Asus and Sapphire offer digital pickaxes to crypto-miners
— 5:30 PM on June 26, 2017

Do you want a graphics card? Well, how do you feel about grossly over-paying for it? If your answer was "no thanks," you're out of luck, because folks hurriedly hashing out cryptocurrency have bought up every reasonably-priced graphics card on the market. Perhaps in a bid to both serve those customers and get graphics cards into the hands of gamers again, Asus and Sapphire have released some graphics cards specifically built for cryptocurrency mining.

Asus appears to have two boards available. One of the cards is called the Mining-P106-6G and is based on Nvidia's GP106 GPU. Curiously, there is no mention of GeForce or Pascal anywhere on this card's product page, and the only time Nvidia's name comes up there is on the specifications section. The Mining-P106-6G has no video connections at all, as befits its intended purpose. Besides that omission, the card otherwise matches the GeForce GTX 1060's reference specifications to a tee, down to the 1708 MHz boost clock and 6 GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 8 GT/s.

Asus' second pickaxe-oriented offering is the Mining-RX470-4G. Unlike its green-team cousin, this card actually has video output, in the form of a lone DVI-D port. Like its cousin, the Mining-RX470-4G appears to be a bone-stock reference card—this time using a Radeon RX 470 as its base—with most of the display connections stripped off and a big fat dual-fan cooler bolted on. The card boosts to 1206 MHz and comes equipped with 4GB of 7-GT/s GDDR5 memory.

While Asus' cards are up on the company's homepage, our buddies over at PC Perspective noticed pre-order listings on Overclockers UK for four Sapphire cards equally aimed at cryptocurrency miners. The Sapphire Radeon RX 470 Mining Edition comes in four versions: two cards with 4GB of memory and another two versions with 8GB. There are two models for each memory capacity because you can get the cards in their standard versions, or one that specifically uses faster Samsung memory. OCUK actually lists the cards by hashrate—that is, mining speed—and the cards with Samsung memory are apparently good for slightly higher rates than their siblings. 

All four Sapphire RX 470 Mining Edition cards have a slight factory overclock applied, giving them a maximum boost clock of 1236 MHz versus the 1206 MHz of the reference design. Regardless of capacity or vendor, the RAM all runs at 7 GT/s. None of these cards have any display connections, so you'll need to have some other video adapter in the system. Finally, there's also a Radeon RX 560 Mining Edition card that appears once again to be a standard example of its species. Like the Asus RX 470 card above, it comes with a single DVI-D connection.

OCUK's listings actually indicate that the Sapphire cards support Crossfire, which could be an interesting application for one of these boards once crypto-currency mining is no longer profitable and dozens of them end up on the used market. Just don't buy one of these cards now with that aim in mind: the cheapest RX 470 Mining Edition card goes for £249, or around $260 after VAT and the exchange rate are accounted for. Thanks to PC Perspective for the heads up.

17 comments — Last by Bensam123 at 4:23 AM on 06/27/17

Rumor: Six-core Coffee Lake CPU pops up in Geekbench
— 4:19 PM on June 26, 2017

Buyers looking for CPUs with more than four cores and eight threads have always had to look beyond Intel's mainstream desktop platforms. The silicon giant first offered quad-core CPUs to consumers all the way back in the beginning of 2007, and the addition of SMT to 2009's Core i7-860 marked the company's last increase in the number of threads in its mainstream chips—until now. Get out your salt shakers, because WCCFTech spotted an entry in the Geekbench database displaying what would appear to be a Coffee Lake CPU packing six cores and 12 hardware threads.

The database record appears to have been generated by a machine with an LGA 1151 motherboard, possibly a Z270-based model. The chip in question is clocked at only 3.2 GHz, but it's worth noting that engineering sample chips are often clocked lower than final production silicon. The database entry also doesn't specify if that 3.2 GHz figure refers to a base or turbo clock. While the chip in question may have sat atop a Z270 motherboard, Intel hasn't offered any information about Coffee Lake compatibility with 200-series motherboards. As for cache amounts, the undisclosed chip displays 1.5 MB of L2 and 12 MB of L3.

The system earned a single-core Geekbench score of 4619 and a multi-core figure of 20,828. An example entry from a system built around a Ryzen 5 1600X processor scored 4574 and 20,769 in those same tests. Given that the final Coffee Lake silicon might be clocked significantly higher than engineering samples, Intel could potentially have a very fast six-core part for the consumer market.

Coffee Lake is widely expected to be the fourth generation of Core chips built on Intel's 14-nm process technology, following the Broadwell "tick," the Skylake "tock," and the Kaby Lake "optimization." We suspect that Coffee Lake will offer minor architectural improvements, improved graphics capabilities, and reduced power consumption when compared to previous chips, in addition to any possible increases in core and thread counts. Again, we counsel that the information in the database be taken with a dose of salt far in excess of the recommended daily allowance.

12 comments — Last by Krogoth at 12:51 AM on 06/27/17

Nokia 6 comes to the US with a taste of vanilla Android
— 3:00 PM on June 26, 2017

American gerbils with a taste for vanilla Android will soon have a new option on their menus. The aluminum-bodied Nokia 6 smartphone is set to hit the shelves of Amazon's enormous distribution centers early next month.

HMD Global manufactures the Nokia 6 around a somewhat long-in-the-tooth Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC, 3 GB of LPDDR3 memory, and 32 GB of onboard flash storage. For those not keeping track at home, the Snapdragon 430 has eight 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A53 cores and an Adreno 505 graphics processor. A microSD card accepts cards as large as 128 GB.

The screen is a 5.5" IPS unit with a Gorilla Glass outermost layer and a 1920x1080 resolution, that should provide a blend of adequate sharpness (403 PPI) and reasonable power draw. The rear-facing camera is a 16-MP snapper with phase detection autofocus and a dual-tone flash. The selfie shooter camera is an 8-MP job.

The Nokia 6's biggest attraction might be its stock Android software environment. The phone will run Google's Android 7.0 (Nougat) and ought to offer an uncluttered software experience at a price point not served by Google's own higher-end Pixel phones. There's currently no word on the software update policy for these handsets, though.

The Nokia 6 only connects to GSM networks and doesn't include any form of CDMA support, so Verizon and Sprint customers must look elsewhere. The phone only has full 4G LTE support on T-Mobile's network, too. The asking price for the Nokia 6 is a mere $229, and it'll arrive in "early July." The handset will be offered initially in matte black and silver, and there will be blue and copper finishes coming before the end of summer.

10 comments — Last by chµck at 9:47 PM on 06/26/17

SNES Classic will fix your nostalgia blues this September
— 1:30 PM on June 26, 2017

Most people will tell you that the original Nintendo Entertainment System revitalized the video game industry after it fell apart in 1983. It can be argued, though, that Nintendo didn't really hit its stride until the second iteration of the console. Outside Japan, the successor was called the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES for short), and the N-team has a miniaturized reissue ready to hit stores this September.

Just like the NES Classic, the SNES Classic is a miniaturized version of the original console, albeit one that accepts full-sized controllers. Two of those controllers are included with the machine, as well as 21 original SNES games. The full list of titles pre-loaded on the system is up at the SNES Classic's micro-site, and it includes some real classics from first- and third-party developers. Big franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid are all present, of course, but you'll also find Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Castlevania IV, Mega Man X, and Final Fantasy III (better known these days as Final Fantasy VI).

The system also apparently includes Star Fox 2, a game that was never actually released despite being completed. A mostly-finished leaked version has been floating around the web in ROM format for the better part of 20 years, but the game was cancelled in a very late stage of development due to the impending release of competing next-gen systems, as well as Nintendo's own "Project 64." This will be the first new official SNES game release since Frogger in 1998.

If you're keen to pick up an SNES Classic, keep on the ball. It's likely to be a limited production run, and if this release experiences anything like the NES Classic's short life, the system may quickly be hard to find. Nintendo says it will go for $80 when it releases on September 29. There's a U.S. edition (picture above), and a European version identical to its American sibling apart from its looks.

26 comments — Last by POLAR at 4:12 AM on 06/27/17

Corsair reveals its prize haul for the TR BBQ XIV
— 12:18 PM on June 26, 2017

It was just over a week ago that we hinted at a significant prize contribution coming to this year's TR BBQ. Today, we can reveal exactly what those prizes are and who to thank for them. The fine folks at Corsair have itemized their mighty haul and confirmed that they will be on location to personally deliver it. Here's the list!

I couldn't help myself—I had to run the numbers, and that's around $2,000 worth of gear and apparel. That's an awesome amount, and it's a bit surreal to think that our gathering of gerbils has grown so much since its humble beginnings. Excuse me while I reflect on BBQs memories of the past and think about how far we've come—must be something in my eye. Ahem... anyway, let's take a look at each prize.

The Crystal Series 570X RGB case was one I considered when I did my upgrade earlier this year. I went old-school and chose the Obsidian Series 450D instead, but the sleek tempered glass of the 570X still beckons me from time to time. As the headlining prize, we're going to give away the 570X to a randomly-drawn BBQ attendee to make sure everyone has a fair chance to take it home.

We've been fans of Corsair's mechanical keyboards for a long time. The latest K95 model is no exception. Our own Nathan Wasson had lots of good things to say about it when he reviewed one a couple months ago. These keyboards actually retail for more than any of the other prizes Corsair is donating to the BBQ. I suspect that the winner of the annual cornhole tournament is likely to choose one as their prize.

The assortment of Void headsets Corsair is literally bringing to the party covers the entire gamut of the product line. There will be two Void Wireless Dolby 7.1 RGB headsets up for grabs. That's the top-of-the-line model with all the buzzwords. The two wired Void Surround Hybrid headsets are the only RGB LED-less prizes for winners to choose from (aside from the t-shirts). Finally, a lone Void RGB USB Dolby 7.1 headset could be an option for the discerning gerbil who wants a light show without having to worry about battery life.

We jest about the RGB LED mania but I think everyone knows that light-clad hardware is popular for a reason. Everyone likes customization, even if for some people that means turning the LEDs off. The MM800 RGB Polaris mouse pad could be just the finishing touch your desktop needs. Personally, I like the idea of a mouse pad with a built-in USB port to keep a wireless receiver as close as possible to the mouse.

Thanks to Corsair for its generosity and for helping make the TR BBQ even more awesome. If you're not already planning to attend, there's still time to make arrangements. The BBQ takes place on July 15 in Holland, MI. All TR readers are welcome to this annual family-friendly event. Pop on over to the BBQ thread for all the details. Hope to see you there!

7 comments — Last by Jigar at 12:20 AM on 06/27/17

Portions of the Windows Shared Source Kit leak out
— 10:09 AM on June 26, 2017

Microsoft started off this last weekend with an embarassing security snafu. The folks over at The Register reported that 32 TB of non-public data taken from Microsoft's network was uploaded to Beta Archive. This massive haul reportedly included source code for hardware drivers and various Windows builds, leading The Register to raise the concern that the information could be used to identify and exploit security vulnerabilities in Windows.

Microsoft itself confirmed that the files contain part of the Shared Source Kit, a restricted-access package containing (among other items) source code for the Windows components that handle Wi-Fi, USB, and the plug-and-play system. While the company doesn't make this kit available to the general public, Microsoft does provide access to these files to government agencies, OEMs, and hardware partners for the purposes of optimization, development, and debugging. It's possible, then, that the leaked files weren't acquired from Microsoft's systems, but from a partner working with the Shared Source Kit.

Interestingly, Beta Archive disputes a number of the claims made by The Register. The file hosting site says that while the folder containing these files was uploaded to its FTP servers, it's been since removed and there are no plans to restore it. Furthermore, Beta Archive states that the folder in question was actually 1.2 GB in size, not the whopping 32 TB reported by The Register. The data package contained 12 Windows builds, each about 100 MB in size. Beta Archive claims that those files aren't large enough to contain the core source code for a Windows build, and wonders if The Register was looking at a release made earlier this year which included beta builds of Windows that have since been superseded and rendered defunct.

With all this mind, this leak is probably not that big of a deal. It's embarassing for Microsoft to have some of its non-public files exposed, but it appears that the magnitude of the leak is much smaller than initially reported. It's less likely, then, that there will be significant ramifications for the security of Windows systems worldwide.

13 comments — Last by Wirko at 4:17 PM on 06/26/17

Hyper-Threading erratum rears its head in Skylake and Kaby Lake
— 8:30 AM on June 26, 2017

CPUs can ship with bugs just as software can, and members of the Debian Linux community have uncovered what they claim is a serious one in Intel Skylake and Kaby Lake processors, including Skylake-X CPUs. In a message on the project's mailing list yesterday that was noticed by the eagle-eyed folks at HotHardware, the project says affected CPUs "could, in some situations, dangerously misbehave when hyper-threading is enabled." The message further recommends that users "disable hyper-threading immediately in BIOS/UEFI to work around the problem."

The project member claims the erratum in question is called "Short Loops Which Use AH/BH/CH/DH Registers May Cause Unpredictable System Behavior" in Intel documentation. The company describes some of the required conditions for the bug to occur:

Under complex micro-architectural conditions, short loops of less than 64 instructions that use AH, BH, CH or DH registers as well as their corresponding wider register (e.g. RAX, EAX or AX for AH) may cause unpredictable system behavior. This can only happen when both logical processors on the same physical processor are active.

According to the Debian mailing, the bug was triggered by members of the OCaml community, who were able to demonstrate the issue using the OCaml compiler. Further investigation from members of the OCaml project isolated the behavior to Skylake CPUs with Hyper-threading. When the bug was triggered, the OCaml developers noted "compiler and application crashes [and] incorrect program behavior, including incorrect program output."

Intel says "due to this erratum, the system may experience unpredictable system behavior," and that a BIOS fix could prevent the issue from occurring. A spot check of the BIOS update history for the Z270 motherboards in the TR labs doesn't show any fixes that would outwardly claim to address this issue. We've asked Intel about its plans to address this bug under Windows (presuming it hasn't been corrected already), and we'll let you know what we hear when we hear it. Intel and Microsoft can update CPU microcode through Windows Update, so it's possible this issue has already been quietly patched for Windows without anybody hearing about it.

For what it's worth, we haven't noticed any unusual instability or crashes from our Skylake or Kaby Lake CPUs with Hyper-Threading enabled under Windows in our long history with those parts, so we probably won't be turning off the feature or advising most other people to do the same. Skylake CPUs have been in the wild since August 2015, and if this was a critical or easy-to-trigger bug, we'd likely have heard about it long before now. If you work with mission-critical data requiring absolute correctness or can't tolerate the possibility of application or system crashes, you might want to disable Hyper-Threading for the time being. Everybody else can likely wait and see what's up.

57 comments — Last by ronch at 2:51 AM on 06/27/17

VR180 video bridges the gap between YouTube and VR
— 5:00 PM on June 23, 2017

Virtual reality gaming can be great, but the medium has plenty of applications for slightly more passive content like VR video playback. Google's Daydream VR division is trying to reduce the high barrier to entry for VR content creation with the VR180 video format. The company says that the new format is intended to help content creators bridge the difficulty and logistics gaps between making Youtube videos and full 360° VR content. The format will work with Google Cardboard and Daydream headsets, as well as the million-selling PlayStation VR.

VR180 video content will play back in steroscopic 3D and the depth of objects will be retained during playback. Google says that making VR180 content should be straightforward enough that creators will be able to live-stream in the new format. Furthermore, the company promises that existing tools like Adobe Premiere Pro will be able to edit VR180 videos.

The search giant says it's working with Lenovo, LG, and YI Technology on new cameras designed to shoot VR180 video. The company expects the first round of these cameras to start shipping this winter. Google says they'll be as easy to use as point-and-shoot cameras and will carry about the same cost. A small assortment of sample VR180 video clips are posted on YouTube for your perusal.

4 comments — Last by Chrispy_ at 12:52 PM on 06/26/17

Steam 2017 Summer Sale, part deux
— 3:28 PM on June 23, 2017

Our post about the Steam sale yesterday ruffled some feathers. It seems fans of a few genres felt under-represented, so we're back again with another list of game recommendations for the 2017 Steam Summer Sale. If you missed our post yesterday, check it out for details on the sticker book event that Steam has running until the end of the sale, as well as the huge list of discounted games.

Project Cars

On the forefront of missing genres yesterday were racing games. There are a ton of fantastic racing games on sale on Steam right now. Our picks of the litter include: Project Cars (down 67% to just $10), Dirt Rally (70% off at $18), and the ever-classic Burnout: Paradise (just $5!) Notably, people are still playing Burnout: Paradise online almost 10 years later. If you're more into science-fiction racing, Redout is a faithful homage to F-Zero and Wipeout, and it's 60% off at $14. Formula Fusion is a newer title that's more directly inspired by Wipeout—it's just $15. Stepping into the sillier side of racing, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is easily the best "kart racer" on PC, and it's down to just $5. While it's more "driving" than "racing," Euro Truck Simulator 2 is also down to $5.

The other big genre that we missed yesterday were one-on-one fighting games. There's been an explosion in this genre on Steam after years of PC gamers missing out on the best way to beat up their friends. The headliner for the genre is of course Street Fighter V; it's half off at $20. Street Fighter characters will be showing up again soon in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, but if you can't wait to beat up some superheroes you can pick up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for just $15. King of Fighters XIV is the first 3D title in the long-running series. The game just hit Steam a week ago, but its publisher went ahead and knocked 20% off the price for the Summer Sale, bringing it to $48.

BlazBlue: ChronoPhantasma Extend

If you want to smash faces but the above games are too rich for your blood, there are a ton of cheap classic and indie fighters on Steam. The creepy-cute Skullgirls is down to just $3. The legendary Guilty Gear X2 #Reload is only $2. If you're curious about anime fighters, BlazBlue: ChronoPhantasma Extend is a modern title with full English voice acting for a meager $7.50; if you get into it, you can pick up all four BlazBlue games (including the brand-new Centralfiction) for $41. Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code may have a word salad name, but it's a serious game with a lunatic fandom; it's down to $6.50. If you're not into the Japanese style, Mortal Kombat Komplete compiles the 9th MK game and all its DLC for just $5.

I also meant to mention that there are a ton of Warhammer games on Steam on sale. Total War: Warhammer is probably the highlight for most of you gerbils; it's down 66% to just over $20. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a sadly-overlooked third-person action-shooter hybrid with a still-active online community, and it's only $7.50. Dawn of War III is only 25% off at $45, but I personally recommend the original game over it anyway. You can pick up the entirety of the first Dawn of War game for just $10. Warhammer End Times: Vermintide could aptly be described as "Left 4 Rats", and it's only $10 now.

Quake, of course

Gerbils also helpfully pointed out in the comments to our last post that we completely missed seminal shooter series Quake. If you don't own it on Steam yet, the original game is only $1.24 right now. If you pick it up and decide to play through it once more, grab the Vulkan-infused vkQuake to enjoy the game on modern systems, or try qbism Super8 for maximum nostalgia. You can also pick up the entire classic Quake series, including the first three games and their expansions, for just $6.24. Along similar lines, almost every Serious Sam title on Steam is 90% off, so if you like classic shooters you won't want to miss out on those. Developer Croteam's excellent 3D puzzler The Talos Principle is only $10, too.

Finally, perhaps the most grievous omission from our previous post was Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. This excellent open-world action title is only $4 right now. It shares a lot with Mad Max, which is only $8 and possibly the best movie-licensed game of all time. Both of these games draw heavily on the Far Cry school of open-world game design, and those titles are on sale too: Far Cry 2 is $4, Far Cry 3 is $7, Far Cry: Blood Dragon is $5, Far Cry 4 is $15, and Far Cry: Primal is $25. Like old-school Final Fantasy, the Far Cry games aren't connected by a linear story, so jump in anywhere if you haven't played them before.

Once again, let us know if you see anything we missed.

19 comments — Last by DrDominodog51 at 5:04 PM on 06/26/17

Silverstone's Strider Titanium PSUs are ready for a high-power future
— 2:15 PM on June 23, 2017

The trend in components over the last few years has been towards offering higher performance with less power draw. However, with the looming availability of Intel's high-core-count Skylake-X CPUs, AMD's Threadripper chips, and AMD's potentially thirsty Vega FE graphics cards, the low-power tide may be heading back out, at least with respect to top-of-the-line hardware. Silverstone's Strider Titanium PSU lineup is certainly ready for an increase in wattage demands. The series is growing from three to six members with the addition of the ST1100-TI, ST1300-TI, and ST1500-TI models.

The model names give a pretty clear idea of what to expect. Like the existing 600 W, 700 W, and 800 W members of the Strider Titanium family, the three new additions are 80 Plus Titanium certified and offer 90% conversion efficiency even when operating at 10% load. Despite their impressive power handling, the units aren't really large—their packaging efficiency is quite high, with power densities ranging from 474 W/L in the ST-1100TI all the way up to 646 W/L in the range-topping ST1500-TI. Silverstone touts the unit's all-Japanese capacitors, their ability to run 24 hours a day at 50° C temperatures, and low ripple and line noise.

As for creature comforts, the large Strider Titanium PSUs boast all-modular cabling. The black cables are flat for easier routing. There's a large 135-mm fan that spins up only when the power supply has a load of 20% or more, which means the ST1500-TI can deliver enough power for a full system with a GeForce GTX 1080 under load without bothering to turn on its fan.

Silverstone didn't provide pricing or availability details for the new large-capacity power supplies, but we would expect all three models to bear larger price tags than the $180 asking price of the existing 800 W ST80F-TI. Silverstone backs all the units with a five-year warranty.

14 comments — Last by meerkt at 8:28 AM on 06/26/17

Deals of the week: Z270 mobos, spinning storage, and more
— 12:43 PM on June 23, 2017

Howdy gerbils. Things have been more than a little hot around here, but there's no time to lose. Deals are popping up and disappearing all the time, and we're here to catch'em while they're around. Here's this week's selection.

  • All the talk right now is about X299 motherboards and Core X CPUs, but the wallets in us mere mortals' pockets can't quite go that far. To that end, here's a trio of Z270-based mobos. The first one is the Asus Prime Z270-P. This board has two M.2 sockets and great build quality. It's currently going for $105.99 at Newegg. If you'd rather have something clad in black and red, check out the MSI Z270 Gaming Plus, a similar offering with a different paintjob and a metal-reinforced main PCIe slot. This one goes for $104.99, and there's a $15 MIR on tap.
  • Should you require something with a little more pizzazz than the offerings above, look no further than the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon. This board has onboard RGB LED lighting and SLI support. It also comes with two M.2 slots (one with a heatsink), metal-reinforced PCIe and DIMM slots, and an enhanced audio section. An Intel Ethernet controller and both Type-A and Type-C USB ports complement the package. Grab one of these for $149.99 at Newegg. There's even a $20 MIR available.
  • What's in every deals post in the past few months? Spinning rust, that's what. Newegg has a couple of speedy HGST DeskStar NAS drives at appetizing prices. The 4 TB version is going for $129.99 with promo code EMCRGCC22, or $32.5 a terabyte. Meanwhile, its bigger brother with 8 TB of capacity is selling for $269.99 with code EMCRGCD23. That works out to $33.75 per terabyte.
  • It's so hot right now. What any computer can use is a nice be quiet! cooler. Funnily enough, Newegg's running a sale on those right now. Most of be quiet!'s cooler lineup is around 20% off at Newegg Flash. Get'em while they're cool.
  • Do you want a large, high-DPI display but don't have a lot to spend? Right this way. The Acer CB280HK is a 28" monitor with an 8-bit TN panel (with AFRC) at 4K resolution, and an adjustable stand. While those specs are probably nothing to be all that excited about, the price more than makes up for it: only a mere $279.99 at Newegg with promo code EMCRGCD35.
  • Summer's here, and it's time to accessorize. There's nothing that improves one's quality of life and computing like a good router. Like the Asus RT-AC68P. This unit requires little introduction. Its Wi-Fi signal is strong, the routing functionality can deal with pretty much anything, and the  software is easy to use and well-supported. I've worked with these, and I own an RT-AC66U. Can't recommend them enough. Grab the RT-AC68P from Newegg for a stupid-low $119.99 if you use promo code EMCRGCD34. If that's not enough, there's another $20 written on a mail-in rebate.
  • It's generally understood that the vast majority of 2.1 speaker sets have tinny main cans and an asthmatic bass unit that can't woof, much less sub. Not these right here, though. The well-regarded Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 set comes with two 35W satellite speakers with tweeter horns and a 50W subwoofer to give the sound some meat. Grab the set for $109.99 from Newegg while stocks last.

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.

4 comments — Last by BerserkBen at 12:11 AM on 06/25/17

G.Skill readies up for X299 with quad-channel DDR4 at 4200 MT/s
— 11:30 AM on June 23, 2017

G.Skill just announced a whole range of quad-channel memory kits tailor-made for Intel's nascent X299 HEDT platform. The new kits are part of the company's top-tier Trident Z family, and they make use of Samsung's best DRAM chips to drive quad-channel DDR4 transfer rates up to 4200 MT/s. Not everyone can afford (or wants to pay for) the top-shelf grades, so G.Skill also has four- and eight-module kits coming out at transfer rates ranging down to 3600 MT/s.

As you can see in the handy-dandy chart above, all but one of these super-speed DDR4 kits require 1.35V, or an extra 150 mV over the DDR4-standard 1.2 V. The DDR4-4200 outlier requires a full 1.4V for good measure. Kits up to 3800 MT/s will be available in versions with 8 GB or 16 GB modules, meaning G.Skill can now outfit you with a full 128 GB of DDR4 memory transferring at 3800 MT/s. Latency does take a hit when using the denser modules, though.

Along with the existing Trident Z line and the Trident Z RGB family, G.Skill is launching the new kits in a "Trident Z Black" series that skips the fancy colors for a smooth all-black heatsink. The 4400 MT/s dual-channel kit we saw at Computex is also on its way, but unfortunately we don't know when. In fact, G.Skill didn't reveal when any of these kits will be arriving in stores, but we expect that to happen sooner rather than later.

16 comments — Last by DrDominodog51 at 4:31 PM on 06/25/17

Asus' VivoBook S510 is an ultrabook for the budget crowd
— 10:00 AM on June 23, 2017

When you're searching for an affordable laptop, one thing becomes clear pretty quickly: there's a strong correlation between price and style. Hunting for a lower price tag usually means settling for a big hunk of plastic. Asus wants to challenge that idea with its new VivoBook S510, a little machine that aims to combine good looks and affordability. Let's see if this machine's inner beauty is a match for its appearance.

The package itself is surprisingly sleek. The brushed-aluminum casing is 0.7" (1.8 cm) thick and weighs in at 3.7 lbs (or 1.7kg). The 1920x1080 15.6" screen has an impressively-small bezel, too. On the sides, you'll find a headphone jack, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, one each of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connectors, and an HDMI output. There's an SD card slot and a fingerprint reader onboard, too. The 42-WHr battery should provide adequate battery life, and Asus says it will charge up to 60% capacity in just under an hour.

Inside, you'll find an Intel Core i5-7200U with a turbo speed up to 3.1 GHz, along with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1-TB hard drive spinning at 5400 RPM. There's also a version available with a CPU bump to a Core i7-7500U (clocks up to 3.5 GHz), and a 128 GB SSD.

The basic $699 configuration of the VivoBook S510 is available right now on Asus' site, while the appetizing $799 model with the SSD and the Core i7 CPU is up over at Newegg.

16 comments — Last by willmore at 9:01 PM on 06/25/17

Windows Insider Build 16226 gives users a look at GPU utilization
— 9:00 AM on June 23, 2017

Microsoft's work on the Fall Creators Update continues apace, and new features are rolling out steadily to Windows Insiders. Most notably, Microsoft has added a tool that will likely prove useful around our offices and anywhere else users need a quick look at the usage of their graphics cards. The Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16226 will give users detailed GPU information right in Task Manager.

GPUs will now join the list of components visible in the performance tab of the Task Manager. For clarity, the 3D pipeline will be display as a separate component from the video codec engines. In addition to a chart for GPU utilization, the Task Manager will also display information on memory usage and drivers. In the details tab, users will also able to see per-process GPU utilization info. While there are many third-party tools out there that provide this information, it's hard to argue with the convenience of having it visible in the Task Manager.

Other changes coming in this preview build include a raft of new emojis, a few quality-of-life improvements for the Edge browser, and (be still, my heart!) a currency converter built in to the calculator. Additionally, Microsoft is refining its OneDrive Files On-Demand service. In this build, when apps attempt to download a file that's currently sitting in OneDrive, a dialog box will pop up letting ther user know what's being downloaded, and giving them the option to cancel the download or block the app from automatically accessing cloud-stored files.

The Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 16226 is already in the hands of the folks in the Insiders program. The rest of us will have to wait for the Fall Creators Update to go live later this year.

24 comments — Last by jensend at 12:21 AM on 06/26/17

Steam's 2017 Summer Sale is downright hot
— 4:55 PM on June 22, 2017

Hold on to your butts, gerbils. It's time once again for the Steam Summer Sale. As usual, we've scoured the site's inventory for the best deals and came up with a veritable cornucopia of gaming goodness. First, though, let's talk about this year's Summer Sale entertainment gimmick.

The trick this time around is a sticker book you'll be filling in. You earn stickers by completing "quests" every day. You can check your daily quests by clicking the banner at the top of the Steam homepage. As usual, the rewards for completing pages in your sticker book are content for your Steam account, like profile backgrounds, emoticons, and trading cards. Most of this stuff is unique to and only available during the 2017 Summer Sale, so get it while it's hot if you're into that.

Now, onto the games. Last years saw number of excellent game releases, but most of those titles aren't especially discounted. The real value this year seems to be in slightly older games . Rise of the Tomb Raider improves on its excellent predecessor quite a lot, and it's 60% off at $24. Last year's gloriously gory Doom is only $15, as is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. If you haven't picked it up yet, Fallout 4 is only $15, or you can pick it up with all its forebears for $60. Just Cause 3 is an awful lot of explosions for $13.

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem

If you missed it when we highlighted it in the GOG summer sale, the action-RPG Grim Dawn is $12.49. Its conceptual cousin Torchlight II is just $5. Fans of that kind of game who want something new can pick up early access title Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem for $15 and enjoy unprecedented-in-its-genre character customization and gorgeous graphics. If you don't care about customization, Path of Exile is still free and about to get a major content update.

If you prefer a different tack and do care about character customization, action-MMORPG Black Desert Online just hit Steam. It's only $8 to start and doesn't require a subscription, although I'd personally recommend you pick up the Explorer's Package for $30 (down from $50) to get a head start on the game. Folks who want a more relaxed experience have a wealth of excellent classic-style RPGs to choose from: Torment: Tides of Numenera and Tyranny are both $23. Similarly, the fantastic Divinity: Original Sin is just $16 for the Enhanced Edition.

Strategy fans have plenty to choose from, too. Civilization VI is down to $36, although resident code-monkey Bruno Ferreira and shortbread baker Colton Westrate both recommend its precedecessor for just $7.50 instead. XCOM 2 has a new expansion on the way, so pick it up for $20 to be ready. If you haven't played its predecessor, the entirety of XCOM: Enemy Unknown is just $10. There's also a bundle with XCOM 2 and Civilization VI for $42. If either of those franchises are too mainstream for you, all three of the Shadowrun strategy-RPG titles are bundled up for $11.

Dark Souls III

By the way, if you like fantasy games and somehow don't have Dark Souls, you're out of luck because it's not on sale. The second and third games are, though, and given the mostly-plot-free nature of the titles you won't be missing much. Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin compiles the game and its DLC, and it's just $12. Dark Souls III is $24, although I'd recommend the Deluxe version that includes the season pass for $43. Fans of Dark Souls should also check out Necropolis ($10), Salt & Sanctuary ($11), and Hollow Knight ($10), all great indie takes on the formula.

If fantasy games are too nerdy for you, then how about some more games where you shoot people? The Call of Duty games are all either $10, $20, or $30, even Infinite Warfare. Meanwhile, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is marked down to $40, and the rest of the series is 66% off. Moving back in time a bit, Black Mesa is as discounted as it's ever been at $8. Painkiller Hell & Damnation is just $5. The amazing-for-its-time Turok is $5, too. System Shock: Enhanced Edition is a revamped version of another game that was ahead of its time, and it's just $1.49. Games like Bioshock (all three for $15) and Dishonored ($2.49) owe a lot to System Shock.


You (can) do a lot of sneaking around in Dishonored, and if that's your thing, you should give the most recent Hitman game a shot. The first episode is free to play now, and you can pick up the whole season of episodic releases for $24—or 66% off the regular price. Fellow long-running third-person shooter series Resident Evil is also all bundled up; pick up RE 4, 5, 6, and Revelations, plus all their DLC, for $48. Third-person action title God Eater 2: Rage Burst includes the original God Eater: Resurrection, and it's down 66% to just $17.

Since we're talking about Japanese games, we have to mention that the entire Final Fantasy series is also on sale. Every single game is half-off with the exception of the brand-new Stormblood expansion for Final Fantasy XIV. Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen has that JRPG style with action gameplay, and it's $12. On the other hand, if you're looking for a game with a JRPG bent on gameplay but a decidedly western style, look no further than South Park: The Stick of Truth. Its sequel is on the way later this year, so it's a good time for fans of the raunchy TV show to pick up the original for $7.49.

Hyper Light Drifter

Finally, we have a whole mess of indie titles to recommend for you. Adorable farming simulator Stardew Valley is a favorite of TR contributor Colton Westrate, and it's just $9. Hyper Light Drifter looks amazing and feels like a faster, modernized Zelda title; it's half-off at $10. Enter the Gungeon is a hilarious "Rogue-lite" dual-stick shooter, also half-off at $7.50. If you somehow still haven't played it, please pay $5 for brutally-difficult platform adventure title La Mulana.

You can also get the remastered version of killer Xbox Live Arcade hit Shadow Complex for $5. Fortune Summoners is a similarly-difficult side-scrolling action title with a cute premise and a cuter art style, again for just five bucks. Last but certainly not least, the "Metroidvania" Greenlight darling Valdis Story: Abyssal City is down to $3.75.

Let us know if we missed any of your favorites in the comments below. The Summer Sale runs until July 5, so you've got two weeks to pick up these titles and anything else that goes on sale.

50 comments — Last by G8torbyte at 6:36 AM on 06/26/17

Asus XG-C100C NIC breaks the gigabit barrier
— 3:30 PM on June 22, 2017

The decade-plus reign of Gigabit Ethernet as the fastest practical standard for wired networking might be finally (and slowly) coming to a close. Over the last few months, we reported on the ratification of a standard for 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps networking over older Cat 5e cables, the integration of new-generation NICs into high-end motherboards, and the announcement of a reference add-on NICs from chipmaker Aquantia. Now Asus is offering up its own take on 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T Ethernet with its XG-C100C network card, which also supports 10 Gbps over Cat 6 cables.

Asus isn't saying specifically that the XG-C100C is based on an Aquantia controller, but we're not aware of any other manufacturers making controller chips for the 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps standard. The chip isn't visible because Asus outfitted the card with a large red-anodized aluminum heatsink. Aquantia's own cards don't have any cooling hardware strapped to them, so it's possible that Asus uses the heatsink to appeal to gamers attracted to machined metal and bold colors. Styling decisions aside, the card looks like a fine way for PC owners to upgrade to a faster networking standard without springing for all-new Cat 6 cabling.

The Asus XG-C100C is available now. The NIC is meant to sell for $100, a price that undercuts the similarly-specced Aquantia card by $30. There's only a single third-party seller with the card in stock at Amazon or Newegg for $120, though.

34 comments — Last by UberGerbil at 2:21 PM on 06/24/17

Stuff a terabyte of RAM in Gigabyte's MZ31-AR0 Epyc motherboard
— 2:00 PM on June 22, 2017

Gigabyte's latest motherboard is a little bit outside the scope of what we usually cover here at TR, but we figure that it deserves a look as it's the first motherboard we've seen for AMD's Epyc server processors. If you've ever wondered what a modern single-socket motherboard with sixteen memory slots looks like, have a gander at Gigabyte's MZ31-AR0.

This blue beauty is a Socket SP3 motherboard in an E-ATX form factor. It supports Epyc 7000-series processors with up to 32 cores and TDP ratings of up to 180 watts. Even though the MZ31-AR0 is a single-socket motherboard, it has two EPS 12V CPU power connectors. Some of that power will likely go toward driving the aforementioned sixteen DIMM slots. You can install any kind of memory in the MZ31-AR0 as long as it's registered DDR4. To hit that magical 1 TB number though, you'll need LRDIMMs or NVDIMMs. The maximum supported speed is DDR4-2667, but transfer rates can drop as low as 1866 MT/s when the DIMM slots are fully populated.

There's no traditional onboard chipset, because most of the connectivity comes directly from the AMD CPU. Epyc chips don't include an IGP, so the MZ31-AR0's Aspeed AST2500 management processor provides some basic video out capabilities. Alternatively, you could install a video card... or five. The board has seven PCIe 3.0 slots, five of which are x16 slots, while the other two are offered in an x8 configuration. Perhaps more notably, the electrical configuration matches the physical configuration for every PCIe slot save for one. There's also a PCIe x4 M.2 socket available, as well as four SlimSAS connectors that can be broken out into sixteen SATA 6 Gbps ports.

Over on the back panel, Gigabyte offers up a pair of SFP+ connectors for 10-Gigabit Ethernet, both powered by a Broadcom BCM57810S chip. There's also a regular old RJ-45 jack for the Aspeed chip's management connectivity. Two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 connections along with legacy VGA and serial ports all round out the back panel I/O. Gigabyte hasn't announced a release date or pricing for the MZ31-AR0. Don't expect it to be cheap, though.

44 comments — Last by Growler at 10:16 AM on 06/26/17

National HVAC Tech/Onion Ring Day Shortbread
— 12:30 PM on June 22, 2017

Who could choose?

PC hardware and computing

  1. MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard review @ Tom's Hardware
  2. Asus Prime X299-Deluxe motherboard review @ Tom's Hardware
  3. Team Group T-Force Cardea M.2 NVME SSD review (240GB) @ TheSSDReview
  4. Logitech G413 Carbon mechanical keyboard review @ TechSpot
  5. Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard review @ Legit Reviews
  6. Cougar Panzer case review @ TechPowerUp

Games and VR

  1. A remaster with no old code: Crash Bandicoot was rebuilt nearly from scratch @ Ars Technica
  2. Super Mario Bros. level recreated in AR by HoloLens developer @ Upload VR (such potential)
  3. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen's alien champions, lost cities and soldier bonds explained @ Rock Paper Shotgun

Science, hacks, makers and gadgets

  1. MRIs: why are they so loud? @ Hack A Day
  2. Key US general embraces new space ethos of "go fast, test, and fail" @ Ars Technica
  3. Top UK supermarket laser prints labels on avocados to reduce waste @ Slashdot (I love this idea)

Cheese, memes, and RGB LEDs

  1. Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds stand won't return to Minnesota State Fair @
  2. Thermaltake Smart Pro RGB 850W PSU review @ Tom's Hardware
  3. SilverStone Primera PM01-RGB review @ bit-tech

18 comments — Last by HERETIC at 8:29 PM on 06/22/17

Imagination Technologies hangs a "for sale" sign in its window
— 11:59 AM on June 22, 2017

When we last heard from Imagination Technologies, the company was preparing to sell off its MIPS and Ensigma businesses as it girded itself for an extended legal battle with Apple over the use of its graphics IP. Today, the company says that in light of "interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole Group," it's formally putting itself up for sale.

Imagination isn't naming any of its suitors at this early stage, and it's received an exemption from the UK Takeover Panel from the requirement that any of its potential buyers be publicly identified, so we likely won't know who is in the running until the company names the successful bidder. Of course, Imagination warns that there is "no certainty" that such an offer will come together to begin with.

While it's perhaps a bit sad that Imagination could cease to be an independent firm, being under the corporate umbrella of another, larger company might give it access to the resources it needs to successfully prosecute its ongoing dispute with Apple. Any sale is likely to go well above and beyond what would have been produced by the sale of Imagination's MIPS and Ensigma businesses (a process that's still ongoing). Imagination shares jumped about 17% on news of the potential sale, and any final bid will likely include a premium on top of the company's £408.6 million ($517.6 million, €464.2 million) market cap as of today.

40 comments — Last by just brew it! at 12:38 PM on 06/25/17

Vulkan is about to erupt in CryEngine 5.4
— 11:30 AM on June 22, 2017

All the attention lately has been on ultra-high-end graphics cards and expensive CPUs with cores for days, but work continues in the direction of getting more performance from meager resources. To wit, CryTek has quietly announced support for the low-level Vulkan graphics API in the upcoming CryEngine 5.4 game development package.

The current source code in the CryEngine GitHub page includes a work-in-progress Vulkan renderer, and the announcement page suggests that Vulkan support will be functional when CryEngine 5.4 is released around the end of July. The company is also working on a new entity component control system and a sandbox editor for the 5.4 release.

Although CryEngine is most notably used in CryTek's in-house titles, the engine is also used by a variety of third-party developers for games like Arkane Studios' Prey and Turtle Rock's Evolve, among others. CryTek's upcoming Hunt: Showdown may use an older version of CryEngine, so Vulkan support in the game appears uncertain at this time—though it's worth noting that the game is apparently still in a pre-alpha state.

Vulkan support brought heady performance increases to Bethesda's 2016 Doom remake, particularly on lower-end CPUs and AMD's GCN graphics cards. Integrating the API into popular game engines seems like a vital step to its long-term success versus Microsoft's DirectX 12 API.

4 comments — Last by thudo at 8:11 AM on 06/23/17