TOP NEWS
Samsung's 28'' display serves up single-tile 4K at 60Hz for $800
— 12:54 PM on April 17, 2014

Jeez. 4K displays are coming down in price like crazy lately. One of the latest introductions, Samsung's U28D590D, is now available through the Newegg marketplace for just $799.99. Yes, that's technically $100 over Samsung's MSRP, but it's still peanuts for a 28" monitor with a 3840x2160 panel. Amazon also has the monitor listed for $698.99, but it's not yet in stock. According to AMD's Robert Hallock, this new monitor supports 4K resolutions via DisplayPort at 60Hz using single-stream transport.

Thanks to single-stream transport, this monitor should be detected as a single panel when hooked up via DisplayPort. That may not sound like much, but it's a rarity in the 4K world, where the limitations older scaler ASICs cause many displays to work as two separate tiles. This tiling arrangement leads to the same kind of awkwardness you'd get out of a dual-monitor setup, and it's far from ideal in games. (Scott outlined these hurdles in detail here.) The Samsung U28D590D should be hurdle-exempt. According to Hallock, AMD "worked very closely [with] the scaler vendor" on this display.

What else? Well, the U28D590D has a TN panel with 170°/160° viewing angles, which are narrower than what you get out of the finest IPS panels. But the thing also has LED backlighting, 370 cd/m² brightness, a 1000:1 contrast ratio, a one-millisecond gray-to-gray response time, and support for "one billion colors," which is presumably shorthand for 10-bit color support. We've had a chance to look at some other 4K monitors with TN panels recently, and they look surprisingly good—good enough to make us overcome our usual IPS snobbery.

I'm glad to see 4K displays stray so far from their pricey beginnings. I also hope this surge of affordable 4K displays (and 4K laptops) will motivate developers to implement better high-PPI support in Windows apps. I wrote about the dearth of high-PPI apps and Windows' somewhat awkward coping mechanism five months ago, and we're still not there yet.

42 comments — Last by Srsly_Bro at 5:13 PM on 04/17/14

GlobalFoundries licenses Samsung process tech, grants AMD access to FinFETs
— 12:27 PM on April 17, 2014

As you may know, AMD's former manufacturing arm is now a part of GlobalFoundries, which manufactures chips on contract for multiple customers while remaining the source for AMD's highest-performance CPUs. Like AMD before it, GlobalFoundries is part of the Common Platform Alliance along with Samsung and IBM. The three firms share R&D costs and implement similar techniques for building chips.

Today, the relationship between a couple of those partners shifted fundamentally when GlobalFoundries announced that it has licensed Samsung's process technology.

The tech being licensed is the next major step forward, a 14-nm process that uses a new transistor structure known as FinFETs or, as Intel calls them, tri-gate transistors. Intel made the transition to FinFETs at its 22-nm process node and saw some fairly dramatic benefits in terms of switching speed and power efficiency (which are often two sides of the same coin in process tech discussions). Other firms in the industry have struggled to reap the usual power and speed benefits when moving below 28-nm process geometries without FinFETs. Most of these firms have scheduled FinFETs for the 16- or 14-nm nodes, with several delays. Meanwhile, even Intel has delayed its 14-nm process due to technical difficulties.

Samsung appears to have succeeded in developing a capable 14-nm FinFET process. Here's how the press release describes the technology being licensed:

Developed by Samsung and licensed to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, the 14nm FinFET process is based on a technology platform that has already gained traction as the leading choice for high-volume, power-efficient system-on-chip (SoC) designs. The platform taps the benefits of three-dimensional, fully depleted FinFET transistors to overcome the limitations of planar transistor technology, enabling up to 20 percent higher speed, 35 percent less power and 15 percent area scaling over industry 20nm planar technology.

At last year's Common Platform Technology Forum, GlobalFoundries shared its own roadmap for 14-nm process technology. During that same event, the Alliance members admitted that their manufacturing methods were diverging since their customers preferred customization over fab-to-fab portability.

Today's news, then, marks a change in direction. GlobalFoundries will so closely implement Samsung's technology that the two partners are once again talking about portability between fabs:

Through a proven level of fab synchronization never previously achieved outside of a single company, Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES will use a coordinated copy-smart approach involving materials, process recipes, integration and tools. The company will also run fab-sync test chips on a regular basis to ensure that the fabs are the 14nm FinFET process exactly the same.

GlobalFoundries confirms that this news means the end of the road for its own 14XM process. The firm says Samsung's process tech has two key advantages over 14XM. Samsung's tech is further along in development, so the schedule is more attractive, and Samsung's 14-nm FinFET tech provides better area scaling by cramming more gates into a given area.

This licensing arrangement instantly makes the chip foundry business quite a bit more interesting. Samsung famously manufactures SoCs for its biggest rival and a huge customer: Apple. Now, some or all of Apple's production could move to GlobalFoundries fairly easily, assuming something else (like a rumored move to TSMC) doesn't change the picture entirely.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this licensing deal will be AMD, who gains access to a capable 14-nm FinFET tech for the production of its future CPUs and SOCs. AMD's Kaveri APUs actually ran slower than their predecessors after transitioning from GloFo's 32-nm SOI process to 28-nm bulk silicon. Meanwhile, AMD competes most directly with the process tech leader, Intel.

AMD veep Lisa Su provided an appropriately vague-but-positive statement for the press release announcing the deal:

"This unprecedented collaboration will result in a global capacity footprint for 14nm FinFET technology that provides AMD with enhanced capabilities to bring our innovative IP into silicon on leading-edge technologies," said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of Global Business Units at AMD. "The work that GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung are doing together will help AMD deliver our next generation of groundbreaking products with new levels of processing and graphics capabilities to devices ranging from low-power mobile devices, to next-generation dense servers to high-performance embedded solutions."

If in fact AMD has some capable new CPU architectures in the works, the availability of a solid 14-nm FinFET process could be the final piece needed to restore the firm to competitiveness with Intel.

31 comments — Last by UnfriendlyFire at 5:27 PM on 04/17/14

MSI shows next-gen Intel motherboards
— 11:19 AM on April 17, 2014

Motherboards based on Intel's next-gen desktop chipsets are almost upon us. We've known they were coming for some time, but this is the first glimpse we've been able to share. MSI has released pictures of five boards from its upcoming family of enthusiast-oriented Gaming models. Although the images have been Photoshopped to mask the full product names, the boards are otherwise not obscured.

Let's start at the top of the line with the Gaming 9 AC.

We don't have accompanying specifications, but some details are still evident. Notice the M.2 slot next to the chipset heatsink, for example. Support for mini SSDs has been rumored for a while, so this inclusion isn't a big surprise.

The Gaming 9 AC has extra shielding in its bottom right corner, likely for integrated audio circuitry. MSI tells us its new Audio Boost 2 implementation is powered by Creative's Sound Blaster Cinema 2 software. The onboard audio also includes isolated circuitry, fancy capacitors, dual amplifiers, and additional shielding for the audio codec.

A separate image of the Gaming 9 AC's box reveals that the board has a Killer E2200 networking chip. 802.11ac Wi-Fi is included, as well. The wireless module is visible in the top left corner or the board.

Next, we have the Gaming 7, Gaming 5, and Gaming 3. Ready your scroll wheels.

These lower-end models have less shielding for their integrated audio, but they still fall under the Audio Boost 2 umbrella. M.2 slots and Killer NICs appear to be included on each one.

MicroATX offerings are conspicuously absent from the images we were sent. However, there is a Mini-ITX variant in the mix:

Despite its diminutive dimensions, this puppy still has Audio Boost 2 goodness, a Killer NIC, and 802.11 AC Wi-Fi. I also spot what looks like a CMOS reset button in the rear port cluster. There's no evidence of M.2 connectivity topside, but the low-profile slot could be tucked away on the bottom of the board.

More and higher-resolution images are available in the gallery below. This probably won't be the first early release of information on next-gen Intel boards, so stay tuned.

25 comments — Last by LoneWolf15 at 5:04 PM on 04/17/14

Micro-bots are spooky cool, could be used in manufacturing
— 9:57 AM on April 17, 2014

A company called SRI International, working as part of the Darpa-funded Open Manufacturing Program, is developing a series of miniature robots that can move around on circuit boards in order to perform various sorts of tasks. There's really no point in attempting to explain what the video illustrates best, though. Have a look for yourself. 

The mind boggles at the possibilities for these little doobers. They're already being deployed to build things in the demo there. SRI itself cites a number of potential applications for the micro-bots, including rapid prototyping, the manufacture of hybrid optical-and-electronic circuits, and tissue manufacturing for biotech. Since they track along circuit boards, I want one that moves around my PC's motherboard collecting dust and depositing it out of the back of the case.

20 comments — Last by Corion at 5:03 PM on 04/17/14

Nvidia GeForce 337.61 beta hotfix display driver released
— 6:36 PM on April 16, 2014

Nvidia just released a new display driver for its family of graphic cards. Bear in mind that this is meant as a hotfix, so caveat emptor.

In any event, Nvidia's beta display driver was pushed out to resolve the following issues:

  • Half display or no display on Dell UltraSharp UP3214Q/UP2414Q LCD monitor - [1453685]
  • Code 43 error message after installing driver 337.50 on a PC with Hyper-V enabled - [1495541]

Thanks to TR reader SH SOTN for the news tip.

Update: Hardware Canucks, Neoseeker, Overclockers Club, and PC Perspective have all posted their reviews of an earlier iteration of Nvidia's beta performance drivers that were released last week. Nvidia was claiming that its GeForce 337.50 Beta driver could deliver a frame rate increase of up to 71%.

To be sure, the new GeForce 337.61R Beta Hotfix driver released today supersedes the older 337.50 Beta driver, but these reviews will give you a good sense of what to expect from Nvidia's latest performance driver suite.

12 comments — Last by SCR250 at 4:55 PM on 04/17/14

AMD earnings previewed
— 6:23 PM on April 16, 2014

With AMD set to report its first-quarter earnings results tomorrow, NASDAQ.com and The Motley Fool have each written previews of what to expect from AMD on Thursday.

The Motley Fool had this to say:

Advanced Micro Devices has a reputation for playing second-fiddle to other companies in the tech space. In the PC processor segment, AMD has long lagged behind Intel's dominance of the sector. Yet even as Intel has been slow to realize the value of the mobile-chip segment, NVIDIA and other companies have been more effective than AMD at making a splash in the fast-growing space. Will game consoles hold the key to a better long-term strategy going forward? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Advanced Micro Devices over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its report.
Shareholders can't wait to hear AMD announce their financial results after the market closes on Thursday.

31 comments — Last by NeelyCam at 4:51 PM on 04/17/14

Ars Technica reviews Windows Phone 8.1
— 6:22 PM on April 16, 2014

Ars Technica's Peter Bright has written quite a treatise on Windows Phone 8.1.

With the addition of a slew of new features including Cortana, a Siri-like assistant, and Universal Apps, Mr. Bright concludes that Windows Phone 8.1 has matured into a worthy and capable mobile platform to rival Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

51 comments — Last by [+Duracell-] at 2:54 PM on 04/17/14

Wait, we're giving away $1500 in PC hardware?
— 2:46 PM on April 16, 2014

Man, I keep my head down for a few days, slaving away on a video card review, and the strangest things happen. This time, while I was preoccupied, the guys decided it would be a good idea to give away $1500 in computer hardware in exchange for dirty pictures. Err, pictures of dirty computers.

Man, there really is no good way to say that, is there?

Anyhow, I was just lamenting the other day how ye olde Damagebox 2011 is getting long in the tooth. Now, for some insane reason, we are sending several of you people boxes full of Kingston SSDs, clicky Cooler Master keyboards, and MSI motherboards and video cards.

And a really nice mouse. I could use a mouse like that.

There's a whole announcement page about it and everything, so I suppose we have to make good on this contest. Unfortunately, using rules that I wrote for use in a previous contest, the guys have made sure that I'm not eligible to win. I can't even enter my family members, which spoils one of the few natural advantages of having spawned an unusually large number of children.

Oh well. If we're gonna have to box this stuff up and ship it out, you might as well go ahead and enter for yourself. All you need to win is one of those dirty-computer pictures, apparently the dirtier the better.

Seriously, I need to vet this stuff before it goes public. Wow.

8 comments — Last by LordEkim at 11:47 AM on 04/17/14

Steam usage patterns reveal shameful number of unplayed games
— 2:16 PM on April 16, 2014

Raise your hand if you have a ton of unplayed games in your Steam library. If you're anything like me, you're probably mired in a bog of sale and bundle acquisitions that you'd never be able to play in three or four lifetimes.
 
If that's your fate, you are not alone.

Ars Technica has quantified a number of traits of the Steam gaming ecosystem using a new tool, the aptly named Steam Gauge. Their analysis mashes up a broad range of data, ferreting out obvious things like the most-owned and most-played games to some really nifty stuff, like crossing "owned" versus "played" numbers to reveal the extent of unplayed "freebie" games. There's a chart detailing the games with the most hours put into them, which brings up a lot of strategy titles one might not have guessed were so popular. For those games that offer both single- and multi-player components, they compare the time spent in each mode. The icing on the cake? Median number of hours per user and game, just so you can compare your own shame to everyone else's.
 
Let's say that I don't fare all that well, especially when it comes to the sheer number of hours sunk into Civilization V while a host of other games in my library remain virtually untouched.
 
Ars' collected data also reveals approximate sales figures for many titles. Somewhat against what I'd expect, even in indie-friendly and greenlit Steam land, the lion's share of the market goes to the big hitters.
 
This analysis draws from publicly-available data, but not just from Steam's stats page. Oh, no. The authors took it upon themselves to scrape data programmatically from a sample portion of the Steam Community's user profiles. Those profiles are public by default and include data about the games played and hours spent in them. In true geek fashion, they went at it with an Amazon EC2 instance and some scripting and database work.
 
Some spoilers: 37% of owned games are never played, lending credence to the idea that we buy far more bundles than we need. DotA 2's player base really is as massive as you've been led to believe, and Team Fortress 2 is still huge after seven years and the transition to a free-to-play model. I won't spoil the rest, but the whole article is worth reading.

62 comments — Last by jarom_antes at 12:01 PM on 04/17/14

Google buys Titan Aerospace
— 12:44 PM on April 16, 2014

Earlier in the week, Google bought solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace. For those not familiar with Titan, this is what they do:

Titan makes unmanned, solar-powered aircraft that can fly at 65,000 feet and act as “atmospheric satellites,” beaming Internet access to parts of the world that are underserved today by wired and cellular networks.
The immediate thought might be being able to surf the Internet at Gigabit speeds from the most remote locations of the world, but PCWorld hints that Google may have made the acquisition with more humanitarian goals in mind—like crisis relief.

17 comments — Last by NovusBogus at 1:53 PM on 04/17/14

What's next after Google Glass? Try Google contact lenses
— 12:29 PM on April 16, 2014

The wearable computing revolution continues. Credit Patent Bolt for spotting that Google has filed a patent to embed tiny cameras within contact lenses:

Today's new patent revelations cover the integration of tiny cameras into their future smart contact lenses. The user will be able to control the camera through a sophisticated system using the owner's unique blinking patterns.
Beyond being able to photograph and video record what you see, the contact lenses could go a long way toward helping the visually impaired.

10 comments — Last by UnfriendlyFire at 3:03 PM on 04/17/14

Major smartphone makers to integrate kill switches into future mobile devices
— 12:11 PM on April 16, 2014

ZDNet is reporting that Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft have all agreed to integrate a smartphone kill switch into future mobile devices.

While there has been resistance to the idea of a kill switch, companies have bowed to pressure. Starting July 2015, a number of heavyweights in the mobile device category have committed to introduce kill switches that let users remotely lock and wipe their handsets if they are stolen.
The kill switch is intended to be an anti-theft measure to prevent personal information from falling into the wrong hands in the event that people lose or misplace their smartphones.

21 comments — Last by faramir at 10:28 AM on 04/17/14

Etc.
— 11:56 AM on April 16, 2014

Hey everyone.

You might have noticed that it's a little quiet around here today. That's because Scott, Geoff, and I are all away from our desks on separate missions around the U.S.

I don't know if Scott and Geoff are at liberty to discuss anything yet, but I can tell you I'm at the AMD campus in Austin, Texas looking at some unreleased hardware.

Anyhow, the three of us should all be back at our desks tomorrow. We'll return you to our regularly scheduled news coverage then.

Apologies for the interruption!

32 comments — Last by Buzzard44 at 10:51 AM on 04/17/14

Intel reports first-quarter financials
— 3:58 PM on April 15, 2014

The numbers are out. Intel Corporation reported $12.8 billion in first-quarter revenue, $2.5 billion in operating income, $1.9 billion in net income, and an EPS (Earnings Per Share) of 38 cents. Thus, Intel's EPS beat analysts' estimates of 37 cents by one penny.

Notably, Intel's PC Client Group reported $7.9 billion in first quarter revenue. This was down 1% year-over-year.

Overall, Intel's CEO sounded upbeat:

"In the first quarter we saw solid growth in the data center, signs of improvement in the PC business, and we shipped 5 million tablet processors, making strong progress on our goal of 40 million tablets for 2014," said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.
Shares of Intel were trading up in after-hours trading.

31 comments — Last by Laykun at 5:42 AM on 04/17/14

Microsoft formally announces SQL Server 2014
— 3:24 PM on April 15, 2014

Today, Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella revealed more about its Big Data strategy with the announcement of the following products:

  • SQL Server 2014. This release completely brings in-memory capability to all workload – OLTP, Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence.
  • Analytics Platform System (APS). APS combines the best of Microsoft’s SQL Server database and Hadoop technology in one low-cost offering that delivers “big data in a box.”
  • Azure Intelligent Systems Service – a cloud-based service to connect, manage, capture and transform machine-generated data regardless of the operating system or platform. This is our Internet of Things cloud service that goes into limited beta today.
Nadella said that SQL Server generates $5 billion in annual revenue for Microsoft.

More about what's new in SQL Server 2014 can be found here.

19 comments — Last by tanker27 at 6:44 AM on 04/17/14

4K display, Radeon GPU team up in $1,500 Toshiba laptop
— 11:43 AM on April 15, 2014

With the PPI arms race raging on in the phone world, I was starting to think display makers had forgotten about laptops. Happily, that's not the case. Earlier this morning, Toshiba announced the Satellite P55t, a 15.6" notebook outfitted with a 4K touch-screen display.

The display is of the IPS variety, and its 3840x2160 resolution works out to a pixel density of 282 PPI. That's more pixels per inch than even Apple's Retina MacBooks can deliver. To top it off, Toshiba claims its screen bears Technicolor certification. There's no word on the color gamut or anything of the sort, but the company does say the Satellite P55t is "[i]deal for visual creative professionals and multimedia enthusiasts."

Under the hood, the Satellite P55t features a quad-core Haswell processor, up to 16GB of system memory, and a Radeon R9 M265X discrete GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. I don't see that GPU listed anywhere on AMD's website, although there is an R7 M265 with 384 stream processors and a 128-bit DDR3 memory interface. Hmm. Other than that, the Satellite P55t comes with a 1TB hard drive, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Harman Kardon speakers, and a built-in Blu-ray burner. Sadly, Toshiba makes no mention of solid-state storage in the specs list. Since this is a full-sized notebook, one would hope the hard drive is at least easy to replace.

According to Toshiba, the Satellite P55t will be available to purchase directly from the company's website for $1,499.99 starting on April 22. (Thanks to Engadget for the link.)

52 comments — Last by UnfriendlyFire at 10:23 PM on 04/16/14

U.S. residents can purchase Google Glass today
— 9:16 AM on April 15, 2014

Here's a reminder: if you have $1,500 burning a hole in your pocket and are dying to look like some kind of cyborg secret agent, now's your chance. For a limited time, Google is allowing any U.S. resident over 18 years of age to purchase a set of its Glass, uh, glasses.

All you have to do is head to this page and click the purchase link. There's also a form you can fill out, but that's only for folks who reside outside the U.S. and want to be notified about updates to the program. (Google says it's "working hard to bring Glass to other countries.")

The signup page doesn't have a whole lot of other info, but last we heard, today's promotion was supposed to be a while-supplies-last type of deal, and Google was planning to charge the full $1,500 (plus tax) for a Glass kit. Oh, and the kit was supposed to come with "your favorite shade or frame," as well.

20 comments — Last by windwalker at 7:54 PM on 04/15/14

Google updates its terms of service
— 6:16 AM on April 15, 2014

Yesterday, Google updated its terms of service. In so doing, Google has revealed that they in fact scan outgoing and incoming e-mails so that they can send targeted ads to you:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

Users of Google's services—just about everybody?— are encouraged to read and understand the new terms of service.

41 comments — Last by sweatshopking at 3:26 PM on 04/17/14

Rumor mill suggests Apple's iPhone 6 will cost more
— 6:15 AM on April 15, 2014

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has put out a report suggesting that Apple's next iPhone will cost $100 more. In a bit of irony, wireless telecom carriers are said to be balking at this development.

"Our checks indicate Apple has started negotiating with carriers on a $100 iPhone 6 price increase," wrote Misek. "The initial response has been no, but there seems to be an admission (by wireless firms) that there is no other game-changing device this year. We think Apple might be able to get at least some of the increase, with the additional costs split between the carrier and consumer.

It has been long-rumored that the next iPhone will feature a larger screen to better compete with flagship Android devices.

An official release date has not been confirmed, but signs point to a fall release for the iPhone 6.

58 comments — Last by End User at 11:00 PM on 04/16/14

Coverage of NSA snooping nets Pulitzer Prize for The Guardian and The Washington Post
— 6:13 AM on April 15, 2014

The Guardian and The Washington Post received journalism's most prestigious award on Monday. Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's surveillance program has led to the Pulitzer Prize being awarded to the two news organizations.

In reaction, Mr. Snowden said the event was "vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government."

19 comments — Last by The Wanderer at 7:00 AM on 04/16/14