TOP NEWS
Brydge 12.3 makes the Surface Pro lap-worthy
— 12:00 PM on March 23, 2017

Everybody likes Microsoft's Surface tablets. Everybody, that is, except for those who want to use it on their lap. The kickstand that the Surface uses to prop itself up works fine on a desk, but not so much when it's resting on your legs or any other uneven surface. The Surface Book's design alleviates this problem, but it's also larger, heavier, and more expensive than the tablet model. Enter the Brydge 12.3 hinged keyboard.

You might have heard of Brydge before. Its original design, a similar hinged keyboard dock for the iPad, was one of the first really successful Kickstarters. The new model is targeted at Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4 tablets, and it comes in varieties with or without a 128GB SSD. It's not clear how that SSD connects to the Surface, but it's presumably via USB given the "up to 600MB/sec" performance specification. The keyboard itself connects to the tablet over Bluetooth, and uses a USB port for charging.

The Brydge doesn't have a second battery or any extra connectivity, but it includes a trackpad and full backlighting. Brydge says the new 12.3 model is meant to be "the other half of the Surface Pro," and to that end, the dock matches Microsoft's tablet in both design and finish. In its most recent progress report video, Brydge CEO Nicholas Smith notes that a Surface Pro 4 with a Brydge 12.3 attached is both lighter and thinner than a 13" Dell laptop.

The company is taking pre-orders for the Brydge 12.3 right now on its website. The dock can be ordered with English, German (QWERTZ), and French (AZERTY) layouts. Regardless of the layout, the standard model goes for $150, while the "Pro" model with the 128GB SSD will set you back $300. The company is offering 10% off on pre-orders, so if this dock is up your alley, now's the time to bite. Brydge expects the keyboards to ship in May.

8 comments — Last by Growler at 12:51 PM on 03/23/17

Corsair One is an understated gaming monster
— 10:15 AM on March 23, 2017

A little over a month ago, Corsair started teasing its One compact gaming PC. The company sent out a couple of photos and promised a "category-defying new PC." Corsair has just now let the cat out of the bag with respect to the One's complete specs, and we're here to share them with you. All Corsair One configurations come with liquid-cooled Kaby Lake Core i7 CPUs, Nvidia Pascal graphics cards, and 16GB of Corsair's DDR4 RAM on a custom Z270 motherboard. An SFX 80 Plus Gold power supply powers the hardware, all packed in a compact enclosure measuring only 15" x 6.9" x 7.9" (38 cm x 18 cm x 20 cm).

The base model has a Core i7-7700 CPU, an air-cooled Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card, and a storage combo with a 240GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. The next two models up the escalator bring overclockable Core i7-7700K chips and liquid-cooled GeForce GTX 1080 cards to the party. Corsair pairs two different storage configurations with those base specs. The more affordable 7700-plus-GTX-1080 model comes with a 480GB SSD paired with a 2TB hard drive, while a pricier version comes with a single 960GB SSD. The top-of-the-line model trades away the GTX 1080 in favor of a whole-hog GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and uses a 960GB SSD for storage. Whatever the configuration, the machines all offer a front-panel HDMI port for easy connection to VR headsets.

Corsair promises that the One will be quiet under operation despite its heavy hardware and compact dimensions. Some reviewers praise the machine's speed, low noise level, and the fact that it's user-serviceable, though PCWorld points out that messing with the One's innards will void its warranty.

The base configuration with a Core i7-7700 and a GeForce GTX 1070 rings in at $1800. The top-of-the-line model with the Core i7-7700K, GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and 960 GB SSD lands at a wallet-flattening $2600. Corsair has the computers listed in its online shop, but all models are currently listed as out of stock.

26 comments — Last by DPete27 at 12:54 PM on 03/23/17

Futuremark adds Vulkan to its API Overhead test
— 9:11 AM on March 23, 2017

The list of applications that support DirectX 12 or Vulkan isn't very long, and the list of applications that support both APIs is, as far as we can tell, empty. At least, it was until this morning. Futuremark has just announced that its API Overhead feature test, a part of 3DMark, now supports Vulkan in addition to DirectX 12 and DirectX 11.

The API Overhead test runs through a visually-simple scene with an absolutely nonsensical number of polygons. The test keeps increasing in complexity until performance drops below 30 frames per second, piling on up to hundreds of thousands of draw calls. Once that's done, 3DMark records the performance level and moves on to the next API. Futuremark's test has both single-threaded and multi-threaded modes for DirectX 11, while the DirectX 12 and Vulkan tests are always multi-threaded.

We don't make much use of 3DMark around these parts, but having a single application that can run on all three APIs could be useful for troubleshooting, if nothing else. Testing on my own personal machine—equipped with a Core i7-4790K and Radeon R9 290X—I found that the test eked out slightly more draw calls per second in DirectX 12 mode (19 million) than in Vulkan mode (18.2 million). Of course, both were far ahead of the DirectX 11 results at 2.2 million draw calls per second.

Current owners of 3DMark should already have an update pending or downloaded. Those with an interested in getting some numbers from their system can pick up 3DMark at Steam for $30.

2 comments — Last by chuckula at 10:11 AM on 03/23/17

Fallout 4 VR will draw in wastelanders at E3 2017
— 5:00 PM on March 22, 2017

E3 2017 is just a few months away, and game publisher Bethesda will once again have its pre-show event to parade its newest and best games. Much like the first time Bethesda did one of those events, Fallout 4 be prominently present—but this time around, in virtual reality.

Bethesda showed off an early version of Fallout 4 VR last year, but the company's VP Pete Hines thinks the game is ready for prime time. Hines spoke to Youtuber Hip Hop Gamer, and said that Fallout 4 VR is "the most incredible thing you've ever seen in your life." Adding more hyperbole onto the pile, he said that "you can't even imagine what it's like, playing in VR and how realistic it looks." Check out the video, complete with a rather enthusiastic interviewer.

We can surmise that the release date for Fallout 4 VR will be revealed at E3 2017 in June. We're also hoping to find out for sure whether or not the game will support the Oculus Rift headset. Previous demos all used the HTC Vive, and with parent-company ZeniMax embroiled in legal proceedings with Oculus, support for the Rift isn't yet a sure thing. Once we've seen a bit more of the game, we'll see if Bethesda's open-world RPG could be the kick in the pants VR needs to hit the mainstream.

12 comments — Last by slowriot at 9:43 AM on 03/23/17

AMD publishes patches for Vega support on Linux
— 4:00 PM on March 22, 2017

Phoronix reports that AMD just published 100 patches to the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver, adding support for the company's upcoming Vega GPUs. Just a bit later, AMD also published 140 patches adding similar support to its RadeonSI Gallium3D driver. The patches represent a lot of work, seeing as the commits to AMDGPU alone represent "over forty-thousand lines of code."

As Phoronix speculates, the amount of code might owe to the fact that Vega is a significant departure from the previous Polaris architecture. The site says that the patches include support for video decoding using Vega's UVD 7.0 decode block, video encoding using VCE 4.0, and support for SR-IO virtualization alongside the more basic power management and 3D graphics functions. The RadeonSI driver is limited to supporting OpenGL 3.1 at the moment, but Phoronix speculates that AMD could make the driver ready for OpenGL 4.5 before Vega's purported May launch date.

The drivers list seven different PCI IDs for "CHIP_VEGA10", including the 0x687F model that we've seen referenced in previous leaks. This could mean that we will see a variety of boards based on the GPU. The drivers also list seven PCI IDs for "CHIP_POLARIS12", lending some credence to the rumors about an even smaller variant of AMD's current graphics architecture. 

15 comments — Last by cegras at 10:36 AM on 03/23/17

MSI brings custom GeForce GTX 1080 Ti cards by air and sea
— 2:30 PM on March 22, 2017

A little less than three weeks ago, MSI was teasing its Gaming X version of Nvidia's king-of-the-hill GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. If one card built around the fastest gaming GPU on the market is good, then five must be better. MSI will offer three different custom air-cooled 1080 Ti cards, a Sea Hawk model with a preinstalled Corsair CLC, and a Sea Hawk EK card with an EK waterblock for integration into custom water-cooled systems. These five cards join the company's already-shipping Founder's Edition model.

The Aero 11G OC has a single-fan blower-style cooler that's similar to the one strapped onto the GTX 1080 Ti Founder's Edition. The Armor version upgrades to a black-and-white cooler with a pair of MSI's Torx fans. The Gaming X 11G has MSI's signature Twin Frozr VI red-and-black cooler with customizable RGB LED lighting and two of the manufacturer's Torx 2.0 high-pressure fans. This card also sports a pair of eight-pin PCIe power connectors that could aid overclocking efforts, particularly when going for high GPU and memory clocks simultaneously.

Moving on to the water aisle, the Sea Hawk model comes from the factory with one of Corsair's Hydro AIO coolers. The Sea Hawk EK model trades the Hydro cooler away for a custom EK waterblock. MSI didn't post any specific info but judging by the company's previous Nvidia offerings, we'd wager that most of these cards will have core speeds above the reference 1480 MHz base and 1582 Mhz boost clocks. The company promises that the Sea Hawk models will offer "vastly increased clock speeds out of the box," too.

MSI didn't provide pricing or availability information for these five custom GeForce GTX 1080 Ti cards. We expect that the Seahawk EK model and its fancy waterblock will top the range.

11 comments — Last by cynan at 9:37 AM on 03/23/17

Snapdragon 835 press event previews potent performance
— 12:43 PM on March 22, 2017

Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 835 SoC is the company's next major revision of its flagship chip. The 835 is also the first high-performance SoC built on Samsung's 10nm process. Qualcomm recently invited a sprinkling of the tech press to its San Diego headquarters to take a look at a reference device built around its new design. The folks at AnandTech and PC Perspective both got some quality time with the new hardware.

The design of the Snapdragon 835 is a considerable departure from the 820 before it. While the Snapdragon 820 had four custom-designed Kryo CPU cores, the 835 has eight CPU cores arranged as a pair of four-core clusters—one for high performance and another with an eye towards power efficiency. According to AnandTech, the CPU in the Snapdragon 835 is the first design created under ARM's "Built on ARM Cortex Technology" license. The license lets vendors customize an existing ARM design rather than creating one from scratch. Qualcomm is tight-lipped about exactly which ARM cores it customized or what changes it made, but AnandTech's testing seems to indicate that the high-performance cores are based on the Cortex-A73.

Despite the fact that Qualcomm's latest CPU cores are only semi-custom affairs, the company is using its Kryo moniker for in-house designs. The Kryo 280 CPU in the Snapdragon 835 runs its high-performance cores at up to 2.45 GHz and its high-efficiency cores at up to 1.9 GHz, though only one of the clusters can be active at any given time. Qualcomm says that applications should spend as much as 80% of CPU time on the SoC's high-efficiency cores, making the 835 the company's most power-efficient design to date. However, the press didn't have enough time with the reference platform to quantify battery life or power efficiency.

There's plenty of hard performance numbers to go over, though. Here's the short version: the Snapdragon 835 is the fastest commodity SoC out there today. In PC Perspective's testing, Qualcomm's reference phone posted the highest single-threaded Geekbench score to date (outside of an Apple device), along with the highest multi-threaded score, period. In both metrics, the 835 is a fair bit ahead of the Kirin 960 processor in Huawei's Mate 9, so it seems that whatever customizations Qualcomm made have paid off. When we throw Apple's chips into the mix, even the relatively-aged A9 steps on the Android chips in single-threaded and browser tests, though that won't be a surprise to anyone familiar with this market.

Of course, a SoC is more than just a few CPU cores. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 835's Adreno 540 GPU is 25% faster than the Adreno 530 in the SD821. That's a huge performance uplift given that the company admits the GPUs are fundamentally similar. Qualcomm says its engineers targeted specific bottlenecks in the Adreno 530's design to improve performance and efficiency. AnandTech writes that Qualcomm also raised the peak GPU clock speed to 710Mhz, a 14% boost over the SD820's 624 MHz. Whatever the source of the speedup, the Adreno 540 appears to be around 30% faster than the 530, by PC Perspective's reckoning. Given that the Snapdragon 821's GPU was already faster than everyone else's (including Apple's A10 Fusion), that means that the Snapdragon 835 is currently the ARM SoC with the fastest GPU. That's great news for folks who are into mobile gaming and VR.

If you believe the rumors, Samsung's Galaxy S8 phone is due for release in about a month and should be the first handset to use Qualcomm's new SoC. Looking at the performance data gleaned from the preview event, the prospects for the S8's performance are enticing. Still, it's important to keep in mind that we know nothing about the new SoC's efficiency, and also that the final implementations of the Snapdragon 835 chip may deviate from the reference platform in performance. Head on over to AnandTech or PC Perspective if you want to see all the pretty charts and numbers.

51 comments — Last by ronch at 1:15 PM on 03/23/17

Google delivers a standing O of an Android preview for devs
— 10:30 AM on March 22, 2017

Last year's Android 7.0 Nougat release is only running on less than 3% of internet-connected Android devices, but Google is already charging forward with the next release, currently called Android O. The developer preview of the new version is available now. In a similar vein to Chrome 57, Android O is focused on extending battery life and throttling background tasks. Android's ever-evolving notification system is getting improvements and will now group notification content into app-defined categories called channels.

To keep background tasks in check, Android O will impose limitations on implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates in order to make it easier for developers to write apps with reduced impact on battery life. Google says the policy changes on background limits represent a "significant change" and that it "want(s) every developer to get familiar with them," which sounds to us like a heads-up indicating that the changes may break some applications.

The latest round of changes to the notification system offers apps the ability for apps to create what Google calls channels. The change should allow users more fine-grained control over each type of notification originating from an app. Google says the new system will allow users to "block or change the behavior of each channel individually," instead of just enabling or disabling the entirety of an app's notifications.

Android O will arrive with improved support for both new and existing hardware. Wide-gamut displays will be supported, as will the higher-quality Bluetooth LDAC audio codec. As for existing hardware, the musty old keyboard-and-mouse interfaces are getting some attention to make the Android app experience a bit more satisfying for users of Android apps on Chrome OS devices.

The new release includes a number of smaller updates like a new Autofill API, updated application windowing features, and adaptive icons. Google's Android Developers blog has a more detailed rundown here. The search giant is planning a deeper release of information at Google I/O in mid-May, but developers can download the preview version and get started updating their apps right away.

32 comments — Last by psuedonymous at 10:19 AM on 03/23/17

Radeon 17.3.3 drivers improve Crossfire in Andromeda
— 9:00 AM on March 22, 2017

AMD's latest update to its Radeon drivers is ready for download, and this time around the update addresses issues in a specific configuration for just one game: Mass Effect: Andromeda. If you're running BioWare's latest epic space romp on a multi-GPU Radeon setup, the Radeon 17.3.3 driver update is for you.

The update adds a new Crossfire profile for running Mass Effect: Andromeda in DirectX 11 mode. Adding "-RenderDevice.AmdCrossfireEnable 1" to the game's command line will fire up the game with CrossFire on. Texture flickering with the game in that same configuration should now be taken care of, too.

The rest of the update notes concern known issues AMD continues to work on. Issues specific to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands and Sniper Elite 4 are among those noted, along with continuing difficulty with flickering in World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Game-specific drivers are standard fare these days, but AMD went the extra mile to ensure that Andromeda is running at its full potential. Check out the release notes for the Radeon 17.3.3 drivers, or just go ahead and download them.

5 comments — Last by Jigar at 1:06 AM on 03/23/17

MSI's Ryzen motherboard catalog gets reinforcements
— 4:00 PM on March 21, 2017

If you've been after a Ryzen machine yet struggling to find a motherboard, MSI might soon have the answer for you. The company is launching its second wave of Ryzen motherboards and has a micro-site up for your perusal. Five boards make up the new releases: the X370 Krait Gaming, the X370 SLI-Plus, the B350M Bazooka, plus "Arctic" versions of the B350 Tomahawk and B350M Mortar.

Starting off at the top, we have the X370 Krait Gaming and X370 SLI-Plus. These two ATX motherboards are apparently identical aside from the name and the branding. The X370 Krait Gaming has the edgy design and shocking aesthetics that gamers obviously crave. Meanwhile, the X370 SLI-Plus appears to be a more "serious" offering for all of the businesses and professionals that need SLI support.

Whichever board you choose, you get four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting transfer rates up to 3200 MT/s and unbuffered ECC DIMMS. Onboard connectivity includes three PCIe x16 slots, an M.2 socket with four lanes of PCIe connectivity, and a pair of rear-panel USB 3.1 ports in both Type-A and Type-C flavors. MSI brags about its choice of the ASMedia ASM2142 USB 3.1 controller with its two lanes of PCIe connectivity, letting boards run two USB 3.1 devices at 8Gbps simultaneously. Realtek chips handle both audio and LAN duties.

Stepping over to the B350 chipset, the only wholly-new offering today is the B350M Bazooka. This micro-ATX board is part of MSI's Arsenal Gaming series and wears a stealthy black-and-metal color scheme with gray accents. The board looks quite nice, considering it's a modest offering. There are no surprises on this model, except perhaps that it offers both legacy serial and parallel port headers. You get four DDR4 slots, four 6Gbps SATA ports, a PCIe x16 slot, and an M.2 socket.

MSI is also releasing white-out versions of the B350M Mortar and B350 Tomahawk, both with the Arctic appellation. These boards are identical to their respective standard models, save for the new color scheme. The white LEDs on these boards could be quite a striking fashion statement in a suitably-colored case. Of course, all five of these motherboards have a Mystic Light header to control RGB LED devices.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like any of these boards have actually hit e-tail yet, at least here in the US of A. Keep an eye out, because MSI says they should be here any second now.

43 comments — Last by ronch at 4:47 AM on 03/23/17

AMD readies a fix for Ryzen FMA3 bug
— 2:30 PM on March 21, 2017

The first major bug affecting AMD's new Ryzen processors was found a couple weeks ago by folks using the open-source processor benchmark Flops. In short, certain sequences of code using instructions from the FMA3 expansion to the x86-64 ISA can cause Ryzen machines to hang irrevocably. That means that even software running inside a VM could force a hang-and-restart on a Ryzen host. Fortunately, just days after the discovery was made, AMD confirmed to Digital Trends that it has already identified the issue and that it's preparing firmware updates to distribute to motherboard vendors.

Originally created by Alexander "Mystical" Yee for his own purposes, Flops first appeared on the web as a response to a question at Stack Overflow. In the creator's own words, the app seeks to "get as many FLOPS as possible from an x64 processor." The software's first version was targeted at Intel Sandy Bridge processors. Mystical eventually updated the app with five specific branches targeting Core 2, Bulldozer, Piledriver, and Haswell CPUs.

It's the Haswell build that gives Ryzen trouble, as it makes heavy use of FMA3 instructions to extract maximum parallelism from the CPU cores. Loading up the Haswell build of Flops v2 on a Ryzen machine will quickly make it hang. Folks on the HWBOT forums leaped into action testing Flops in other scenarios to confirm that the issue is related to the Zen core. As a result, all current Ryzen processors and motherboards are affected.

It's good news that AMD already has a fix coming, although it's worth noting that the likelihood of encountering this bug in the wild is vanishingly small. Not only is there little software using FMA instructions (after all, they're only supported on Haswell and later Intel processors), but the hang is triggered by a specific series of instructions. Other applications using FMA instructions, including Prime95 and Y-Cruncher, aren't affected by the bug. Still, if you have a Ryzen machine, best go ahead and install those BIOS updates when they arrive.

44 comments — Last by slaimus at 6:12 PM on 03/22/17

Common Courtesy Day Shortbread
— 1:00 PM on March 21, 2017

PC hardware and computing

  1. Asus ROG SWIFT PG258Q 240Hz G-Sync 24.5in gaming monitor review @ KitGuru
  2. PC Specialist Magma Zen system review @ bit-tech
  3. Review: Razer Blade (2017) @ Hexus
  4. Andyson H6 800W PSU review @ JonnyGuru
  5. QNAP TS-431P SOHO NAS reviewed @ SmallNetBuilder
  6. Roccat Skeltr gaming keyboard review @ ThinkComputers
  7. Acer BE270U 27-Inch QHD/IPS monitor review @ Tom's Hardware
  8. Das Keyboard 4 Professional @ TechPowerUp
  9. The Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum review: a mechanical keyboard with Gateron optical switches @ AnandTech

Games and VR

  1. Report: GoPro is making significant cuts to its VR efforts @ Upload VR
  2. If Disney World had a shooter, it would be Ghost Recon: Wildlands @ Quarter to Three
  3. Wot I Think: Mass Effect: Andromeda @ Rock Paper Shotgun
  4. Cats and crafts in gorgeous Mineko's Night Market @ Rock Paper Shotgun
  5. Star Citizen swapping DX12 for Vulkan @ Blue's News

Science, hacks, makers and gadgets

  1. Saturn's moon Titan may have fizzy lakes @ New Atlas
  2. White dwarf flies around a black hole every 28 minutes @ Ars Technica
  3. HackADay Snack Pack: Ocarina of things, Room-scale 3D printer, Flexible quadcopter
  4. Do Gunnar PC glasses really protect your eyesight? Here's a four-year eyes-on review @ Windows Central

Tech news and culture

  1. After years waiting for Google Fiber, KC residents get cancellation e-mails @ Ars Technica
  2. Stephen Hawking will travel to space @ Slashdot (that would be so cool)

Cheese, memes, and RGB LEDs

  1. Topre RealForce RGB 108-key mechanical keyboard review @ PC Perspective
  2. Can you bull's-eye a womprat with a bean bag? @ HackADay (relevant)
  3. Blue Sky Science: why do fresh cheese curds squeak? @ journaltimes.com (I like squeaky cheese curds, but I can't stand squeaky green beans)

21 comments — Last by PrincipalSkinner at 6:27 AM on 03/23/17

Corsair Vengeance RGB memory throws on a dreamcoat
— 12:30 PM on March 21, 2017

Corsair is making the jump from monochromatic LED-illuminated memory to the full-boogie disco party stuff with its Vengeance RGB DDR4 memory modules. Corsair's rainbow-colored offerings compete with RGB LED-enabled memory offerings from Geil, G.Skill, and Zadak5. Corsair says its RAM chip screening process, built-in heat spreaders, custom PCBs, and XMP 2.0 support prepare the Vengeance RGB DD4 modules for the rigors of overclocking.

The lighting is controlled via Corsair's Link software and requires no additional wiring to clutter up the interior of a carefully curated case. The Link software allows the user to select colors based on simple preferences, or the lighting colors can be set to respond to inputs from temperature sensors, providing at-a-glance insights to system conditions.

Corsair's marketing materials specifically mention say the Vengeance RGB DDR4 modules work with Intel 100-series, 200-series, and X99 motherboards. The motherboard compatibility list includes a selection of Z170, Z270, and X99 motherboards and does not currently include any lower-end boards. Corsair says it is working on lighting control for Ryzen motherboards.

Vengeance RGB DDR4 modules are available in 2666 GT/s with 16-18-18-18-35 timings or 3000 GT/s with 15-17-17-35 timings. The modules come in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB kits. All kits are composed of varying quantities of 8 GB sticks, so buyers will need motherboards with eight DIMM slots to accomodate the 64 GB sets. The 16 GB and 32 GB DDR4 3000 GT/s kits are available now through Newegg for $163 to $300. A wider range of offerings is available through Corsair's online store.

16 comments — Last by Growler at 11:43 AM on 03/22/17

ARM DynamIQ makes big.LITTLE more flexible
— 11:00 AM on March 21, 2017

ARM's big.LITTLE scheme pairs clusters of hefty CPU cores along with groups of less capable, more power-efficient cores. The company is now taking the concept to the next level with its DynamIQ technology. The new tech grants chip designers increased flexibility in grouping cores of varying characteristics within a single SoC. This move has should net increased performance, power efficiency, and reliability. ARM says that some of DynamIQ's features are useful for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and VR scenarios.

The company's big.LITTLE technology previously required CPU cores to be arranged in clusters of up to four cores each in both the big and LITTLE portions of the SoC. DynamIQ allows chip designers more flexibility when setting up core configurations, like 1+3, 1+7, or 2+4. ARM's new tech also offers "substantially more granular and optimal control" over the cores. Each cluster can contain between one and eight cores with distinct power and performance characteristics.

A feature called "autonomous CPU memory power management" dynamically adjusts the amount of memory that's available to a CPU depending on the application. A game or augmented reality application might require all available memory, while a music streaming application could get by with less RAM, thereby saving power.

DynamIQ also adds special instructions designed specifically for machine learning and artificial intelligence. ARM didn't go into a lot of detail on this matter, but the company says users can expect up to a "50x boost in AI performance over the next three to five years relative to previous systems."

ARM says DynamIQ-based chips will be ready for use in advanced driver assistance systems for autonomous vehicles. The company says the SoCs will be compliant with ASIL-D, the most stringent level of automotive safety measures. ARM says a "low-latency port" lets the CPU communicate with the outside world with "up to 10x quicker response", potentially allowing a machine-learning application to make safety-critical decisions quickly. Meanwhile, DynamIQ's improved power efficiency should prove a boon for hybrid and battery-powered vehicles, where every watt counts.

According to The Verge, ARM has already licensed DynamIQ to select customers. The first wave of SoCs packing the new technology is expected to come to market in early 2018.

24 comments — Last by NoOne ButMe at 9:11 PM on 03/22/17

iPhone 7 family gets the Product (RED) treatment
— 9:20 AM on March 21, 2017

Apple's iPhone 7 family didn't step out in any colors flashier than rose gold at launch. This morning, however, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus join the long line of Apple devices that have gotten the Product (RED) treatment. Aside from the florid finish, these special-edition iPhones are internally identical to their more subdued siblings.

A portion of the purchase price for each Product (RED) iPhone 7 will go to support The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. (RED) iPhones will be available in 128GB and 256GB versions on March 24. Prices will start at $749.

Along with its special-edition iPhone 7s, Apple quietly noted that it'll be doubling the base storage of the iPhone SE. The 16GB and 64GB versions of that device will be no more as of this Friday. Instead, Apple's tiniest iPhone will house 32GB and 128GB of storage. Prices will still start at $399. We're glad to see the 16GB scourge finally eliminated from iOS devices with this move.

25 comments — Last by Chrispy_ at 5:55 PM on 03/22/17

Apple upgrades its 9.7" iPad and slices price to $329
— 8:38 AM on March 21, 2017

Apple quietly updated its entry-level 9.7" iPad this morning. The new iPad—called, simply, iPad—replaces the Air 2 at the base of the full-size iPad lineup. The new slate offers the same A9 SoC found in the iPhone 6S, a 2048x1536 Retina display, a claimed 10 hours of battery life, and 32GB of storage for $329. That's a significant slice off the Air 2's $399 base price. 128GB models start at $429.

The new iPad also offers an 8MP rear camera with an f/2.4 lens, capable of 1920x1080 video recording at 30 FPS or 120-FPS slow-motion. A 1.2MP selfie shooter resides on the front of the device, and it can perform HDR capture and 720p video recording. Apple will sell the new iPad with 802.11ac wireless connectivity only or with an LTE radio inside for on-the-go connectivity. LTE models will start at $459. All iPads will be available in silver, gold, or space gray.

41 comments — Last by tipoo at 4:06 PM on 03/22/17

LG puts a price on HDR with $1000 32UD99-W
— 5:05 PM on March 20, 2017

HDR is coming into its own in the television world, but the new color standard is just beginning to make its way into the PC side of things. Right now, each and every display that supports HDR is noteworthy. LG's new 4K, 32-inch 32UD99-W monitor was first displayed during CES earlier this year and is now available.

The HDR10-compliant 31.5" IPS display shows off 95% of the DCI-P3 color gamut across its screen. The 32UD99-W offers onboard color-space switching, a feature that'll probably come in handy for graphics professionals. Seeing as HDR is the headlining characteristic of this display, it'll light up your room a bit better than your run-of-the-mill screen. LG says that peak brightness should hit 550 cd/m², compared to the 350 cd/m² offered by most screens. The typical contrast ratio is 1300:1, an upgrade compared to the common 800:1 or 1000:1 figures.

While the 32UD99-W might be a great monitor for graphics work or watching videos, gamers might be put off by the 5-ms response time and 60Hz maximum refresh rate. The monitor does offer FreeSync support in the 40Hz to 60Hz range, and a Game Mode that disables any post-processing.

For inputs, the 32UD99-W offers a USB Type-C port, a DisplayPort connector, and two HDMI 2.0a ports. There are also two USB 3.0 ports as an added convenience. The stand offers plenty of movement with height, angle, and pivot adjustments. LG packed in a pair of 5-watt speakers in case you don't already have a set on hand. On the software side, you get screen splitting, picture-in-picture, and color and game presets via the included utility.

The LG 32UD99-W is available right now for $999 at BH Photo & Video, Adorama, or Amazon.

50 comments — Last by funko at 5:21 PM on 03/21/17

In the lab: EpicGear's Defiant keyboard and Morpha X mouse
— 3:39 PM on March 20, 2017

Even the most hard-core gerbils may never have heard the name EpicGear before. We've only mentioned the company once before outside of Shortbread posts. However, you've probably seen the name Golden Emperor International—or GeIL—when browsing system memory. EpicGear is GeIL's new gaming peripheral brand, sort of like Razer and Monster Energy. (We kid, we kid.) The company sent over two of its new modular gaming accessories for us to put through the wringer, and over the next few weeks I'll be doing just that.

This is the EpicGear Defiant "fully modular" mechanical gaming keyboard. It boasts a full-size 104-key design using EpicGear's own mechanical switches. Those come in purple, orange, and gray varieties, and they're compatible with Cherry MX keycaps. They also actuate sooner than Cherry MX switches: after about 1.5mm of travel versus two millimeters on most MX clickers. This particular specimen came with a full set of EG Purple keyswitches pre-installed, and it includes a number of interchangeable switches in the box.

Meanwhile, this is the EpicGear Morpha X gaming mouse. It is, like the Defiant, fully modular. In the case of a gaming mouse, that means that the external shell, the two primary switches, and the sensor can be swapped out on the fly. The company pre-installs a pair of EG Orange "medium" switches in the mouse, while a pair of EG Purple "pro" clickers rest comfortably in the box's foam padding, ready to be installed. The mouse comes with a PixArt PMW3360 sensor installed, but if you prefer, you can swap that out for an ADNS-9800 instead.

Look for our reviews of this epic gamer gear in the coming weeks.

9 comments — Last by thedosbox at 12:32 PM on 03/21/17

Qualcomm 205 SoC takes modern connectivity downmarket
— 2:17 PM on March 20, 2017

High-end smartphones with four or eight processor cores are great, but not every device in every market needs that kind of horsepower. Qualcomm's 205 mobile platform is designed to bring relatively modern connectivity to low-power and low-cost devices. Mobile phone buyers that want a no-frills device that works with modern connectivity standards might find a lot to like in the don't-call-it-a-Snapdragon 205 SoC.

The 205 includes 4G LTE connectivity at speeds up to 50 Mbps upstream and 150 Mbps down, as well as support for 802.11n Wi-Fi, though Qualcomm did not say if Wi-Fi is limited to the 2.4 GHz band, or if buyers can expect to connect to 5 GHz networks as well. The platform will work on 2G, 3G, and 4G networks, and is capable of Voice over LTE and Voice over Wi-Fi, so devices packing these chips should be capable of making phone calls as long as some form of communication is present. Qualcomm explicitly named India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia as target markets for the 205, though we suspect North American and European consumers could eventually see them integrated into some kind of connected device.

To power those low-cost devices, the 205 pairs a dual-core ARM CPU of unspecified provenance with an Adreno GPU. The platform includes support for a 3MP primary camera and a VGA selfie shooter for taking in images, and supports display output at "480p" at 60 Hz. The 205 platform is pin-compatible with Snapdragon 210 and 212 SoCs and supports "Linux-based" operating systems, which we imagine includes Google's Android.

If you're wondering why the Qualcomm 205 doesn't carry the Snapdragon name, thank the company's PR department. Qualcomm no longer refers to its SoCs as processors, instead calling them mobile platforms. Furthermore, the marketing department has decided that the Snapdragon name is heretofore reserved for high-end products, which the 205 definitely is not. The company hopes that Snapdragon will become a sought-after feature for smartphone buyers, similar to Intel's "Intel Inside" campaign from the 1990s.

Nokia's revamped 3310 feature phone is just example of a device that simply doesn't need the grunt that the latest wave of high-performance ARM chips can provide, though it is obviously not built on the 205 platform, which is only available to device makers starting today. 3310-like devices could reach consumers before the end of the second quarter of this year.

8 comments — Last by NoOne ButMe at 7:57 PM on 03/20/17

Samsung Bixby wants to guide you through the Galaxy
— 12:32 PM on March 20, 2017

Smartphones and connected devices keep adding new capabilities, and Samsung thinks users might need some help keeping up. The company says its Bixby AI assistant is designed to step in and help users in a way that's fundamentally different from the approach taken by Amazon, Apple, and Google. Bixby is the product of Samsung's acquisition of Viv Labs last year.


InJong Rhee, Samsung's Executive VP, head of R&D and Software and Services

Samsung says that Bixby excels in the areas of completeness, context awareness, and cognitive tolerance. Completeness refers to Bixby's deeper integration into enabled applications, meaning that Samsung expects Bixby-enabled apps to support voice commands for nearly everything that can be normally accessed through the touch interface. The company says that Bixby can be used along with the touch interface when the user performs complex tasks, too. Meanwhile, cognitive tolerance boils down to Bixby's adaptability when it comes understanding user commands, hopefully granting users more leeway with how they speak to it.

The upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone will be the first Bixby-enabled device, but the company plans to integrate the assistant into more smartphones and many other types of devices like smart TVs as time passes. Samsung says it will release an SDK to allow third-party developers to integrate Bixby into their own applications.

According to The Verge, Bixby is meant to exist not so much as a client to a database of information but more as a guide to mastering the often-obtuse interface of a modern smartphone or internet-connected device. Samsung's flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone is scheduled to appear on March 29, so we may know more then.

15 comments — Last by ronch at 10:35 AM on 03/21/17