|Star Wars Battlefront video review||42|
|AMD's Radeon Software Crimson Edition: an overview||113|
|AMD's Radeon R9 380X graphics card reviewed||252|
Razer and Lenovo have announced that they're working together to produce Razer-customized versions of Lenovo's gaming-oriented desktops. The companies have already produced a prototype that was unveiled over the weekend at Dreamhack Winter 2015.
Lenovo's Y-Series desktops are the first machines that will get the Razer treatment. These special-edition PCs will get Razer's Chroma lighting and neon-green accents. Beyond the Y Series, Razer and Lenovo expect to produce more mash-ups "in the near future."
Victor Rios, VP of Lenovo's gaming and industry solutions segment, says that his company brings "engineering expertise, design muscle and scale" to the table, while Razer "adds in the finesse and experience of serving the gaming community for the last decade." Razer is equally excited to join forces. CEO Min-Liang Tan says the combined effort should "delight and empower the PC gaming community worldwide."
The companies say that the systems will be on display at CES in January. Shoppers interested in these blinged-out systems can register for updates on Razer's site.In the lab: FLIR's One thermal camera
Observant gerbils will recall that we've been thinking for some time about using a thermal camera to try and glean some additional insights about the hardware we review. FLIR's One cameras have offered an accessible way into thermal imagers for some time, and we've gotten our hands on one of the second-generation One cameras today. This $250 add-on plugs into the Lightning port on iOS devices, turning them into thermal imagers with FLIR's companion iOS app. An Android version is also available.
The One works by combining a visible-light image with thermal data to provide a more detailed image than the relatively low-resolution thermal data alone would present. This technology, called "MSX," is the same special sauce the company uses in its more expensive discrete imagers.
In my informal testing on cats, people, computers, and refrigerators, the One has proven to be remarkably sensitive. It can show where people have been walking on carpeted and wood floors, and its spot-metering mode can show just how much of a temperature gradient exists between the hotter and colder parts of objects. Glossy metal things are the only objects the One has trouble with, although a built-in profile for glossy stuff can help.
While $250 may seem like a lot to ask for an iPhone add-on, the FLIR One is far from a toy. It seems just as capable as FLIR's more expensive imagers, even if it's not as high-resolution as those devices. I wish the temperature metering spot could be moved around the screen, and I also wish FLIR's image-processing algorithm didn't add artifacts to the already relatively low-resolution images from the camera (screenshots of the FLIR One app actually look better than the images saved from the camera, strangely).
We'll be exploring possible uses for the FLIR One in our testing, especially in our case and cooling reviews. We're also open to suggestions for how we might use this gadget in our work. Let us know what sorts of information you might want to see us gather with this thing, and we'll see what we can do.Black Friday deals: Dell's U3415 curved monitor for $650 and more
Happy Black Friday, gerbils. We've combed through the avalanche of deals out there today to see what new gold has surfaced since retailers first took the wraps off their sales earlier this week. Here's what we found.
Many of the deals in our Monday deals post are still active, too. If we missed a deal somewhere, be sure to share your findings with other TR readers in the comments.Abu Dhabi government fund may be shopping GlobalFoundries
The investors from Abu Dhabi who funded GlobalFoundries' expansion may be ready to tap out. A Bloomberg report citing "people familiar with the matter" says the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, Mubadala Development Company, is exploring a possible sale of GloFo and has been in talks with potential suitors.
GloFo competes with firms like TSMC and Samsung in the silicon foundry business, making chips for a range of customers—still including AMD, along with a number of others. Earlier this year, GloFo bought up IBM's microelectronics business, giving it ownership of a world-class R&D operation.
GlobalFoundries got its start about seven years ago, when AMD spun off its manufacturing arm into a separate company. In the months that followed, entities owned by the government of Abu Dhabi took control of it. Eventually, the investors from Abu Dhabi consolidated silicon fabs formerly from multiple firms, including AMD and Chartered Semiconductor, into the company known as GlobalFoundries. What seemed like virtually unlimited funding from Abu Dhabi's oil wealth made GlobalFoundries one of the largest contract chipmakers in the industry, despite the firm's repeated troubles with deploying new process technologies and the resulting, too-frequent reshufflings of its executive leadership.
The report cites the slump in oil prices, a reality that is squeezing the Abu Dhabi government's finances, as the motivation behind the decision to explore a sale. The sale of GlobalFoundries could scuttle the country's long-term plan to bring chip manufacturing to its own soil as a way of reducing its economy's reliance on oil revenues. It could also, potentially, bring more consolidation to the chipmaking game, if firms like TSMC and Samsung decide to pursue an acquisition. That's just speculation, though, and we don't yet know much about this possible sale. We'll have to wait and see what develops.Asus goes for the gold with its 20th Anniversary GTX 980 Ti
Asus is holding a celebration, and it doesn't involve eating turkey. The company first started making graphics cards 20 years ago, and it's released the 20th Anniversary Gold Edition GTX 980 Ti to commemorate that fact.
Asus claims this card is the fastest GTX 980 Ti on the planet. The golden boy packs a GPU with 1266MHz base and 1367MHz boost clocks, along with 6GB of VRAM clocked at 7200 GT/s. The power section is a 14-phase design that could help with overclocking efforts. Asus says the Japanese capacitors on this card help reduce buzzing and whining noises under load, too.
Overclocking requires careful temperature management, and to that effect, Asus fitted the Gold GTX 980 Ti with an aluminum backplate and a heatsink with 10-mm heatpipes. Experimenting daredevils playing with liquid nitrogen should appreciate the built-in Memory Defroster. A BIOS reset buttons resets the card to its default clocks in case said experiments fail, while a LED indicator on the card's side panel lets you know the GPU's current load.
Asus says the 20th Anniversary Gold Edition GTX 980 Ti will be available soon, though there's no word on pricing.MSI's Eco motherboards let owners fine-tune power consumption
While we Americans are still sleeping off our Thanksgiving celebrations, MSI has unveiled some Skylake-compatible updates to its Eco series of motherboards: the H170M Eco, B150M Eco, and H110M Eco. MSI says this trio of Micro-ATX mobos sips power without giving up the performance or features of their non-Eco brethren. All three boards pack Intel Gigabit Ethernet and MSI's Audio Boost features.
These three boards look strikingly similar, apparently separated only by the PCH used. Each Eco motherboard comes with MSI's Eco Genie and Eco Center Pro utility. This tool allows users to turn off specific features and components to save energy. MSI supplies three power-saving presets, and users can further configure those profiles to their liking. Interestingly, some LEDs—even those that are usually always on, like power and Ethernet—can be turned off entirely.
MSI says that systems based on the Eco boards won't be hamstrung by those power-saving features. Each of the three profiles still allows the CPU to run at stock speeds. The company says these boards are extra-durable, too, thanks to their "Military Class 4" components.Club 3D active adapters convert DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0
The Radeon R9 Fury X shipped without HDMI 2.0 support, so AMD's top-end card couldn't drive many 4K TVs and monitors at 60Hz with an HDMI cable. Fortunately, that shortcoming can be corrected with an active adapter that converts a DisplayPort 1.2 port to HDMI 2.0. Club 3D has announced a pair of these handy adapters, one for mini DisplayPorts and one for standard-sized versions.
Unlike the bad old days (or even today, if you're Apple), Club 3D's active DisplayPort adapters don't need a separate connector or spare USB port for their power needs. The company claims its adapters are fully compliant with the HDMI 2.0 standard. Along with a 4K, 60-Hz video stream, these adapters can support up to eight channels of audio.
Club 3D hasn't announced pricing on these adapters yet. Active adapters from other manufacturers can be had for under 20 bucks on Newegg, but all of those are limited to 30Hz for 4K video streams.Phanteks' Power Splitter lets two systems run on one PSU
Here's one for the extreme system builders out there. Putting two systems inside one PC case would normally require two power supplies, but Phanteks' Power Splitter accessory neatly solves that problem.
This device takes power from one 24-pin ATX power cable and two eight-pin auxiliary connectors, splitting it between two sets of outputs with 24-pin, eight-pin, and two four-pin connectors. Phanteks says that each system on the splitter can be turned on or off independently of the other—so long as one PC is running, the PSU will also remain on.
The splitter measures 6.5" by 1.2" by 3.9" (WHD), and it can safely provide a maximum 336W of 12V power, 70W of 5V, and 46W of 3.3V juice across both systems. Graphics card power is excluded from those calculations. If you need this splitter, we're betting you have a PSU with plenty of PCIe auxiliary connectors, anyway.Just Cause 3 system requirements won't blow up your wallet
Avalanche Studios has revealed the system specs required to play its upcoming, explosion-packed Just Cause 3. If you were concerned that your PC wouldn't handle the game's bangs and kabooms, fear not—the requirements seem quite reasonable to us.
The minimum specs comprise an Intel Core i5-2500K or AMD Phenom II X6 1075T CPU, 6GB of RAM, and a GeForce GTX 670 or Radeon HD 7870 graphics card. That's pretty tame as these things go. After all, Sandy Bridge CPUs date back to January 2011, and the listed graphics cards aren't much younger.
Things get a little more interesting in the recommended specifications, but they still easily fall in the realm of attainable. To enjoy all of Just Cause 3's explosions at full blast, Avalanche says you'll need a Core i7-3770 or FX-8350 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a GTX 780 or R9 290 graphics card. Any higher-end system from the past couple years should easily fit that bill. Just Cause 3 arrives December 1.Biostar's GeForce Gaming GTX 950 glows a fiery red
The GeForce GTX 950 may be a MOBA hero, but we found it also performs well in more graphically-intense games at 1080p with some of the settings dialed back. Biostar is getting in on the budget card action with the GeForce Gaming GTX 950.
The GeForce Gaming GTX 950 runs its cut-down GM206 at a bone-stock 1024 MHz base and 1190 MHz boost speeds. 2 GB of GDDR5 memory runs at stock speeds, too—6.6 GT/s.
Biostar's GTX 950 sports a beefy-looking, dual-fan "warship" cooler on its GPU, so it may have headroom for some overclocking action. The Biostar logo on the rear of the cooler lights up the PC's interior in a menacing red. Up to four monitors can be connected via HDMI, DisplayPort, and two DVI ports.Asus updates Zenbook UX305 with a Skylake Core M CPU
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.Shuttle XPC Nano's svelte body is clad in black and gold
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.AMD ends driver support for non-GCN Radeon cards
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.Dell owns up to eDellRoot hole and provides removal instructions
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.MIT researchers say many popular Android apps call out covertly
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."Dell gets Superfishy by shipping PCs with self-signed root certificates
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.It's an early Black Friday deals extravaganza
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.Mozilla axes heavyweight Firefox themes and tab groups
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.
Acer XF270HU IPS monitor hooks Radeons up with 144Hz FreeSync
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.Asus' N-series laptops top out with 4K screens and PCIe SSDs
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.
|In the lab: FLIR's One thermal camera||44|
|Lenovo's gaming PCs are getting an infusion of Razer DNA||1|
|Black Friday deals: Dell's U3415 curved monitor for $650 and more||33|
|Abu Dhabi government fund may be shopping GlobalFoundries||64|
|Asus goes for the gold with its 20th Anniversary GTX 980 Ti||9|
|MSI's Eco motherboards let owners fine-tune power consumption||10|
|Gigabyte's Z170X-Gaming G1 motherboard reviewed||18|
|Star Wars Battlefront video review||42|
|Club 3D active adapters convert DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0||24|