|Aorus' GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Edition 8G graphics card reviewed||26|
|The Tech Report System Guide: February 2017 edition||52|
|SteelSeries' Apex M500 keyboard reviewed||25|
Nvidia just announced a new partnership with the Tokyo Institute of Technology to create what it calls Japan's fastest AI supercomputer. The machine will be known as TSUBAME3.0, and predictably, this will be the third iteration of the TSUBAME cluster design. The 3.0 version will use Broadwell-EP Xeons in combination with Nvidia Tesla P100 accelerators to achieve an expected 12.2 PFLOPS of double-precision throughput. Nvidia says the new cluster will operate alongside the existing TSUBAME2.5 machine (which uses over four thousand Tesla K20X cards) to crunch up to 64.3 PFLOPS for AI work.
TSUBAME is actually an acronym. According to the project's website, it stands for "Tokyo-tech Supercomputer and UBiquitously Accessible Mass-storage Environment." It's also a Japanese word that refers to the swallow. Next Platform reports that TSUBAME3.0 will use 540 blades designed by HP Enterprise, each equipped with four Tesla P100 processors and two Xeon E5-2680 v4 chips. Each node will have 1.08 PB of storage and 256GB of main memory, plus the 64GB of HBM2 between the four Tesla chips.
If it reaches its performance targets, TSUBAME3.0 will end up in the top 10 of the Top500 list. The existing TSUBAME 2.5 machine sits at 40th place in the current ranking. Way back in 2008, the original TSUBAME machine was one of the first to combine x86 CPUs with Nvidia Tesla compute accelerators to achieve massive number-crunching throughput. At that time, it reached 29th in the Top500 list with floating-point throughput of 77.48 TFLOPS. Times sure have changed.Master of Shapes brings Vive tracking to Daydream VR
The dev kit for HTC's Vive Tracker peripheral is already a hot commodity among virtual reality developers. The company says it's received 2300 requests for an allotment of 1000 dev kits. A team called Master of Shapes just might make the peripheral even more popular, this time for owners of Google's Daydream View VR headset. The team says it has used the Vive Tracker to create a room-scale VR experience for the affordable Daydream platform.
The company's blog explains some of the work behind this novel accomplishment. The team produced a 3D-printed mounting system for the front of the Daydream View headset and ported its Cover Me Vive Tracker demo to Daydream before gluing it all together in room-scale virtual space. The Vive Tracker requires the standard HTC Vive's sensor array, so some setup and extra hardware is still required for a room-scale experience.
The original purpose of the Vive Tracker was to bring position data from real-world objects into the VR space. The first demonstrations of the device focused on bringing baseball bats and weapons into VR experiences, but Master of Shapes' room-scale hack shows the open potential for the platform.
Master of Shapes had access to the kit in advance of January's Consumer Electronics Show, and it first demonstrated a multiplayer game called Cover Me that uses an HTC Vive in conjunction with a smartphone and a Vive Tracker to allow additional players to participate in the game without the need for multiple high-end PCs and Vive headsets. TR Editor-in-Chief Jeff Kampman and business guy Adam Eiberger had a chance to experience the Vive version of Cover Me at CES, and they were impressed by the multiplayer experience.Biostar's Ryzen motherboards race toward release
Don't be buffaloed by leaks and rumors—the first official announcement of retail Socket AM4 motherboards for AMD Ryzen processors is here. In a weirdly-apropos manner (given the company's Racing theme), Biostar is first out of the gate with its announcement of five AM4 mobos. Three of the boards are based on the high-end X370 chipset, while the other two use the B350 chipset. Let's take a closer look.
The range-topping Biostar Racing X370GT7 is a full-sized ATX motherboard with the sort of feature set you'd expect from a high-end offering. You get a pair of USB 3.1 ports (in Type-A and Type-C flavors), a trio of PCIe x16 slots, and a quartet of DDR4 DIMM sockets that support transfer rates of up to 2667 MT/s. Like on a typical Intel desktop board, two of the PCIe x16 slots will run at x8 when two graphics cards are in use. Biostar makes no mention of Crossfire or SLI support, though. There's a PCIe x4 M.2 socket, six SATA 6Gbps ports, and six USB 3.0 ports, plus an internal header to connect two more USB 3.1 ports. Realtek's fancy ALC1220 offers 8-channel audio, and an RTL8118 controller powers the Gigabit Ethernet port.
Unusually, Biostar equips this range-topping motherboard with a pair of legacy PCI slots. The board also has DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI-D connectors despite being ostensibly intended for the forthcoming Summit Ridge Ryzen processors that don't include integrated graphics. Those ports can still be used with a Bristol Ridge socket-AM4 APU, of course. Like it did with its Kaby Lake motherboards, Biostar added diagnostic LEDs and a "GT Touch" panel with on-board reset and power buttons. Naturally, the board also includes Vivid LED DJ on-board RGB LED lighting and Biostar's 5050 LED control header.
The Racing X370GT5 is similar to its bigger brother above but drops the second PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. That leaves it with a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, plus a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot that runs at x4 speeds. This boasrd keeps its same four USB 3.1 connectors, the full-speed M.2 connector, and the two legacy PCI slots present in the GT7. However, the audio chip gets a downgrade to Realtek's ALC892, and there are no onboard debug LEDs or a DisplayPort connector. The product shots for the GT5 do appear to show a mini-Displayport connection on the back panel, but it isn't mentioned in any of the product documentation.
Stepping down once more to the Racing X370GT3, we move to a microATX design. This board has a feature set almost identical to the GT5, save for the omissions of the GT Touch panel and the two legacy PCI slots.
Judging by their spec sheets, the two B350-based motherboards from Biostar appear to be fairly similar apart from their respective size difference. The B350GT5 is an ATX motherboard that includes a pair of legacy PCI slots and both Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 ports. Meanwhile, the B350GT3 is a microATX motherboard with no PCI slots and with two Type-A USB 3.1 ports. In an odd twist, the product images for the B350GT5 don't show any USB 3.1 ports at all, while the B350GT3's product images contain that mysteriously-unmentioned mini-DisplayPort like the GT5 and GT3 boards above.
It's hard for us to say whether the tables or the pictures are more accurate. In any case, Biostar's AM4 motherboards look pretty similar to the company's offerings for Kaby Lake apart from those old-school PCI slots. There's no pricing or availability info for these boards, but the company will be offering a 240GB M200 SSD with the top-end X370GT7 model when they arrive.Deals of the week: Z270 motherboards, storage, and more
Howdy! Have you upgraded to Kaby Lake yet? Well, if you haven't, now's a good time as any. We have some sweet hardware deals for you, including some nice Z270 motherboards begging to be installed in a powerful build. If that's not really your thing, then take a look at the rest of the hardware deals we collected. You're sure to find something that suits your fancy.
That's it for today, folks! If you found any sweet online deals that we missed, please share them with your gerbil brethren in the comments section below.
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, but we also work with Best Buy, Adorama, Rakuten, Walmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at the Microsoft Store, the HP Store, and Das Keyboard's shop.Phanteks Glacier gear flows into the water-cooling market
Phanteks took the plunge into the depths of custom open-loop cooling parts with its July release of the Glacier G1080 water block for Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 FE graphics cards. The company is now expanding the liquid-cooling section of its catalog and has unveiled the Glacier C350i CPU water block and Glacier series water cooling fittings.
The Glacier C350i is built around a nickel-plated, solid-copper cold plate with 0.4-mm channels. The block is topped off by an acrylic cover and an aluminum trim ring with a choice of satin-black or chrome finishes. Viton seals fill the seams between the block and the cover plate. Since it's 2017 and the C350i is a high-end cooling product, it has embedded RGB LED illumination. Phanteks says the RGB LEDs are compatible with the company's RGB LED-equipped cases and can be controlled through Asus' Aura or MSI's Mystic Light Sync software. The C350i is prepared to perch atop Intel LGA 115x or 2011-v3 CPUs. AMD CPUs are not supported.
Phanteks' Glacier series G1/4 fittings are available for use with hard-tube or soft-tube coolant lines. The fittings come in multiple varieties: for small and large tubes, as 45° and 90° rotary fittings, and stop fittings. The hard-tube offerings are more numerous by necessity, since soft-tube systems tend to need fewer fittings. All Phanteks fittings use Viton seals and are machined from solid brass. Buyers can get them in satin black or mirrored finishes.Display your graphics card with Thermaltake's PCIe riser cable
If there's one part of a build that's worth looking at through a windowed case, it's the graphics card. The shrouds and cooling solutions for high-end graphics cards often have gorgeous designs. Unfortunately, installing those cards typically means pointing all that artwork down at the bottom of the case, leaving the backside of the graphics card's PCB as the only part in view. Setups like the one pictured below solve that problem, but they require special cabling. Enter Thermaltake's TT Premium PCI-E 3.0 Extender.
Thermaltake claims that its PCIe riser cable is engineered to be highly durable, foldable, and flexible, while still offering high performance. The ribbonized flat cable can be folded and twisted around tight corners, and includes protectors at both ends. According to Thermaltake, the use of five individual cables in the design increases EMI shielding.
Of course, all the flexibility in the world doesn't matter if the performance isn't there. The company's benchmarks show graphics cards performing the same whether they're plugged directly into the PCIe slot or using the riser cable. Thermaltake says that these cables allow for the full 8 GT/s per lane specified by the PCIe 3.0 standard.
Thermaltake's TT Premium PCI-E 3.0 Extender is available in three lengths: one foot (or 30 cm), two feet (or 60 cm), and three feet and three inches (1 m). All three are currently available on Newegg. The one-foot extender sells for $70, the two-foot cable goes for $85, and the three-foot extender sells for $110.WWDC 2017 returns to its roots in San Jose
After 14 years at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Apple is taking its Worldwide Developers Conference much closer to home. The company revealed today that WWDC 2017 will be held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, a return to a venue that hosted the event from 1988 to 2002. The event itself will be held June 5 through June 9.
Prominent Apple blogger John Gruber spoke with the company's senior vice president of marketing, Phil Schiller, regarding the change. According to Gruber, the company expects that more of its engineers will be able to attend the event thanks to the 10-minute drive to downtown San Jose from its headquarters in Cupertino. In fact, Apple says attendees will be able to rub shoulders with over 1,000 of its engineers at the conference.
For those hoping for a ticket to WWDC 2017, Schiller told Gruber that the event will not be significantly larger as a result of the venue change. Registration for the conference will continue to be a lottery-style system, as well. Registration for that lottery will open March 27 at 10:00 AM PDT through Apple's developer portal.Unreal Engine 4.15 arrives with HDR and AFR support
The mention of Unreal Engine 4 (UE) often brings to mind impressive-looking demos that elicit more than a fair share of oohs and aahs. Epic Games isn't resting on its laurels, and it's just released UE 4.15 with support for alternate frame rendering (AFR) on Nvidia SLI configurations and experimental support for HDR output, along with a Kardashian buttload of performance optimizations and developer-oriented improvements.
High-end PC enthusiasts with multiple Nvidia cards in SLI will be happy to know that games built using UE 4.15 can take advantage of alternate frame rendering, meaning they'll likely see a hefty performance boost. According to Epic, "the largest improvement comes from the renderer copying inter-frame dependencies between GPUs as early as possible." Developers will still need to work with Nvidia and test their games on this scenario, though.
Those with fancy HDR TVs or monitors are possibly saddened by the lack of HDR content out there. Epic is aware, as it's just added experimental HDR support to UE 4.15. The engine can currently output HDR content on Nvidia cards under the Direct3D 11 API or on devices that support Apple's Metal graphics API. The company says that there are rendering paths for 1000-nit and 2000-nit displays, and that it'll be adding support for more devices and configurations in the future.
That's not all the good news for gamers. The new version of UE comes with a spankin' new Texture Streaming system, which purports to "reduce CPU usage, memory usage, and load times while eliminating low resolution artifacts." More to the point, Epic says that developers can look forward to an up-to-40% reduction in texture memory usage, faster game load times, and a near-elimination of texture processing-related stalls. Owners of graphics cards with 2GB or 4GB of VRAM should be particularly happy. Maybe even Bethesda can take a hint on the texture size reduction topic, dunno.
There are a few other minor-but-important improvements. Windows games built on UE can now use non-XInput flight sticks and steering wheels, welcome news for simulator buffs everywhere. Developers can now target Nintendo Switch and Linux ARM64 platforms. Mobile VR games can take advantage of Monoscopic Far Field Rendering. Check out Epic's announcement for the nitty-gritty, especially if you wrangle game code or assets for a living.MSI Aero ITX graphics cards put Pascal in petite places
MSI's on a roll with the teensy graphics cards today, it seems. The company set up product pages for a half-dozen Aero ITX cards packing Pascal GPUs. There are two cards riffing on the GeForce GTX 1070, two cards based on the GTX 1060 6GB, and then a card each for the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti. While past MSI Aero cards have been reference-esque blower designs, these new Aero ITX designs are smaller and trade the centrifugal-fan design of their siblings for heatsink shrouds with a single axial fan.
The GTX 1070 Aero ITX cards come in two versions: a standard version with reference 1506-MHz base and 1683-MHz boost speeds, and a clock-boosted OC edition with 1531-MHz base and 1721-MHZ boost rates.
The Aero ITX GTX 1060 6GB likewise comes in two versions. The base model comes clocked at 1506-MHz base and 1708-MHz boost speeds, while the OC edition boasts 1544-MHz base and 1759-MHz boost clocks.
Both the GTX 1060 6GB and GTX 1070 in this family sport a special MSI Torx fan that the company says will increase airflow by using a mixture of divoted and smooth fan blades. The GTX 1070 gets a bigger fan, while the less power-hungry GTX 1060 6GB uses a smaller spinner. Whichever of these cards you choose, you get a pair of HDMI ports, two DisplayPort connectors, and a DVI output, too.
The Aero ITX GTX 1050s skip the Torx fan. Like most GP107-based cards, they also have no need for an extra power connector. Both the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti come in clock-boosted models only: 1404-MHz base and 1518-MHz boost speeds for the GTX 1050, and 1341-MHz base and 1455-MHz boost speeds for the GTX 1050 Ti. The GTX 1050 Aero ITX comes with 2GB of memory, while the GTX 1050 Ti has 4GB.
The two cards based on the GeForce GTX 1070 are the largest of this bunch, at 7.2" long x 5.7" tall x 1.6" deep (or 18.4 cm x 14.4 cm x 4 cm). The GTX 1060s drop a few cubic inches, and measure 6.9" x 4.5" x 1.5" (17.5 cm x 11.5 cm x 3.8 cm). Meanwhile, the GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti cards are just ever-so-slightly smaller at 6.1" x 4.4" x 1.45" (15.5 cm x 11.2 cm x 3.7 cm).
The cards aren't up at e-tail yet, at least in the 'states. While there's no specific pricing info yet, we'd expect these cards to be fairly affordable given the prices on previous-generation Aero offerings.Thermaltake brings one cooler by air and two by sea
Either Thermaltake's management drives its product engineering team to the edge of exhaustion, or those engineers are very enthusiastic about their jobs, because the company's latest announcements could make for a day's worth of news. The company is showing off the Contac Silent 12 CPU cooler, the Water 3.0 Riing RGB 360 all-in-one liquid cooler, and the Pacific W4 RGB CPU water block. We'll proceed through the trio, starting with the most traditional and ending with the most out-there item.
Thermaltake's rather restrained Contac Silent 12 CPU cooler has a heatsink with four 6-mm copper pipes dissipating heat through an aluminum fin array in a tower arrangement. The 6-mm heatpipes make direct contact with the CPU's integrated heat spreader. The included 120-mm fan employs a hydraulic bearing and is attached with spring clips. The company supplies a "low-noise cable" that can reportedly reduce fan speed by 27% and noise level by 24%. A few moments of research suggest that the cable simply has an integrated resistor that slows the fan down by reducing its voltage.
Users can mount the Contac Silent 12 on Intel motherboards with 775 to 1336 CPU pins. The cooler is equally ready for AMD chips on sockets up to and including the Ryzen-ready AM4, though there's no AM1 support. The Contac 12 measures 6.0" x 5.0" x 3.0" (15 cm x 13 cm x 2.5 cm) and weighs in at 24.7 oz (700 g).
With that plain, colorless air cooler out of the way, please direct your attention to the Water 3.0 Riing RGB 360. This all-in-one liquid cooler has a 360-mm radiator endowed with three 120-mm Riing RGB LED fans. The included controller can be used to configure fan speeds and color settings. Users can switch between red, blue, white, or green hues, or activate a mode that cycles through an array of 256 colors. A play/pause button can lock the lighting in one of those colors even after a shutdown or reboot. Sadly, neither the integrated water pump or the water block assembly feature LED illumination of any kind.
The block is ready to work with all current Intel desktop CPUs or contemporary AMD CPUs up to AM3+, but doesn't include brackets for use in future AM4 systems. The radiator is 27-mm thick and can be fitted with up to six fans if space permits.
The last stop on our journey from mild to wild is Thermaltake's Pacific W4 RGB CPU Water Block. Just to be clear, the W4 can cool CPUs that don't have their own RGB LEDs. The W4 is intended for custom open-loop liquid cooling systems. The block is made from nickel-plated copper with 0.15-mm channels and sports a PMMA cover with a pair of G1/4 fittings. The included lighting controller offers seven static colors, a cycle of all 256 colors, and a lights-off mode. The LED brightness is independently adjustable and the controller retains settings between system power cycles. The W4 is ready to perch atop pretty much any Intel or AMD processor from the last ten years, AM1 excluded.Microsoft delays February Patch Tuesday
Windows system administrators have grown to expect patches from Microsoft on the second Tuesday of each month. The software giant formalized the practice of releasing security patches at the same time each month all the way back in 2003. Microsoft Patch Tuesday was supposed to take place on Valentine's Day this month, and it was expected to contain a fix for a zero-day bug in the SMB file-sharing protocol. It looks like something broke down, though, since the February patch has been scrapped and delayed until next month, meaning the SMB bug will remain unpatched until then.
In addition to the anticipated SMB bug fix, this month's patch would also mark a step towards changing the way updates are delivered to Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, and Server 2012 R2. Microsoft has been moving its older operating systems towards a cumulative update model similar to the one it uses for Windows 10.
Microsoft didn't release any information about the reason for the delay, but ZDNet reports that a a snafu in Microsoft's build system is responsible for the postponed update. Whatever the reason, if testing indicated that there was a problem with the patch, the decision to delay was probably the right one.Do a Grouch a Favor Day Shortbread
PC hardware and computing
Remember those little Radeon RX 460 cards from MSI that showed up last August? The Dragon Army has apparently decided they still weren't small enough, because it has now shrunk the petite Polaris cards even further. The MSI Radeon RX-460-2GT-LP and RX-460-4GT-LP use a tiny two-fan cooler and a single rear expansion slot, although the cooler extends into the second slot some ways.
Of course, to shrink it that small, some sacrifices had to be made. The GPU in both cards only boosts to 1200 MHz, the same speed same as the reference design. The cards only offer two outputs: an HDMI port and a dual-link DVI port. Those connections are common enough on monitors, but it would have been nice to see a mini-DisplayPort as well. MSI doesn't mention if the cards come with a low-profile rear bracket, either.
The new card might seem puny to some gerbils, but it could make a reasonably potent gaming upgrade for a slim OEM machine. Even the most basic of Intel's newer processors provides a solid platform for a card like this, and given its dainty size and the fact that it doesn't require a power connector, it'll fit almost anywhere. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's available yet, and sometimes products with a specific appeal like these can be a little hard to find. But hey, that XFX single-slot RX 460 finally came out, so chances are good.ROG Strix Impact is a simple mouse for serious gamers
We're coming up on 45 years of the video game in 2017. A lot of older folks, even ones who played games in their young adulthood, have trouble with modern game controllers. All those sticks and buttons and levers and knobs are confusing. Can't we go back to the days when you had one stick and two buttons? If you share a similar sentiment about gaming mice and their myriad manipulables, then have a look at Asus ROG's new Strix Impact mouse.
This device is nearly as simple as it gets. A left button, a right button, and a clickable scroll wheel are the entirety of the Strix Impact's inputs. There's also an extra button on top to flip through DPI settings. The Impact offers an optical sensor capable of tracking with up to 5000 DPI resolution and 30 gs of acceleration, and like any quality mouse it uses durable Omron switches for the primary buttons. Those specs in an otherwise basic mouse could be an attractive package for gamers on a budget, or folks who simply prefer a simpler mouse.
Asus says that since the buttons' surfaces aren't connected to the main body of the mouse, the buttons will be easier to press. The company is also proud of the fact that the ROG Strix Impact weighs just 91 grams without its cable. That's half-again the weight of MadCatz' RAT 1 mouse, but this thing probably won't snap in half if you rest your palm on it. It has Aura Sync RGB lighting for the Strix logo on the back, and Mayan-inspired textured accents on the rear quarter and the scroll wheel. Best of all, it includes two ROG logo stickers.
Asus didn't announce pricing or availability for the new mouse, but we'd expect this one to come in around the same $50 price point as the ROG Sica it appears to replace.Caavo uses computer vision to unify control of streaming boxes
Ask anyone with a set-top box or smart TV about the worst part of the user experience, and chances are the divided nature of the content will be high on the list. Content purchased through iTunes will only work on Apple's set-top box, Amazon Video doesn't play on Apple TV, and finding the right piece of content across dozens of other streamers can take the relaxation out of the entertainment experience.
The Caavo box appears to be a unique attempt to bring all of its owner's streaming movies and TV shows into one interface. According to The Verge, the Caavo works by applying machine vision to video from other streaming devices attached to the eight HDMI inputs on the back of the machine. The box controls the attached streaming devices and "watches" the streaming box's output to verify that the input was received and processed. Caavo says its device is capable of performing content searches across multiple services and multiple streaming devices using the company's proprietary computer-vision tech.
Caavo's approach is wildly different from other "unifying" systems that function using IR repeaters to control multiple devices. Most famously, Microsoft's Xbox One has an IR emitter that's supposed to control a cable box attached to the user's TV set. Logitech's Harmony remotes rely on a similar concept to automate input switching on home theater systems. This approach can be fragile, because the memorized macros fail when interfaces change.
The box is expected to cost around $400 when Caavo launches the device in June. The company's spokesmen said the device's initial rollout may be to as few as 5000 users. The machine vision technology behind the idea is interesting, but one wonders if some of its competitors might find a way to render the Caavo useless. Only time will tell. I'll be sticking with my HTPC.Falcon Northwest's Oculus Ready desktops get a splash of Kaby Lake
Boutique builder Falcon Northwest has a long history of working with Oculus, having built development and demo rigs for the VR headset maker for a few years now. Falcon Northwest's support for the Oculus Ready program continues with its new Tiki and Talon desktop configurations, both recently upgraded with Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors.
Falcon Northwest's Oculus Ready Tiki desktop has a slim 4" wide chassis, but that's enough room for some serious hardware. Buyers can choose between Core i5-7500, Core i5-7600K, and Core i7-7700K CPUs, and there's liquid cooling available as an option. The Tiki ships with either 16GB or 32GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 2400 MT/s. Graphics card options on the Nvidia side include the GeForce GTX 1060, GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and Titan X, along with a small selection of Quadro cards. AMD's RX480 is also an option for buyers.
The Oculus Ready Talon system is designed to give users the option of adding a second graphics card down the road—or immediately, if a single Titan X just won't cut it. The Talon has the same processor and graphics cards options as the Tiki, but its larger motherboard has enough slots for a total 64GB of RAM. The Talon's beefy 750W power supply means that installing a second graphics card probably won't require grabbing a new PSU.
The Oculus Ready Tiki system equipped with a GTX 1080 and an i7-7700K starts at $3040. A similarly-configured Talon starts at $3200. Prices vary significantly depending on components and extras. Interested folks can configure a custom Tiki or Talon at Falcon Northwest's website.Nvidia says its GDC party is not one to be missed
If you've been holding out hope for a Pascal-powered version of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti, you might want to skip your afternoon coffee. Nvidia sent out invitations today to a "GeForce GTX Gaming Celebration" event in San Francisco on February 28 during the Game Developers Conference. The invitation to the event talks about "amazing surprises," and ends with a seemingly-portentous "you won't want to miss this" declaration. To be clear, there's nothing explicitly mentioned in the invitation other than "an evening of awesome PC gaming, hardware, tournaments, and of course free food." That doesn't stop us from imagining what will happen, though, and the office betting pool is running good odds on an unveiling of the rumored GTX 1080 Ti.
Nvidia has a history of launching new graphics cards at relatively innocuous events, and it's been a while since the GeForce GTX 1080 first saw the light of day. Ever since the Kepler architecture, Nvidia has released the high-end cards first, and let loose the range-topping enthusiast-class card much later. The timing is also suspiciously close to the rumored launch date of AMD's new Ryzen CPUs. AMD and Nvidia are bitter rivals, and it wouldn't be the first time that one of these companies tried to steal the other's thunder. Suffice to say, the time is ripe for such an announcement.
It's difficult to imagine anyone being dissatisfied with the performance of the GeForce GTX 1080, but there are always folks chomping at the bit for bigger and faster cards. The $1200 price tag on the Pascal Titan X is a dear one for something with performance not that far ahead of a card at half that price. The fabled GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (rumored to be based on a cut-down version of the GP102 chip used in the Titan X) could offer a significantly improved value over the Titan card. Previous rumors about the existence of the GP102 have all fallen flat, but this time there might be some meat to the story. We'll know in just two weeks.Alphacool Eiswand combats hot parts with a big block of chill
Just like the ice wall guards the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the White Walkers, Alphacool's Eiswand 360 CPU ("Ice Wall") wants to save your liquid-cooled rig from overheating. The Eiswand is an all-in-one CPU liquid-cooling solution, meant to stand alongside your PC instead of inside it. Old-enough gerbils may see a similarity to the Zalman Reserator from days of yore.
The core of the Eiswand contains a 360mm full-copper radiator equipped with six Eiswind fans and mounted above a pair of DC-LT pumps. For those particularly concerned about noise, the Eiswand comes with a "Silent Adapter" for restricting pump and fan speeds in order to keep the beast quiet with "only slightly reduced" cooling power. A black aluminum case surrounds all that gear. Alphacool says the Eiswand has enough cooling power for "any combination of CPU and GPU," too.
Alphacool includes a 4-meter black hose, two liters of coolant, the required connectors and parts, and anti-kink springs. The Eiswand has been in the wild for a few months, but it's now available in the U.S. through Aquatuning's American site for $368.In the lab: Aorus' Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard
The flood of Z270 motherboards continues unabated, and we've plucked a distinctly high-end one from the stream for you this morning. Gigabyte's Aorus brand is already off to a solid start with the Z270X-Gaming 5, and now we're examining the second-highest-tier board in the lineup: the Z270X-Gaming 8.
The feature list for this board is a mile long, but we'll try and pick the most important highlights. First off, this board is Thunderbolt 3-certified, thanks to the Intel Alpine Ridge controller wired to its USB Type-C port. It also boasts Creative audio hardware, a Burr-Brown DAC, and high-quality caps from Wima and Nichicon in its analog audio path. Thanks to its Killer Wireless-AC 1535 controller and E2500 Ethernet chip, this board can also take advantage of Killer's DoubleShot Pro networking mojo. Finally, this board's CPU power phases stay chilly thanks to an included Bitspower water block. We'll cover all there is to talk about with this board in our full review, but for now, it's already available on Newegg for $399.99.Adata SX950 SSDs offer 3D MLC flash and fast speeds
The days of the high-performance SATA SSD may be dimming, thanks to NVMe M.2 drives' ever-smaller physical sizes and prices and their higher overall performance. In a couple of years, most new enthusiast systems will probably boot from NVMe drives, relegating SATA ports to handling hard drives for bulk storage. Adata thinks there's still life left in high-performance SATA drives, though, and its XPG SX950 SATA SSDs are designed to deliver high performance storage over the SATA 6Gbps bus. The SX950 is the company's first 2.5" SATA SSD to use 3D MLC flash memory, which the company says allows for higher density, increased performance, and higher durability over its other offerings. The drives are available in the usual 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacities.
Adata claims that all models can achieve peak read speeds up to 560MB/s and peak write speeds close to 530MB/s, depending on the drive capacity. The drives can do up to 90K random read IOPS and should hit up to 90K IOPS when writing. The controller is manufactured by SMI, though Adata doesn't specify the exact chip used. Those high performance figures are likely a result of the drives' SLC cache and DRAM buffer.
The company touts an endurance rating of "up to 800 TB," which we assume is the figure for the 960GB model. All models are rated for two million hours between failure, and are backed up with a six-year warranty.
Adata says the XPG 950 SSDs will be sold at TR favorites Newegg and Amazon, though the e-tailers don't appear to have the drives listed just yet. The 240GB model will be priced at $140, the 480GB version will go for $250, and the 960GB model should set you back $450.
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