currently going for $270. The company says the monitor should be available immediately.

18 comments — Last by meerkt at 10:14 AM on 05/27/16

Thermaltake's Level 10 M Advanced mouse offers 16000-DPI sensor
— 3:12 PM on May 26, 2016

Thermaltake has pulled back the curtain on the latest entry in its lineup of gaming mice, the Level 10 M Advanced. The new model is a step up from the Level 10 M, which we covered previously.

The M Advanced (as it's known to friends) maintains most of its predecessor's styling but packs a new set of innards. The star of the show is the Avago 9800 laser sensor, which Thermaltake says can go as high as 16,000 DPI in "overdrive mode." The buttons have Omron switches underneath them, rated for 50 million clicks. Thermaltake says the M Advanced's ergonomics should be an improvement from the previous model, courtesy of redesigned left and right finger rests.

In a further nod to comfort, the M Advanced's sides and palm section are vented, possibly helping hands stay cool during hours-long gaming sessions. The angle of the mouse's top section is configurable, too. As is expected of any gaming peripheral these days, the M Advanced packs RGB LED lighting, configurable across three zones. Last but not least, the M Advanced's onboard memory has enough capacity for five configuration profiles. You can get your hands on this rodent at Thermaltake's online store for $70.

22 comments — Last by chuckula at 8:11 PM on 05/27/16

Customer frustration leads to Windows 10 upgrade dialog changes
— 1:30 PM on May 26, 2016

Regardless of what you think of Windows 10, it's safe to say Microsoft hasn't been doing itself many favors on the PR front with its aggressive free upgrade program. Now the BBC reports the company is backpedaling on some recent changes to the behavior of its upgrade notifications in order to clear up some confusion about its behavior.

Microsoft recently made a change to the Windows 10 upgrade request that caused the update to go forward if the user simply used the "X" to close the window. Unsurprisingly, this went against users' expectations that closing the window would bypass the update. This issue was exacerbated by the fact that before that change, the only way to prevent the update was to close the notification.

In order to actually cancel the update, the user had to click a link in the middle of the text and follow a path through a menu. To improve this behavior and prevent unwanted upgrades, Microsoft has now added a confirmation dialog that pops up when the user closes the upgrade window without selecting an option.

Back in February of this year, Microsoft made Windows 10 a recommended update for Windows 7 and 8.1, meaning users of those versions of the OS would be prompted to accept or decline the OS upgrade. While this likely ensured that as many users as possible would be running the latest version of Windows, it also meant that users who weren't interested in changing versions had to dodge the update screen.  It's not yet clear whether simply closing the newly-added confirmation pop-up will still schedule the update for install, though.

87 comments — Last by anotherengineer at 3:59 PM on 05/27/16

MSI bringing one of everything to Computex
— 10:30 AM on May 26, 2016

Sometimes it's good for a company to put all of its focus into a single product family, and sometimes it's better to diversify. Judging by the list of products that it's showing off at Computex this year, MSI has chosen the latter. Here's a quick breakdown of MSI's upcoming laptops, desktops, and components.

MSI will display a variety of laptops at Computex. The GS63 Stealth Pro is an ultra-portable 1.9kg laptop that's only 17mm thick. The machine is powered by a Core i7-6700HQ and a Geforce GTX 970M. To keep those components cool in a tight chassis, MSI gave each of them its own thermal module.

Next up are two "VR Ready" laptops. MSI's GT83 Titan SLI has a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches and two GTX 980 graphics cards in an SLI configuration. The GT73 should also meets the performance demands of VR, and is powered by GTX 980M cards in SLI. Finally, there's the GS73, a laptop with an aluminum chassis, a GeForce GTX 970M graphics card, and a SteelSeries keyboard.

MSI will be displaying many desktops and all-in-ones at Computex. There's also something a little unusual, however. MSI's Backpack PC puts a Core i7 CPU and a GTX 980 card into a system that gamers can carry on their backs, letting them experience room-scale VR without the fear of tripping on cables. Meanwhile, the new Aegis Series desktop puts an Intel Core K-series processor into a beast of a case. A button on the front purportedly increases the system's performance by 15%. On the smaller side of things, we have the Vortex, which packs Geforce GTX 980 graphics cards in SLI into a 6.5L chassis. Finally, MSI has upgraded its line of gaming all-in-one PCs. The highest-end model houses a Core i7 processor, GTX 980M graphics, and a 4K display.

MSI has a variety of components and peripherals on the way. The company will have its GeForce GTX 1080 Founder's Edition graphics card on display at Computex. It'll also show off a variety of motherboards, including the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon, X99A XPower Gaming Titanium, and the Z170A MPower Gaming Titanium. For peripherals, MSI has updated versions of its Interceptor gaming keyboards and Clutch Series gaming mice. Additionally, the company mentions a Focus Eye Tracking peripheral. Since MSI used Tobii's eye-tracking system in a laptop earlier this year, it's possible that Focus Eye could be an in-house version of that technology. We'll have more information when Computex formally kicks off next week.

15 comments — Last by Peldor at 2:54 PM on 05/27/16

HP joins the black and red clan with Omen gaming PCs
— 9:43 AM on May 26, 2016

HP has been more or less absent from the gaming scene for a bit—until now. The company is announcing the Omen branding as a new portfolio of gaming products. All four items announced today wear the black-and-red color scheme typical of gamer-oriented hardware, and downplay the HP branding to prominently display an almost-indescribable Omen diamond logo.

Back in 2006—possibly following in Dell's footsteps—HP purchased Canadian boutique PC vendor VoodooPC, whose flagship product was the Omen gaming desktop. A few other products arose from that purchase, but after 2009's Firebird desktop, HP stopped releasing products with the VoodooPC name. Today's announcements don't actually carry the VoodooPC name, but nonetheless carry the company's DNA.

The new HP Omen laptops come in 15.6" and 17.3" form factors, and pack "Dragon Red" backlit keyboards. CPUs on offer include Intel Skylake chips up to quad-core Core i7s, while graphics horsepower is provided by GeForce cards up to the GTX 965M. Users can stuff in up to 16GB of RAM, and dual storage options include HDDs up to 4TB and PCIe SSDs up to 512GB. There are no 1366x768 screens in sight, thankfully. Both models have a 1080p display as standard, and HP offers 4K IPS screens as options. The battery supports HP's fast charging technology and is mounted at the front of the laptops, something which the company says should help with thermal management.

The Omen desktop is serious-looking gaming machine, built with a tool-less design and brushed metal exterior, and displaying—of course—customizable RGB LEDs that HP says "react to performance levels." CPU choices include models up to the Core i7-6700K, while graphics cards options range as far as the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition and the Radeon R9 390X. HP says users can have their machines liquid-cooled, and specific models will be unlocked for overclocking. The company says it won't offer support or warranty services for overclocked configurations, though.

As a companion piece to the Omen desktop, HP is also offering an Omen-branded monitor. HP didn't provide a lot of specifics, but the display has a 32" diagonal and a resolution of 2560x1440. HP claims the display can reproduce 100% of the sRGB colorspace, which seems to imply the panel isn't a TN model. The monitor's gaming cred is sealed with support for AMD's FreeSync technology.

HP says the Omen laptops will be the first to market and should be available July 10. Prices start at $899.99 for the 15.6" model and $979.99 for the 17.3" version. Meanwhile, the desktop and monitor won't come around until August, but you can sign up to be notified when they are available at HP's web store.

19 comments — Last by crabjokeman at 4:18 PM on 05/27/16

Crytek releases Cryengine source code on Github
— 4:00 PM on May 25, 2016

Back in March, Crytek started offering its Cryengine V game engine to developers on a "pay-what-you-want" scheme. Today, developers don't even need to go to the trouble of paying $0 for the engine to check it out. The source code is now publicly available on GitHub.

According to David Kaye, Crytek's senior systems engineer, the company moved the code to GitHub for a couple of reasons. First, Crytek wanted to make it easier for users to see the differences between one release and the next. Second, the company wanted to make it more convenient for users to keep up to date with new Cryengine releases.

The code might be publicly available, but Cryengine doesn't use a common open-source license. Users must agree to a limited license agreement, which states that Cryengine cannot be used to develop anything other than games. The code can't be used for military projects, gambling, science, architecture, or what the license somewhat amusingly calls "serious games." By that, Crytek means things which are technically games but "not developed for the sole purpose of entertainment." The company cites examples of "training, simulation, science, architecture, etc."

The open-source project still has some work ahead of it. Crytek is working to make it simpler for its internal version-control system to accept pull requests from GitHub. As users start digging into the code, it'll be interesting to see what projects develop out of Cryengine and its Marketplace.

30 comments — Last by synthtel2 at 3:23 PM on 05/26/16

Zotac beefs up lineup of mini-PCs for Computex
— 3:08 PM on May 25, 2016

Zotac floated a press release across our desks this morning formally announcing its presence at Computex 2016. The release is full of juicy details on new machines in the Zbox E, P, C, and M series that the micro-PC experts will be showing in Taipei next week.

First up is the Magnus EN980, which is the new top dog in Zotac's performance-focused E-series. Despite the name, the EN980 isn't just a refresh of the Magnus EN970. Zotac claims this is the world's first VR-ready mini-PC. For that purpose, Zotac equipped the EN980 with a Core i5-6400 processor and a GeForce GTX 980 graphics card, both of which are desktop-grade parts. All that horsepower comes at a cost, though—the EN980 uses two power connectors instead of one.

The Magnus is larger than most of Zotac's other mini-PCs, but still retains a footprint of just a little over 8" x 8", and is only 5" tall. SFF PCs with this kind of hardware have traditionally had cooling issues, but Zotac says the EN980 shouldn't face that problem, as it's "liquid cooled." We'll have to wait for Computex to see exactly what that means. Despite the dimensions and hardware on offer, Zotac still packs in room for a 2.5" disk, an M.2 slot, and two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots. Connectivity options include 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.1, and dual gigabit Ethernet ports.

Next up is the Zbox Pico series. Zotac recently revealed two stick PCs in this lineup with a fixed male HDMI connector on one end. The PI322 and PI330 exchange the fixed HDMI connector for female ports, something which may come in handy in space-constrained situations. Both machines offer Cherry Trail Atom x5 processors, 2GB of LPDDR3, and 32GB of eMMC storage in a fanless casing. In a first for Zotac's Pico series, the PI330 offers both DisplayPort and HDMI outputs.

Zotac's M-series mini-PCs are labeled "multifunction," and could be described as mainstream offerings. The M series is gaining new MI523, MI543, and MI545 models, fitted with Skylake-U processors and styled with Zotac's new matte black design. All three machines have room for a single 2.5" disk and dual DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and differ primarily in choice of CPU. Offers on hand range from the MI523's Core i3-6100U to the MI545's Core i5-6300U. Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a pair of USB 3.1 Type-C ports are standard features in most of the lineup. The sole exception is the MI545, which offers twin Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Last but not least, we have the mini-PCs in the C series, whose main focus is silent running. Like the Pico series, these machines have no moving parts. Aside from the passive cooling setup and slightly larger size, these mini-PCs are equivalent to the M series models. The CI523, CI543, and CI545 predictably mirror their M-series counterparts' technical specs and expansion options.

All of these machines will be on display starting May 31 at Zotac's booth in the Computex trade show. They certainly look enticing, and we're curious to see what else Zotac will be bringing to the show. We'll have more information for you next week.

23 comments — Last by Deanjo at 10:54 AM on 05/26/16

Toshiba releases 8TB X300 HDD
— 10:52 AM on May 25, 2016

If you're dreaming of some big mechanical storage to go with one of the upcoming OCZ RD400 SSDs that Toshiba announced yesterday, there's some more good news for you. The company has released an 8TB SATA HDD in its consumer X300 series that could fill that HDD-sized hole in your life.

Like the previously released 4TB X300, the new X300 spins its 8TB at 7200RPM and has 128MB of cache. It uses perpendicular magnetic recording but opts for plain-old air rather than the helium we have seen in some higher-end drives. Other manufacturers have released 8TB drives, but only one other model is targeted at desktops, rather than enterprise or NAS storage—the Seagate 8TB ST8000DM002. The Seagate drive runs at 7200RPM, too, but with a beefier 256MB cache, so we'll have to wait and see how the Toshiba drive performs to figure out if it is a solid competitor to the Seagate model.

Tom's Hardware says the 8TB X300 is going on sale in Europe now but won't show up on this side of the pond until the third quarter of this year. The site also notes Toshiba has declined to release the drive's workload ratings and performance specifications until the it ships in the USA.

24 comments — Last by Chrispy_ at 6:21 AM on 05/27/16

Microsoft announces 1850 more job cuts in mobile division
— 9:36 AM on May 25, 2016

Hot on the heels of Gartner’s announcement that Windows Phone's market share had dropped to less than 1%, we have some unsurprising follow-up news this morning. The Verge is reporting that Microsoft intends to cut 1,850 more jobs, primarily in its mobile division in Finland.

This is the second round of job cuts to the company’s mobile division, which it purchased from Nokia back in 2013. The first came in July of last year, when Microsoft restructured its phone business in the face of a declining market share, cutting 7,800 jobs. This new round of cuts seem to signal that Microsoft is driving the last nail into the Lumia coffin. The company has indicated that it will continue to support existing devices, though.‚Äč

According to The Verge, Microsoft hasn’t quite given up on its smartphone ambitions, though. The company says it's still working on "great new devices," which we assume is a hint to the long-rumored Microsoft Surface phone. The company didn't give any indication when we might see these new devices.

93 comments — Last by BIF at 8:29 PM on 05/27/16

In the lab: Corsair's Bulldog mini-PC kit
— 9:19 AM on May 25, 2016

Over the past few years, Corsair has expanded from its roots as a premium RAM provider to become nearly a one-stop shop for the PC builder. The company's closed-loop liquid coolers, power supplies, memory, cases, storage, and peripherals are all high-quality parts, and they're deservedly popular. The Bulldog PC kit takes all of the expertise the company has gathered making those discrete components and wraps it up into one neat, stealthy-looking box. Corsair has been teasing the Bulldog since last year's Computex, and after a long series of refinements, the company is finally ready to sic the Bulldog on the living room.

To let me see how this puppy behaves, Corsair sent me a Bulldog barebones that's similar to what buyers will get if they purchase the $400 "basic kit" version of the PC. That kit includes the case itself, an SF600 SFX power supply, and the H5 SF CPU cooler, plus a pre-installed Gigabyte GA-Z170N-Wifi motherboard. The company also sent me an Intel Core i7-6700K CPU, the G1 Gaming version of Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card, and its own Hydro GFX liquid-cooled GTX 980 Ti (produced in partnership with MSI) so that we could get a feel for whether 4K gaming in the living room is a prospect worth drooling over.

While you'll have to wait for our full review for all the details of how the Bulldog performs, I think Corsair has largely succeeded in its mission, all without without inviting unpleasant noise levels along for the ride—at least, so long as one goes all-in on liquid-cooled components. Running games like Grand Theft Auto V at 4K and 60FPS in the living room is the kind of experience console players can only dream of, for example, though we'd expect nothing less from a system that would ring in at over $1500 at retail. I've also discovered that the Bulldog makes a fairly tote-able VR demo rig for showing off what the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift can do outside of TR's labs.

We're headed across the Pacific this week in preparation for Computex, but we'll be publishing an in-depth review of the Bulldog as soon as we can. Stay tuned.

26 comments — Last by Neutronbeam at 9:49 AM on 05/27/16

OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD heats up the enthusiast storage game
— 11:02 AM on May 24, 2016

We recently reported on big changes in the OCZ SSD lineup under Toshiba. OCZ’s previous line of SSDs was cut down to just two SATA drives. The upcoming RD400 PCIe SSD was simply listed as "coming soon," with no indication of when OCZ would be back in the PCIe SSD market. Today "soon" has come, and Toshiba has announced its OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD. This drive can use four lanes of PCIe Gen3 connectivity to deliver some impressive claimed performance numbers.

The new drive pops into an M.2 slot, and Toshiba offers a bundle with a PCIe x4 M.2 adapter card for those of us without native M.2 slots on our motherboards. It's being offered in capacities ranging from 128GB to 1TB. Here are the specs for the entire RD400 lineup, along with comparison information for the biggest PCIe consumer SSDs from Samsung and Intel:

Drive Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
OCZ RD400 128GB 2200 620 170K 110K
OCZ RD400 256GB 2600 1150 210K 140K
OCZ RD400 512GB 2600 1600 190K 120K
OCZ RD400 1TB 2600 1600 210K 140K
Intel 750 Series 1.2TB 2400 1200 440K 290K
Samsung 950 Pro 512GB 2500 1500 300K 110K

Those numbers are certainly enthusiast-grade, but they do fall a little short of the competition in some respects. The biggest Samsung 950 Pro and the Intel 750 Series 1.2TB both claim significantly higher random read performance than the RD400, for example. The sequential peformance from OCZ's biggest RD400 is pretty darn impressive, though.

The M.2 NVMe SSD field has been a little bit bare since the introduction of Samsung's 950 Pro, so we're happy to see growing competition in this space. Toshiba has provided TR with a review sample of the RD400, so we'll have more concrete performance numbers coming soon. Stay tuned.

39 comments — Last by willyolio at 11:40 PM on 05/26/16

Samsung's 750 EVO SSD family grows with a 500GB model
— 10:33 AM on May 24, 2016

With its 850 series solid-state disks, Samsung did away with the non-EVO, non-Pro base model in its lineup, leaving folks in the market for a cheap-yet-quality SSD looking elsewhere. In February of this year, Samsung sought to fill the hole at the bottom end of its product stack with the 750 EVO series of budget solid-state drives, but the small capacities and limited availability of that lineup made the drives less compelling than they otherwise might have been. Today Samsung is announcing a 500GB 750 EVO to go with its 120GB and 250GB drives, and it'll now be offering those drives worldwide.

The 750 EVOs use the same MGX controller as similarly-sized 850 EVOs, but the 256MB of DRAM cache in the 750 EVO is half that of the 850-series drives. Rather than the 40-nm 3D V-NAND used in the 850 series, the 750 EVO uses more traditional 16nm planar TLC NAND, too. Samsung claims the drives are good for up to 540MB/s sequential reads and 520MB/s sequential writes, but it doesn't offer a random performance specification.

Anandtech tested the smaller 750 EVO drives and found them to be decent performers at a somewhat high price point. The suggested retail price on the new 500GB drive is $149, which puts it in striking distance of the 512GB version of the Mushkin Reactor SSD we're fond of lately. The 750 EVO 500GB should be available in early June.

9 comments — Last by sweatshopking at 10:34 AM on 05/25/16