TOP NEWS
Cherry MX Low Profile RGB switches arrive in the Ducky Blade Air
— 4:26 PM on January 16, 2018

Cherry MX-style switches make up the bulk of mechanical keyboards these days. That's a problem for anyone who wants a slim keyboard but isn't willing to sacrifice the smooth feel of typing on Cherry MX switches. Fortunately, Cherry just announced the MX Low Profile RGB keyswitches. The first keyboard to use the new switches will apparently be Ducky's upcoming Blade Air.

The new switches are just 11.9 mm tall (compared to 18.5 mm height of the regular MX), and as a result keyboards made using them can be that much shorter as well. Despite the 36% reduction in height, the key travel is only slightly shorter, at 3.2 mm versus 4 mm on a standard MX. The switches' transparent housings are designed for use with surface-mounted RGB LEDs. At first, only the "Red" linear variety will be available, with an actuation force of 45 cN.

Ducky Channel—known more commonly as simply "Ducky"—is one of the hardcore keyboard nerds' favorite brands. The company's Facebook page is proudly advertising the upcoming Blade Air keyboard. It uses a full-size layout including numeric keypad and dedicated media keys, and packs the MX Low Profile RGB switches. The Blade Air supports N-key roll-over over USB and uses low-profile floating-style double-shot PBT keycaps.

The total height of the Ducky Blade Air is just 0.87" (22 mm). In a rarity among mechanical keyboards, it can be connected with a detachable USB cable, or using Bluetooth. Given the keycaps in use, it naturally supports RGB LED lighting, and has a macro function of some sort. Ducky didn't say when the Blade Air would be available, or for how much. Considering the pricing of the company's other offerings, don't expect it to be cheap.

9 comments — Last by derFunkenstein at 10:08 PM on 01/16/18

Nothing Day Shortbread
— 3:00 PM on January 16, 2018


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PC hardware and computing

  1. MSI Z370 SLI Plus review @ bit-tech
  2. Cougar Immersa Pro gaming headset review @ Guru3D
  3. Seasonic Prime Ultra 750W power supply review @ HardOCP
  4. Razer Basilisk mouse review@ Hexus
  5. Cherry MX Board 3.0 review @ TechPowerUp
  6. 6-core/12-thread Core i7 for $200, i7-5820K revisited @ TechSpot
  7. Intel's 22FFL process improves power, cost, and analog @ Real World Technologies (Kanter FTW)

Games and VR

  1. How to keep a charity gaming marathon going for 160 hours straight @ Ars Technica
  2. Xbox's giant joypad for mega hands is coming to PC @ Rock Paper Shotgun
  3. Say hello to Stardew Valley's newest residents @ Quarter To Three (co-op will be so epic)
  4. RimWorld's next big update will be version 1.0 @ Rock Paper Shotgun (if you haven't already played this, you're about to run out of excuses)

Science, hacks, makers and gadgets

  1. Ice cliffs spotted on Mars @ Slashdot
  2. Coin cell hacks that won the Coin Cell Challenge @ HackADay
  3. Mysterious explosion of a deadly plague may come down to a sugar in ice cream @ Ars Technica

Tech news and culture

  1. Bitcoin conference stops accepting BTC due to high fees @ Slashdot
  2. After false Hawaii missile notice, FCC launches investigation @ Ars Technica
  3. Japan's latest sensation is a cryptocurrency pop group @ Slashdot

Cheese, memes, and RGB LEDs

  1. Say cheese: Kodak is jumping on the cryptocurrency bandwagon @ avclub.com
  2. EU's trade deal with Mexico could be ruined by 'CHEESE PIRATES' in row over manchego @ express.co.uk
  3. Khachapuri is a big, wonderful mess of melted cheese, dough, salt, and crunch @ bostonglobe.com (I need this in my life)

6 comments — Last by Redocbew at 8:01 PM on 01/16/18

Here's all of TR's CES 2018 coverage in one place
— 1:59 PM on January 16, 2018

Greetings, good gerbils. This year's CES may not have had the massive amount of announcements that peppered last year's event, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't a good amount of ground to cover, both figuratively and literally. After all, we produced 54 CES-related pieces. Our boys Jeff Kampman and Adam Eiberger were on the ground, and their walking around resulted in juicy info for a few upcoming articles. In the meantime, you can check out the entirety of our CES 2018-related news below.

Cases, power, and cooling

  1. Cooler Master extends the MasterCase and MasterBox case lineups
  2. Cooler Master shows new MasterAir, MasterLiquid, and MasterWatt gear
  3. Corsair's AX1600i power supply and Spec-Omega case hit the CES floor
  4. be quiet! displays its Dark Rock 4 and Dark Rock Pro 4 coolers
  5. EVGA teases its 2200-W power supply and Z10 keyboard at CES
  6. Deepcool shows off Electro limited-edition gear and Fryzen cooler
  7. Thermaltake celebrates 20 years with the Level 20 case
  8. Thermaltake Pacific CL radiators pack copper, brass, and steel

Displays

  1. Nvidia BFGDs take low-lag G-Sync gaming to the biggest screen in the house
  2. Acer unleashes the outsized Predator BFGD
  3. Asus ROG Swift PG65 is a big honkin' 4K 120 Hz display
  4. Viewsonic XG- and VX-series monitors cover all the bases
  5. Dell S2719DM and S2419HM Ultrathin displays are sleek and sexy
  6. Viewsonic shows off its pro display range with an 8K model

Systems

  1. Project Spark mini-PC packs a Core i7-8700K and a GTX 1080
  2. Live the high life with Maingear's F131 custom gaming PC
  3. Asus shows off a bevy of ROG gaming PCs and accessories at CES
  4. ECS displays diminutive Liva-series systems at CES
  5. Asus' PB40, PN40, and Chromebox 3 micro machines arrive at CES

Mobile computing

  1. Kaby Lake G makes an appearance in the HP Spectre x360 15
  2. Dell squeezes Kaby Lake-G into its slim XPS 15 2-in-1
  3. Lenovo outfits ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga with HDR displays
  4. Dell Latitude 5000 and 7000 portables get eighth-gen Core CPUs
  5. Samsung upgrades the Notebook 7 Spin with an eighth-gen Core i5
  6. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet brings a lot of muscle in a tidy package
  7. Asus lets loose a volley of ZenBooks and Vivo AIOs
  8. Acer refreshes its Swift, Nitro, Spin and Chromebook ranges
  9. Asus adds a handful of laptops to the Amazon Alexa ecosystem
  10. Acer's Switch 7 Black and 4K projectors make room for Alexa
  11. Asus' ZenPhone Max Plus has a big battery and Face Unlock
  12. Lenovo Miix 630 joins the Always Connected PC party
  13. Acer stuffs Vega and Polaris into its Nitro 5 laptop

Motherboards

  1. ASRock X399M Taichi squishes Threadripper into microATX
  2. MSI puts Ryzen into Mini-ITX with its B350I Pro AC motherboard

Multimedia

  1. HTC Vive Pro offers a higher-resolution window into virtual worlds
  2. LG's little HU80KA projector can cast a big 4K picture
  3. Sony puts a projector into a table and a speaker into a TV at CES
  4. HyperX hits CES with a wireless headset and RGB LED peripherals
  5. Sennheiser GSP 600 headset combines comfort and durability

Input devices

  1. Cooler Master's M800 Gaming Series peripherals are sleek and stylish
  2. Corsair's K63 keyboard and Dark Core mouse can go unplugged
  3. Thermaltake's latest gamer gear glows with RGB glory
  4. Razer HyperFlux mouse-and-mat and Nommo speakers break cover
  5. Prepare for lift-off with the SteelSeries Rival 600 mouse

Processors

  1. Reports: Intel shipped 10-nm Cannon Lake CPUs ahead of the new year

Storage

  1. Intel Optane SSD 800P brings 3D Xpoint speed to more builders and devices
  2. Toshiba puts 64-layer NAND to work in budget NVMe RC100 SSDs
  3. Dell unveils the ultra-compact Portable Thunderbolt 3 SSDs
  4. ASRock Ultra Quad M.2 Card puts four NVMe SSDs in a PCIe slot
  5. Mushkin goes to CES town with a host of M.2 SSDs
  6. Patriot Evlvr SSD provides speedy Thunderbolt portable storage

Memory

  1. Adata debuts new SX8200 SSDs and Spectrix memory kits at CES

Networking

  1. Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 router swoops in at CES
  2. Rivet Networks and Intel partner for Killer Wireless-AC 1550 chip

7 comments — Last by JoeKiller at 6:33 PM on 01/16/18

Intel Core i5-8500 appears in SiSoft database
— 1:00 PM on January 16, 2018

Intel's October launch of its Coffee Lake eighth-generation desktop Core processor lineup was highly caffeinated, but seemed to be missing the cream and sugar. The most obvious missing elements were entry-level and midrange chipsets to accompany the overclocking-friendly Z370. The existence of the low-base-clocked 2.8 GHz Core i5-8400 and the 800 MHz-hotter Core i5-8600K also suggested there could be another model between them. A database entry seemingly confirming the existence of such a chip popped up over the weekend. SiSoft's database contains results for a purported Core i5-8500 six-core, six-thread CPU clocked at an even 3 GHz.

The entry doesn't have a figure for the CPU's Turbo clock, but we imagine it could land somewhere in the narrow band between the 4 GHz of the Core i5-8400 and the 4.3 GHz of the i5-8600K. The page shows the same 256 KB L2 cache per core and 9 MB of L3 cache as the existing Core i5 models. The only difference among the IGPs in the Core i5-8400 and the i5-8600K is a 100 MHz bump in boost clock (1.05 GHz vs. 1.15 GHz), so the one on the Core i5-8500 could land somewhere in between.

The SiSoft database doesn't include any information about a locked Core i5-8600, but we wouldn't be surprised to see such a chip in the future. We don't know when more Coffee Lake variants are coming, but we imagine additional processor models will probably be timed to coincide with the rumored release of entry-level and mainstream 300-series chipsets sometime this quarter.

Tuesday deals: cheap SSDs, motherboards, and a sweet laptop
— 11:26 AM on January 16, 2018

Howdy, gerbils! Around here everyone's reeling from the CES rush. Despite the holiday yesterday, we're still mostly bleary-eyed, jet-lagged (in the case of Adam and Jeff who were in situ), and generally hoping to take it easy this week. Nevertheless, the computing world doesn't stop, nor do online hardware deals. Here's what we found for you today.

  • Despite the climbing prices of RAM and graphics cards, it's not too bad a time to buy a solid-state drive. We have two offerings from Adata today. The first is the speedy Adata XPG SX8000 512 GB drive. This M.2 NVMe drive should post sequential read speeds up to 2500 MB/s and writes up to 1100 MB/s, and can be yours for only $164.99 from Newegg if you use the promo code EMCSPEEV4.

  • If you need an affordable drive for simpler needs or just to upgrade an old system, look no further than the Adata SU650 240 GB SSD. This cheap-but-competent SATA offering posts speeds of up to 520 MB/s on reads and 450 MB/s when writing. You can get this drive from Newegg for only $64.50 if you use the promo code EMCXPEEV2. Note that you'll need a Newegg account to make use of this promo code.

  • Feeling the need for some Coffee Lake? We have just the board for your eighth-gen Intel Core CPU. The Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming has two M.2 sockets, Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, multiple RGB LED zones, and a Realtek ALC1220 audio codec. You can get one of these for only $139.99 from Newegg, and you can get another $20 back by way of a rebate card.

  • If your needs aren't so fancy and you're sticking with Kaby Lake CPUs for now, there's the MSI B250M Gaming Pro motherboard. Despite its lower price tag compared to the offering above, this mATX mobo still has an M.2 socket, a metal-reinforced PCIe x16 slot, and Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet. You can get this mobo for only $69.99 from Newegg. As if that price wasn't low enough, there's a $15 rebate card available.

  • The newer Dell XPS 15s are sexy beasts, but that doesn't mean that the previous-generation models suddenly turned into pumpkins. Currently you can get a sleek Dell XPS 15 with a 4K touchscreen, a Core i7-7700HQ processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 for $1,499 from the Microsoft Store. The machine also has a Thunderbolt 3 port for good measure. That's one heck of a good deal right there.

That's all for today, folks! There's a chance you're looking for something we haven't covered. If that's the case, you can help The Tech Report by using the following referral links when you're out shopping: not only do we have a partnership with Newegg and Amazon, but we also work with Best Buy, Adorama, RakutenWalmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at the Microsoft Store and Das Keyboard's shop.

11 comments — Last by Airmantharp at 7:37 PM on 01/16/18

Report: Intel TLC SSD 760p and QLC SSD 660p on the way soon
— 9:12 AM on January 16, 2018

TechPowerUp reported yesterday that Taiwanese e-tailer Autobuy had listings up for Intel's next-generation SSDs. The SSD 760p and 660p showed up on the site with full specifications. Autobuy has taken the listings down at this time, but the chart below—saved by TPU and reproduced with permission—has the full details on the new drives.


Image: Autobuy, via TechPowerUp

To start off with, the 760p looks to be intended to replace the Intel SSD 750. According to the chart, it will be an NVMe SSD in the M.2 form factor, based on IMFT's 64-layer 3D TLC flash memory. The 760p will come in capacities ranging from 128 GB on up to 2 TB. The given performance figures are impressive: 350K IOPS in 4K random reads, and 280K IOPS on random writes. The supposed sequential performance of the drives isn't bad either, at 3200 MB/s for reads and 1600 MB/s for writes.

Based on the information from Autobuy, the Intel SSD 660p is likewise an M.2 NVMe SSD, but it is purportedly based on QLC memory. That's right gerbils—quad-level cell flash memory. As a refresher, typical SSDs these days use TLC, or triple-level cell flash memory. TLC stores three bits per flash cell, which improves density over single- or multi-layer cells, but also worsens durability and performance compared to MLC.

Intel seems to want to maintain controller-level parallelism for performance, because the 660p will seemingly only show up in 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB sizes. If we are to believe the numbers supplied by Autobuy, the 660p's performance isn't as bad as you might fear, either. The listing specs the SSD 660p for 150K IOPS in both 4K reads and writes. It puts down the drives' sequential performance at 1800 MB/s for reads and 1100 MB/s for writes.


Intel SSD 760p listed at TigerDirect

There isn't any pricing data available for the 660p, but TigerDirect has listings for the 760p series already. Currently the site is showing the 128 GB 760p for $96, the 256 GB drive for $130, the 512GB drive for $235, the 1 TB drive for $448, and the 2 TB 760p for $893. Those prices and the purported performance put the SSD 760p as a close competitor to Samsung's 960 EVO. We should hear more about these drives soon, so stay tuned.

19 comments — Last by HERETIC at 12:17 AM on 01/17/18

be quiet! displays its Dark Rock 4 and Dark Rock Pro 4 coolers
— 4:30 PM on January 12, 2018

The show floor at CES was apparently too noisy for the silence seekers from be quiet! The company chose instead to show off its latest wares in a suite in Las Vegas, away from the actual show. Among the goods on display were the company's Dark Rock 4 and Dark Rock Pro 4 CPU air coolers, which TechPowerUp took a good look at. The similar names belie the large differences between the single-fin-array Dark Rock 4 and the twin-fin-stack Dark Rock Pro 4. Common between both units are perforations to increase surface area and a dark ceramic coating for improved heat dissipation.


Image courtesy of TechPowerUp

The Dark Rock 4 is a generously-sized but otherwise fairly conventional high-performance air cooler with a sextet of six-mm copper heat pipes. A 135-mm SilentWings fan whispers kisses into a thick array of coated aluminum fins. The manufacturer says the Dark Rock 4 is adequate for CPUs rated for TDPs as high as 200 W. According to TechPowerUp, the Dark Rock 4 will come with mounting gear to saddle up to HEDT sockets like AMD's TR4 and Intel's LGA 2066.


Image courtesy of TechPowerUp

The Dark Rock Pro 4 has seven 6-mm thick copper heat pipes snaking around within a pair of aluminum fin stacks. One of be quiet's 120-mm SilentWings fans blows on the outside of one of the fin towers and a 135-mm rotating air mover is nestled between the two stacks. Users can remove the 120-mm outside fan or add a second similar fan to the outside of the other fin array. The company says the Dark Rock Pro Pro 4 can cool down CPUs with TDP ratings up to 250 W and will support the major HEDT sockets.

be quiet told TechPowerUp that the Dark Rock 4 and Dark Rock Pro 4 would start shipping sometime in the second quarter. The company wasn't ready to talk about pricing, but we'd expect figures in the ballpark of the current $75 Dark Rock 3 and the $90 Dark Rock Pro 3, both of which have been on the market since 2014.

20 comments — Last by sleepygeepy at 12:52 PM on 01/16/18

Gigabyte, Asus, and MSI prep updates against Meltdown and Spectre
— 3:28 PM on January 12, 2018

Meltdown and Spectre are entirely new classes of security vulnerability. Even with Intel doing all it can to get microcode and firmware updates out as quickly as possible, there are also changes that need to be made in motherboard vendors' UEFI code. Fortunately, it looks like Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI are on top of things—as long as you have a recent motherboard.

All three companies have lists available of motherboards that have or will soon be receiving security-related BIOS updates. Glancing over them, it looks like the big three of motherboards will be issuing updates for motherboards based on Intel's LGA 1151, LGA 2011v3, and LGA 2066 sockets. That means motherboards using 100-series, 200-series, 300-series, X299, and X99 chipsets.

It's possible that your particular motherboard is not being updated, even if it falls in the categories above. Check the listings for your specific model, and then check the BIOS version of the latest download to see if it matches. Not all of the updates are available, so if yours isn't you'll probably want to remain vigilant until it is. Intel says it is planning updates for every processor in the last five years, so hopefully updates for older motherboards will also be forthcoming from these companies.

42 comments — Last by tootercomputer at 10:14 PM on 01/16/18

EVGA teases its 2200-W power supply and Z10 keyboard at CES
— 2:00 PM on January 12, 2018

Exhibitions like CES are a great place to find the largest, wildest, and most extravagant pieces of hardware on the market. This year's show has been no exception. At EVGA's booth, convention-goers were treated to a peek at a monstrously-powerful power supply. The model name of EVGA's new Supernova 2200 P2 PSU isn't a misnomer—that's an actual 2200W power supply.

EVGA hasn't made a full announcement for the product, but it did post to Twitter a picture of the unit’s label. Notably, the unit can provide 2,200W at 50°C. That’s 183.3 amps on the +12V rail. The Supernova 2200 P2 is fully modular, providing nineteen sockets total. Nine of those sockets are for PCIe cables, possibly indicating that this power supply is designed with cryptocurrency mining rigs in mind. The unit is 80 Plus Platinum certified, and takes a 200-240 V AC input, so don't plan on plugging it into an ordinary American wall socket.

While we're taking a gander at EVGA's booth lineup, the company also has a new version of its Z10 Gaming keyboard on display. As with the Supernova 2200 P2 PSU, EVGA hasn't made an official announcement about the keyboard. From pictures, we can see that it’s a large model with an attached wrist-rest, media keys, numpad, and macro buttons. The unit maintains the LCD display from previous designs.

Pricing and availability information isn’t available, but we expect EVGA to make a more detailed announcement about these products shortly.

25 comments — Last by TwistedKestrel at 8:52 AM on 01/16/18

Intel acknowledges Haswell and Broadwell reboots after patches
— 12:37 PM on January 12, 2018

We reported yesterday on Microsoft's suspended patches for the Meltdown and Spectre speculative execution vulnerabilities on AMD systems. It seems that the Intel has also run into trouble with the update on some of its older CPUs. Desktop users and datacenters have reported "higher system reboots," which we take to mean more frequent spontaneous reboots.

Intel says the problems are limited to some of its Haswell and Broadwell processors. The company says it'll work with the customers who reported the problem to "understand, diagnose, and address this reboot issue." The silicon giant is already discussing the issue with some of its large datacenter customers, and promises that it'll work with its partners in the event that a firmware update is needed.

Intel didn't say whether the reboots were limited to any particular operating system. Executive VP and GM of Intel's Data Center Group Navin Shenoy concludes the update by saying that end-users should continue applying updates recommended by their system manufacturer and operating system makers.

49 comments — Last by TheEmrys at 5:36 PM on 01/16/18

AMD will issue optional Ryzen and Epyc microcode updates for Spectre
— 11:00 AM on January 12, 2018

Now that CES is winding down, attention is returning to the response to the major vulnerabilities caused by oversights in the way speculative execution is handled in most modern processors. Yesterday, AMD's Senior VP and CTO Mark Papermaster wrote the company's first response to the developing problem since January 3. Google's Project Zero (GPZ) divided Meltdown and Spectre into three different classes of attack, and Papermaster laid out AMD's planned response to each. Most notably, the company will issue microcode updates for Ryzen and Epyc CPUs as a preventive measure against one of the Spectre variants.

AMD's chips are vulnerable to GPZ Variant 1 (Spectre, Bounds Check Bypass). The company believes this issue can be solved with operating system patches. The chip design firm says that Microsoft is distributing patches to the majority of AMD-powered systems already, and that problems with the patches on older Opteron, Athlon, and Turion X2 systems will be resolved by next week. The company says Linux vendors are distributing patches to their users, as well.

Things are a little different when it comes to the GPZ Variant 2 vulnerability (Spectre, Branch Target Injection). On January 3 the company said:

Differences in AMD architecture mean there is a near-zero risk of exploitation by this variant. Vulnerability to Variant 2 has not been demonstrated on AMD processors to date.

The company now says that while it thinks that GPZ Variant 2 is difficult to exploit on its chips, it'll still work with its partners to release microcode updates and OS patches to mitigate the vulnerability. AMD plans to issue optional microcode updates for its current Ryzen and Epyc chips this week, and expects to have patches for previous-generation products "in the coming weeks." The updates will reach end users through system providers and OS vendors. AMD will work with Microsoft to determine the appropriate timing for distributing Windows updates. Linux vendors are already distributing patches, and AMD says it's working with the Linux community to develop "return trampoline" software mitigations.

AMD still maintains that its processors are not vulnerable to the GPZ Variant 3 exploit (Meltdown, Rogue Data Cache Load) and that no updates are needed to protect systems from it.

Papermaster also notes that the company's Radeon GPUs do not use speculative execution and that no updates to its graphics drivers or associated software are necessary. He concludes the update by remarking that AMD will continue to work with the rest of the technology industry to mitigate Meltdown and Spectre.

27 comments — Last by just brew it! at 6:55 AM on 01/16/18

Intel promises speedy exploit patches in its Security-First Pledge
— 9:25 AM on January 12, 2018

Yesterday, Intel released an open letter, authored by none other than the company's CEO Brian Krzanich, praising the industry for its response to the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. In the letter, Krzanich expresses his thanks to other companies and groups involved in the detection, disclosure, and mitigation of the flaws, and explicitly names Google's Project Zero team. He then goes on to clarify Intel's "commitment to [its] customers," which refers to three pledges regarding continued exploit mitigation work.

Starting off, Krzanich says that "90% of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years" will have mitigation patches in place for the security flaws by January 15. He also promises that the remainder of those products will have patches out by the end of January, and then says the company will continue to issue fixes for older products "as prioritized by [its] customers." There are no specifics beyond that, however.

Intel's CEO then goes on to remark that Intel is "learning a great deal" from working on the mitigation patches. He says that "impact on performance varies widely" and that the company is committed to laying out progress reports and performance data like the results we reported on yesterday.

Finally, Krzanich pledges to release details of significant security vulnerabilities while "following rules of responsible disclosure." Intel will also commit to "[sharing] hardware innovations that will accelerate industry-level progress in dealing with side-channel attacks."

Considering the scope and impact of Meltdown and Spectre, we expect we'll be talking about about the exploits and mitigation measures for a while.

16 comments — Last by Spunjji at 6:38 AM on 01/16/18

ECS displays diminutive Liva-series systems at CES
— 4:30 PM on January 11, 2018

The Apollo Lake ECS Liva Q tiny PC we reported on back in mid-November is just now starting to show up in the catalogs of online retailers. However, ECS is already showing off prototypes of its Liva Q2 and Liva Z2 pocket-size PC replacements at CES in Las Vegas. The new models pack undisclosed SoCs from Intel's latest power-sipping Gemini Lake family. The company also had Liva One SoC and Liva 850 models on display.

Current Liva Q

The Liva Q2 machines are a little bit thicker than the current Liva Q models, measuring 2.7" (7 cm) on each side and 1.3" (3.3 cm) tall. The existing Liva Q has the same footprint, but is 0.08" (2 mm) shorter. The base configuration has an unnamed Gemini Lake mobile dual-core SoC, 2 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32 GB of eMMC storage, and integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Extra coin can net buyers a four-core machine with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of internal storage.

As one would expect from a PC this small, there is no way to upgrade the factory-supplied internals. Buyers can chuck a microSD card in the computer's reader for more cat picture space. External I/O is limited to a USB 3.0, a crusty old USB 2.0 connector, a Gigabit Ethernet connector, and a single HDMI 2.0 jack.

Liva Z2

The Liva Z2 isn't quite as small, but it does have a slot for a 2.5" drive and two SODIMM slots for memory. ECS was once again vague about the available processors, but the information it offered was missing the word "mobile" when it came to the SoCs. The machines come with soldered-in 32 GB or 64 GB eMMC modules in case buyers don't want to install a 2.5" device.

The port cluster is also larger, with a second HDMI jack (version 1.4), four USB ports (one in Type-C flavor), two USB 2.0 connectors, an audio combo jack, and Gigabit Ethernet. Liva Z2s also have integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The dimensions of the machine are not finalized yet, but they look to be pretty compact.

The Liva One SoC is quite a bit larger than the Liva Q2 and Z2, with a 7.8" by 7.4" (20 cm by 19 cm) footprint and a height of 1.7" (4.5 cm). The One takes this extra space and gives back a DDR4 SODIMM memory slot, an M.2-2280 SSD slot, a 2.5" drive bay, and lots of I/O. The machine can be equipped with Celeron J4005, Celeron J4105, or Pentium Silver J5005 SoCs.

The rear panel has a PS/2 port, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, two USB 2.0 ports, and four USB 3.0 connectors. ECS says the front panel hasn't been finalized, but the display unit has two USB Type-A ports and a pair of audio jacks. We imagine the company is mulling over swapping out one of the front Type-A connectors for a USB-C port.

The Liva 850 is in a different class altogether with its larger size and LGA 1151 CPU socket. ECS says the socket can accept Skylake-S chips, but we suspect Kaby Lake chips would probably also work. The system has a pair of full-size DIMM slots, an M.2 slot, and three SATA ports. The machine measures 13.4" x 11" x 4" (34 cm x 28 cm x 10.4 cm), making it much larger than the Liva machines we're used to.

We think ECS has embedded work in mind for the Liva 850 given the PS/2, serial, USB 2.0, and pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports that share back panel real estate with the more modern pair of USB 3.0 Type-A jacks. The company also made a point to emphasize that the Liva 850 can run Windows 7 32-bit.

ECS didn't provide pricing or availability information about any of the machines. We imagine the asking price of the base model Liva Q2 with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of eMMC storage will land close to the $139 asking price of the current version.

6 comments — Last by Chrispy_ at 4:40 PM on 01/16/18

Intel studies the performance impact of Meltdown fixes
— 3:30 PM on January 11, 2018

Intel and Microsoft have insisted that the performance impact of the Kernel Page Table Isolation fix for the recently-revealed Meltdown vulnerability will be much smaller than people feared. Now, Intel's released some hard numbers, and perhaps to the consternation of the "everything is 30% slower" doomsayers, the actual impact for client users on modern machines appears to be minimal.

Intel's testing was done using Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake CPUs on Windows 10, as well as Skylake machines running Windows 7. All of the test rigs were equipped with SSDs, although Intel also tested the Skylake-and-Windows-7 combo on a hard-drive-based system. The company put the machines through SYSmark 2014 SE, PCMark 10, 3DMark Sky Diver, and WebXPRT 2015 both before and after the vulnerability mitigation patches. The chart that Intel published presents results as percentages of relative performance compared to the pre-patch systems.

Ultimately the results trend close to the 5% mark overall. Many tests, particularly 3DMark, show a 1-2% difference or none at all. The worst-case scenario appears to be SYSMark 2014's Responsiveness test which sees double-digit performance hits on every platform except the Windows 7 setup with a hard drive (which actually sees a performance gain). WebXPRT 2015 also sees slowdowns in the 5-10% range, but otherwise the differences are pretty minimal.

The published results summarize the speed hit that client users on recent platforms are likely to see. Intel says it plans to prepare a "representative" data set of results for hardware released within the last five years that should likely cover most active systems in the field today. Other reports have placed the performance impact for big servers and datacenters much higher, though. For now, you can click here and see Intel's chart for yourself.

53 comments — Last by Bauxite at 12:11 PM on 01/16/18

Sony puts a projector into a table and a speaker into a TV at CES
— 2:23 PM on January 11, 2018

Big, bright screens are a huge part of CES every year, and 2018 is no different. Sony has long been a provider of high-end televisions, and this year it has a few different products on offer at the show, each interesting in its own right. The highlights include a short-throw projector and a pair of big televisions.

Up first is the LSPX-A1 4K Ultra Short-Throw Projector.  As part of Sony's Life Space UX line, this projector is meant to disappear into your living room—despite the clunky name. This short-throw projector will sit right in front of the wall it's going to light up. With that in mind, Sony is making the projector look like a piece of furniture. It has an artificial marble top and half-mirror-finished aluminum frame, as well as a wooden shelf to store your components.

When in use, this projector can display 4K HDR content in a size up to 120" diagonally. To further help hide cords, the unit has speakers and a subwoofer to deliver audio without the need for additional speakers.

On the more traditional side of things are the A8F Series OLED and the X900F series TVs. Both are 4K HDR-compatible sets powered by Sony's X1 Extreme processor. For you HDR nuts, both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision standards are supported. Most interesting, though, is the inclusion of Sony's Acoustic Surface tech on the A8F models. Instead of traditional speakers built into the TV's bottom or back, the screen itself is the speaker by way of vibration. Sony says this tech can make sound seem as if it's coming directly from the source on the television, such as a speaking person's mouth.

On the more traditional LED side of things, the X900F will be available sizes from 49" to 85". Sony says the highlight of this panel is its X-Motion Clarity motion enhancement technology, which "keeps fast action images smooth and lifelike." That sounds like an improved version of the motion-enhancement effects we've been seeing on TVs for years, known colloquially as the soap opera effect.

Sony also has on display a prototype version of its X1 Ultimate picture processor, which it says has twice the processing power of the current X1 Extreme. The company will be showcasing it in an 8K HDR display with a peak brightness of 10,000 nits. Bring your sunglasses.

Sony isn't talking pricing on any of these just yet, but says the projector will be available this spring. We're guessing at a similar time frame for the televisions.

6 comments — Last by albundy at 11:01 PM on 01/12/18

Thermaltake's latest gamer gear glows with RGB glory
— 1:00 PM on January 11, 2018

It seems like you're not a computer hardware company if you're not peddling peripherals, these days. Thermaltake is no exception to the keyboard-and-mouse fever, and it's got some new hardware to show off at CES. The TT Premium X1 RGB mechanical keyboard, the Iris Optical RGB gaming mouse, and the Draconem RGB Touch Edition mouse pad are all debuting at the show. Thermaltake's also got a new 80 Plus Platinum-certified power supply line which we'll look at in a moment.

The X1 keyboard is a full-featured high-end mechanical gaming keyboard. It comes in versions with Cherry MX Blue and MX Speed Silver keyswitches. There are dedicated buttons for its lighting and media controls, as well as a roller for volume control. You can configure the lighting and macro functions on a per-key basis using Thermaltake's X1 software. You also can sync the light show with other Thermaltake hardware. As usual with fancy keyboards, the X1 supports N-key roll-over through USB.

There are a few features on the X1 that make it a little more interesting than the usual RGB LED-equipped mechanical gaming keyboard. The wrist-rest snaps onto the frame magnetically, so you don't have to worry about clips wearing down. The X1 also has audio and USB pass-through built-in, which is real handy for LAN types like myself. There's also a companion X1 mobile app that you can use to toggle macro sets and control the RGB LED lighting. It supports voice control for these features and also allows you to use your smartphone as a virtual gamepad for your PC.

In contrast to the very fancy X1 keyboard, the Iris mouse is decidedly more of a budget product—not that that's a bad thing. It's an RGB LED-equipped optical gaming mouse with six programmable buttons. The Iris uses an entry-level PixArt PMW3325 sensor that tops out at 5000 DPI. Thermaltake says the Iris supports on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment in 100-DPI steps. Users can customize the RGB LED lighting separately between the logo and the rim that traces the sides and back of the mouse.

Thermaltake has been selling RGB LED mousepads under the Draconem name for over a year. The new one is interesting in that it has added functionality beyond being beautiful, though: it has a fingerprint sensor built in. The Draconem RGB Touch Edition is a hard-surface-type mouse mat with RGB LED illumination around the rim, and in the center of the control box at the top rests a fingerprint sensor powered by Synaptics' IronVeil tech. Thermaltake remarks that the sensor is FIDO-certified and suggests that it could be used for system login or website access.

Finally, Thermaltake's also showing some new power supplies at CES. The Toughpower iRGB Plus Platinum Power Supply TT Premium Edition are fully-modular power supplies that are available with 850 W, 1050 W, and 1200 W load ratings. Owners can use the DPS G local, web, or mobile apps to monitor the performance and condition of the units and control the seven-mode RGB LED lighting built into the fan. Thermaltake warranties the new PSUs for ten years.

Even though the company is only now unveiling them, the X1 keyboards are already available from Thermaltake's site. The version with Cherry MX Blue switches costs $130, while the MX Speed Silver version costs a little more at $140. The Iris Optical RGB mouse and Draconem RGB Touch Edition don't appear to be available, but Thermaltake expects the mouse to cost $30 and the fingerprint-recognizing mousepad to go for $50. Thermaltake hasn't released pricing for the new power supplies yet.

6 comments — Last by DPete27 at 9:05 AM on 01/12/18

Microsoft resumes Spectre and Meltdown patches for AMD systems
— 12:00 PM on January 11, 2018

AMD's processors don't appear to have the exact same attack surface for the Spectre and Meltdown speculative execution vulnerabilities that Intel's chips have, but the systems with red beating hearts still need updates. Recently, a Microsoft Windows patch for the forementioned exploits caused boot failures on some AMD machines. After a temporary stoppage, Microsoft has now resumed pushing the update.

The update in question is KB4056892. It was suspended on all AMD systems on January 3 after reports of machines going into an unbootable state after application of the patch. The company determined that the problem was limited only to the oldest AMD Athlon X2-era systems capable of running Windows 10. The software company resumed updating newer AMD systems yesterday and says it will have a fix in place for older systems still not receiving the patch within a week.

According to Paul Lilly at PC Gamer, Microsoft blames errors in AMD's documentation rather than anything within its patch. The software giant reportedly said that "[it] has received reports of some AMD devices getting into an unbootable state after installation of recent Windows operating system security updates. After investigating, Microsoft determined that some AMD chipsets do not conform to the documentation previously provided to Microsoft to develop the Windows operating system mitigations to protect against the chipset vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown."

For its part, AMD responded to The Verge earlier this week, stating that it's aware of the issue and that both companies "have been working on an update to resolve the issue and expect it to begin rolling out again for those impacted shortly."

Whatever the cause, most AMD-powered systems are now receiving updates and those that aren't should be getting them soon.

64 comments — Last by Walkintarget at 8:25 AM on 01/16/18

Thursday deals: a sweet Z370 mobo, cheap RAM, and more
— 10:36 AM on January 11, 2018

Howdy, gerbils! The product announcements at CES died down a little after the huge rush in the first couple days of this week, and that means it's time for hardware deals. Check out what we found today.

  • Need a home for your Coffee Lake CPU? The Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 is as welcoming an abode as you'll find. This board has metal-reinforced PCIe slots, Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and multiple RGB LED zones. You can get one for only $169.99 from Newegg, and there's a $20 rebate card on offer, too.

  • Memory prices are sky-high these days, so a deal on a nice pack o' RAM is a welcome sight. The G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB kit with two 8 GB DIMMs clocked at 3200 MT/s is currently going for $172.54 at Newegg if you use the promo code EMCXEEX28. Get'em while they're hot.

  • Happiness is having a high-quality power supply, like the Corsair RM750X. This box o' watts is powerful, cool, and extremely quiet. You can get one for a mere $99.98 from Newegg if you use the promo code EMCPEPU29 (ends today, so hurry up). As if that wasn't enough, you can get $20 back by way of a rebate card.

  • Big monitors are always handy, like the LG 29UB55-B ultra-wide display. This IPS monitor has a 21:9 aspect ratio, a resolution of 2560x1080, and should cover 100% of the sRGB color space. There's also a pair of built-in speakers, and the included stand allows for height and tilt adjustments. Add this big display to your desk for $199.99 from Newegg. There's an extra $20 dangling off a rebate card, too.

  • Last but by no means least, a great deal on a very competent rodent. The SteelSeries Rival 310 mouse has the same TrueMove3 sensor as the company's fancier mice, six buttons, and can be yours for $47.99 from Amazon.

That's all for today, folks! There's a chance you're looking for something we haven't covered. If that's the case, you can help The Tech Report by using the following referral links when you're out shopping: not only do we have a partnership with Newegg and Amazon, but we also work with Best Buy, Adorama, RakutenWalmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at the Microsoft Store and Das Keyboard's shop.

11 comments — Last by ColeLT1 at 8:44 AM on 01/12/18

Samsung juices its HBM2 to 2.4 GT/s and names it Aquabolt
— 9:00 AM on January 11, 2018

Late yesterday evening (or late this morning, in Seoul) Samsung announced that it's stepped up the speed of its HBM2 memory offerings from 1.6 GT/s to 2.4 GT/s. The speed increase comes without a change in supply voltage unlike the 2.0 GT/s intermediate step that required 1.35 V rather than the standard 1.2 V input. Samsung has apparently decided to call the new memory Aquabolt.

The step up in speed results in a total bandwidth per package of 307 GB/s. As Samsung points out, using four Aquabolt HBM2 packages would result in a total bandwidth of about 1.2 TB/s. The company says it worked hard to overcome challenges in managing both clock skews and thermal output with the new packages. Samsung also says that the new Aquabolt packages are also more durable than the last-generation chips as a result of the improved design.

The 50% jump in transfer rate would boost a Vega M GH chip from 205 GB/s to the aforementioned 307 GB/s—nearly matching a brand-new Xbox One X. The press release doesn't actually say when Aquabolt will be available to vendors, but it does say that the new memory is "in mass production." We'd take that to mean that we could see products using these parts later this year.

Speaking of the previous-generation offerings, along with this announcement comes the interesting tidbit that Samsung's previous HBM2 was called Flarebolt. The earliest mention we can find of that name is a US trademark filing from December 12 last year, so it's probably safe to say that Samsung has only recently decided to start branding its HBM offerings. Whatever the names, we're always happy to see faster RAM.

20 comments — Last by drfish at 9:18 AM on 01/12/18

ASRock Ultra Quad M.2 Card puts four NVMe SSDs in a PCIe slot
— 4:30 PM on January 10, 2018

These days there are motherboards out there with three, four, and even five M.2 sockets. Most boards only have one or two, though. If you've got a need for a bundle of NVMe storage, something like the ASRock Ultra Quad M.2 card is probably what you'll want. This card is covered in an attractive brushed-aluminum heatsink parted by a 50-mm centrifugal fan. Inside, there are four M.2 sockets. The good folks at TechPowerUp got a close look at the card at CES, and here it is in all its glory.


Photo: TechPowerUp

ASRock makes direct comparisons to the similar Asus Hyper M.2 x16 Card. The differences in the two cards are subtle but significant. The ASRock product has a slightly larger fan, and it takes power from a 6-pin PCIe power connector. It also mounts its M.2 sockets differently—the Asus card mounts the drives parallel to the PCI Express slot, while the ASRock Ultra Quad M.2 has the sockets angled from the bottom.


Slide from ASRock, via TechPowerUp

The arrangement of the M.2 sockets is supposedly superior in that it minimizes trace distance from the sockets to the PCIe slot, according to ASRock. The back panel of the card has activity lights for all four sockets, and ventilation for the heat that four NVMe drives are likely to produce. ASRock includes thermal pads attached to the heatsink over the M.2 sockets. The Ultra Quad card also has a configuration utility to control fan speed.

It's worth noting that these cards will not work fully in most desktop motherboards. There's no PCIe switch on board, so your motherboard has to support PCIe bifurcation. That feature is common on the high-end desktop platforms, and indeed ASRock recommends the card as an NVMe RAID solution for Intel X299 and AMD X399 systems. According to TechPowerUp, ASRock expects the Ultra Quad M.2 to go for $70 when it launches.

24 comments — Last by msroadkill612 at 5:03 AM on 01/16/18