Asus updates Zenbook UX305 with a Skylake Core M CPU
— 4:18 PM on November 24, 2015

Asus' Zenbook UX305 is one of our favorite thin-and-light notebooks out there. Its $699 price tag gets you an aluminum body, a 1080p IPS screen, and a 256GB SSD. Asus now has a version of the UX305 with a Skylake CPU on board called the UX305C. For that same $699 price, the UX305C adds a Core m3-6Y30 chip in place of the Broadwell processor. The 6Y30 offers two cores and four threads running at 900MHz base and 2.2GHz turbo speeds, all in a 4.5W thermal envelope.

Asus has offered UX305s with higher-resolution screens in the past as special editions, and that 3200x1800 screen is now a regular option on the UX305C for an extra $100. The Broadwell-based version will stay in the lineup for the moment as the UX305F, and it's selling for $640 right now.

15 comments — Last by windwalker at 10:11 PM on 11/24/15

Shuttle XPC Nano's svelte body is clad in black and gold
— 2:51 PM on November 24, 2015

Shuttle pretty much wrote the book on small form factor PCs back in the day, and it's introducing some new bite-size machines today. Say hello to the Shuttle XPC Nano Ultra-slim.

The XPC Nano lineup of ultra-slim PCs is powered by Intel Broadwell CPUs, ranging from Celerons up to Core i7 units. The lean mini-machine can fit up to 16GB of RAM. A seven-milimeter 2.5" SATA bay and an M.2 slot are available for storage devices. Peripheral connectivity comes by way of a a Mini DisplayPort, an HDMI output, and USB 3.0 ports. A Gigabit Ethernet port and 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter cover networking bases. There's a card reader thrown in the mix, too, and oddly enough, an RS-232 serial port.

The "slim" in the XPC Nano's name is quite accurate, as the machine is only 1.14" (29 mm) tall and has a total volume of 0.5 L. Despite the diminutive size, Shuttle says the Nano runs cool and quiet thanks to a "whisper-quiet heatpipe cooling system." The black and gold motif makes it stand out a little visually, too.

Shuttle says the machines start at $279, and include a license for Windows 10 Home. Early buyers can take advantage of a $10 MIR if they buy an XPC Nano together with a mouse and keyboard or monitor and keyboard combo.

7 comments — Last by deruberhanyok at 7:40 PM on 11/24/15

AMD ends driver support for non-GCN Radeon cards
— 9:39 AM on November 24, 2015

All good things must come to an end. AMD has officially ended driver development efforts for older, non-GCN-based Radeon cards. All cards in the Radeon HD 5000 and 6000 series are now considered legacy products. Radeon HD 7600 and lower cards, along with HD 8400 and lower cards, are also entering sunset status today.

The company says those products have reached their "peak performance optimization" as of today. AMD is now focusing its software development efforts on products built with the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. The company isn't saying farewell to the legacy GPUs without a proper send-off, though. The latest beta version of AMD's redesigned Radeon Software Crimson Edition is the last driver that will support these older cards.

For owners of legacy products who are looking to play it a little safer, AMD's WHQL-certified Catalyst 15.7.1 drivers will remain available on Windows Update for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. Users can opt to download the last Catalyst release for their cards from AMD's driver download page, too.

54 comments — Last by HisDivineOrder at 10:08 PM on 11/24/15

Dell owns up to eDellRoot hole and provides removal instructions
— 8:03 AM on November 24, 2015

Yesterday, some concerned Dell PC owners brought a Superfish-y issue to light. It turns out that Dell had installed self-signed root certificates on some of its PCs, and it also included the private key used to generate the certificate. With those tools in hand, an attacker could have generated a valid certificate for any secure website on the Internet, allowing them to carry out a man-in-the-middle attack on affected PCs. Now, Dell has officially acknowledged this vulnerability, and it's provided instructions for removing the rogue certificates.

According to Dell, the "eDellRoot" and other self-signed root certificates on its PCs were installed as part of the Dell Foundation Services support application. The company says the certificates were meant to make it easier for its online support personnel to get the service tag from customer machines, and that it wasn't using the certificates to collect personal customer info.

Dell has posted a manual process for removing the certificates (docx), and it says it'll issue a software update starting today that'll automatically check for and remove the certificates from affected PCs. The company promises that it's removing the certificate from all new Dell systems from here on out, as well.

14 comments — Last by TruthSerum at 7:13 PM on 11/24/15

MIT researchers say many popular Android apps call out covertly
— 7:33 AM on November 24, 2015

Downloading popular Android apps from non-official sources is a bad idea, but even legit apps can do potentially unwanted things in the background without drawing attention. Researchers from MIT dug through some of the most popular apps on Google Play and found that most of them access the network covertly.

The research team pored over the top 500 popular applications on Google Play, though some—mostly chat apps, since they require readily available and somewhat unpredictable human partners—were excluded from the survey. Overall, MIT found that 46% of all network connections those apps make could be considered covert.

It's important to note that MIT's definition of "covert" doesn't indicate any malicious intent by an app developer. In this case, "covert" only means that the result of a network connection wasn't immediately obvious to the user. Blocking those connections didn't result in missing content, error prompts, or crashes. Blocked connections that resulted in error log entries were still considered covert, because the researchers didn't think most users would look through those logs. 

After checking out that wide swath of apps, the research team turned its focus to in-depth testing of 13 of the top 20 apps on Google Play. That list included Facebook (which did not make any covert connections), Twitter, Spotify, and Candy Crush Saga. 62.9% of the network connections established by these apps were covert by MIT's definition. Out of those covert connections, only 43% were related to known advertising and analytics libraries. That 43% accounts for around 27% of all the network connections made by the apps.

In the end, the researchers weren't able to nail down all the causes for apps connecting to the network covertly. Julia Rubin, a post-doctorate researcher who led the study, told MIT News that informed operation is key. "There might be a very good reason for this covert communication," Rubin said. "We are not trying to say that it has to be eliminated. We’re just saying the user needs to be informed."

9 comments — Last by albundy at 9:21 PM on 11/24/15

Dell gets Superfishy by shipping PCs with self-signed root certificates
— 4:31 PM on November 23, 2015

Remember the Superfish debacle, when Lenovo shipped computers with a preinstalled rogue root certification authority (CA)? Dell seems to think that was a good idea, as it's shipping laptops and desktop PCs with a similar self-signed "eDellRoot" root CA. An attacker can use this root CA to issue valid-looking certificates for any website. In turn, those certificates will be accepted by any affected Dell machines as legit, leaving the user none the wiser.

For the unitiated, secure connections to websites (among other things) rely on a chain of trusted certificates to guarantee the safety of data in transit. Operating systems and web browsers come preinstalled with a set of certificates for commonly-used root certification authorities. These preinstalled root certificates are used to verify websites' credentials. This preinstallation saves browsers and other programs from wasting time and bandwidth by retrieving them over the network.

The problem with Dell's (and Lenovo's) preinstallation of a self-signed rogue CA is simple. An attacker can easily issue a fake certificate for any website on the internet and digitally sign it with the eDellRoot CA. From this point on, he can lead a person with an affected Dell computer to a fake Google or online banking page. The browser will show the padlock icon confirming both the (fake) website's identity and the use of a secure connection.

This problem was discovered by several Dell users. One was programmer Joe Nord, who bought a Dell Inspiron 5000 last October. Another was reddit user "rotorcowboy," who owns a Dell XPS 15. Both noticed their machines had the eDellRoot CA preinstalled. An Ars Technica user confirmed the problem extends to some Dell desktops, too. To illustrate the problem, security researcher Ken White put up a fake website that affected Dell users will see as completely legit when using Chrome, Edge or Internet Explorer. Firefox uses its own list of CAs, so it dutifully raises an alert.

At this point, it's not known exactly how many machines are affected by this problem, or what Dell's reasoning is for including this rogue CA. In fact, the company's DellCares Twitter handle downplayed the problem. Dell users wanting to check their machines can do so using Windows' Certificates MMC snap-in.

47 comments — Last by albundy at 9:23 PM on 11/24/15

It's an early Black Friday deals extravaganza
— 4:05 PM on November 23, 2015

Welcome to the first of what could be several deals posts this week. Black Friday has stretched its tempting bargains all into the surrounding days, as retailers clamor for our attention. Newegg is kicking off its shower of discounts and bargains this afternoon, and a number of appealing deals have already surfaced there. Here are the best of the lot so far.

Those are the best deals we could find in today's early volley. If we missed any sweet bargains, be sure to let other TR gerbils know about your findings in the comments.

34 comments — Last by UberGerbil at 6:02 PM on 11/24/15

Mozilla axes heavyweight Firefox themes and tab groups
— 1:04 PM on November 23, 2015

Back in August, Mozilla announced plans to adopt a Chrome-like extension framework for Firefox called WebExtensions. In turn, the company plans to deprecate its existing XUL and XPCOM plug-in APIs. These changes are part of a larger project to make Firefox a more modern browser. According to a couple of entries in Mozilla's Bugzilla tracker, some less popular features of Firefox are going to be retired as part of this project, too.

The first feature to hit the trashbin is support for "heavyweight" themes that rely on older add-on technologies. According to the Bugzilla entry for this change, themes that replace chrome packages (not to be confused with the Chrome browser) and "do arbitrary styling" will no longer be supported. Mozilla is mulling the idea of adding features to the lightweight themes supported by WebExtensions, but the entry doesn't have any further details of those plans.

Tab groups will be getting the axe, too. Mozilla says that this feature "has significant effects on more important aspects of Firefox development." The Bugzilla entry says that Mozilla will develop a plan to migrate existing users away from using tab groups.

The response to both proposed changes has been negative, but Mozilla says that the development effort to maintain these features far outweighs the number of Firefox users who actually take advantage of them. While the development team may extend WebExtensions to accommodate themes, it has made no such announcement regarding tab groups. One developer has started work on an extension for groups, though.


59 comments — Last by TruthSerum at 10:08 AM on 11/24/15

Acer XF270HU IPS monitor hooks Radeons up with 144Hz FreeSync
— 11:56 AM on November 23, 2015

Acer's XB270HU display is one of the more popular Nvidia G-Sync monitors on the market. Sadly, Radeon owners can't take advantage of the XB270HU's variable-refresh-rate magic, since G-Sync is a GeForce-only club for now. Acer isn't leaving red-team fans out, though. Its XF270HU gaming monitor is largely identical to the XB270HU, but this monitor supports FreeSync instead.

The XF270HU's 27" 2560x1440 screen offers variable refresh rates up to 144Hz. Acer uses an IPS panel that should make for wide viewing angles and good color reproduction, too. The XF270HU can accept DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, HDMI MHL, and DVI signals.

Amazon already has this display in stock for $600, versus $709 for the XB270HU. We'd expect it to become more broadly available soon.

65 comments — Last by NoOne ButMe at 6:30 PM on 11/24/15

Asus' N-series laptops top out with 4K screens and PCIe SSDs
— 9:50 AM on November 23, 2015

Asus has unwrapped the latest models in its N series of notebooks. The newcomers pack GeForce GTX graphics cards and can be fitted with 4K IPS screens. Two sizes of N-series notebooks are available: the 15.6" N552 and the bigger 17.3" N772.

Those premium screens are the stars of the show for the N-series. The base models come with 768p or 1080p TN units, but buyers can opt for 1080p or 4K IPS panels that both offer 100% sRGB color coverage.
Asus builds the N-series around Skylake Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs. The company doesn't specify the amount of base RAM, but the machines can take in a maximum of 16 GB. Both notebook lines get "gaming-grade" GeForce GTX graphics chips. In the case of the N552 series, at least, that means a GTX 950M or 960M. Storage options range from ye olde 5400-RPM mechanical hard drive, up to PCIe x4 SSDs as large as 512GB.

Both the lid and keyboard frame are made out of aluminum on the N-series. Asus says the keyboard's key travel is 1.8 mm. The 15.6" N552 weighs in at 5.6 lbs (2.53 Kg) and is 1.2" thick. There's no word yet on the N572's exact specs, but its thickness and weight should be similar.

Networking comes by way of 802.11n or 802.11ac Wi-Fi depending on the model, along with Gigabit Ethernet. According to Asus, all models are fitted with a USB 3.1 10 Gbps Type-C port, along with USB 3.0 ports.


19 comments — Last by UberGerbil at 5:57 PM on 11/24/15

Report: Xeons with on-package FPGAs to ship next year
— 8:20 AM on November 23, 2015

Way back in June 2014, Intel announced its intent to develop a Xeon with x86 cores and an integrated FPGA to accelerate certain processing tasks. That FPGA-accelerated future may arrive early next year, according to a report from PC World.

Diane Bryant, senior VP of Intel's datacenter group, announced the impending release of these FPGA-equipped Xeons during an on-stage interview at Structure Conference in San Francisco last week. PC World says Bryant told the attendees that "we’ll be shipping it to the largest cloud service providers in Q1 so they can begin tuning their algorithms."

Bryant didn't elaborate on the CPU beyond saying that its "footprint" would be compatible with existing Xeons. We do know that the onboard gate array is designed by Altera, which Intel acquired in June for $16.7 billion. Intel claims that moving FPGAs onto the same package as the processor can double the performance gains from FPGA acceleration, according to another PCWorld report.

41 comments — Last by ronch at 5:53 PM on 11/24/15

Friday night topic: How smart is your home?
— 5:02 PM on November 20, 2015

I had an odd, futuristic dream the other day. I waved my keychain at my door and it opened smoothly. Walked into the living room and the lights switched themselves on, their hue warming to match the early evening sunlight. The room was already at my preferred temperature of 75° F, thanks to my learning thermostat.

My phone then turned on my TV, which wasn't even in standby—the power outlet only provides juice when it's needed. Walked back to the clothesbin to drop in my gym clothes and noticed that I was running out of Tide. A single click of a nearby button, and more was on the way. I spoke to my digital assistant, who summarized the day's news for me.

The scenario above could easily be bad science fiction just a few years ago, but smart home gadgets are actually a Thing now, and it looks like they're here to stay. The idea of having your home recognize you and configure itself exactly how you like it is an appealing idea. Likewise, knowing that gadgets will react to changes in their environment could make for a lot less button-pressing and dial-twiddling. The convenience of having consumable items show up at your door with the push of a button is undeniable, too.

Of course, as in any brave new world, there are some considerations we need to keep in mind. Privacy is one of them—after all, how do I know the guys at the smart lock company don't have a master key of their own? Reliability is also a question mark. It's easy to find a locksmith, but if your lock is too smart, you may find yourself sleeping on the doormat if it fails. Your smart smoke alarms might betray you. Then there's interoperability. Everyone talks about the Internet of Things these days, but it's not too hard to imagine a house with appliances that can't talk to one another thanks to vendor lockdown.

Personally, I'm still taking a wait-and-see approach, though Philips' Hue bulbs have certainly caught my eye. Have you invited smart devices into your home already, or do you despise the concept? Let's hear it.

124 comments — Last by TruthSerum at 2:25 PM on 11/24/15

Review roundup: Microsoft's Lumia 950 smartphone
— 1:48 PM on November 20, 2015

The announcement of the Lumia 950 and 950XL back in October marked both the release of Windows 10 for phones and Microsoft's return to the high-end smartphone scene. The company officially released the Lumia 950 today, and a batch of reviews are already in. Folks who've had their hands on a Lumia 950 see some promise in the device, but each review we surveyed shows that Windows 10 on phones is still a work in progress.

The Lumia 950 didn't make a great first impression with reviewers, thanks in large part to its plastic backside. Windows Central's Daniel Rubino notes that the matte polycarbonate back "feels cheap." He says that other devices in the Lumia 950's $600 price bracket from Apple and Samsung just plain look nicer. Paul Thurrott felt similarly about the 950's plastic back, but he also points out that the feel can be remedied by purchasing a third-party swappable back. 

Beyond the look and feel of the device, reviewers generally had a fluid experience when it came to using the phone. The Verge's Dan Siefert says both the performance and battery life of the new Lumia is "what you'd expect from a 2015 smartphone." His sentiments were echoed by Windows Central and Paul Thurrott, too. 

Benchmarks show that the Lumia 950's performance isn't quite flagship-class, though. Ars Technica's Peter Bright ran the phone through the GFXBench 3.0 and web benchmarks. He found that the Lumia was always the slowest of the devices tested when he compared to the newest iPhones and Nexus handsets.

A big bright spot for the Lumia is its camera. Ars Technica, Windows Central, and Paul Thurrott all included pictures taken with the 950's shooter in various lighting conditions. According to the reviewers (and to our own eyes), the images produced by this phone are generally well-exposed and sharp. The 20-megapixel sensor in the Lumia 950 picked up a lot of detail, too, even under lower-light conditions. 

The biggest sore spot for all four reviews, though, is the Windows 10 platform itself. The Verge says the OS "feels like a work in progress." Ars Technica bemoans the wide "app gap" between Windows and its mobile counterparts, and Bright says there are still plenty of bugs to work out in the base OS. Continuum, the Windows 10 feature that allows a phone to connect to a larger screen and work like a desktop PC, seems to have some promise, though. All four reviewers tried out the Lumia 950's dock, and they all agree that Continuum works relatively well with the few universal Windows apps available today.

91 comments — Last by Chrispy_ at 12:47 PM on 11/23/15

Deals of the week: Intel's Core i7-4790K CPU for $300 and more
— 11:24 AM on November 20, 2015

Happy Friday, gerbils. Black Friday may be just around the corner, but retailers are already offering a wide range of tempting deals. We've sorted through the mountain of "Black November" offers out there right now to bring you some of the best of the bunch.

  • Skylake may be here, but Intel's Haswell desktop CPUs are still strong contenders in many regards. Newegg has Intel's Core i7-4790K CPU on sale right now for $299.99 straight up. This four-core, eight-thread CPU runs at 4.0GHz base and 4.4GHz Turbo clocks, and it was a staple of our higher-end System Guide recommendations before Skylake rolled around. This deal could be a great way to build a powerful system for less than a comparable Skylake build.
  • Newegg also has Corsair's Graphite Series 380T Mini-ITX case on sale in white for $89.99, or yellow for $99.99. Corsair is offering a $30 mail-in rebate for both cases that could reduce the price even further. The Graphite Series 380T isn't the smallest Mini-ITX enclosure out there, but its racy looks, built-in carrying handle, and integrated fan controller make it one of the nicer ones of the bunch.
  • GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics cards are hot items right now, and EVGA's GeForce GTX 980 Ti SC is a good one. It's also selling for $589.99 straight up on Newegg right now, making it one of the cheapest ways to get into one of Nvidia's most powerful graphics cards.
  • If a GTX 980 Ti isn't in the budget, Newegg also has EVGA's GeForce GTX 960 SSC 2GB graphics card on sale for just $169.99. This card is generally sufficient for 1080p gaming with some eye candy thrown into the mix, and we gave it good marks in our GTX 960 review.
  • For those willing to live with a reference cooler, Newegg has Sapphire's Radeon R9 290 for $239.99. That's an incredible amount of graphics power for not a lot of scratch, and Sapphire is offering a $20 mail-in rebate that could sweeten the price-to-performance ratio here even more.
  • Want to game on the go? Asus' G751JT 17.3" gaming laptop could be a good bet for $1,399. The configuration on sale includes a Core i7-4720HQ with four cores and eight threads, a GeForce GTX 970M graphics chip, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD paired with 1TB of mechanical storage, and a 1080p IPS display with Nvidia's G-Sync variable-refresh-rate tech.

Those are the best deals we could find this week. If you find a great offer that we missed, be sure to share it with other TR readers in the comments. 

35 comments — Last by ronch at 7:39 AM on 11/23/15

G.Skill Trident Z 16GB DDR4 kit hits ludicrous 4,133 MT/s speed
— 9:05 AM on November 20, 2015

G.Skill has been expanding its product portfolio of late. The company is still best known for its RAM, though, and it's just released a 16GB DDR4 memory kit (made up of a pair of 8GB DIMMs) capable of hitting a double-take-inducing 4,133 MT/s.

G. Skill says these Trident Z modules use "ultra-high quality Samsung ICs" and come with XMP 2.0 profiles to allow for easy overclocking. The 4,133 MT/s kit reaches that speed with 1.4V at latencies of 19-25-25-45. The heat-spreader design looks good, and it's more subdued than the ones on some of G.Skill's other products.

These 4,133 MT/s DIMMs are one model in a series of kits G.Skill announced today. Four 16GB and four 32GB kits are all made up of 8GB DIMMs. They run at speeds of 3,600 MT/s to 3,733 MT/s. Those kits all need 1.35V to hit those speeds, and each speed grade is available in loose and tight timing flavors. 16GB kits at 3,866 MT/s to 4,000 MT/s are also available for those who don't want to step all the way up to the 4,133 MT/s version above.

Prices aren't available yet, but given that a similar set of G.Skill DIMMs running at 3,400 MT/s goes for $200, it's safe to say these DIMMs won't be cheap.

20 comments — Last by TruthSerum at 9:53 AM on 11/22/15

HP's Elite X2 brings Thunderbolt 3 to convertible tablets
— 8:22 AM on November 20, 2015

Convertible tablets haven't offered many options to choose from for users who want high-speed external connectivity and ease of service in the same package. HP is looking to rectify that with the Elite X2 1012, a two-in-one with Skylake internals, provisions for easy service, and Thunderbolt 3 external connectivity options.

It's unusual to find a tablet that's built to be user-serviceable. HP thinks that business IT departments will appreciate that they can work on the Elite X2, something we'd bet many of our readers would find interesting, too. HP has also equipped the Elite X2 with USB Type-C ports that carry USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 signals, a trick that not even Microsoft's pricey Surface Book has.

HP hasn't published official specs for this slate yet, but Ars Technica has posted an official-looking list. One might get a sense of deja vu when looking at the Elite X2's spec sheet. Much like the company's Spectre X2, this model is powered by Skylake-based Core m3, m5, or m7 processors fed by up to 8GB of memory. M.2 SSDs as big as 512GB handle storage duties.

The Elite X2's 12" IPS display has a 3:2 aspect ratio and sits in a chassis that's 8.1 millimeters thick. Similar to the Spectre X2, the Elite X2 has a fold-out kickstand frame that rotates 150 degrees. Both a Wacom-powered stylus and keyboard attachment are included by default. Because of its Thunderbolt 3 controller, this model is compatible with a pair of docks. One docking station uses USB 3.1, while another communicates using Thunderbolt 3.

HP says the Elite X2 1012 won't ship until January, but this convertible will be available for preorder on November 23. The $899 base model includes a Core m3 processor, 4GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD. Refreshingly, that price includes a keyboard and Wacom pen. 

5 comments — Last by ImSpartacus at 8:42 AM on 11/23/15

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided release delayed to August 2016
— 3:34 PM on November 19, 2015

Uh-oh. There's some bad news for those (like me) that were eager for another adventure in the skin and augmentations of Adam Jensen. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the upcoming title in the Deus Ex series, will be delayed for six months. The game's release is now set for August 23, 2016.

David Anfossi, head of Eidos-Montreal, says the studio wants to take advantage of the extra time for "[post-production] tuning, iterations, and refinements to meet [its] high standards" after the development team played through the game in its current state and apparently found its quality lacking.

Expectations for Mankind Divided are high. After all, its predecessor Deus Ex: Human Revolution was met with near-universal praise. Yours truly played through Human Revolution (and its expansion) twice, and I can attest to its quality. Mankind Divided is also shaping up to be one of the showcase titles for DirectX 12—its stunning graphics engine appears to have great promise.

20 comments — Last by Chrispy_ at 6:15 AM on 11/22/15

Asus, Sapphire, Gigabyte, XFX, and PowerColor unveil R9 380X cards
— 1:56 PM on November 19, 2015

In case you've been hiding under a rock, AMD unveiled its Radeon R9 380X today. We've already looked in-depth at models from Asus and Sapphire in our review. Those two models are hardly the only options out there, though. For those who see an R9 380X in their future, here's a look at the fish in the sea so far.

All of the models we're looking at here have the same single DisplayPort output accompanied by a full-sized HDMI connector and a pair of DVI ports. Almost all of them use a pair of six-pin PCIe connectors, too. Each manufacturer has a different spin clock speeds and their own coolers, though.

Asus has a duo of R9 380X cards under the Strix banner: the R9 380X OC4G Gaming and the R9 380X 4G Gaming. The OC4G card is the one we tested in our review. That card's GPU is hot-clocked at 1,030 MHz, and a setting in Asus' included software can take that speed even further, to 1,050 MHz. The Strix 4G Gaming model runs at AMD's reference clock of 970 MHz. Asus' Strix cooler has a semi-passive mode for silent running at light loads.

Both cards have their memory clocked at the standard 5.7 GT/s and use a pair of six-pin PCIe power connectors. The burly Strix cooler kept the card running cool without producing a lot of noise in our testing. The Strix OC4G Gaming carries a $260 suggested price, while the 4G Gaming card will go for $240.

Sapphire's Nitro R9 380X also boasts hotter-than-reference clocks with its 1,040 MHz core speed and a 6 GT/s memory transfer rate. In our testing, we found that the Nitro used just a hair more power than the Strix. Its cooler was just a tiny bit louder, too, but we don't think most will be able to hear the difference. Like the Strix above, this card can stop its fans at idle for silent operation under light loads. Sapphire tells us this Nitro card will sell for about $240, while its reference-clocked 380X is expected to sell for about $10 less.

Gigabyte enters the R9 380X field with its catchily-named GV-R938XG1 Gaming-4GD. This card runs its GPU at a 10-MHz-above-reference 980 MHz. The memory speeds are reference-clocked at 5.7 GT/s, too. Gigabyte's WindForce coolers have proven to be quiet and effective in our experience, and this card's fans stop running at idle for extra politeness. Builders who like some bling in their cases may appreciate the cooler's light-up WindForce logo. This card needs a single eight-pin PCIe power connector. It's also the shortest of the R9 380X contenders, at just 8.7" long.

XFX lists a whopping seven 380X models on its website, but those appear to be variations on two basic models: the R9 380X DD XXX OC and the R9 380X DD Black Edition. The DD XXX OC runs its Tonga GPU at a 990 MHz peak boost speed, and its memory is clocked at at 5.7 GT/s. Meanwhile, the Black Edition bumps the core clock up to 1,030 MHz and the memory to 5.8 GT/s. Both cards use XFX's Double Dissipation cooler, and they both measure in at 9.2" long.

PowerColor's R9 380X Myst Edition boasts some aggressive speeds, too. The GPU is hot-clocked up to 1,020 MHz boost speeds, and the memory speed of 5.9GT/s is nearly as fast as that of Sapphire's Nitro card. The company says its PCS cooler is built to provide some additional thermal capacity for overclocking, and the 10.5" overall length of this baby seems to bear that out.

9 comments — Last by albundy at 10:02 PM on 11/20/15

GeForce graphics drivers get an update for Assassin's Creed Syndicate
— 12:07 PM on November 19, 2015

Assassin's Creed Syndicate hits store shelves today, and Nvidia's holiday driver update onslaught continues in tandem with that game's launch. The WHQL-certified 359.00 drivers include "Game Ready optimizations" and an SLI profile for Syndicate, along with updates to prepare GeForce owners for the upcoming Overwatch beta test this weekend.

Along with the tweaks for Syndicate and Overwatch, Nvidia includes SLI profiles for the 64-bit versions of Guild Wars 2 and War Thunder, as well as a DirectX 11 SLI profile for Overlord: Fellowship of Evil. The company has also disabled SLI for Total War: Attila. For more information, check out the full release notes. GeForce Experience users should find these updated drivers waiting for them in that utility. The drivers can also be downloaded directly from Nvidia's site.

2 comments — Last by SoM at 5:28 PM on 11/19/15

Bitfenix's Pandora ATX case lets builders show off their own logos
— 9:53 AM on November 19, 2015

Bitfenix has unveiled its Pandora ATX case, a follow-up to the microATX case of the same name. Like its smaller forebear, the Pandora ATX boasts good looks and plenty of room for liquid-cooling hardware. My favorite part is this case's programmable front-panel LED display, though.

That logo on the front of the Pandora ATX isn't a badge. Bitfenix includes its programmable Icon display with the Pandora ATX. The Icon display's software lets owners put a custom picture of their choice in a 2.8" square on the front panel. Above the front panel, the power and reset buttons flank a pair each of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. Headphone and microphone jacks sit front and center, too.

Internally, the Pandora ATX has room for two 360-mm radiators for liquid cooling—one up top and one at the front. Builders who would rather populate those bays with fans can do so with either three 120-mm fans or a pair of 140-mm fans in each location. Bitfenix includes a 140-mm fan in the front and a 120-mm spinner round back. Magnetic filters protect all of the Pandora ATX's intake vents. 

The Pandora ATX includes ample room for storage, too, in the form of four 3.5" and four 2.5" bays. Optical storage is out the window, though, like so many cases we've seen over the last year.  Some of that 3.5" storage space is hidden behind the bottom-mounted PSU's shroud, and two of the 2.5" bays are hidden behind the motherboard tray. Between the motherboard tray and side panel, Bitfenix says it's left 20mm of cable-routing space.

The wrap-around side panels of the Pandora line give this case a unique look. This isn't a small case, measuring 22" tall by 20" deep by 8" wide (558 x 510 x 203 mm). The Pandora ATX's steel construction contributes to its 21.3-pound weight.

Builders who want to forego some of the flash can opt for the Pandora ATX Core, which gives up the programmable Icon display, the included fans, and a couple of drive sleds. Bitfenix hasn't announced pricing for either model yet.

7 comments — Last by derFunkenstein at 3:16 PM on 11/21/15