Windows 10 Creators Update set to hit PCs on April 11
— 10:00 AM on March 29, 2017

Microsoft's latest major update (don't call it a service pack) for Windows 10, called the Creators Update, will be launching on April 11 according to a post over on the Windows blog. This confirms prior "early April" release rumors and fits with TR's own expectations, given that April 11 is the next "Patch Tuesday."

In case you've been living under a GNU for the last two years, Microsoft has no plans to release a whole new version of Windows anytime soon. Instead, the company is doing rolling updates for Windows 10, with the occasional major update. The last big set of changes was the Anniversary Update back in August of last year.

Besides including all the fixes and features added to Windows 10 since the Anniversary Update, the Creators Update will be adding a bunch of new features of its own. That Game Mode we reported on before should be available, and the new Beam feature brings game streaming to Windows 10's Game Bar. The Paint 3D app we first saw six months ago will be included in the update, too.

Microsoft's Edge browser is learning a couple new tricks like "advanced tab management." That apparently includes tab sharing across signed-in devices, as well as the ability to "set aside" tabs and bring them back up later. Microsoft claims Edge is safer, faster, and uses less battery than Chrome, and also notes that Edge is the only browser that can make use of 4K UHD Netflix. Of course, you'll also have to have a Kaby Lake CPU and be using its integrated graphics processor.

There are a variety of smaller features coming along. A blue-light reduction feature called "night light" will be built into the OS, and "mini view" will let users pin any window, making it always-on-top. Microsoft's also expanding the operating system's parental controls with screen time limits. Windows Hello is getting the ability to automatically lock your device when you step away from it. Users of Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions will have more control over when updates are installed and when the machine restarts after updates. Also, Explorer might start suggesting you acquire a OneDrive subscription.

Finally, the Creators Update is at long last bringing differential updates to Windows. That won't apply to the Creators Update itself, of course. If you're like me, you'll want to simply grab an ISO and do a fresh install with the new version. Microsoft actually had ISOs up yesterday for the 15063 version of Windows 10, which is purportedly the final (or "RTM") version of the Creators Update. However, those links have been pulled as of this writing. If you missed out like I did, you'll have to wait until April 11.

4 comments — Last by mmp121 at 10:38 AM on 03/29/17

SiSoft Sandra Platinum 2017 is ready for Ryzen
— 9:00 AM on March 29, 2017

In our recent review of AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs, we ran into some limitations with our usual suite of synthetic CPU benchmarks. Neither SiSoft Sandra nor AIDA64 had been updated for use with the AMD's latest architecture. In particular, we were unable to accurately test the R7 chips' memory or cache latency. The engineers over at SiSoft have done their due diligence, and Sandra Platinum 2017 is now ready for Ryzen.

The new version also includes updated support for GPGPU testing, and for the AVX512 instructions rumored to be a part of Intel's eighth-generation Cannon Lake CPUs. Sandra Platinum 2017 still supports x86, x86-64, ARM, and ARM64 architectures on Windows and Android. Its GPGPU tests operate on all four major platforms: OpenCL 1.2, CUDA 8.0, DirectX Compute Shader 11, and OpenGL Compute 4.3.

Gerbils who have heard enough can head over to SiSoft's download page to figure out which version of Sandra is appropriate for their uses and get started on their own testing. Sandra had more detailed information in a blog post yesterday, but the page has since been removed. In any case, look for tests done with Sandra Platinum 2017 in future CPU reviews at TR.

1 comment — First by POLAR at 9:59 AM on 03/29/17

Intel lets loose Kaby Lake-based Xeon E3 v6 processors
— 4:58 PM on March 28, 2017

We love our Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs around here, particularly when it comes to gaming, but not everyone has time for such frivolity. Workstation users have a different set of processing needs, usually revolving around a stable platform, ECC memory, and certified drivers. That's where the Intel's Xeon E3 v6 family of Kaby Lake-based CPUs come in.

The updated lineup contains a total of eight models, ranging from the humble-ish Xeon E3-1220 v6 with its four cores and clock speed up to 3.5 GHz, up to the mighty Xeon E3-1280 v6 and its four cores, eight threads, and turbo clocks up to 4.2 GHz. The TDP for all the CPUs in the family hovers around 72W, and the amount of cache is likewise the same for all models, at 8MB. Intel says the new models support ECC RAM in amounts up to 64GB and speeds up to DDR4-2400. Owners of existing setups with DDR3L RAM need not worry—that's supported, too. Seeing as the new Xeons are based on the Kaby Lake architecture, 10-bit HEVC encoding and decoding is on the menu, too.

Like you'd expect from workstation-grade processors, the Xeon E3 v6s support all the alphabet-soup virtualization technologies: TSX-NI, vPro, VT-d, and VT-x. Those concerned with system security will be happy to know that the whole host of security features (including AES-NI, SGX, Trusted Execution, and OS Guard) are all supported, too. Here's a full list of the models:

Model Cores Threads Base clock Turbo clock IGP Price
Xeon E3-1280 v6 4 8 3.9 GHz 4.2 GHz - $612
Xeon E3-1275 v6 4 8 3.8 GHz 4.2 GHz Yes $339
Xeon E3-1270 v6 4 8 3.8 GHz 4.2 GHz - $328
Xeon E3-1245 v6 4 8 3.7 GHz 4.1 GHz Yes $284
Xeon E3-1240 v6 4 8 3.7 GHz 4.1 GHz - $272
Xeon E3-1230 v6 4 8 3.5 GHz 3.9 GHz - $250
Xeon E3-1225 v6 4 4 3.3 GHz 3.7 GHz Yes $213
Xeon E3-1220 v6 4 4 3.0 GHz 3.5 GHz - $193

The three models whose number ends in a 5 (E3-1225, E3-1245, and E3-1275) all pack Intel's spankin' HD Graphics 630 IGP. The company claims that when armed with this IGP, "designers may no longer need a discrete graphics card for some of the most commonly-used workloads." According to Intel, the IGP in the E3-1275 v6 CPU should offer three times the performance as the one in the old E3-1275 v2 when measured with SPEC graphics tools. The company also says that chips with these P630 IGPs are up to the task of "entry professional VR," among other pro applications. The P630 graphics driver is certified for use with multiple pro applications, too.

The general theme seems to be one of upgrading the CPU rather than replacing an entire machine, given that the Xeon E3 v6 processors still go into Socket 1151, have dual-channel memory controllers, and will fit existing motherboards with C232 and C236 chipsets, likely only at the cost of a BIOS update. Those looking to make use of the P630 IGP will need the higher-end C236, though. As a recap, when compared to the C232, the C236 chipset has IGP support, 20 lanes of PCIe 3.0 instead of eight, and support for Intel Active Management Technology, Node Manager, and Rapid Storage Technology features. The new CPUs should be available to OEMs right away.

38 comments — Last by derFunkenstein at 8:42 AM on 03/29/17

Samsung plans to refurbish and resell Galaxy Note 7 handsets
— 3:00 PM on March 28, 2017

As if Samsung hasn't had enough of a black eye over the Galaxy Note 7 debacle, it's also been under pressure from environmental groups over its plans to simply dispose of the recalled smartphones. It appears that the Korean manufacturer bowed to pressure from groups such as Greenpeace, as it has detailed its plans for recycling the star-crossed device.

Whenever possible, Samsung plans to use the recalled Note 7 smartphones as refurbished or rental phones. These phones will be available in a limited number of markets, and several sites claim that the United States won't be one of them. Samsung will, of course, have to consult with regulatory authorities and local carriers to determine where they can release the refurbished devices. It's likely that the branding will change before the devices hit the market.

Note 7 smartphones that can't be refurbished will first be salvaged for parts. Samsung plans to use the harvested semiconductors and camera modules for producing test samples. After that, the company will extract metals like copper, nickel, gold, and silver by contracting the work out to companies with environmentally-friendly methods.

Environmental concerns likely aren't Samsung's only motivation for refurbishing the Note 7 devices. One would imagine the company is interested in recouping some of its losses, but environmental groups like Greenpeace are happily claiming victory over Samsung's decision. Its members and affiliates interrupted Samsung's presentation at this year's MWC, staged several protests around the world, and conducted a social media campaign, so it's possible those actions moved the company. Regardless, it remains to be seen how and if Samsung can convince regulators and consumers that its refurbished devices are safe enough to return to the market.

21 comments — Last by ronch at 9:59 AM on 03/29/17

Respect Your Cat Day Shortbread
— 2:00 PM on March 28, 2017

PC hardware and computing

  1. AOC AGON AG352UCG monitor review @ TFT Central (35", 3440x1440, VA, 100 Hz, G-Sync)
  2. SilverStone SFX-L 800W Titanium PSU review @ PC Perspective
  3. EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 G3 PSU review @ Tom's Hardware
  4. AMD Ryzen—single-rank versus dual-rank DDR4 memory performance @ Legit Reviews
  5. Asus Crosshair VI Hero review @ Guru3D
  6. Asus ROG Crosshair VI Hero (X370) motherboard review @ KitGuru
  7. Asus ROG STRIX GTX 1080 Ti OC (O11G) 11GB review @ KitGuru
  8. Seasonic Prime Platinum 1200W review @ JonnyGuru
  9. BenQ W1210ST projector review @ bit-tech
  10. Thermal image testing on AMD X370 motherboards by Asus, Gigabyte and MSI @ Legit Reviews

Science, hacks, makers and gadgets

  1. Concept system puts cyborg turtles under mind control @ New Atlas
  2. Can poo-scooping drones do away with left-behind doggie doo? @ New Atlas
  3. NASA developing drones to take to Martian skies @ New Atlas
  4. It came from MRRF: True color 3D printing & The infinite build volume printer

Tech news and culture

  1. Not the worst thing you'll see all week: Rick and Morty @ Quarter to Three
  2. Elon Musk is setting up a company that will link brains and computers @ Ars Technica
  3. Hollywood producer blames Rotten Tomatoes for convincing people not to see his movie @ Slashdot (I think that's how it's supposed to work)

Cheese, memes, and RGB LEDs

  1. Review: G.Skill Trident Z RGB 32GB DDR4-3200 @ Hexus
  2. Pizza toppings are dumb and they're ruining your pizza @ (all you need is cheese)
  3. These fourth graders are lobbying Wisconsin to make cheese an official state symbol @ (how is this not already the case?)

30 comments — Last by short_fuze at 10:15 AM on 03/29/17

Razer Blade Pro swims in the deep end of Kaby Lake
— 12:30 PM on March 28, 2017

Just six months after introducing the pretty awesome Blade Pro 17.3" gaming laptop, Razer is updating it with an Intel seventh-generation Core i7-7820HK unlocked CPU. The rest of the high-end hardware in the machine is pretty much the same, topped off with an RGB-LED-illuminated keyboard stuffed with Razer's proprietary low-profile mechanical switches.

The processor upgrade is the biggest change, with the Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ giving way to the aforementioned Core i7-7820HK. Razer says the CPU can be easily overclocked to 4.3 GHz using the company's Synapse utility. The company stopped short of saying the 4.3 GHz figure was guaranteed, or whether the overclock settings would be available if Razer's servers went down again. In any case, the new processor sports four cores with SMT, a base clock of 2.9 GHz, and a boost clock of 3.9 GHz. The CPU crunches data pulled from the machine's 32 GB of 2667 MT/s DDR4 memory.

The Blade Pro's screen is the same IGZO-supplied 3820x2160 4K unit as before. The panel's refresh rate tops out at 60Hz, but G-Sync variable refresh rate technology helps make the most of each of those precious cycles. An Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card pushes pretty pixels to that high-spec screen. Good sound goes hand-in-hand with impressive visuals, and Razer says the Blade Pro has that covered as well. The company says the refreshed notebook is the first THX-certified gaming laptop.

Storage comes in the form of three different PCIe RAID configurations, ranging in total capacity from 512GB to 2TB. The Blade Pro is a laptop in the year 2017, so it has no optical drive. Bits and bytes have to have some way into the storage system, though. In this case, most of that data will flow through the three USB 3.0 jacks and single Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C port. Or perhaps through the Killer Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1 network adapters. The heavy-hitting hardware is fed by a 99 Wh battery and an included "slim, sleek" 250 W wall charger, which we assume buyers will want to carry with them at all times.

The aluminum chassis is the same one as before, measuring 16.7" x 11" x 0.88" (42 cm x 28 cm x 2.4 cm). The Razer Blade Pro weighs in at 7.69 lbs. (3.5 kg). That hefty weight could be offset somewhat by the machine's ability to remove at least $4000 from buyers' wallets when it ships in April. On a related note, gamers will be able to earn Razer's zSilver currency by running Razer software on the Blade Pro. The points can be used to purchase Razer accessories, including this amazing RGB LED-illuminated mug warmer.

15 comments — Last by leor at 8:41 AM on 03/29/17

AIDA64 version 5.90 supports Ryzen and Apollo Lake
— 11:00 AM on March 28, 2017

Popular system information and benchmark software AIDA64 has just received its latest update to version 5.90. The update includes various improvements, but the headline news this time around is that AIDA64 now properly supports AMD Ryzen processors and their Socket AM4 motherboards. FinalWire, the developer of AIDA64, had warned previously that benchmark results on Ryzen processors may not have been accurate before today's update.

AIDA64's Ryzen support includes preliminary support for server processors based on the same Zen CPU core, like the Naples chip we've heard about before. Across the aisle, Intel's latest Atom-family chips—code-named Apollo Lake—are also freshly-supported in version 5.90. Along with that, FinalWire implemented support for a bunch of upcoming Intel CPUs from the Cannonlake, Coffee Lake, Denverton, Kaby Lake-X, and Skylake-X families.

The new version of AIDA also has support for Microsoft's Windows 10 Creators Update, with fixes and optimizations going into the ACPI queries, tree enumeration, and temperature measurement modules. The Creators Update is about to hit in April, so the time is nigh.

If you're already an AIDA64 user, check out the full release notes. If you haven't used AIDA64, it can be an incredibly handy tool for troubleshooting. Even if everything's working properly for you, benchmarks are always fun too. Grab a 30-day free trial of AIDA64 5.90 at FinalWire's website.

6 comments — Last by mcarson09 at 8:23 PM on 03/28/17

MSI spills the beans on its cadre of custom GTX 1080 Ti cards
— 10:00 AM on March 28, 2017

A few weeks back, MSI was teasing a Gaming X version of Nvidia's best-on-the-block GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Last week we spread the word that the company was planning on releasing multiple custom riffs on the GP102 monster, including three air-cooled varieties. The product planners at the dragon-branded manufacturer are keen on offering plenty of options to buyers, since each of those three custom cards can be bought in two variations. We'll examine the bunch in sort-of-ascending order of clock speed. All clocks described below refer to GPU speeds, as all cards sport the same 11GB of 11 GT/s GDDR5X memory.

The blower-equipped MSI GTX 1080 Ti Aero 11G runs at the same 1480 Mhz base clock and boost clock of 1582 Mhz as the Founders Edition model. Three DisplayPorts and one HDMI jack are present, along with six-pin and eight-pin PCIe power connectors, same as the FE card. The OC version of the Aero ramps up its clocks to 1506 MHz and 1620 MHz when boosting.

MSI's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G operates with a 1480 MHz base clock and 1582 Mhz boost clock while trading away the Aero's green-accented blower cooler for a black-and-white dual-fan unit. The I/O plate no longer has to serve double duty as an exhaust port for a blower fan, so the output cluster swells to five ports, with two DisplayPort connectors, two HDMI ports, and a dual-link DVI-D jack for gamers clinging to old monitors. The Armor OC version ratchets the core up to 1531 MHz base and 1645 MHz boost clock speeds. The power section in the Armor cards is upgraded from the Aero version above, as evidenced by the presence of dual eight-pin PCIe power connectors.

The GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming 11G comes with three user-selectable clock speed configurations, ranging from the silent mode's 1480 MHz base and 1582 MHz boost speeds up to the OC mode's 1506 MHz base and 1620 MHz boost clocks. Finally, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11G is MSI's top-of-the-line air-cooled graphics card. The 'X' card has three selectable clock speed configurations ranging up to 1569 Mhz base and 1683 MHz boost in its OC mode. Both Gaming cards have two-and-a-half slot coolers, so gamers will need to clear plenty of room for these red-and-black beasts. The port cluster is the same as the Armor models, as is the pair of twin eight-pin PCIe power connectors.

The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G OC went on sale last week at $710, but MSI hasn't provided pricing or availability information about the rest of the lineup. We expect the Gaming and Gaming X cards to cost a bit more. There's also no word yet about upcoming Sea Hawk liquid-cooled cards, so keep your eyes peeled.

2 comments — Last by cynan at 11:23 AM on 03/28/17

MSI Trident 3 Arctic stuffs a GTX 1070 in a 5L package
— 9:00 AM on March 28, 2017

A month ago I reviewed MSI's Trident 3 compact gaming PC. I thought the machine was a solid performer, but got the feeling that the GeForce GTX 1060 it came with was holding it back a bit. MSI's PR folks assured me a version of the Trident 3 with a GeForce GTX 1070 was already on its way, and they weren't kidding. Check out the Trident 3 Arctic.

This frosty-white version of the Trident 3 comes with a purpose-built GTX 1070 inside. MSI makes the bold claim that this version of the GTX 1070 "outshines any ITX reference cards found in other small form factor PCs." To make sure the Trident 3 Arctic has plenty of power, MSI upgraded the power adapter from the original model's 230W to a fairly beastly 330W.

Aside from the new color scheme, graphics card, and power adapter, this machine appears to be identical to the Trident 3 we reviewed. If that's the case, the Trident 3 Arctic should run just like a much larger desktop with a Kaby Lake Core i7 and GTX 1070 inside. If you're curious about the Trident 3 machine, check out our full review of the previous iteration.

MSI says the Trident 3 Arctic will be available at the beginning of April for $1500. It's a limited edition, so if you need serious gaming power in a PlayStation-sized package, don't hesistate to snatch one up.

23 comments — Last by NTMBK at 5:04 AM on 03/29/17

Gigabyte shows off a trio of GeForce GTX 1080 Tis
— 5:35 PM on March 27, 2017

The custom-cooled GTX 1080 Ti onslaught rolls on. Today's teaser comes from Gigabyte, who tweeted about a trio of 1080 Ti cards bearing both Gigabyte and Aorus branding.

The most extreme Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti is the Aorus GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition 11G, which boasts a suitably massive cooler and clocks to match. In its OC mode, the card will run at 1632 MHz base and 1746 MHz boost clocks, versus 1480 MHz base and 1582 MHz boost speeds from the Founders Edition card. A more sedate "gaming mode" runs at 1607 MHz base and 1721 MHz boost speeds. As with all Nvidia Pascal graphics cards, those numbers will likely understate the speeds this card and its stablemates will hit in practice.

Gigabyte also overclocks this card's memory to 11.45 GT/s in OC mode and 11.23 GT/s in its "gaming" mode. The Xtreme Edition restores the dual-link DVI-D port missing from the Founders Edition card. It also boasts three HDMI 2.0b ports (two on its front edge for VR front-panel port blocks and one at the rear), as well as three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs on its rear bracket.

The Xtreme Edition 11G draws power from two eight-pin PCIe power plugs, and it delivers power to the GP102 GPU using a 12+2-phase power arrangement. Builders can let their Aorus allegiance shine with RGB LED-illuminated logos on the backplate and side of the card, along with an RGB LED X-brace in front of its fans. Gigabyte backs this beast of a card with a four-year warranty in exchange for online registration.

Yes, this is the plain GTX 1080 Ti 11G. No, you don't have déjà vu.

The second Aorus card of the bunch, the GTX 1080 Ti 11G, drops the RGB LED-accented backplate and shrinks the amount of backplate area given over to copper bling compared to its Xtreme sibling. It also comes with slightly less extreme clock speeds: 1594 MHz base and 1708 MHz boost clocks in OC mode, or 1569 MHz base and 1683 MHz boost speeds in its gaming mode. This card also runs its memory at stock 11 GT/s speeds no matter what.

The 11G card keeps the 12+2 power phase design and twin eight-pin power connectors of its beefier sibling, plus an identical complement of display outs. Gigabyte doesn't offer the fancy four-year warranty of the Xtreme card on the 11G, though.

The Gigabyte GTX 1080 Ti OC 11G rounds out the company's GTX 1080 Ti lineup. This card has a trimmer triple-fan cooler than the beastly heatsinks of its Aorus brethren, and it has more subdued RGB LED accents. Styling changes aside, the Gigabyte card still offers 1544 MHz base and 1657 MHz boost clocks in its OC mode, or 1518 MHz base and 1632 MHz boost speeds in its gaming mode. Gigabyte clocks this card's memory at 11 GT/s.

The OC 11G card offers one dual-link DVI-D output, one HDMI 2.0b port, and three DisplayPort 1.3 outs. This card draws power from one eight-pin and one six-pin PCIe input, and it delivers power through an 8+2-phase VRM arrangement.

Gigabyte didn't offer pricing info for any of these cards, but it says they'll be available at retailers this Friday. We'll keep an eagle eye open for them.

13 comments — Last by Neutronbeam at 8:24 AM on 03/29/17

iOS 10.3 arrives with APFS support in tow
— 4:18 PM on March 27, 2017

Owners of iDevices can rejoice today, for there's a new iOS release out and about. The update is labeled version 10.3 and includes a host of minor enhancements along with a big-ticket technical feature: the introduction of APFS (Apple File System), the company's replacement for the venerable HFS+, in use since 1998 on Macs and iDevices. Just like with iOS 10, owners of iPhones from the 5 onwards, fourth-generation iPads or newer, iPad Mini 2s or newer, and sixth-generation iPod Touch devices can all install the update.

All iOS devices running version 10.3 will move over to APFS automatically. Be warned that due to this conversion, the update install time will take a bit longer than usual. Although there isn't a single big improvement stemming from using APFS, Apple probably wants to get the filesystem on the road to pave the way for future features and updates. For the technically-inclined, APFS offers plenty of modern filesystem features: disk encryption, metadata integrity checks, and improved resilience in the event of crashes. Perhaps more interestingly, APFS supports file clones (storing only the different data between two versions of the same file) and disk snapshots. The snapshot functionality in particular should prove a great boon for backup and maintenance tasks. Ars Technica has a great writeup on APFS if you want to go into the nitty-gritty.

On a more user-facing level, the Settings menu got a few touch-ups. The Apple ID login info is now centralized with the rest of iTunes and Family Sharing settings, along with a list of devices under that account. Many users are reporting that they have a little more free space after the update, though that can probably be ascribed to how APFS reports available storage. There's now a "find my AirPods" feature that will show you the last known location of your easy-to-lose earbuds and optionally play a sound on them to help track them down.

Siri got a handful of improvements to its third-party integrations. You should now be able to pay and check the status of bills with some payment apps, schedule rides with booking apps, and checking your CarPlay-compatible car's status and fire up its lights or horn. There are also a handful of other miscellaneous fixes. You can check out the release notes here.

14 comments — Last by tipoo at 1:17 PM on 03/28/17

MakeVR and Vive Tracker get HTC Vive ready for work and play
— 2:30 PM on March 27, 2017

We tend to focus on virtual reality for entertainment purposes, but the technology has potential to aid with more productive tasks. HTC and developer Sixense Entertainment are launching a new software package called MakeVR that lets users take advantage of the Vive controller to aid in designing and modeling 3D objects. MakeVR allows users to create models and virtual sculptures, then export the results to CAD programs or 3D printers. According to Engadget, a more-capable version called MakeVR Pro will be available later this year.

The other bit of Vive news involves the more widespread release of the Vive Tracker. The Tracker widget can be attached to real-world objects so they can have their positional data tracked in VR experiences. The Vive Tracker was previously available in limited quantities to developers who applied for early access. The device comes packaged with a USB cable, a power adapter, and a USB dongle on a cradle. HTC says the Tracker's battery lasts about four hours and a half per charge. The Tracker may be useful even without HTC's Vive VR headset, too.

MakeVR is available in HTC's Viveport store starting today for $20. The Vive Tracker is also available now for $100, plus $25 for shipping. The rather stiff shipping fee only increases a little bit when multiple Trackers are on order, so gerbils wanting to use more than one Vive Tracker in MakeVR or other titles should probably order them all in one go. HTC recently-released open-source body tracking demo uses three Trackers to illustrate how multiple units can come together in a cool way.

1 comment — First by zqw at 4:49 PM on 03/27/17

Biostar X370GTN is the first Ryzen Mini-ITX motherboard
— 1:00 PM on March 27, 2017

Just like it was the first to race out of the gate with Ryzen-ready AM4 motherboards, Biostar is again first to market with a Socket AM4 board in mini-ITX form factor. The X370GTN just showed up on the company's website, and as its name implies, it uses the X370 chipset. Despite its small size, the X370GTN is a fairly full-featured motherboard, with a USB 3.1 Type-C port, a back-mounted PCIe x4 M.2 socket, and two DDR4 DIMMs supporting transfer rates up to 3200 MT/s.

Biostar's choice of the X370 chipset is a little unusual for such a small mobo. AMD previously announced that the X300 and A300 chipsets would be intended for small-form-factor machines. This particular board doesn't take advantage of all of the benefits of X370, like PCIe lane bifurcation (for multi-GPU configurations) and extra SATA ports.

Even still, you get two USB 3.1 ports, four USB 3.0 connectors, four SATA 6Gbps ports, and a full-size PCIe x16 slot in addition to the aforementioned M.2 socket. The board includes HDMI 1.4 and DVI-D connectors, although as with other Ryzen boards, you'll have to step down to a Bristol Ridge APU to make use of them. Realtek supplies both LAN and audio chips for this board. Finally, Biostar furnishes the X370GTN with Vivid LED DJ support along with a pair of 5050 LED lightstrip headers.

Since Biostar quietly added the X370GTN's product page to its site, we don't yet know how much it will cost nor when it will be available. Given the limited availability of Ryzen motherboards, you may want to consider snapping this up if you see it in stock.

28 comments — Last by Anonymous Coward at 1:01 PM on 03/28/17

Starcraft Remastered constructs higher-fidelity pylons
— 10:00 AM on March 27, 2017

After 19 years at a maximum resolution of 640x480 and a fixed 4:3 aspect ratio, StarCraft is getting a high-resolution widescreen update. Blizzard has officially announced that it's re-launching the legendary science-fiction RTS title as StarCraft Remastered. The game will support widescreen resolutions up to 4K, thanks to re-drawn 2D art. Meanwhile, the standard versions of StarCraft and Brood War will soon be free to download and getting a new patch.

StarCraft Remastered will let players zoom in and out of the playfield for close-up or eagle-eye views of the action. The full single-player campaign from the base game and its Brood War expansion pack will be included. The game's mission briefings are to be re-imagined in a comic-book-style format, and the audio will be upgraded with re-recorded music and dialogue.

Note the revolutionary 16:9 aspect ratio.

The original version of the game is getting some attention in the meantime, according to a post at StarCraft community site Team Liquid. Version 1.18a will arrive soon, superseding the most recent Brood War 1.16 patch from 2009. The update fixes a few bugs, including compatibility with recent versions of Windows and behavior issues with Valkyrie and Dragoon units. The information posted to Team Liquid suggests that both StarCraft 1.18a and StarCraft Remastered will maintain compatibility with the older version 1.16 of the standard game.

Blizzard isn't ready to talk specifics about the release date of StarCraft Remastered just yet, saying nothing more definitive than "summer 2017." The new patch 1.18a has a more concrete date of March 30. Patch downloads should be a bit faster on modern broadband connections than they were on the modem connections so common back when StarCraft's released in 1998.

50 comments — Last by crystall at 5:03 PM on 03/28/17

Transcend steps into the NVMe arena with the MTE850 SSD
— 9:02 AM on March 27, 2017

The memory guys over at Transcend dropped us a note about the company's new NVMe SSD. The drive is called the MTE850, and it's the company's first storage offering using the NVMe protocol. The device uses 3D MLC flash as its primary storage medium, and like most NVMe SSDs out there today, it comes in the M.2 2280 form factor.

The drive packs a DDR3 RAM cache, and it could further boost performance by provisioning some of its flash as a pseudo-SLC cache. The company says that sequential read performance should hit figures as high as 2500 MB/s, while sequential writes should go up to 1100 MB/s. There's no word on random I/O numbers, though.

The drive includes Transcend's SSD Scope software, a utility similar to Samsung's Magician or OCZ's simply-named SSD Utility. Transcend says the MTE850 comes in three capacities and price points: a 128GB drive for $119, a 256GB offering for $209, and a 512GB version selling for $379. All drives are covered by a three-year warranty. If you're in the market for a speedy NVMe SSD at a fair price, the MTE850 might be one to look for.

8 comments — Last by freebird at 8:29 AM on 03/28/17

MSI GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G is the first custom card on e-tail shelves
— 3:44 PM on March 24, 2017

We've been getting teased by Nvidia board partners for what feels like weeks regarding their custom versions of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Now, one of those custom cards is finally in stock. MSI's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G is on Newegg's virtual shelves now for just $10 over Nvidia's $699 suggested price.

This custom-cooled GTX 1080 Ti offers 1531 MHz base and 1645 MHz boost clocks, up a fair bit over the Founders Edition's 1480 MHz base and 1582 MHz boost figures. Given our experience with the Founders Edition GTX 1080 Ti, this MSI card will likely boost quite a bit higher than its specified speeds in practice. The card sports the expected complement of 11GB of 11 GT/s GDDR5X RAM, and it draws power through two eight-pin PCIe auxiliary connectors.

The Armor 11G may not be the most extreme GTX 1080 Ti we'll see from Nvidia's board partners, but given how scarce stock of the green team's highest-performance card has been of late, eager gamers will likely pounce regardless. Get one while it's hot.

10 comments — Last by slate0 at 3:27 PM on 03/28/17

Gigabyte has two A320 boards for bread-and-butter Ryzen builds
— 2:45 PM on March 24, 2017

We're pretty fond of AMD's Ryzen 7 processors, as you'll be aware if you've read our most recent System Guide. However, eight-core CPUs and the overclockers' motherboards to match are anything but entry-level. Ryzen 5 processors are launching soon, and there's little point in going for an economical $169 CPU and then sticking it on a $200 motherboard. For folks who want something simpler, Gigabyte just announced two boards based on AMD's A320 chipset. The GA-A320-DS3 and GA-A320M-HD2 are very similar aside from size: the DS3 is an ATX motherboard, while the HD2 comes in a micro-ATX form factor.

AMD describes the A320 chipset as "essential," versus the "mainstream" B350 and "enthusiast" X370. The A320 was actually one of the first AM4 chipsets to be released—it arrived in pre-built PCs using Bristol Ridge APUs. It loses overclocking and some high-speed I/O versus its more expensive cousins, but is otherwise unchanged. You get two DDR4 DIMM slots, four SATA 6Gbps ports, a single USB 3.1 port, and that's about it. These boards don't have M.2 or U.2 sockets, nor do they come with a bunch of fancy RGB LEDs. Realtek chips take care of LAN connectivity and audio output on both boards.

The difference in size between the two offerings means the A320M-HD2 loses a legacy PCI slot and one of the PCIe x16 slots to crunch down to micro-ATX size. Given the feature list, these boards aren't going to set hearts aflame, but they might leave your wallet intact, and they're fine for workhorse systems. We've asked Gigabyte about pricing for these models and will update this post if we hear back.

34 comments — Last by elites2012 at 5:04 PM on 03/27/17

Google points deep-learning machines at audio effect subtitles
— 12:45 PM on March 24, 2017

If you've ever looked through the subtitle options on a DVD or Blu-ray disc, you've likely noticed that there's often a set of subtitles for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. Much of the sound in videos we watch isn't pure human language, and those subtitles account for that, offering text descriptions of significant audio cues. Youtube has offered automatically-generated speech captioning for years. Now, Google is turning its machine-learning powers toward sound effects to bring audio-effect subtitling to its streaming video service.

Like it happened with automatic speech captioning, sound effect subtitling is starting out pretty basic, with [LAUGHTER], [APPLAUSE], and [MUSIC] denominators. Google explains in the blog post that while there are many more types of sound its machine-learning network is capable of recognizing, those sounds require the least contextual information. For contrast, Google engineer Sourish Chaudhuri explained that [RING] could be the ring of a bell, alarm, or phone.

One of the main challenges that the researchers encountered was having the system make an educated guess when it came across two sound effects simultaneously. In order to work around that problem, the team added a duration rule—if a sound effect isn't being detected for at least a certain period of time, then it doesn't get mentioned in the subtitles.

Google's blog post goes pretty deep into the weeds on the topic. If you're interested in the applications of deep learning, it's worth a look.

5 comments — Last by at 2:54 AM on 03/26/17

Throw a Quadro card on Gigabyte's Z270X-Designare
— 11:45 AM on March 24, 2017

Gigabyte's Designare branding is reserved for boards at the top of the company's range. The company says these boards are aimed at content creation professionals, and the just-announced Z270X-Designare ATX motherboard should fit that bill easily. Like most high-end motherboards, it's covered in fancy features. It's also fully validated for use with Nvidia's Quadro graphics cards.

This board isn't quite as out-there as the X99-Designare EX that we reviewed last November. That's mostly because this model is based on Intel's Z270 desktop chipset rather than the X99 high-end platform. With the Z270X-Designare, you still get four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting transfer rates up to 3866 MT/sec, M.2 and U.2 sockets with PCIe 3.0 x4 connectivity, and a trio of USB 3.1 ports. One of those ports is an internal header that can be used for a front-panel USB 3.1 connector, while the other two are standard Type-A and Type-C ports located on the rear panel. Like other companies have been doing lately, Gigabyte's moved to ASMedia's 2142 USB 3.1 controller to let users run two devices at up to 8Gbps simultaneously. Curiously, Gigabyte also included two SATA Express connectors.

The Z270X-Designare includes all of Gigabyte's usual builder conveniences including my favorite feature, the "G Connector" front-panel header sleeve. All five of the Z270X-Designare's fan headers are "hybrid" headers that can intelligently adapt to run a CPU fan, a case fan, a water pump, or whatever else you plug into them. All of the memory slots and PCIe x16 slots are heavily reinforced with stainless steel, too.

The board supports Gigabyte's newly-redesigned RGB Fusion application for controlling its onboard RGB LEDs, as well as RGBW light-strips and the lighting on Gigabyte graphics cards. Onboard audio is provided by Realtek's top-end ALC1220 codec and includes Gigabyte's custom-designed headphone amplifier. Meanwhile, an Intel chip offers Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. It doesn't look like Gigabyte's latest effort has hit online retailers yet, but don't expect it to be cheap when it does.

14 comments — Last by derFunkenstein at 8:22 AM on 03/27/17

Deals of the week: an RX 480 4GB for $150 and more
— 10:57 AM on March 24, 2017

How fare thee, kind gerbil? Have you meditated on that upgrade you've been putting off for the better part of six months now? Are the deals not to your liking, and you have a desire to curtail your spending as much as possible whilst partaking of the best hardware around? We can help. Our purveyors of deals and hunters of promotional codes have been out on the prowl, and they're back with their scribbled notepads full of price tags and spec sheets. Please, kind sir, patter this way.

  • All this talk about how the insane speed of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is well and good, but most of us can't blow $700 on a graphics card at the snap of fingers. For us mere mortals, there's the MSI RX 480 4GB graphics card. It's got a reference design with a blower cooler, but it also has a particularly juicy price tag: $179.99 at Newegg, a price that can drop down to $149.99 with the included $30 rebate card. Oh, and there's a free copy of Doom, either way.
  • Looking for something with a bit more punch but that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? How about the Sapphire RX 480 8GB graphics card? This specimen has a dual-fan, dual-slot cooler with a refreshingly tame design, and can be yours for only $209.99 from Newegg. If you don't mind filling out a rebate card, there's another $15 on tap.
  • Some gerbils can, in fact, afford a high-end graphics card. Those will find the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming a particularly interesting offering. The card has a large dual-fan cooler, a 1759Mhz boost clock in its Gaming mode, and comes with a free copy of either For Honor or Ghost Recon: Wildlands. You can grab one at Newegg for $509.99, and there's a $30 rebate card available.
  • Our recent review of AMD's new Ryzen CPUs made it clear that the Ryzen 1700X is probably the lineup's best-value offering. But wait, there's more! Newegg is running a promotion and will sell you one for just $369.99 if you use promo code EMCRDCB85. That's $30 off its regular price of $399.99, making this sweet CPU sweeter still.
  • Every Friday is "hard drive deals day" as of late. Today's multi-terabyte package arrives in the form of the Toshiba X300 6TB desktop hard drive, with a 7200RPM rotational speed and a 128MB chunk o' cache. Grab one from Newegg for a mere $179.99 with promo code EMCRDCE53, a price that works out to a square $30 per terabyte. That's pretty crazy.
  • Can you feel it? Yep, it's the subsonic punch of the Polk Audio PSW505 subwoofer. This rumble cube has a 12" speaker powered by an amp capable of delivering 300W of power continuously (or 460W peak). This unit is a worthy addition for a mid-size room, and can be obtained for $159.99 at Newegg with the help of the promo code EMCSRDCE2.

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, RakutenWalmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at the Microsoft Store and Das Keyboard's shop.

28 comments — Last by Waco at 9:23 AM on 03/27/17