|The typical enthusiast PC is more decked-out than you might think||155|
|Micron's M600 solid-state drive reviewed||22|
|Corsair Gaming's K70 RGB keyboard reviewed||24|
After dropping that naming bombshell, Microsoft gave the first public demo of Windows 10 at its press event this morning. The company also announced the Windows Insider Program, as part of which folks will be able to grab a Technical Preview build of Windows 10 starting tomorrow.
Though Windows 10 will run on phones and tablets, the public demo centered mostly on the desktop—and covered a lot of ground already trodden by recent leaks. There were a few surprises, however. According to The Verge's liveblog and the official Windows Blog post, attendees got a look at:
Microsoft also teased new enterprise features for "separating corporate and personal data across all devices," adding that Windows 10 will be its "greatest enterprise platform, ever." None of the enterprise stuff was demoed, but it's pretty clear that the company is trying to woo corporate customers that will soon look to upgrade their Windows 7 systems.
More details about Windows 10 will be revealed early next year, including at the Build conference in April. The completed OS is scheduled for release in mid-2015.
Update: Microsoft has put up a video introduction to the upcoming Technical Preview.
If you skip past Belfiore's monologue to around the 1:35 mark, the video includes a brief tour of the new features. (Thanks to TR reader SH SOTN for the link.)
Update 3:49 PM: Microsoft has put up this morning's entire keynote on YouTube. You can watch it below:
Belfiore's demo starts about 10 minutes in, if you want to skip straight to the fun stuff.Windows 9 is actually called... Windows 10
Microsoft's Windows press event is unfolding as we speak, and the firm has just announced the name of its new operating system. Turns out the rumors (and executive slip-ups) were wrong: the new version of Windows will actually be called Windows 10.
You can follow the event as it unfolds via The Verge's liveblog here.Doom looks awesome in the Lego universe
Lego has partnered with loads of iconic franchises, including Star Wars, Batman, The Lord of the Rings, and even Minecraft. Now, builder Ian Heath is providing a glimpse of what Doom might look like if it made the leap into the Lego universe. And it's pretty awesome:
Heath's Flickr page has a bunch of great shots of the diorama and some of its components. The whole thing will be on display at the Seattle BrickCon next month and at the Emerald City ComicCon in March.
If Lego made this an official set, I'd buy one. Thank to Reddit for the tip.Tuesday Shortbread
Read more... Project Ara phones with hot-swap modules launching in early 2015
Project Ara, Google's modular smartphone endeavor, seems to be coming together nicely. According to the Phoneblocks blog, the first "fully functional prototype" will be shown during an Ara developer conference in December. The official launch is reportedly scheduled for "early 2015."
During a recent presentation, project lead Paul Eremenko revealed that most Ara modules will support hot swapping. Although the device will have to be switched off to change the CPU and display components, any others, including cameras and batteries, can be changed on the fly. The endoskeleton actually includes a small battery that provides "some seconds" of juice to facilitate quick battery swaps.
Google's Android L operating system has also been modified to support hot swapping. Those changes were made in cooperation with the folks at Linaro, and they'll apparently be rolled into the standard version of the OS.
Modules will connect via UniPro, a royalty-free interface standard that's been around for a while. Native implementations seem to be scarce right now, but Eremenko said Chinese SoC vendor Rockchip is working on quad-core chip with UniPro onboard. That chip will be based on ARM's Cortex-A7 core, which is aimed at low-power and entry-level devices.
The budget SoC fits with Project Ara's goal of bringing mobile Internet access to a broader swath of the developing world. Eremenko anticipates Ara-compatible smartphones to have a bill of materials of just $50-100. He didn't explain how barebones those offerings might be, but he did note that the design allows folks with deeper pockets to spruce up their device with more exotic modules. That's sort of the whole point behind the concept.
Although the first Project Ara devices may be too low-rent to appeal to enthusiasts, it's encouraging to see Google working out the technical details required to create modular handsets. Let's hope the company's efforts translate to desirable devices—and modular components—that free us from the locked-down hardware of current smartphones.HP's new Intel-powered Win8.1 tablet costs $99
Windows tablets are starting to sneak under the $100 threshold—and not just obscure Chinese ones, either. HP has announced a new 7", Intel-powered slate that will cost only $99.99 when it hits stores in November.
Both HP and the Windows Blog talk about the tablet, but neither source says much about its specs. Beside the screen size and the presence of an Intel CPU, all we can glean so far is that the HP Stream 7 offers a "full Windows 8.1 experience" and comes with one-year Office 365 Personal subscription, 60 minutes of free Skype service each month for the length of that subscription, and a one-year OneDrive 1TB subscription on top of that. Which, you know, isn't a bad deal.
Along with the Stream 7, HP has also announced the Stream 8, which has a larger 8" screen and a $149.99 price tag. That tablet has the same value-added perks as its smaller sibling, but some variants of it selling at certain retailers will also offer an "optional 200MB of free 4G data each month with no annual contract for the life of the device." Again, neither HP nor Microsoft are quoting specs just yet.
Geoff's writeup about that uber-cheap Chinese tablet probably gives us a good sense of what to expect. Priced at $81, the PiPO Work-W4 runs Windows 8.1 and is powered by a Bay Trail processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of solid-state storage. I'm not sure that device will ever be available on this side of the Pacific, but the Slate 7 and Slate 8 likely have similar hardware under the hood.Hynix slides tease vertically stacked memory with 256GB/s of bandwidth
High-Bandwidth Memory, otherwise known as HBM, is a form of stacked DRAM designed to sit on the same package as a processor. Hynix has been working on the technology with AMD, and there's already a JEDEC standard governing the interface. Now, official-looking Hynix presentation slides linked on Reddit provide new insight into how this stacked memory works—and what the future holds.
According to the slides, Hynix's first-gen implementation stacks four DRAM dies on top of a single base layer. The dies are linked by vertical channels called through-silicon vias. By my count, there are 256 of those per slice, each one capable of transmitting at 1Gbps. That gives the four-way KGSD, or Known Good Stacked Die, a staggering 128GB/s of total bandwidth. For perspective, consider that the memory interface on the GeForce GTX 750 Ti tops out at just 86GB/s.
Hynix is currently layering 256MB dies to form 1GB stacks. The presentation indicates this is only the beginning, though. Hynix plans to push HBM through 2022, and improvements in density and performance are on tap for the next iteration. The slides say the second coming of HBM will double the transfer rate per pin, pushing the interface to 256GB/s—more bandwidth than even the high-end GeForce GTX 980.
The next generation will supposedly move to 1GB dies, enabling 4GB stacks. It looks like eight-die configs will also be an option, raising the maximum capacity to 8GB. Doubling the die count doesn't appear to increase the stack's total bandwidth, perhaps due to limitations in the base layer.
Although there's no mention of specific products using HBM, the slides assert that "over 21 design-ins [are] in progress." One of those could be AMD's upcoming Carrizo APU, which is rumored to have stacked, on-package memory.Catalyst 14.9 drivers improve performance, CrossFire scaling
A new batch of WHQL-certified Catalyst drivers is out for Radeon graphics cards, and it looks like AMD has really packed in the performance improvements.
First, let's get the download links out of the way. You can grab the new Catalyst 14.9 WHQL drivers here in 64-bit form and here for 32-bit versions of Windows. (A Linux release is also available here.)
According to AMD's release notes, these drivers include general performance improvements for Batman Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4 (Mantle mode), BioShock Infinite, Company of Heroes 2, Crysis 3, Murdered Soul Suspect, Plants vs. Zombies, StarCraft II, Star Swarm (Mantle mode), Thief (Mantle mode), Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs, and Wildstar. Phew. The improvements are mostly centered on the Radeon R9 290 series, and they're counted over the Catalyst 14.4 release, which was the last WHQL-certified update.
The 14.9 Catalysts enable multi-GPU mode in Thief, too, and they improve CrossFire scaling in several titles: Assassin's Creed IV, Batman Arkham Origins, Lichdom, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and Watch Dogs. Several of the gains fall in the 70-93% range, which counts as less of a performance optimization and more as... you know, scaling actually working as it ought to.
Also in this release are a number of improvements for Eyefinity multi-display configs: better support for mixed resolutions, new alignment controls, and a "One-Click Setup" feature. That's in addition to new color-management controls that apply to single-display configs.
Check out the full release notes for more details as well as performance numbers and a list of bug fixes. As always, remember that the quoted performance figures are best-case scenarios—your own mileage may vary.Photoshop heading to Chromebooks—in streaming form
Chromebooks got their first taste of Android apps earlier this month. Now, something bigger is on the way. Google and Adobe have teamed up to bring the full-fledged version of Photoshop to Chrome OS—in streaming form.
Here's the pitch from Google's official blog post:
This streaming version of Photoshop is designed to run straight from the cloud to your Chromebook. It's always up-to-date and fully integrated with Google Drive, so there's no need to download and re-upload files—just save your art directly from Photoshop to the cloud. For IT administrators, it's easy to manage, with no long client installation and one-click deployment to your team's Chromebooks.
Initially, access to this version of Photoshop will be limited to "U.S.-based Adobe education customers with a paid Creative Cloud membership." Folks who meet those strict requirements can apply here on Adobe's website. Everybody else will just have wait for this "exclusive program" to become slightly less exclusive, I guess.
Interestingly, Adobe says the streaming version of Photoshop won't be restricted to Chromebooks. It'll also work on "any Windows device with a Chrome browser." The company also plans to make other applications in its Creative Cloud suite available in streaming form.Chinese vendor preps $81 tablet with Bay Trail and Windows 8
Windows 8 tablets keep getting cheaper and cheaper. An official post in the forums of Chinese device maker PiPO indicates that the firm is prepping a Work-W4 slate that will sell for only ¥499—the equivalent of just $81 using today's exchange rate.
Although I'd hesitate to call the specifications impressive, they're pretty surprising given the price. The tablet is based on an 8" IPS display with a 1280x800 resolution. It has a quad-core Bay Trail chip similar to the one in Asus' Transformer Book T100 Win8 convertible, so it should have enough pep to handle a full-fat Windows OS. That said, the processor is limited to 1GB of RAM, and the storage capacity is capped at 16GB. Most of the onboard flash is likely monopolized by the operating system.
Despite its bargain-basement price tag, the Work-W4 has dual cameras and Bluetooth built in. The battery is rated for 4500 mAh, but there's no word on run times. It's also unclear whether the device uses the standard version of Win8 or a Bing-infused version that makes Microsoft's search engine the default. Either way, PiPO shouldn't be paying for the OS; Windows is free of charge on devices under 9". Given Intel's contra-revenue efforts in the tablet space, PiPO is probably getting a nice deal on the processor, as well.
As we saw with Asus' similarly equipped Memo Pad ME176CE, budget Bay Trail hardware can deliver a decent experience in Android. I'm curious to see how Windows 8 fares on a comparable device—and whether uber-cheap slates like the Work-W4 will make their way stateside. Thanks to TechRadar for the tip.VR-Zone posts purported Broadwell-U specs, anticipates CES debut
The first Broadwell processors will debut later this year as part of the Core M family. These Broadwell-Y chips will have 4.5W TDP ratings, and they'll mostly take root in ultra-slim tablets and convertibles. According to VR-Zone's Chinese alter-ego, those chips will be followed by Broadwell-U variants set to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show early next year. The site has posted purported specifications for more than a dozen Broadwell-U processors ranging from budget Celerons to high-end Core i7s with Iris graphics.
Although the leaked specs provide few details on the integrated graphics, they do suggest Intel's top-of-the-line IGP will be dubbed Iris Graphics 6100. The IGP will reportedly scale up to 1100MHz, while the CPU will hit speeds as high as 3.4GHz with Turbo. One of the charts is mislabeled, but it looks like the processor will support memory speeds up to 1866MHz with DDR3 RAM and 1600MHz with low-power DDR3L memory.
The standard Broadwell-U variants are listed with HD Graphics 6000 and 5500. Those onboard GPUs will only range up to 1000MHz, according to the spec tables, and they'll likely differ from Iris implementations in other ways. The standard CPUs otherwise appear similar to their Iris-equipped siblings, but the clock speeds are slightly lower, with Turbo frequencies topping out at 3.2GHz.
A handful of Pentium and Celeron processors appear at the bottom of the lineup. If the leaked details are accurate, these models should have even lower clock speeds and downgraded Intel HD Graphics. They're listed with the same 15W TDP as all the other Broadwell-U offerings, though.
The Consumer Electronics Show begins on January 6, so Broadwell-based ultrabooks could only be a few months out. It will be interesting to see how long it takes systems based on the chips to show up on store shelves rather than the trade-show floor.Microsoft Indonesia President: Windows 9 will be free for Win8 users
Got Windows 8? If so, the next version of Windows may not cost you a dime. That's according to Microsoft Indonesia President Andreas Diantoro, who spilled the beans to Indonesian site detikInet last Thursday.
The Google translation is a little shaky, but it seems straightforward enough. Windows 9 "can be obtained free of charge when it is released later," it reads, "[p]rovided that users already have Windows 8 already installed on his device." Folks who don't already have Windows 8, on the other hand, will be "obliged to buy Windows 9."
Diantoro also suggests Windows 9 will be "installed automatically." At the very least, it sounds like the upgrade process might mirror that of Windows 8.1.
This is the second time one of Microsoft's international chiefs has revealed details ahead of the company's September 30 Windows event. Last week, Microsoft France President Alain Crozier pretty much confirmed that the new operating system will be called Windows 9—and that it will be unveiled tomorrow.Consumer Reports: new iPhones 'not as bendy as believed'
On the heels of Apple's response to the bendgate controversy, Consumer Reports has posted the results of its own investigation. Its verdict? The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are "not as bendy as believed."
The magazine gauged bendiness using an Instron compression machine and a "three-point flexural test." Citing the recent press tours of Apple's testing facilities, Consumer Reports says Apple's own bending test is similar and involves roughly 50 lbs of force. That amount of force, the magazine found, is enough to "break three pencils."
Consumer Reports went further than Apple, applying increasing pressure in 10-pound increments until the handsets first deformed, then had their screens come off. Along with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the LG G3, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One (M8), and iPhone 5 were also tested.
The results suggest the iPhone 6 and HTC One (M8) are the bendiest of the bunch, though both still needed about 70 lbs of force to deform. The iPhone 6 Plus needed 90 lbs, while the iPhone 5 required 130 lbs. The plastic-clad phones—LG's G3 and Samsung's Galaxy Note 3—didn't bend, but they did break when subjected to 130 lbs and 150 lbs of force, respectively.
If 50 lbs is what it takes to break three pencils, then these phones are all pretty tough. Apple's assertion that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus shouldn't bend under normal conditions seems accurate. In fairness, though, Consumer Reports' testing does show the latest-gen iPhones are less resilient than their predecessors—and that some plastic phones, like the Galaxy Note 3, can take more punishment.Monday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Friday night topic: How do you manage your storage?
Most folks these days have many gigabytes, if not terabytes, of personal and family data to manage: pictures, videos, financial info, and so on. Storage capacities for media of all sorts keep growing, but so does the demand, as I noted earlier today. Keeping up with all of it, and making sure your most treasured data is safe, will take some planning and effort.
When I think about it, it's kind of amazing how complex my setup for dealing with storage really is. I employ a series of measures in a rough hierarchy, starting with a 2TB RAID 1 array, moving up through offline backups via Macrim Reflect (which you can get at a nice discount when you subscribe to TR) and a hard-drive dock, to off-site storage and various cloud services for mobile data.
I'm really not confident that I'm doing all of the right things, mostly because I still need to find a place in the cloud for the most critical portions of my data. I'm close, though—and way better off than many of my friends and acquaintances.
So here's the question of the evening: how do you manage your storage? Do you have a home NAS server? A cloud service? Both? All and more? Lay it out for us. I'm curious to see what strategies combine maximum protection with minimal hassle and expense.
Discuss.Samsung prepping firmware fix for the 840 EVO's slow read speeds with old data
Scores of people with Samsung 840 EVO SSDs have reported slow read speeds with older files. The problem seems to be most pronounced with data that's several months old, and it may be related to voltage drift within the drive's TLC NAND cells. Three-bit NAND is especially sensitive to voltage changes, and if those changes become too large over time, the error correction required to compensate could slow read performance considerably.
Whatever the cause, Samsung has a solution. The following statement just hit our inbox. (Emphasis mine.)
We acknowledge the recent issue associated with the Samsung 840 EVO SSDs and are qualifying a firmware update to address the issue. While this issue only affects a small subset of all 840 EVO users, we regret any inconvenience experienced by our customers. A firmware update that resolves the issue will be available on the Samsung SSD website soon. We appreciate our customer’s support and patience as we work diligently to resolve this issue.
Interestingly, the statement references the 840 EVO specifically. There's no mention of the 840 Series, which is based on an earlier generation of Samsung's TLC NAND. Perhaps it wasn't affected by the same problem.Friday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... New Far Cry 4 trailer shows villain, crazy stunt moves
The news is winding down today, and you know what that means: game trailers! As it happens, Ubisoft has posted a new trailer for Far Cry 4, which shows the game's main antagonist in his element—along with some cool action scenes to spice things up.
Known as Pagan Min, the antagonist is described as a "sadistic dictator," "psychopath," and the "best dressed man in Kyrat." I'm getting flashbacks of Far Cry 3's Vaas, although the new guy seems to have more of an old-school Bond villain thing going on. His sadism looks more intentionally campy than terrifying, too.
Oh, and yeah, the action scenes are pretty slick. Some of them remind me of Just Cause 2, which is probably a good thing. Lobbing grenades at airplanes from moving vehicles is what shooters should be about.
Far Cry 4 comes out on November 18 on Windows and consoles.Deal of the week: Canon's Rebel T5 DSLR for $349, an ultra-wide IPS monitor for $300, and more
This week's deals post is so all over the place that I almost don't know where to begin. Let's start with something a little different:
That's all for this week. If you spot any deals we've missed, feel free to add them in the comments below.How I saved over 40GB and probably sped up disk access
I was going to make this an Etc. post, but apparently that's not good SEO. Such is
Anyhow, after a long string of reviews without much time to catch my breath, I've been forced to pay attention to some neglected issues this week, including the fact that my 2TB RAID array is filling up. Doesn't help that I've also been downloading ~100GB worth of backups pulled from our old web servers.
My storage strategy in recent years has essentially been one of intentional neglect. Rather than trying to clean up my disks and make sure I don't have any extra gigabytes dedicated to unnecessary files, I've been counting on the fact that hard drive capacities tend to rise at a steady rate. If I upgrade the two drives in my main RAID 1 array every few years, I figure I shouldn't have to waste time managing the contents of that array in any great detail.
That approach has worked for the most part, but it's not ideal. Although hard drive capacities have continued to rise, it seems to me that the price per gigabyte hasn't dropped as much lately as in the past. (Maybe I'm just getting cheaper.)
There's another problem. Here's a look, for example, at my main data folder for the reviews I've done each year dating back to TR's beginnings.
I've stripped out uncompressed videos and camera RAW image files from the past few years, or the picture would be even more dramatic. Even so, my point remains. The amount of data I generate, both in this context and with family photos and video and such, is growing pretty rapidly.
And right now, I'd really rather not fork over the cash for a larger RAID array.
That leads me to a simple, old-school trick for saving storage space that I just deployed on my massive "archive" folder of review data, drivers, downloads, disk images, and more. The NTFS file system built into Windows has an optional compression routine. You can turn it on with the click of a checkbox.
I did so my with massive "archive" folder yesterday. This folder is housed on my RAID 1 of WD Green 2TB hard drives, and it took about 24 hours for my system to run through and compress the entire contents.
Although this folder contains a mix of compressible files (like spreadsheets) and incompressible ones (like JPEGs and AVIs), NTFS compression turned out to be a nice win overall. At the start, the directory of 558GB of data took up a full 558GB of disk space. Afterwards:
I saved about 42GB simply by checking the box for NTFS compression.
NTFS compression isn't likely to slow down my access to these files, either. Way back when CPUs were tremendously slower and had fewer cores than today's processors, Microsoft's advice about NTFS performance focused on the balance between disk read/write speeds and CPU compression times. Given a fast enough CPU, it's possible that storing or retrieving compressed data could be faster if the spinning-platter disk had less total data to handle. I'll admit I haven't tested this theory, but nowadays, that tradeoff ought to be any easy win. Disks haven't gotten faster at nearly the rate CPUs have, and in my case, I have six cores with 12 threads mostly sitting idle the majority of the time.
That said, you wouldn't want to use NTFS compression on system files, like the Windows directory, or on entirely incompressible files, like a repository of MP3s or JPEGs. You won't save space by doing so, and you'll likely lose performance, since compression routines don't cope well with pre-compressed data.
Anyhow, that's how I saved over 40GB and probably sped up my disk access in the process. If space is tight and you're not ready to upgrade your storage capacity, NTFS compression is an easy, free, and painless way to free up some room.
|Maxwell's Dynamic Super Resolution explored||23|
|Updated: Microsoft shows Windows 10, preps public preview build for tomorrow||101|
|Windows 9 is actually called... Windows 10||101|
|Doom looks awesome in the Lego universe||12|
|Project Ara phones with hot-swap modules launching in early 2015||4|
|HP's new Intel-powered Win8.1 tablet costs $99||11|
|Hynix slides tease vertically stacked memory with 256GB/s of bandwidth||37|
|Catalyst 14.9 drivers improve performance, CrossFire scaling||44|
|That guy's hair angers me.||+34|