|Coffee Talk with Timmy Cook||21|
|Adobe lets you pay now and later and later again||70|
|Intel's Thin Mini-ITX platform: nine months later||15|
The Pick 6
Read more... Friday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Deals of the week: IPS displays, graphics cards, storage, and games
We've gathered a pretty nice selection of deals this week. We've got a heavily discounted 23" IPS monitor, a Radeon that's on sale and bundled with three free games, and a couple of juicy storage deals. Take your pick:
And let's not forget the games! Amazon has several titles and bundles on sale, some for well under $10:
If you haven't grabbed Deus Ex: Human Revolution yet, you really ought to. It's a terrific game and definitely a steal for five bucks.
Let's wrap things up with some deals for our Canadian readers, who are about to enjoy a well-deserved long weekend. NCIX is celebrating the occasion with its latest sale, which includes items like a 4TB Seagate hard drive for $159.99 CAD, a 2TB WD Green for $89.99 CAD, and a Radeon HD 7850 1GB for $139.99 CAD after a $20 MIR. (That card also comes with BioShock Infinite, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, and Tomb Raider.)Which game is the new champ of PC visuals?
If you've seen the latest round of games, you'll know what I mean when I say that we've clearly entered a new era in PC visuals. The latest games use larger textures, better lighting, much more detailed geometry, and (finally!) decent anti-aliasing to make everything look better. They're clearly a generation beyond anything we've seen before.
The question is: which one of them is the champ? Which game offers the best, most mind-blowing visuals of them all? Cast your vote below and let us know.Intel-powered Lenovo Yoga 11S lands at $799.99
Almost six months after the release of the Tegra 3-powered Yoga 11, Lenovo has introduced a version of the system featuring Intel Ivy Bridge processors and Windows 8. Dubbed the Yoga 11S, the system is now available from Lenovo's website starting at $799.99.
That 800 bucks gets you a Core i3-3229Y processor clocked at 1.4GHz, 4GB of system memory, and a 128GB solid-state drive. Other amenities include an 11.6" 1366x768 display, a 720p webcam, HDMI out, 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 4-cell lithium-ion battery, which Lenovo rates for up to six hours of run time. If you have deeper pockets, there are several higher-priced models to choose from. The most expensive one is priced at $1,349.99 and packs a Core i7-3689Y processor, 8GB of RAM, and a more comfy 256GB SSD. The display is still 1366x768, though. I guess you'll have to look elsewhere for Retina-like high-PPI goodness.
Also, of course, the Yoga 11S has the same hinge design as its Tegra 3-toting counterpart. That means the display can be flipped all the way back, which turns the machine into a pseudo-tablet with the keyboard exposed on the other side. You can also use the machine in "tent" and "stand" modes, depending on how far back you fold the screen. (See the picture above.)
Lenovo is taking orders now, but it doesn't look like the Yoga 11S is shipping to customers just yet—the company's website quotes a lead time of "more than 4 weeks." Best Buy will carry "multiple configurations" of the Yoga 11S, but they're not scheduled to do so until June 23.Pre-orders begin for Nvidia's Shield
So, remember how Nvidia's Shield handheld gaming device was supposed to go up for pre-order on the 20th? Well, it seems that wasn't quite right. The Shield is available to pre-order right now from Newegg.
The e-tailer charges $349 with $4.98 shipping. The listing says there are two full games included (Sonic 4 Episode II THD and Expendable: Rearmed) and quotes a release date of June 4. Earlier this week, Nvidia mentioned a rough June time-frame for the beginning of shipments, so it sounds like the Shield will be available sooner rather than later.
TechCrunch reports Shield pre-orders have also begun at GameStop and Canada Computers, but I can't find product listings at either e-tailer. Searching for "Nvidia shield" brings up an error page at the former and zero matches at the latter. Oh well.
In case you missed the memo, the Shield is a Tegra 4-based handheld console that can run both Android titles and games streamed from a local PC over Wi-Fi. It has an Xbox-style controller, a 5" 720p screen, 2GB of RAM, an HDMI output, and 5-10 hours of battery life for gaming.Otellini: Intel passed on the original iPhone
Outgoing Intel CEO Paul Otellini had some interesting things to say in a recent interview with The Atlantic. Among them: the revelation that he passed up the opportunity to have Intel silicon inside the original iPhone. A squabble over pricing apparently led Otellini to back off, steering Apple right toward the ARM-powered competition.
Here's what happened, in Otellini's words:
We ended up not winning it or passing on it, depending on how you want to view it. And the world would have been a lot different if we'd done it . . . The thing you have to remember is that this was before the iPhone was introduced and no one knew what the iPhone would do... At the end of the day, there was a chip that they were interested in that they wanted to pay a certain price for and not a nickel more and that price was below our forecasted cost. I couldn't see it. It wasn't one of these things you can make up on volume. And in hindsight, the forecasted cost was wrong and the volume was 100x what anyone thought.
The Atlantic says Otellini expressed visible regret when telling the story. The retiring Intel chief lamented that he should have followed his gut and not the data alone. "My gut told me to say yes," he told the paper.
The smartphone market—and Intel's bottom line—would certainly look a lot different today if Otellini had done that. I don't know if the iPhone would have been better, though. (Thanks to AppleInsider for the link.)Release roundup: Flash drives, Thunderbolt, and an arcade controller
This week on the roundup, we've got news about flash drives from Adata, a Thunderbolt-enabled Haswell mobo from ASRock, and an arcade-style fighting game controller from Razer:
So, yeah, I think I need to bite the bullet and get myself a USB 3.0 thumb drive. My USB 2.0 freebies from trade shows are nice, but SuperSpeed connectivity is everywhere nowadays, and the extra speed can be helpful when moving large files. Prices are much more reasonable than they used to be, too. The cheapest model listed at Newegg—an Adata drive, incidentally—costs only $9.99.Etc.
Howdy, all. Just an update on several things.
First, there is a lot going on around here in the next several weeks—busiest I have ever seen it, or close to it. We'll have to manage our time carefully just to get through it all. On that note, we have decided to postpone the next episode of the podcast, so look for it to be posted not this coming weekend but the following one. I know we've done that a little too often lately, but this particular schedule tweak is pretty much unavoidable. We'll have a lot more time to record and a lot more to talk about by syncing up with our review publication schedule, believe me.
Next, thanks to everybody who offered their CPU benchmarking suggestions when I asked the other day. I've been watching the thread and reading your emails, and they're quite helpful. Part of what I see there is validation for the approach we've taken in our last round of reviews, which is nice. I also see some concrete suggestions for specific tests, some of which we'll try to add. Heck, Cyril has already cooked up a new x264 encoding test using the latest builds with AVX support and more robust encoding switches. Maybe even more importantly, I've been able to gather a broader sense of what most folks would like to see out of our reviews. That big-picture reminder will help us shape what we do going forward.
Now, I can tell you up front that I can't incorporate all—or even most—of your suggestions into the very next round of reviews. The time windows we get for testing are pretty small, and some benchmarks are too time-consuming to develop; adding them right now wouldn't be practical. Still, I'm hoping to add a few new wrinkles to our suite. I also see the possibility for future articles, outside of the usual day-of-release reviews, where we could focus on some of the more intriguing or popular requests we can't address elsewhere.Thursday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... Report: Windows 8.1 expected in late October
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that Windows 8.1 would be a free upgrade for Windows 8 users. We also learned that a public preview is scheduled for June. Now, the guys at DigiTimes say they know when the final version of the new OS will arrive: in "late October."
At least, that's the estimate concocted by the site's sources. Those sources hail from notebook manufacturers, or ODMs, and they expect Windows 8.1-powered laptops to hit volume production in the middle of September. They figure the operating system will be released about a month and a half after that.
If Microsoft hits that target, then Windows 8.1 will come out right around the time Windows 8 did last year. (The launch occurred on October 26, 2012.) And that would all tie in with rumors about the software behemoth possibly moving to a yearly release cycle for its flagship OS.
In any event, DigiTimes' tipsters don't expect Windows 8.1 to be a magic bullet. The update is "unlikely to largely attract consumers into purchasing new PC products as there are already many third-party applications available to modify Windows 8's user interface and functions," the site writes. It adds that only a drop in OS pricing would have a "major positive effect on consumer demand."Latest Das Keyboard flavor features Cherry MX red switches
The folks at Das Keyboard have expanded their line of mechanical keyboards again. This time, they've introduced a model called the Model S Professional Quiet, which is based on Cherry's MX red key switches.
We know the red switches very well: we tested them in multiple keyboards not long ago. The reds produce neither an audible click nor a tactile bump when actuated, and their linear response curve means keys just slide down smoothly until they bottom out. The switches have rather soft springs, too, so they feel very light. (The actuation force is only 45 g.) It's like you're invited to bottom out with each keystroke.
Das Keyboard touts the quiet operation of the red switches, which it says is helpful in voice and video conferencing apps. The reds are also popular among some gamers. I can see the appeal in fast-paced strategy titles, where being able to repeat keystrokes as quickly as possible is important. That said, I'm not a fan of the reds for pure typing—the lack of mechanical feedback invites missed keystrokes and makes typing feel imprecise.
The Model S Professional Quiet is available now from Das Keyboard for $149 with free shipping. The keyboard has a USB 2.0 hub, media keys, a sleep button, and support for full n-key rollover via a PS/2 adapter. In those respects, the new model is identical to the Model S Professional Tactile Soft and Clicky offerings, which are based on Cherry MX brown (tactile, non-clicky) and blue (tactile, clicky) switches, respectively. The three keyboard variants all share the same external design, as well.Sharp adds three high-PPI notebook displays based on IGZO tech
Quite often, our biggest complaint about PC notebooks and tablets is that their display resolutions are too low. 1366x768 has become the norm even on systems with relatively large screens, and the blocky pixels are readily apparent if you've ever used a high-PPI display. Sharp is trying to address the issue with its IGZO LCD panels. The firm has already begun mass-producing a 13.3" model with a 2560x1440 display resolution. Now, it's announced plans to begin manufacturing three more IGZO sizes in June.
The 13.3" model will be joined by an 11.6-incher with the same 2560x1400 resolution. Since the screen size is smaller, the 11.6" panel has a slightly higher 253-PPI pixel density. (The 13.3" screen has only 221 pixels per diagonal inch.) If you crave something larger, 14" and 15.6" IGZO variants will be available with 3200x1800 resolutions. Those displays will boast pixel densities of 262 and 235 PPI, respectively.
To put the numbers into perspective, consider that a 1366x768 resolution would yield 100-135 PPI on the same screen sizes. At 1920x1080, you're still looking at only 141-190 PPI. As far as pixel densities are concerned, the IGZO panels are firmly in Retina territory.
High-PPI displays usually require brighter backlights to maintain the same luminance levels as their low-PPI counterparts. However, Sharp claims its IGZO tech has "increased light transmittance" and "lower rates of energy consumption." When implemented as part of touch screens, the IGZO panels purportedly suffer "less noise interference" than traditional displays, as well. They should be ideal for convertible tablets and touch-screen notebooks.
Despite putting a date on mass production, the Sharp press release makes no mention of design wins. The company could certainly use some; Sharp lost $5.4 billion last year, and it's reportedly seeking $1.5 billion in assistance from banks.Wednesday Night Shortbread
The Starting Five
Read more... HP's SlateBook x2, Split x2 convertible tablets due in August
HP has introduced a pair of convertible tablets with detachable keyboard docks. The most interesting of the two is the SlateBook x2, which combines a 10.1" display with Nvidia's Tegra 4 SoC. I believe this is the first Tegra 4 tablet that's been announced, and HP hasn't pulled any punches. The display has an IPS panel with a 1920x1200 resolution, there's up to 64GB of solid-state storage onboard, and Android 4.2 serves as the OS.
Like Asus' Transformer tablets, the SlateBook's dock contains an auxiliary battery. It also boasts a "full-size" keyboard and a clickpad with multi-touch gesture support. When docked, the keyboard and tablet measure 0.8" thick and weigh 3.1 lbs. HP's site doesn't provide dimensions for the tablet component alone, though. There are no battery life estimates, either.
At least we know how much the SlateBook x2 will cost. The tablet and dock will be sold together for $480 when they become available in August. That seems reasonable given the hardware involved, especially since Android shouldn't consume too much of the internal storage. If you need extra gigabytes, the SlateBook also has a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot.
Android not your style? You could go with the existing 11.6" Envy x2, which is based on a Clover Trail Atom CPU. Or you could wait for the August arrival of the Split x2, which will be available with more powerful Ivy-based Core i3 and i5 processors.
The Split x2 has a 13.3" IPS panel with a painfully pedestrian 1366x768 display resolution. At least the storage config is interesting, though. HP's site says the machine can be configured with up to 128GB of solid-state storage and a 500GB mechanical hard drive. I wonder if those devices are split between the tablet and dock portions of the system. Hmm.
Including the dock, the Split x2 weighs 4.1 lbs and is 0.9" thick. The dock houses a secondary battery, but again, there's no word on run times. We do know the starting price: $800, which presumably applies to a Core i3 config with a smaller SSD.
With Haswell convertibles expected toward the end of the year, it's hard to get excited about the Ivy-based Split x2. The relatively low screen resolution certainly doesn't help; I don't understand why HP opted for such an uninspired display. Of the three x2 convertibles in the PC maker's lineup, only the SlateBook ventures beyond 1366x768—and it's the cheapest of the three by far.AMD expands Crysis 3, Tomb Raider availability in Never Settle bundle
AMD's game bundling deals keep getting more and more tantalizing. Last month, the company added Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon to the mix. Now, AMD is expanding the Never Settle Reloaded offer to include even more triple-A games with certain Radeon graphics cards.
As part of this "Level Up" offer, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, 7970, 7950, and 7790 will ship with Tomb Raider in addition to other bundled titles. Also, Crysis 3 has been added to the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition's bundle. The matrix above shows which other games are included with which cards. AMD is being pretty generous, as you can see.
Now, customers will apparently have to jump through an extra hoop to redeem the additional games. Here's the skinny, in AMD's words:
Participating retailers will include an extra postcard in the shipping box that contains a code for the bonus game. The bonus code will unlock: Tomb Raider™ for the AMD Radeon™ HD 7900 Series, Crysis® 3 for the AMD Radeon™ HD 7870 GHz Edition and Tomb Raider™ for the AMD Radeon™ HD 7790 graphics card. These codes can be redeemed at the existing portal for Never Settle Reloaded.
This promotion is a "limited-time offer" that will run "while suppplies last," the company says. It also adds, "We expect [participating] retailers to come online next week as they update their checkout systems to support the new promo."AMD claims fastest mobile GPU crown with Radeon HD 8970M
Late last year, when the Radeon HD 8000M series was announced, AMD alluded to upcoming, higher-end offerings that would be out later in 2013. Well, we're now later in 2013, and AMD has just released one of those higher-end parts: the Radeon HD 8970M.
The Radeon HD 8970M features 1280 shader ALUs, an 850MHz core clock (900MHz with boost), a 256-bit memory interface, and 2GB of GDDR5 RAM that pushes bits at 4.8 GT/s. The chip can filter 80 texels and process 32 ROP pixels per clock cycle. All in all, AMD says the 8790M can deliver 2.3 teraflops of single-precision floating-point power and 153.6GB/s of memory bandwidth.
If this all sounds familiar, it's because the 8970M is based on the same GPU as the Radeon HD 7970M that was introduced a year ago. As far as I can tell, the only difference is that the 7970M was pegged at 850MHz with no boost state, while the 8970M can sprint at up to 900MHz if thermal and power constraints allow. As a result, the 7970M's floating-point power was a slightly more modest 2.2 teraflops, and other peak rates were a little lower, as well.
AMD claims that the Radeon HD 8790M outpaces Nvidia's mobile flagship, the GeForce GTX 680M, in major titles like Battlefield 3, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, and Tomb Raider. You can expect to find the 8970M in high-end gaming laptops including MSI's GX70, which couples the newcomer with an AMD A10 processor and a 17" 1080p display.Dell cuts WinRT tablet price to $299.99
Lately, tablets that can run the full version of Windows 8 have been selling for just under $450. Is there any room left for Windows RT slates? Maybe so—at the right price.
As CNet News reports, Dell has slashed the price of its WinRT-powered XPS 10 tablet to a paltry $299.99 (or $349.99, if you want the keyboard dock). That's down quite substantially from the previous price tag, which CNet News asys was $449. For what it's worth, Newegg is still charging $429.99 for the same device, sans dock.
The XPS 10 features a 10.1" 1366x768 display, a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of flash storage, front and rear cameras, a 28Wh lithium-ion battery rated for 10.5 hours of run time, and of course, Windows RT. It weighs 2.89 lbs and measures only 0.36" in thickness. The optional keyboard dock add-on feature extra connectivity and some additional battery cells; it can purportedly boost the system's battery life to 18 hours.
As CNet News points out, the price cut is probably a hint that Windows RT slates aren't "flying off the shelves." I'm not sure if the XPS 10 will remain at $299 permanently, or if this is just a first step toward a discontinuation of the device. Either way, I can't say the new price isn't at least a little tempting.Seasonic lists Haswell-ready PSUs
Add Seasonic to the list of PSU makers that have clarified their support for Intel's upcoming Haswell processor. The next-gen CPU's low-power sleep states require only 0.05A on the 12V rail, down from 0.5A for Ivy Bridge. Supplying that little current on the 12V line causes problems for some PSUs, but most of Seasonic's units appear to be up to the task. Here's the word from the official statement:
Our full lines of 80 PLUSR Platinum and Gold power supplies have been designed to be ready to meet Haswell's new technical requirements! The ultra efficient Platinum series, which also includes the industry leading true fanless models, and our long running, award winning X Series, which is now supported by the 80 PLUSRGold G series - are all Haswell READY! In addition, our 80 PLUSRBronze line up, consisting of the M12II-650, 750 & 850W models, is also compatible to be used with Intel's new Haswell Processors.
Seasonic makes a handful of 80 Plus Bronze and Silver PSUs that aren't on the Haswell-ready list; most are inexpensive models with street prices under 65 bucks. It's unclear whether these units have been confirmed to cause problems with Haswell or if they simply haven't been validated for the platform.
According to Corsair, incompatible units can prevent Haswell systems from waking up from sleep properly. The PSU can "latch off," requiring manual power cycling using the switch at the back. Ugh.
Fortunately, we expect motherboard firmware to disable the offending C6/C7 sleep states by default. Manual intervention should only be necessary if you're sure you have a compatible PSU and want to enable the ultra-low-power modes.Tuesday Night Shortbread
Eight is Enough
|Coffee Talk with Timmy Cook||21|
|Deals of the week: IPS displays, graphics cards, storage, and games||14|
|Which game is the new champ of PC visuals?||107|
|Intel-powered Lenovo Yoga 11S lands at $799.99||22|
|Pre-orders begin for Nvidia's Shield||38|
|Otellini: Intel passed on the original iPhone||84|
|Release roundup: Flash drives, Thunderbolt, and an arcade controller||17|