|The Tech Report System Guide: January 2019 edition||67|
|Corsair's Harpoon RGB Wireless gaming mouse reviewed||2|
|Corsair's Ironclaw RGB gaming mouse reviewed||1|
Good afternoon, gerbils! I'm going to keep the intro short and sweet. Yours truly wrote up the latest iteration of the galaxy-famous Tech Report System Guide, and you should totally go and check it out if you're in the market for a new machine, or hand the link to someone who is. In the meantime, here's the current crop of extra-hot hardware deals, hand-picked for your enjoyment.
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, Rakuten, Walmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at Das Keyboard's shop.Intel graphics driver version 188.8.131.5219 is indie game-ready
Those of you using Intel graphics, you're up next. The company just posted the latest version of its Windows 10 graphics driver (184.108.40.20619). These, and likely all future Intel graphics drivers, are once again Universal Windows Drivers, although Intel uses the more academic term "DCH" to signify that they're Modern drivers. That means it's only for Skylake and newer processors running 64-bit editions of Windows 10 that are updated to at least the Fall 2017 Creators Update (1709).
Assuming your system meets the requirements to install it, you can enjoy the new driver's benefits, like game-specific support for the indie platformer GRIS, frenetic 2D brawler Bladed Fury, classic Fallout successor Atom RPG, and the PC release of classic puzzler Catherine. This package also includes optimizations for the Windows ML machine-learning API, improved support for the Windows 10 ambient light sensor framework, and "functional and performance improvements" for Intel's Vulkan driver.
Besides the above, this driver should resolve intermittent crashes in Battlefield V, minor graphics anomalies in Farming Simulator 2019, and low graphics performance after resuming from sleep. Power consumption should no longer spike after disconnecting an HDMI 2.0 display, and 4K UHD monitors should still work after connecting a regular old HD display. The graphics control panel's automatic game settings optimization checkbox should properly reset when you change settings back to defaults, and video profile settings should once again apply after you adjust color balance.
The only known issues that Intel marks down for this release are intermittent crashes in Cinema 4D and minor graphics anomalies in Battlefield V. However, both of those notes have an "and other games" suffix, so take this short list with a grain of salt. If you're extremely bored, you can click here to read the PDF release notes. Otherwise, trek on over to Intel's download site to grab the latest version.Ditch New Year's Resolution Day Shortbread
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Opinions may vary, but personally, my first stop when picking out a PC that's both powerful and petite is Zotac's list of mini PCs. Using a mini PC—even one as powerful as a Zbox Magnus—still comes with a lot of compromises, though. If you want one without any compromises that's geared for gaming, Zotac can set you up with one of its Mek1 or Mek Ultra machines. At CES, Zotac showed us something that sits sort of in between the Zbox mini-PCs and the bigger Meks: the Mek Mini.
To be clear, the Mek1 is already fairly small at 20 L. That's much larger than something like Zotac's own Zbox Magnus EN1080K (6 L), but compared to this writer's 59-L Fractal Design Define R6, it's downright svelte. The Mek Mini takes things a step further and packs an Intel Core i7-8700 and a GeForce RTX 2070—both full-fat desktop parts—into a chassis that's just over 9 L. The standard configuration also includes two 8-GB modules of DDR4 memory running at 2666 MT/s, a 2-TB 2.5" hard drive, and a 240-GB NVMe M.2 SSD, all of which are fully upgradeable.
All told, it's a pretty solid setup for serious PC gaming. The Mek Mini has four USB 3.1 ports on the back, and a pair of USB 3.0 ports—one of which is Type-C—on the front. Also up front are the usual 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks. On the Mek Mini's graphics card, you get two DisplayPort connections, an HDMI port, a VirtualLink-enabled USB Type-C port, and (curiously) an old-school DVI port. One of the dual Ethernet ports and the Wi-Fi are run by a Killer chip, and the Mek Mini also supports Bluetooth 5.
The only downside we see at a glance is that, just like the Zbox Magnus EN1080K, the Mek Mini requires two DC barrel plugs to do its thing. Hopefully it's as quiet and well-cooled as that machine, too. Zotac told us that the Mek Mini will be available later this quarter. Pricing is yet to be determined, but a representative told us to expect something in the $1,500-1,600 range.Zotac shows off the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti ArcticStorm at CES 2019
Did you know that Zotac gets its name from the words "zone" and "tact"? Me neither. That's just one of the many things we learned from running into the company at CES. We also saw some of the company's upcoming products, including a new graphics card: the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Ti ArcticStorm.
As you could surmise from the name, this is a liquid-cooled GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. There's no hybrid cooling here; this card uses a full-coverage waterblock and a 16+4-phase power design to produce what Zotac calls "the ultimate GeForce RTX graphics card." In fact, Zotac further claims that the ArcticStorm has "the strongest cooling ever" for an RTX card. Those are bold claims in a market with some serious competitors.
This is surely a halo product, so it has to look as good or better than it performs. Zotac says that the waterblock has laser etching on its surface to direct the addressable RGB LED lighting within. That's the Zotac Gaming logo by the way, in case you were confused. If you really love the Radeon Vega logo but can't stand to run a red card, maybe check out the Zotac Gaming portfolio.
On the face of it, the RTX 2080 Ti ArcticStorm doesn't seem that different from other RTX 2080 Ti cards, but that's mostly because Zotac isn't talking clock rates yet. Truth be told, anyone buying this card is likely to be overclocking it by hand anyway. Still, we expect that the RTX 2080 Ti ArcticStorm will come with a substantial bump over the Founders Edition card, and perhaps even the company's own RTX 2080 Ti AMP Extreme.
The RTX 2080 Ti ArcticStorm will be joining a Zotac lineup of no less than seven other RTX 2080 Ti cards, and they're all already out for your perusal and purchase. On the other hand, Zotac didn't tell us when, or for how much, we'd be able to buy an RTX 2080 Ti ArcticStorm. If you're in the market for such a thing, keep your eyes peeled.The Asus ROG Mothership: An AIO, a tablet, a gaming laptop
The Asus ROG Mothership (GZ700) is meant to be a CES darling, the sort of product that grabs attention at a trade show where thousands of devices are clamoring for the eyes of every journalist walking the halls. And grab attention it did, alongside another wild-and-wacky, super high-end convertible design in the Acer Predator Triton 900. The two have key differences, though, primarily in that the Predator Triton 900 is a convertible with a screen that moves into different positions, whereas the Mothership is like a super powered AIO...or maybe it's just a modified AIO or gaming laptop. Or a combination of all three.
Seemingly heavily inspired by the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Mothership is basically a large tablet with a built-in kickstand on the back and a detachable keyboard on the front. Where it differs from the Surface Pro is that rather than being thin and light, it's large, heavy, RGB adorned, and crazy powerful.
The Mothership isn't exactly slim and trim, at 410 x 32 x 29.9 mm and approaching 5 kg, but it is loaded. It rocks an Nvidia RTX 2080 with a factory-overclocked Intel i9-8950HK, and it has up to 64 GB of memory. It's also compatible with three NVMe SSDs in RAID 0, with two of them connected directly to the CPU as opposed to going through the DMI link. Asus claims this setup will put you at roughly 8700MB/s in sequential read speed. Purportedly, the Mothership will allow you to slot in an additional four standard SSDs, as well. How configurable the device will be when you go to purchase one is unclear, because Asus didn't list configurations.
The screen is a large for a gaming laptop but small for an AIO at 17.3" (44 cm). It's a 1920 x 1080 IPS panel running at 144 Hz with 100% sRGB coverage, and it's G-Sync compatible. The decision to go with a 1920 x 1080 panel makes some sense given the goal of high frame rates, but strong performance at 2560 x 1440 would likely be achievable with the included hardware.
The keyboard, with n-key rollover and per-key RGB LEDs, functions as the screen cover, just like the keyboard on a Surface Pro. With the keyboard and trackpad moved to the front, the Mothership looks similar to the ROG Zephyrus S or the aforementioned Predator Triton 900. Like those laptops, the touchpad on the Mothership is tall rather than wide and can light up and function as a number pad.
This keyboard has a few additional tricks, though. It's detachable, so you can use it in wireless mode (2.4 GHz), or you can connect it by magnetically snapping it together with the tablet. The back half of the keyboard also folds underneath the front, lifting it up and giving you a more typical keyboard thickness when typing on a desk or table.
Four speakers adorn the front of this giant, pumped by a premium 24-Bit ESS Sabre HiFi DAC with Hi-Res Audio certification. Asus says they're 200% louder than typical speakers. Networking includes a 2.5-Gb Ethernet port, Bluetooth 5.0, and an 802.11ax Wi-Fi chip from Intel.
The Mothership has a strong array of I/O ports, including two USB Type-C ports. One of them supports Thunderbolt 3, and the other supports VirtualLink, which is a recently introduced standard for plugging in VR headsets using a single cable. In other words, this machine is VR-ready. There are also four USB Type-A ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, a full-size SD card reader, and a Kensington lock. Asus also squeezed in jacks for 3.5-mm headphones and mics.
There's a button on the bottom of the Mothership that automatically releases the adjustable kickstand when you put it down. It appears as though the angle is rather limited, however, to either 105° or 127°.
Because all the components are in the "monitor" part of this machine, they're up off of your desktop, like an AIO. Asus says this design improves cooling, which technically it should, given all the open air around the hot parts. There are two fans inside the Mothership helping to keep things cool, but we wonder how loud those fans will get when this system is under load, given the extreme hardware.
Just like some of the other high-end gaming machines of this year, the Mothership requires dual power supplies, so make sure you've got plenty of free outlets around. Being one of Asus' new gaming machines, it has exclusive software allowing you to switch between G-Sync and Optimus.
If you've ever looked at the Surface Pro and thought what it really needed was a collection of insane specifications, or wished your AIO had a semi-radical keyboard available, the Mothership is what you were thinking of. Whether it will be the machine of your dreams will still depend on pricing, which at this point is yet to be determined.
German water-cooling outfit Alphacool had a pile of new gear to show off at CES 2019, ranging from a unique showpiece prototype to liquid cooling for the data center.
The coolest thing (pun) that Alphacool brought to CES was a prototype of its upcoming Eisball pump-and-reservoir combo. The company didn't share much in the way of specifications but said that the Eisball integrates one of its D5 series pumps with a unique reservoir that actually uses the the water it stores for noise insulation. The metal ring around the outside is loaded with addressable RGB LEDs, and the reservoir itself has four different ports so you can connect hoses however you like. Alphacool says it expects to launch the Eisball this quarter but doesn't know how much it will cost yet.
The Eisbaer Extreme liquid coolers have perhaps a broader appeal than the glowing orb above. Alphacool says the Eisebaer Extreme series are its "most powerful and best-performing" all-in-one liquid coolers ever. This model in particular is primarily a new radiator and fan housing that can be purchased on its own (fitted with two Silent Wings 3 fans from be quiet!) as the "CORE," or together with Alphacool's Eisblock XPX and the appropriate hoses and fittings. While Alphacool doesn't specify a maximum TDP for the Eisbaer Extreme, the cooler's datasheet does note that it will handle almost anything out there, from LGA 1366 to Socket TR4.
Speaking of the Eisblock XPX, Alphacool also just released the Eisblock XPX Pro 1U. This is an extra-large version of the Eisblock XPX waterblock that is specifically designed for oversized server and workstation CPUs. Alphacool notes that the Eisblock XPX Pro 1U is exceptionally flat, helping it fit in cramped server cabinets. Indeed, true to the name, it can even go in 1U rack enclosures. The block has three inlets and five outlets, so builders can customize their connections to accommodate their chassis.
Said inlets and outlets could conceivably be connected to the company's new X-Flow solid copper radiators in 40-mm and 80-mm widths. These units are, like the new Eisblock above, intended for narrow server racks where the company's usual 120-mm and 140-mm radiators simply wouldn't fit. Liquid cooling isn't something we traditionally see in the datacenter, but perhaps as TDPs climb ever higher, it could become more common. Alphacool says it's eager to combine and pre-fill pump-radiator-reservoir-waterblock combo orders into "custom all-in-one" solutions.
Personally, I'm most excited about the Aquacool Fun Baseball. Most of the above products are either already available or will be available this quarter from AquaTuning, Alphacool's main U.S. distributor.G.Skill's latest Trident Z kit bumps Threadripper RAM to 3466 MT/s
If you're into hardware at all—and if you're reading this, we presume that you are—then you probably already know that Ryzen parts need fast RAM to maximize their potential. You probably also know that the more memory channels you pile on, the harder it is to maintain signal integrity (and thus system stability). That's more than likely the reason that Ryzen Threadripper doesn't usually match its single-die cousins' maximum memory transfer rates. G.Skill, never content to let things be as they are, just announced that it has new RAM on the way that takes all four of a Threadripper's memory channels to 3466 MT/s.
The latest Trident Z RGB RAM falls under G.Skill's "TZRX" models, meaning that it's high-performance RGB LED-laden memory intended for an AMD platform. In this particular case, the four modules of DDR4 memory running at 3466 MT/s are meant for the AMD X399 platform upon which Threadripper CPUs generally rest. Unusually, G.Skill's announcement didn't include a range of capacities or speeds; it seems this new RAM will come only in a pack of four 8GB modules, totaling 32GB capacity.
Like most high-performance DDR4 memory, G.Skill's upcoming Trident Z for Threadripper requires 1.35 volts to do its thing. Latencies on the new Threadripper-targeted RAM are pretty loose: The CAS latency is 18 cycles, and it only goes up from there. Still, on Ryzen, the transfer rate is arguably more important, given the way it interacts with the CPU's interconnects.
Continuing the "light on details" trend, G.Skill declined to say how much it would ask for the new kit, but the company did remark that it would be available in Q1 of this year.Tuesday deals: a Radeon RX 570 8 GB for $150 and much more
Hello, fine gerbils. It's with great pleasure that about three years on, I can finally enable FreeSync on my Acer XF270HU. Back when I bought this display, I kind of bet that Nvidia would support the technology, because, hey, why not? Alas, that didn't pan out, and I was left fuming for a good long while. A couple weeks ago, I was literally thinking of selling this monitor to a friend and grabbing a G-Sync monitor instead. Lo and behold, Nvidia announces the "G-Sync compatible" mode, and I'm now a happy camper. Today's deals are a little late because I, uh, had some testing to do. Here they are.
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, Rakuten, Walmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at Das Keyboard's shop.National Booch Day Shortbread
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I probably don't need to tell you that today's the day for the GeForce RTX 2060's release to retail. New graphics card means new drivers, and to that end, Nvidia just unleashed GeForce driver version 417.71 fresh off the compiler. Predictably, this driver adds support for the new upper-midrange Turing cards, but perhaps the more exciting news is that this is the first driver to enable any sort of support for FreeSync and VESA Adaptive Sync monitors.
We knew this was coming—arguably even before Nvidia announced it just ahead of CES—but now that it's here, lots of GeForce users can finally get around to seeing what their monitors can really do. Nvidia refers to said support as "G-Sync Compatible" mode, and if you're lucky enough to own one of the 12 monitors that Nvidia has marked as "compatible," then the feature should enable automatically after you install the driver. Otherwise, you'll have to enable it manually. Don't be confused by the 3D settings panel noting that the driver detected your monitor as G-Sync Compatible; you'll probably still have to turn it on yourself.
To do so, first make sure you have FreeSync or Adaptive Sync enabled in your monitor's OSD if it has such an option. Then, open up the Nvidia Control Panel and go to the "Set Up G-Sync" tab. Once there, make sure you have the correct display selected—only one display can use Adaptive Sync at any given time—and then tick the "Enable G-Sync, G-Sync Compatible" box. Nvidia notes that if the box isn't available, you may need to go to "Manage 3D Settings," scroll down to "Monitor Technology," and select "G-Sync Compatible" in the drop-down. You may also need to have your display set to a high refresh rate mode before it presents the FreeSync option to the graphics card.
Variable refresh rates aside, a long-standing issue where some DisplayPort monitors would remain black when resuming from sleep should be resolved in this driver. GeForce GTX 1080 cards should stop dropping to their idle clock rate when you hook up three monitors. BenQ XL2730 monitors should work at 144 Hz again. Shadow of the Tomb Raider should stop crashing in DirectX 12 mode, and Gu Jian Qi Tan 3 should work on GeForce GTX 1060-equipped notebooks.
Persistent driver niggles include random flickering on G-Sync screens when a non-G-Sync monitor is connected over HDMI, brief corruption when hovering over links in Firefox, and possible blue-screen crashes in ARK: Survival Evolved. There's also a couple of HDR growing pains. In Ni no Kuni 2, enabling HDR will cause the application to crash on launch. Meanwhile, Shadow of the Tomb Raider may suffer flickering on systems with SLI, HDR, and G-Sync all enabled.
Folks who use GeForce Experience are probably already downloading the new driver whether they realize it or not. Everyone else can trek on over to the Geforce.com download site to grab the latest version. The PDF release notes are here, and for your convenience, here's the Windows 10 64-bit edition.RTX 2060 availability check: The green flag drops
In case you've not been paying attention (or simply lost track of the days), today marks the release date for the GeForce RTX 2060. That means you can actually go order one, right now. Nvidia has the Founders Edition cards in stock for the regular $350 price, of course, but this time around they're not the only game in town. Many of the cards from our announcement roundup are already available.
Over at the fresh ovum, there are thirteen RTX 2060 cards in stock, although judging by the "Best Seller" labels on many of those cards, they might be going fast. Prices for the cards start at $350 for a Gigabyte single-fan mini card, while a few other cards—including a shorty EVGA RTX 2060 XC Black Gaming card as well as a dual-fan MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Ventus OC—are on sale for the same price, just for the first week.
Naturally, there are some pricier options, too. Asus has five cards out, two of which are beefy ROG Strix boards with that line's signature triple-fan cooler. Those are the most expensive models on display right now; the ROG Strix OC-edition card goes for $420, and that's apparently a launch-week sale price. Gigabyte also has a triple-fan version available as part of its gaming series for $380.
The majority of the graphics cards on offer today are dual-fan models. That includes two each from Zotac, from Gigabyte, and from Asus, as well as the aforementioned MSI board. Asus is the only company offering a blower-equipped model so far, as part of its Turbo series. There are also a couple of systems on sale that come with GeForce RTX 2060 cards, although those are both pre-order listings.
If for whatever reason you prefer not to shop at Newegg, you can head on over to Amazon, where most of these cards are available for about the same price. B&H Photo Video has a few pre-order listings that we'd expect to fill in as the day goes on. The cards appear to be in stock at my "local" Micro Center, too. For our friends across the pond, it looks like Scan, Mindfactory, and Materiel all appear to have numerous listings at about the prices we'd expect.
All of the RTX 2060 graphics cards available today appear to be 6GB models, with nary a whisper to date of the rumored 3GB or 5GB editions. Don't forget that you get a free copy of EA Dice's Battlefield V or Bioware's upcoming Anthem with any RTX 2060 purchase. Let us know if you're picking one up today in the comments below. If you are, don't forget to grab the latest driver.Lian-Li TU150's hidden handle hides cables, too
That Lian-Li had a Mini-ITX case to show off at CES 2019 isn't that notable, but the TU150 we saw in the company's suite had a couple of nifty surprises.
There's a hidden handle on top that pops out so you can easily carry the case. When you don't need it, the handle lays flush with the top panel of the chassis, marked only by some space on either side so your fingers can reach down and grip it. But when you lift it up, the handle extends out to give you something that's easy to grab.
In designing the handle, a Lian-Li rep told me, they stumbled onto a solution for cable management. Because the extendable handle takes up some depth—an inch or so, it seems—they had a lot of extra space along the top of the TU150 to work with. They opted to use it for cable management. They fit the fan controller hub in there as well, because hey, why not.
That leaves the back of the motherboard more free of cable clutter. Lian-Li hasn't taken much advantage of the newfound tidiness, though, by using a standard opaque side panel on othe right side. Maybe that would be a nice spot for a second tempered-glass panel and some RGB lighting strips.
However, the main side panel that shows off the goods is tempered glass, which is always a nice touch. It lets you see the two 120-mm LED-lit fans, one on the back and one in the front, that are included with the case. A Lian-Li rep said the idea was to align the fans and create a "wind tunnel" of sorts.
The TU150 is designed to accommodate large components, including a full-size graphics card. It has clearance for a 175-mm CPU cooler, and indeed, the demo unit has a beefy one inside. The whole case is tool-less, so you can easily pull off panels as need be with your bare hands. A power button, two USB 3.1 ports, and two audio inputs adorn the top of the chassis.
You can enjoy the handle and the cable management it affords soon. The TU150 is coming in Q2, or may possibly slide into Q3, according to Lian-Li, and it will cost $99.The Acer Predator Triton 900: Basically a monster convertible laptop
At CES this year, Acer announced a few new laptop models, but certainly its most interesting is the new Predator Triton 900. The Predator Triton series has been around for a few years, but prior models have been traditional clamshell designs. The 900 makes a significant departure, and it's a love-or-hate design. Essentially a unique and extremely powerful convertible, you can move the the 17" screen in many directions. You can close it, flatten it, flip it, tent it, or completely reverse it. Acer really wants people to know that this is due to a CNC-machined hinge it calls the "Ezel Aero Hinge." This isn't the first device Acer has used this type of hinge on—it made an appearance as far back as 2014 on the Acer Aspire R 13—but it's certainly the most eye-catching.
That big shiny display is a 4k IPS touch screen with G-Sync support powered by an RTX 2080. Just to be clear, it is not the Max-Q version. Had they thrown in stylus support, you'd essentially have a significantly more powerful mini Surface Studio on the go. That GPU is married to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H processor, a popular hexacore choice among mobile gaming machines. As for the memory, this model can be configured with up to 32GB of DDR4 at 2666MHz. Storage maxes out at dual 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs in Raid 0. Whether that's a hardware limitation or simply an initial configuration maximum is not mentioned, though I expect it's the latter.
The low-profile mechanical keyboard, with individual RGB backlighting, and trackpad are both moved to the front of the device. The back half of the chassis, where the keyboard typically resides on a laptop, is instead a large venting area. The trackpad is an odd shape; it's taller than it is wide. With that shape comes the option to use the trackpad as a number pad, including displaying lit-up numeric "buttons." The keyboard includes a "Turbo" button, which increases the GPU clock speeds, as well as a "Predator" button. The "Predator" button opens Acer's configuration app, which controls things like backlighting, fan speeds, clock speeds, and more. Acer is also bringing out a mobile version so you can control your device settings remotely, should that be your thing.
Your I/O options include multiple USB 3.1 and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt, as one would expect on a machine of this caliber. Audio is powered by Waves Maxx and includes head tracking for a simulated 3D surround sound.
Rounding out the details is an internal Xbox wireless receiver, meaning it'll work with any wireless Xbox peripherals, not just the Bluetooth ones. The Xbox wireless receiver hasn't seen a ton of support since launch, so it's a bit of an interesting decision, but with the growing popularity of games like Overcooked, the one Xbox controller-per-machine limit of Bluetooth could be a problem.
None of this comes cheap, of course. The announced pricing starts at $4,000 for the base model.Mushkin refreshes its SSD lineup, including 2 TB Pilot-E
It's been quite some time since we had a Mushkin SSD laid bare on our testbench, but the company hasn't been sitting on its laurels since we gave the Reactor 1 TB our hearty recommendation. At CES this year, the company had a whole arsenal of drives on display.
Let's start with the low end. The Source 2, as you might expect, is a new and improved version of Mushkin's Source SSD, which was the company's first 3D TLC drive. The Source 2 makes the upgrade to Micron's latest 96-layer 3D TLC flash and Silicon Motion's SM2258XT controller, but it's still a budget-oriented, DRAM-less drive. The Source 2 will be available in capacities as small as 120 GB and as large as 1 TB, with the quickest versions hitting 560 MB/s sequential reads and 520 MB/s sequential writes. Random reads clock up to 78K IOps, and random writes up to 81K. Not very groundbreaking, perhaps, but the world needs entry-level SATA SSDs.
Next up are a pair of PCIe x4, NVMe drives: the Helix-L and Pilot-E. Early versions of these M.2 gumsticks were spotted last year at CES, but it seems the two have reached their final forms, and launch is nigh. The Helix-L is sort of a gussied-up Source 2, similarly packing 96-layer 3D NAND and omitting a DRAM cache. Silicon Motion's SM2263XT runs the show. It will come in 250 GB, 500 GB, and 1 TB versions, the largest of which will stretch to 1710 MB/s sequential reads and 1500 MB/s sequential writes. On the random side, reads will peak at 235K IOps and writes at 272K IOps.
The Pilot-E is the most exciting of Mushkin's internal drives, without question. It's essentially the same as the existing Pilot drive, but upgraded to Silicon Motion's SM2262EN from the SM2262. On paper, the old Pilot was similar to Adata's excellent XPG SX8200, so releasing an upgraded follow-up is just fine in our book. The top-end Pilot-E will be a whopping 2 TB unit that reaches sequential read speeds of 3300 MB/s and write speeds of 2480 MB/s. Random reads will scale up 369K IOps, with writes going just a bit further to 377K IOps.
Finally, Mushkin brought a duo of detachable data devices, the Carbon X100 and Carbon Z100 external SSDs. The company didn't share exact specs with us, but the X100 is a USB 3.1 Gen2 SSD that will allegedly deliver symmetric 1000 MB/s sequential read and write rates. The Z100 is an aluminum-clad, Thunderbolt 3 affair that promises to be even faster. From what we've seen other companies produce in terms of high-speed external SSDs, we wouldn't be surprised to find out that the X100 and Z100 are just Helix-L and Pilot-E drives strapped to bridge controllers and tucked away into enclosures. Stay tuned for launch dates and target prices as we get our hands on them.Be Quiet slims down the Dark Rock 4
Be quiet! is a name better known to our readers outside of the U.S. than on our home turf, and yet the company's products have been finding their way to this side of the Atlantic more frequently of late. You can find the massive Dark Rock Pro 4 cooler over on Newegg right now, for example. For folks who find that giant block of aluminum fins to be too, uh, giant, be quiet! is about to release the Dark Rock Slim.
The German company acknowledges that while the Dark Rock 4 coolers owe their high performance to their enormous bulk, that same size also makes them difficult to use on machines employing tall RGB LED-equipped RAM or motherboards with outsized VRM cooling. To that end, the Dark Rock Slim is the Dark Rock 4 on a diet, which itself is a Dark Rock Pro 4 on a diet.
Despite the slimmer size, be quiet! says the Dark Rock Slim can cool CPUs producing up to 180W of heat. Be quiet! includes one of its own own Silent Wings 3 premium fans with the cooler, and the mounting hardware is decoupled from the heatsink itself so that you can add your own fan if you like. It also includes installation clamps for you to attach a second fan if you have the space. There are four copper heat pipes in board.
If you're after a blacked-out lightweight tower cooler, keep an eye out for the Dark Rock Slim in Q2 of this year. There's no set price yet, but a rep for be quiet! told us that the cooler to go for about $50 USD when it launches.Asus shows off three high-end ROG Strix gaming monitors at CES 2019
Asus showed a whole bunch of cool stuff at CES, including new systems, parts, peripherals, and more. But today, we want to gush about the company's three new ROG displays. The XG438Q, XG49VQ, and XG32VQR are all large gaming monitors based around VA LCD panels that support AMD's Radeon Freesync 2 HDR standard.
First up is the model that Asus is the most proud of, and rightfully so. The XG438Q is a massive 43" monitor with a 3840x2160 resolution. It supports a 120-Hz refresh rate, and Asus says the display can reproduce 90% of the DCI-P3 color space. Its powerful LED backlight supports local dimming and can shine at up to 600 cd/m² peak brightness, although Asus doesn't comment on the number of individual dimming zones. The company does say that the XG438Q is DisplayHDR 600-certified, though.
While Asus is careful to note that the XG438Q is not a TV, it has a couple of TV-like features. It has no less than four separate inputs—three HDMI and one DisplayPort—as well as picture-in-picture mode. There's also a pair of 10-W speakers built in that should sound a little better than your usual monitor audio. Still, the included GamePlus technology (allowing users to put crosshairs, timers, and other indicators on the screen) as well as the low-input-lag design set the XG438Q well apart from TVs.
We don't have quite as many details about the other two displays, but they also appear to be pretty impressive bits of kit. The XG49VQ is 49" from corner to corner, but it's smaller than that might otherwise imply because of its super-wide 32:9 aspect ratio. Its 3840x1080 VA LCD refreshes at up to 144 Hz, and it can purportedly reproduce 90% of the DCI-P3 color space just like its larger cousin above. However, its backlight "only" glows at 450 cd/m², limiting it to a DisplayHDR 400 cert.
The XG32VQR is a relatively modest display compared to the other two, but that's not saying much. It's still a 31.5" VA LCD with a 2560x1440 resolution that can refresh at up to 144Hz and reproduce 94% of the DCI-P3 color space. This monitor is DisplayHDR 400-compliant just like its double-wide sibling above. Both the XG49VQ and the XG32VQR have two HDMI ports and a single DisplayPort connection, and all three monitors have two-port USB 3.0 hubs built-in.
If you're after several square feet of display, you don't have too long to wait. Asus says the double-wide XG49VQ and the XG32VQR will be available later this month, while the 4K XG438Q should show up this spring. The company said it wasn't ready to reveal pricing.Radeon Software version 19.1.1 kills bugs dead
The latest Radeon driver is the first release of 2019, and so it follows that it's called Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition. Driver version 19.1.1 is an optional release, and there's not a whole lot to it. However, if you (or your kids) like to yeet people off hastily-constructed stairways and then floss over their comically positioned ragdolls, then you'll probably appreciate this update's optimizations for Fortnite. AMD says this driver offers a staggering 4% performance uplift on Epic's mega-hit battle-royale builder.
Jokes aside, this appears to primarily be a fix-up release. The strange mouse lag caused by turning off one of many connected displays—a bug I ran into myself—has been resolved. Using Radeon Enhanced Sync on games using the Vulkan API should no longer cause tearing. Eyefinity setups should save custom color profile options now, and Virtual Super Resolution should be available on ultra-wide displays that are 1440 pixels tall. Finally, task switching with Alt+Tab should stop lagging up your whole system even worse than normal.
The majority of the fixes were actually to AMD's software itself. Radeon Settings should stop notifying you about new software even when the notifications are off, and it should show the correct driver version after updating through its updater. The AMD Upgrade Advisor built into Radeon Settings should stop suggesting older versions of Radeon Software, and it generally should be more reliable at detecting games and providing compatibility recommendations.
Radeon Wattman settings should reset correctly when you click reset now. Likewise, cards that support stopping their fans at idle should be better supported in Wattman. Also, the AMD Settings app should quit crashing when you page through Radeon Wattman tabs. AMD fixed another crash too, which would happen when people clicked "restart" after a new driver install. The Radeon performance overlay should adapt correctly to in-game resolution changes now, and Radeon ReLive should correctly upload queued videos.
Some issues still persist, naturally. Most troublesome is that display pixel format and HDMI underscan settings may not stick after a system restart. Uninstalling Radeon Software may not remove Radeon Settings, and Radeon Wattman settings may not apply correctly on RX Vega cards. Radeon Overlay's in-overlay video player "may experience smoothness issues" when seeking. Finally, if anyone out there is playing Battlefield V on a Radeon, you may experience character outlines stuck on screen after being revived.
This driver update is for most recent Radeon hardware that isn't stuffed inside a Ryzen Mobile APU. While AMD did say that Ryzen Mobile APUs will be brought into the fold for driver updates along with the rest of the Radeon family, that hasn't happened yet. As usual, you can read the release notes for yourself here, or just grab the latest Radeon Driver from AMD's download site.Cooler Master’s SK series low-profile keyboards show promise
Cooler Master showed off three low-profile keyboards at CES 2019, each one sporting Cherry MX RGB Low-Profile Red switches and wireless capabilities. Between the three models, Cooler Master has multiple layouts covered. The SK621 is a 65%, the SK631 is a TKL, and the SK651 is the full-size option.
Other than the different layouts, their feature sets are identical. You can keep them plugged in with the removable USB Type-C cable, but they offer Bluetooth 4.0, too. They support up to three simultaneous PC, Mac, and Android devices. With their RGB backlighting (and side light bars) ablaze, they promise 15 hours of battery life. With the lights off, you can expect them to last four-five months on a single charge.
There are plenty of onboard controls for on-the-fly lighting adjustments and macro creation, and the caps are conveniently laden with sublegends that show you which keys do what. You can also use Cooler Master's Portal Software Application to get more customization. You can toggle N-key and 6-key rollover.
Although the dark silver-colored models are the ones pictured in all the materials distributed to the press, there are white versions in the offing that are clearly designed to (and surely will) appeal particularly to Mac users.
We haven't had the chance to crack these keyboards open and peek at their construction, but they seem solid. The top plate is brushed aluminum, and they feel sturdy when you type on them. The stabilizers are Costar-style.
One of the main issues I've encountered with low profile keyboards is the keycaps. It's an easy trap to fall into as a keyboard maker: You have these low-profile switches, which lets you create a low-profile chassis, so of course you're going to put the thinnest keycaps on there as possible to ensure that the overall package is low, low, low. That means chiclet keycaps.
That's all great in theory, but chiclet caps tend to be too flimsy for even lowpro mechanical switches, in my opinion. You can feel the problem most prominently with the spacebar; it's not a pleasing typing feel. Some lowpro keyboards out there use variations of half-height caps instead of chiclets, which solves the problem nicely.
The downside of that solution, though, is that your svelte little keyboard gets thicker. And if you're trying to capture the hearts and minds of the Mac keyboard-loving set, you lose that sleek look that chiclet caps provide.
Cooler Master figured out a tweener solution that, upon first impression, is ideal: It kept the chiclet-style caps but simply make them thicker, and added a very (very) gentle scoop to them. I've never typed on caps like these before I put my fingertips on the SK series at CES, and it took me aback for just a moment, like walking in sneakers with a double-thick sole. But just as quickly, I could tell that the thicker caps offered a much better typing experience than some of the thin chiclet lowpro keyboards I've used. I need much more time with one of these keyboards before forming a complete opinion, but I'm optimistic that these thick chiclets will prove to be palatable.
Cooler Master makes these keycaps, so they're an exclusive option. Because the switches are Cherry lowpro, though, you can drop aftermarket keycaps on the SK series keyboards.
What's the strategy, Kenneth?
If you've been following the months-long progress of Cooler Master's lowpro keyboards and are now scratching your head about these SKU numbers, you're not alone. At Computex last summer, the company teased three different SKUs—the SK620, SK630, and SK650, all of which are wired. But at CES, Cooler Master was only showing the versions with a wireless option—the SK621, SK631, and SK651.
As far as I can tell from sleuthing, the SK620 is canceled (edit: confirmed), and Cooler Master will produce only the wireless SK621 in the 65% layout. However, the SK630 (wired, TKL) and SK631 (wireless/wired, TKL), and the SK650 (wired, full size) and SK651 (wireless/wired, full size) will all eventually be produced and sold.
The wireless models are coming, but their releases will be staggered. The SK621 is coming in March, the SK631 is coming sometime in Q2, and the SK651 will arrive in Q3. The reason for this sort of rollout escapes me.
A twist: The SK630 and SK650 have been released, but they're hard to locate, at least in North America and Europe. They're not on Amazon or Newegg. You can find the SK630 on Dell's website, of all places, as well as on Tiger Direct and a couple of other outlets like Next Warehouse. The same is true of the SK650. Neither SKU is actually on Cooler Master's NA or EU product pages.
It's also not abundantly clear why there are both wired models and wired/wireless models, other than some price play. Judging by the posted and promised costs, the wired SK630 is $120 versus the SK631's $140 price tag. The SK650 is $140, and the SK651 will be $160. In other words, you're paying a $20 premium for the wireless capabilities. Given that the SK621 will cost $120 when it launches, a wired-only SK620 (which, again, appears to have been killed) would have been $100.
We've reached out to Cooler Master for some clarity and will update if and when we get answers.
Howdy, folks! The big announcements have been made at CES, so you'll soon be looking at multiple stories about some of the most interesting and just plain quirky bits of kit at the show. While we carefully brew said information, though, you'll of course want to peruse today's selection of sweet hardware deals. Here they are.
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, Rakuten, Walmart, and Sam's Club. For more specific needs, you can also shop with our links at Das Keyboard's shop.
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